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Hazers Can Be Movie Stars?

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Bright shouting at his phone while they’re on their lunch break is nothing new. Arthit, Knot, and Prem don’t bat an eye, eating their lunch undisturbed, all three looking over a few notes for their upcoming class. Tutah just rubbed his temples while continuing to watch a video on his own phone. Even the other students have learned to ignore it, the only reaction coming from a few first years who still haven’t gotten used to the second year hazer being so loud. Arthit only notes that out of the corner of his eye, mentally shaking his head.

            What is unusual is Bright suddenly smacking Tutah’s shoulder, trying to get his attention.

            “Tutah!!! Look!!” Bright demanded, shoving his phone under Tutah’s nose, slightly knocking his glasses askew.

            “Bright, seriously?” Tutah asked with a sigh, jerking his head back.

            “Just look, man!” Bright once again shoves his phone in Tutah’s face.

            With another sigh, Tutah paused the video on his phone and took possession of Bright’s. As he focused in on the screen, his expression went from annoyed to shocked to gleeful.

            “Is this for real??” he shrieked at Bright. This grabbed the attention of Prem, who looked at them with curiosity. Tutah in the meantime has started waving his free hand in the air, flailing like he’s trying to grab something. “Did this really happen??”

            “It’s gotta be!” Bright returned, grinning crazily. “Check the site!”

            Prem’s curiosity has gotten the better of him. “What site?” he asked.

            Bright just giggled gleefully as Tutah is typing on the phone.

            “What site?” Prem asked again. His repeated question grabs the attention of Arthit and Knot as well. Both look up at Bright and Tutah.

            “It’s real!!” Tutah bellowed out, grabbing the attention of not only his friends, but several of the surrounding tables. Knot and Arthit exchanged looks of surprise. Tutah doesn’t usually get this excited unless there’s a hot guy involved.

            “Gentleman,” said Tum, their senior sitting at the next table over, “whatever is going on, please tone it down. You’re disturbing others, and the third years do have an exam next class period.”

            “Sorry, P’Tum” Bright and Tutah chorused, offering a wai with their apology. Neither looked particularly repentant, though, as their matching grins were hardly dampened by the scolding.

            Prem, annoyed with his question being ignored twice, swiped Bright’s phone out of Tutah’s hands. “Why are you on the fan club site for Kongpob Suthiluk?” he asked after looking at the content. Arthit’s head snapped to look at Prem. Kongpob Suthiluk? The Kongpob Suthiluk, currently the most popular actor under 25? Who supposedly attended the same university, only in a different faculty? His attention was now caught, closing his notebook to focus on his friends. Arthit was a huge fan of the young actor’s, not that he would tell anyone, so any news about him piqued his interest. He was lucky that all of his friends were fans, especially Bright and Tutah, so he heard plenty of information without having to do anything himself.

            Bright snagged his phone back from Prem. “They announced the winner of the contest just now,” he answered.

            “What contest?” Knot asked, seemingly hesitant to know the answer. He had also closed his notebook.

            “Kongpob had a contest for one of his fan club members to win a small role in his next film!” Tutah replied enthusiastically. “Bright and I both signed up for it.”

            “What kind of contest?” Prem asked. “Did you have to submit a video try out or something?”

            Tutah giggled. “Yeah, you had to submit a video of you acting as a hazer.”

            “Why a hazer?” Arthit asked, finally letting his curiosity get the better of him. He knew he shouldn’t engage, given how Bright and Tutah were acting, but he couldn’t stop himself.

            “That’s what the movie is about – falling in love during the Sotus hazing,” Bright answered, his face showing his amusement. Arthit frowned. He hadn’t heard about this movie. Prem, however, beat him to the question.

            “How do you know what the movie is about? I hadn’t heard that Kongpob was starting a new movie. I thought he was taking the year off to make his first year of university easier.”

            Tutah grinned a Cheshire Cat grin, and gleefully responded, “It was a hush-hush announcement for his fan club members only last month! He made it sound like he was cast in the project last minute, but it’s also starring May, and his friend Em is in it too, so I kind of doubt that part.”

            “Wait a minute,” Knot interjected. “Is this why the two of you were sneaking videos during hazing training last month?”

            This time both Bright and Tutah do manage to look a bit chastised. “I swear we were only filming the parts that everyone knows about!” Bright said.

            Tutah chimed in, “I made sure when we edited the videos, no one else was in it.”

            Knot sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Do you two know how much trouble you could have been in with P’Tum and P’Deer if you’d been caught?”

            “Hey, it paid off!” Bright returned.

            “One of you two won?” Prem asked, surprised. “Really?”

            Tutah and Bright exchanged matching mischievous grins. “Not us,” Tutah said, eyebrows wiggling.

            “Then who?” asked Arthit, confused.

            Bright and Tutah both turned their grins on him. “You did, Ai’Oon!” they chorused.

            Arthit stared at them blankly for a second. Then he blinked a couple times. “Me?”

Chapter Text

            Arthit wondered if he were to go back to his dorm and lay down in his bed, he would find that the afternoon he had just had would have all been a dream. After Tutah and Bright had made their shocking announcement, they had gleefully shown him the email telling Arthit that he had won. The fan club site had posted that the winner had been contacted and Kongpob would be going live later that evening to reveal the chosen fan. His shock didn’t wear off before the end of their break, so Knot and Prem had to lead him to class, where he spent the time staring at the email, looking lost. He lucked out that the professor didn’t notice he wasn’t paying attention, and was doubly lucky that Knot and Prem took it upon themselves to make sure he had copies of the notes.

            He finally was able to react as the five of them were heading to the basketball court to play with some of their classmates.

            “How?” he asked, looking between Bright and Tutah.

            “What do you mean, how?” Bright asked, cocking his head to the side.

            “How did I win?” Arthit started blushing, embarrassed to even discuss this. “I’m not a fan club member, and I certainly didn’t enter!”

            Tutah noticed the blush, but seemed to assume the redness was from anger. “We signed you up for the contest,” he said, slowly moving out of Arthit’s reach.

            “Why?” Arthit managed to say, his voice sounding slightly strangled.

            Bright also seemed to assume Arthit was pissed, as he too started to move away. “We thought it’d be funny to compare your hazing to ours and anyone else who submitted.”

            “People can watch the videos?” Arthit stopped walking, and just glared at his friends. Now he was angry, and the anger pushed down the embarrassment. “You knew that these were going to be shown publicly?”

            “Only to fan club members!” Tutah said, holding up his hands in a placating gesture as he turned to face Arthit. Prem and Knot had also stopped walking, slightly flanking Arthit. Bright stood near Tutah. “No one outside the club is able to see the videos, and only the members who actually submitted applications, even. Not the whole club!”

            “You thought this would be funny?” Arthit demanded.

            “Well, you’re just such a quiet dude, ya know?” Bright replied, shrugging. “When you do get into your hazer persona, it’s such a change from who you really are. We were trying to compare what you’re like to the other hazer videos to try to guess who else is like you.”

            Arthit closed his eyes and sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Did you really need to submit a video of me to do that comparison?”

            Tutah and Bright exchanged looks. “We were kind of drunk when we did it…” Tutah said, looking sheepish.

            “But look on the bright side!” Bright chirped. “You get to meet a famous actor, be in a real movie, and you can let us all meet him too!”

            “Maybe that’s a bright side to you, but I’m not interested,” Arthit replied firmly. “I’ll just tell them that the submission was false, and that I’m not interested in doing the movie, nor am I actually a fan club member.”

            Prem, who had been reading the email, spoke up. “Dude, are you sure you’re not a fan club member? Your fan number here is pretty low, like you signed up for the club right at the beginning.”

            “Pretty sure I’d remember signing up for something like that. It’s not really my thing,” Arthit replied, scowling at Prem. Prem just wrinkled his nose at him.

            Tutah looked abashed. “That’s my fault. Remember in first year, that night we all got drunk and Arthit came out to us a bi?”

            Arthit fought a blush, still embarrassed for telling them something so personal when they had just met. “Yeah, I remember that night. You hounded me for weeks to go guy hunting with you at the bars afterwards.”

            “That’s when I signed you up for the fan club. I thought that we could be fan club buddies, and ogle him together.” Tutah sighed dramatically. “You are so disappointing when it comes to ogling attractive men.”

            “He’s disappointing about ogling attractive women, too,” Bright put in.

Arthit punched Bright in the shoulder. “Shut up! I’m not interested in objectifying people, unlike the two of you.”

“Why am I the only one to get punched?” Bright muttered, rubbing his shoulder.

“You two better watch it, or I’ll do more than punch,” Arthit shot back, frowning at them both.

“Okay, okay, let’s keep the violence to a minimum,” Knot interrupted. “Bright, Tutah, maybe you two should go on ahead.” Bright and Tutah exchanged looks before scampering off as suggested. He turned to Prem. “Okay, Tutah signed Arthit up over a year ago. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Based on what the email said, one of their criteria for the winner is being a long-standing member of the club,” Prem answered, still looking at the email. “They probably looked at his video pretty early on in their screening process, which might have given him an edge.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Arthit said, dismissively waving his hand. “I’m not going to do it, so it doesn’t matter why I was chosen.”

“But maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea,” Knot mused, looking thoughtful.

Arthit snapped his head around to look at Knot in surprise. “What? What do you mean?” Prem also looked surprised.

“I don’t mean anything bad by this, so please don’t take it that way, but maybe you could use some acting experience.”

“What for?” Arthit croaked out, surprise and a feeling of being chastised choking his voice. He cleared his throat. “Why would I need acting experience?”

Knot reached out and placed a hand on Arthit’s shoulder. “You’re going to be head hazer next year, right?”

Arthit nodded, wondering where Knot was going with this. “You know that.”

“We’ve been training for it since the beginning of the year, and you’re good at it. That’s not in doubt. But what I’ve noticed is how long it takes you to get into that mindset. We all know that you’re usually such a… reserved guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but until P’Deer or P’Tum really pushes you, you tend to stay that way. You don’t really drop into that stern and strict taskmaster on your own easily, and next year, we won’t be able to rely on the seniors to push you into it.”

Prem started nodding. “I get it.” He patted Arthit’s other shoulder. “Maybe this would be helpful. Taking lessons from Kongpob could help you find a way to settle in without needing anyone else.”

Arthit looked back and forth between his two friends. “Is it really that bad?”

Knot frowned. “It’s not bad. Don’t think I’m criticizing you about this. It’s just, I heard P’Deer question P’Tum about whether this is something you really want to do, given how reluctant he thinks you are.” Knot looked over at Prem before returning his attention to Arthit. “We know that this is something you want to do, and that you’re working hard at it. We both know that you’re the best in our year for the job. I just think that this could give you some tools to make it less stressful for you.”

A thought tickled in Arthit’s mind. He turned to Prem. “You said lessons from Kongpob? Like, acting lessons?”

Prem nodded. “Yeah, it’s in the email. Didn’t you read it? You were staring at it all afternoon in class.”

Arthit sighed. “I stared at it, sure, but I didn’t actually read anything past the first part telling me I’d won.” He hung his head for a second, then looked up at Knot. “Do you really think this would be helpful?”

Knot squeezed his shoulder briefly. “I do. But it has to be your decision.”

“Better decide fast, though,” Prem put in.

“Why?” Arthit’s confusion was apparent on his face.

“Because you have to give your answer in two hours,” Prem responded. He pointed at the email. “If you say yes, you’re supposed to go on the live with Kongpob this evening.”

Arthit’s pale face turned paler. “What?” he squeaked out.

Knot’s face showed slight alarm. “He has to go on the live with Kongpob if he says yes?”

Prem shrugged, looking back down at the email. “That’s what it says. Here, I’ll read it. “Kindly respond with your answer to this offer no later than 6 PM today. We will need you to be available at 6:30PM so we are able to pick you up and have you prepped for the live with Kongpob at 8PM.” Dude, it’s already 4, so you’ve got less than two hours to decide.” Prem looked up at Arthit, his face growing concerned. “You okay? You kinda look like you’re gonna puke.”

Arthit felt dizzy and over-heated. “I think I need to sit down for a minute.” He haphazardly wandered over to the nearest wall, leaned his back up against it, and slid to the ground.

“Put your head between your knees, and take slow, deep breaths,” Knot advised, sitting down next to him. “Prem, can you grab him some water?”

Prem handed the phone to Knot. “Sure. Back in a bit. You might want to read the full email while I’m gone, though.”

Arthit moaned. “What else is in there?”

Knot patted his back. “I’ll take a look, and let you know what’s important. You just relax.”

Arthit sighed, but followed Knot’s advice, focusing on keeping his breathing slow and even. Why did Bright and Tutah do this to him? Was teasing him really that much fun? Was he really that bad at taking on a hazer’s persona? Even Knot seemed to think acting lessons would be good thing.

“Okay, so the email is mostly just some generic flattery,” Knot said, breaking into Arthit’s thoughts. “It does say that you’ll do an acting workshop with the cast. Is that the same as lessons? And it doesn’t mention Kongpob specifically, just says ‘the cast’. Oh, here, it says that your role will be that of one of the hazers in the movie, and which one will be determined after the workshop.” Knot nudged Arthit’s side. “If you do well enough at the workshop, you could even be cast as the head hazer! Sounds like it’d be a speaking part, maybe even interact with Kongpob directly. That’d be cool, right?”

Knot seemed to be expecting some sort of response to that, if the pause was any indication, so Arthit hummed in reply. He didn’t think he’d want to play the head hazer, if he said yes, but the thought of getting to interact with Kongpob did interest him.

“There’s also some mentions of needing to sign a contract, and a non-disclosure clause is part of it. I guess they don’t want you to release any spoilers. Says that you wouldn’t even be able to post any behind the scenes pictures on social media, but that’s not going to be a problem for you. You don’t really post anything, or use it. Prem already told you about the timeframe to accept, if that’s what you want. Oh, here. It says that Kongpob was involved in the choosing of who would be the winner, and he’s looking forward to meeting you.”

Arthit’s head shot up. “What? He’s looking forward to meeting me?”

Knot frowned. “Just breathe, man.” He looked back at the email. “I guess so. The email says ‘Kongpob is eager to film this movie, and he’s looking forward to meeting someone new’. So, yeah, it seems like he’s looking forward to this.”

Arthit shook his head. “That just sounds like generic flattery stuff.” Knot shrugged in response.

Prem returned then, handing a bottle of water to Arthit. “You look better, man. Here, drink.”

“Thanks, Prem,” Arthit said, giving his friend a small smile before taking the water and chugging half the bottle.

“So,” Prem said, joining them on the ground, “have you come to any decisions?”

Arthit shook his head, then sighed.

“Feeling better, at least?” Knot asked. Arthit nodded. “Good. Let’s get up and get to the basketball court before Bright and Tutah come looking for us.”

As the three boys stood up and walked off, Arthit looked at both of his friends. Neither of them ever said anything outright, but he felt like they understood what was going on inside his head a lot more than even Arthit himself did. He was just glad that Bright and Tutah weren’t as perceptive. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle it.

Chapter Text

            “Originally, Kongpob would have been here a while ago to give you two some time to chat before the live,” Arthit was told. “His last class of the day went over, and it pushed back all his other commitments, so he’ll barely make it here in time. I hope that’s okay. He’s really sorry about this.”

            Arthit just nodded. He had spent the last hour or so surrounded by people who told him they were part of Kongpob’s team, and each one had apologized on Kongpob’s behalf with a similar sounding phrase. First had been Tew, the manager, who had been in the car that picked Arthit up from his dorm. Then it had been Oak, the “social media guru”, whatever that meant. Next was Wad, the lawyer, who had made Arthit feel like he needed to call a lawyer of his own. At least the man hadn’t shoved any contracts in his face just yet.  Finally, the last to do so was Prae, the stylist. Arthit had actually spent the longest time with her, as she had been in charge of his hair, makeup, and wardrobe for the live.

            “You didn’t wear your workshop shirt?” she had asked after they had been introduced, sounding disappointed.

            “I only wear that for classes and university activities, khun,” Arthit had replied nervously. “Was I supposed to? The email didn’t say anything about what clothes to wear.”

            “Oh, no, not to worry!” Prae had assured him. “It’s probably best anyway. Your university might not like their name being tied to this. Plus, this way, I can make sure you match Kongpob.”

            Now, Arthit found himself sitting in a dressing room, wearing clothes he would never pick out for himself, his hair styled in a way he had never thought to do himself, and trying desperately not to itch his face due to his first time ever having makeup applied. Prae had left a few minutes ago, saying she needed to check on a wardrobe item, and had left Arthit alone with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Trying to distract himself, he thought back to earlier when he had announced that he would agree to do this. He had spent quite a bit of time debating about whether he should or not, and was so deep in his own thoughts that he had been kicked out of the basketball game for not paying attention. As his friends had surrounded him on the bleachers to gather their belongings, he had looked at Knot and asked him again, “You really think this would be helpful?”

Knot had looked surprised, but nodded. “Yeah, I do.”

Arthit took a deep breath. “Then I’ll do it.” Knot smiled at him, looking proud.

“Do what?” Bright asked, looking between them.

Prem clapped Arthit’s shoulder, grinning. “I think this is going to be awesome, man.”

“What is?” Bright asked, sounding annoyed. “Why are we smiling?”

“Arthit’s going to agree to take the role in the movie,” Knot said smugly, crossing his arms.

“What??” screamed Tutah. “For real? Are you not mad at us anymore?”

Arthit just shook his head. “It’s not that. Doing this means I get to have some instruction in acting, and it might be good for next year.”

“Ah,” Bright said, nodding. “Prepping to be the head hazer. Good idea. And you can introduce us to May while you’re at it!”

Knot smacked Bright’s shoulder. “He’s not doing this to help you meet girls! Besides, if he does this, he has to sign a contract, and he won’t be allowed to share anything from the set until after the movie comes out.”

Tutah made a sound of disappointment. “Not fair! We entered him, so we should get the benefits!” Prem reached out to lightly flick his forehead.

A commotion from the hallway pulled Arthit back to the present. The door pushed open, and suddenly the room was full of everyone he had met so far this evening, all talking at the same time to the one person he had yet to meet. He glanced around, feeling nervous again, wondering if he should leave the room for a few minutes to give them some privacy.

Prae was either the only one to notice him sitting there, or the only one to remember he existed, because she glanced over at him, then suddenly ordered, “Oak, take Arthit to the set. Show him where he’ll be standing, and let him get familiar with it while I get Kongpob ready.”

Oak saluted her jokingly. “Yes, ma’am!” He turned to Arthit. “C’mon, P’, I’ll show you around.”

Arthit nodded and silently followed Oak out the door, avoiding looking at the actor. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he met the other’s gaze. The slightly geeky-looking, glasses-wearing man chattered to Arthit about things to do with social media that he didn’t understand while they walked, but he nodded at what seemed to be the appropriate times, as Oak didn’t give any indication that he found Arthit’s responses odd.

They entered another room after taking a few turns in hallways that Arthit didn’t think he’d be able to remember. He frowned as he looked around. “Is it supposed to look like a lecture room?” he asked.

Oak grinned. “Yeah, we thought it would be appropriate since the movie is set at a university, and both you and Kong are university students, P’.” He pointed at what would be the front of the room where the lecturer would be. ”You guys will be up there, standing on the marks on the floor. The video feed is all set up, we just have to actually start the live.”

“Marks?” Arthit asked, cocking his head.

Oak pointed at the floor. “The colored tape. Here, I’ll show you.” He grabbed Arthit’s arm and pulled him up to the front. “I color-coded them to make it easier. P’ will stand on the blue tape, and Kong will stand on the green.”

“All I have to do is stand there?” Arthit asked, raising an eyebrow.

Oak blinked. “Well, this is a live. After Kong introduces you, you guys will have to interact a bit. You know, chat about your thoughts on the movie, answer questions from the viewers, that sort of thing.”

Arthit raised his other eyebrow in surprise. “Answer questions from viewers?”

Oak cocked his head, looking confused. “Yeah, like in any other live.”

Arthit shook his head. “I’ve never been a part of a live before.”

“Not everyone has, but surely you’ve watched one, seen how it’s done?”

Arthit shook his head again. “I’m not really into the whole social media thing. I only have accounts so I can message people in my group projects.”

Oak stared at him in shock. “Serious, P’? Oh man, this is not good!” He turned and headed towards the door. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Anxiety flared up in Arthit. Pulling his phone from his back pocket, he quickly tapped out a message to Knot. On a scale of 1-10, how f’d am I that I have no idea how a live works?

Knot’s response was nearly immediate. It’s not that bad. Not everyone has the urge to stay glued to a phone screen all the time.

A second response chimed in almost right after the first. What’s going on? Shouldn’t you be starting now?

Scheduling issue popped up. I’m waiting right now.

If you don’t know what to do, or how to respond, just take a breath and pause before saying anything. Take your time, and try to stay relaxed. Be the head hazer like in training.

Be the head hazer. Right. Because I’m so good at that right now.

Hang in there, man. If nothing else, Prem suggests you follow Kongpob’s lead. He’s done a bunch of these, so he’ll know what do to keep things running smoothly.

The door opening again dragged Arthit’s attention away from his phone. He quickly shoved it back into his pocket. Oak reappeared, this time with Wad in tow. Just be the head hazer, he told himself, briefly closing his eyes, pulling up thoughts of hazer training, and tensing, before turning his attention fully on the two men.

Wad smiled gently at Arthit. “Oak says that you don’t really use social media?”

Arthit frowned, but nodded. “I have a couple of different accounts, khun, but I pretty much only joined to be part of group chats for projects at school.”

“Would you be willing to let Oak take a look at them?” Wad asked. “I only ask because I want to check on the privacy settings you may or may not have.”

Arthit shrugged. “If you think it’s important, khun, that’s fine.”

“Cool,” Oak chimed in. “Can I see your phone, P’?” Arthit tensed up a bit more, but nodded, taking it out of his pocket once again. He unlocked it before handing it over to Oak, who immediately started tapping around the screen. “When’s the last time you posted something?”

Arthit frowned again, thinking. “I don’t know if I’ve ever actually posted anything. My friends tag me in things every now and then, though.”

Oak’s eyes widened at the answer as he looked up from the phone at Arthit, then glanced at Wad. He looked slightly confused, then asked, “So, if you don’t do social media, how did you hear about the contest?”

Fighting down an embarrassed blush, he responded, “Bright and Tutah are in the fan club.” Arthit thought it might be best not to mention he hadn’t actually signed up himself. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what either of their reactions would be.

“Friends of yours?” Oak asked, glancing up. Arthit nodded, and Oak’s attention went back to the phone screen. “Did they help film the video?”

Arthit nodded again. “They filmed and created it.”

“It was a well put together submission,” Oak said. “Do they study film production?”

Arthit snorted in amusement, shaking his head and crossing his arms. “They’re in engineering with me. I can’t imagine either of them working in the entertainment industry.”

“You’re studying engineering?” Wad looked surprised. “Then what prompted you to sign up for the contest?”

Arthit felt confused. Prae had known he was in engineering, being disappointed about his workshop shirt. Why didn’t Wad? As he was about to try to come up with an answer, the door opened again. This time, it was Prae, bustling in with her hands full of things Arthit had seen her use on his face earlier.

“Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen, but I need to do a quick touch-up on Arthit here. Kongpob is just finishing up with Tew.” She smiled at Arthit and gestured for him to stand on his mark. “Stand there so I can see what it looks like under the lights.”

Arthit obeyed, letting his arms fall to his sides. Prae then starting swiping at his face with various brushes, and he did his best not to flinch when she got uncomfortably close to his eyes.

Oak handed Arthit his phone back in the midst of this, and he promptly shoved it in his pocket. “Your accounts are as locked down as I can make them, P’. I made note of your username, so I can connect with you later.” Oak then turned to Wad, looking at his watch, then his phone. “Where’s Kong? We’re already late, and the chat on the fan site is starting to get frustrated.”

“I’m sure they’ll be done soon. Are you ready?” Wad returned.

“Yep, all set. Just need to get Kong in front of the camera so we can go live.” Oak looked at his phone again. “Seriously, I know his class was problematic, but his fans get rabid when they’ve been promised something.”

“Then we’d best get started,” a new voice said.

Chapter Text

            The live had gone well. At least, that’s what Oak had said as Arthit was lead back to the dressing room by him and Prae. Arthit wasn’t so sure, but since he’d never even watched one before, he figured the self-proclaimed “social media guru” knew what he was talking about. Thinking back on it, he really hoped so, given the number of viewers he could see in the corner of the screen.

            Kongpob had startled Arthit with his sudden pronouncement, making him tense up even more. He hadn’t even noticed the actor walking in. Thankfully, at the beginning, after a sudden flurry of activity from Oak, all Arthit had to do was stand off-camera while Kongpob greeted his fans and apologized for his tardiness. This took longer than Arthit expected, as he took the time to respond to a lot of viewers comments, which interrupted his narrative, though the actor was exceedingly polite and gracious throughout. Arthit felt very impressed with the way Kongpob was interacting with the fans. He didn’t think he’d be quite so patient with them, and he knew he’d have gotten annoyed with all the repeated questions.

            Eventually, Kongpob segued into talking about the contest. He had thanked all the fans for their submissions, expressed surprise at how many there had been, and explained that the final decision had been very difficult.

            “We were able to narrow down all the submissions to 16 finalists,” Kongpob said, and listed 16 names, including Arthit’s. “As a thank you to them, we have a gift we’d like to send out. Please watch your emails for information!” Kongpob had then turned to look directly at Arthit for the first time. Arthit had felt frozen to the spot for a second, realizing he’d have to step onto his mark very soon. “Of course, the winner is here with me tonight.” Kongpob turned back to the camera and smiled broadly. “I hope you all are excited to meet him, and will support him as much as you support me. I’m pleased to introduce the winner of the fan contest, Arthit Rojnapat.” Kongpob had gestured in Arthit’s direction and, taking a fortifying deep breath, Arthit had stepped onto his mark and politely wai’ed the camera. After a beat, Kongpob had grinned in a way that made Arthit feel like he was being teased. That feeling didn’t change as Kongpob encouraged him to introduce himself to the viewers.

            After that slight mistake, things settled in. Arthit gave a brief introduction of himself before Kongpob took over again, keeping the live running smoothly. Arthit managed to give brief answers every time Kongpob indicated he should say something, whether in response to him or a viewer’s question. He had started to feel comfortable interacting with Kongpob, and didn’t think he’d done or said anything embarrassing during the time he was on camera. Arthit had been startled to realize that they had been live for over an hour when they were done. Tew and Wad had immediately whisked Kongpob away as soon as they ended the livestream, so Arthit had been left in the hands of Oak and Prae.

Oak disappeared somewhere along the hallways, so it was just Arthit and Prae once again in the dressing room. She had handed him a container of wipes and told him to use them to remove the makeup before she left the room so he could change back into his own clothes in private.

            “Just leave the outfit on one of the chairs,” she instructed. “I’ll take care of it when I get back.”

            Arthit had nodded in response to Prae’s instructions, then sat down in the chair in front of the mirror. All at once, he felt overwhelmed by everything that had happened, and started shaking. “Deeps breaths,” he muttered to himself, laying his head down on the dressing room table. “Deep breaths.”

            He followed his own advice, and after a minute or so, he felt a bit more stable. Raising his head, he decided to remove the makeup before changing. For one, he wouldn’t get makeup on either set of clothes, and he barely let himself think of the second reason, that he probably wouldn’t be able to stand up just yet. Looking at himself in the mirror, he told his reflection, “Better get used to this. You have to do this for a movie, too.” He shook his head at himself, then attempted to use the wipes to remove the makeup. Four wipes later, he thought he got it all, but wasn’t positive. “How do girls do this on a daily basis?” he grumbled. “Stupid makeup.”

            “It’s not just girls,” came an amused voice behind him. Arthit jumped in his chair, startled. Wide-eyed, he turned around to see Kongpob standing in the doorway. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, P’. I was hoping you’d still be here, since I didn’t get a chance to talk to you before the live.” The actor had made his way from the door to the chair next to Arthit’s, and sat down. “I feel like we’re doing this whole introduction backwards.”

            Arthit took a choked breath in. “It’s fine. There wasn’t anything you could do to fix it.”

            Kongpob grinned. “Can we start over, P’?”

            Arthit nodded. “Sure, if you’d like.” He felt like he was going to start shaking again, and tensed up.

            Kongpob’s grin grew brighter. “Excellent.” He wai’d politely. “My name is Kongpob Suthiluk, and I’m a first year university student, studying business and film production at SSU in the communication arts faculty.”

            Arthit wai’d back. “Hello. I’m Arthit Rojnapat, a second year engineering student, also at SSU.”

            “You’re a man of few words, aren’t you, P’Arthit?” Kongpob asked with a small laugh.

            Arthit shrugged uncomfortably. “I guess so.”

            “Makes sense.” Kongpob nodded his head as if to himself. “P’Wad says that you heard about the contest from your friends?”

            Arthit nodded. “Entering was their idea, and Knott and Prem thought it would be good practice.” That was about as close to the truth as Arthit was willing to get at this point. What would happen if he told any of these people that he hadn’t done it himself? Anxiety flared up in his stomach. He needed to change the subject, and fast. “How did I get picked?” he blurted out. He fought down a blush. That was not how he wanted to change the subject!

            Kongpob’s grin took on a different look, one Arthit wasn’t quite sure he could decipher, as he leaned in towards Arthit. “The reason you were chosen was because of your commanding presence in the submission video,” Kongpob responded, his voice lowered. He raised an eyebrow at Arthit. “I’m sure you take charge in all things you do.”

            Arthit clasped his hands together tightly. He wasn’t sure why, but he suddenly felt even more jittery than when he went on camera during the live. “It was a training session for being a hazer,” he managed to say, his voice coming out subdued, but he still sounded somewhat confident to his ear.

            “I’m looking forward to being commanded by you, P’Arthit,” Kongpob said, quietly. Arthit lost his fight with the blush, and he felt his whole body start to vibrate as his anxiety sky-rocketed. Kongpob pulled back, out of his personal space. “In the movie, I mean,” he added, standing up and stretching. “I think it’ll be fun to have you be the head hazer.”

            Arthit stared up at the other man for a few beats, then blinked. “I don’t think I’ll be the head hazer,” he replied, feeling confused.

            Kongpob gently smiled. “I have a feeling you’ll do very well at the workshop, P’Arthit.” He waved a hand towards the table in front of Arthit. “Can I use those wipes? My face is feeling itchy.”

            Arthit nodded and handed the container to him, still feeling confused.

            “Would you like to have dinner with me?” Kongpob asked while removing his makeup in the mirror. “I haven’t had a chance to eat yet, and I’d like to talk to you some more.”

            “Um, I’m not sure I’m hungry,” Arthit responded, feeling unsettled by the sudden invitation. He also hadn’t eaten dinner, too nervous to manage to even have a snack before he had been picked up, but didn’t want to tell Kongpob that. His stomach chose that moment to growl, prompting a laugh from the actor.

            “I think your stomach is saying you are, P’,” Kongpob shot back, grinning at Arthit in the mirror.

            The door slammed open suddenly, startling Arthit again, and causing even Kongpob to look surprised.

            “Kong!” Oak exclaimed. “Hurry up, man! We need to finalize your posts, and P’Tew wants to talk about your schedule for shooting.”

            Kongpob frowned. “I thought you were dealing with the posts, Oak, and I just invited P’Arthit to come to dinner.”

            Arthit hurriedly waved his hands in denial. “That’s okay. I should probably get back to my dorm. It’s getting late, and I still need to work on homework.”

            “But-“ Kongpob started, only to be interrupted by Prae.

            “You still haven’t changed, yet, Arthit?” she asked as she swept into the room.

            “I wanted to take the makeup off first, khun” he replied quietly, feeling scolded. He jumped up and grabbed his own clothes. “I’ll get changed now,” he said, hurrying over to the refuge of the changing room.

            “Tew’s got a car ready to take you home,” Prae told him as he came back out of the changing room, Kongpob and Oak now gone after a quiet but heated conversation. “I’ll bring you out to it.”

            “Thank you, khun,” Arthit said, draping the clothes over the back of the chair he had used earlier.

            Prae smiled fondly at him. “So polite!” she murmured, then shook her head. “Alright, let’s get you home. Oh, Tew said to watch your email for instructions about the next steps. Sorry this seems so unorganized, but Kongpob being cast in this movie really came out of nowhere, and his class running over today took us by surprise. None of us were prepared for it.”

            “It’s okay, khun,” he answered, following her out the door. “I’ll keep an eye out for any communications.” Or Bright and Tutah will, anyway, he added in his head. Arthit realized then that he had no idea what email address Tutah had signed him up for the fan club with, or how to access it. He really hoped that Oak hadn’t noticed that his social media accounts weren’t tied to it.

            Prae cocked her head, face questioning. “You don’t have any questions, at all?”

            Arthit frowned, feeling like he was somehow lacking. “Questions about what?”

            “Anything, really,” Prae responded, directing Arthit through the hallways. “I was expecting to need to field all sorts of questions about Kongpob, or the movie, or even why Wad didn’t shove a contract in your face today, but you haven’t asked anything.”

            Arthit shrugged. “Everyone has more or less told me the same thing: that nothing has been going according to plan today. I guess I just assumed it wasn’t just Kongpob’s schedule that was off, and that I’d be told the important stuff when needed.”

            Prae huffed a short laugh. “After seeing your contest submission, I assumed you’d be one of those people who always has to be in control.”

            “You saw the video?” Arthit asked, shocked. He hadn’t thought a stylist would be involved.

            Prae grinned. “We all saw the finalists’ videos. Kongpob had all of us on his team give our opinions on them. Yours was pretty impressive.”

            “What did Bright and Tutah film?” Arthit muttered as they neared the front doors.

            Prae heard him, though. “You don’t know what your video looks like?”

            Arthit froze, stopping in the middle of the hallway. Prae stopped and turned to look at him. “Uh, no, khun, I don’t. Bright and Tutah made it.”

            Prae cocked her head at him again, once again with a questioning expression. “You blindly let your friends make your submission video?”

            Before Arthit could attempt to come up with an answer that wasn’t an outright lie, they simultaneously heard a car horn honk and Wad call out to Prae. “Um, khun, I think I need to go, and I think Khun Wad needs you.” He wai’d to her before booking it out the door to the vehicle. The driver confirmed his destination as Arthit sank into the backseat, exhausted from the last couple of hours.

Chapter Text

            Two weeks passed before Arthit was contacted again regarding his role in the movie. Thankfully, his classes had ramped up the workload for the second years, so he had been too busy with homework and studying to really wonder why it took so long.

When he had gotten back to his dorm the night of the live, he was greeted by all four of his friends waiting at his door. He had messaged Knot to let him know he was on his way home, but he hadn’t expected them to meet him. Bright and Tutah were enthusiastic in their praise of how the live had gone, and how well he had interacted with Kongpob. Both had also demanded information about what Kongpob was like, what he had said to Arthit, and if he was as polite as he seemed in his videos and interviews. Knot and Prem intervened, keeping Bright and Tutah from overwhelming him, while both assuring him that he had done really well in the live. His stomach growling as they walked up to his room had his friends laughing, and Bright and Prem both brandished bags of snacks and drinks. Arthit had willingly rehashed everything that had happened while eating, pleased that the guys had gotten him a couple of pink milks to drink.

“You mean you barely spoke to him at all off-camera?” Tutah asked, disappointed.

Arthit nodded in response. “His class running late had pushed back the rest of his schedule. Seemed like the poor guy barely had time to breathe before we started the live.”

“What about after?” Bright demanded. “You’re telling me he just up and left you after the live was done?”

Arthit flushed slightly, remembering the odd feelings that Kongpob had stirred up. “We chatted a bit in the dressing room when I was trying to get the makeup off, but he was gone by the time I came out of the changing room.”

Knot had raised an eyebrow at seeing Arthit blush. He exchanged looks with Prem, and Prem asked, “So what did he say while you were talking?”

Arthit looked down at his pink milk. “He thinks I’d be good in the role of the head hazer in the movie after seeing the video Bright and Tutah made,” he said hesitantly.

“See?” Bright crowed. “It’s a good thing we submitted you for the contest!”

“Kongpob wants to be ordered around by Arthit!!” Tutah squealed, causing Arthit’s flush to worsen. Tutah’s words had reminded Arthit again of Kongpob’s quiet words, and he squirmed on the inside.

“That’s good that he’s already looking forward to working with you,” Knot cut in, elbowing Tutah into silence. “But it’s getting late. We should let Arthit get some rest. We do have lab tomorrow.”

“Lab?” Bright exclaimed. He and Tutah exchanged looks. “I haven’t finished my report from last week yet!”

“Neither have I!” Tutah shouted. Both boys gathered up a snack and ran out the door, yelling their goodbyes as they went. Knot and Prem shook their heads, while Arthit tried to bring his emotions under control again.

“Is that all Kongpob said?” Knot asked quietly.

Arthit sighed. He should have known that Knot would have picked up on his hesitation earlier. “He invited me to dinner,” he offered, not willing to share everything the actor had said.

“That’s a good thing, right?” Prem responded, raising an eyebrow. “Why didn’t you go?”

“He got called away by his manager,” Arthit answered, sighing again. “It sounds like this movie really was a last minute thing for Kongpob. None of the people on his team seemed prepared at all. The lawyer didn’t even have me sign that non-disclosure thing you were talking about, Knot.”

“How are you supposed to know what to do next?” Knot asked.

Arthit face-palmed. “They’re going to email me. Remind me to ask Bright and Tutah for access to whatever email account they used for this.”

A week later, Bright had seen Arthit glaring at his phone during a lunch break while sitting next to him.

“What’s wrong?” Bright asked. “How did your phone piss you off?”

“It won’t stop sending me these notifications,” Arthit growled. “It went off four times during my first class, and the professor was pissed. I can’t figure out what’s making the noise!”

Tutah raised an eyebrow at him from his other side. “What app?”

Arthit ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “I don’t know! If I did, I’d turn it off!”

“Here, let me look,” Tutah said, holding out his hand. Arthit gave him the phone after unlocking it, and Tutah quickly started tapping at the screen. “Arthit, it’s your social media apps. Someone is sending you follow requests.”

“Follow requests?” Arthit questioned, looking over at his phone. “Who wants to follow me?”

“Someone named Oak?” Tutah responded, looking confused. He looked up at Prem and Knot across the table. “Do we know an Oak?”

“I do,” Arthit cut in. All four of his friends looked at him. “He’s Kongpob’s “social media guru”, whatever that means. At least, that’s how he introduced himself last week. I think he’s one of Kongpob’s friends, though.” Arthit shook his head. “He said he was going to connect with my accounts at some point. This must be it.”

“Do you think Kongpob will follow you?” Bright asked excitedly. Prem reached across the table and flicked his forehead, while Knot just shook his head.

“Let’s just be happy that no one has come looking for Arthit after the live last week,” Tutah said. “Can you imagine how crazy things would get if Kongpob did that?”

“And we do have an exam this afternoon we should be reviewing for,” Knot said pointedly, gesturing at his open notes.

Now, Arthit was playing basketball, happily relaxing after the stressful two weeks, when his phone dinged a notification for an email. Too focused on hitting the perfect three-pointer, he didn’t notice.

“Hey Arthit!” Tutah called from the bleachers a few minutes later. “Your phone keeps dinging!”

Arthit frowned. “So what?” he called back, trying to focus now on defending.

“So, it’s all those apps that were making noise last week!”

Arthit stopped abruptly and turned to face Tutah, accidentally tripping Prem in the process, pausing their game. “What?”

“Those apps from last week. You know, the social media stuff that that Oak guy started following you on?”

“Maybe you should check it,” Knot suggested. “You’re supposed to be hearing from them about what happens next, right?”

“Maybe you’ll finally get to know when you get to meet May!”  Bright enthused. Knot elbowed him, shaking his head.

Arthit sighed. “Can I check it after this game?”

Prem nudged him. “There was a time frame the last time that you almost missed. Better check now.”

Arthit glared half-heartedly at Prem. “You just don’t wanna lose.” Prem nudged him again. “Fine, I’ll go check it.” He headed over to the bleachers, where Tutah handed him the phone, the other three following behind him. All of his social media apps were notifying him of messages, so Arthit just clicked on the first one.

“So, who’s it from, what’s it say?” Tutah asked, batting his eyes teasingly.

Arthit shot a look at him before answering, “It’s that Oak guy, like you guys thought. He says he messaged all of my accounts, since he didn’t know which one I’d actually check, and he wanted to let me know that I should be receiving an email from Tew about what’s going to happen next.”

“You did get access to the email account, right?” Knot asked, frowning at Bright.

“We gave it to him!” Bright said exasperatedly. It wasn’t the first time Knot had asked him that question in the last two weeks. Bright turned back to Arthit. “Does it say why it took two weeks for them to get back to you?”

“Not in Oak’s messages,” Arthit replied, clicking around into each notification. “And before you ask, Knot, I checked them all, and Oak says the same thing in each one.”

Knot closed his mouth, and narrowed his eyes at Arthit. “I’m just trying to help.”

Arthit grinned. “I know, Mom. Thanks.” Bright guffawed and pounded Knot’s back at that, while Knot shot a glare at Arthit. Arthit turned his attention back to his phone, pulling up his email app. There it was, an email from the manager of Kongpob Suthiluk. He took in a deep breath before clicking to open the email.

“Well?” asked Prem after a few beats.

“What’s it say?” Tutah asked, attempting to look over Arthit’s shoulder.

Arthit jerked away from Tutah, hiding his phone. “Don’t do that! It’s just a request for my class and work schedule.”

“It that’s all it is, why are you hiding it from me?” Tutah demanded.

“I don’t like you looking over my shoulder like that. It bothers my ears,” Arthit grumbled, while typing a reply to the email. A few moments later, he clicked ‘send’. “Okay, I responded. Can we get back to our game?” He looked directly at Knot, expression sarcastically asking for permission.

A chime from Arthit’s phone had Knot raising his eyebrow back at his friend. “I think you better see what that was first.”

“What, is he just hovering over his email?” Arthit muttered, as he saw that it was another email from Tew.

“That’s probably part of his job,” Prem pointed out. “What’s this one say?”

“He thanked me for my schedule, says he’ll be contacting the university to make sure that I can be excused from classes if anything comes up that requires me during one, and-“ Arthit cut off.

“And?” Tutah rolled his hand, asking for Arthit to continue his sentence.

Arthit tilted his head to the side, face looking confused. “He says that Kongpob is inviting me to a table read for the script.” He looked up at his friends. “What’s a table read?”

Bright and Tutah both face-palmed, as Knot shook his head and Prem sighed. “It’s a gathering of the main cast to read parts of the script,” Prem explained. “Think of it as a prelude to the workshop. This is kind of a meet-and-greet for the main cast members and crew. Everyone gets introduced to each other, their characters are announced, and they sit around a table and read the script.”

Arthit looked at his friend, still looking confused. “How do you know that?”

Prem smacked his shoulder. “If you bothered to read stuff online about celebrities, you’d know too.”

“You’re going to get to meet May!” Bright exclaimed, excited. “Can you get me an autograph? Or her number?”

Knot slapped Bright upside the head. “Chill!” He turned to Arthit. “Any mention of needing to sign a contract or something?”

Arthit nodded after shooting a glare at Bright. “Yeah, he said he’s setting up an appointment with the university legal department for that stuff before the table read. They want me to have a legal representative present.”

“Covering their own asses,” Tutah said, nodding sagely. Then his expression brightened. “Do you think Kongpob will come to the appointment?”

“No,” Arthit said definitively. “Tew said specifically that it would be Wad, the lawyer, coming for that.”

“When’s the table read?” asked Prem.

“Next Wednesday,” Arthit replied. “Tew said he’s going to try to get the legal appointment by the end of this week.”

“We have hazing training that night,” Knot said, sounding a bit uncertain.

“The read will be during the day,” Arthit said, looking at the email again. “Tew’s going to get me excused from afternoon classes, but I should be back in time for training.” He looked up at Knot and Prem. “Can you guys get me copies of the notes, if I do get excused?”

“Duh,” Prem responded, nudging Arthit’s shoulder. Knot nodded as well.

“Thanks,” Arthit shot them a smile. “I’ll owe you one.”

“How come you never ask me for notes?” grumbled Bright, looking disgruntled.

Arthit raised an eyebrow at him. “When’s the last time you actually stayed awake for a full lecture?” he asked, causing the other three friends to laugh at Bright’s annoyed expression.

“Will you be able to at least tell us what the table read is like after?” Tutah asked, looking thoughtful. “I mean, you probably can’t post anything on social media, but can you at least talk about what happens?”

Arthit shrugged. “No idea. I guess I’ll find out when I go to sign the contract and stuff.”

“Do you want any of us to come with you to that?” Knot asked, frowning slightly.

Arthit’s phone chimed again. He quickly skimmed the email that had arrived. “Even if I did, none of you could join me. It’s scheduled for Friday afternoon, when we have different sections.”

“Text us to let us know how it went,” Prem urged.

Arthit mock-glared at Prem. “Yes, Dad.” Knot snickered. “Now, can we please get back to the game?” Grabbing up the basketball that had rolled near the bleachers, he headed back out onto the court, his friends following, and they quickly restarted their game.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Lunchtime on Friday would have been normal, if not for the senior Tum coming over to their table. Arthit and his friends had been joking back and forth, halfway done eating, enjoying the break in their classes, when Tum walked up.

            “Can we help you, P’Tum?” Knot asked, after they had all wai’d in greeting.

            “The dean sent me,” Tum replied, sitting down at the table next to Bright and Tutah. “I’m supposed to fetch Oon.”

            Arthit’s eyes widened in surprise. “Me? Why?”

            Tum shrugged. “I’m not sure. I was just asked to bring you to his office when you’re done eating.”

            Knot nudged Arthit. Quietly, he said, “Eat quickly. Maybe it’s got something to do with your appointment at legal services today.”

            Arthit nodded, and started shoveling his food into his mouth. He didn’t really feel hungry anymore, but he knew if he didn’t finish, his stomach would complain during his late lecture. He quickly finished and stood up. “Ready, P’Tum.”

            Tum laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eat so fast, Oon! Alright, let’s go.”

            Luckily for Arthit’s peace of mind, Tum leading him off somewhere was no unusual occurrence. Tum had been head hazer when Arthit was a freshman, so the entire department knew that Tum was helping to train him and his friends for their turn as hazers next year.

            As they neared the dean’s office, Arthit asked, “You really don’t know what this is about?”

            Tum looked at his junior, noting the slight worry on his face. “No, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s anything bad. He seemed pretty happy when he sent me off to find you.”

            Arthit nodded, wondering what this could be about.

            The smile the dean had on his face when Arthit and Tum approached his desk helped alleviate the worry he’d been feeling. “Nong Arthit, excellent. Both of you, take a seat,” the dean opened with, gesturing at the chairs in front of his desk. Arthit and Tum both wai’d before sitting down. The dean faced Arthit. “Now, I understand you’re heading to legal services this afternoon, nong. Have you told anyone why?”

            Arthit shrugged. “Just my friends. I wasn’t sure who all I would be allowed to talk about this with after all the papers are signed, or what I’d be allowed to talk about, if anything.” Tum frowned, looking quizzically at the younger student before turning his attention back to the dean.

            “That’s good. Very responsible of you.” The dean nodded approvingly. “I was contacted by my counterpart in the communication arts faculty. It seems that a certain young man in that department is hoping to get some first-hand experience with the Sotus system we use here in engineering.”

            Arthit frowned. “Sotus is over for the year, and has been for a few months. How is he going to experience it first hand?”

            “Well, that’s why I had your senior stay here,” the dean answered. “I was hoping he might have some ideas as to how we could do a mini-Sotus.”

            Tum shook his head. “I don’t know that anyone in the department would be willing to do something like that. The freshmen are still getting comfortable with their seniors, and sending them back into the Sotus program might cause a rift. The sophomores might be willing, but they all would probably see it as an opportunity to cause mischief, now that they know the seniors, and the upper classman are all too busy for something like that. It’s hard enough to schedule hazing team training sessions. I can’t imagine trying to gather enough of us at one time.”

            The dean sighed, looking unhappy. “I thought that might be the case, but I wanted to ask anyway.”

            Tum looked between the dean and Arthit. “Who is the communications student you want to show the Sotus program to anyway?”

            Arthit looked at the dean, unsure what to say. The dean gave him small smile and answered, “He’s an actor trying to prepare for his next role. I was hoping our department could be useful to him.”

            Tum looked thoughtful. “He could come to hazing training. It wouldn’t be a full experience, but he’d get a kind of behind-the-scenes look at how we do Sotus here.”

            “That’s a good idea,” the dean replied. “When is the next session?”

            “Wednesday,” both Tum and Arthit answered.

            The dean frowned, looking at Arthit. “My understanding is that you are scheduled for something on Wednesday, and are to be excused from classes.”

            Arthit nodded. “If the schedule I got was correct, it should be done early enough for me to make it back here for the training session. If his schedule is open afterwards, he shouldn’t have any problems attending.”

            Tum looked between the dean and Arthit. “What does Oon have to do with this other student?”

            Arthit looked at the dean, who gave him a small nod, before saying, “This doesn’t leave this room, Nong Tum.” Tum nodded his agreement before turning his attention to Arthit.

            Arthit fought down a blush. “I won a role in the same movie.”

            Tum cocked his head to the side, raising his eyebrow at Arthit. With a shake of his head, he asked, “Who is this actor? It can’t be some newcomer, or we wouldn’t even be discussing this.”

            The dean smiled broadly. “Oh, he’s no newcomer. Quite famous, actually. But don’t worry, nong. We’ll try to keep him from being a distraction during your training session.”

            Tum sighed. “He’ll be a distraction no matter what. Hopefully, we can also make him a motivation as well.”

            The dean chuckled. “Just make the best of it. Now, I believe that the both of you have places to be shortly. Off you go.” The two students wai’d to the dean at his dismissal and left his office.

            “Let me know if he can come to the training as soon as you can, Oon,” Tum told Arthit as they walked out of the dean’s office.

            “I will, P’Tum,” Arthit replied. “I probably won’t know until the day of, though.” He sighed. “I wish you’d stop calling me Oon. Only my mother calls me that these days.”

            Tum laughed. “Sorry! It’s just such a habit, and it fits you so well!” He grinned at Arthit. “About your actor friend. See you if you can find out sooner. The sooner we know, the sooner I can plan for a disruption.”

            Arthit nodded and wai’d as they split off, Tum to go to lecture and Arthit to legal services. Looking at his watch, he determined he still had almost an hour before his appointment, so he decided a treat was in order. One of the best places to get pink milk was right near the legal services building, so he happily set out across campus.

Chapter Text

            Arthit was pleased that he had managed to get across campus, buy his pink milk, and check in at legal services all in under a half an hour. That gave him plenty of time to sit and relax in the waiting area and enjoy his treat. The pleased look from the receptionist when he had checked in so early had buoyed his mood further. He smiled as he sat and drank, letting his mind drift to potential weekend plans.

            “Who knew the head hazer could be so cute?” a voice said quietly in his ear, interrupting his thoughts.

            Arthit jumped, eyes opening wide as he turned to the speaker. He was further surprised to see that it was Kongpob leaning over him.

            “What are you doing here?” he hissed at the younger, face turning red.

            Kongpob slid into the seat next to Arthit, grinning. “I had a free study period, so I thought I’d come and keep you company.”

            “Free study periods must be different in your faculty,” Arthit responded grumpily, crossing his arms. “No professor in engineering would let us leave.”

            Kongpob’s grin turned mischievous. “I doubt it’s different, but I have my ways.” He leaned in and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at Arthit, who just rolled his eyes.

            “If you get in trouble, don’t you dare try to use me to keep from being disciplined,” he warned, before freezing. Why was he talking to Kongpob like he did to his friends? He didn’t know the other student at all!

            Kongpob sat back. “No worries, P’. But I did think you might like some company. I wasn’t sure how comfortable you’d be around P’Wad or the lawyer here.” The actor smiled at Arthit, who unfroze as Kongpob seemed to settle back.

            Arthit smiled slightly, letting his arms relax. “Khun Wad is a bit intimidating.” He paused, frowned, then looked at Kongpob. “Did you just call me cute?”

            Kongpob laughed. “Sorry, P’. Couldn’t resist teasing you a bit. You seemed like you were off in your own world.”

            Before he could form a reply, his name was being called by the friendly receptionist. Looking up, he noted that Wad was standing there. He slowly stood and moved up to the desk, giving a polite wai to both.

            Wad smiled in return. “Good to see you here and ready,” the lawyer told him. He looked past Arthit, a surprised expression showing. “Kong, what are you doing here?”

            “Hello, P’Wad,” Kongpob said, wai’ing at the lawyer. “I thought I’d come and keep P’Arthit company while you’re going over the contract with him and the university lawyer.”

            Wad raised an eyebrow in response, then shook his head. “Alright, let’s get this going, then,” Wad said, ushering both students past the front desk. “Hopefully, this won’t take too long, and we can get Arthit to his next class on time.”

            Wad took the two of them to a conference room, where a woman was already seated at the table. Arthit wai’d as she introduced herself as Nam, his legal representative assigned by the university. Wad gestured for him to take a seat, and seated himself opposite from the other lawyer. Arthit took the seat next to Nam, but was surprised to feel movement on his other side. He glanced over and watched Kongpob sit next to him. He frowned, but before he could say anything, Wad started talking to Nam about the contract, so he shook his head and focused on the lawyers instead.

            Arthit wasn’t ashamed to say that most of what was said by Wad and Nam went over his head. He had no desire to learn anything dealing with the legalities of contracts. Thankfully, Nam interpreted for him as they went, so he was aware of what the contract and the non-disclosure agreement would require of him, though he did find the back-and-forth between the two lawyers kind of funny. He wondered if they’d worked together before. Before he knew it, an hour had passed, and Nam was handing him a pen.

            “Do you understand everything?” she asked him.

            Arthit took the pen from her. “I think so. No posting on social media about anything, no pictures are to be taken by me, no sharing the script or plotline with anyone, and keep any discussion of things that happen to a minimum with very few people. Khun Tew will be in charge of me while I’m doing anything for the movie, and I’m supposed to contact him with any questions.” Arthit looked at Nam and Wad with a slight smile.

            Wad smiled and nodded. “Good, you were paying attention.” He nodded to indicate beside him. “You can always ask your nong if you have questions too. He’s been in this business for awhile, and if he’s got the time, he’ll be a good resource.” Kongpob smiled sunnily and nodded in agreement.

            Arthit looked at Nam, who nodded encouragingly. He nodded back, then signed the papers where she indicated. “Is that it, khun?”

            “That’s all,” Nam told him, smiling. “How do you feel?”

            Arthit shrugged. “The same as I did an hour ago.”

            Nam laughed and patted his shoulder. “That’s good.” She stood up from the table, gathering papers. “I’ll send your copy of this to the dean for safe-keeping. Good luck!” Arthit stood and wai’d as she bustled out, noting that Kongpob did the same.

            Wad looked at his watch. “Well, Arthit, it appears you should have no trouble getting to your next class. Come, I’ll walk the two of you out.” Arthit let Wad usher him along again, Kongpob swept along with him. Arthit gave a small wave and smile to the receptionist as he was led out.

            “P’Arthit, when is your next class?” Kongpob asked after the three had exited the building. Wad had given them a very brief good-bye before striding off.

            “Not for another hour,” he replied, double-checking his watch. “I have the late section.”

            “I’m done with classes for the day, and I don’t have anything else on my schedule. Can I hang out with you?” Kongpob asked hopefully. “I still feel really guilty that we didn’t get any time to talk at all the night of the live.”

            Arthit blanched slightly, feeling himself tense up. “I was planning to use this time to start my homework,” he replied slowly, feeling uncertain.

            “Please?” Kongpob begged shamelessly. “I wanted to ask you some questions about Sotus. My dean is supposed to be contacting yours about it, but I thought maybe you could give me some background.”

            Arthit cocked his head, thinking. Talking about Sotus wouldn’t be so bad… Aloud, he said, “I guess we could head back to the engineering faculty and do that. It would be a good refresher for training on Wednesday.”

            “Training?” Kongpob repeated.

            Arthit nodded, feeling like he was on comfortable ground, then started walking towards his faculty, indicating for Kongpob to follow. “Yeah. Like the video that was submitted for the contest. That was taken during training.”

            Kongpob raised an eyebrow. “So, that was you being a real hazer? Not just pretending?”

            Arthit laughed slightly. “It’s still pretend, since it’s only training. It’ll be real enough at the start of next year, though.” He slapped his face lightly. “That reminds me. P’Tum wants to know if you’re able to come to the training.”

            “P’Tum?” Kongpob asked, cocking his head.

            “He’s the fourth year head hazer. He was my head hazer last year, when I was a first year, and he’s in charge of training the hazers this year.”

            “Why does he want to know if I can come to training?”

            “Your dean did contact ours, but P’Tum thought putting on a mini-Sotus for you wouldn’t work, and suggested you come to a training session instead. He wanted me to ask you so he could plan for a distraction ahead of time, but I didn’t think I’d see you until that reading table thing.”

            Kongpob chuckled. “Table read,” he corrected gently, grinning. “When is this session, did you say?”

            Arthit nodded. “Wednesday, after the table thing.”

            Kongpob frowned slightly. “I’m not sure if I have anything on my schedule for after the table read. I’ll message Tew and ask.” He pulled out his phone as he said this, and quickly typed a message. He smiled at Arthit. “I hope I can come.”

            Arthit raised an eyebrow while looking at the other’s phone. “He hasn’t responded yet? Here I thought he was surgically attached to his phone.”

            Kongpob burst into laughter. “Why would you think that?”

            “When we emailed the other day, I had responses almost instantly,” Arthit replied, smiling in response to his laughter.

            Kongpob grinned. “Some days it does seem like all he does is stare at his phone and pounce on communications.” He looked around as they walked. “This side of the campus seems a bit more…”

            “Dirty?” Arthit asked teasingly. He laughed at Kongpob’s expression of discomfort.

“I was going to say busy,” Kongpob demurred.

“Don’t worry. I think so too, all the time. I think when they built this university, they must have decided to shove all the hands-on faculties on this side. I mean, I keep waiting to hear explosions from the chemistry and physics faculties.”

            Kongpob’s face showed a bit of alarm. “Seriously?”

            Arthit laughed again. “No, not really. I mean, it’s probably a possibility, but the professors keep things in check, just like they do in engineering.” He spotted a bench in the shade near to the engineering faculty and pointed at it. “C’mon, let’s go sit over there and you can ask your questions.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Arthit was focused on his lecture when he felt a slight tapping on his shoulder. Internally, he groaned, annoyed, and ignored it, hoping that Bright would pester someone else. He managed to take a few more notes before the tapping happened again, this time slightly harder. He sighed, and while keeping his eyes on the professor, he dug his phone out of his pocket, and unlocked it. Holding it out in the direction of the tapping, he hissed in admonishment, “Bright, if you’re not going to pay attention in lecture, at least remember to charge your own damn phone!”

            There was a slight pause before the phone was taken from his hand. Arthit quickly went back to his notes, scrambling to write in what had been said while he was distracted by Bright.

The rest of his lecture passed with no further interruptions. As the class ended, Arthit packed up quickly, and turned to find Bright so he could get his phone back. Surprise hit him when he realized that there was no one sitting next to him, his phone laying on the desk. He picked it up, frowning.

 Arthit suddenly flushed as he remembered. This was the Friday lecture, and he didn’t have any of his friends in this section. Kongpob had asked to attend the lecture with him when Arthit had stood up from the bench to go.

“Are you sure you want to come with?” Arthit had asked, feeling hesitant. “You’re not going to really know what’s going on.”

“I don’t mind,” Kongpob had replied with a smile. “I just want to see what engineering is like. I can always review my own notes if I can’t follow.”

Arthit hadn’t been sure, but he knew that as long as visitors didn’t interrupt anything, none of the professors ever objected. He had seen one professor teaching the third years hold a student’s baby during the lecture so the student could focus! “If you really want to, it should be fine.”

Kongpob grinned merrily, like he was a child getting to go to a favorite park. Arthit had shaken his head as Kongpob jumped up from the bench and gestured for Arthit to lead.

Arthit frowned, looking at his phone. So where was Kongpob, then? He had come to lecture with him, and he had taken the seat where his phone was laying. Had he needed to use the bathroom?

“Arthit!” Arthit started, looking around. There were his friends at the door to the lecture hall.

“What’s up?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You never answered our texts!” Prem said, exasperated. “Dude, do you really not pay attention to anything besides the professor in lecture?”

“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?” Arthit asked dryly, making his way to the door. Bright and Tutah snickered. He waved his phone at them, before turning it on and adjusting the settings. “I had it on silent. What did you guys want?”

“You never messaged us about the meeting at legal services,” Knott answered. “We were a bit worried.”

Arthit sighed. “Sorry. The meeting went well, but I was explaining Sotus after, and didn’t even think to message you guys.”

“Who were you explaining Sotus to?” Tutah asked. “The lawyer?”

Arthit chuckled. “No, not to Khun Wad. I was explaining it to-” Arthit froze. “Shit. Where is he?” He moved into the hallway, looking in every direction, before heading towards the nearest bathroom.

“Where is who?” Bright asked as the four followed Arthit.

“Uh…” Arthit stopped walking and bit his lower lip, not sure he wanted to share. His phone chimed. “Hang on.” Turning the screen on, he saw a new message was waiting for him. He opened the app, only to feel both relief and surprise.

Hi P’, the message said. Sorry I had to leave your lecture, but Tew messaged that there’s a dinner meeting for me and some of the other cast tonight. I didn’t want to keep bothering you during class. Thank you for your time today, and have a good weekend! The name of the sender read “Kong”.

Knott raised an eyebrow as he watched Arthit read the message. “Everything okay?”

Arthit looked up at Knott, a hint of surprise still on his face. “Uh, yeah. Found him.” He frowned. When had Kongpob gotten his contact info? Then he mentally smacked himself. When he had handed his phone to the other during the lecture, thinking it was Bright wanting to play a game.

“Found who?” asked Bright, with a teasing grin on his face. “Something you want to share with us?” He reached for Arthit’s phone.

“No, just a friend,” Arthit replied defensively, avoiding Bright’s hand.

Bright looked like he was going to say more, but a jerk on his shoulder from Knot caused him to stop.

“Let’s go get some dinner,” Knot suggested, keeping his hand on Bright’s shoulder. “I think we could all use some food and relaxation to start our weekend.”

Chapter Text

            Tutah gave Arthit a suspicious look across the table while they were eating lunch on Wednesday. “Aren’t you supposed to be leaving for the table read?”

            Arthit raised an eyebrow at him, looking up from his phone. “Not just yet. Why?”

            Bright snickered. “He wants to follow you to see if he can catch a glimpse of Kongpob.” Tutah smacked Bright’s arm. Knott sighed, and Prem shook his head.

            “You two do know that I can’t just show up with anyone at this stuff, right?” Arthit asked them. “All the legal stuff I signed basically said I have to keep this whole experience on lockdown until after the movie premieres.”

            “I know that!” Tutah huffed. “But I thought maybe I could just see him on campus by happenstance…”

            “He’s already off campus,” Arthit replied. “Khun Tew told me that Kongpob had a meeting this morning, so it would just be him meeting me today.” At Tutah’s sigh, Arthit asked, “Are you really that disappointed? It’s not like you couldn’t have gone over to his faculty at any point this year if you really wanted to see him.”

            “I know, I know,” Tutah replied, resting his head on his hand. “I just didn’t want to be one of those fans, ya know? But now that you’ve met him, it feels… different.”

            Arthit thought back to his weekend. He hadn’t really thought of it Saturday, but on Sunday he had spent quite a bit of time he should have been studying or working on homework debating about whether or not to contact Kongpob. The younger student hadn’t ever answered if he’d be free to attend the hazing training after the table read. In the end, he hadn’t sent a text until Monday morning, when P’Tum had asked him. The cheerful reply in the affirmative had also come with a peculiarly phrased request to meet the friends who had helped him enter the contest.

Arthit took a deep breath before deciding it was safe enough to share. “If you behave tonight at hazer training, there’s a chance you’ll get to meet him.” He quickly dropped his gaze to his phone.

            All four of his friends’ pairs of eyes zeroed in to look at him. “What does that mean?” Knott asked carefully, giving warning glances to the other three.

            Arthit briefly squeezed his eyes shut before looking back up, focusing on Knott. “I mean, if all goes well, there’s a chance he’ll have time to say hi after hazing training.”

            “Does this mean you won’t be back in time?” Knott asked.

            “No,” Arthit shook his head. “I’ll be back for dinner.” He glanced down at his phone as it chimed. “I have to go. Khun Tew’s arriving soon. Enjoy class?” Arthit quickly snagged his backpack and strode off, leaving his four friends somewhat flabbergasted at their lunch table. He snuck a glance back in time to see Knott and Prem restraining Bright and Tutah.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

            After a slightly awkward car ride, during which Tew spent most of the time glued to his phone, Arthit was deposited outside a rather boring, non-descript building. His face must have given him away.

            “It’s not much to look at, is it?” Tew asked, patting him on the shoulder. “Hard to believe that so much movie magic comes from here, right?”

            Arthit looked up at Tew and nodded. “It looks like it could be any other office building.” He sighed. “I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it? They don’t want to advertise where everything is going on, or they’d never get a break from crazy fans.”

            Tew chuckled. “Certainly true. C’mon, let’s get you inside and get situated.” He gestured towards the building, and Arthit followed the manager inside.

            As they entered a large, well-lit conference room that was several hallways from the front door, Tew snagged some bottles of water and several snacks from a table near the door. He handed one of the bottles and some of the snacks to Arthit. At Arthit’s questioning look, Tew said, “Trust me, you’re going to want this stuff. Once they start the read through, it’s going to be a long afternoon, and they frown upon interruptions. You should probably go to the bathroom before we start, too.”

            Arthit nodded, feeling somewhat surprised. He had thought this would be a more casual setting, but maybe only for the main cast. He supposed that little add-ons like himself would be found annoying at best. Tew led him away from the big tables in the middle of the room over to some seating around the edges. His name and Tew’s were placed on name cards on two adjacent seats. At least he’d be sitting with someone he had already met.

            Arthit silently observed as other people slowly started to trickle in and join him and Tew at the side tables. He assumed that some were managers, based on their greetings to Tew, but the rest he couldn’t even begin to guess at their jobs. When Tew wasn’t talking to one of the other people in the room, he was focused on his phone like he had been in the car, tapping away at the screen. Seeing how much concentration Tew had on the phone, Arthit didn’t feel comfortable interrupting him to ask questions.

            “Ah, Tew, you’re here,” a cheerful woman said in greeting.

            Tew looked up and smiled. “Hi Maprang. Good to see you.”

            Maprang grinned. “You too.” She glanced at Arthit. “Who is this with you?”

            “Ah, this is nong Arthit. He’s the winner of Kongpob’s contest.”

            “Oh!” Maprang smiled at Arthit. “It’s very nice to meet you, Arthit. I’m Maprang, Kongpob’s previous manager.”

            Arthit wai’d politely. “Nice to meet you, Khun,” he replied softly.

            “Maprang is the manager for May and Em, Kong’s friends,” Tew explained. “When all three of them got to be so popular, Kong came under my management so Maprang wouldn’t be so overwhelmed.”

            “Speaking of which, I’d best go check to make sure my little charges are here and ready,” Maprang said, glancing at her phone. She smiled at Arthit again. “I hope you enjoy your time here.”

            As she walked away, Arthit turned to Tew and asked, “Do you need to go check on Kongpob?”

            Tew shook his head and smiled. “No, he’s with Oak right now. Oak will make sure he’s ready, and he’ll message me if something’s amiss.”

            Twenty minutes and a trip to the bathroom later, all of the seats along the sides were filled. Arthit had managed to catch Tew when he wasn’t staring at his phone to ask after Oak, and was told that Oak would be seated with other PR personnel. As the last person settled in to their seat, it seemed to be some unspoken signal, as Arthit watched everyone’s attention turn to the main doors into the room. He glanced at Tew, who was still tapping away at his phone.

            “Khun Tew?” Arthit asked softly, nudging the man’s arm. “Are we starting soon?”

            Tew looked up, startled. He quickly looked around the room, before putting his phone down on the table. “Looks like it,” he replied. “The main writers will come in first, then the director, and then the main cast. Everyone will introduce themselves to the room.” Tew gave him a slight smile. “Then the director will probably speak a bit, and then the cast will start reading the script.”

            Arthit nodded and turned to face the doors, but turned back. “Are all the roles already cast?” he asked, cocking his head to the side.

            “Not all the roles, like the hazers,” Tew replied. “Either the writers or the director will read those smaller parts.”

            Arthit nodded again, and this time kept his attention on the doors.

            The afternoon proceeded almost exactly as Tew had described. Everyone sitting at the main table had filed in at the same time, were seated, and then introduced themselves going in a circle around the table. The director introduced himself last, and then spoke briefly about what he was envisioning for the film. To Arthit, it reminded him of his professors talking about their expectations at the beginning of the semester, but he admitted to not really listening at all at this point. His attention had been focused on Kongpob since he had seen him walk in. The actor seemed to be paying close attention to whoever was speaking, and Arthit wondered if he was like this during his lectures at school.

            As the cast started reading the script, Arthit listened with a bit more attention. He liked the overall story, and was entertained that once again, a script involved engineering students at a university. Did authors feel like that was a requirement for stories set in university?  He did, however, make a few notes to himself about how the writers had portrayed the Sotus system. He decided that none of them had any first-hand experience with it, at least in engineering. He found it slightly annoying anytime they halted the reading to clarify certain scenes, or discuss the dialogue, but he decided this was just another edit of the script, based on the way a number of people scribbled down notes.

            As the applause died away after the actors finished reading the script, one of the older men who had been sitting along the sides like Arthit stood up. He figured it was someone important, given how even the director suddenly gave him his full attention. This man spoke along the same lines as the director has earlier, mostly cheering on the actors and stating his belief that the movie would be a success. Thankfully, this man was brief, and immediately walked out when he finished speaking. This seemed to be the signal of the end, as everyone around them seemed to relax and start chatting.

            “That was the executive producer,” Tew says to Arthit, after the latter gave a questioning look at him. Arthit nodded, though he wasn’t exactly sure what an executive producer did. Tew started tapping away on his phone again, leaving Arthit to wonder what was next. A lot of the other people had started leaving the room, though he and Tew weren’t the only ones still seated. Looking around, he saw that Kongpob was talking to Em and Oak, with May hovering in the background.

            “We’ll wait here for Kong,” Tew said, interrupting Arthit’s observations. “This went far faster than I anticipated, so we should be able to get the two of you over to the university in plenty of time for your hazer meeting.”

            “I was hoping we would be on time. P’Tum would not be happy with me for coming late,” Arthit replied, looking at his watch. “Looks like we have a few hours to spare.”

            Tew cocked his head to the side. “This P’Tum of yours, who exactly is he?”

            “He’s the hazer in charge of training. He was the head hazer last year for my batch, when I was a first year, and this year he’s training the second and third year hazers. It was his idea to invite Kongpob to a training session, since we couldn’t put on a mini-Sotus for him, like the dean wanted.”

            “Has he been able to keep this quiet?”

            “Kongpob coming to the training?” Arthit frowned in confusion. “Does it need to be a secret?”

            Tew shrugged. “Not really. I just don’t want your training session crashed by other students who are fans.”

            “P’Tum wouldn’t do anything to interrupt the training. He’s been trying to think of ways to use the distraction as motivation for the other hazers.” Arthit looked thoughtful as he turned to look at Kongpob. “I doubt he even told any of the other fourth year hazers, and he certainly wouldn’t tell any of the younger hazers.” Kongpob glanced up then, and waved at Arthit while smiling. Arthit managed a small smile before turning back to Tew. “He did ask to meet my friends who made the video, though.”

            Tew raised an eyebrow at that, but made no further comment. They both turned to watch Kongpob’s little group. Maprang appeared from somewhere and started speaking to Em and Oak while Kongpob continued speaking to May. Then Maprang and Oak turned from Em and started to speak with May. Kongpob took this opportunity to exit, and he bounced over to Tew and Arthit with Em in tow.

            “P’, did you enjoy the table read?” he asked, grinning merrily.

            Arthit reflexively tensed at the smile but managed a small one of his own in return. “It was something new,” he responded, standing up, “but it was kind of fun.”

            Tew rose from his seat as well. “Arthit seemed to be quite observant during the read,” he commented, smiling at Arthit, who then had to fight down a blush.

            “I’m glad you liked it,” Kongpob said, his grin even bigger. He gestured at Em and said, “I wanted to introduce you to my friend, Em. He’s been my best friend for years. Em, this is P’Arthit.”

            Em wai’d in response. “Nice to meet you, P’Arthit. Kongpob’s had a lot to say about you.”

            Arthit wai’d back, slightly confused as to what Kongpob could have told his friend. “Nice to meet you, too.” Tew stepped in and showed Kongpob something on his phone, and the two started a separate conversation. Arthit felt slightly at a loss, but then settled on an obvious question to Em. “Are you going to SSU too?”

            As Em answered in the negative and the two carried on with small talk about university life, Arthit observed May, Oak, and Maprang’s conversation behind Em from time to time. He noticed, so it seemed to him, that every time he looked at May, she was staring at Kongpob and Maprang or Oak would need to bring her attention back to them. Arthit found himself slightly puzzled by that.

            “P’,” Kongpob said, turning to Arthit after Em had finished telling him an unremarkable tidbit about a classroom occurrence, “when do we need to be back on campus?”

            “Back on campus?” Em asked, looking confused. “I didn’t think you had any more classes scheduled today.”

            “P’Arthit is taking me to hazing training for his faculty tonight,” Kongpob replied, soundly oddly proud about this fact to Arthit. The actor had taken a slight step closer to Arthit.

            Em looked surprised, then eager, and turned to Arthit. “Really? Could I come too?”

            “I don’t think so, Em,” Tew interjected gently, with a glance at Kongpob. “Kong’s dean set this up with Arthit’s dean to get special permission. I don’t think the engineering faculty would be pleased if he brought an unexpected guest with him.”

            “Aw, really?” Em pouted.

            “Sorry, Em,” Kongpob said, patting his friend’s shoulder, though his face didn’t look particularly sad about this.

            Arthit chuckled slightly, amused by the two boys’ desire to see the engineering hazing. “If there’s ever time for it, I can tell you about some of our hazing, if you’re really interested,” he offered to Em.

            “Really?” Em brightened up. “That would be cool!” He grinned at Arthit, who smiled back. Maprang, May, and Oak, Oak with his eyes glued to his phone, heading over to join them caught the hazer’s attention.

            “So, did everyone have fun today?” Maprang asked. Privately, Arthit thought she sounded like a camp counselor.

            “Table reads are always a nice introduction to the script,” Kongpob answered seriously, giving her a small grin.

            “Well, I thought to better foster good relations between the cast, I’d organize a dinner tonight. What do you think? I know Em and May are free, Oak agreed to come to take some pictures for behind the scenes things, and I’ve asked most of the other managers here today for their charges. What about you, Kong?” Maprang smiled gently.

            Kongpob looked first at Arthit, then at Tew, before answering hesitantly. “I already have plans for this evening, P’Prang.”

            “Oh, that’s such a shame!” Maprang said, pouting slightly. “Any chance you could alter those plans?”

            “I don’t see why you can’t go to dinner with them,” Tew broke in, taking Kongpob’s attention. “I can schedule a car to pick you up so you won’t be late.”

            “But what about P’Arthit?” Kongpob asked, looking a bit distressed. “I’m supposed to go back to campus with him.”

            “He can come with, can’t he, P’Prang?” May interjected before Arthit could assure Kongpob he didn’t mind. She shot a pleading look at Maprang. Arthit felt confused by this. Why would this girl want to invite him along?

            “Can he?” Em asked excitedly, turning to Maprang. “He said he’d tell me about the hazing at his university if he has time!”

            Maprang glanced at May, who still had the pleading expression on her face, and replied, “Well, I don’t see why not. There’s a chance nong Arthit will be playing the head hazer, so getting to know the cast a bit would probably be invaluable.” She smiled at Arthit. “If that’s okay with you?” she asked.

            Arthit bit the inside of his cheek, not sure how to answer. He didn’t really fit in with all of these actors, and it sounded like there would be quite a few more that he hadn’t met yet.

            “C’mon, P’Arthit, it’ll be fun,” Kongpob wheedled, nudging his shoulder. “Plus, you can make sure we’re on time for tonight if we’re both together for dinner.”

            Arthit nodded. “Sure, I’ll come,” he said shortly, giving a small smile to Maprang. Being on time was more important than any potential for feeling like an outcast.

            Maprang smiled back at him. “Wonderful. Now that that’s settled, we should be on our way.” She proceeded to herd May and Em towards the door.

            “Kong, can you ride with us?” May asked, looking back at their group.

            “I’ve got a few things to discuss with him and Oak first,” Tew answered in place of Kongpob. “We’ll see you at the restaurant.”

Chapter Text

            “So, what are your thoughts on your first cast dinner?” Dae asked Arthit. The two were seated next to each other at the large table in the party room reserved for their group, both observing the other members of their group, Dae slowly sipping a beer.

            Arthit inhaled deeply and sighed. “It’s been a bit more… chaotic than I thought it would be. I thought everyone here already knew each other? That’s what Khun Tew made it sound like on our way over here.”

            Dae laughed. “P’Tew is right, we all do know each other. But most of us have never actually worked together, so they’re all trying to get their social jitters out now, before we start workshopping.”

            What had sounded like a chill little social dinner party was in actuality turning out to be even more uncomfortable than a high school dance. In the car on the way to the restaurant, Tew, Kongpob, and Oak had all been discussing some social media ideas for Oak to use during the party. Arthit had tuned out and instead was reading over the lecture notes that Knot had thoughtfully emailed to him after Arthit had texted him to say he wouldn’t be able to meet up with his friends for dinner after all.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, May had immediately taken possession of Kongpob, grabbing his arm and dragging him around with her as she loudly greeted each of the other attendees, making stilted small talk. Em had pounced on Arthit, asking questions right off the bat about the SOTUS hazing at SSU, and Oak had just laughed before moving off to start taking pictures.

            Eventually, though, Oak had intervened, getting Em to stop his enthusiastic questions by reminding him that he, too, needed to greet the others, and should introduce Arthit as well. Arthit soon was introduced to everyone he had seen at the center table during the table read, though he could only remember the names of the few he recognized. (It didn’t help that his attention was constantly pulled away by May and her… enthusiastic statements and questions to the people she was speaking to. It was a bit jarring even to him, someone used to Bright.) Thankfully, Em kept each conversation brief before moving on to the next person, so Arthit wasn’t forced to say much other than his own introduction.

            When the food was finally brought out, Kongpob has managed to maneuver so he was seated next to Arthit, though Arthit wasn’t sure if he was pleased by this fact or not. May swooped in and took the seat on Kongpob’s other side, monopolizing the majority of his attention for the whole meal. Luckily for Arthit, Dae was seated on his other side, and he found the older actor to be a pleasant seatmate, and felt at ease with him.

            As the actors finished eating, the socializing slowly started again, and May once again claimed Kongpob’s arm. Arthit had pondered a bit on the observations he had made of them before Dae had claimed his attention with his question.

Dae gestured with his beer bottle. “Sure you don’t want a beer? You’re one of the few here who are of age.”

            “Thank you, P’Dae, but no. I still have somewhere to be tonight, and I need to be clear-headed.” He smiled at Dae.

            “Ah, this hazing training that Em was disappointed he couldn’t go see?” Dae asked. Arthit nodded. “Sounds like a lot of work.”

            “It is, but it’s worth it when the hazing pays off,” Arthit replied. May’s laughter caught his attention yet again. “P’Dae, can I ask you a nosy question?” he asked hesitantly.

            Dae chuckled. “Sure, but I make no promises to answer.”

            Arthit laughed as well. “I’m not allowed to talk about anything that happens here, so whatever you say is safe.” He looked over at May and Kongpob again, before turning to face Dae. “And it’s not about you, it’s about May.”

            “Do you want to know if she’s dating someone?”

            Arthit shook his head. “No, not exactly.” He glanced at May and Kongpob again. “Does May have a crush on Kongpob?”

            Dae almost spit out the sip of beer he had in his mouth, snickering at the question. “Ah, so you noticed it already?” the older man said after he managed to swallow.

            Arthit shrugged awkwardly. “I guess. I mean, it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? She seems to be demanding his attention a lot, and she always seems like she’s placing herself between Kongpob and the other girls, like Khao Fang and Ple.”

            Dae laughed loudly. “The fact that you picked up on that in the space of a few hours, while Kongpob hasn’t noticed in two years, makes me wonder if you’re that observant or if Kong’s that dense!”

            Arthit ducked his head, fighting a blush. He really hoped Dae didn’t have such a poor opinion of Kongpob. “Two years?”

            Dae seemed to sense this thought, as he said, “Don’t worry, nong. I know that Kong’s a smart guy.” He patted Arthit’s shoulder. “May’s had a crush on him since they met two years ago, when they were cast on the same TV show. Don’t say anything about this to Kong, though. He’ll just say that May is a good friend, and then get stubborn about it if you keep bringing it up.”

            Arthit raised an eyebrow. “Know this from experience, do you, P’?”

            Dae snorted, clapping Arthit’s shoulder again. “Observation.” Dae sipped his beer again as he sat back into his seat. “Also, it’s probably something that May really should tell him on her own.” He shook his head. “If that girl wants any chance with Kong, she better get a lot more assertive about her feelings.”

            Arthit cocked his head at Dae before glancing over at Kongpob. “You don’t think he’s into girls who are shy about their feelings?”

            “I have no idea what his type is,” Dae replied, shaking his head and sitting back into his chair. “I’ve never once heard him say he’s interested in anyone. I just know that Kongpob is never going to notice May like that if she doesn’t somehow force his perception to change.”

            Arthit nodded thoughtfully, shifting in his seat to observe the whole group once more. He and Dae sat in a companionable silence for the most part, occasionally making a comment, but not making conversation, until Kongpob, finally able to extricate himself from May, had come over to collect Arthit to head back to campus.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            “So, P’, where do you have these training sessions?” Kongpob asked as the two walked towards the engineering faculty.

            “Usually we just have it in a classroom that’s empty in the faculty building,” Arthit answered. “But lately we’ve been in the multi-purpose space that’s shared by a couple of faculties on our side of campus.”

            “Why there?”

            “Practicing our voice projection.”

            Kongpob snorted. “Your what?”

            Arthit smiled faintly at the actor. “We have to be able to be heard by a couple hundred freshman, so we need to be able to project our voices without sounding like we’re screaming at the top of our lungs. How much respect would you give someone who sounds out of control?”

            Kongpob wagged his head back and forth a few times as he thought about that statement. “I suppose not much. Sounds like an acting exercise, though.”

            Arthit shrugged. “You’d know more about that than me.”

            “Not for long,” Kongpob replied, grinning. “You’ll be at the workshop soon.” Arthit stumbled a bit. He’d forgotten he would be part of the workshop. “P’, you okay?” Kongpob reached out to support his arm.

            “I’m okay,” Arthit replied, shaking his arm lightly out of the other’s grasp. “I just forgot about that.” He tried to give Kongpob a smile, but he thought it came out more like a grimace.

            “Don’t worry about it,” Kongpob told him, giving him a reassuring smile and a pat on the shoulder. “The workshop will be fun. If you’re nervous, maybe I could-“

            “Oon!” A shout interrupted Kongpob. Both boys turned their heads, and Arthit saw Tum standing near the doors to the multi-purpose space.

            “Oon?” Kongpob repeated softly, turning to look at Arthit.

            Arthit blushed, looking quickly at Kongpob before focusing on Tum and waving. Tum headed their way. “It’s an old nickname. I don’t really go by it anymore.”

            Kongpob nodded thoughtfully. “Oon. I like it. It suits you,” he said, almost as if to himself.

            Arthit frowned, and was about to respond when Tum arrived. “P’Tum,” he said instead, giving his senior a wai.

            “I’m glad you’re early,” Tum said after returning the greeting. “Is this your friend from communication arts?”

            “Yes, P’Tum, this is Kongpob,” Arthit replied, gesturing at the actor.

            Kongpob gave a wai. “Hello, P’Tum. It’s nice to meet you.”

            Tum returned the wai. “It’s nice to meet you, too,” he replied faintly. He looked at Arthit with a raised eyebrow. “When the dean said it was someone famous, I didn’t think he meant Kongpob Suthiluk.”

            Arthit fought down another blush, but from the smirk on Tum’s face, he figured he lost that battle. Kongpob stepped in, saying, “I asked my dean to be discrete. I didn’t want to cause a fuss.”

            Tum gave a smile and nodded. “I do appreciate that.” He turned to Arthit again. “I’m assuming you told your friends he was going to be here?”

            Arthit tilted his head to the side and frowned. “Why would you ask that?”

            Tum gestured towards the building with his head and replied, “Because all four of them are already here, and Knot and Prem seem like they’re restraining Bright and Tutah more than usual. Deer wasn’t sure if he should be pleased they showed up early or annoyed that they’re bothering him during set up.”

            Arthit shook his head and sighed, looking up for a moment. “I shouldn’t have said anything to them.”

            Kongpob made a choked sound that seemed like suppressed laughter to Arthit. “I did tell P’Arthit that I wanted to meet his friends who helped with his contest submission.” He gave a sunny smile to Arthit, who gave a weak smile back.

            “P’Tum! Arthit!” came a call from the door. All three turned to see Deer standing there, Arthit quietly telling Kongpob who he was.

            “Excuse me,” Tum said, smiling at them both. “Head on in but stay out of the space for now. Deer and I are still trying to find a good place for you to observe from, Kongpob.” He walked off in Deer’s direction.

            “Shall we follow?” Kongpob asked, looking at Arthit with a questioning gaze.

            Arthit nodded. “Yeah, we should. There’s a kind of waiting room near the space that we can hang out in until P’Tum or P’Deer tells us where to go.” Saying so, he started walking towards the door, Kongpob just a beat behind him.

            The boys were silent as they settled into the waiting area, both checking their phones as they leaned against adjoining walls. Arthit found a couple of messages from his friends from throughout the afternoon, but he declined to read them for now, figuring it was all just questions about tonight.

            “So, P’, can I ask you something?” he heard Kongpob say.

Arthit looked up from his phone and looked at the younger and nodded, figuring he would ask a question about tonight’s training. “Sure.”

            “Why does P’Tum call you ‘Oon’, but P’Deer calls you ‘Arthit’?”

            Arthit sighed. “That’s what you want to know?”

            “Yes, P’.” Kongpob gave him a small smile, but Arthit thought he saw a mischievous gleam in his eyes. It made him tense up. “It’s making me curious.”

            Arthit bit the inside of his cheek. Well, the other already knew his nickname, so no harm in saying something, right? “When I started here first year, I had already decided to drop my nickname.”

            “But why?” Kongpob interjected. “It’s a good nickname.”

            Arthit took a deep breath, not wanting to tell Kongpob that he felt like his nickname had somehow defined him when he younger. It was starting to bother him a bit that Kongpob was so interested in this. “I was ready for a change.” He sighed again. “P’Deer was the second year head hazer, so he wasn’t actually hazing us at the time, so when I introduced myself as Arthit, that’s how he remembers me.”

            “But P’Tum remembers you as Oon?” Kongpob has shifted along the wall, getting closer to Arthit.

            “P’Tum was the third year head hazer, so he was in charge of my batch’s hazing. He overheard me telling my friends my old nickname, and he was a bit merciless in using it during hazing.”

            “P’Tum knows you don’t like the nickname, but still calls you by it?” Kongpob raised an eyebrow. He shifted closer once again.

            “He claims it’s just a habit now, after calling me that during most of hazing.” Arthit rolled his eyes, his irritation climbing. Why were they even talking about this?

            “Why did you want to change your name, P’?”

            Arthit pinched the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t want to sound like a little kid.”

            “Is that all you think that nickname sounds like?”

            “Kongpob, it was a childhood nickname. Of course it sounds like a little kid to me.” Arthit took a deep breath to try to calm the anger that the irritation had morphed into.

            “I don’t think so, and I think it’s a suitable nickname for you.”

            “I prefer to go by Arthit,” he replied, almost clenching his jaw to stay calm.

            “I think P’Ai’Oon is a wonderful name to call you, though,” Kongpob said with a small grin. He had come within arm’s reach of Arthit.

            “I prefer Arthit,” Arthit repeated, clenching his hands into fists and looking away.

            “Oh, but P’Ai’Oon is-“

            “Kongpob!” Arthit barked, finally losing control of his temper and turning towards the younger. Arthit froze, staring at Kongpob, who had somehow managed to be only inches away from his face.

            Kongpob’s eyes glittered with satisfaction. “There’s the head hazer,” he murmured.

Chapter Text

            “Kongpob!” Arthit barked, losing control of his temper.

            Kongpob’s eyes glittered with satisfaction. “There’s the head hazer,” he murmured.

            Arthit stared at the younger, suddenly frozen, his heart rate sky-rocketing. Did he really just bark at Kongpob the way he would to a misbehaving freshman? When did Kongpob get so close? Why did he look so pleased at being scolded?

            As he tried to do… something, Tum and Deer came into the waiting area, along with a young woman. Kongpob smoothly yet quickly stepped back from Arthit.

            “You two ready?” Tum asked cheerfully, oblivious to Arthit’s inner panic. “Oh, Kongpob, this is Deer, our third year head hazer, and Cream, our newly chosen first year head hazer. Deer, Cream, this is nong Kongpob, from communication arts. He’ll be observing tonight.” The three greeted each other with a wai, Cream seemingly a tad starstruck, staring at Kongpob with wide eyes.

            “I hope you’re okay with only observing, nong,” Deer said to Kongpob. “We’re getting our first years experience tonight, so having you participate would probably throw us all off.”

            “I don’t mind, P’Deer,” Kongpob replied with a polite smile. “I don’t want to cause any distractions for the hazing team.”

            “Too late,” Arthit murmured to himself.

            “What was that, Oon?” Tum asked, looking at his junior.

            Arthit shook his head. “Never mind, P’Tum. We should get in place so we’re not late for the training session. You said that Bright and Tutah were already causing problems.”

            Tum chuckled as Deer shook his head. “Right, let’s go.” He headed back out of the waiting area, and the other four followed along.

            Arthit made to follow Deer and Cream towards the main space, but was stopped by Tum tugging his arm. “P’Tum? Shouldn’t I be going with them?”

            “Ah, nong, I think it’s best if you come with me and nong Kongpob.” Tum gave him a slight smile. “Deer and Cream need some time to bond before next year, so Deer is leading the session tonight.”

            “And you really think that Knot and Prem will be able to handle Bright and Tutah when P’Deer is leading?” Arthit asked, raising an eyebrow.

            Tum gave a short laugh. “I already talked to your friends, and the other second year hazers. They agreed to keep a low profile tonight. Plus, I think your friend will be more comfortable with you around rather than just me.” Tum nodded at Kongpob, who gave a small smile and shrug.

            “But what about P’Deer?” Arthit asked, anxiety churning his stomach. “Is he going to think I’m slacking off again?”

            Both Tum and Kongpob frowned. “When did Deer ever say you were slacking off?” Tum asked.

            Arthit flushed. “He didn’t, exactly.” He mumbled, looking at the ground. “Knot overheard him questioning me being the head hazer next year.”

            “Oon,” Tum replied, sounding sad. The older hazer clapped him on the shoulder. “He doesn’t think you’re a bad hazer.”

            “But that doesn’t mean he thinks I’m good enough to be the head hazer,” Arthit replied, sighing.

            “Oon, I chose you because I know you can do this. Deer just doesn’t have the same knowledge of you that I do. You’ll see what I mean next year when you have to choose from the first years. Don’t worry about Deer anymore, okay?” Tum started chuckling. “He’s going to be leading Cream tonight for the first time. He’ll wish he was working with you!”

            “Is this Cream’s first time at training?” Kongpob asked, curious.

            “It’s not her first, but the first years just started joining us recently, so this will be her first opportunity to practice at being the head hazer. And, well, nothing against nong Cream, but I don’t see quite the same level of potential in her that I saw in Oon last year.” Tum shrugged. “But I may be biased a bit, since he was my choice.”

            Kongpob grinned. “It’s not hard to be biased to P’Arthit.” Arthit blushed as Tum laughed.

            “Come along, nongs, let’s get ourselves squirreled away so we have a good view of everything. We need to make sure Deer is focused,” Tum said with a smirk, wrapping his arms around their shoulders. Arthit gave the older man a small smile. “Trust me, Oon. Deer will be singing your praises after tonight’s training!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

            Arthit was feeling a lot better after the training session. Kongpob had claimed the seat to his right, and Tum sat to his left, so it was up to Arthit to explain just about everything to the actor. Tum would occasionally chime in with an added explanation or observation, but for the most part seemed perfectly happy with everything Arthit said to their guest. As the session had carried on, Arthit’s mood lifted, and he started to feel the familiar enthusiasm for the Sotus system increasing. That didn’t seem to go unnoticed to either of his companions, as he noted they both seemed to be more pleased as the session continued, and Arthit knew it had nothing to do with what Deer and the other hazers were doing on Tum’s part. He also felt quite proud of himself for keeping any judgement regarding how Cream was doing during the session to himself. Many times he had felt a laugh or a scoff forming at the back of his throat when she or the one of the other first years blundered and Deer would look frustrated or disappointed in her response, but he held it back. He knew he had probably made just as many mistakes the previous year, and he wanted to be supportive to his junior hazer.

Arthit noted that the other senior hazers, except those third years directly helping Deer, had also kept back through much of the session, though it appeared that Knot and Prem had to occasionally corral Bright. Tutah seemed to be handling himself well, at least.

            When the session came to a close, Deer headed straight for the three sitting in hiding. “What do you think?” he asked Tum as he took a seat, leaning his elbows on his knees, watching the other hazers start to gather their things and head out.

            Tum crossed his arms and sat back in his seat. “Not bad. They made plenty of mistakes, but overall they seem trainable. More importantly, what do you think? It’ll be up to you to train them next year when they’re second years.”

            Deer sighed, rubbing his face with his hand. “I think I’m going to end up depending on nong Arthit for help a lot with that next year.” Tum chuckled at that, and Arthit noted with some curiosity that Kongpob was grinning.

            “P’Tum?” asked a voice. The little group all looked up to see Prem, Knot visibly restraining Bright and Tutah behind him. “Can we steal Arthit?”

            Deer sighed and shook his head, while Tum grinned. “Sure, nong, you can take him and his friend.” Kongpob jumped up from his seat, happily grinning. Arthit stood a little slower, sending Tum a questioning look. “We’ll talk about the session later, Oon. Go with your friends.”

            Arthit nodded, sending Tum and Deer a small smile, then headed towards his group of friends, who had moved back into the main space, crowded around some chairs in the corner. Kongpob followed along behind him like a happy puppy. “I’m very sorry,” Arthit muttered to the actor without looking at him as they approached the group.

            “For what?” Kongpob asked quietly.

            “You’re about to meet Bright and Tutah,” Arthit replied, sighing. He could see the two of the practically vibrating as they watched them walk over. Admittedly, Knot and Prem also seemed excited, but they were containing it a lot better. “Hope you’re ready for this.”

            Kongpob gave a short laugh. “As long as they don’t scream, I think we’ll be okay.”

            “No guarantees there.” Arthit shook his head, sighed again, then focused on his friends. “Hey guys.”

            “Hey, Arthit,” Prem responded. Knot had shifted to stand between Bright and Tutah, and was currently gripping a shoulder each.

            “Guys, this is Kongpob. Kongpob, these are my friends, Prem, Bright, Knot, and Tutah.”  The five boys greeted and gave a wai to each other.

            “P’Arthit, which one helped you with your contest submission, again?” Kongpob asked. Arthit watched Bright and Tutah both come to attention.

            “Bright and Tutah,” Arthit replied, cringing on the inside, hoping the two wouldn’t make a scene.

            “Ah, okay. I had a question I wanted to ask the two of you,” Kongpob said, turning to look at them.

            “What would that be?” Tutah asked, sounding slightly strangled.

            “I was wondering what editing software you used.”

            Bright and Tutah both blinked in surprise and looked at each other. Finally, Bright responded, “I’m not sure.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You’d have to ask my cousin. I borrowed his computer for it.”

            A jolt of realization went through Arthit. “You mean you bribed P’Khai to do it for you, don’t you?” he asked, crossing his arms.

            “We did not!” Tutah replied, indignant.  “Bright only asked to borrow his editing program. P’Khai insisted he needed to be present to supervise us while we used it. That was his only stipulation.”

            Arthit crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow. “And what did P’Khai do while he was supervising you?”

            “Nothing,” Bright replied. Then he grinned. “P’Bone, on the other hand, told us it was causing him pain to watch us try to do the editing, so he took the computer and finished the editing for us.”

            “You let P’Bone do all the work for you?” Arthit demanded.

            “He insisted!” Tutah defended. “We bought him dinner and snacks as a thank you. It’s not like we asked him.”

            “I thought I recognized the style!” Kongpob exclaimed.

            They all paused, the argument they were about to start halted. “What do you mean?” Knot asked politely, exchanging confused glances with Prem and Arthit.

            The actor looked at Bright. Excitedly, he asked, “Your cousin, Khai, he’s a third year, right? And he’s friends with Bone, Two, and Third?” At Bright’s nod, Kongpob smiled brilliantly. “They’re the savage gang! They’re well known in our faculty, and P’Bone is considered the god of editing. A lot of his projects are used as examples, even for the fourth years!”

            The five friends exchanged puzzled glances. “I didn’t know that they did so well in their classes,” Bright ventured. “P’Khai and P’Bone always seems more focused on other things.”

            Kongpob laughed. “I have no idea what any of their grades are like, I only know what gets around the faculty. I’m just hoping to work with any of them on any project before they graduate.”

            Bright grinned. “I can pass that request along to P’Khai if you’d like.” Kongpob grinned back.

            Arthit heard a faint buzzing noise, and wasn’t surprised to see Kongpob pull out his phone. The younger looked at Arthit apologetically, saying, “It’s P’Tew.” Arthit nodded and moved closer to his friends to give Kongpob at least an illusion of some privacy for his phone call. A hand to his arm stopped him from going too far, and he glanced at Kongpob in surprise.

            “Hello P’Tew,” Kongpob said, looking directly into Arthit’s eyes. A pause as Tew said something. “Yes, I’m still with P’Arthit.” Another pause. “Okay, I’ll ask him.” Kongpob dropped the phone away from his head. “P’Arthit, are you free to meet with P’Tew for a few minutes right now?”

            Arthit blinked a few times, surprised by this question. “Uh, yes, for a little while. Why?”

            “P’Tew was given the workshop and filming schedules after we left the dinner, and he wants to talk to the both of us about it,” was the reply. Kongpob gave him a reassuring smile before lifting his phone again. “Yes, P’Tew, he’s free for a little while right now.” The actor paused again, listening to his manager. “Okay, P, we’ll head there now. Bye.”

            “So, where are you dragging our fearless leader off to now?” Bright asked, grinning mischievously.

            Prem elbowed him in the stomach. “Just ignore him,” he said, giving an apologetic look to Kongpob. “We usually do.”

            Kongpob laughed softly. “It’s not a big deal. P’Tew is waiting for us at a café just off campus.”

            “Is it okay for you to go to such a public place?” Knot asked, shooting a concerned look at Arthit.

            “P’Tew knows the owner,” the actor replied, smiling. “It’s safe.” He turned to Arthit. “We should probably go, so we don’t keep him waiting for too long.”

            Arthit nodded, feeling a bit nervous again. “Okay.” He turned to his friends. “I’ll see you guys in class tomorrow.”

            With a chorus of good byes, Arthit’s friends headed off their own way, and Arthit followed Kongpob out of the building and off campus.

Chapter Text

            Arthit frowned at Kongpob. The younger had first directed him across campus to the communication arts faculty, where he had opened a locker and grabbed a backpack. He had then directed Arthit to pause once they had gotten off of campus property, and had pulled out hats and face masks from his newly acquired backpack. He was now trying to get Arthit to put a set on, holding them out, and Arthit was refusing.

            “I’ve never seen you wear these before,” Arthit said, still frowning. “Why now?”

            “P’, you’ve never seen me outside of work or campus. I’m relatively safe in those two places, so I don’t really need to hide,” Kongpob explained, sounding like he was both amused and exasperated by Arthit’s refusal. “But now we’re going off campus, where my company and the university don’t have much control.”

            “You said the cafe was safe, since Khun Tew knows the owner,” Arthit replied, still not taking the proffered items.

            “The café is, yes,” Kongpob replied, “but P’Arthit, we have to get there first, and that may not be. Please wear these.” The actor had switched to sounding like he was pleading.

            Arthit wrinkled his nose in displeasure, but finally accepted a hat and mask from Kongpob. “Fine. But this better be a quick walk. I hate wearing these things.”

            Kongpob’s brilliant smile made an appearance. “It won’t take long, P’, I promise!”

            True to his word, the two only had to walk about 6 blocks to get to the café Kongpob said they would meet Tew in. Arthit wasn’t particularly surprised when an older gentleman seemed to be waiting for them at the front doors, nor when said gentleman whisked them away to a backroom immediately, where Tew sat at a round table. Kongpob directed him to sit across from Tew, while he sat between the two.

What did surprise him was the twisting his insides did while he watched Kongpob first remove the hat, ruffling his hair to restyle it a bit, and then remove his mask with both hands. It was safe now, wasn’t it?

            “P’Arthit, it’s okay to take those off now,” Kongpob said, smiling gently.

            Arthit nodded somewhat jerkily before removing the hat and mask he was wearing. Hearing a smothered laugh, he looked up at Tew with a question in his eyes. A giggle from Kongpob had him redirecting his attention, as the younger reached out his hand towards Arthit. Instinctively, Arthit dodged the hand, frowning at his two tablemates.

            “P’, your hair is sticking up from the hat,” Kongpob explained, amusement still dancing in his eyes. “Let me fix it for you.” This time, Arthit didn’t avoid Kongpob’s hand, letting the actor smooth his hair down, all the while fighting the blush he felt rising.

            “I told you I hate wearing those,” Arthit grumbled, trying to hide his embarrassment.

            “I see why,” Tew responded, still looking amused. He turned to Kongpob. “How was the hazing?”

            “It was great, P’!” Kongpob exclaimed, grinning. “P’Deer was leading it, and he was training the first years, so I got to see a lot of things that weren’t correct, and how P’Deer taught them the right way. P’Arthit sat next to me and explained everything!”

            “Deer?” Tew asked. “I thought there was supposed to be a Tum in charge?”

            “P’Tum was sitting with us,” Kongpob said. “P’Deer is the third year head hazer, and P’Tum said he needed to bond with Cream, the first year head hazer, so the fourth and second year hazers weren’t really doing much.”

            “Ah, I see.” Tew took a drink from his coffee mug. The older gentleman returned just then, bringing in two more drinks. The man placed them on the table with a smile at the two younger occupants, clapped Tew on the back, and then whisked himself away with a quiet “Enjoy your drinks”. One drink looked to be an iced coffee, and the other-

            “You ordered a pink milk?” Arthit asked, looking at Tew.

            Tew exchanged a glance with Kongpob, then smiled softly. “Kong said you seemed to enjoy the drink, so I thought you might appreciate something sweet after dealing with all his questions tonight. If you don’t want it, I can go get you something else.”

            “No, Khun Tew, that’s alright,” Arthit replied hastily, shaking his head and picking up the drink. “Pink milk is fine. Thank you.” He didn’t miss the grin on Kongpob’s face as he took his first sip.

            “Now that you two have drinks, let’s get down to business,” Tew said, reaching for a bag near his feet. He pulled out some papers, and handed half to each boy. “This is the schedule for the workshop, and a preliminary shooting schedule for the movie. Arthit, this is confidential, so please make sure no one else sees this.”

            Arthit nodded and looked at his copy. The workshop seemed to be a weekly thing until finals week, and the movie schedule started within days of finals being over. He was quite surprised at how easily this looked like it would fit into his school schedule, though the fact that it would start in just a few days made him nervous. From what he had picked up listening to his friends and the other actors at the dinner, he had figured he’d have to miss classes for a few days at some point.

            “P’Tew, is this right?” Kongpob asked. Arthit glanced over and saw a frown on the actor’s face. “This seems more like a class than a workshop.”

            Tew sighed. “I verified with both the director and workshop coordinator. The higher ups wanted to make sure that everyone who was in school could participate without needing to skip classes.”

            Kongpob shook his head. “How is the cast going to bond well if we only see each other for a couple of hours once a week? It’s too spread out.”

            “This isn’t a normal schedule?” Arthit asked softly, looking between the two.

            “Workshops are usually all day, every day, for at least a few days in a row,” Kongpob said. “At least, all the ones I’ve done have been. I’ve had to scramble to change shooting schedules and reschedule tests before. This schedule seems more like what an acting class would be.” Arthit looked at Tew, who nodded in agreement.

            “It is unusual,” Tew said, sighing again. “But like I said, I did verify this. The director said that there would be a chance they’d schedule some more workshop time right before filming starts, if needed.”

            “We’d better plan on that, then,” Kongpob told him. “That dinner tonight was so awkward.” Arthit smothered a laugh. Kongpob turned to him with a wry smile. “You thought so, too?”

            Arthit fought a blush. “P’Dae and I talked about that, yes.” He managed to give a crooked smile back.

            “You talked to Dae?” Tew asked, sounding eager.

            “Uh, yes,” Arthit responded, surprised. Tew was usually quite laid back. “He sat next to me, and we chatted a bit.”

            “P’Tew used to help out with P’Dae, back when he first started at the company,” Kongpob explained with a mischievous grin. “They don’t cross paths much these days, though.”

            “Well, he’s part of the movie cast, so you’ll see him more frequently now, won’t you?” Arthit asked, thinking out loud. Kongpob’s choked laughter and Tew’s glare at the actor made him think he was missing something, so he decided to change the subject. Taking a deep breath, he asked, “What should I expect at this workshop? Will it be different than the ones you usually go to? It starts so soon.”

            Kongpob and Tew once again exchanged glances. “We’re not sure,” Tew answered, surprising Arthit. “I think you’ve heard everyone on Kong’s team mention how unusual our situation has been so far, and with this schedule, that seems to be continuing.” He shook his head.

            “It’ll be fine, P’,” Kongpob reassured, patting the older man’s arm. “We’re both perfectly capable of adapting to whatever they throw at us. Besides, it’s probably the studio trying to accommodate all of us actors who want to earn their degree in a timely manner. I’m not the only one in school right now in the cast, after all.”

            “True, but you are the only one who was supposed to take a full year off so you could get a good start on your degree,” Tew responded.

            Arthit sat quietly, listening. It sounded like part of a conversation the two had had often, if the sigh and nod the actor gave to his manager were any indication. “So, we’ll both be going in blind?” he asked softly, feeling some anxiety rising once again.

            “Unfortunately,” Tew told him. “But don’t worry too much. Kong will be there with you, so you won’t be alone.”

            Arthit nodded, grip tightening on his cup of pink milk as he tried to soothe his nerves. Kongpob being there with him didn’t really sit all that well as a consolation, especially since he was sure that the lead actor wouldn’t be spending a lot of time with someone with such a small part like himself.

            “Perhaps you and Kong could stick around after the workshop is over and discuss how things went,” Tew suggested. “That way you can take some time right after to make sure the lessons stick.”

            “Maybe…” Arthit murmured, staring at his drink.

            “How about this, P’?” Kongpob offered. “We could meet up before the workshop starts, maybe for lunch, and we can talk about what’s most likely to happen. That will give P’Tew a few days to chat with staffers from the workshop team so we can try to get an idea of how they’re going to run it.”

            “I guess that could work, instead,” Arthit replied quietly, still focusing on his drink.

            “Or we can do both, if it’ll make you feel more comfortable with the whole workshop,” Kongpob persisted.

            Arthit finally lifted his gaze up to meet the actor’s, whose eyes looked worried.

            “Maybe the two of you should find out your homework load for the weekend before you make plans like that,” Tew interjected. “In the meantime, it’s getting late, so I think we should get you two back to your dorms. Hats and masks back on, please. I had to park the car back by campus.”

            “I can get home from here by myself,” Arthit protested.

            “I’d rather take you home and make sure you’re safely at your dorm,” Tew replied, also pulling a hat and mask from his bag.

            Sighing, Arthit donned his hat and mask again, making sure to grab his drink before standing up. He didn’t miss Kongpob’s grin before the younger finished getting his mask in place, but he refused to blush. His pink milk was the only comfort he had at the moment.