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I need someone I can cry to, I need someone to protect

Chapter Text

After the sex trafficking ring is exposed and those responsible are brought to justice, Bun’s life in Viangpha Mork finally settles down into something approaching relative normality.

He wakes up every morning in Tan’s arms and at the end of the day after a long shift at the hospital he gets to crawl back into them. Bun never realised you could spend your entire life missing someone you hadn’t met yet until fate led him to Tan. Every time he catches Tan looking at him from the other side of the couch, whenever they stand side by side at the sink to do the dishes, and with each cup of coffee thoughtfully left by his elbow, he’s hit with an overwhelming sense of rightness, like this was always where he was meant to be.

The kids come and go as they please, popping round for dinner or to just laze in front of the TV. With Sorawit and Nam both wanting to go into medical profession, he often finds himself guiding them through their homework. He’s not the best teacher, Tan has him beat there, but watching them learn and grow has been an unexpected joy.

As for That, when he’s not working at The Mist with Tan or ferrying Sorawit to and from school, he often helps Bun around the house. Bun’s actually grown rather fond of That. Out of all the horrors he’d witnessed since arriving back in Viangpha Mork, it’s That’s desperate pleas of “Kill me first!” that still has him gasping awake at night dripping in sweat. Knowing that one of their guestrooms has band posters decorating the walls and motorbike magazines strewn across the floor is one of the only things that helps him fall back to sleep.

It’s not just within the four walls of Tan’s sprawling mansion that Bun has found peace. Oat is a steady, reliable presence by his side at work. Now that Bun’s not fearing for his life every second of the day he can actually spend time with the other man, regularly allowing himself to be dragged along to fancy restaurants and cute cafés the young doctor is desperate to try. Bun always got on well with his colleagues at the hospital, but now they’re practically family, something he’d always felt foolish for dreaming about when he was just a starry-eyed med student.

He mourns for Jane, of course, and for the countless other girls they couldn’t save, but he’s happy. Perhaps for the first time ever. Yet he still feels like something is missing, something crucial.

And he thinks he knows what it is.

Or should he say who it is.

He sees Inspector M perhaps even less than he ever did before. Intellectually, Bun knows it’s because the Inspector is busy. Having been promoted, it has fallen to him and him alone to reform the entire police department. That in itself is no small task, but he’s also still very much recovering despite being technically cleared for work, too. If Bun had his way, he would have signed him off for at least six months but the man is nothing if not stubborn and the fact it’s mostly desk work is of little comfort to him.

When Bun catches M leaving one of the hospital’s appointment rooms at the beginning of the week he feels something in him that had been previously pulled taught slacken before easing entirely.

“Inspector!” He calls out in greeting.

“Commander,” M corrects, turning to him with a small smile.

Most of their friends think Bun’s refusal to use his new rank is done purely to annoy him, all of them used to their push and pull relationship, but they’d be only half right. He does it to annoy him and to make him laugh. Bun’s of the opinion that everyone looks better smiling and M is no different. As far as he’s concerned, they could all do with a little more laughter in their lives after what they went through.

“Of course, of course,” Bun waves away. “Just finished this week’s physical therapy session?”

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say your colleagues were trying to kill me,” M says, rolling his shoulder with a wince. “I haven’t had this many aches and pains since I was a cadet.”

“That’s good, it means it’s working,” Bun says, receiving a doubtful scoff in response. “How are you, otherwise?”

“So tired that sometimes I don’t even know if I’m awake,” M admits bluntly.

Bun frowns. “I could prescribe something to help you sleep,” he says, hand already reaching for the pen in his shirt’s front pocket. “Something stronger than what you’d be able to get over the counter.”

“Thank you, Doctor, but I’m okay,” M replies. “I’m actually sleeping relatively well when I can grab the time. There’s just so much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it, that’s all.”

Bun crosses his arms and clicks his tongue. “You’re still recovering,” he reminds him. “No one would think any less of you if you handed over some of your duties for a while.”

M gives a sharp bark of laughter that Bun tries and fails to find any genuine amusement in. “To who, exactly? There’s no one.”

Not being able to see M as much as he would like means Bun’s worrying has been sort of abstract in nature. With every police car that whizzes past with its siren blaring he finds himself thinking about how M’s restructuring of the police department is going, and whenever a patient comes in needing rehabilitation after a nasty break or tear, he can’t help but wonder about M’s own recovery.

But with the man standing right in front of him, that vague, distant worry spikes sharply into something tangible. Because now he’s able to see the dark bruises under each eye and how his clothes hang off his frame when they used to cling tightly to defined biceps and strong shoulders.

“At least let me grab some multivitamins for you,” he offers almost desperately.

M sighs, shoulders slumping. “Okay, sure,” he relents. “Lead the way, Doctor.”

By the time they reach the hospital pharmacy, Bun already has a plan.


The next day Bun only has a few morning appointments and by lunch he’s completely free from all work related obligations. Barring any emergencies, of course.

When he gets home, he immediately gets to work making phat phrik khing with steamed rice using a recipe he was gifted by an elderly neighbour back in Bangkok. When it’s neatly packaged away in a couple of tightly sealed plastic containers, he fills a thermos up with tea and cuts a slice of the mango layer cake he’d made at the weekend, carefully wrapping it up in a paper napkin. He puts it all away in a cute little tote bag covered in daisies Nam had left the last time she was round and sets off back out into town.

It isn’t a long drive to the police station, ten minutes at most, and before he knows it he’s being ushered through the building to M’s fancy new office like he’s some sort of celebrity. His new found fame among the local law enforcement is still a little hard to swallow. He may trust M but he certainly doesn’t trust the criminal justice system or the type of people it has a habit of attracting.

He gives a stiff nod to the young officer tasked with showing him the way, only relaxing with a deep exhale once he’s finally left alone. He knocks twice on the door before pushing it open, not bothering to wait until he’s invited in. “Delivery,” he announces.

M looks up from the file he’s reading, eyes immediately narrowing. “What’s wrong, what have you done now?”

“Is that any way to talk to the man who has brought you a home cooked meal?” he says, holding up the bag.

M’s eyes dart between the bag of food and Bun’s face, his brow scrunched up into a confused knot.

“You’ve brought me… food?”

“You said you’ve been busy. I can’t even begin to imagine when the last time you ate something that wasn’t out of a vending machine was.”

Just as M’s about to reply, his stomach growls. Bun grins broadly in triumph and shakes the bag. “Well?”

“Fine, sit down,” M relents, gesturing vaguely to the chair in front of his desk.

He watches silently as Bun takes out the containers, thermos and cake and sets them in front of him.

“You didn’t have to go to the trouble,” M says, looking a little overwhelmed.

“I know, but I wanted to,” Bun says simply. “Here,” he adds, sliding him a pack of plastic utensils he’d swiped from the hospital canteen.

“You’re not going to eat with me?” M asks.

“I ate earlier, I made this is for you.”

“It isn’t poisoned, is it?”

“I’m flattered you think I’d be brazen enough to walk straight into a police station and kill their commanding officer.”

“See, the fact you’re flattered is why I’m worried.”

“It isn’t poisoned,” Bun assures him. “I wouldn’t ruin good food that way,” he adds with a smirk.

With a sigh of reluctant acceptance, M digs in his fork and takes his first bite.

After a few seconds, M’s eyes widen and he looks back up at Bun. “This is really good,” he says through a mouthful of food, manners fallen by the wayside.

“There’s no need to sound so surprised,” Bun grumbles, forcing a petulant pout onto his lips so M doesn’t see his pleased smile. “Wait, have I never cooked for you before?”

M gives him a complicated look. “No. Why would you have?”

“Because you’re—”

He cuts himself off.

Are they friends? They had got on relatively well before Jane’s murder, but right up until M helped them fake their deaths most of their interactions had been tinged with suspicion, anger and frustration. He’d said some pretty awful things to him and though he stands by most of them in regards to the police department as a whole, M was ultimately just a pawn in a game of chess that ended up being much bigger than any of them could have ever imagined. He’s a good man, Bun sees that now, and he’s slowly killing himself trying to prove it to the rest of the town.

“Because I’m what, Doctor?” M prompts, fists tightening around the plastic fork until Bun can hear it creaking in his grasp.

“Because you’re my friend,” he finishes, chin raised defiantly. “Or, at least, I’d like you to be. I don’t see why we can’t pick up from where we left off that night at The Mist.”

M looks down at his food, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “It feels like it’s been years.”

“A lifetime ago,” Bun agrees gently. They’ve all aged way beyond their years over the last few months, the trauma settling heavily on their shoulders and bending their spines beyond repair. He’s not the same man who arrived back in Viangpha Mork after a decade away, eager to catch up with old friends and dance the night away with strangers. But maybe that’s for the best. “I never thanked you for dragging my drunk ass home that night, did I?”

M laughs loudly, the first genuine one Bun’s heard in a while. “Better late than never,” he says. “You’re lucky I had Dr. Oat’s number otherwise I would have had to take you home with me and I can’t imagine you would have been too happy about waking up in my bed.”

Bun leans across M’s desk, a smirk firmly in place. “Aw, you’d have given me your bed?” He teases. “Then again, you did take off my shirt and make me porridge. I forgot how nice you were to me those first few days.” The tips of M’s ears darken and he looks away. “What?” Bun prompts, delighted by the uncharacteristic show of embarrassment.

“Nothing,” he says. “It’s just… Well, for a Doctor, you can be incredibly dense sometimes.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he assures him. “It’s all in the past now, anyway.”

Bun hums, unconvinced. “Come on, eat up,” he urges, tapping the top of M’s desk before settling back down into his seat. “I didn’t slave away over a hot stove for it to go to waste.”

“Yes, Chef, sorry, Chef,” M quips, taking another forkful.

Bun braces an elbow against the desk and leans his head on a fist, happy to just watch M eat. “You need to let me know what foods you like and dislike for next time. I don’t want to go to the trouble of making you, I don’t know, ratatouille only to find out you have some weird childhood trauma related to aubergines.”

M chokes on his mouthful of rice and pounds his chest until it goes down. “Next time?” He croaks.

“Of course. This wasn’t a onetime deal. I’m not cruel enough to give you a taste of my cooking only to snatch it away.”

“Mushrooms,” M says after a while and Bun cocks his head to the side. “They weird me out.”

“Noted.”

And so begins their first tentative steps towards an actual genuine friendship.

Once M’s commitments to restructuring the police department begin to ease, they make the effort to meet for drinks after work a couple of times a week.

It’s easy, this new camaraderie of theirs.

Unlike many of the other professionals he’s encountered over the course of his career, Bun finds M delightfully receptive to his bitchier side. His scathing remarks about the snooty business men and rude foreign tourists who often pass through the town that Bun inevitably ends up having to treat matched by the equally less than complimentary comments about M’s own colleagues and the local attorneys he has to deal with on an almost hourly basis. It’s nice to have someone to talk to who isn’t Tan or his friends at the hospital, someone removed from those other parts of his life.

Slowly, as they become more comfortable with each other, Bun starts to see the man behind the uniform. During one particularly lengthy text chain, he learns that M has an insatiable sweet tooth after waxing lyrical about the mango cake Bun brought him and it only continues to snowball from there. He finds out that he has two cats, listens to British punk music when he’s at the gym, and enjoys romantic-comedies. He’s close to his mom but not his dad, has an older brother but always wanted a sister, and is still in touch with all his college friends. Bun hordes away every little detail of M’s life gifted to him like they’re precious gems and by the time a couple of months have passed, he has a proverbial treasure trove. Bun’s never felt so rich.

Eventually, before even Bun realises it, they’re having movie nights every weekend. It’s probably the healthiest relationship Bun’s ever had. He tells M as much and gets a deadpan “well, that’s depressing” in response.

Bun was happy before, but now he feels complete.

Chapter Text

It’s Wednesday night, Tan’s working late at The Mist and unlikely to be back until the early hours of the morning. Bun and M are both three beers deep, there’s half-eaten takeout spread across the coffee table and a crappy sci-fi movie playing on the TV. M’s just finished telling Bun about the new academy recruits that arrived from the city the previous day and for the first time in a while, he actually sounds excited for the future of the police department.

The combination of cheap booze, greasy food and good company warms him from the inside out and Bun sighs in contentment, sinking into the plush cushions of the couch as he takes a leisurely sip of his beer.

“Is Dr. Oat seeing anyone?” M asks suddenly and Bun chokes, the liquid spilling out of his mouth and dribbling down his chin.

Caught off guard by the non-sequitur, it takes a few moments for Bun to wrap his head around the question and respond. “I don’t think so,” he says slowly, wiping his lips and chin with the back of his hand. “Why, are you into him?”

“Wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t, would I?” M bites back and Bun flicks his eyes up towards the ceiling, irritation warring with fondness.

“Didn’t think he was your type.”

“Oh, yeah?” M asks, eyebrows raised high on his forehead with interest. “And why’s that?”

Bun shrugs and swings his legs up into M’s lap, purposely jabbing him with his heels as he makes himself comfortable. “He’s nice,” he says plainly, yelping when M pinches the meat of his calf.

“Fuck you,” M says, pointing the neck of his beer bottle at Bun as he muffles his laughter into the back of the couch. “You’re not wrong, though. He’s nothing like any of my exes.”

“Well, maybe that’s a good thing. They’re exes for a reason, after all.”

“True,” M concedes.

“You’ve known him a while, right?”

“Yeah,” he says. “As you’re well aware, the police department often has to liaise with the hospital so I ended up meeting him on his second day working there. We’ve collaborated on a few cases since then and often bump into each other at various official functions and events.”

“Not unlike you and I, then,” Bun adds. “That makes sense. So what changed?”

M huffs in amusement. “Almost dying at the hands of someone I considered a friend? Finding out that my commanding officer was part of a sex trafficking ring? Knowing that I’ve been unknowingly covering up wide-spread corruption for years? Take your pick, Doctor,” he says bitterly before taking a swig of his beer.

Bun inwardly winces. “There’s certainly something to be said about shared trauma bringing people together,” he allows.

“He saved my life,” M says. “Multiple times.”

“It’s his job,” Bun says delicately.

Bun’s had a few patients develop feelings for him over the years. He mostly puts it down to porn and dramas skewing people’s expectations of the medical profession, but he’s aware it’s human nature to gravitate towards someone who has helped you, someone who has shown you empathy and understanding when you’re at your most vulnerable. So he gets it, he does, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward when someone asks him out after he’s just given them a prostate exam.

M clearly senses what Bun’s implying and turns towards him on the couch. “Please don’t misunderstand, Doctor. This isn’t some misplaced sense of hero worship or gratitude. Your priorities change when you’ve been through the colossal mountain of shit we have. You start to see people differently. He didn’t just save my life, he risked his own to do it and he would have done the same for anyone. That makes all the difference.”

With Bun on the run, it fell to Oat to simultaneously treat M’s injuries and keep him safe from his would-be murderer. One small slip up could have ended up with them both dead with Bun, Tan and the kids not far behind.

“He was very brave,” Bun admits.

“He was,” M agrees. “I asked him to trust me when he had every reason not to. He lied to the commander’s face to keep me safe, to keep you safe. He has more guts, more compassion, and more integrity than the entire police department combined.”

Bun looks at M with wide eyes, stunned by the ferocity behind M’s words, and notices that he’s gripping his beer bottle so tight his knuckles have gone white.

“Sounds a little like hero worship to me,” he jokes weakly and reaches over to gently run his fingers over M’s.

M graces him with a wobbly smile, his grip loosening under Bun’s touch, and takes a deep breath.

“As draining as the physical therapy has been, it’s also given us the opportunity to actually talk properly for the first time since we’ve known each other. He’s…” M trails off, a fond look on his face. “He’s been a big help. I enjoy his company.”

That makes Bun pause. “Wait, he’s been doing your rehab?”

M swipes up a slice of garlic bread from the table and inelegantly stuffs it into his mouth. “Yeah, why?” He mumbles around it.

“That’s not technically his job. He’s only ever used as emergency cover for when we’re understaffed,” Bun shares. In fact, Oat hates taking physical therapy sessions, often foisting them off onto anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, claiming he already has too much to do. “Damn, you might actually be in with a chance.”

A grin breaks out across M’s face, his lips stretched wide and shining with grease. “Seriously?”

Bun chuckles and passes him some napkins. “Not to get your hopes up or anything, but yeah.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence, the enormity of M coming to Bun with something as delicate as relationship advice hangs heavy in the air as the sounds of rapid gunfire erupt from the TV every few minutes.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what he’s into?” Bun eventually asks, digging his toes into the muscle of M’s thigh.

“What?” M asks as wraps his fingers round Bun’s ankle.

“Come on, you know how this goes, first you ask me if he’s single then you get me to tell you what he does for fun so you can plan any potential dates accordingly. I’m strangely invested in this now.”

M chuckles. “Okay then, Doctor, what’s he into?” he asks obediently.

Bun hums in thought. “He’s a foodie and loves trying new restaurants. Feed him and he’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand in no time,” Bun says. “Probably literally, if you’re into that,” he adds with a grimace, nose wrinkled in distaste.

M snorts. “Right.”

“He’s very sociable. Between him and Sorawit I rarely spend my lunch breaks alone. Just make a point of showing him that you enjoy his company. Talk to him. Not as a sometimes-colleague or a patient, as a friend.”

“I know all this already,” M says plainly.

“Well you asked,” Bun teases.

“You literally made me ask,” he says through a laugh, holding onto Bun’s legs so he doesn’t get knocked in the chin by a flailing limb. “I haven’t dated in a while,” he admits once Bun’s settled back down. “Hook-ups, sure, but not dating. I’m a little rusty.”

“You’ll be fine,” Bun says, leaning over to pat him on the shoulder. “I guess you’d be considered attractive to some people and you’re not a completely awful person personality wise, either.”

“Well with such a ringing endorsement, how can I ever fail?”

“Seriously, though, I actually think you could be good for each other,” Bun admits. “You deserve to be happy. Both of you do.”

“Thanks,” he says softly before clearing his throat. “Anyway, this movie’s shit, let’s put something else on.

Feeling generous, Bun lets it be the diversion M intends it to be.

Bun doesn’t know how much time has passed when he wakes to the familiar feeling of fingers carding through his hair.

Cracking open his eyes he comes face-to-face with Tan leaning over him. The smell of cigarette smoke and alcohol lingers on his clothes and Bun can’t help but smile, leaning into his touch with a contented hum.

“Should I be worried?” Tan says, nodding down to where M has his head cushioned in Bun’s lap, a small puddle of drool turning the blue of his jeans dark.

Bun’s goes to lift his head from where he’d let it drop against the back of the couch and groans in pain after barely moving an inch. Tan’s hands immediately go to his neck, gently rubbing at the knobs of his spine. He shivers at the touch, Tan’s skin still cold from the sharp night air. “What’s the time?” He asks, cringing at the stale taste of beer and pizza clinging to the back of his tongue.

“Just gone 3:00am,” Tan says. “Good job you don’t have work tomorrow,” he lightly chastises, dropping a kiss to the top of his head.

“This idiot isn’t so lucky, though,” Bun replies. At some point between the two of them dozing off and now, M has managed to end up with his arm trapped beneath his body, one leg dangling off the edge of the couch and his shirt twisted tightly around his torso. “I might be able to get him to call in sick. He could do with a day off.”

Bun thinks about gently easing himself out from beneath M’s weight so he doesn’t wake him but it’s a fleeting, sleep softened thought and he instead flicks M on the forehead.

“Come on,” he says, pointedly ignoring M’s grumbled protests. “You’re going to destroy your back sleeping like that.”

M groggily pulls himself up into a seated position. His hair’s a mess, tufts sticking up in all directions, and his cheek’s red from where he’d had it pressed against Bun’s thigh. The whole look shaves a good handful of years off his face and Bun can’t help but be endeared.

He digs his fingers into his eyes, rubbing until the skin around them is raw. “Shit,” he says, voice sounding like he’s been gargling gravel. “Did I fall asleep?”

“We both did. There’s no way you’re driving home and Tan definitely isn’t taking you, either. Stay the night.”

“Yeah, okay,” he says on the tail end of a sigh. “Just get me a blanket. I can sleep here.”

“Don’t be stupid, we have plenty of guest rooms.”

Tan watches the entire exchanged with silent amusement. “I’ll go set one up for you,” he offers.

“You’ve just got in after a long shift,” Bun points out. “I’ll do it. Come on,” he says, pulling a reluctant M off the couch before slowly leading him up the stairs.

When M is finally settled, Bun shuffles his way back to his and Tan’s room. Tan’s already under the covers, sitting up against the headboard. Bun feels his eyes on him as he silently moves around the room to grab a clean pair of shorts and tank-top to sleep in. When he comes back in from the ensuite after brushing his teeth, Tan’s still watching.

“What?” He asks defensively.

“Nothing,” Tan says with a shrug, that infuriating little smirk Bun loves so much pulling at his lips. “Just glad you’re getting along.”

Bun scoffs as he puts his phone on charge and switches off the lamp. “As if you didn’t enjoy having a front row seat to us at each other’s throats.”

Tan laughs. “You’re not wrong. How is he?”

“Good,” he says, slipping under the bed covers and into Tan’s arms. He lets his body go limp, the steady beat of Tan’s heart under his ear as he soaks in the other man’s warmth. He touches his toes teasingly against Tan’s before tangling their legs together.

“And you?”

It shouldn’t surprise Bun that Tan sensed something wasn’t quite right. Bun never thought he was the sort of person who wore his heart on his sleeve but Tan has always been able to see through Bun’s defences with shocking clarity.

“Better now that he is, too,” Bun admits.

“I swear, you’re a sap with everyone but me,” Tan complains. “A man could get jealous.”

“A man knows he’s got absolutely nothing to worry about.”

“The three of us should have a night out sometime,” Tan suggests.

Bun’s chest tightens in affection. “I’d like that,” he says, tilting his head up for a kiss that Tan is all too happy to deliver.

Chapter Text

It’s been a couple of days since M’s confession and Bun is enjoying a much needed coffee after a tricky surgery when Oat comes practically skipping into the breakroom.

“What’s got you so chipper?” Bun asks, eyes warily tracking Oat as the other man bounds over to where he’s hunched over the table. He’s yet to refill the coffee machine and if Oat even so much as dares to glance at his mug he won’t be responsible for his actions.

“The commander brought me some sticky rice,” Oat announces brightly to the room in a way that would suggest it was full to the brim with people eagerly awaiting his announcement and not just Bun and Dr. Fai trying to grab a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Bun pauses with his mug half-way up to his lips before setting it back down on the table with a dull thunk. “Did he, now?” he says, quietly impressed.

Bun hadn’t expected M to make a move quite so soon. M had clearly been ruminating on his feelings for Oat for a while and it seems their heart-to-heart was the last step of an entire process Bun hadn’t been entirely privy to. It’s remarkably healthy, all things considered, and Bun’s actually rather proud M decided to concentrate on his physical and mental health before making any potentially rash decisions.

Oat hums in acknowledgement as he flicks through the rota pinned to the wall. “Yeah, I even managed to convince him to stay and share some with me,” he says, shooting Bun a quick grin over his shoulder before fixing his attention back on the chart. “Nice, got an hour free before my next appointment,” he mumbles to himself.

“So he came all the way from the police station just to bring you lunch? That was awfully nice of him,” Bun teases as Oat falls into the empty chair next to him with a groan. Bun watches as he stretches his arms high above his head, a deep sigh of relief falling from slack lips when his joints audibly pop.

“What? Nah, he needed to collect a prescription and could only do it during his lunch break so he picked up some food on the way here to save time. They gave him extra and he knows I’m all about that free food life so came to find me. Lucky me, right?”

“Lucky you,” Bun echoes helplessly. It seems like he got a little ahead of himself because Bun knows for a fact there wasn’t any prescriptions sitting in the hospital’s little pharmacy for M to pick up. Apparently their commander is just as susceptible to nerves as the rest of the human race. Good to know.

“You know, I’ve always thought M was kind of cool,” Oat continues apropos of nothing. He pushes back on his chair until it’s only balancing on two legs. He dangles precariously in the air, feet braced against the table so he doesn’t topple over.

“Cool?” Bun says with amusement.

Oat tilts his head back until he’s looking up at the ceiling, eyes focused on a particularly large water stain. “But the night he got brought in with the gunshot wounds? Holy shit. The guy was half delirious with blood loss but he still managed to come up with a plan to keep us all safe. It was like something out of a movie. I didn’t realise people like the commander actually existed.”

Bun smothers a grin against the rim of his mug. “It was pretty impressive,” he allows.

“Do you think he’d like that bakery we went to last week? I was thinking about taking him, you know, as a thank you for, well, everything,” Oat muses, but before Bun can reply, he’s shaking his head with a groan and settling the chair securely back down on all four legs. “He’s really busy as the moment, though, isn’t he? Probably doesn’t have the time.” He laughs, rubbing at the back of his neck self-consciously.

Bun meets Dr. Fai’s eyes from across the room where she’s thumbing through one of filing cabinets, both of them supressing similar fond smiles.

“I think he’d like that, he’s got a sweet tooth. But if you’re worried about him not having the time, maybe you could take something to him at the station?” Bun suggests innocently.

Oat perks up. “Oh, that’s a good idea!”

“You should definitely see if you can pry him from that desk, though. He desperately needs a break and won’t listen to me. Something tells me you may have a bit more success.”

“I don’t know about that,” Oat dismisses despite the pleased look that graces his face.

Bun reaches over to ruffle Oat’s hair. “You’re pretty persuasive.”

Oat scoffs and leans into Bun’s touch, looking up at him through his lashes. “Never worked on you though, did it?”

Dr. Fai laughs, the sound instantly illuminating all four corner of the room. “He’s got you there,” she says. “The amount of times I had to watch him—”

“Fai!” Oat interrupts, ripping himself away from Bun to gesture frantically. She mimes zipping her lips shut, her eyes crinkled attractively at the corners in mirth.

Bun swings his head back and forth between them. “Watch him what?”

She points to her mouth and gives an apologetic shrug before sliding the filing cabinet shut and marching out of the room, patting Oat on the head like a particularly cute puppy as she passes by.

Bun cocks an eyebrow. “Well?”

Oat shoots up out of his chair, quickly smoothing down his shirt and adjusting the stethoscope draped round his neck. “Nothing, nothing. Anyway, I’m going to catch up on some inventory,” he says, jerking his thumb over his shoulder towards the door before pausing and darting out a hand towards Bun’s mug.

Luckily Bun’s quicker and he pulls it out of reach, the brown liquid sloshing dangerously up the sides.

“No,” he growls, low and dangerous.

“Mean,” Oat says with a childish pout before disappearing through the door.

Bun rolls his eyes and takes another sip of his coffee before pulling out his phone.

To: M
[13:32] Heard you brought my intern a lunchtime treat

From: M
[13:35] I can neither confirm nor deny

To: M
[13:36] Spoken like a true cop
[13:36] Or a politician. Ever thought about a career change?

From: M
[13:38] Fuck you

To: M
[13:39] He was literally just here in the breakroom telling us
[13:39] It was like he’d won the lottery

From: M
[13:40] Shit, that’s cute

To: M
[13:41] I also have it on good authority he thinks you’re cool

From: M
[13:42] What?
[13:42] What do you mean??
[13:42} Bun???
[13:43] I’M HALFWAY BACK TO THE STATION BUT I WILL TURN AROUND RIGHT THIS SECOND

To: M
[13:44] Don’t text and drive, you could get arrested for that


A few days later, Oat corners Bun after he’s just finished checking the handful of patients they have recovering on the ward.

“I took your advice,” he says by way of greeting, hands stuffed deep into his white lab coat.

Well accustomed to Oat popping out of nowhere and jumping half-way into a conversation neither of them had been having, Bun continues making notes on his clipboard. “Always a good idea, but what advice exactly?” He says without looking up.

“I took M some cake,” he says proudly, puffing out his chest once Bun deigns to look at him. “He seemed pretty happy.”

Bun allows himself a small smile. “Told you. Any luck in getting him out of that office of his?”

“He’s got some free time on Friday so we’re going to that new Japanese restaurant I told you about wanting to try a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, I see how it is. I’ve been replaced,” Bun bemoans, wiping an imaginary tear away from the corner of his eye.

Oat laughs and rocks back on his heels with a shrug. “Yeah, well, you’ve been blowing me off all month and I’ve been dying to go.”

A pang of guilt tightens Bun’s chest. “For what it’s worth, I did want to go,” Bun admits. He’s been swamped with work recently, barely having time for Tan let alone anyone else. He even had to cancel his and M’s movie night, promising to pop round M’s at the weekend to cook him something nice as an apology.

Oat kindly waves away the apology. “I know, don’t worry, I’m used to it by now,” he says.

“That doesn’t actually make me feel any better, you know,” Bun mutters, nodding politely to a couple of nurses that pass by.

Oat gasps, his eyes comically wide. “So you do have feelings? Phew. That’s good, I was beginning to worry.”

Bun smacks him in the middle of his chest with his clipboard. “Watch it,” he warns as Oat proceeds to act like he’s just taken a bullet, stumbling backwards with a hand clutching at his shirt before abruptly straightening back up with a toothy grin.

“I knew he was busy, but seeing the piles and piles of paper work on his desk really made it hit home, you know?” Oat muses as he obediently falls into step beside Bun. “Every few minutes someone would stick their head into his office to ask him a question or get him to sign something. It was draining just seeing it second-hand, I don’t know how he’s managing it all.”

“It’s better than it was, if you can believe that,” Bun admits on the tail end of a sigh.

Oat hums in agreement. “He was looking pretty terrible when I was helping him with his physical therapy. I tried my best to take his mind of things but didn’t really know what to do beyond talking his ear off for the entire hour.” Oat’s mouth drops open into a surprised little ‘o’ when he realises what he’s let slip. “I mean— Shit.”

Bun rolls his eyes. “I know you took his physical therapy sessions. Thought you found them boring? Or is M a special case?” He teases.

“I just thought having a familiar face doing them would put him more at ease,” Oat mumbles, the tips of his ears slowly staining dark.

“Hmm, well, you were right,” Bun allows. “You helped more than you realise, Oat. He couldn’t stop singing your praises a few weeks back.”

Bun resumes his trek back to the foyer only stopping when he realises Oat isn’t following. He spins around to see Oat standing frozen in the middle of the corridor. “He talks about me?” Oat squeaks before quickly clearing his throat. “He talks about me?” He repeats, voice unnecessarily low.

How M could ever be nervous about asking out a man so clearly besotted with him he’ll never know. As far as Bun’s concerned, they deserve each other.

“He did. He does,” he assures him.

Oat stares at him blankly until Bun begins to tap his foot impatiently against the laminate flooring and Oat abruptly snaps out of it. “Huh, wow. That’s— That’s, er, nice.”

He jogs over to Bun and throws an arm around his shoulder, jostling him back and forth until Bun pushes him away.

“You do realise I’m scheduling you in to take physical therapy sessions now, right?” Bun points out.

Oat groans, dropping his weight fully onto Bun’s back, arms dangling over his shoulders. “Have mercy,” he begs.

“You reap what you sow. But hey, just think how good it’ll look on your resume, Mr. Intern.”

Oat groans again, the sound reverberating all the way down the corridor to the waiting room.


As the week bleeds into the weekend, the date of Oat and M’s little restaurant rendezvous comes and goes without so much as a single text or phone call from M.

Now, M certainly doesn’t owe him every little detail of his and Oat’s budding relationship, but Bun would be lying if he said he hadn’t been anticipating something. Even a simple “it went well” casually thrown into their LINE chat would have gone some way to satisfy Bun’s curiosity. Instead he knows nothing either way. He’s even taken to referring it as Schrodinger’s date. Frankly, he feels a little short-changed by the whole thing.

So when Sunday rolls around, Bun arrives at M’s with not only a nice bottle of red wine but with certain expectations, too. Perhaps M had been waiting until they could meet up before spilling everything? Bun can understand that. Some things are better said in person, after all.

Yet all M does is ask Bun how work’s been before launching into a recap of the drama he’s been watching.

It doesn’t take Bun long to realise M is probably avoiding the topic on purpose, likely deriving some sort of sick pleasure from seeing Bun desperate to know but unwilling to ask. To be perfectly honest, Bun would probably do the same. They really are too alike sometimes.

This uneasy stalemate continues while Bun prepares dinner and when he finally dishes up they sit there in silence staring at each other from across the table, egging each other on with narrowed eyes and pursed lips as they ignore the plates piled high with spaghetti Bolognese sitting in front of them. It’s an especially strange juxtaposition against the soft jazz M put on earlier for Bun as he cooked and the curtains framing the balcony doors they left wide open so they could enjoy the warm night rustling gently in the breeze.

As usual it looks like Bun’s going to have to take one for the team if he wants any peace of mind. And anyway, the food’s going cold. There’s no sense in letting it go to waste out of pride.

“So,” Bun begins, smoothing his fingers over the creases marring the tablecloth in an attempt to flatten them out. “Heard Oat took you out.”

And just like that, the proverbial dam breaks.

M laughs loudly and grabs the already uncorked bottle of wine to pour them both a glass. “You know what? I’m genuinely impressed you held out this long.”

He holds up his glass, keeping it patiently suspended in the air until Bun clink’s his against it with a roll of his eyes.

“Yes, yes. You win. Great, good for you,” he dismisses before leaning forward eagerly. So?

“You know full well he did,” M says before adding somewhat unnecessarily, “It wasn’t a date.”

“Didn’t say it was,” Bun quips, teeth catching on the rim of his glass as he speaks. “What makes you so sure it wasn’t, anyway?”

“Well, the fact he intended to take you and I was his second choice was kind of a big clue.”

Bun pauses, the wine gently lapping at his top lip. “Oh for fu— He told you that? God, he’s such an idiot,” he complains before draining the glass.

M chuckles as he obediently refills Bun’s glass. “It’s fine. I think he was just nervous,” he says with a shrug. “You know, I never pegged you as someone who got invested in other people’s relationships.”

“Christ, neither did I. I barely recognise myself.”

“Well, it makes sense. You’ve gotta find your excitement elsewhere now that you and Tan are past the honeymoon stage.”

Bun is surprised into a sharp bark of laughter. “The honeymoon stage?”

“Yeah, you’re just a regular boring couple now.”

Bun thinks about the crossword he did last night before both he and Tan turned in for bed at a respectful 9 o’clock, the two of them too tired to do anything more than cuddle until eventually falling asleep. “Whatever. This isn’t about me and Tan,” Bun dismisses. “So this not-date. You split the bill, then, right? Because whenever he drags me to a new place we always split it.”

“He paid,” M admits and Bun points his fork at him in triumph. “That literally means nothing. He invited me, so he paid. Simple as that. We’re not close in the same way you two are, he was just being polite.”

“Fair enough,” he concedes with a huff. “Did you have a good time, though?”

“Of course.”

“Did he?”

M looks down at his plate in attempt to hide his smile, but Bun catches it. “Well, I mean, he said he did. He wants to do it again sometime.”

Bun nods, satisfied. “When are you going to ask him out, then?”

“I don’t know,” M admits. “I’m working up to it.”

“I’m surprised you just haven’t just bit the bullet. You’re usually pretty forthcoming with what you want.”

“I told you, I’m rusty. And anyway, I kind of just want to hang out with him as friends for a bit first. You know, outside of the hospital and police station. Which you suggested by the way,” M reminds him, instantly transporting Bun back to that night where M bared his soul between pizza and beer bottles.

Bun, admittedly, feels slightly cowed. “You’re right.”

M’s face softens. “Look, I’m glad you care, but let me do this my way, okay?” He says gently. “We’ve got all the time in the world. I’m enjoying getting to spend time with him, that’s enough for now.”

The thing is Bun believes him. He really does. M seems genuinely relaxed for the first time since, well, since before Jane died. His smiles and laughter come easier now, almost as if the war he’d been waging within himself has finally come to an end allowing him to enjoy the luxury of peacetime. Bun may not fully understand the desire to take it slowly, especially when Oat clearly feels the same, but he at the very least respects it. And if M’s happy, then that’s all that matters.

“You’re really into him, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

Bun thinks of Tan and how even now, months removed from falling into his arms on the dance floor of The Mist, seeing his face still takes his breath away. He swallows past the tightness in his throat because, fuck, he gets it. “Gross,” he says instead.

“I know, right? Super gross,” M agrees through a grin that says otherwise.

M briefly gets up to change the music, putting on a playlist that he says Sorawit made for him after he asked the kids for some recommendations.

“What you need is more excuses to hang out with Oat outside of work,” Bun says once he sits back down.

“Difficult when you take up all my free time,” M immediately counters and Bun frowns. “What? It’s true. Here I am staring at your ugly mug when I could be hanging with the potential love of my life.”

“I can’t believe you’re accusing me of cock-blocking you.”

M twirls some spaghetti around his fork before popping it into his mouth. “Hmm, I don’t think that’s what I said,” he says after swallowing, his lips already stained red at the corners.

“Not in so many words, no, but the implication was there. Fuck, see if I graciously give up my evening to make you dinner again. Honestly.”

They’re both smiling. Bun has always enjoyed their particular brand of back-and-forth. From the satisfaction of putting M in his place with a well-timed barb, to now, where they can tease and prod and needle each other knowing it’s done with affection rather than contempt.

“You’re right, though. I wish there was more to do around here. I’ve had to stop myself multiple times from inviting him to the gym with me.”

“That isn’t the worst idea. Just say you need someone to spot you.”

M looks as if he’s genuinely considering it for a few moments before eventually shaking his head. “He’d be bored to tears. I have a pretty strict workout regime.”

Bun rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure he’d hate seeing you get all hot and sweaty.” He reaches over to lay his hand over M’s. “He’s lucky to have someone like you looking out for him. Thank you for your service,” he says as earnestly as he can manage.

M knocks his hand off and Bun settles back in his seat, pleased.

“I’ll think of something. Things are fine for now. Perfect, even.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I am.”

Bun watches him sprinkle more parmesan over what remains of spaghetti. “Seriously, though. If you’re concerned about him not reciprocating, I honestly don’t think you have anything to worry about. You should see the way he talks about you. It’s…” He pauses to find the right word. “Sweet. There’s definitely something there.”

M chuckles. “I appreciate that, Bun, but I’m not nervous about rejection. I’m pretty sure he feels the same. I just want to do things right, that’s all. So, you know, baby steps.”

“Okay. Baby steps,” Bun agrees.

“Perhaps toddler steps,” M amends.

“Pre-teen steps?” Bun suggests.

“Sounds good.”

Chapter Text

The perfect opportunity presents itself when at the end of the month, true to his word, Tan organises a night out at The Mist.

It’s a surprisingly busy night at the club. With most tables occupied and the dance floor packed, the harried waitstaff are forced to work at double speed, expertly weaving between the writhing bodies as they collect empty glasses and wipe up spills. Luckily, Tan had the foresight to reserve them one of the nice booths in the VIP area towards the back of the club. Usually Bun would be more than happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers at the bar, but tonight he finds himself grateful for the breathing room the stylish roped off area and security guards silently standing watch affords them.

“I’m officially off the clock tonight,” Tan assures Bun as he slides into the booth next him with a tray piled high with shots of various colours. “So if someone starts a fight or gets caught fucking in the toilets it’s not my problem.”

“Hmm, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Bun says, picking a glass at random and knocking it back. It burns all the way down, warming him instantly from the inside out. He already feels his shoulders begin to loosen, the tension he’d been carrying from the work week bleeding away. “Is That working tonight?”

Tan quickly follows suit, grabbing a glass of clear liquid and downing it in one go. “Nah, gave him the night off. He’s staying over Sorawit’s.”

Bun’s chest tightens with affection at the thought of the two youngsters. “Good. He’s been complaining about Sorawit not having any time to hang out recently because of school. I think he’s feeling a bit neglected.”

Tan smiles fondly. “He’d never admit it but he’s a huge softie, that kid,” he says before leaning in closer to Bun. “Reminds me of someone else I know.”

“Can’t imagine who,” Bun simpers, turning his face away from Tan’s eager lips with a smile.

As he leisurely scans the club, Bun catches sight of a familiar figure making his way towards them, the other patrons parting around him like he’s surrounded by an invisible force field. With his hair down over his forehead, a black leather jacket thrown over a tight fitting white t-shirt, and thigh hugging jeans, M oozes easy confidence. Bun may have a strained relationship the police but he can at least admit their uniform is flattering, and while M wears it like a second skin, there’s something about him in his own clothes that Bun has always found far more compelling. Maybe it’s because while he looks good in his uniform, he’s comfortable in his civvies, more himself. And if the past few months have shown him anything it’s that he quite likes the real M.

“Gentlemen,” M greets. “Hope you haven’t been waiting too long, work overran.”

“Commander,” Tan replies. “Not at all. Please, take a seat.”

“Not bad,” he says, gesturing to the roped off area they’re in. There’s only one other table occupied, a small group of two women and two men. Despite dripping in designer clothes and jewellery, they’ve been relatively quiet, always politely ordering the most expensive drinks on the menu. The perfect customers, Tan had whispered to him, unobtrusive and loaded.

“It pays to know the owner,” Bun says conspiratorially as M gets himself comfortable opposite them.

M raises his eyebrows. “Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?”

The small talk flows easily; between the three of them they have the hospital, school, and police station covered when it comes to gossip so there’s always lots to catch up on. With the hours he works, Bun sometimes forgets there’s a world outside the brick and mortar of the hospital building and being kept up to date with which of Tan’s colleagues are having affairs and the ridiculous neighbourly disputes M inevitably ends up having to deal with always helps him breathe a little easier.

Bun’s just finished telling Tan and M about the baby Dr. Fai helped deliver in the hospital’s car park when the last member of their party of four finally arrives.

“Oat!” Bun calls across the room and M turns to look at him so fast Bun’s momentarily worried he’s given himself whiplash.

“You didn’t tell me he was coming,” he hisses.

“What? He’s my friend. This has nothing to do with you,” he says, watching with interest as M’s brow begins to knot into a frown. “And even if it did, surely this is another perfect opportunity to spend time with him, right?” He finishes flippantly.

M’s lips form a little ‘o’ of dawning realisation and he immediately sits up straighter, much to Bun’s amusement.

“Bun, Tan, oh, and the Commander, too,” he greets them one by one, his face lighting up in surprised delight up when he gets to M.

Bun sees M swallow, but his face stays a perfected mask of cool confidence. “Please, no title’s tonight, Doctor.”

“Ah-ha! Then you have to drop the Doctor, too,” Oat says as he settles down next to him.

“Deal,” he concedes. “Oat.”

They share a sweet, shy smile that makes Bun’s teeth ache.

As far as Bun’s aware, things still haven’t progressed between M and Oat beyond grabbing lunch together when they’re able. And considering Bun knows both of their schedules back to front, he also knows that unfortunately isn’t particularly often. Bun promised himself he wouldn’t meddle, but what he can do is offer up an innocent opportunity for them to hang out. Sure, he could have given M a heads up, but where’s the fun in that? As M so eloquently put it, Bun’s got to find his excitement somewhere.

“This round’s on the house,” Tan says, gesturing to the shots as both M and Oat reach out to grab one. “And the next one’s on me.”

“You’re the owner,” M points out, “every round should be on you.”

“Well, that’s just bad business,” Tan quips with a wink.

“Here’s hoping this night goes better than the last one,” M says, holding a glass up to Bun in a toast, humour colouring his tone.

Bun groans in embarrassment and hides his face in palms of his hands. Oat frowns as he looks between the two of them before his expression clears in understanding. “Oh! The night I had to come pick you up. Man, you were so wasted.”

M snorts unattractively. “Now that’s the understatement of the century,” he mutters into his glass, earning himself a sharp glare from Bun.

“It was a pretty good night for me,” Tan muses, leaning back so he can drape his arm across the seat behind Bun, fingertips just lazily brushing the fabric of Bun’s silky shirt.

“Tan,” Bun warns.

“An attractive Doctor fell into my arms and surprised me with a kiss,” Tan continues, completely unrepentant.

M blinks owlishly in surprise. “No way, you didn’t tell me that,” he says almost accusingly.

“That’s because I was drunk and embarrassed,” Bun hisses which only seems to delight M more. “Which was entirely your fault, by the way,” he adds.

“My fault?” M echoes in offense.

“You dragged me out to a club only to then leave me on my own to go chat up a table of women.”

“Ah yes, and in your mind that meant get absolutely smashed and maul a stranger,” he points out, his eyes sliding to Oat then darting back before narrowing at Bun. “And they were friends, I told you that then.”

“Sure, friends,” Bun mocks with a scoff.

“I’m forever in your debt,” Tan says seriously, bowing to M.

“So it was love at first sight, then?” Oat says with a grin, eagerly sitting forward in his seat.

“No,” Bun says firmly.

“Yes,” Tan disagrees, tugging Bun to his side. “I just had a nine year head start.”

“Nine years? So you knew each other already? Wow. I’m learning a lot tonight,” M muses, eyes twinkling in mischief.

Bun flicks his eyes up towards the mirrored ceiling in exasperation, unsure if he’s more annoyed by the teasing or how much he enjoys it. “We went to the same University. We met once, well, supposedly anyway, and I don’t even remember it.”

“But you do,” M directs at Tan. “He must have made quite the impression.”

“How could I forget a face like this?” He says, grasping Bun by the chin and turning his head from left to right as if showing him off. Bun slaps his hand away, the back of his neck heating.

“Shut up.”

“It’s like something out of a drama,” Oat chimes in, hands clasped together against his chest dramatically as if about to swoon.

“And you can zip it, too,” Bun says, swiping a beer mat off the table and flicking it at Oat like a shuriken. They all watch as it hits his arm and flops pathetically onto the floor.

“He gets embarrassed about not remembering,” Tan shares and Oat nods solemnly.

Bun huffs as he grabs another shot, grateful for the low lighting masking his no doubt red cheeks. “Unlikely. If anything you should be embarrassed about remembering a random encounter with a stranger almost a decade ago,” he shoots back childishly but Tan just laughs and pulls him closer until he’s practically sprawled across his lap, more than used to his sharp tongue by now. “That’s practically one step below being a stalker.

“It really isn’t,” Tan says fondly, pressing a kiss to Bun’s temple.

“This doesn’t sound like a new argument,” M says. “For what it’s worth, I’m totally on Bun’s side.”

“Hah!” Bun crows in triumph and digs a pointy elbow into Tan’s ribs. “Told you.”

“Aw, come on, M, where’s your sense of romance?” Oat says, bumping his shoulder against M’s.

“If you ask me, being on the run together to take down corruption and solve a murder is far more romantic.”

“You would!” Oat laughs, flirtatiously slapping a hand against M’s chest and letting it linger. “It’s certainly dramatic. Worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, in fact. I’d watch it.”

“Not sure that’s entirely necessary since we, you know, lived it,” he replies, grinning widely.

“True. Front row seats and everything.”

Bun narrows his eyes at Oat’s coy smile and how M has subtlety positioned his body towards him rather than Bun and Tan, effectively excluding them from the conversation. It’s almost painful to watch.

“I want to dance,” he announces abruptly to the table, not bothering to wait for Tan’s answer before pulling him out of his seat and leading him to the dance floor by the hand. He catches a brief glimpse of M’s startled expression before turning away, unable to stop the sense of satisfaction from coaxing a smirk onto his lips.

When they reach the edge of the dance floor he drapes his arms over Tan’s shoulders, pulling him in close until they’re flush against each other.

“What are you up to?” Tan whispers, his hot breath ghosting across the shell of Bun’s ear.

“Just trying to give them a bit of alone time.”

Tan’s eyebrows dart up towards his hairline. “Wait, are those two—”

“Not yet, but soon, hopefully.”

“My little matchmaker,” Tan coos, nosing at Bun’s cheek.

“I’m barely doing anything beyond cheerleading from the side-lines.”

“You’re invested,” Tan says with delight. “Aw, baby. That’s so sweet.”

Bun pulls at the short hairs at the base of his neck and Tan hisses sharply through his teeth. “Watch it,” he warns.

“Okay, okay.”

Bun lets himself enjoy the feeling of Tan pressed up against him as they lazily sway to the music. He’s already beginning to sweat, the sheer number of bodies surrounding them almost stifling, but Bun enjoys the intimacy of it. He doesn’t get to let loose like this very often anymore, responsibility chipping away at his conscience until he relents.

“What are they doing?” Bun asks as one song switches over to another.

“Hmm?”

“The lovebirds.”

“Talking.”

“Are they looking at each other?”

Tan snorts, the soft gust of air gently rustling Bun’s hair. “What? Of course they are. It’d be weird if they weren’t.”

Bun huffs in annoyance. “No I mean, are they looking at each other?” He says with emphasis.

Tan spins them around until Bun has a clear view of their table and watches as M laughs loudly at something Oat says. Grinning, the young Doctor shuffles closer until their knees bump and touches M on the wrist briefly before sliding his hand up to his bicep. M sways closer, leaning forward until he can talk directly into Oat’s ear, no doubt using the loud music pumping through the club as an excuse to get closer.

“Smooth,” Bun says under his breath, automatically cocking his head to the side when he feels Tan’s lips begin to teasingly trail down the side of his neck.

“Me or them?” Tan asks, hands drifting teasingly over the swell of his ass.

Bun can feel the heat of his palms bleeding through his jeans and he arches into the touch, pushing his hips into Tan’s. “Them, obviously,” he replies.

Tan gives a breathless laugh in response before slipping a leg in between Bun’s to give him something to ride. Bun would usually scold him with a whispered not here, promises of later pressed into his skin, but Bun’s feeling a little reckless tonight and rocks down against Tan’s thigh.

Bun feels Tan’s breath hitch. “Of course, what was I thinking?” he laments, gently guiding Bun’s rocking with his hands. “You look really hot tonight, by the way,” he says against Bun’s neck, tongue flicking out to lick away the sweat clinging to his skin.

Arousal slithers its way down Bun’s spine and he curls his fingers into the collar of Tan’s shirt. “You’re not so bad yourself,” he says, nudging Tan’s face away from his neck so he can finally bring their mouths together.

Bun slips his tongue in alongside Tan’s, the taste of Amaretto lighting up his taste buds. It’s hot and wet and makes his head spin.

“Well I should hope so considering you picked out my outfit for me,” Tan murmurs against Bun’s lips.

“You were taking too long.”

“Just wanted to look my best for you. With you on my arm, I have to step up my game.”

“Hmm. You’re forgiven.”

“Funny, I don’t remember offering an apology.”

“You can make it up to me later, then.”
“Oh, I intend to.”

Bun doesn’t know how long they spend pressed together trading languid kisses among the other sweaty club goers, but Tan did promise a second round on him, so eventually, and very reluctantly, they make their way through the crowd back to M and Oat to see what they want.

When they’ve decided, M goes with Tan to help with the drinks, leaving Bun and Oat alone together for the first time that night.

“Having fun?” Bun asks, pushing his sweaty bangs off his forehead as Oat bobs his head to the music.

“Hell yeah, man. This isn’t usually my scene, but it’s nice to hang out with both you and M for a change.”

“I’ll let Tan know he isn’t needed, then,” Bun teases as he unbuttons his shirt sleeves and rolls them up to his elbows.

Oat laughs loudly over the thumping bass and Bun’s suddenly glad he decided to invite Oat. Happy in the knowledge that regardless of whether anything happens between him and M tonight or in the future, here in this moment, Oat’s enjoying himself.

“Come off it, you know what I mean. I feel like I never get to see you both at the same time. It’s always one or other. It just makes a nice change to have all my favourite people together for once. Tan included.”

Bun chuckles, annoyingly charmed as always by Oat’s very specific brand of sincerity. It’s all in the eyes, Bun thinks; they’re always sparkling with warmth and mischief in equal measure. It’s really no surprise their patients love him, especially the kids. “Don’t let Fai hear you say that. She’ll be devastated.”

Oat gasps and proceeds to slap him multiple times on the arm in excitement until Bun catches his hand and squeezes his fingers in warning. “We should invite her next time!”

Bun pauses, head cocked to the side in thought. “You know what? That’s not a bad idea,” he admits, releasing Oat’s hand so he can fist pump the air.

After Tan and M come back with their drinks, the night seems to pass in a blur of empty glasses and heads thrown back in laughter. At one point, Oat pulls Bun back onto the dance floor and proceeds to flail his limbs about like he’s some sort of exotic bird doing a mating dance until Bun is able to guide him into something a little more sensual for the benefit of Tan and M watching on. He manages a couple of relatively competent body rolls before cracking up and Bun considers it a lost cause.

It’s the sort of night that reminds him of his time at University when he and his friends would go out to enjoy each other’s company rather than hook-up with attractive strangers. All of them overworked and sleep deprived, but young and very much living in the moment. He may not be a young student anymore, but he’s never felt more alive, and he thinks he has Viangpha Mork to thank for that.

It’s late when they all finally stumble out into to the sharp night air. Bun’s head is pleasantly fuzzy and his feet ache from being on them for too long. He clings to Tan’s side in a way that he’ll probably be embarrassed about tomorrow morning but feels completely necessary under the bright full moon as they all huddle together on the damp pavement outside The Mist.

Beside them, M adjusts his grip around Oat’s waist, pulling the younger man up when he begins to slip down in his hold. “I can’t believe I’m ending another night at this club with a drunken doctor in my arms.”

“Some people pray for such good fortune,” Bun quips. “Will you be alright getting him home?”

“Yeah, I won’t be able to sleep peacefully knowing he’s alone so I’ll stay with him until he sobers up a bit.”

“Such a hardship,” Bun teases, swaying forward to poke M sharply in the middle of his chest causing him to wince. “Text me when you get there.”

“Yeah, you guys, too,” he says, dragging Oat towards the taxi waiting for them. “Thanks for this, man. I had a great time,” he adds, clapping Tan companionably on the shoulder as he passes.

“My pleasure, we should do this more often,” Tan offers easily.

“I’d like that,” M says, almost looking surprised at the admission before turning his attention back to Oat. “Come on you big baby,” he says, gently bundling Oat into the back seat.

“Bye Bun! Bye Tan!” Oat shouts, sticking his head back out of the door. “Love you!”

Bun rolls his eyes, head lolling onto Tan’s shoulder. “Remember to drink some water. M, make sure he drinks some water.”

M salutes before sliding in next to him and slamming the door shut.

Bun keeps his eyes on the car until it disappears from sight, eyes going in and out of focus. Beside him, Tan’s face is illuminated by his phone; the shadows making the high peaks of his cheekbones look particularly sharp. “Ours should be here in a few minutes,” he says.

Bun hums and presses in closer to his side.

“Cold?”

“A little,” Bun admits.

Tan wordlessly slips off his jacket and drapes it over Bun’s shoulders. “Well, we can’t have that, can we?”

Bun blinks up at him, the street lamp behind them giving him a halo of artificial light. He can already feel himself crashing, the buzz from the alcohol fizzling away to leave a bone-deep exhaustion and slight headache in its wake. He buries his face in between the collar of Tan’s shirt and his neck where the sweat on his skin has cooled, dulling the scent of his musky cologne, and groans.

Tan chuckles as he runs his hand up Bun’s back. “You’re still such a lightweight.”

Bun lethargically mouths at the goosebumps decorating Tan’s skin, earning a shiver from the man wrapped around him that can’t be blamed on the chill in the air. “Do you think it helped? Inviting them both tonight, that is,” he slurs.

“They couldn’t keep their eyes off each other,” Tan assures him.

Bun sighs, practically boneless in Tan’s hold with exhaustion and relief. “Good. I just want them to be happy.”

“You’re something else, you know that?” Tan says softly into the night.

Later, after tumbling through the front door in a mess of limbs and drunken giggling, Bun’s phone buzzes.

From: M
[03:21] Back in one piece
[03:23] Thanks for inviting him, I owe you one

To: M
[03:25] No problem. I’ll add it to the list

Chapter Text

Being one of the only senior medical examiners in a small town allows Bun certain privileges not afforded to many of his colleagues.

Thanks to his seniority, his schedule isn’t as overloaded as the junior doctors and nurses, letting him pick and choose his appointments carefully and delegate to others if necessary. He’s also lucky enough to have his own office. Despite frequenting the break room regularly to spend time with Oat and Fai between shifts, having his own little safe space to escape to when he feels particularly overwhelmed by the responsibilities that typically go hand-in-hand with working in a hospital has proved essential in helping him maintain a clear head, especially over the last year.

Another perk that Bun hadn’t even considered until recently is that, due to his position, he doesn’t have to be involved in the organising of the annual hospital charity fundraiser.

Bun hadn’t been around for the last event, but from what he understands it used to be a fairly formal and somewhat stuffy affair where the town’s wealthiest would sit down for an expensive three course meal before spending the rest of the evening networking and writing cheques between bottomless glasses of champagne.

But as the number of government officials and CEOs linked to the corruption scandal continues to increase almost daily thanks to M and his team’s tireless efforts, it was decided that something a little more light-hearted was necessary, something that allowed the town to come together and show they were stronger and more resilient than their so-called leaders could have ever imagined.

This year’s fundraiser was described to him as more akin to a small festival. Held in the park next to the hospital with local businesses offering up their goods and services for the day, it reminded Bun of the charming village fete he’d stumbled upon when he spent half a year in the English countryside during his early twenties helping at rural clinics. It was exactly the sort of thing the town needed and Bun found himself looking forward to spending a relaxing day with his colleagues, friends and patients.

Of course, just because he wasn’t agonising over ticket prices or figuring out capacity like the poor receptionists have been doing for the last month, doesn’t mean he isn’t expected to offer some sort of help. So a week before the event, Bun is handed a long list of all the booths, stalls, and entertainment arranged by a merry band of non-clinical staff with the explicit instruction to sign his name next to what he’d be willing to help out with on the day itself.

He immediately bypasses Face Painting and Kissing Booth, having neither the artistic talent to turn a child into Spider-Man nor the desire to be kissed by strangers. He considers the Silent Auction for a few minutes as he really wouldn’t have to do much beyond helping to set out the items and collecting the bidding sheets at the end of the day to announce the winners before his eyes zero in on the Talent Contest with JUDGES NEEDED in all capital letters underlined twice next to it.

That could be fun, he thinks, before writing down his name. He recently accompanied Tan to the school’s end of year showcase and knows first-hand there are some incredibly talented youngsters graduating next year. If the participants in the fundraiser’s talent contest are even half as good as the kids he saw perform then he’s in for a real treat.

“Boring,” a familiar voice sing-songs from over his shoulder.

Bun instinctively jerks his elbow back, but Oat jumps out of the way just in time to avoid being jabbed in the ribs.

“Haven’t you got anything better to do than bother me?” Bun complains, scanning the list one more time before stuffing it back in his pocket, making a mental note to drop it off at reception later.

“I mean, yeah, probably,” Oat says with a shrug, completely unrepentant. “But seriously, the Talent Contest? Like, don’t get me wrong, it should be fun in theory, but I heard Mr. Thongsuk who owns the dry cleaners south of the market is entering and you know he’s going to try his hand at stand-up comedy despite his humour being stuck in the ‘60s. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not spend my one day off listening to sexist jokes.”

Bun rolls his eyes, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be shit.”

“True, but it doesn’t fill me with much confidence, either, though.”

“Have a little faith in your fellow townspeople,” he says, roughly pinching Oat’s cheek. “What have you signed up for?”

“The Kissing Booth,” Oat says proudly before cupping his chin with both hands and wiggling his fingers. “Just you wait, I’m going to fund the new MRI machine with these lips and these lips alone.”

Bun drops his hand, his expression twisting in disgust so blatant, that Oat laughs out loud. “And you’re happy with letting strangers kiss you?”

“Okay, well, first of all, it’s strictly cheek kisses unless the kisser and kissee both specifically agree on somewhere else. Secondly,” Oat pauses, eyes sparkling with mischief under the bright fluorescent lighting above them, “I thought you’d be all for kissing strangers.”

“God, I wish Tan never told you that,” Bun groans, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Sure. Whatever. Enjoy your chapped lips and dry mouth. At least I’ll have a nice, pleasant day sitting back and being entertained.” Oat goes to respond but Bun is quick to interrupt. “Mr. Thongsuk’s involvement notwithstanding.”

“This isn’t Thailand’s Got Talent, Bun, you’re setting your standards way too high.”


When the day itself arrives, Bun finds himself sitting in the baking midday sun as he watches someone fumble with the stack of cards they’re attempting to shuffle, spilling them all over the make-shift stage. Someone in the audience coughs as the amateur magician falls to their knees, hastily scooping up their cards, laughing awkwardly when they drop them again.

God, Bun hates it when Oat’s right.

At least he’s not alone in his suffering.

M sits next to him, his neck glistening with sweat as he dutifully makes a couple of notes on the current performer’s profile sheet. When Bun leans over to see what he’s written, he instead catches a glimpse of a little doodle of the two of them on fire under a menacing sun with exaggerated eyebrows pointing downwards in a scowl.

He snorts and M shoots him a smile, nudging him in the side companionably.

Done with even trying to pretend he’s interested in what’s happening on the stage, Bun swipes up his own stack of paper and uses them to fan himself, desperate for some relief from the stifling heat as he enviously eyes the baseball cap M was smart enough to bring with him, the bridge of his nose and high peaks of his cheekbones safe from being burnt. With a sigh, Bun pushes his bangs back off his forehead. At least he had the foresight to smother his face in sunscreen before leaving this morning.

During the interval Nam stops by with a floppy sun hat and two plastic cups of homemade lemonade from one of the stalls.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” he says gratefully as M beside him finishes off his own lemonade in three large gulps. “Are you having fun?”

She nods, her high pony-tail swinging back and forth. “I’ve been helping out on some of the food stalls. I can bring you something to eat, if you want?” She says, looking between the two of them.

“We’re good for now,” M assures her. “They’ve at least been supplying us with snacks between bouts of prolonged torture,” he adds, gesturing to the pile of chocolate bar wrappers pushed to the edge of the table.

“Have you seen Tan?” Bun asks. They arrived together but split up almost immediately and Bun hasn’t seen or heard from him since. Hopefully they’ll get to spend a couple of hours together later but, as Bun has come to realise, Tan is often in high demand.

“He got roped into helping at the mobile petting zoo. He was drawing quite the crowd when I stopped by earlier,” she says, tittering delicately into her hand.

Bun smiles, warm in a way that has nothing to do with the hot weather. “If you go and take some photos for me I’ll cook you anything you want to eat this weekend.”

It’s a weak bribe considering he’s always willing to make her anything she wants whenever she wants, but she readily agrees and they politely shake on it like they’ve just closed on a multi-million dollar deal.

When she eventually skips away, he catches M looking at him with a fond look on his face.

“What?” He asks defensively as he takes a sip of lemonade, relishing the zing of flavour that bursts pleasantly over his tongue.

“I’m glad you and Tan found each other,” M says softly.

Bun scoffs, embarrassment pinking the tips of his ears.

Bun’s love for Tan has never been quiet; the now familiar affectionate bickering, gentle kisses, and lingering touches just as loud as the screaming matches, rapid gunfire and bloody fistfights that originally brought them together. But it’s not something Bun finds himself talking about particularly often. Not with any real seriousness, anyway.

It’s easy to flirt and touch in a club or a mutual friend’s apartment where loud music and alcohol acts as, not a shield necessarily, but a safety net for when light-hearted conversation starts to turn too real, too sincere. This, however, is just him and M sitting at a rickety table an orderly dug out of storage, their skin slowly bronzing under the sun as they judge someone’s subpar magic.

It hits Bun with shocking clarity that is the culmination of all their movie nights and shared lunches. This means something. There’s nowhere to hide.

Maybe being willing to pick apart and dissect the intricacies of his friends’ relationships but staying tight-lipped about his own makes him a hypocrite but Bun has always found it difficult to be truly vulnerable with people. It’s not that he finds vulnerability to be a weakness, if anything he’s always been in awe of those able to bare their souls so freely. It’s just never come easily for him, like a physical wall stood tall and imposing between him and everyone else. The people who thought they could scale it always gave up half way through, deeming it too much effort or not worth the fatigue, even though Bun was waiting patiently at the top for them, his hands stretched out.

Tan took a stick of dynamite and blew a hole in that very same wall. He was loud, unabashed in his intent, and unwilling to give up. But M has been slowly using a pickaxe to widen the crater and wriggle his way through. Slowly and methodically, but just as determined. They’ve come a long way since Bun forced himself into M’s life. Maybe Bun needs this. And maybe M deserves it.

“Me too, he’s the best thing to ever happen to me,” he admits, watching in real time as the realisation that they’re about to have a talk dawns over M’s face. Bun feels his throat tighten, heart ricocheting off the inside of his rib cage, but he powers on. “Sometimes I catch myself thinking, do I really deserve this? Why do I get to have this when Jane doesn’t? A life filled with love and joy and excitement. It’s not a completely unfamiliar feeling, not in my line of work where I see kids spending their entire childhoods in hospital and loving couples on the brink of starting their lives together being torn apart, but the thought of losing him terrifies me.”

“But you wouldn’t change a single thing, would you?” M asks gently, a soothing balm to a wound Bun so desperately wants to scar over. “You’d still transfer here. You’d still undermine me in front of my superior officers. You’d still risk your life to find Jane’s murderers. You’d still kiss Tan in the middle of his club.”

“I would,” Bun agrees. “Does that make me a bad person? So many people have suffered.”

“And so many more would have joined them if you’d never set foot back in this town,” M says simply. “It takes a lot of courage to let yourself to live after being surrounded by so much death. I don’t say it enough, but you inspire me, Bun.” Bun huffs and swats ineffectively at his arm. M catches his hand, holding it loosely in his grip so Bun can easily pull back if he wants. “No, you do. You’re just so… so good. And what you have with Tan? God, I want that. I want that so bad.”

“You will,” Bun assures him and M squeezes his hand in a silent thank you.

The seats facing the stage are beginning to fill up again, the second half of the contest a few minutes away from starting. There’s a band already waiting to come on, all of them clutching their respective instruments.

“You made today happen, you know,” M says after a little while of comfortable silence.

Bun snorts. “I had less than zero input.”

“I don’t mean in terms of organising. Think about it, this,” he gestures widely, “wouldn’t have been possible if you never did all those half-insane things you said you’d still do.”

Twisting in his seat, Bun takes the opportunity to really look around. There are children chasing each other, shrieking in delight with chocolate smeared around their mouths. Old couples, hand in hand, their heads bent close together as they share an ice-cream. Colleagues of his smiling and laughing with their friends, M’s own subordinates free from the responsibility of their uniform for at least one day.

“If it wasn’t for you, we’d all still be forced to live and work side by side with a bunch of criminals more interested in lining their own pockets than helping other’s fill theirs,” M continues.

Bun huffs lightly. “Thanks, M.”

“Come on, put your hat on,” he adds, clearing his throat, and pushes the sunhat towards Bun.

Bun stuffs it unceremoniously on his head. “Well?”

“You’ve never looked better. Let me take a photo,” he says, already grabbing for his phone as Bun begins to whine. “For Tan,” he adds and, this time, Bun easily relents.


When the talent contest finally comes to an end and the winner and two runners up are awarded their prizes, Bun and M are finally free to enjoy the rest of the fundraiser. Sweets, breads, and meats are pushed into their hands as they meander through the collection of food stalls, dutifully complimenting every vendor who comes up to greet them.

At one point, they end up bumping into That and Sorawit, the two boys sharing a huge bag of cotton candy so pink Bun’s stomach churns just looking at it. M, however, happily takes a big bite when he’s offered some, the spun sugar clinging to his lips and sweetening his happy smile even further.

The two of them stick with the boys for a bit until it becomes obvious by That’s pointed looks that they’re cramping their style and eventually part ways with explicit instructions from Bun for them to keep hydrated and eat something a little more nutritional.

After a while spent strolling leisurely round the park, they eventually reach Oat and Fai’s Kissing Booth. Pink and red paper hearts litter the banner taped to the front of their table along with a set of rules written out in Fai’s unmistakable neat handwriting. One of M’s new young recruits sits nearby, no doubt there to make sure Oat and Fai’s customers don’t try and push their luck by getting too handsy. Bun hopes for his friends’ sakes that he’s had a relatively boring day.

“Took you long enough,” Oat complains when he sees Bun and M approach. “We’re about to hand over to a couple of the paramedics.”

“How’s business been?” Bun asks. At the corner of Oat and Fai’s booth there’s a nearly empty bowl of gum and mints. They’ve clearly been busy.

“Pretty good. We’ve had a steady stream of customers all day.”

“Everyone’s been super nice, too,” Fai adds.

“Glad to hear it. Now, onto more pressing matters. Who’s winning?” He asks with a grin as he looks between the two of them.

Oat sniffs, his chin raised haughtily. “It isn’t a competition.”

“I am,” Fai says proudly, holding up a jar that’s so stuffed full of notes and coins the lid is barely screwed down.

Bun laughs, holding out a hand for her to high-five which she gladly slaps with her own. “So much for the MRI machine, huh?”

“Who are you going to pick?” Oat asks, pointedly ignoring Bun’s little dig.

“Why pick?” Bun puts double the amount for one kiss on the table and gets a peck on each cheek from both doctors.

“What about you?” Oat asks M with a cheeky smile.

M hums to himself as he fishes his wallet out of his back pocket. He taps it against his lips in thought as he looks between Oat and Fai, one trying and failing to look nonchalant, the other barely supressing a smile. Having made up his mind, he slips out two notes and slips them into Oat’s jar.

“Can’t have you losing, can we?” He says easily with a smirk.

Bun finds himself holding his breath as Oat leans forward and presses a gentle, lingering kiss to the corner of M’s mouth. You could cut the tension with a knife, Bun thinks.

“Thank you for your generous donation, Commander.”

“Best 200 Baht I’ve ever spent.”

An arm snakes its way around Bun’s waist and he immediately leans back into the embrace.

“When are they going to get a move on?” Tan complains. “I’ll be old and grey by the time they finally get together. Nice hat, by the way.”

Bun hums distractedly before realising the body pressed against his is suspiciously wet. “Wait, why are you wet?”

“Sorry, took a dip in the dunk tank thanks to a handful of my students,” he says, beginning to pull away. “Thought I was home dry until the captain of the baseball team stepped up. Got me in one throw.”

Bun immediately latches onto his arm, keeping him locked in place. “No, don’t go, it feels nice. I’ve been in the sun all day.”

Tan ducks under the wide brim of Bun’s had and presses his lips to the back of his neck. “There’s a nam kang sai stall by the pond,” he says against his skin. “The vendor ran out of coconut jelly so I went into town to pick some more up for them and he promised me a couple of bowls on the house. Should cool you down.”

“You’ve been really making the rounds, haven’t you?”

“It’s the least I could do. The hospital’s important to you and you’re important to me, so,” Tan finishes with a shrug.

Bun huffs in amusement. “And here I was thinking it’s because the hospital is the bedrock of a community, where life begins and ends, the one place you’ll be treated with kindness and respect no matter who you are.”

“Eh, that too,” Tan agrees flippantly, earning himself a pinch.

Oat claps his hands together. “Right, now that I no longer have to look pretty, I’m getting my face painted. Fai? Bun?”

Fai hauls her bag out from underneath the table and swings it over her shoulder. “I’m going to get changed first. Meet you there?”

Oat throws her a thumbs-up before looking at Bun.

“Nope, I’m done for the day now,” he says simply, snuggling deeper into Tan’s arms.

“Oh, come on, doctor. Where’s your sense of community?” M teases.

“It withered away somewhere between the dancing dog and the third ear-piercing rendition of Adele’s Hello,” Bun deadpans. “I need ice swimming in red syrup and a big tree to sit under.”

The rumble of Tan’s chuckle reverberates through him. “You heard the man.”

“But I’ve barely seen you all day,” Oat whines.

“You already see me every other day. M will go with you, right?”

“Of course,” M immediately replies.

Oat looks at him with wide, starry eyes. “You sure?”

“You can even pick what I get,” M offers, smiling when Oat lights up.

“A pig,” Bun chimes in. M throws him a withering look. “What? Too on the nose?”

“Please, I’m begging you, take him away,” M directs at Tan, his hands clasped together.

“Well, you’ve changed your tune rather quickly. I wonder why that is?” Bun ponders as Tan shakes with barely contained laughter. “Come on, show me this nam kang sai stall, I’m sick of his face,” he says, tugging impatiently at Tan’s arm.

“Your wish is my command,” Tan says dutifully.

“Wait,” M says before they can leave. “Can you give us a sec?” He asks Tan.

“Sure,” Tan says easily before wandering over to a nearby stall, the woman manning it greeting him enthusiastically.

Behind M Oat is doing a spectacularly bad job of pretending to not listen in on their conversation. Bun shoos him away, only turning back to M when Oat begrudgingly goes back over to the booth to talk to the paramedics that have taken over for him and Fai.

“What’s up?”

M takes a breath and squares his shoulders. “A while ago you told me I deserve to be happy. You do too. Probably more than anyone else I’ve ever met. Be kind to yourself.” He lets it hang in the air for Bun to digest before nodding. “That’s all. I mean, I don’t know if today was a onetime deal or not so I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that.”

“I don’t want it to be a onetime deal,” Bun admits. He rubs the back of his neck in embarrassment, feeling a little more self-conscious about talking so openly and honestly with their friends close by than he did earlier when it was just the two of them. “It’s just hard for me to open up sometimes. But I promise you I’m trying.”

“I know you are. It’s hard for me, too. We’re far too similar in that respect. But you… you make it easier.”

Bun swallows around the lump in his throat. “Thank you. That means more than you’ll ever know. Now go enjoy the rest of the day with your boy.”

M’s grin is blinding. “You too.”