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Pride and Punishment

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“So? Out with it! What did he think about that idea?” Arthit’s voice is distorted as it comes through the phone.

The core hazing team holds the phone on speaker mode while they mill around in the hall outside the engineering faculty advisor’s office, filling Arthit in on what’s next to come in their hazing journey on class 59.

“He agreed. But there’s a condition that only the female seniors can mentor the female freshmen.” Knot explained.

“This world is against me.” Bright’s shoulders slump and he immediately looks depressed.

“But it works for me!” Tutah grins and puffs up with happiness.

“Idiots, this is educational!” Prem smacks them both.

The new SOTUS event concept is this: to increase the personal mentorships between the seniors and freshmen, the faculty of engineering will have a Freshman Auction. Seniors will put up cash money to bid on a freshman, and in return the freshman will spend time learning from the senior about university life. The proceeds will go towards their end of semester trip.

That’s the official reasoning for the event.

Unofficially?

The freshman will do whatever the senior wants.

Some students got creative. It was basically anything goes providing it did not break any of the school rules or cause injury. And it was all supposed to make the SOTUS system fun.

In past years, between classes one could see girls and guys helping carry their seniors’ books, singing the flaming chicken dance, running various errands. In return, every participating freshman would get to know another senior and be able to rely on them.

“We’re meeting to divide responsibilities with the cheer committee and planners. Now that you’re reinstated, we need you too.” Knot smiles.

“That’s good…” The reinstated head hazer’s voice contains gratitude over the phone. “I will be there!”

“Any idea who you’ll bid on?” Bright rubs his hands together with glee.

“Ay, we need money for that.” Prem shakes his head.

The group all laugh and listen for Arthit’s reply.

“It doesn’t matter who it is! They will suffer!”

 

*

 

Arthit ends the phone call in a truly good mood. SOTUS is back on. And more than that, one on one time seems like the right solution to achieve redemption for their hazing tactics.

Arthit sits back in his desk chair, stretching lightly. The only thing is… thinking about individual time with a freshman inevitably makes him think about his so-called ‘favorite’ upstart freshy.

0062 Kongpob.

Objectively, he's cute. Of course, he's cute – he had a crowd of senior girls around him that time in the quad courtyard. It was clear that he would do well in the freshy night moon & star competition. He’d likely pull in a lot of money in the freshman auction too… But Arthit sniffs in reproach as he thinks about it.

Kongpob has other qualities to him that eclipse his looks. He's also an incredibly gifted annoying nosy busybody. He doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone and he doesn’t act like the rules apply to him.

But furthermore, the way he acts is not consistent. Arthit has seen Kongpob with other seniors and he's always appeared to be kind, showing a model level of respect and graciousness to them.

So, it stood to reason that Kongpob just hates hazers.

And Arthit operated under that idea for a few days before, firsthand, he witnessed Kongpob get along with Knot and Prem in between classes in the halls.

Now Arthit’s worldview is getting screwed with. What’s Kongpob’s angle and which version of him is the sham?

Why the hell does Kongpob change into a brat with Arthit only?

Oh, so he just hates Arthit.

And isn't Arthit doing his freaking best here? Why did Buddha send him this mosquito of a junior to bug him?

0062 just has the innate ability to suck his bloody good mood away by the way he constantly misconstrues all the SOTUS hazing intentions and then slides in with sugar coated pick-up lines, refusing to just lay down and take the punishment like a good first year.

Arthit sighs and turns back to his assignment, trying to keep that freshman from bugging his mind too much.

 

*

 

Wasting no time at all, the very next morning a flyer finds itself being circulated around the first year classrooms. A copy is held in Kongpob’s hands while the group of freshmen judge the tacky graphics.

“These drawings are smiling, but we sure won’t be.” Oak adjusts his glasses.

“Now on top of everything else, we are being auctioned off!?” Em thunks his head onto his desk.

Tew reads the fine print at the bottom of the page. “Participation here is optional. It seems like the more of us who do join in, the bigger the donation pot will be for a rewarding initiation trip…”

Kongpob is on the fence. On one side, he’s much more in favour of activities with the upperclassmen outside of the assemblies; interacting with his Line code senior P’Ple was a great experience.

On the other side…

“The hazers will be able to participate too.” Kong almost doesn’t want to point it out, but the possibility is in the back of everyone’s minds. And more specifically, what’s been on his mind, is if it’s true that P’Arthit is no longer a hazer according to the rumour P’Minnie confided in him.

“We’re goners.” Em says, face still on his desk.

And if P’Arthit isn’t a hazer anymore… what then?

 

*

 

The sun is burning bright overhead the sports field and Kongpob gets his answer much too harshly, and much too soon.

“Who are you looking at? Don't look at me. Keep your head down!” Arthit’s voice is blasting at all of them.

Em is cursing under his breath beside Kongpob. The senior is walking around in that workshop shirt, some skinny jeans and old chucks which have seen some better days. Kongpob is staring at the head hazer’s shoelaces.

“That’s right. Freshmen are only good enough to look at my feet.”

Internally, right now in this moment, Kongpob can’t fathom why he was so concerned about not seeing P’Arthit again. Ugh.

The seniors take their spots on the bleachers and the first years tentatively look on.

“Listen up!” Knot calls out. “In Engineering you must solve the world’s problems. Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Mechanics are your building blocks. With these, you have the foundations for all your future work.

“As Engineers you must study your books.” Tutah announces and slaps a thick textbook down between two chairs, forming a bridge base.

“Rely on your classmates.” Prem and Bright come up behind and add more books to the stack.

“And form connections in this faculty.” The hazer group throws their arms over each other’s shoulders in a row.

“Doing all of these things during your time here at university will allow you to solve any problem and arrive at any solution.” Arthit calls out.

“Your first line of defense is your intellect. All you need is your brain.” A smirk comes across Arthit’s lips. “And since that’s all you need,” he pulls out a black swath of cloth and holds it aloft.

“For your task today, you won’t be allowed to use your hands or your eyes.”

Kongpob could have blinked and missed when P’Arthit glanced right at him just then, but he’s sure it happened, and he’s got a frisson of anticipation shooting down his spine at the challenge.

The rest of the hazers pull out large bags from behind the bleachers and pass them off to the cheer committee. The committee starts distributing what the first years now know are blindfolds and hand ties.

Wad had shown up the first week and then pretty much said “See ya” for the rest of it.

Em looks ready to leave now, too. “This is like a POW camp.”

“Or like prison school.” Oak perks up.

Em meets Oak’s eyes and they both grin widely which means they’re either referencing something pervy or game related. “That comic is good.”

Kongpob shakes his head. Definitely referencing something pervy.

“Except, we don’t have hot women for our hazers.” Oak points at the bleachers. “We have them.”

P’Prem and P’Bright are already looking right back at the first years, as if they had super hearing, and Oak curses and cringes. They hastily quit chatting and look down.

The students are challenged to take turns guiding their blindfolded classmates to stack sandbags at the far end of the field near some drainage.

It’s obviously a cheap ploy to get the first years to do some yard labor for the faculty, but it wasn’t the worst task they had done so far. They break off into groups and it’s a hilarious sight of first years rolling sandbags with their feet, carrying them on their backs, and hoisting them in crazy ways into sad sorry piles instead of neat stacks.

Kongpob’s turn in the fray is approaching so he covers his eyes with the blindfold and Tew helps bind his wrists behind him. A beat passes while the cheer committee shouts encouragements and he’s not entirely sure if his friends are still standing there or not.

Darkness shrouds Kong’s vision and he tugs at his wrists.

“0062!”

Kongpob startles but tries to keep himself still. Of course, Arthit has materialized just as he is vulnerable.

His head hazer’s voice comes from somewhere close to his left. “How do you expect to build that wall without using your eyes?”

Another quiz.

“It won’t be a problem.” Kongpob answers with his back held straight. Truthfully, he wishes he could use his sight just to see whatever appealingly suspicious face his senior was surely making.

“Oh? And why not?”

“I won’t need my eyes, because I’ll follow my heart.” Kongpob says to the air, turning his head in the other’s direction.

“Because love is blind.” Kongpob declares with a nonchalant boldness that only seems to fill him when this senior in particular picks on him.

He hears a scoff from P’Arthit, who didn’t care for his cheesy speech. “…You have a line for everything, don’t you?”

Kongpob can hear the eyeroll.

“And what about your hands?” P’Arthit continues shrewdly. “You won’t be able to snatch a gear without them and rely only on intellect, will you?”

“…You’ve said that I have a smart mouth, so… I’ll use that… instead of my hands.”

Unseen by Kongpob, P’Arthit’s jaw drops, it works back and forth incoherently for a thunderstruck second before the sharpness of it settles into a prideful tilt.

“…!? Oh we’ll see about that.” P’Arthit’s voice is all up in his business, and Kongpob feels goosebumps shiver down his skin, before a woosh of air tells him that his senior has stalked off.

Disoriented from the interaction, it’s mid-way while trying to roll a sandbag with May that Kongpob realizes that, throughout the whole day, the hazers had distinctively said nothing about the auction.

 

*

 

Now Arthit knows for sure who he’s going to get.

“I know who I’m buying.” Arthit’s expression is like a thundercloud as he sits down at the picnic table.

“0062.” Bright states.

Arthit stabs a spoon into his rice bowl and just cuts his eyes in affirmative.

“I told you.” Bright turns to Tutah with an open palm. “Pay it.”

“Shit! How can you treat me like this?” Tutah slaps a hand to his forehead and digs around in his pocket for a small stack of baht.

Arthit’s eyes follow the cash as it exchanges hands. “Bright! Lend me some money! Come on now!”

“I am broke!!” Bright protests.

Arthit points his finger. “Remember when I bought you lunch?”

“In our first year! Now we are in year 3!”

“That means you owe me interest too, pay up!” Arthit exclaims.

“You’re going to have a hard time securing that Nong.” Knot reminds him. “He’s made an impression on a lot of seniors already.”

On his meager student income, the head hazer doesn’t like the idea of the big price tag Kongpob will surely come with. While it may work with the first years, he doesn’t think intimidating the rest of the student faculty will be a sure thing.

Prem snaps his fingers. “Hey, but we know someone. Call her!”

“Nong Fang.” Knot nods. “She is handling the freshman auction bids.”

Hah!” Arthit sets down his spoon and gets out his phone. “I need a favour.”

 

*

 

On the other side of campus, Kongpob stops on his way to sit with his friends, greeting P’Minnie who is taping more of that same freshman auction flyer to the canteen bulletin board.

“Has there been much participation in this event, P?”

The flamboyant senior looks delighted. “There has, and Nong Kongpob, you must make sure you also enter! I will empty my savings on you!” He flirts shamelessly and smiles at the rest of the group of first year friends who are sitting nearby.

“He’s entering!” Em calls out, answering for Kongpob.

“Perfect! I will see you all there.” P’Minnie waves and excuses himself to continue plastering the campus common areas to spread the word.

“Em!” Kongpob blurts and sits down. “Weren’t you against the auction just a little while ago?”

“I got to thinking, the bigger the funds raised, the more likely we will get a catered feast and a good trip to look forward to…”

Kongpob thinks that Em’s inconsistent helping of noodles and veggies that he got served from the shop has something to do with his sudden change of heart.

From the table next to them, Maprang leans over, clearly having been listening. “It sounds like fun to me! I only wish the boys could bid on the girls.” She sighs dramatically.

May nudges her. “Our program does not have enough female students.”

There’s a flash of red workshop shirts and Kongpob’s eyes are drawn to the third year hazers who are wandering into the lunch area. He stares at the back of the head hazer’s sharp haircut for a second.

“I think I want to see what happens… I’ll join in.” Kongpob relents.

“Please, let us not regret this!” Oak prays.

 

*

 

On the evening of the auction, the auditorium is filled with upper year Engineering faculty students chatting and laughing. From their places behind the curtain, getting the occasional eyeful of the crowd, Kongpob thinks he recognizes a lot of them from the 1000 signature challenge issued on the first day of classes.

The seniors are all supplied with bidding cards and roster lists to keep track of which freshman was to be up for auction.

The event quickly starts with the MC working up the crowd, and they can all hear the ‘We Are Engineer’ chant being led by the cheer committee.

“And now we’ll have our first years come out! Seniors, when you win, please step over here and Nong Fang will assist you with the form and donation. Remember, all proceeds will be used to reward engineering students! Please be generous to your freshman of class 59!”

Then the freshman auction is underway. Awkward first years are getting hyped up by their seniors with whistles and hurrahs while monetary numbers get thrown about. The atmosphere is actually so entertaining and it has Kongpob grinning in anticipation for his turn.

“Student 0097 Em! Come forward, don’t be shy!”

Em shuffles to the front of the stage and blinks under the bright lights like a prisoner having been caught escaping. “S-sawasdee krap.”

“Two baht!” Comes a yell.

Em makes an alarmed face. Just how poor are the seniors!?

“100 baht!”

“He is shy! 200 baht!”

Em’s head whips around, wanting to know who said that.

“201 baht!”

“201.5 baht!!”

Everyone shouts and groans.

“1000 baht!” P’Yacht yells out, and the crowd hoots and claps. The MC rings a small cowbell that signifies the ending of the madness.

Em looks dazed but very happy knowing that his senior mentor also plays the DOTA videogame. Em meets Kongpob’s eyes where he stands just out of view and nods with a smile before being motioned to exit the stage.

“OK! Next is… 0062 Kongpob!” The MC calls Kong’s student number and name, and he walks out expectantly.

Kongpob is on stage and there’s the flap of paper and a cough or two from the audience.

No one reacts.

In the blinding spotlights he can barely make out the faces in the auditorium.

He looks to the side and sees P'Minnie just out of view back stage, fretting and looking like he wants to intervene.

…Does…Does not one senior want to buy him?

Confusion clouds Kongpob’s thoughts.

Had speaking up about the SOTUS hazing system truly ostracized him from his seniors to the point that none of them wanted to share their time with him? It didn’t make sense. He thought for sure he had come to be on good terms with many of them.

The MC comes over to the mic.

“Ohhho, there’s a mistake on this one!” She apologizes. “Freshman Kongpob has already been reserved.”

…What?

The first year students seem perplexed and there is a quiet murmur through the auditorium.

“Next is 0744 Praepailin.” The MC announces into the mic. “Nong Praepailin, please step forward.” She waves Prae to come to the podium.

But… what?

Kongpob is ushered offstage without much fanfare and he's left standing there, dumbfounded. He spots a familiar face and wai's the stage director.

“Sawasdee krap, P’Ginny.”

P’Ginny sees him and looks at her clipboard then hastily flips back in her papers. “Oh, Nong Kongpob, I’m sorry, I didn’t mention that your senior already filled out the form and made the donation in advance.”

“Oh!” Kongpob is relieved but still uncertain. Why did they choose to do it anonymously? “May I ask, please? Who has reserved me?”

She hands him the form with a smile.

“Your senior, Arthit.”

 

*

 

Yeah. That’s right.

Arthit is wearing a self-satisfied smirk as he lurks in the backstage hallway near some craft services tables. He’s reserved the campus moon, and he intends to personally teach Kongpob to respect his seniors.

He’s skulking back and forth, ready to corner 0062 when he comes down, because he doesn’t want to waste a minute of his purchased time.

“P’Arthit krap.”

“Ay!” Arthit lets out a yelp at being snuck up on. The head hazer turns around and there stands Kongpob.

The junior bows and presses his hands together in a wai, but his eyes are staring questioningly at Arthit. “P’, you… reserved me?”

“Hmm.” Arthit puts his hands on his hips and nods in affirmative, slowing circling his freshman. “I did. For the next week you will be under my exclusive command. Will you cry?”

Kongpob’s mouth opens incredulously.

“The university’s mascot is a tiger.” Arthit comments out of nowhere.

“…yes, it is… P?”

“You should be familiar with the brass statue you pass by everyday.” P’Arthit informs Kongpob in a tone as if he were a measly sandfly who couldn’t comprehend a giant art installation. “As a newbie to SSU, you aren’t yet a tiger until you earn your gear.”

Kongpob isn’t sure where this is going, and his eyebrows twist, conveying as much.

P’Arthit looks entirely too pleased. “For you first years, you’re just kittens.” The senior reaches into a paper bag he had been toting behind his back.

“Here are your ears. Wear them.”

A headband with two cheap fuzzy glued on cat ears is thrust into Kongpob’s hands.

“Oh.” Kongpob blinks. “This is it?” On the grand scheme of hazing, wearing some cat ears was barely a blip.

A small, strangely melodic snicker escapes the senior, and Kongpob freezes at the curious sound.

P’Arthit leans into Kongpob’s personal space. “Not for you. You also get to wear this.”

The paper bag rustles as the head hazer pulls out something else. It’s a small strip of leather and Kongpob is unsure for a second before it clicks.

That’s a collar. A legitimate one for pets, by the look of it. On the back closure there’s a small metal loop, presumably for adding a rope lead or maybe even a thin decorative chain. Something like annoyance roars in his ears.

Kongpob’s mollified only in that at least the item is a tasteful simple solid black.

That’s not to say that Kongpob won’t wear it – even if it were the flashiest, most garish accessory like a light-up strobing neon pink – He has no qualms rolling with whatever petty little order P’Arthit can think of just to prove to him that he isn’t embarrassed to do it.

He should have guessed it from the start that the SOTUS system would be abused to orchestrate the freshman auction in this manner.

Appearances weren’t what impressed upon Kongpob, but attitudes spoke volumes. Something about the way P’Arthit pridefully stalked around as head hazer didn’t quite match up with the glimpses he’d caught before… like in the building after midnight, or in the canteen with the endearingly cute pink milk drink…

But now the head hazer has an even better foothold on getting Kongpob to kowtow to his egotistical whims.

And if that means playing these power games, Kongpob will do it just to prove that whatever it is P’Arthit thinks of him, personally, is wrong.

“What’s the matter? You won’t wear it?” Arthit seems so amused he’s very nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“Of course, I’ll wear it, P. I’m your freshman after all.” Kongpob rolls his shoulders into a shrug and puts on the cat ears, adjusting them so they don’t slide, and missing the quick smile that crosses Arthit’s face. Kongpob then takes the collar, lifting it to put it on. “I’ll need some help to close it, please.”

Arthit’s good cheer is looking more tentative now at that request. “…Fine.” The senior snatches the collar out of Kongpob’s grip and steps behind him. Kongpob holds his breath as he feels the other’s hands pull the collar gently around his throat.

Arthit does up the back and checks that it’s not too tight by sticking a finger tip in between Kongpob’s neck and the leather, tugging to make sure there’s room.

Kongpob’s eyes go a little wide at the man-handling. “You must have pets, P’Arthit?”

Arthit shoots a glare and points a finger warningly. “Quiet. You can’t ask me.”

The senior takes a moment to survey his handywork and Kongpob feels the back of his neck go hot. In rebellion. Maybe.

Loud voices of more students sound out, coming around the corner, and it breaks them out of the impasse they’re caught in.

“I have a copy of your time table, 0062.” P’Arthit reveals as he walks backwards to also leave the building. “Tomorrow you’re going to learn something new.”

 

*

End part 1

Chapter Text

The next morning is a bright and sunny one, which makes Kongpob’s Calculus class at 08:00 (cruelly scheduled at the earliest slot available) a bit more bearable to get to.                      

Being a natural early riser, Kongpob arrives at the faculty building a couple minutes before the majority of the class will begin to trickle into the room.

Kongpob rounds the corner and then stops short.

P’Arthit is standing outside his classroom. Well, more like his senior is leaning against the wall, arms crossed and eyes shut. His hair is fetchingly loose against his forehead as the head hazer seemed to make a choice to forego styling it up and away from his face this early morning.

“Oh…!” Kongpob utters in surprise.

P’Arthit’s eyes snap open, and when he sees Kongpob, he straightens and gives the freshman a nod of acknowledgement. “You’re taking this seriously, at least.”

Kongpob stands there confidently without shifting under the senior’s gaze. And yes, he took his P’s words to heart – he’s wearing the standard SSU attire… plus the collar and cat ears.

“Of course, P’Arthit.” Just as Kongpob had decided on the night before, he was going to complete any order Arthit could come up with. And then some.

P’Arthit steps forward and gestures to the hazing accessories. “You say so, but how do I know for certain that you won’t take those off the minute you’re out of my sight?” He squints at the freshman.

“I won’t do that.” Kongpob promises, and he’s vaguely offended that his senior thinks he won’t participate. Besides that, auction activities could only occur on campus and would last the week – it would be over in no time.

Arthit doesn’t look convinced, and Kongpob watches the senior fish his smart phone out of his jeans back pocket. He opens the camera app and flashes it at Kongpob.

“This is a photo memory for your yearbook.” He takes a candid.

Kongpob manages to refrain from rolling his eyes and huffing. He can see that his senior is fully intending to milk the situation for all it’s worth. That thought leads Kongpob to distantly wonder how much P’Arthit had spent to buy him…

The head hazer is still pointing the camera at him, so Kongpob grabs the strap of his book bag and tilts his head to the side, offering up a smile.

“Kongpob.” P’Arthit lowers his phone, frowning. “Who told you to smile?”

“It’s a photo, P…” Kongpob explains, and he has to force down the smirk that wants to break free.

The senior gives him a warning look. “No smiling.”

Kongpob follows the order and lets his mouth drop, relaxed, slightly parted. He folds his arms behind his back and leans against the hallway wall, looking at the camera.

P’Arthit’s eyes trail up and down Kongpob’s form quickly and his expression becomes bothered. “Hang on, hang on, hang on… Don’t pose either.”

Kongpob’s eyebrows knit together and he wants to protest that what he did just now really isn’t anything close to the kind of pose he can pull for a camera.

P’Arthit swiftly takes another photo while Kongpob’s still looking perturbed.

“That’s more accurate.” The senior grins and zooms in on the photo, showing Kongpob his own disgruntled face.

P’Arthit swipes to another app. “Now, give me your phone number.”

…Kongpob’s mind goes blank. Something that suspiciously feels like a blush starts to rise high on his cheeks.

“You… want my number?”

P’Arthit arches an eyebrow and just thrusts the phone at him more pointedly.

Almost in a daze, operating on autopilot, Kongpob puts his phone number into the new contact entry P’Arthit has started.

The senior takes his device back, typing something quickly, and a text message pings Kongpob’s own mobile phone from its place in his pocket. P’Arthit’s dark eyes meet Kongpob’s and he shoves his hands into his workshop shirt pockets, briskly moving to stride past the freshman.

The hazer’s shoulder roughly bumps into Kongpob’s and the junior has to grab the strap of his bag, this time to keep it from falling.

“0062,” P’Arthit says lowly as he passes. “Whenever I message you, be ready to send me pics, or I’ll assume you obeying the order didn’t happen. Got it?”

Knocked off balance more by the whole interaction than anything else, Kongpob can only muster a hasty, “Yes, P.”

Halfway down the hall already Arthit looks pointedly back at him and cups a hand behind his ear – Kongpob knows the hazer wants him to shout it.

The freshman takes a breath. “YES, P!”

The head hazer grins and turns away.

Laughs sound out at Kongpob’s disruption as classmates begin filtering in through the hallway and Kongpob joins them, taking his seat, immediately taking out his phone to read the message that P’Arthit sent him.

[Unknown Contact: 😈]

A little purple devil face emoji is the only thing to it.

Kongpob swallows. He doesn’t know why his heart is racing. Maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as he originally expected?

 

*

 

The first years are found sitting at the lunch table all wearing their cat ears and varying degrees of disgust or delight on their faces.

The whole ‘tiger’ part of the freshy auction was the same for the faculty of engineering students. The cat ear headbands meant you could easily identify who was taking part in the activity by just glancing across the sea of heads in the hall.

Maprang absolutely loves it and is taking selfie after selfie, tagging them with the SSU SOTUS hashtag. Oak, on the other hand, is thoroughly frustrated as the head band keeps getting caught on the cord of his headphones.

Prae’s senior mentor walks her over to the lunch table and draws cute whiskers on her cheeks in her IDOLO eyebrow pencil before leaving for class. Rather than look annoyed, Prae is beaming, and it’s the first time Kongpob’s seen Prae look completely comfortable with the hazing activities.

Kongpob notices May is shooting him furtive glances. Her eyes land on his neck, and after a couple attempts to find a break in the lunchtime conversation, she finds her voice to ask; “Kong? Is that a necklace you’re wearing?”

“Oh, this?” He nonchalantly gestures to the black collar band encircling his neck. “No, it’s not quite a necklace.”

“…Ooho.” May doesn’t ask anything further, but she’s still staring and now Em is looking at him too.

“It looks like a small belt.” Em comments, the possible kink or humiliation connotations of the collar obviously flying over his head. “Why wear a belt on your neck?”

…Ok, there’s a reason his friend is majoring in engineering and not fashion.

“Hey Kong, which senior bought you?” Maprang leans in and snaps a selfie of both of them together. She’s already tagging and posting it while Kongpob blinks rapidly.

“Yeah, the anonymous buyer option was a surprise.” Tew points out.

See, here’s the thing – Kongpob wishes he could keep it anonymous. He doesn’t want anyone else to know that P’Arthit is the one. This clash between senior and junior has begun to extend beyond just the allocated SOTUS timetable and become something personal...

Kongpob’s not sure how to handle the piteous condolences Em and Oak are sure to launch into. He’s not certain how to explain why they shouldn’t worry about the situation for him in the first place… or why he fully consented to giving the head hazer his phone number. And now, abruptly, he’s very unclear on which connotation it was that P’Arthit meant by collaring him.

But it’s going to come out eventually, especially when (not if) P’Arthit starts ordering him around in front of the general student body.

Kongpob lets himself roll his eyes and shrugs exaggeratedly even though he doesn’t actually feel the annoyance behind the motions. “Who do you think bought me? It was P’Arthit…”

“No!” His friends gasp.

“Kong!! You stood up to him, and now he will never stop punishing you. Until death do you part.”

Kongpob can’t help but consider the idea that that would be an interesting life.

“My friend, it is worse than that, because he will haze Kongpob even after death as a ghost.”

Sure enough they launch into the drama of it.

 

*


First year classes end for the day and it’s hazing time.

The novelty of seeing all their peers in cat ears starts to wear off as they stand on the hot pavement in the parking lot, lined up behind the sports arena while their seniors hand out giant trash bags.

Overnight, some drunken students caused a mess after an event in the sports arena. There are plastic drink cups and food containers everywhere, along with overturned garbage and recycling bins on the cement.

The faculty of engineering isn’t the only one that uses the arena, but for some reason, today, their hazers are treating them like they are the guilty culprits.

“This campus is your home for the next 4 years!” Arthit’s scowl and crossed arms are brooking no arguments.

“Your home should sparkle!” Tutah proclaims.

“Make it shine like a gear in the sun!” Prem shouts.

Cleaning supplies are the next items to be passed along, and Kongpob and his friends have the unfortunate task of scrubbing a highly questionable mix of garbage stains from the main walkway once other classmates have picked up the trash.

“This is such bullshit.” Em breathes as the handle of his scouring brush breaks.

“They can’t prove that we made this mess, so why should we clean it!?” Oak gripes.

Kongpob hears his friend’s complaints, but he isn’t thinking about the lesson they’re meant to learn from todays hazing activity. He’s thinking about the glares Arthit keeps shooting his way and how he wishes he could be enlightened into understanding the nature of the attention he’s receiving.

Outside of his friend group, all too frequently, people would put Kongpob on some kind of imaginary pedestal before they knew him. Girls would be too distracted by his looks to actually have meaningful conversations with him. Even some of the obviously out and proud seniors here at the university have openly flirted with him. And Kongpob had run his mouth, teasing his senior about feeling that way, too. But P’Arthit…

P’Arthit’s managed to cut him down to the very core of his character with only a few words, and he sure doesn’t miss an opportunity to treat Kongpob like he’s an irritating mote of dust caught in a sunbeam.

“0062. You missed a spot.” Arthit comes by and purposely (PURPOSELY!) spills some Oishi drink onto the clean section of the floor Kongpob has just scoured.

“Do your job.” Arthit stares down balefully. “You shoe scum.” His P adds with unnecessary scorn.

“Yes P.” Kongpob gnashes his teeth and keeps scrubbing. Why is his senior glaring and harsh one moment, and then in the next he does something warm and kind like paying for his junior’s meal?

As the grape flavour drink swirls round and round with the soap from his scrubber, Kongpob contemplates if Em and Oak are actually 100% right that he’s suddenly and completely become a target for punishment, and nothing more. That’s not what he wants. He wants…

He watches out of the corner of his eye as P’Arthit tips his head back and takes a deep swallow of the rest of his drink.

Kongpob swallows reflexively too.

The senior wipes his stained lips with the back of his hand.

Kongpob presses his lips together.

“Hey Kong!” Tew whispers and elbows him. “Keep cleaning!”

Kongpob startles out of his daze and begins scrubbing anew. He hadn’t realised that he had momentarily stopped everything in favour of staring at the head hazer.

Even so, in the back of his mind, Kongpob’s deeply curious about the way he’s becoming increasingly hung up on what P’Arthit thinks of him, and why he finds his senior’s attitude so… infuriatingly refreshing?

It feels like hours later that they’re mopping away the last of the suds and packing up, their faculty building cleaner now probably than it had been since the first day of classes.

And Kongpob’s clearly not fully mindful of where he’s stepping, because his foot accidentally catches on a heavy bucket and he trips. “Ah!”

A fist grabs the back of his shirt and Kongpob’s suspended off balance for one more precarious second, before he’s tugged back onto the soles of his feet.

His size medium t-shirt is stretched taut, even tighter now, in P’Arthit’s hand. It’s like his senior is holding him by the scruff of his neck like a kitten.

Kongpob blinks at his savior’s concerned expression.

P’Arthit looks so different without the scowl.

It’s back in a moment though.

“Can you not watch where you’re going!?” P’Arthit rants.

His head hazer’s hands are telling a different story than his words are, though, as he lets go of his t-shirt and gently steadies Kongpob’s shoulders. Somehow that gesture is leaving Kongpob feeling even more stumbled than tripping over the bucket had.

P’Arthit sucks his teeth in irritation. “Do I have to order you to keep your head down while you walk?? Kongpob! You’re hopeless.”

Kongpob takes the verbal attack and feels weak-kneed, like a puppet with his strings cut loose. He doesn’t know why, but he just nods along eagerly to everything P’Arthit’s saying.

“Do I have to carry my freshman on a leash too!?”

“Yes P.”

Kongpob pauses.

And P’Arthit pauses right after. His face goes slack of annoyances for a beat, in which they both are clearly imagining that exact scenario… and then the hazer threatens to consider it.

“I might just do it, too. Now, go home.” P’Arthit pushes Kongpob’s shoulder and the freshman dutifully starts walking to where the rest of the students are putting away all the borrowed janitorial supplies.

“Yes, P.” Kongpob repeats, and tries to ignore the less than clean thoughts that he’s finding difficult to banish from his head.

It’s not easy to do, not when he can still feel the tight clutch and jab of Arthit’s knuckles between his shoulder blades where the senior had held him upright, like a phantom touch.

It’s downright disconcerting and it’s starting to dawn on the junior that maybe what he actually wants isn’t to change any of it – It’s to examine those feelings more.

Oh heavens.

 

*

 

It’s dark out when Arthit finishes towelling his damp hair and shuts his dorm room curtain for the night, sighing as he stretches out on his bed.

The senior lazily grabs up his phone and starts surfing through social media, which is his typical behavior before going to sleep.

A post from Namtan and Jay’s shared account is the first thing that pops up on his feed, and he stares at the selfie of them embracing for a long moment before he scrolls down, telling himself he’ll go back and like it later.

Quickly exhausting his friend’s new posts, Arthit inevitably finds himself browsing the SSU SOTUS hashtag to see what people were bad-mouthing this time.

Most students seemed to be uploading photos with their auction seniors, as Arthit recognized several of his classmates tagged with first years.

More scrolling reveals plenty of cat ears, trash, cat ears IN the trash (Arthit makes a mental note to punish whoever ‘loses’ their auction accessories after seeing that one), and…

Arthit pauses and stops on a selfie. He enlarges it. It’s 0062 and one of the freshman girls.

Having to deal with the unexpected clean up duty during hazing had derailed their planned activities for the freshmen, but it had also been a couple years since the engineering faculty truly did a traditional trash walk to respect their campus. Regrettably, Arthit knew it had caused him to miss out on starting his real chance to one on one ‘mentor’ (aka haze) Kongpob.

Though, he’d made sure to have his eyes on the first year throughout the whole time he did have him.

Arthit turns around in his bed and starts feeling oddly restless.

Impulsively, he opens up his phone image library and looks at the photos he’d taken earlier that day – Kongpob’s face smiling back at him.

It occurs to Arthit that his idle threats from the morning have actually given him the most convenient way to circumvent the auction on-campus only hazing restriction – by texting Kongpob.

Never mind that it’s already well into the night. Never mind he’s avoiding 3 unread messages from his classmates in his inbox.

Suddenly it’s the easiest thing in the world to open a new chat with the freshman and demand a photo. An evil little grin quirks his lips.

[Arthit: 0062, send me some proof]

[Read – 22:36]

Arthit raises an eyebrow, considering the speed of the read receipt. He tucks an arm behind his head and watches, not having to wait long before three dots appear as the junior begins typing a response.

[0062 Kongpob: *image attached*]

There’s no text, just an image.

And it’s not the hasty selfie he’s expecting.

Kongpob has taken a photo of a textbook page with… a mathematical proof.

…He did NOT.

Arthit sits up and his fingers are flying with a reply.

[Arthit: Acting smart again huh? As your senior, I’m ordering the photo of my proof of freshman purchase!]

[Read – 22:42]

[0062 Kongpob: Of course, P! 😊]

Arthit blinks at Kongpob’s choice of emoji. He wouldn’t have pegged the junior as someone who would use them with him. He waits longer this time but he can’t seem to find a reason to put his phone down while he does.

[0062 Kongpob: *image attached*]

It’s close, but maddeningly Arthit’s still being messed with. There’s lamp light and the open buttons of a comfortable henley shirt, but he barely sees the pet collar and he definitely can’t see the head band.

[Arthit: Kongpob! 😈]

[Arthit: HIGHER! ⬆️]

[Read – 22:58]

[0062 Kongpob: *image attached*]

The photo that comes through is an angle of the ceiling of what is presumably Kongpob’s dorm room.

Arthit barks out a short ‘Hah’ at that and shakes his head. His freshman still manages to find a way to be a little brat.

The hazer flops the other way on his bed and types again.

[Arthit: No!! Now make it lower! ⬇️]

[Read – 23:04]

[0062 Kongpob: *2 images attached*]

The photos load and Arthit’s asked for this, but at the same time…

His eyes take in the first image, where one tanned finger is hooked in the open button placket of a shirt, drawing it down and away from a long, smooth column of neck so that the black collar is clearly visible.

The next photo is a downwards angle, probably taken just seconds after, where Kongpob’s got his SOTUS tiger ears perched on top his head. One dark eye is winking beneath messy bangs and his tongue is peaking out between his lips.

Arthit’s mouth slowly hangs open. He cannot believe his junior has the balls.

He’d expected a mundane, sloppy selfie at most, not whatever this is.

Isn’t there some unspoken rule out there that says you don’t text wink-y selfies to your head hazer senior? Then again, Kongpob seems incapable of following a written rule, let alone an unwritten one.

Arthit scrolls back and forth between the friendly images.

…It almost feels wrong to look, even when he knows the photos are specifically meant for him. He tries not to examine them too closely, but he also still hasn’t closed the chat window yet.

Arthit glances at his alarm clock seeing it’s even later now, and he hasn’t replied in a while.

His fingers hover over the message box, contemplating what he should even be saying, when the three dots appear to show that the junior is typing.

Oh hell.

Arthit swiftly exits out of the chat, but the message appears on his phone lock screen anyway.

[0062 Kongpob: I hope that proved it, P. Good night. 💤]

The senior sinks lower into his pillow, his phone glowing.

The photos from his message history are autosaved to his library, and the senior considers deleting them. But he hesitates.

If he deletes them, that’d be like admitting they were something embarrassing or incriminating to keep. Hell no, they absolutely weren’t anything like that at all. They were hazing material, that’s it.

It’s past midnight when Arthit closes his eyes, definitely not thinking about text message conversations or photos from a cute freshman.

 

*

End part 2