Who the hell was banging so loudly at this hour? Can groaned and rolled onto his back, flinging an arm over his eyes. Had one of the guys gone out and forgotten their key? Seriously. It was Friday night and he’d had a long day, long week actually. Getting a new business up and running was bloody hard work. It was going well, which was great, but at the end of every day he felt like he’d run a marathon.
The banging persisted and Can flipped his feet to the floor and rubbed his eyes, realising he wasn’t even in his bed, but had nodded off on the sofa. A quick tap on his phone revealed the time to be nearly 11pm.
Mai emerged from his room, wearing pyjama bottoms and nothing else. “What’s that noise?” he grumbled, padding over to the front door before Can could even get himself to his feet. A moment later Pond appeared with ChaAim close on his heels.
Mai opened the front door to reveal Tin’s mother.
Tin’s mother was at the door. What the actual hell? Can found the energy from somewhere to stand.
Mai obviously recognised her from the birthday party because he said, “Mrs Medthanan, what a surprise.”
She shot Mai a filthy look that would have felled a demon. “Where is the one called ‘Can’?” she spat, eyes searching the room and landing on him, her already haughty expression morphing into utter disdain. “You!” She raised a jewelled finger and pointed.
Can felt actual fear for a moment. She looked like she was about to smite him! What could the woman want with him? Was she going to rip him a new one for daring to turn Tin down all those months ago? Would she even know about that? Can doubted it.
“Good evening, Mrs Medthanan,” Can tried, with a small smile that was an effort. What had Tin written in that email to him? Neither of my parents cared much for me, I was the spare son. Can had little care for a woman who could treat her own son, someone Can himself loved with all his heart, like he didn’t matter. “What can I do for you?”
Her eyes flashed and her cosmetically enhanced features twisted into something very ugly as she stepped towards him. He vaguely registered the shocked faces of his friends as she jabbed her finger into his chest and said, “You will stay away from my son.”
Can, feeling the anger rise, replied as he stepped back, “I will not. If Tin wants me — if he needs me — I’m always going to be there.” Unlike you. “He matters.”
“You insolent little brat!” she hissed, fist clenching. “You and that scheming sister of yours—”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Mai interrupted. “I think it would be best if you left now.”
“This is none of your business!” Mrs Medthanan didn’t even glance in Mai’s direction. “This is between me and—”
“Mai is right,” Can agreed, thankful for his friend’s interjection. “You need to leave.” He nodded in the direction of the door, thankful to ChaAim for opening it and making a sweeping gesture towards Mrs Medthanan.
She glanced at the open door and drew herself up to her full height, and returned to glaring at Can. “Who did you think you are? Someone like you will never be good enough for my son! You—”
“Leave, or I call the police,” Mai said, folding his arms over his naked chest.
Mrs Medthanan finally turned to look at Mai, looking him up and down in disgust. Mai raised an eyebrow and she said, “Fine, I’m going.” To Can she said, “Stay away from Tin.” With that she straightened her shoulders and marched out the apartment. ChaAim let go of the door and it slammed loudly.
“Wow,” said Pond, finding his voice for the first time since Mrs Medthanan’s arrival. “What the fuck was that? You and Tin Medthanan?” Pond made a ‘you did good’ face and ChaAim elbowed him.
“She’s a bit late to the party. Me and Tin — it’s all over now,” Can said, rubbing the back of his neck in an attempt to stop his head from spinning. The other three were looking at him like he’d grown a new head. Can sighed heavily. “Thanks for having my back.”
Mai patted him consolingly on the back. “Anytime.”
Can managed a smile. “There’s some beer in the fridge. I think we need a drink.” He really wanted time alone to process what had just happened, but he felt he owed his friends an explanation — as best he could anyway when he had no clue himself!
Later, when he finally escaped and into his own bed he lay on his back staring at the shadows cast from the bedside lamp onto the ceiling he wondered, what did it all mean? Why had she visited now when things had ended? Did she know something he didn’t? Could he even hope that perhaps he’d had it all wrong and there was still a chance for him with Tin?
By the time sleep claimed him he’d decided that whatever it had been, it didn’t mean Tin still cared about him at all. His mother was right, someone like him would never be good enough for Tin. Tin deserved someone who was his equal. Can would never come close.
“I feel sick,” Pete said as Tin pulled the car into a space near ‘Plant and Page’ on Saturday. “What if he hates me now?”
“Would he want to see you if he hated you?” Tin asked, undoing his seatbelt and hoping that Pete wouldn’t notice that he was as nervous, if not worse, than Pete himself. “He knows that all of this is my fault. If he hates anyone it’s going to be me.”
They both stayed staring blankly out of the windscreen in silence until Pete finally undid his own seatbelt and said, “Right, well, time to get it over with.”
The two of the climbed onto of the car and walked purposefully in the direction of the café. Once inside Tin noticed Ae immediately, talking with Techno near the counter. When Ae saw Pete he froze and stared at him, the expression on his face so soft as they approached that any fears Tin had that the reconciliation wouldn’t go as planned faded away.
Relieved, Tin scanned the busy premises looking for Can but there was no sign of him.
“Can’s not here,” Techno said, obviously reading Tin correctly.
“That’s a shame,” Tin responded, almost shaking with the disappointment. What he’d been hoping for he didn’t really know, he’d been both dreading and over-thinking it knowing he’d been coming here with Pete. None of the scenarios he’d gone over in his head had been that Can wouldn’t even be there!
Techno gave him a searching look then he closed his eyes and nodded to himself before locking his intense gaze upon him and saying, “Come to the gym office with me, please? I want to tell you something.”
Surprised, Tin didn’t argue when Techno led him out through the bifold doors and across the gym reception area into a small functional room that contained two desks with laptops and had a huge notice board dominating one wall. Techno indicated that Tin should sit down, and he did as asked. Techno reached to the side of the desk and opened a small fridge and took out two bottles of water, handing one to Tin who took it gratefully. It was a hot day.
Expectantly he watched Techno who was taking his time opening his own water bottle. Without looking up from his task he said, “I’ve always been a little bit in love with Can.”
Tin felt his hackles immediately rise and Techno looked up at him as if expecting to see anger reflected back at him. He held up his hands placatingly. “Hear me out. Please?”
Tin nodded, waiting.
“A little bit in love…a lot in love. It doesn’t matter. Can never noticed, never saw me that way. I thought maybe one day, you know? He can take a while to catch on sometimes and I hoped… Anyway. I know now he’ll only ever see me as a friend. I’m not the one he’s in love with.”
“Where are you going with this?” Tin snapped then, trying to hold his shattering heart in one piece. Can was in love. Who the fuck with? Can could love someone else but not him?
Techno sighed and shook his head, continuing, “Your mother showed up at Can’s last night. She was rude, told him to stay away from you. Said he wasn’t good enough for you.”
Tin opened his mouth and closed it again. He could not have heard that right.
“It’s true, Pond told me, he was there when she turned up. But that’s not the point of what I’m trying to tell you which is that Can told her he’d always be there if you needed him. Told her you mattered to him.” Techno nodded. “Then they kicked her out.”
Tin wasn’t often lost for words but right now, he couldn’t formulate anything.
“You understand what I’m saying, right? You’re a clever guy.”
“I—” Alright, still no words.
“I’m not blind, know you care for him. You saved our asses because of him.” There was a knock on the door and Techno stood and called, “Be right there!”
Tin watched Techno as he stood made the two steps to the door. Finally, he managed to speak and said, “I understand.” Techno nodded at him and slid out into the reception area leaving Tin alone with his own whirring thoughts. To the empty room he said, “What the hell?” He palmed his face, covering his eyes.
When he emerged five minutes later and returned to the café, he found Pete and Ae were nowhere to be seen which was hopefully a good sign. Checking his phone, he found a text message from Pete confirming he’d left with Ae.
Tin drove home and found Hin sitting at the kitchen island reading something on his tablet. They greeted one another and Tin said, “He know you’re here yet?”
Hin shook his head. “He’s keeping to his room.” He looked sad for a moment. “I want him to come out of his own accord, because he’s feeling better, before he sees me.”
“Whatever you think is best,” Tin said, patting him on the shoulder and helping himself to a coffee from the filter machine before sitting down at a right angle to the other man. He looked at him and said, “You still love Tul, even with all he’s done. How did you bear it? Being apart from him for so long I mean.”
Hin smiled sadly. “I didn’t.”
Tin nodded and took a sip of the hot coffee, relishing in the bitter taste. He needed it to keep himself alert today. There was no point in sitting around overthinking things. He needed to get out there and—
The front gate chimed. Tin raised an eyebrow at Hin who shrugged. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting any guests. Tin had not long moved back into the house, and it was running on minimum staff. When he was on his own he could fend for himself, but he did need people to clean and take care of the garden. When he’d brought Tul back from the hospital he’d employed a nurse to look after him but so far that was it. Everyone was probably busy, so he walked over to the intercom himself. “Medthanan,” he said, fully expecting it to be a delivery of some kind.
“Tin? It’s me, Can.”
Tin’s finger lifted off the button in shock. Apparently, he didn’t need to ‘get out there’ at all. Can had come to him.
When the line went dead Can thought that was it, game over. Tin didn’t want to see him after all. Of course, of course. Mrs Medthanan was right, he wasn’t good enough for Tin. What was he even doing there?
He jumped in surprise when Tin’s voice came back through the intercom. “I’ve opened the gate at the side. Come through and meet me in the garden.”
Once he was looking for it, Can spied the gate and slipped through it easily. He walked down a long characterless path that was a tall hedge on one side and house wall on the other until it suddenly opened out into a wide but narrow expanse of land that stretched the length of the house but was probably the width of a couple of tennis courts between the house and the lake. The lake was vast, all tall glass sided buildings and busy road on the other side.
He found Tin at balustrade, his back to Can as he stared out over the still water. Can walked up beside him and leant his forearms on the railing in a mirror of Tin’s pose. He felt Tin notice his arrival and then nothing. They stood like that in silence for what had to be at least five minutes. Can was aware of every breath Tin took.
Tin broke first, turning towards Can, hip resting against the railings now as he looked at him. Can turned his head and when he saw Tin’s expression he turned to face him. He’d never seen him look like he did now. Not even the time he’d confessed and Can had rejected him. He looked sick with nerves now as he looked at Can.
“News has reached me that my mother paid you a visit,” he began, eyes boring into Can’s as if trying to read the answer from there. “I’m sorry she was rude to you.”
After Tin’s mother had left the night before Can hadn’t been able to rest. He’d been so tired at work that morning he’d left Lizzy in charge and gone home to catch up with himself, but it hadn’t worked. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. Why had she come to him? Eventually he came to the conclusion that she would not have done it if she hadn’t believed there was something to worry about.
Regardless of any of it, looking at Tin now, Can knew he had to say what he came here to tell him. It had to come from him. He had to be the one to put himself on the line. He hadn’t made it clear enough before, on that weekend by the sea, simply showinghim wasn’t enough. He had to tell him.
He shook his head. “I don’t care how rude she was. Her coming to see me had the opposite effect than she intended.” He stepped in closer to Tin, tiptoed up and kissed him on the lips. Pulling back, he said, “Gave me the courage to tell you that I love you.”
The expression on Tin’s face was hard to read. His actions, however, gave Can hope. His arms went around him and Can found himself lifted up on the balustrade with Tin inserting himself between his legs and kissing him thoroughly. Long minutes passed, Can wrapped his legs around Tin’s back and his arms around his neck. It wasn’t like other kisses they’d shared which had nearly always been a prelude to sex. This was kissing for kissing’s sake. Not that Can wouldn’t be amendable to it leading to something more. He kind of always wanted Tin.
Tin pulled back and rested his forehead against Can’s, their breathing hot and heavy. “Did you mean it? You love me?”
“I love you,” Can repeated, with another kiss.
“Love me as in you’ll be my boyfriend?”
Can nodded, gaze blended with Tin’s to watch the wariness fade and the joy replace it.
“How about fiancé?”
Can thought he should probably be saying it was a bit too soon for that, but he also knew he never wanted to be apart from Tin again, so he said, “Maybe in a couple of weeks. You might have forgotten how annoying I can be.”
Tin smiled then, so handsome in that moment that Can’s breath caught. “I don’t need a couple of weeks. I love you. I think it started that first day, when you were covered in mud and glared at me, though I was oblivious at the time. I’ve never felt like this about anyone else before.” He tipped Can’s chin with his forefinger. “Marry me.”
Can didn’t need asking again. “Yes.” Then, huge grin plaster over his face. “You’re not after my inheritance are you?”
One year later
Weddings take a long while to organise. A wedding between two guys was still illegal in Thailand for a start. Go somewhere quiet, Tin thought, then come home and have a bigger celebration. The legal side, where Thai law wouldn’t recognise the union could be sewn up in other ways by Tin’s legal team.
How wrong he was. Now, a whole year after asking Can to marry him, Tin had found himself part of a double wedding, in Australia, shared with Pete and Ae with all of their combined friends and family. He’d even invited his mother who was now acting like she hadn’t tried to warn Can away from him.
In a twist of fate, Tin’s best man was Tul. He didn’t think they would ever be close as he they once had been because that hadn’t been real. However, once Tul had recovered from his injuries and been reunited with Hin, the brothers had sat down and had a long talk. Aired everything. Tin had learnt how his grandmother had really treated Tul, realised that while Tul’s actions had been unacceptable he could understand how Tul had ended up in the place he had. All of it had caused him to lose the love of his life. Now that Hin was back Tul’s anger had left him. After the wedding, Tul and Hin were relocating to the States for a couple of years so Tul could head up the business over there. He knew it was his last chance, Tin had to trust that this time he’d learnt his lesson.
“You’re not regretting this already are you?” Can came up behind him where he stood on the balcony and wrapped his arms around Tin’s waist and pressed his cheek to his back. The ceremony was over, they’d done photographs, champagne and canapés and now they had an hour to change before the reception.
Tin grabbed his hands and turned around in the circle of his arms. “Never.” He kissed Can’s forehead. “You’re mine now.”
Can snorted. “I always was.”
Can had moved in with him the day after they had declared their feelings to one another. Tul’s presence in the house had made for an interesting dynamic, but it seemed that Tul’s liking for Can had been genuine and after some awkwardness, mainly around Tul’s fraudulent activity to Can’s friends and dubious marriage deals with his sister, they had got along quite well. Can and Hin had become immediate fast friends. Can seemed to have that effect on most people. Except maybe Fong.
Tin had set his lawyers onto Can’s grandfather’s will and the marriage clause had quickly been deemed unreasonable in law and thrown out, which meant Can and Lemon inherited. It wasn’t a huge sum of money to Tin but it was enough for Can to pay off his business loan, give some money to his parents and have some left over. Aside from living rent free, something Tin would not compromise on, Can refused to let Tin fund him and insisted on paying his way with everything else, even the wedding.
“So,” Can said, wrapping his fist around Tin’s tie and raising an eyebrow. “We’ve got an hour to kill. Whatever will we do with the time?”
“I have no idea, Cantaloupe Medthanan. Do you have any suggestions?”
“I have a few ideas,” Can said and pulled Tin in for a kiss.
They were fifteen minutes late for their own reception, even beating Ae and Pete who managed to only be ten minutes late, and not one single guest was surprised.