The bar is loud and Vier's ears pulse with the bass of the music below the sounds of loud conversation. He feels more than a little out of place, and repeatedly smooths his t-shirt down his torso and pushes his hair out of his eyes as he lingers around the edges of the bar, sipping his drink. There was a time a couple years back when parties and events like this were par for the course, when his celebrity status as two-time Greatest champion meant a level of socializing that had Vier at parties every weekend. Since starting University here in the city, so far from home, he hardly does anything outside of studying. He still occasionally gets recognized on the street, but his loss in his third year really diminished his public value.
He's here in this bar at this time though for Nuclear's birthday. Tangmo went with him to this university, though they are in different faculties, and Love joined the two of them a couple months back at the start of Vier and Tangmo's third year. Nuclear attends a different university in the same city, and upon receiving the invite, Love and Tangmo insisted Vier's studying could wait, and dragged him along.
Vier does not agree that his studying can wait, since beyond his classwork he is also applying for internships at industrial design firms throughout the country for his next year. But Tangmo, while not quite as lax about studying as he used to be, still knows all the buttons to push to pull Vier in any direction he chooses. He finishes his first drink and excuses himself from hovering near Love and Tangmo to get a second one.
He leans against the bar waiting for his drink and watches them across the room. Tangmo's hair, it's natural dark that, before this year, Vier hasn't seen since their first year at Great Men, still hangs down over his forehead, and he looks casual in a printed t-shirt and black jeans. He keeps alternating between standing with his hand in his pocket and throwing that same hand over Love's shoulder and pulling her in close. Love has perhaps changed the most in the two years since Vier graduated. He's seen her occasionally in the intervening time, but only rarely did he spend more than a few minutes around her. He feels like they're friends, he supposes, but they've never been close. She stands in the bar, now huddled under Tangmo's arm, in a yellow and blue patterned dress with a pleated skirt. The dress is belted, to accentuate her waist Vier guesses, and she wears matching off white flats. Her hair has grown out from the tidy bowl cut and now hangs against her sharp jaw in something akin to a messy bob.
Vier gets his drink from the bartender and drinks it where he stands. He continues to survey the room, this time finding where Nuclear stands, surrounded by his new university friends, wearing a ridiculous birthday hat. He's in a patterned silk shirt, unbuttoned half way, and Vier thinks it's the first time he's ever seen Nuclear not in a uniform or a t-shirt and shorts. It's also the first time he's seen Nuclear at all since his own graduation.
Vier finishes his second drink a little too quickly and orders a third before he thinks too hard about it. It's been a bit too long since Vier has tested his alcohol tolerance and he's starting to feel a little tipsy on his feet already. He stands, alone despite the people around him, near the bar for quite a while, simply watching the people have fun. Love and Tangmo are kissing-in-public drunk, though Vier would guess that's not a high bar, and he smiles in their direction. He's surprised when he sees Nuclear leave his crowd of friends and approach him from across the room. He throws back and swallows the last of his (Fourth? Fifth?) drink before Nuclear reaches him.
"Vier! I can't believe you came. How have you been?" Nuclear greets him with a half bow that quickly transitions to a hearty pat on the shoulder as he leans, a little unsteadily, closer than Vier would normally be comfortable with. He’s got the same perpetual wide smile that Vier remembers from him. The bar is still loud, and he's sure Nuclear is only so close in order to be heard.
"Good." Vier answers Nuclear's question, and then realizes he should probably say more. "Third year really ramps up the homework. You're lucky Tangmo dragged me out tonight or I'd be alone at home studying."
Nuclear orders two drinks and the bartender puts them on the bar, he slides one closer to Vier. Vier takes it and takes a drink.
"Well thanks for coming. I feel like I haven't seen you since you graduated. Why didn't you come back to visit for the tournaments?"
Vier's mind is getting a little hazy now, but that question brings him to sudden attention. He rests his drink in his hand against the bar top and steadies himself."I've been super busy," he's lying, and he knows it, and he doesn't like it, "but I watched it, of course. Everyone does." This is also a lie, but he did hear that Nuclear won the most recent tournament in his final year. "Congratulations, by the way."
Nuclear nods and smiles, carrying on the nod perhaps a little too long for a sober person. "Thanks, but, hey, I only did it once." He raises his glass towards Vier and they clink them together. "To The Greatest!" Nuclear says by way of a toast and Vier hopes Nuclear thinks his grimace is from the alcohol as he swallows.
"Hey," Nuclear starts, and then stops and puts his empty glass on the bar, "are you seeing anyone? Glad to see Tangmo and Love still together, but you didn't bring anyone?"
Vier raises his eyebrows but Nuclear doesn't seem to notice. "I'm not seeing anyone." Vier says.
Nuclear looks back at him now, the same neutral, friendly look on his face. "Why not?"
Vier shrugs. He finishes his drink and sets down the glass. "I don't have time. I've always got projects due and I'm applying for internships now."
"Don't have time?" Nuclear sounds incredulous. "You don't have time not to be dating, man. This is the time!" Nuclear claps him on the shoulder again, a little clumsily. "I've dated like five different people since the term started."
Vier smiles a little shyly and then laughs. "Whatever you say." It's true that Vier hasn't dated, but Nuclear doesn't need to know that he hasn't dated at all, not since Rose. He doesn't think about it too much, but he gets lonely sometimes if he's honest. He believes when he tells himself he doesn't have enough time, his classes have only gotten harder since first year.
Nuclear's hand never left Vier's shoulder after that last clap, and Vier only just notices, feeling the warmth through his thin t-shirt. He shrugs out from under Nuclear's hand and uses the movement to return a quick pat on Nuclear's arm. "Happy birthday, Nuclear. Good luck with your studies. I'll see you around."
Vier's a little proud of how steadily he walks away, but doesn't walk too far before circling back to another section of the bar and ordering another drink. He finds Love there, leaning back against the bar with a beer clasped between both her hands hugged to her chest.
"I thought you didn't like beer." Vier says, taking his fresh drink and sipping it.
Love looks up, surprised, and then smiles when she recognizes him. Vier smiles back. "Am I drinking beer?" She asks.
Vier nods and pokes the side of the beer bottle in her hands. "Yes."
"No wonder it's gross." She says dreamily, smiles in Vier's direction, and takes a sip anyway. Vier laughs again. It's probably the alcohol but he's not sure the last time he laughed or smiled this much.
Tangmo arrives and Vier doesn't understand the instinctive fear in his gut when he glances away from Love towards Tangmo's face. Tangmo's smiling softly and Vier takes a deep breath and then a larger drink.
"Hey guys, wanna go home?" Tangmo's voice is too loud, even in the loud bar, and Vier knows that's a surefire sign that Tangmo is pretty drunk himself, even if he stays steady on his feet.
Vier ignores Tangmo's look of concern when he glances between Vier's face and the glass in his hand. He just shakes his head while Love shrugs.
Tangmo leans between them, close enough that Vier can smell his familiar cologne, and puts his own empty glass on the bar. He takes Love's beer from her grasp and sets it down as well and then looks to Vier.
Vier knows that the look means 'put down your drink', but Vier takes a sip instead.
"Gonna be like that, tonight, friend?" Tangmo muses, and Vier lifts his chin and raises his eyebrows, then takes another drink.
Tangmo shifts his hips and slips his arm around Love's shoulders. Love immediately curls in like a cat, resting her head against him. He uses his other hand to grab Vier by the wrist and stops him from lifting his glass a third time.
"Let's go home." Tangmo repeats. Vier's eyes are locked on where Tangmo's hand holds him, his fingers strong and steady.
"What home?" Vier mumbles, suddenly weary and distant. Staring down at his and Tangmo's hands. "I don't live with you two and I don't want to go yet." Tangmo's grip is getting warm now in a way Vier can't stop noticing.
"Okay, well I'm not leaving you here alone, so just stay over with us if you're so afraid to be by yourself."
Vier looks up sharply at that. "I'm not afraid."
"Sure you're not." Tangmo smirks. "Come on, bro, we're going." His hand releases Vier's arm and Vier feels a bit like he can breathe for the first time in a minute, and Tangmo reaches for Vier's glass. This time he let's him. The glass is deposited on the bar and Tangmo slings his free arm over Vier's shoulder, putting himself squarely between Love and Vier, and maneuvers the three of them out to the street.
The air is humid and Vier immediately feels himself sweating where Tangmo's arm touches the back of his neck. It's long after dark but the city lights around them cast an orange glow and Vier can easily see far down the street as they walk together. He likes lots of things about the city, but he misses being able to see the stars at night.
Love perks up as they begin walking and keeps a running commentary of 'Would You Rather' questions all the way to the condo. The condo itself is technically Tangmo's, the same place he's lived since their first year, and Love has her own a little closer to campus, but Vier knows they stay together most of the time.
He tries to keep his spinning mind focused on Love's voice instead of thinking about himself, but quickly finds himself failing. Here with his arm slung around Tangmo's waist in the warm night Vier realizes that this is the happiest he's been in a while. It feels like wanting to be happy, even if true happiness isn't attainable for him. He knows what true happiness looks like, and he sees it between Love and Tangmo when they're together. He's seen it in Tangmo for years, his carefree happiness that used to feel like a targeted attack on Vier's inability to loosen up, but now is just a gentle soreness, a needling in his side. Vier knows that's just how Tangmo is, and just because Vier is jealous doesn't make Tangmo wrong.
They arrive and Love pulls the room keycard from her bag and let's them all in. Tangmo resumes his middle position, arm around each of them, and pulls them all into the room. It's a decent sized room with half a kitchen, a desk, and a large bed. Tangmo walks the three of them forward until their backs are to the end of the bed and flops them all backwards until they land against the mattress. Love yelps a little and then lapses into laughter. Vier chokes a little in surprise then finds himself laughing too.
Tangmo immediately gets back up, leaving Love and Vier on the bed, and grabs glasses by the sink to fill with water.
Vier doesn't know when his laughing turns into crying, but he notices when Love grabs him by the forearm and asks what's wrong. He looks over at her. She's still laying there, a body's width away on the bed, her dress splayed across the mattress and her hair falling across her face where she turns to look at him. "Are you okay, Vier?" She repeats.
Tangmo returns with glasses of water but sets them on the table across from the bed when he sees Vier's face. He doesn't know why he's crying, his mind is spinning and he's embarrassed and confused. He gently pulls his arm free from Love's grasp and wipes his face with both hands while sitting up. Tangmo is standing at the end of the bed, and nudges Vier into the middle so he can sit on his opposite side. Love sits up as well, and the three of them are side by side, thigh to thigh, sitting at the end of the bed.
Tangmo puts his hand on Vier's shoulder and squeezes. "What's wrong?" He asks.
Love takes his hand in both of hers and holds them atop Vier's thigh. He shakes his head, not knowing words to answer their questions. He takes a breath and focuses on where he's being touched by the both of them, two beacons of heat, the warmth stretching between them like a tether through his chest making his heart beat too fast. He wonders why they're touching him at all, but he can't bring himself to tell them to stop. He shakes his head again.
"I'm just…" Vier starts to say, but he's just what? Sad? That's not really right. Jealous? His eyes flick between the two of them around him. Maybe a little, but that's not what's wrong. Lonely? He takes a deep breath. Yeah, that's the word for this aching in his chest, this empty space that he feels slowly filling by the sheer touch of his friends. Tangmo's hand on his shoulder moves until his whole arm is wrapped around Vier's back and he's cupping Vier's ribs through his shirt, which sends a shiver through Vier. Love leans her head against his shoulder, still holding his hand in both of hers.
"It's okay, you don't have to have words for it." She says. “Also if you keep crying you’re going to make me cry.”
Vier feels so grateful for the permission that he almost lets himself believe her. Now that he’s put a word for this feeling in his mind that’s all that he can think: Lonely. Alone. Lonely. Tangmo pulls him in a little tighter and pats him on the thigh with his free hand. “We’re here, dude, just tell us what you need.”
He’s not sure where to put his free hand so he just keeps wiping his face and then tucking his fist against his chest. He doesn’t know what to tell them, that them being here with him is enough? That he doesn’t deserve all this attention, all this tenderness?
Love lifts her head and then leans a little forward until she can turn and look him in the eyes. He looks back at her, following the line of her jaw, the way her hair brushes against it now. She’s looking him in the eyes, or trying to, and he feels like he’s going to burn from the inside out if he matches that eye contact for more than a split second. He looks instead to how her lips are pursed. She looks stressed, or maybe worried, and in that moment she leans forward and kisses him.
A simple press of their lips together, longer than a peck, but she pulls back before Vier can have any more reaction than a pounding in his chest. He looks her in the eyes now, he can’t help it, they are too close together, but he can’t read what her expression means. His mind, still slightly dulled by the alcohol, catches up to what just happened and he quickly turns to Tangmo, whose arm is still around his back and whose hand is still on his thigh. Tangmo’s eyes are wider, and he looks shocked, but not angry. Vier feels Love resting her chin on his shoulder, also facing Tangmo, but he doesn’t try to see what face she’s making. Tangmo’s eyes flick between Love’s face and Vier’s, and Vier barely catches his quick smirk and half shrug before he’s being kissed again, this time by Tangmo.
This kiss is more intense, aggressive even. Instead of just a press of the lips he grabs Vier by the jaw and holds them close until the kiss grows more frantic. He tastes a tinge of the alcohol in Tangmo’s mouth, but it doesn’t repulse him, he leans in, eager to lose himself in this, whatever this is, instead of focusing on anything inside his own head. He hardly notices anything around him but Tangmo until he feels Love kissing the side of his neck. It feels like his heart is pounding so fast that it may explode from his chest. Vier pulls back, away from Tangmo, and takes a ragged breath, looking up at the ceiling. Love stops kissing him a moment later and he can feel her weight shifting on the bed. Vier leans back on both of his hands, leaving Tangmo and Love in front of him half turned towards him.
When Vier can bring himself to lower his head again to look at them, they are both looking at him. He can’t read their expressions, can’t understand what it means when they keep glancing at each other and then back to him.
Love speaks first. “Are you okay?” She says softly. “I mean, with that…”
Tangmo laughs and rolls his eyes. “He’s more than okay, can’t you tell?”
Vier still doesn’t have words to respond, so he just lets them talk back and forth.
“You can’t decide that for him,” Love counters, “no matter how much you want to be right.”
Tangmo rolls his eyes. “I’m telling you, look at him. You owe me 500 baht.” He looks back at Vier now and raises his eyebrows suggestively. “Tell the girl I’m right, man. You’re into us as much as we’re into you.”
At this comment Vier’s jaw drops in confusion and he has to speak. “Wait, what?”
Tangmo laughs again and Love pats Vier’s shoulder. “Tangmo brought it up the wrong way.” She throws him a half hearted glare. “But, well, we’ve talked about it.”
Vier shakes his head slightly, trying to will his brain into full function. “Talked about what? About… kissing me?”
“More than just that.” Tangmo says and the way he looks Vier up and down tells Vier exactly what he means. He feels his own desire, long dormant by his own decision, welling deep in his gut and shifts his body slightly uncomfortably.
Love punches Tangmo in the arm, and shakes her head. “We talked about… the three of us dating. I mean…” Her cheeks are a little flushed, and she can’t seem to make eye contact now. “I’m not… opposed to what Tangmo meant. But I want you to know it’s more than that too.”
Vier nods, a little shakily. He knows, logically, what they are saying, but he can’t seem to make sense of what it all means emotionally, or how he should react. He hasn’t let himself think about anything like this since he graduated. He fucked up too badly and almost lost them both because he let his own feelings get out of control once, and he never has stopped blaming himself for Tangmo’s heart attack, or being immensely grateful for Love’s selflessness. He doesn’t deserve this chance, this affection they’re offering him, no matter how sincere they seem. He thinks about the kissing again, the feelings in his chest, and the rest of his body, it was more than he had ever imagined, and he has imagined this before, but this confession, this commitment is more than he ever expected.
Tangmo adjusts where he’s sitting until he’s on his knees on the bed beside Vier, facing his side. “Was that nod a yes?”
Vier feels panicked, and tries to catch his breath. “Uh…” He chokes out. “Can I think about it when I’m sober?”
Tangmo laughs, nods and leans in close to Vier’s ear but still speaks loud enough for Love to hear. “Okay, but can I keep kissing you?”
Vier swallows thickly and a shiver runs down his spine, goosebumps covering his bare arms where he leans back on them. He already misses being touched by them. Already wants to kiss them again, without thinking about what it all means. He nods before he stops himself. “Yeah… yes.”
Tangmo takes his permission and gently pushes him back until he’s laying down with his knees hanging off the end of the bed. He keeps his position beside Vier, and Love moves to straddle Vier’s hips, arranging the skirt of her dress until it drapes neatly over his jeans in a move that is somehow both endearing and arousing when he feels her shift on top of him. She smiles. “I’ve been thinking about this a long time.” She says.
“She really has,” Tangmo says through his own smile, “it took me a year to get her to tell me about it though.”
Love looks a little embarrassed and shoves lightly at Tangmo’s shoulder. Vier gets a little lost in their conversation, but is quickly drawn back to the present by the touch of Tangmo’s lips against his neck and he watches as Love leans down, gently cups his face, and kisses him on the mouth. This time she doesn’t hold back, and Vier holds her by the hip with one hand while his other grips tightly on the back of Tangmo’s neck. Vier can feel himself getting more and more overwhelmed, but not in the way that makes him shaky, that makes him want to scream, this is different. He feels as if he’s full of light, a buzzing all encompassing light, filling him from the inside that he can’t possibly hide.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he hears Nuclear’s slurred words. “This is the time.” And Vier has to admit that Nuclear was right. This feels right.
When he wakes up in the morning, early on instinct, his own shirt is crumpled in a ball under his shoulder. Love is draped over his chest, snoring quietly, and Tangmo is curled up on his side with his head half on the pillow and half on Vier’s arm. Vier looks at the ceiling and takes a deep breath in and slowly out. That really did happen… and Vier realizes he’s smiling about it without being able to stop himself. He has to admit that he knew the answer to their request last night, though he was too afraid to admit it. He wants to be with them, like this, as long as they’ll have him around.
And as soon as they wake up he will tell them.