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Smoke Signals • EarthMix AU

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Earth swipes harshly at his shoulders all the way home. He struggles to walk the remaining steps to his condo and wants nothing but to get under the covers and surrender to the warmth it could offer his trembling body.

But oddly enough, Earth remains awake long after plopping himself down his bed. He feels that he'd be for a few hours more. Compared to Mix, whom he supposes—who Earth hopes—is now getting his rest after a very overwhelming start of the day, Earth is wide awake. His senses are heightened, ready to welcome a foreign warmth that has yet to spread to his whole body; one that is nonetheless searing inside of him.

By now, he knows that there is always a better alternative to lashing out. A more sensible reaction to feelings he's beginning to harbor but one he cannot name just yet.

But old habits die hard. Especially ones that have made themselves comfortable in his bones; bones that he wants to bend and break so he could create a ditch where he can place him in. Fill it with all that warmth. All that fire waiting—begging—to be set ablaze.

So until he knows, until he really knows that he's ready, Earth doesn't tell the other anything yet.

Not that morning, when they stopped at a convenience store on the way home from Podd's—Podd's & Khaotung's now, it would seem—and got themselves warm cups of coffee from the vending machine.

Probably not the most ideal place for reconciliation, Earth thinks in retrospect.

He remembers Mix sniffling. Instead of sitting down, the other preferred to stand up as his eyes surveyed the street in front of them. Mix needed something to reel him in; needed to feel that he could stop worrying about Khaotung from now on.

'He'd be okay,' Mix thought then, mind still with his best friend. 'He's safe at home.'

Mix felt something on his shoulders and saw that Earth draped his jacket on him.

"You're cold," Earth has said then, hands careful not to linger on the other. As if on cue, Mix shuddered, only realizing the fact after Earth mentioned it. But he's not very cold; he could wager that Earth was feeling the effect of the weather worse than him.

The younger man didn't spare him a glance but said: "It's fine, I already have a jacket on."

"Well, one more wouldn't hurt," Earth muttered, voice so small and soothing, carrying with it a softness that Mix has missed hearing.

It was impossible not to look at him then.

Mix felt like he didn't have the strength to untangle the mess between them yet. At least, not this morning, when he's still reeling from what happened to Khaotung. But he wants to see how this would play out—being here with Earth. Having coffee like old friends. Acting as if everything's okay between them.

Mix tried to hold the other's gaze but saw that Earth was no longer looking. Instead, he was clenching and unclenching his fingers. Mix squints his eyes; he could see that the poor man was shivering.

'I knew it.' Mix knows Earth doesn't take too kindly to the cold. His mouth formed into a small smile. "You're cold," he said, pointing the obvious to the older man, who was trying his best not to mind the cold but nonetheless failing miserably.

Earth didn't need to look at the other to know that Mix was smiling then. This made him wonder when exactly he began to notice the small nuances and cracks in the other's voice. How Mix could say one word and Earth would eventually just know; that he could tell when Mix's voice is mouthed through a smile or a grimace.

"You're shivering. Take your jacket back," Mix removed the jacket and draped it back on Earth's shoulders, guarding the older man against the cold.

Earth breathed out. Well, he is cold. But he wanted Mix to have his jacket. Earth pouts without really meaning to, which did not go unnoticed by the younger man.

Earth heard Mix chuckle and suddenly, everything felt right in the world.

"Stop trying to look cool, Pirapat." Earth imagined an eye roll from Mix. A glance confirmed his guess. Mix smirked and blew on his coffee before taking a sip.

Earth missed hearing his name out of the other's mouth. One of the many things he missed about him.

"I could take it, you know. The cold. I'm strong." Mix quips.

"Are you saying I'm weak?" Earth showed a familiar smirk but dropped it immediately. He sighs and takes a sip from his own cup. It was so easy to forget his offenses when he's just overcome by the familiarity of their easy banters.

But Mix quipped back, erasing Earth's reservation. "Hey, your words. Not mine."

A gust of wind blew over their bodies. Earth mutters 'fuck' under his breath but tried his hardest not to shiver. "I-I could s-see that's what you m-meant." He barely managed to get the words out. Earth wished he didn't stutter, but he couldn't help it. It was cold.

'So much for looking impressive, huh?'

"We could go inside," Mix mumbled and broke Earth's thought.

"It's worse inside. Their air conditioning unit's whack, trust me. We've been going here for years and they haven't done anything about it."

Mix scooted closer to the older man. Regardless of whether he did it to keep Earth warm or just because he wanted to, Mix succeeded: Earth is beginning to feel warm; the feeling in his chest, even more so.

Mix worried. The longer they stayed out, the longer the latter would have to brave the cold—or 'fake brave' it.

'This won't do,'

"Come on. I'll walk you home."

"No—" Earth interjected, eyes suddenly big and pleading. It took him a few seconds to realize that his free hand was gripping Mix's arm. But he panicked; part of him was afraid that if he lets go, the younger man would leave.

And he really doesn't want him to leave just yet.

"No? You... don't want to walk home with me?" Earth was already shaking his head before Mix even finished his sentence.

"No! I mean, it's still dark out. Let's at least wait for the sun to break." Earth saw Mix's eyes scan his own, possibly wondering if there's anything behind that seemingly innocuous request. But Earth doesn't care now; he didn't hide the truth even if he couldn't say it out loud. He held Mix's gaze and knew that a part of him wanted the latter to see and understand.

'Stay.'

"Please?" Earth finally managed to say, his voice soft but certain. "Let's... stay here for a while."

And so, they did.

Mix felt the air tense with unspoken words. Apologies and explanations. While he wasn't trying to evade the older man, Mix doesn't exactly know how best to begin a conversation that has stalled for over a month now—for reasons that are still unknown to him.

In a desperate bid to break the silence, Earth suddenly asked, "How's Jane?"

"Better now. White's staying with her." Mix took another sip of his coffee, hand steady. Earth can't say the same about his own hand, which trembled slightly before he even gets it to his mouth.

"It's been a while since I've seen you with them."

'Been a while since I've seen you.' Was what Earth wanted to say. But saying that meant opening floodgates and he wasn't even sure if Mix was ready to swim those tides then; Earth wasn't exactly sure if he was.

The same thing crossed Mix's mind. He gave the other man a sad little smile but didn't respond to his comment. Instead, he said: "Did you know I wanted to marry Jane when we were younger?"

Earth wondered if this was Mix's way of getting them off the hook. Maybe he, too, doesn't want to talk about it yet.

So Earth inquired, deciding to see where Mix would lead this conversation. "Really? How?"

Mix fished his mind for that memory and launched his story. He now sees a seven year-old version of himself, hugging a crying Jane and telling her, 'I'm gonna marry you when we're older,'

He paused and smiled, lost in the fond image of his juvenile innocence. And to Earth, he said, "I must've heard my daddy joke around when we're younger. He always said that he married my papa because he was always crying." Mix pauses to giggle and continues.

"So in my little mind, I used to think that you need to marry someone if you wanna stop them from crying."

"That's hilarious."

"It is. Was."

Earth quietly chuckled, careful not to disturb the peace that has settled on Mix's face which was then painted with a look of nostalgia.

"Maybe it's also why I asked her to be my girlfriend when we were in high school,"

Earth scooted even closer to Mix. This wasn't something he had prior knowledge of, so it intrigued him. Mix continued with his story and that's how Earth discovered that being neighbors, Mix and Jane did almost everything together when they were growing up.

That the two were playmates, classmates, and prom partners. That Mix was Jane's first boyfriend and that she was his first girlfriend. That while he felt—feels—a tenderness for Jane, unmatched and unparalleled by anyone he's ever met, they both felt that their familiarity with each other went beyond anything romantic. That their feelings are nothing but familial love, bound by comfort and unconditional care, never to be severed by something as transitory as romance.

So, the two went back to being friends. And Jane met White when she visited Mix in his university. And the rest, as it often goes, is history.

One morning jumped out to fuzz this streak of memory. It was of Mix, then 15 years old, telling Jane that he had begun developing romantic feelings for a male classmate. He wasn't exactly sure if he was gay. Being brought up by two fathers, it wasn't as if the term was foreign or even terrifying to him. Still, Mix thought that the best person to tell all these brewing feelings to is none other than his best friend—a woman who had already proven herself to be wise beyond her years.

'You don't have to know now,' He remembers Jane telling him, both hands cupping his. 'You'd figure it out in time.'

Mix stopped talking then and Earth moved even closer to him, as close as that space would allow him to. He nudged him with a shoulder and hoped Mix knew that he wanted him to keep talking—that Earth wanted to delay this morning as best as he could.

If it meant being with Mix here longer, then the cold could actually go fuck itself.

The younger man relaxed. He breathed in and took his time breathing out. "I thought I needed to take that relationship one step further so I could take care of her better." Another small sip. Mix held the paper cup with both of his hands. Earth felt the air tense.

"And I did the same with Mon. I thought he needed me so he could 'fix' himself. I took that upon myself. And thinking about it now... disgusts me,"

"But I loved him, don't get me wrong. I loved him. But it's all so... twisted and selfish and nobody should feel satisfaction from that. But I did."

He shook his head and added, eyes drawn to the ground. "Fucking hero complex, am I right?" It was one of the hardest pills Mix had to swallow about himself, one that he's still trying to overcome to this day.

Earth listened to everything without uttering a word, only nodding and murmuring a silent response whenever Mix pauses.

"That must be exhausting," Earth finally says after an extended silence, his voice steady. "Trying to live your life feeling as if you need to save the people around you."

Mix looked the other dead in the eye that it stopped Earth.

"It is. It's exhausting. I never wanna do that again. Nobody has to feel as if they're somebody else's savior," Mix pauses. "That's not how I want to love again."

Earth's eyes surveyed the sky. It wouldn't be long before the sun finally breaks through the clouds, although it does look like today's going to be overcast; that the sun would hide and rest comfortably as the clouds guard it.

Mix has moved an inch away from Earth that their shoulders aren't touching anymore. After a while of looking at the older man, Mix spoke: "You know you don't have to say it,"

'It.'

Earth knew exactly what that 'it' pertains to. He's giving him a pass again. Like their first morning together. Earth remembered that Mix said something similar then: 'I feel like you've never had to explain yourself to others before. You do you.'

He knew everything that Mix said earlier was a preface to everything that stayed unmentioned up until that moment. Something that has festered for weeks now. Earth felt like he was given an opening—that he just had to take it, talk to him, apologize for being an asshole and...

'And what, exactly?'

"If you're not comfortable talking about it now, I understand. We don't have to talk. But..." The younger man finished his coffee and chucked the paper cup in the bin nearby.

"Stop making me feel shitty." Mix says all these with a small smile, Earth could nonetheless feel the bite in his words. "It's not a good feeling." But it's aggressiveness that is dissipating, almost like morning haze that paves the way to light, one they're about to witness a few minutes from now.

"Clearly, there's something here that I'm not seeing. But I don't want to walk on eggshells around you, Earth." Earth felt his heart sink with Mix's words. The last month has been difficult for him, what with lugging around all that unsaid guilt in his chest. But knowing that Mix felt this way too just made it ten times heavier. It made it worse.

But Earth kept quiet. He knew he had to make it okay, sooner or later, but the shame had overshadowed everything then. Earth doesn't tell him that he's sorry. Earth doesn't tell him that he's afraid that he has probably lost Mix already. He doesn't say that he saw him with Ter, about 2 weeks ago, walking. He doesn't say that they looked good together or that he wished—that he wishes—Mix was with him instead.

"And I'm there. I don't think I have it in me to say it. At least, not right now. But I'm... there."

A wave of warmth settled in the pit of Earth's chest.

'He's there.'

Earth felt elated—dizzy—at the indirect confirmation. A confession, if he ever heard one.

But the joy was immediately overtaken by guilt, the fucking guilt that was always just sitting there, waiting to pounce. Telling him he doesn't deserve it after everything he did; everything he didn't do.

He kept his eyes to the ground. He doesn't want to feel all that anymore. But Earth didn't say anything. Instead, he let his hand slowly creep to the younger man's. Not enough to be deemed conspicuous but tender enough to mean:

'And I'm there with you.'

Earth's fingers laid on top of Mix's. All five of them were just there, occupying the spaces between Mix's own hand. One that is splayed and welcoming, ready to accommodate him. Everything, about him.

Ready just for him.

Not long after, a gentle, familiar tapping ensued. This time, Mix's eyes landed on Earth's, too. Earth had hoped that the younger man could see it there, in the space between his gaze, in the way that he doesn't let go of his hand. Mix smiled and Earth was able to make out a small nod. He found it difficult—too difficult to articulate anything as he looked at the glimmer of Mix's beautiful face, his sharp jaw, a pair of eyes, disarming Earth right now. And his lips, curled into an inviting smile.

In his silence, Earth had hoped. He wished Mix knew that he really meant to say: 'Wait for me.'

And when the two parted that morning, Earth was certain that the other will.

 

- - -

 

Mix wasn't a difficult child.

Off remembers that. Off remembers how polite he was, how eager he was to meet him and Gun.

But while Mix wasn't a difficult child, he was nonetheless curious. He has always been. He asks the hard questions and waits out the answers—no matter how painful and difficult it is—all with a wide-eyed curiosity that impresses his fathers to this day.

And he's only ever seen him go mellow once. With Nammon. As a father, Off hopes he'd never see that side of Mix again.

After much nagging from his dad, the boy was finally back home for a quick visit. As much as he was glad to have him in the home again, Off couldn't help but wonder if Mix came carrying something heavy inside him. Because it does look like it.

Off sits on a chair next to his son and hands him a cup of hot chocolate. Mix bows and takes the cup. "Thanks, papa." He stares out into the pouring rain, clearly preoccupied.

"Who broke your heart this time?"

Mix chuckles, "What?"

"Should I be asking whose heart you've broken this time—" Off exaggerates his expression and brings a hand to his heart in fake disbelief. "That's not how we raised you!" Off faces Mix, wagging a finger to the boy with a pout visible in his face.

Mix bursts out laughing. "Papa please, as if could do that,"

Off eyes Mix but was grateful to eke out an amused response from him. "I mean it's okay to break hearts once in a while. You're young, you don't know everything yet. Learn from your mistakes."

"I don't even— you're giving me mixed signals right now, papa. If daddy hears about this you'd be in big trouble, sir."

"And that's why daddy doesn't have to know about this." Off smirks and stiffens when he sees Mix raising an eyebrow before taking a sip of his chocolate drink. His eldest son's silence was enough to alarm him.

"...you're not telling daddy, right Mickey?" Mix sticks his tongue out to tease his papa.

Mix missed being home and all these little banters with his papa and brothers. Not to mention his daddy's home-cooked meals. He couldn't help but wonder if leaving home was even a good idea in the first place.

But then again, being on his own is teaching him so much about responsibility, something he wouldn't trade anything for. Still, it was nice to be back home; it is always good to be surrounded by people who know him, especially when everything feels confusing and overwhelming. He needed an anchor—a tether. And his family will always be it for him.

"Mickey," Mix mouths a childhood nickname that only ever surfaces when he's playing with his papa, especially when he was younger.

"I missed hearing that nickname."

"Hey, you could be 84 & I'd still call you Mickey."

"That is, if you're still here—"

"Hey!"

The two continue laughing. After a while, the boy quiets down and stretches. He stifles a yawn and leans into his chair. Off notices the sudden shift and asks, "What's up? You know you can tell me, right?"

Mix rolls his eyes; he knows what his papa always follows this up with.

"Come on, say it with me. You can tell me because...?"

"You're a 'cool dad'—"

"I'm THE 'cool dad'—"

Off smirks, a huge grin plastered on his face. "I knew I trained you well,"

Mix shakes his head but ponders. He does have a lot on his mind. But inviting his father to a conversation would mean willing into existence some things he's still trying to untangle on his own.

But Mix could feel it ticking.

Like a time bomb that refuses to stop, until all he's left with is the burgeoning of his feelings for someone who can't—won't—reciprocate.

He shakes his head and instead, asks. "Papa,"

"Hmm?"

"Why did you choose me?"

Mix knows his 'origin story'. He knows where they got him. They still visit the orphanage every year as a family during the anniversary of their adoption, bringing food and necessities to the children still trying to find their forever homes.

Off purses his lips and clears his throat. "Because dad said you look like me."

Mix chuckles, planting both elbows on his thighs, leaning in closer to his papa so he could hear him over the steady pattering of rain. "That's it?"

"Yeah! Dad said he saw you outside on the swing when we arrived and said that you look like me. So I figured, yeah, we'll take that kid."

Mix laughs. He never asked his fathers this question before. And although it sounds shallow, he likes it—it is so his parents' nature to do something like that.

Off smiles at the fond memory, nostalgic about a past that doesn't really feel that far off for him.

"But imagine our surprise when you fought to bring Win and Chimon along with you. Everyone tried to tell you that you can't. But you said you can't leave your brothers behind. And they couldn't figure out how you decided to just take two boys under your wing, but you did. God, you were five! And you were already lugging around two younger boys like a mother hen. Refusing to part with them. And you fought hard to be with them, too."

Mix knows this bit of the story, too. But to this day, he wonders about the 'why' of it all.

Off glances to his side, where Chimon was busy playing with his phone. Loudly, he says, "But between you and me, I think you could've done better than Chimon—"

"Papa, I heard that." Chimon looks up from his phone and glares at their papa. He huffs and gets up, still sending daggers to his old man.

"I was joking!"

"I don't care, daddy would hear about this." Chimon runs to the kitchen and nuzzles up to their dad. Off and Mix watch the interaction with smiles on their faces and went back to staring at the rain, now a mere drizzle, on their porch.

"I guess daddy and I fell in love with you more because of that. We were so curious about what went on in that little head of yours; how it was possible for you to have... massive and unconditional love at that age."

Mix feels connected to his younger self then and smiles. "That's... too much. I'm surprised that you didn't go for another kid at that point,"

With a huge, warm smile on his face, Off says. "Nah, of course I'm taking home the kid who looks like me. I mean, how awesome was that!"

The smell of food from the kitchen wafts towards the porch. Mix and his papa turn their heads behind and see Win emerge from his room. He does a little stretch just outside his door and removes his glasses before waving them over and pointing to the dining room.

Off raises a hand to inform Win that they'd soon follow him to the table. He stands up, offers a hand to his eldest son and says: "You don't always need to have a complicated reason for doing things, Mix. You just need to want it. Want it enough to fight for it. Every day."

 

- - -

 

It took a while, a little beyond their intended timeline, but Mix and his friends finally finished their deliverables for The Curio.

To show their gratitude, Jennie invited everyone over to spend a night at a resort in Earth's hometown. Earth brought his sister Sara along and Mix watches as Podd, Jennie and Namtan welcome her with a group embrace.

"His loss, not yours." Podd whispers softly into Sara's ear, with all the women still wrapped in his big arms.

Sara doesn't say anything but tightens her embrace.

From the exchange, Mix could speculate that Sara isn't back with her boyfriend yet.

Podd steps away to introduce Sara to Khaotung and the rest of their friends. Mix feels the woman's lingering stare. It wasn't intimidating, neither did it feel malicious, although it did make Mix feel like he's being sized up for a reason. He offers her a smile, which she reciprocated readily.

"How was the drive going here?"

Mix stops rummaging through White's car for his things and whips behind him. There, the man stands, one hand on the back of his neck, acting coy. Earth looks great in his light blue linen shirt, unbuttoned at the top, and his cream-colored pants. The look was made complete by a shy smile, one as inviting as the sea.

And Mix... Mix needs to stop staring.

He clears his throat and answers. "It was fine. Drive was smooth. White's a great driver." Earth gets a whiff of Mix's familiar scent, blending perfectly with the salty smell of the nearby sea. Earth thinks Mix smells fresh; comfortable. Like fresh sheets in the morning, one he cannot leave, one that almost justifies a few more minutes in bed.

"O-okay." Earth purses his lips and nods. Mix looks at Earth and a muted laughter emanates from within him. He leans closer to the older man and sheepishly grins. "Stop acting weird."

Earth tenses. He wonders if he's blushing; Earth turns his head away and hopes Mix doesn't notice.

Pouting, he quickly retorts. "I'm not—"

Earth wishes he never looked at Mix's face then, because now, now he's certain that he's blushing.

Mix softly cuts him, "We're okay, Earth." Earth meets Mix's eyes and backs away a little. If there's anything that always gets to him, it's Mix's stare. It carries with it a softness but also a look of certainty that terrifies Earth to a degree. It always feels as if Mix could read him and Earth is still wondering how he actually feels about that.

There wasn't much opportunity to meet after that morning at the convenience store; Curio—both the bar and cafe—is getting more customers lately, what with it being the holiday season. And Mix's company is on edge, trying to win over old and new clients in a bid to survive year-end audits and secure contracts for the next year.

But the air is clearer now, easier to navigate in a way. Still a little charged but no longer volatile. Like sea that has finally calmed down after a storm.

After initial introductions to Sara were made, everyone retreated to their rooms, agreeing to meet for an early dinner in an hour at a restaurant inside the resort.

"And drinks at the beach, okay? Everyone has to drink." Jennie pointedly says to everyone.

"I drink for Jane, she can't drink." White raises his hand to get Jennie's attention before pointing to his heart to signal Jane's condition.

"Oh shit yes, almost missed that. Okay no drinks for you, ma'am. More for us then."

Mix thrives in solitude, but he did feel a little slighted after realizing that everyone came in pairs. Although he does know that his friends would do everything so he doesn't feel left out, Mix still wonders how nice it would've been to have a buddy with him, someone to appreciate all the scenery with.

Mix shudders when a face surfaces in his mind.

He shakes his head and starts settling in his room, which was a little too big for one. Mix smiles, mind still filled with an image of a man.

One in a light blue linen shirt, unbuttoned at the top. And his shy smile, one as inviting as the sea.

 

- - -

 

They're sitting in front of the beach. Laughter fills the air as the heat from the bonfire warms everyone. But outside that small circle, it is admittedly colder than anyone anticipated, so some of them decided to huddle.

Khaotung fiddles with his guitar and after much cajoling from his friends and Podd, he begins singing, choosing songs familiar to everyone. Soon, it was a chorus. Everyone chimes in—some in tune, others in jovial inflection.

Earth scans everyone's faces; even Sara looks like she was enjoying herself, starting small conversations with the new faces she met earlier that day. Earth takes a swig from his bottle, eyes inevitably landing on Mix.

He thinks about a term to capture Mix—the man that he is—but all Earth's mind can come up with, at least at that moment, is breathtaking. He's breathtaking in his silence and especially in moments like this one; engaged in conversation with people he cares about. Present. Fully aware of... everything.

He watches Mix's smile reach his eyes and hears him laughing. He looks at the upward curve of his plump lips, the intermittent rise and fall of his chest, and finally, Mix's eyes meeting his.

'Yes,' Earth thinks to himself. 'Breathtaking.'

Podd soon whips out a box with small shot glasses from behind him. Earth knows exactly what that means.

"Drinking game!" The man excitedly calls out to an expecting group. "Everyone except Jane, get one." he passes around the box. Mix notices Namtan shaking her head when offered one as well. The younger man couldn't help but ask. "Namtan, you're not drinking?"

Namtan shares a look with Jennie, who interlaces her fingers with her girlfriend. A small nod was passed between the two, and without anybody expecting it, the woman takes out a small thing from her bag.

Namtan waves a pregnancy test in her hand and excitedly utters. "Offer me a glass after 9 months?"

It doesn't take long for everyone to excitedly get up and squeal in excitement, which the couple welcomed with giggles. Earth could see both women holding back happy tears. Knowing exactly everything they've been through to get here—the journey to discovering who they are, freezing sperm so they could eventually conceive, Jennie's eventual transition, the ridicule from strangers, the failed IVFs Namtan had to endure a few years back—all of that seems so small now; hurdles conquered. They're here and they're happy.

Complete.

Earth allows his own tears to fall, feeling immense joy for his best friends.

"Took it here this morning. Actually took 3 to make sure." Namtan says when everyone finally settles down.

"We're getting a baby!" Jennie exclaims, before kissing her girlfriend, soon wife, on the forehead.

"Hey, the game. Enough about us. Get on it, I'm here for tea," Namtan says to the group, who exploded in laughter.

Team Curio decides to go with a modified version of Never Have I Ever, one without the ten fingers bit. Here, everyone only has to throw a question around and those who have already done the thing must drink.

Mix doesn't mind; he figures that they're desperate to get drunk—and fast.

Questions were thrown around and soon, very soon, much to his liking, Mix begins to feel buzzed. They're dealing with vodka here, and for a man whose beer limit is only two bottles, a few shots were definitely enough to get him drunk. He gets drunk as fast as he sobers up, and if that light feeling in his feet is any indication of his state now, then yes—Mix is absolutely drunk.

But in his drunken state, Mix begins to complain a little, realizing that most of the questions seemed to end with him drinking.

"H-heeeey... I've been drinking to everything, except—" He squints his eyes and brings a finger to his lips, as if looking for his next word, "—questions I... asssked myself," Mix points to himself as he addresses the group, "No fair!" He pouts, face red from all the alcohol he has been consuming.

Earth, also flushed but definitely not as bad, watches the silly little display from Mix. He thinks it was adorable; the crease on the younger man's thick eyebrows, his mouth protruding a little in a small pout, his nasal voice slurring the words he's trying to get across. He even catches that small birthmark, the one just below his jaw, alive and darkened. Earth moves closer to the younger man, who surprisingly manages to get himself up on his feet, shadowing him in case he falls backward and hurts himself in the process.

So drunk Mix is funny, Earth discovers.

Everybody else guffaws, especially Jane, Namtan, and Jennie, the only sober people in the group.

"Okay then," Sara begins, trying to wave Mix down while she laughs. "Let's go with something that you don't have to drink to." White tugs at Mix's shirt to get him to sit down. They watch as a drunken grin settles on Mix's face. The boy looks triumphant somehow, earning another round of cackle from the group.

Sara closes her eyes for a second and bobs her head, wondering exactly what to ask to get Mix, who's now clearly drunk, off the hook on the next round. She looks around their little circle and her eyes light up.

"Never have I ever... slept with anyone in this group!"

White, Podd, Jennie, and Khaotung expectedly down their shots. Just as Khaotung deliberates on his question for the next round, they notice Mix bringing the glass to his mouth, avoiding eye contact with anyone until he is done with his shot.

As Mix finishes, his gaze settles on Earth's eyes and on the shot glass that hovers just below the latter's mouth. The older man feels the air tense for a split second, but looking at Mix's eyes, now clear as if he hasn't been drinking, Earth finally brings the shot glass to his own mouth.

'Fuck it,'

They'd deal with the questions in the morning.

Everyone was too stunned to say anything at first, their eyes moving from Mix to Earth and back to the other, sensing the tension in the air, waiting for either one to say anything, something to confirm whatever's running through everyone's heads.

Khaotung jogs his memory and remembers the knowing gaze shared between the two that 'first' meeting at Curio... He somehow manages to put two and two together and exclaims, "So the shoe fits!"

Their friends look at Khaotung, questions evident on their faces. Khaotung lets out an exasperated sigh and shouts "Cinderella!" while pointing at Earth.

Earth closes his eyes and shakes his head. For now, he'd just avoid everyone's astonished reactions and get on with the night.

'But yes, questions in the morning for sure.'

 

- - -

 

Everyone decides to end a little before eleven; drinking immediately after sundown meant they had just enough time to get shit-face drunk and retire earlier than usual. Earth did feel a little buzzed, but still capable of walking the flight of stairs that led to his room. But first, he needs to make sure he gets Mix—who by then has fallen asleep on Jane's lap—to his room.

White shakes Mix and asks him to get up. Earth motions to the couple and playfully talks into Mix's ear.

"If you don't get up, I'm carrying you bridal style into your room."

Mix finally stirs and shudders. He swats Earth's face softly, "Pirapat?"

"C'mon, we're all going up. Jane's legs must be dying now," Mix immediately moves his head and looks up drunkenly at Jane. He mumbles a quick 'sorry' before lying down, this time burrowing comfortably on the sand. Earth scratches his head at Jane who smiles apologetically at him. The older man mouths to Jane, telling her he'd take care of Mix so they could retire to their rooms.

'Sure?' she mouths back.

"Don't worry. I'd get him to his room safely," And with that, Jane and White left along with everyone else.

It took a little more convincing for Mix to even stir. When he finally did, he tells Earth. "I love the beach," A sheepish grin settles on his face as Earth struggles to get him to his feet.

Earth chuckles. "I know, you told me."

"Then let's swim!" Mix shouts and quickly digs his heels on the sand, startling Earth who had to keep their balance. He loosens his grip for a millisecond, but that was enough for Mix to swagger drunkenly to the beach. Earth's eyes widen but he manages to catch the younger man's waist. Mix exploded in a fit of giggles.

"Ticklish." Mix says in a drunken mumble, trying to free himself from Earth. "I'm ticklish!"

Earth laughs and gingerly cups Mix's face. He balances Mix's head on his hand and tries to make out his features, using the faint moonlight to observe the younger man. Every day feels like an opportunity to discover so much about Mix. All the good, soft parts he's so ready to share with the world. Earth sighs and thinks the world's a little easier to navigate with all that light—with all of Mix's light—around.

But Mix is also... messy. Possibly broken, rough on parts Earth cannot and probably will never see. Heavy with all the pain he's had to carry all these years.

He acknowledges all these but Earth, Earth doesn't look away.

"I see you," he whispers, feeling the taste of the words in his mouth. "I see all of you." Earth slowly dips his head but stops. Instead, he squeezes the other's cheek, suddenly remembering that his goal was to get Mix back into the other's room. Safely.

"I'd bring you to the beach. Just us two. For now, you need to get some sleep. Okay? In your room."

Mix's eyebrows furrowed. He eyes the older man suspiciously and says, "Promise?"

Earth dials back to the very last time he made a promise to someone. He tries not to think about it too much and whispers to Mix, with all the sincerity he could muster at that moment.

"I promise."

 

- - -

t e x t   m e s s a g e

 

e: you're awake

m: and good morning to you, too, pirapat

m: also was that a question or

e: i was trying to see if you were

e: what are you doing up?

m: got up to drink water, now i can't sleep

e: okay

e: meet me in the lobby in 5 minutes

m: wait what

e: i'll be waiting

m: BUT IT'S 4 AM?????

e: 5 mins, mix

m: PIRAPAT???

 

- - -

 

"What would you have done if I didn't show up?" Mix nears Earth and crosses his arms in front of his chest. He arrives at the lobby to see the older man waiting for him with a grin. He should've been used to it by now, but apparently the little skip his heart made after seeing Earth says Mix really isn't. He knows this, this will always feel new.

Mix slows his walking. He's practically sober now, but still feeling a bit lightheaded. Possibly a little sleepy, too.

"Well I know you'd come."

"Where are we going?" Mix raises an eyebrow at Earth who didn't say anything. It was cold out and looks as if it'd be a while before the sun breaks through the dark.

Earth practically jogs to his car, excited. Mix follows, more because he's interested to see what the other has up his sleeve. But he finally halts when he sees the older man climbing into his car.

He eyes Earth skeptically and asks. "Wait. Are you even sober enough to drive?"

"Yes, sir. And compared to someone, I can actually hold my liquor." Mix rolls his eyes and gives Earth the finger. Earth pats the passenger seat and extends a hand out to Mix, waiting for him to settle next to him.

"Come on, we need to catch something."

Mix eyes the older man a little more. He does look okay. Better than him, Mix supposes. Convinced that he's actually sober, Mix finally climbs into the passenger seat.

He wanted to ask again. The curious part of him wants to know where they're headed. But a part of him is also excited to just see; to just let Earth lead the way. Wherever they're going, he knew he'd be safe anyway.

Because he's with him.

So Mix and Earth drive out, windows down. They drive at a slower pace than normal and Mix wonders if Earth does it for his sake. After all, he probably still looks a little hungover. Mix takes a hand out and extends it outside the window. He doesn't really focus on anything yet, still a bit groggy to discern specific shapes in the dark. But after the blurry expanse of trees, he finally notices the narrow strip of water appear on Earth's side again.

He takes his phone out and plays a song, realizing then how fitting it is to the moment.

"So then we'll drive like the devil's caught on to our plans.

So put back your head and rest a while if you can.

Oh, 'cause we won't be stoppin' 'till our tires reach the sand."

Mix looks at Earth, hoping he doesn't mind the music. Earth's humming proves that he doesn't. The younger man draws his eyes back to the scene flitting outside and extends his hand out again, slowly unfurling his fist this time, feeling the chill running from his palm and snaking its way into his arm. He allows himself to feel like a kid again.

Earth drives with only the faintest idea of what Mix was doing. But he does know that the boy has his hand out. He hopes he isn't boring him.

"You can sleep, you know?" Earth says, stealing a quick glance at Mix's direction.

"And miss the view?"

"Do you like the view?"

Mix doesn't say anything but instead, stares at Earth and smiles.

He does; he loves the view.

Nothing much has changed in this place but Earth loves it. He loves the calming aura of their seaside town. Regardless of everything he felt and experienced there when he was younger, he now realizes that he actually loves being here—back home.

Earth tries to imagine what Mix's face must've looked like at that moment and before he realizes it, he quietly whispers, "I could get used to this," more to himself than to his company.

"Hm?"

"Huh?"

'Fuck, did I say that out loud? Pirapat, get a grip. A literal grip. Jesus.'

"You said something."

"Nothing."

Mix shakes his head and sighs. The other doesn't see it, but Mix wonders if Earth could sense that he's looking at him.

"Earth?"

"Yeah?"

Very softly, to match the older man's whisper, Mix says. "I could get used this, too."

The car eventually rounds a curve and moves into a narrow dirt road. It doesn't take long for Mix to see a massive stretch of the beach in front of them, water glinting in the dark.

"There's a perfectly good beach at the resort, you know? We didn't have to drive up here."

Earth pouts and parks his car. "I know but this spot's my favorite,"

He looks like a kid, Mix thinks. Adorable. "Why?"

"You'll see."

Mix supposes this place is special to Earth. Knowing he's there with him now made his heart flutter. The spot is indeed better than the resort, which was obstructed by cottages and dotted by campfires. This portion of the beach looks cleaner, possibly undisturbed by human activity.

Mix sucks in a breath. It feels liberating. Being here. Toes deep in the sand. Next to a man he admires.

Mix feels Earth's warm hand cup his. He lets the older man guide him a little closer to the shoreline before they plop down on dry sand.

"Probably an hour more before sunrise,"

"Is that what we're catching? The sunrise?"

Earth nods. "You get an unobstructed view of the sunrise here. It's breathtaking."

The image begins to excite Mix—that and the idea of seeing it with Earth. "How'd you find this place?"

"I drive up here when things— when silence gets a little too much at home." The place holds warm, happy memories for Earth. He wanted to wait until this moment to bring Mix here, but he hasn't stopped thinking about it since yesterday. He doesn't really understand why, but the idea of sharing this little paradise—this slice of his heaven—with Mix feels right to Earth.

He used to just sit here for hours, not wanting to leave until his father leaves the house. He couldn't stand the silence that gloats at him—at them—the heavy, awkward air filling their house when they're all together.

He knows he couldn't take that against them now. Possibly, not even then. After all, how do you expect two people who bear resentment towards each other to be okay living together?

But a part of him, one he never readily acknowledged, wished that they at least tried harder.

So Earth sits there, truly in awe of his surroundings. A place that bore witness to his juvenile pains. The pains he doesn't talk about. His sanctuary. He looks at Mix and sees the younger man just looking out at the sea, too. He focuses on his eyes and sees the glint of the waters reflected into them.

Amidst all this reverence to the sea, Earth would still take the mountains over it any day, if he's being honest. And while he does love this sanctuary, Earth must admit that there's something about the sea that scares him, too.

So Earth sits there, quietly reveling at how beautiful the sea truly is—but also how terrified he is of it.

He wonders how it is possible for him to love something and be terrified of it at the same time. Maybe, he thinks, maybe it's the endlessness of it. Everything he cannot see; everything it leaves to the imagination. Everything that could go wrong. He thinks about how suffocating it is; the stilling infiniteness stretching miles and miles ahead. He shudders at the knowledge that at some point, as he goes further and further from the coastline—his safety blanket—the sand—would eventually give way to the water. Water that sucks him in; water that drags him further down until air finally leaves his lungs. Until he gives up swimming.

In quiet moments like this, looking out and pretending none of the demands of his everyday matter, Earth wonders how long it'd take for him to drown.

But he looks at Mix and realizes that he's already drowning.

Mix, on the other hand, wonders if Earth's up for a morning swim. Just a quick dip into the water. He has done it before and remembers how awesome it felt. The water cold but nonetheless inviting. He imagines himself floating—aimless. Unsure. Unsteady.

But also expectant.

'Will the waves take me this time?' Mix wonders. 'Do I let it?'

Earth digs his toes deeper in the sand and mutters. "You know I never really learned how to swim properly."

"What?"

"I mean, I could dive. But swimming with my head above the water? That I can't do."

Mix chuckles and asks. "Then why'd you bring me here?"

'Because this is my slice of heaven. And I want you to see it, too.' Earth wanted to say, but instead, he utters. "Because you love the beach. And because I made you a promise last night."

Last night. Mix remembers very little about last night. After the game, everything was a fuzzy memory. He could recall tidbits, but that's it. Hell, he doesn't even know how he got to his room safely, but somehow, he did.

"Shit, please tell me I didn't embarrass myself last night."

Earth laughs, confirming Mix's worst fears. He pouts and buries his face in his hands. "Please, what did I do this time?"

"Well you said you love the beach and almost ran to the sea. I guess you wanted to swim?"

"Oh god. No more. I don't wanna hear it," Earth guffaws, remembering Mix's drunk antics from the night before. He recalls another specific memory and clears his throat. That one they probably have to talk about.

"And they know about us. About the one-night stand."

Mix sighs and lets his hands fall limply on his side. He takes a handful of sand on both hands and plays with them nonchalantly. Earth wonders if he'd avoid the conversation, although he is hoping that Mix wouldn't.

In that stretch of silence waiting for Mix to say something, Earth imagines himself swimming. This time, he's swimming towards Mix.

After some time, Mix finally whispers. "I know."

"You do?"

"That part was hazy but I do remember, yes." Mix avoids the other's eyes. He could blame it on the alcohol, and to be honest, that'd probably explain the unabashed courage. But now that he's sober, he begins to wonder if it was the right thing to do, considering their... confounding relationship right now.

But suddenly, he remembers a crucial part of that memory. An image of Earth holding his gaze—and him downing his own glass as if in solidarity.

"I hope that was okay?" Mix doesn't want to make Earth feel like he's trivializing what happened last night, but seeming too eager might push him away. Again. And he doesn't want that.

"It's fine. I never wanted to keep it under wraps anyway."

In fact, what he initially wanted was just to keep it there—compacted with all the numerous one-night stands he's experienced in his life. Because a world, Earth's world, demands certainty. It demands order; things shelved and compartmentalized. He liked—likes—things clean. No clutter.

Always making sure he can put out all the fires he has started.

So what began as a one-night stand should've stayed there; one night with a man he never intended to name or meet again. One he never wanted to welcome the morning with.

But Earth now looks at the said man, his gaze never leaving his face; that chiseled jaw, the hair that looked and felt soft under his touch, big eyes that reflect the massive, terrifying sea back to him, and realized that no—

He can't do it.

This isn't something he wants to forget; he isn't someone he wants gone the morning after.

They watch the last blanket of darkness ebb gracefully beyond the horizon. The light very slowly replaces the dark, looking majestic out over the ocean, fighting for the spotlight, for its time, until the dark finally concedes. Until all that's left is light, heavy with its promises.

Here's why this place feels like heaven for Earth.

Earth should be focusing on that now, but his eyes never leave Mix's face. He watches the younger man watching everything unfold beautifully; registering the big smile on the other's face, basking in that blissful silence. Earth smiles, knowing that the other feels it, too—that slice of heaven, here for them now before it retreats back into nothingness.

It feels pastoral, in a way. And Earth suddenly remembers that afternoon at the thrift shop. Telling Mix to wait for possibilities that lie there, in the crevice of uncertainty. To hope and have faith—even if he can't see it yet.

But Earth... Earth could see it now, too.

He hears Jennie's words, clear as this morning, asking him to try again. That it isn't going to be easy. But that he needs to want it; he needs to believe in it.

Earth's gaze shifts to Mix, with his toes buried deep in the sand, looking out into the waters, eyes cast over the horizon, looking as beautiful, as dashing, as breathtaking as that first morning together.

And he realizes that he does; he wants him. He believes in this possibility.

Mix breaks through the fog that is Earth's thoughts and says, "15 mins."

"Huh?"

The moment feels ripe for honesty. More honesty. While he loved the overall silence, Mix wants to hear Earth talking; he wants to feel him there, with him. More than he already does. So he repeats himself, voice clearer and a little louder this time, battling with the waves.

"15 minutes. No BS. Tell me... whatever. Talk to me," Mix nudges the older man with his shoulder. Then, he braces himself for honesty that he feels is coming.

15 minutes.

Earth wants to tell Mix that he always wondered how it would feel like to kiss his little scar, that small indentation just below the latter's left eye. Kiss it softly; kiss it with intent. Press his lips on that scar and have it travel down his birthmark, the one on his jaw. He wonders if Mix is ready to welcome him that way—that way again.

He sucks in his breath. There is only one way to find out.

"I think I want to kiss you."

Mix stiffens. There is warmth surging inside him now, a welcome replacement for the cold. The younger man offers up a smile and, in a playful voice, says, "You think?"

Earth giggles. He tries to recall the last time he giggled like a kid excited for candy. Or a boy caught looking at his first love. He is surprising himself. But then again, Mix has been making him do things he has sworn on himself to never do again.

So Earth repeats himself, now with a resolve permeating the early morning haze. "Mix," He faces the younger man now. The sea. He can still see the sea in his eyes.

It doesn't terrify him now.

"I want to kiss you."

A small nod. An invitation. Earth leans in closer to kiss him—his smile, their smiles, mingling.

Earth can almost taste the sea on the other's mouth and it's salty but he keeps pressing into Mix's lips. Softly. The initial rush in his lips melting with Mix's slow movements, calming him. He keeps kissing him as if he's air and Earth's expected to continue breathing. And he has to keep breathing. Has to keep going. Has to keep at it for... this. Him. This—them.

He doesn't realize that he's been waiting; that he's been feeling cold for too long. Now, set ablaze. By a kiss. By a man, personifying a sea—everything that terrifies him. Everything that threatens to take him under.

That morning, Earth lets it.

 

- - -

 

Mix doesn't remember falling asleep. Especially not on the beach, inches away from the water. But he wakes up nonetheless, the sun pressing down on his body and—

The warmth of Earth's body, next to him. He slowly faces him and looks up to see the older man still sleeping. He looks comfortable, lying in the sand with the sun baring down on him. Mix reaches out to pat his head softly and smiles.

The memory from a few hours ago comes rushing back on Mix's mind, replacing sleep. Slowly, it begins dawning on him that he's locked in an embrace, with one of Earth's arms wrapped gingerly on his waist, the other acting as a cushion for his head. The realization made him ticklish but the boy kept himself from laughing or moving; if this was a dream, then he wants to preserve it. Just a little longer.

But reality comes roaring in the form of two little boys kneeling next to them. Mix feels conscious at the little, inquisitive eyes fixed on them and tries to angle his body. One of the boys pokes Mix's leg and slowly nears him. He cups his chubby hands on his mouth and his voice cracks through a whisper, "Are you boyfriends?"

Mix chuckles and finally (begrudgingly) frees himself from Earth's embrace, careful enough not to stir him. He looks around the area and spots some people a few distance away from them, enjoying the morning sun. It isn't crowded but Mix could make out, from a distance, a smorgasbord of vendors selling trinkets and food near the road.

He holds up a finger to his mouth. To the boys, he smiles. "Where are your guardians?" It is usually easy to deflect kids, but evidently not these two. Both boys looked as if they have more questions about them and are not budging unless Mix satisfies them with an answer.

Mix surveys the area again, hoping to spot parents who are looking for their children or something. Mix doesn't realize that Earth has woken up until he hears him moving next to him. To the children, the older man says, "No,"

"But do you think we should be boyfriends?"

That probably isn't a conversation they should be having in front of the children, Mix supposes. Although that's definitely a conversation they should be having after, well, that kiss.

The children swapped looks of disbelief. One of them was bold enough to say, "You're not?!"

Earth erupts in laugher and Mix could only join in. The two boys eventually get up, waving to both men as they make their way into the water.

"Children these days," Earth says, leaning back on the sand. He watches Mix looking out on the beach, pensive. The older man feels a blush creep on his cheeks, the event from a few hours ago faint in his memory but not forgotten.

"Do you mean that?"

"Hmm?"

Mix looks behind him and catches Earth already staring, a glint of mischief in his eyes. Mix rolls his eyes at him. "Don't make me say it,"

"Are you blushing?" Earth says teasingly.

"You wish," Mix says. They both know that he is.

Earth positions himself behind Mix and moves his body closer. He positions his legs on Mix's sides, like an enclosure. He breathes in. Slowly, his arms circle Mix's waist; his head on Mix's shoulder. And to his ears, Earth whispers.

"Be my boyfriend, Mix Sahaphap."

Mix hopes.

He hopes that Earth knows that his kiss is the answer.

The morning drifts to noon and the two decide to survey the area before they go. The sea breeze was immensely pleasant. Earth knows that the spot would be teeming with people in the morning, but appreciated that all that activity was a safe distance away from the shore.

Ahead of him, he spots Mix observing a row of tables selling handmade accessories. He observes the other as Mix moves from table to table, decidedly lingering on one before moving on. Before Earth could follow him, the old lady from that accessory stall stops him. He looks at her and bows. She does the same and says, "The boy was eyeing this necklace,"

She picks up a necklace from the neat row and puts it on her palm so Earth could inspect it. It was a seashell locket, held together by a simple leather cord.

"It is believed that if you put two people's pictures inside, they're bound to stay together forever. Like the sea that never falters,"

Earth smiles and sees Mix now talking to the two boys they met earlier.

After a while, he rejoins him and they leave the beach.

 

- - -

 

They got back to the resort in the afternoon, sure that everyone's out by the restaurant near the shore having lunch. They could dine with their friends, but they've more pressing... issues to take care of.

Like a shower. To remove the smell of saltwater from their hair, of course.

The two excitedly make their way to Mix's room. Smiling and giggling like high schoolers. Maybe it is stupid, but Mix wants more time with Earth. More time with him alone. More time to soak in the bliss. They arrive outside his room and Mix kisses Earth, the faint taste of salt in his mouth, and finally opens the door to his room.

The room doesn't feel as massive and unfilled with Earth inside with him now. "Your room's nice. Nicer than mine, really." Earth says as he walks to the window that leads to the balcony. Mix does a double-take of his room himself, and after a while, utters. "Let's get lunch downstairs. The others are probably still there."

Earth nods but doesn't say anything.

Mix adds, "But first, let me take a shower." He made a point to look at Earth for a second. His stare was quick but heavy with meaning.

He steps into the shower and begins.

Not even a minute later, he hears the door to the bathroom creak slowly. A paddle of feet on the tiles says he's here—finally there, too.

Earth steps behind Mix. He begins with a gentle tap on his waist. Within seconds, Mix feels Earth's chest on his back and he involuntarily leans into it. In the midst of all that water bearing down on their bodies from the shower, he feels Earth's hot breath on his neck.

Mix hopes he doesn't buckle.

Earth starts with a gentle tap, a familiar habit. He didn't have to overthink this; he knows full well that his body would know exactly what to do. Soon, Earth is clutching Mix's waist like he would something he wants to break. He begins to wonder if he's hurting him. In all that charged haze of lust, Earth makes a mental note to do it softly next time—and all the times thereafter.

But not yet; not now. Not when Mix's hands begin aggressively balling Earth's hair.

He stops thinking after that. And all that's left is their lips crashing against each other's. Wordlessly, they're wrestling for control. The urgency tucked in their bodies. Wanting more.

'More', one imagines the other say.

'Give me more of you.'

And there really isn't anything more to do but yield.

Soon, they're a whirlwind of body and water and soap. Skin on skin and more skin. Kisses going deeper and deeper. Muffled moans under the shower. Their intensity shattering the steady ring of the shower, breaking into their bodies.

They don't know how, but within minutes, they're on the bed. They'd worry about soaked sheets later.

But now—this. Earth thinks. 'Now, him.'

Mix under him. Squirming. Finding an angle on the bed that works for the both of them but never abandoning the kiss. Mix's hands on Earth's back, digging into the latter's damp skin. Earth takes a moment to surface from that kiss and sees a scowl on Mix's face. Clearly, he doesn't want to let go. And while Earth doesn't really want to himself, he felt the urgent need to see this. An intense desire to revel in all of Mix's glory.

So he takes a moment to just soak it all in; Mix's naked body on the bed. Body damp from a shower they never really finished. Flushed and reddening in all the right places. Chest heaving up and down. If Earth squints hard enough, he could see the steady hammering of the other's heart from inside his chest. And further down, the unobstructed view of Mix's naked legs, wrapped around his waist. Finally, he sees Mix's shaft—hard and pulsating. Ready.

This view is enough to drive Earth insane. And in the mess of all his lecherous thoughts, Earth's mind begins to linger on that first night. The first night of them together. Together but not together this way. He begins to wonder if Mix still remembers.

Earth steals a final glance at Mix's face and slowly crouches down. Mad intent on his eyes. And so much more in his touches. He firmly removes Mix's legs from his waist and brings himself down, positioning himself in between Mix's legs.

He sees Mix looking. Eyes wide in desperation. One hand on the bed frame, the other clutching the sheets. Earth grins and licks his lips.

He closes the gap between his mouth and Mix's already hard member.

He would make sure Mix remembers.

It doesn't take long for Mix to react to Earth's mouth on his shaft. Within seconds, he's a writhing mess. Body twisting from underneath Earth's touch.

"Slowly," he whispers, voice hitching. He knows that it sounded like a plea and Earth, Earth feels the hair on his body stand up. Prickling. He wanted to keep going but he knows Mix would want to enjoy this longer. So, he hastens his pace. He responds by circling Mix's dick with his tongue for the last time, making sure he grazes his teeth along his shaft before excruciatingly bringing his mouth to the tip. And finally, he brings it out with a dulled 'pop'.

Not wasting any second, Mix brings Earth's body up to his eye level and ravishes him with a hungry kiss. Earth always thought that sex has to have control—a certain tension that slowly disintegrates when body meets body and bodies meet a cacophony of mixed desires. He explores that tension and pushes into Mix's body; pushing until it's wide open. Exposed.

Mix's raspy breathing deepens as Earth licks his neck. The older man moves up and nibbles on his jaw, tongue traveling to his birthmark and up to plant a soft kiss on the scar under his eye. A romantic yet brief break from the ecstasy he's sure they're both feeling.

Below, he feels Earth's hand grappling for his dick and before he realizes what the other is doing, Earth's takes his own cock, positioning it atop Mix's. And soon, Earth's big hand is holding and rubbing their dicks together, picking up a steady rhythm.

Mix swears he'd pass out.

Earth's breath is hot and heavy on Mix's cheek. He continues stroking both of their cocks together and losing himself in pleasure. He could hear Mix moaning, the words 'fuck', 'please', and 'oh god' coming in quick, faint successions. It turns him on even more.

And like torture, Mix feels Earth abandon the movement and for a split second, he worries that that's it. He watches Earth leave the bed to take something from his shorts' pocket, which lay discarded on the floor.

Within seconds, he's back on the bed. Earth slams the condom on the bedside table and opens a packet of lubricant. Not wasting any more second, he settles in the middle of Mix's legs again and grapples for his behind. Soon, he's spreading the other's ass cheeks. Mix tries to slow his breathing and nods through the fog of lust, already knowing what's coming.

He's ready.

The lube was cold but Mix's hole adjusts to it almost instantly. Thoroughly lubed up, Earth's finger slips in and out of Mix easily. Not long after, he slips a second finger in and instantly feels Mix tense at the addition. But he feels him adjust fairly quickly and before long, begins to move and angle his waist so he could feel Earth's fingers deeper. Earth could feel him moving with his fingers and it sends his head spiraling from dizzying pleasure.

Earth licks and bites on Mix's milky thighs as he works on his hole. He could come just by doing this—just by ravishing him like this. But he wants more. And his swelling member is begging to join in on the fun.

He withdraws his fingers and takes the condom from the bedside table. He swiftly opens the packet with his teeth and expertly rolls it down on his cock with ease.

"Ready?" He asks. Mix struggles with words.

"I need to hear you say it," Mix breathes out a faint 'yes' and Earth grins.

And then, he goes.

Earth slowly pushes into Mix, feeling as if his head would burst from the ecstasy. His mind pieces together everything—that fateful night with Mix, the dream he had of him one morning, wanting to hold him like this all this time—restraining himself. And now this. A culmination of sorts. A release. Liberation for him.

He thrusts into Mix slowly, enjoying the sounds coming out of his mouth. The twisted mix of obscenities, morphing into pleas. The fucking perfection that is Mix—right now, an epitome of hunger. Ripe for his taking.

Mix would be embarrassed by the sounds he's making right now, if not for Earth whispering, "Let me hear it..." So, he lets it out: the jumble of words, mostly incomprehensible but nonetheless sweet to Earth's ears. He holds Earth in place and opens his mouth even more, an invitation for more. And soon they're again a mix of tongue and saliva and hurried, unrepressed pleasure.

Earth picks up his pace. He has no intention to stop kissing Mix, but his mouth involuntarily has to let go as he feels pressure build from within him. Mix picks up on this change of pace and runs his hand on Earth's toned back, digging into him deeper. The older man swiftly removes his cock from Mix's ass and it leaves the latter feeling empty. But Earth effortlessly grabs one of Mix's legs and slings it over his shoulder. With better access to Mix's hole this time, Earth slams into him harder.

"Fuck!" Mix cries out. He watches Earth's satisfied grin as the man towers over him. 'God, he's—'

Perfect. He thought, but his mind is finding it difficult to be coherent. Not with Earth's cock moving deeper and harder into him. His breaths grew fainter as he feels Earth tensing more under his touch. He knows he's close and senses that he is, too. He could feel the heat pooling inside and then—

"I—"

Mix's cum shoots from his cock to Earth's chest as the orgasm surges all over his body. He feels some of it spill to the side of his pulsating member. His body twitching, hole tightening even as Earth continuously moves inside him. Mix sees Earth smile for a split second, satisfied that he satisfied Mix, before his expression morphs into one of desperation. His thrust harder and even more urgent; his frowns, deeper. Mix could see that he's almost there, too.

Seeing his face made Mix swear under his breath. Earth answers with a moan of his own, and Mix licks the other's neck, making sure that the obscenities ring clear on his ear. He knows Earth's close; he wouldn't last much longer.

"Mix, fuck, I'm cumming—" Mix cuts him off with a bite on his shoulder. He enjoys hearing his name on Earth's mouth like this, like the latter enjoys the sound of him whimpering and moaning.

His hip does a final thrust before Earth is blinded by his own orgasm. He slowly brings himself down on Mix and kisses his forehead, down to his scar, and finally, to the birthmark on his jaw. His own triumvirate.

The two catch their breaths as Mix's fingers play with Earth's hair, their bodies still recovering from the high. Outside, the sun peeks behind a mass of clouds. The intensity muted but there—fighting for its time.

"You never really said it,"

Mix frowns and fixes his eyes on Earth's face, a few inches from his. Whispering, he asks. "What is it?"

"Would you be my boyfriend?"

Mix knows what it pertains to. But it was so nice, so liberating, to hear the word escape the other's mouth. Boyfriend. "Imagine if I say 'no' right now,"

"Oh, you wouldn't dare."

Mix raises an eyebrow and smugly looks at Earth, as if saying, 'watch me.' When the teasing was over, Mix cups Earth's face in his hands.

"Yes, Pirapat. Yes, I'd be your boyfriend."

Earth breaks into a smile. He lowers himself one last time for a quick peck on his boyfriend's lips before gently bringing his weight down on Mix. Earth tries to find comfort in the sound of Mix's heart beating. Steady. Mimicking waves lapping the shoreline.

Within seconds, he's sound asleep. Mix kisses the top of Earth's head—his boyfriend—before locking him in an embrace.