There is a moment where Khun can finally breathe. His Bam, although in the form of Jyu Viole Grace, is back.
He got him back.
He watched Bam’s—Viole’s? No, Bam’s—polite smile as he got crowded around by friends asking him a million questions. He nodded and turned and listened to everyone as best he could but Khun saw the underlying stress building underneath the surface.
His jaw was a little too stiff, forced to keep the smile up. His throat bobbed as he fought the tightness in his throat threatening to choke him. He was wringing his hands in front of him, fighting the urge to push away and hide.
Khun couldn’t keep watching this.
He came up besides Bam, his fingers ghosting over the small of his back, careful not to startle him but still there for support. He nodded to his new friends with a more practiced smile than Bam.
“I know you guys have a lot to catch up on, but would you mind if I steal him away for a while? There are some time-sensitive things I’d like to discuss.”
He didn’t wait for a response before turning to Bam and catching a glimpse of his wide eyes underneath the long fringe of chestnut hair. The familiarity of gold stole his breath away, and for a second he was back on the Floor of Test, shocked round eyes of glittering gold staring up at him from the ground.
He blinked a couple of times before realizing he was staring for a bit too long and turned away, hoping the heat rising to his cheeks wasn’t too obvious. He pressed his palm into Bam’s back to usher him away and Bam followed, completely trusting him; as if the last time they were safe together like this hadn’t been seven long years ago, as if their relationship had not been scarred by betrayal and death.
He flicked the lights on in his room but paused as he glanced over his shoulder at Bam, remembering how they used to hide away when they were younger—when the new world was still overwhelming to a young boy whose existence not long ago had only known a dark cave.
He turned back to the room and flicked the light off, opting instead to go up to the window and pulling the curtains apart just enough to let a sliver of the late evening light in. He heard the door click closed behind him and couldn’t help the smile forming on his lips when the bedsheets rustled as they were pulled back. Bam had caught on to his plan.
The memory of their comfort routine was precious enough to him that conjuring it up on bad nights was the only thing that could help him fall asleep during the years without him.
He’d remember the stolen moments throughout the week where they would hide themselves away in a corner of a dark, empty room. He missed Bam’s warmth as they pressed together in the silence, him stroking his back with one hand and holding his head close against his shoulder with the other.
When scattered breaks to hide away were no longer enough, they took advantage of the nights to sleep next to each other whenever they could. He would cradle Bam’s head in his arms, his fingers carding through soft tresses of brown. He missed that the most on the worst nights when the nightmares of his past were relentless.
Khun took in a deep breath and went to his drawer. He pulled out the softest pajama set he owned, turned to Bam who was sitting on the edge of the bed and tossed him the clothes. “Tell me when you’re done.”
He turned back to his drawer and took his time changing into comfy clothes to sleep in.
Khun set his folded dress shirt over his other clothes on top of the drawer and padded over to the bed. He slid in between the soft sheets and drew up the covers to his chin. He turned to the curious stare of Bam, long bangs fanning across the pillow and obscuring all but one golden eye.
His mind thought of a bunch of different ways to comfort him. Should he stroke his hair? Or pull him into his shoulder? Maybe wrap his arms around him and envelop him fully?
As he ruminated on his options, Bam’s eyes began to slip shut, the tiredness quickly overtaking him until he was breathing softly, fast asleep. Khun smiled, feeling a bit helpless at how little he had done for him, and yet understanding how much trust Bam must have in him to fall asleep immediately.
He brought his hand up and pushed his bangs away, now able to get a better look at his face. He didn’t look that much older despite the years since he last saw him. He brushed the back of his hand against his cheek that still held some of that baby fat and marveled at how soft his skin felt, unmarred by what he must have suffered through.
His eyes traveled down to his neck, noticing little raised lines of scar tissue at the base of his shoulder. He furrowed his eyebrows and raised his head to get a better look. They trailed under the collar of the shirt and his eyes flitted to Bam’s face to make sure he was still asleep. Slowly, he tugged at the shirt to reveal more and frowned at seeing that it only got deeper, multiple tiny gouges scratched into his skin. What had they done to him?
Khun startled when Bam let out a little sigh and shifted onto his back. He didn’t move further and Khun let go of the breath he didn’t know he was holding.
He propped himself up on his elbow and leaned over Bam. Since he tended to run hot in his sleep, Bam didn’t button his shirts up all the way, and Khun took advantage of that to brush his fingers down his chest, pushing aside the soft fabric.
He wasn’t prepared to see them.
Each barely an inch wide but there were so many. They looked like burns splashed across his chest, and on anyone else, they might have left worse scars but Bam had healed fast, the edges of pink skin barely raised against his tanned skin, containing the damage.
He gingerly ran a finger over one, the feeling of the thick skin making his stomach twist up. What had FUG done to him? How had they tortured him? What had they forced him to do?
He swallowed down the knot in his throat, the guilt weighing heavily in his heart. If only he had found him sooner. If only he had had more faith that he was still alive and had started searching for him sooner.
He gritted his teeth, biting back the tears but failing as his vision blurred.
If only he hadn’t been so weak.
He lowered his head, pressing his lips gently against one of the scars. The tears left hot trails as they slipped down his face but that was the least of his concern. He continued to the next one and pressed his apology into the warm skin.
If only it was enough to ease the pain he had let Bam suffer. If only it was enough to earn his forgiveness.
Fingers tangled through his hair and Khun stiffened. They curled, lightly scratching his scalp, and he melted into the pleasant electric feeling that had his eyes fluttering closed.
“Bam…” he whispered, barely audible, “I’m sorry.”
He dropped his forehead against Bam’s chest, and upon feeling the wetness, realized with embarrassment that he’d been soaking him with his tears.
“It’s not your fault,” answered Bam in his low, quiet voice.
Khun raised his head, pulled the shirt closed, and laid his head back down with his ear pressed to Bam’s chest this time to hear his heartbeats. Bam’s hand was back on his head, lazily stroking his hair.
Why was he the one being comforted now? What had he done to deserve this?
His fingers curled tight around the soft pajamas, and Bam, attuned to his emotions even in his half-asleep state, was able to pick up on his distress.
“You didn’t know what happened but you still stayed strong enough to keep going. I’m so proud of you, Khun-ssi.”
Khun was quiet, his desire to dispute that quieted down by the vulnerable side of himself that desperately needed to hear that. That wanted his sacrifice acknowledged. It made him feel selfish but he was too tired to argue with himself. And so he turned to his favorite tactic: Deflection.
“Does it hurt? The scars.” It was a morbid curiosity but he needed to know, if anything, so that he could help ease the pain.
Bam shook his head. “Not really. The skin around the scar is a little more sensitive to temperature but otherwise, it doesn’t hurt.”
Khun hummed in acknowledgment and traced his fingers lightly over the shirt where the scars lay underneath. He swallowed thickly but managed to push the words out. “Are there more?”
Bam was silent for a little longer than Khun felt comfortable with.
Khun felt his chest tighten painfully as he wrapped his arms tight around Bam’s chest.
“But the scars mean nothing now that I can be with everyone again,” continued Bam. “Now I can keep them safe.”
Khun frowned, not letting go of his hold on Bam. He was taking on the entire burden alone even though he had already bared enough.
He turned his head and pressed his lips to the center of his chest. “I promise you’ll never have to do that again for us,” he mumbled into the fabric, “I promise I’ll protect you from now on.”
He felt Bam’s breath hitch in his chest and his fingers twitch to a stop. It took a few seconds for his fingers to move again and go back to stroking his hair. Khun closed his eyes and got comfortable, delighting in the affection he had missed so much.
“Thank you… Khun.”
The silence was comfortable as he soaked in Bam’s warmth, feeling himself drift into slumber when he was pulled back by a little question.
“Khun?” He hummed in response. “Can you cut my hair tomorrow?”
Khun smiled and lifted his head, his half-lidded eyes barely open to look at Bam. “Of course.” He reached out, his fingers tracing Bam’s hair from his head and across the pillow until he was at arm’s length and barely reached the end. “Why haven’t you cut it before?”
Bam re-positioned his hands on Khun’s waist, his thumbs rubbing the soft skin that got exposed when he stretched his arm out in his tracing game.
“I didn’t trust anyone to come near me with something that could be used as a weapon.”
Khun froze, feeling his heart skip a beat, and he turned wide eyes on him. “Bam…”
“But it’s okay now… I trust you, Khun. I’ll always trust you.”
His heart raced in his chest and catching his breath was suddenly difficult. There had been an emptiness in him that he had become numb to, had to, or else he would break to pieces knowing that there was only one person who could fill it.
And now that he had him back, it was overwhelming how the hole in his heart was overflowing with emotions he didn’t realize he had been slowly dying without.
He had missed him so much.
A hand was on his cheek, stroking it gently, brushing away the fresh tears that had escaped. “Khun…?”
He let out a short laugh, a choked sound as it pushed past his tight throat, but a happy noise nonetheless.
“I’m okay, Bam. I promise.”
He tried to abate him with a smile, teary, but warm. Bam’s hands cupped his face and drew him down and Khun felt his face flush hot as his head was turned to one side and then the other for lips to press against the corner of his eyes, whisking away tears.
He blinked at Bam, mirthful gold watching his reaction with great amusement. He wanted to bury his face in the pillow and hide away from the embarrassment but Bam hadn’t let go of him and he curled his fingers into the sheets as he hovered so close to his face.
“May I?” asked Bam in his soft, low voice.
Khun gulped. “What?”
Bam’s cheeks tinted pink as he pressed his lips together to suppress his reaction. The corners of his mouth still twitched up. “Kiss you.”
Khun stared at him, the words not quite making sense in his head. Kiss you? Him? As in, on the mouth? His brain completely stalled as Bam waited patiently, his eyes moving across his face like he could see the gears turning in his head.
Bam let go of his face, his hands returning to his waist. “It’s okay, we don’t have to-”
“-No, I… Yes… Please.”
He licked his lips, unsure of what to do or how to go about it. But Bam’s mouth was slowly twisting into a smirk as he watched him panic and finally Khun decided to just lean in, clumsily pressing their lips together.
It was warm, soft, the pressure in his chest overflowing and he finally realized what it was.
Bam’s arms were around him, pulling his body close as they melted into each other. He tipped his head a little further, deepening the kiss, pouring all the love he had harbored for years and then some.
He heard a little moan as he breathed out through his nose and he realized it was him. He pulled away, his face hot as he took in a deep breath.
Bam was smiling contently beneath him, looking dazed with his face red to his ears. “I’ve dreamed of doing that for so long, I’m not sure if I'm awake right now.”
Khun chuckled and brushed their noses together. “I know, me too.”
They shared little giddy laughs, unsure of how to proceed, feeling lightheaded and in love.
Khun bit his lip as the words sat on the edge of his tongue. Tell him. Tell him how you feel. Say the words. Tell him you love him.
The door crashed against the wall as it was kicked open and the light that flooded in made both of them squint.
“Ah-ha! Why are the turtles hiding from their leader!? I have been looking everywhere for you!”
Khun growled as he grabbed a pillow and chucked it at the doorway. “You’re too damn loud!”
The pillow bounced off an unfazed Rak and he harrumphed as he closed the door behind himself. “I have to be so my turtles will always know where to find me!”
He trotted over as Khun sat up and begrudgingly separated from Bam to help the little croc up onto the bed. Rak immediately hugged Bam and Khun rolled his eyes.
“No more hiding,” Rak muttered, but he held on tight like he feared him disappearing again.
Bam smiled as he returned the hug. “I’m sorry, Rak-ssi. I’m here now.”
Khun sighed, his tranquil moment broken but this was good too he supposed. “I’m going to sleep. Good night.” Then he flopped back onto the bed.
He was a little surprised when Bam lay next to him and grabbed his hand, giving it a light squeeze. “Good night, Khun-ssi. Good night, Rak-ssi.”
The little croc had already sprawled out beside them and snored out his good night.
Khun looked over at Bam and noticed his eyes were already closed, a peaceful smile on his face. He watched him for a while longer until sleep finally took him.
He could wait, as long as it meant that Bam was still there tomorrow and the day after and for the rest of his days. As long as he could hold him closer later, he could wait to tell him he loved him.