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“Alright, what’s wrong with you now?

Phupha is not someone who drinks easily. He’s always been a bit too strait-laced, too much on the side of discipline rather than indulgence. It’s only been recently, with a recent storm in his life, that he’s found himself sitting around his friends and subordinates and chasing down the end of a bottle. Nam watches him with a critical eye, even as Rang and Yod start singing a song about first love.

Despite himself, Phupha thinks about Tian.

“I thought you’d be over the moon now that your sunshine is home,” Nam jokes, clinking an ice-cold glass on the table. It’s autumn, so the days are moderately nice and humid while the nights are cold. Phupha always takes the opportunity to hold Tian close these past few nights.

Just… just holding him. In the literal sense.

Phupha isn’t sure how this started; he’s been able to survive nearly thirty years without sleeping with others, never understanding the appeal when his friends were chasing after girls and making raunchy jokes. But when Tian had left, all Phupha could think about was the amorphous feeling of his lips on Tian’s skin, how soft he was in Phupha’s hands. That decently innocent thought delved into something worse at night, when there was no one in his bed and the night covered his darkest thoughts. In the two years Tian was away, Phupha had more wet dreams than he’d ever had as a teenager.

Their first night together had been more than he could have ever hoped for. Tian, warm and willing, reaching out for him with his eyes crinkled in that pretty smile. Tian, his mouth slightly parted whenever Phupha reached that place deep inside him. Tian, who smelled nice and felt nice and had fragrant hands.

Phupha, possibly slightly drunk at the thought of him as well as the alcohol, says, “He’s always busy.”

Their first night had truly been their first, and only, night. Tian had been overcome with work from the school and the children. The first week and a half, he had gone around and said his greetings to all of the village people again, all of whom had missed him even if they wouldn’t state it outright. The second week, he worked hard to get back into their good graces by bringing along the massive amount of presents he’d brought from Bangkok and the US, each of them personally catered to each specific person. It had made Phupha’s heart swell with pride and endless, painful affection, to see Tian’s face brighten with love for their people.

The unfortunate side-effect of this, however, was that Tian often came home exhausted. Worried for his heart, they both fell asleep in each other’s arms without doing much more than a chaste kiss. Phupha had woken up on more than one occasion stiff, pressed against the tempting curve of Tian’s ass, but years of rigid scheduling had often pushed him into the bath and out the door for morning patrols. The greatest challenge in life, now, was turning away from a sleepy Tian in his bed.

“He’s always… busy,” Nam says slowly. Phupha refuses to say more, taking another swig of his drink. His longtime friend takes a closer look at him, squinting for a moment. “Too busy for you?”

Phupha doesn’t say anything, but his jaw clenches.

“Ha,” Nam wheezes, “Ha!” He slaps the table, causing Rang and Yod to stop their tomfoolery and look over at them. “Look at this guy! His little love is back home and he’s suffering ‘cause he’s not getting any!

It’s an open secret, at this point, between the villagers and the unit themselves, that Chief Phupha had his heart stolen by a city boy from Thailand with a stubborn streak and a sweet smile. Over the years, the curiosity and questioning faces had turned into pity when Tian did not come back, despite not knowing that Phupha had been the one to push him away in the first place, and then finally well-meaning sighs, pats on the back, and advice from some of the other uncles and farmers that consisted of, if you want to chase someone, son, you have to do it properly. Do you think happiness falls into your lap if you don’t make a grab for it? It helped that the entire truth had eventually made its way out to the villagers, and that Tian had been so wholly loved here before his departure.

“I never thought this day would come,” Yod says, staring at Phupha with wide eyes. “Is this really Chief?”

“Chief is still just a man in the end,” Rang says knowingly, nodding to himself. Phupha gives them both a look that promises retribution through the form of extra patrolling hours.

Nam is still laughing in that overly-loud, annoying way of his. “Chief, chief, chief,” he starts chidingly, “I bet even when you guys did sleep together, our lovely Tian was the one that probably initiated it, right?”

Just sleep? Tian’s eyes, bright and provocative, had called to Phupha like a siren.

Phupha clears his throat.

“You’re so – “ Nam sighs. “This big man is already in his thirties and he’s like this. Relationships take two, you know. If you want something, go for it. Talk to him, seduce him, whatever! Make it known!”

Phupha stares at Nam, dumbfounded. “How…”

Nam stares back. “You know what,” he announces, “Forget it. I’m not touching this one with a ten-foot pole, man. Nong Tian will probably take care of it.” He claps Phupha on the back and returns his attention to Rang and Yod, who have fallen off the bench.

All in all, that seems like a pretty solid premonition of what was yet to come.

Phupha half-stumbles home in the dark, having sobered up with the end of the conversation. Not enough to drive, however, so he and Nam drag the other two back to the base; Nam pats him on the back and joking tells him to get back to the missus before Tian rips his head off, taking a spare cot and settling himself in Yod’s room. Phupha washes his face and brushes his teeth clumsily before pushing the door open to his – their – room.

Tian is already asleep, curved toward the wall. The mosquito net isn’t fully open, rolled up at the edges even though the edges are already set up. Waiting for someone to pull it down, Phupha realizes. Tian had been waiting for him to get back.

He peels off his jacket and, after a moment of consideration, his shirt. He runs hot, and the level of cold autumn has on the village isn’t enough to shake him. Plus, he knows Tian will appreciate it, considering how cold the other’s limbs could get.

He’s sleeping so peacefully, brows relaxed, mouth parted to let out even, steady breaths. Phupha climbs into the bed behind him and wraps an arm around Tian’s waist, pulling him closer with one smooth motion. Like he expected, Tian is a bit chilly to the touch, and he seems to stir a bit once he hits Phupha’s warm skin. Tian doesn’t wake up, but turns over to tuck his face into the crook of Phupha’s neck.

His eyelashes are so long, Phupha thinks to himself. They cast shadows over his cheeks. His eyelashes had been the first thing Phupha had noticed about them when they first met, too, when he had met the eyes of his delicate city boy for a split second before the other fainted. Strange, how far they had come from that. Phupha holds him closer, his fingers twitching at the dip in Tian’s waist.

The night had been dark, but Phupha clearly remembers how his hands can span across the entirety of Tian’s waist. Tian is so pale, fairer than nearly everyone in the village, but even after months under the hot rural son, he hadn’t tanned. Only grown pink with it, spread across his knees and his shoulders and his nose, as if some spirit had rose from spring and blessed Tian with a peach-blush kiss. Phupha remembers that flush spilling across his cheeks and ears, his knuckles, his toes. If given a chance, would it touch every inch of his skin?

Has he been eating? Phupha squeezes the small dip of his waist, thinking about how little Tian ate whenever they were together. Even village women ate more than he did. Heck, Kalae could out-eat Tian in a competition. Why did he eat so little? It made him so slender, his arms all soft, his wrist thin with bird-like bones…

Phupha swallows as heat settles at the base of his stomach. He’s still a little bit drunk, probably, which is why he’s looking at Tian and thinking like this. He very pointedly attempts to forget how these thoughts had been more recurring than not in the two years Tian had been physically gone. It’s just that – Tian is so close, now. He’s right here, settled next to Phupha’s heart. Phupha doesn’t want to scare him away. He closes his eyes and thinks of patrol reports until he calms down enough to sleep.

-

Phupha wakes to sticky humidity and a pillow tucked where his love is supposed to be.

The door is closed but the windows are open to presumably air out the room for the morning. The mosquito net has been tucked away in its usual place, and the shirt he had thrown aside on the couch is gone. Phupha holds a hand to his head, groaning at the sudden and sharp pain that overcomes him when he attempts to sit up.

When the door opens, Tian is holding an empty bucket and a washboard, a towel strewn across his shoulder. He spots Phupha and immediately snorts. “Drink a little bit too much, chief?”

“Tian,” Phupha says, half groaning and half asking him to close the door. Outside, he can hear similar sounds from Yod and Rang. Nam, irritatingly enough, is still here, and sounds too chipper to be human.

“Come on,” Tian pulls him off the bed heartlessly, but then soothes him a second later by pressing a kiss to his cheek. He has to reach up to do it, which Phupha finds endlessly cute. “I warmed up some water for you outside. Dr. Nam said I should probably make something good for hangovers, so I did. It should be breakfast enough, but why did you drink? You know you’re getting older…”

“Says the lightweight,” Phupha says pointedly, referring to how Tian would get flushed with one glass of home-made whiskey.

“I,” Tian points at him, “used to be able to drink anyone under the table. I don’t do anymore out of choice.”

“Hm,” Phupha half smiles at how affronted Tian looks, already washing up and feeling the nausea escape him at the sight of his love’s pursed mouth.

There’s a bowl of porridge for him, followed by his favorite pork sausages and a smaller bowl of soup. It all smells good, and it doesn’t make his stomach want to keen over itself, so Phupha digs in without looking at any of his men in the eye.

That is, up until Nam comments, “Look at this big man, he’s gotten all the good stuff. Nong Tian! Is it legal to be this biased?”

“You’re married,” Tian says dryly, putting a bowl in front of Rang. “Ask your wife to be biased toward you.”

Phupha chokes on his porridge, a little bit. Nam smirks at him before raising an eyebrow at Tian, who blanches as he realizes what he’s said. Before Phupha can make the joke, Tian pinches his ear, hard, and warns, “Don’t say it.”

Yod and Rang stare at them as if they’re watching a riveting play.

“I wasn’t going to,” Phupha starts, but then winces as his ear is pinched again.

“I saw your face, you liar,” Tian scoffs. “Make your own breakfast next time.”

“Ah, wait, Tian – “

“Ah, the joys of young love,” Nam sips his coffee.

It’s Saturday, a thankful day off, so Phupha goes inside and puts on a pair of jeans and a fairly warm shirt. Nam comes in just as he’s pulling the hem over his head, crossing his arms while leaning against the door frame. “So,” he says, “Did you ever fix up your Little Chief problem?” He looks very pointedly at Phupha’s groin. Phupha resists the urge to throw him bodily out the window.

“There’s nothing to fix,” he insists. “Besides, I was drunk last night, and Tian had just gone to sleep. He’s more tired than not these days.”

Nam sighs. “That’s also your duty, you know. To keep him from overworking himself. I know he wants to catch up with everyone here, but he’s putting too much of himself into it, and it’s just not sustainable. Pull him back, Phu. You’re the only one he’ll listen to, anyway.”

“As if,” Phupha says, thinking about all the times he had despaired over how disobedient Tian could be. Except in bed, his brain supplies insidiously, reminding him of how sweetly Tian wouldn’t touch when Phupha said don’t touch, or how he’d bite down on a knuckle to keep himself quiet. His face must take on some kind of look, because Nam groans. “Chief, please, keep your horny thoughts off your face. You’ve got it bad.”

“Fuck off,” he retorts, and they look at each other for a moment before laughing; Nam in genuine pleasure at Phupha’s distress, and Phupha in self-aggrandizing frustration.

He said he would take Tian to the waterfall today to help with the laundry. Tian likes doing his own by himself, still sensitive over how Phupha had nearly ripped his shirt the first time they were at the waterfall together. He’s prone to giving Phupha these little squinted, suspicious looks that have no right being as adorable as they are, shuffling off to one side in case Phupha decides to push me back into the water, chief, I’ve got my eye on you. Phupha grabs a basket of his own clothes and, after a moment, dumps Tian’s clothes into it as well.

He carries the mess in one hand and only says, “It’ll be easier for the both of us,” when Tian protests. With a huff, Tian takes the bucket and the washboards and they head out.

Walking through the village has been Tian’s favorite thing to do recently. Phupha can see why; now, even before they greet him, they greet Tian first. An older aunt catches sight of them and she chuckles before wagging her finger at Phupha. “Good on you for finally helping! I’ve seen Nong Tian do this by himself two times now!”

“Auntie,” Phupha starts, feeling the tiniest bit betrayed, “I’ve always done my laundry on my own before!”

Tian, despite only having learned how to do laundry by hand from Phupha, gives him a smug look beyond the auntie’s shoulder.

When they get to the waterfall, Tian has already filled the bucket with water and detergent. He turns to the Phupha and impatiently pats his knees. He’s never gotten used to squatting, and so kneels in front of the river to finish the laundry. “Okay, give them to me.”

“Hand me a board, I’ll help – “

No,” Tian pulls the bundle of clothes away from him. “These are the only clothes that are comfortable enough to not irritate my skin. If you do it, it always ends up feeling stiff and uncomfortable.”

“I taught you how to do this.”

“The student surpasses the master,” Tian says, before shooing him away. “Go, do something else. Be forest-y. I’ll be done in an hour.”

“You,” Phupha can’t help it; he laughs. Tian’s mischievous eyes meet his briefly before turning back to his task at hand.

Phupha can’t believe that he had truly thought Tian would never fit in, that he would never get used to this kind of simple, hard-working rural lifestyle. The truth is, Tian is the most hardworking person he knows. Combined with his innate stubbornness, he had taken everything that Phupha thought would be challenging and then exceeded at it, all with that little proud, haughty look that made Phupha want to kiss him senseless. How did Tian make defiance look alluring? Has Phupha always been like this?

He thinks about how Tian had immediately rebuffed him after waking up from a faint, that first day, and how Phupha couldn’t turn away. Yeah, probably, he thinks to himself.

Phupha situates himself on a rock nearby, leaning back and taking in the sun and the cool breeze followed by the sound of rushing water. One of the things that can’t be replaced in this world is this very sound, this very feeling: the calm that follows nature, the sound of the forest, the peace that rests of his shoulders.

Between all of the sounds of water burbling and bugs chirping, he hears a small tune. Phupha cracks an eye open and immediately feels his throat go dry.

Perhaps it hadn’t been a smart idea to stay with Tian, he thinks distantly to himself. This can’t possibly be good for his health.

Sitting so close to the rushing waterfall in an attempt to inch away from Phupha had unfortunately left Tian in direct exposure of the mist and rushing water. He had chosen to wear a plain white shirt today, but now it’s damp and sticking to his skin. Phupha can see the distinct line of his upper body, over his pinkened shoulders and equally pink nipples, down to the hands that have reddened due to friction against the washboard. Locks of water-damp hair fall across Tian’s forehead. He hums to himself to pass the time; it’s nothing Phupha hasn’t heard before, but he finds himself drawn to Tian’s mouth anyway.

He looks up to meet Phupha’s eye, probably sensing an intense gaze on him, and quirks an eyebrow. It shouldn’t be as charming as it is, but Phupha feels as though he’s come across some water spirit, a nymph in the woods, minding his own business until Phupha had crossed into his territory. He swallows again. Tian mouths the words, are you okay? And Phupha just waves him aside and covers his eyes with his forearm, leaning back against the rock again.

It’s not use. The sight of Tian at the waterfall is burnt into his eyelids.

There had been two other times that he’d seen Tian at this waterfall, too. Each time the other had been wet. Once, he had worn Phupha’s shirt, which had been big on him. He had stared up at Phupha, furious at his little prank, and the other time Phupha had tried to trick Tian by saying this is where he would bathe…

He’s never seen Tian bathe. There had been one time, when Phupha had been driven to near madness by their proximity and Tian in his house for the first time, that he had stepped into the bath when Tian was there, still clothed, and tried to wash his face… but Phupha thinks about it now, about Tian’s slim body covered by a thin layer of a shirt under the waterfall, running his hands through his face and turning his face up against the sun. How the water would swirl so intimately against his waist that it would make Phupha jealous.

“Chief?”

Tian looks up at him, seeing as how Phupha had stood up abruptly. He gives him a questioning look.

“I,” he starts, “I. Have to check on something really quick. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Tian yells about making sure not to be late behind him, and Phupha swears as he makes the trek back home to take a long, cold shower.

-

Unlike what Nam had predicted, Tian doesn’t, in fact, solve the problem.

Phupha isn’t sure Tian even knows there is a problem. Most of their nights they’re sleeping together, cozied up to each other, trading sweet kisses and even some hotter ones that involve hickeys blooming at the nape of Tian’s neck, but Tian always manages to fall asleep. Phupha feels, not for the first time, like a panting dog chasing after his master. Shouldn’t Tian be the one that’s more energetic that he is, being nearly a decade younger?

Almost immediately as those thoughts come, they’re swept away by how Tian reaches for him, even in sleep. There’s nothing sweeter than this.

However, Phupha realizes that his is becoming a budding problem when he goes to visit Tian one day at the school. Draped in a comfortable blue sweater that stretches past his fingertips, Phupha looks at him and his welcoming smile and the way he leans down to help Ayi with a math problem and thinks about bending him over a table, pulling down those loose pants, and just rutting.

He takes a step back. Yod bumps into his back, not expecting the movement, but Phupha doesn’t even flinch.

Tian looks up then, catching sight of them, and his face breaks into a teasing smile. The corners of his eyes crinkle and Phupha feels his chest lurch. “Look, it’s chief!” The kids immediately get up into a clamor, running toward them, and Phupha gives Tian a warning look before he affectionately reaches over to all of them. There’s only one that sticks behind, looking up at Tian with wide eyes.

“Ah, don’t worry,” Meejoo tells him, “Chayan and is new and just shy, chief!”

“He was sick until recently, right,” Phupha looks at the way Tian picks up Chayan easily, settling the smaller than normal four-year old on his hip. “Good that he’s coming to school now!”

“He’s so young, so we look after him, and P’Seetian gives him different lessons while we’re doing our work,” Khaoneung explains.

Chayan is fine-featured, with wide doe-eyes and floppy black hair that has been cut into choppy bangs. He’s constantly blinking to keep them out of his eyes and chews on his fingers. He gives the rangers one look that is half-curiosity, half-wariness, before turning and mushing his face against the hollow of Tian’s neck. Usually, most of the kids are out and about as soon as they’re able to toddle, and get used to the sight of Phupha and his unit patrolling around or being in the general vicinity of the village, but Chayan had been sick since birth, and required a lot of time between the hospital and his home until his situation settled.

Phupha watches as Tian gently cards fingers through his hair, not even acknowledging the way Meejoo and Inta are tugging on his clothes for his attention. He hasn’t seen Tian around very young children as of yet, and he doesn’t know why the image feels like a punch to the gut. The older kids love him, of course the young ones would too. Tian smells like fresh lemongrass and sunshine, and he’s warm and soft; there’s no way kids wouldn’t like being his arms.

For a split second, Phupha is overcome with jealousy for a four-year-old. Tian then looks up and meets his eyes and he coughs, looking away to pat Inta on the head and ruffle Meejoo’s hair just because he knows how much she hates it.

“Alright, alright, everyone go get your stuff and follow Yod and Rang,” Tian calls out, jostling Chayan so that he’s situated on his hip. “They’ll walk you guys home. Straight home, no sneaking off to go to the fields! Or to the river!”

“Aw,” Ayi mumbles underneath his breath. Phupha snorts at how quickly the kid attempts to look innocent when Tian raises an unimpressed eyebrow at him.

“Do you know how many times your mom has told me to scold you if you didn’t get home before supper, Ayi?” Tian reaches out to pinch his cheek, like he’s a small child. “Do you want her to find you slacking and scold you instead?”

“No,” Ayi yelps, before pulling away from Tian and rubbing at his cheek. “I’ll listen! Do you want me to take Chayan home, P’Seetian?”

“Chief and I will take him home,” Tian says affectionately. “Go, before I change my mind and drag you back.”

Phupha takes his cue and waves goodbye to the kids, coming up to Tian to grab his bag and place it over his shoulder. He looks at Tian for a moment before reaching up to place a gentle hand on his hair. Pressing their foreheads together, he says, “We’re walking Chayan home?”

Tian looks pointedly down at the child in his arms. Chayan has fallen asleep with his thumb in his mouth, breathing gently on Tian’s collarbone.

“Want me to hold him?”

“He’ll cry,” Tian scolds. Both of them recall the last time Phupha had tried to pick him up and Chayan had immediately cried, reaching out for Ayi, who was his second favorite in school. “No, just let him sleep. Let’s go slower.”

They walk out when the weather is perfect; not too hot, not too cold. They fall into a short silence, mostly due to Chayan being a resilient buffer between them. Tian is busy making sure he doesn’t wake up, and that the jostling won’t make him cry.

They come across Ayi’s father pulling a cart of hay across the street. He smiles at seeing both of them, but seems to soften especially when he sees Tian with Chayan. They greet him.

“It’s good that he’s learning with you,” Ayi’s father tells Tian, reaching out a weathered hand to pat Chayan’s head with love. “You make the kids feel comfortable, ai. Make sure Phupha carries him sometimes so you don’t hurt yourself.”

“Thank you,” Tian’s smile glitters with how wide it is. “Chayan actually doesn’t like Phupha that much, it seems,” he teases. Phupha jolts at the sound of his name out of Tian’s mouth.

Ayi’s father chuckles. “He’ll get used to him soon. All the kids were a little wary of him at first, except Ayi, that empty-headed brat,” he clicks his teeth and shakes his head. “When are you two going to give Chayan and Lalo a playmate, ey?

“Ah,” Tian flushes.

Phupha coughs, banging at his chest as the air goes down a little too roughly. Tian takes the opportunity to turn to him and pat his back. It’s still not enough to drown out the loud, rough laughter of Ayi’s father. He waves them off, looking unnecessarily jolly about teasing the both of them.

They continue walking toward the direction of Chayan’s house. Tian’s shoulder brushes against his, but Phupha is overcome with thoughts about – well.

He thinks it’d be nice, sometime in the future. A little boy with Tian’s big smile, or a little girl with Tian’s stardust eyes, living in their house with them. Maybe when they’re young they’d sleep in their bed, and then when they’re older they’d get a feather-down bed for a child to sleep on. Tian would make breakfast in the morning and Phupha would take them to the creek to take baths. Little kids that smelled like oil and baby powder, that would sleep in Tian’s arms or climb Phupha’s legs.

“ – ief? Chief!”

Phupha startles, clearing his throat as Tian gives him a questioning look. He nods his head toward the door, patting Chayan’s back as the kid starts to wake up and rub his eyes with one chubby fist. Phupha knocks, and Chayan’s mother comes to collect her son, who looks at his mom and promptly reaches for her. She gives them some fresh papaya and sends them on their way.

“Hey,” Tian says as they start walking back to Phupha’s place, “Chief? Chieeef. What’s wrong with you? You’ve been out of it for the past few days… Are you sick?”

“No,” Phupha says, shuffling closer so that their shoulders touch. He’s about to lean down, let his breath fan across Tian’s ear and watch it bloom red, but he notices the way Tian blinks slow and steady like he’s one step away from falling asleep. Instead, Phupha shoulders the bag closer and puts an arm around Tian’s shoulders, hugging him close. “We started another round of training for new officers, so I’m just a little sore.”

Tian gives him a side eye. “But I give you a massage almost every night…” he mumbles. To his delight, Phupha sees a flush work its work across his face. No doubt thinking about the first time Tian had ever given him a massage. He’s gotten better at it with practice, and it leaves Phupha either pleasantly soothed or persistently hungry for more.

“Is tonight okay for another one?” he asks, making sure to keep his voice light. When Tian looks up at him, he leans down and says, low and pleading, “Please?”

Tian pushes him away, stomping the rest of the way toward their room, but Phupha spots his face burning.

Despite his bluster, Tian does pat his shoulder insistently that night, a little furrow in his brows as he waits for Phupha to lie down on his stomach in their bed. After a moment, Phupha feels familiar hands digging down on the crinks in his neck, the tightness in his shoulders, and the soreness in his mid-back. Tian’s hands are clumsy with tiredness, and sometimes he goes too hard while other times not going hard enough, but it’s still the best thing Phupha has felt in a while.

This quiet tenderness, this moment where it’s just them – he craves it more than anything. Many nights he had to comfort himself with the vague scent of Tian in his room before it faded, pictures of Tian hotly huffing, I’m not your wife! in the middle of the night still stark in his mind. Teasing Tian had been, and still is, one of his favorite past times. Phupha either gets and acerbic comeback or a flustered look, and either one makes him smile.

“You should give Rang some of the duties to watch over training,” Tian hums as he presses down on one spot between Phupha’s shoulderblades that always feels tight. “He doesn’t do as much as Yod does, right? And you’ve been with him for a long time. Don’t work so much, you’re not that young anymore.”

Oi.”

“I’m just saying,” he teases, voice breathy. Phupha feels a stirring in his stomach as Tian’s body weight leans on him, soft sighs tickling his ear. “Who’s the one always asking for a massage every night? Is this taking care of yourself, chief?”

Phupha turns his head to see Tian on the verge of laughing at him. His hair is in a slight disarray, slightly damp from his earlier bath. Phupha opens his mouth to tell him that you’re one to talk, when his eyes catch onto the way Tian’s sleeping shorts ride up his thighs. They’ve been doing this for months, and Phupha has always known that Tian sat himself on Phupha’s back to make it easier, but the sight of Tian straddling him makes his throat go dry.

He turns around abruptly, making sure to grab at Tian’s hips as the other yelps at the sudden change in position. When they’ve settled down, Tian has moved up a little bit, this time properly sitting on Phupha’s abdomen. Wide-eyed, he meets Phupha’s eyes.

“You know what they say about older guys, too,” Phupha starts casually, pulling Tian’s hips back so that the curve of his ass can meet with a part of Phupha that is very, very excited. “Better stamina.”

“You – “ Tian’s turned red all the way up to his ears, not completely unlike their first night together. Just sleep? he had teased, expectant but also a little scared. Phupha had become enamored with how delicate his skin really was, how easily he turned red at the littlest things.

Tian pushes and his hands, but they don’t budge. “I said we shouldn’t, not until you get a better bed,” he hisses. “Remember? Yod kept teasing us because of your stupid bedframe. It keeps squeaking!”

“If the bed is the problem,” Phupha sits up and places his hands under Tian’s thighs, his fingers sinking into the flesh. “We can just move.”

Phupha,” Tian warns, but he has little to no chance to say anything more when Phupha rises from the bed, forcing Tian to clamp his legs around Phupha’s waist. He swears, looping his arms around Phupha’s neck, bringing their faces in close proximity together. “You’re nuts,” he says, but it’s that same breathless little voice that Phupha so dearly loves.

Instead of answering, Phupha’s focus has shifted down to Tian’s slightly reddened mouth. Like a man starved, he chases after the feeling of Tian’s mouth against his own. From the very first moment he’s kissed him, Phupha has craved this. He thinks he could kiss Tian forever and a day if it were possible. He bites at Tian’s bottom lip and slips his tongue in when Tian gasps at the sudden bite of pain; Phupha licks at it in silent apology. He hoists Tian up further and brings them both toward the wall. Tian’s back meets a mirage of posters and pictures pasted behind him. They’re next to a window, and the moonlight highlight Tian’s dark, endless eyes and caress the strands of his hair.

Phupha is entranced.

He goes back in for a kiss, his hands moving from Tian’s thighs to his ass, squeezing once before soothing it with his thumbs. The entirety of it can fit in Phupha’s palms, which he likes more than he wants to admit. Tian reaches for his hair, carding his fingers through, one hand pressed against his shoulder for balance. When he starts tapping Phupha furiously, he pulls away to pepper kisses against his jaw and down his neck as Tian gasps for breath.

“Lightheaded?” he murmurs against Tian’s warm skin.

“No,” his love whimpers, tugging at Phupha’s hair. “Phu…”

“No squeaking this way,” Phupha points out cheekily, “At least not from the bed.”

Shut up,” Tian squawks, before groaning at the spot Phupha is working his teeth into on his neck. Just a nibble, he thinks, and Tian is already bruising. A small part of him can’t wait for it to turn purple and red with bruises. “Ah, ah!”

“Shh,” Phupha covers his mouth with another quick kiss. “You want them to hear you?”

“At least get on the sofa,” Tian says, breathing heavily through his mouth. “How are you going to – Phupha, what are you doing?”

He’s referring to how Phupha pulls down the cotton sleep shorts to reveal his semi-hard cock, pink at the tip. Phupha feasts his eyes for a while, watching the way Tian’s hips curve into his thighs, how he automatically moves to hide himself from Phupha, the way his bellybutton moves with every breath he takes. When Phupha realizes that he won’t be able to take them fully off unless he puts Tian down, he fists his hand on one side and pulls hard enough for it to rip.

He shoves it away until the remains of Tian’s shorts hang limply from one calf. Phupha pulls him up by the waist, until he’s able to kiss Tian’s tummy and nuzzle at his hip bone.

“Stop manhandling me,” Tian scolds, but his voice isn’t too strong when he says it, and he’s fully hard after Phupha’s little show of strength.

“Guess you do like it strong, huh?”

Tian tugs at his hair sharply for the teasing, and Phupha lowers them both down on the floor so Tian isn’t suspended in mid-air any longer. The visual is even better than Tian being crowded in between Phupha and the wall; he settles his bottom right on Phupha’s groin, hair a mess, lips kiss swollen and bitten.

“Take it off,” he insists, pulling at Phupha’s shirt. The forest ranger swears before pulling at his shirt hurriedly. A hot flash runs up his spine when he feels a soft hand on his cock, pulling it out from his pants. When Phupha finally throws his shirt away, he sees Tian reach behind him, fingers wrapped around the base of his dick.

“This isn’t normal,” Tian says, moving his hand up and down and twisting his wrist a bit at the tip, the way Phupha likes it. He groans. “Why is it so big?” he says in an almost whisper to himself, which only spurs on Phupha more. “Wait, Phu, we don’t have any more lube, would the lotion - ?”

Phupha meets his eyes for a second and a wicked thought flashes across his mind. “Tian,” he starts, voice low and provocative. He brings up a hand and just looks at the way it completely engulfs Tian’s face, before his thumb presses down a bit on Tian’s bottom lip, right where he had bitten. “Suck,” he orders quietly, pushing two of his fingers into Tian’s mouth.

Tian’s eyes blow wide, pupils so wide there’s only a faint ring of brown staring down back at Phupha. He pauses for a moment before engulfing Phupha’s fingers, reaching up to put both of his hands around Phupha’s forearm. Like his dick, Tian’s fingers can’t quite completely wrap around it. His tongue lathers generously over Phupha’s fingers. Almost unconsciously, he rocks his ass against Phupha’s hard-on, his own cock leaking at his stomach. With his other hand, Phupha rubs circles into Tian’s hipbones, one of the most sensitive parts of his body. He gets a little moan as a reward.

Phupha pulls his fingers away, a trail of saliva linking Tian’s trembling mouth to him. Phupha reaches behind him and uses his wet fingers to circle around Tian’s hole, reveling in the little shiver he gets.

“S-sofa,” Tian gasps, “Sofa, Phu, your back!”

“You should be more worried about your back, after this,” Phupha says, slipping a wet finger into him. Tian goes stiff all over, blinking rapidly to hold back tears at the sudden intrusion, and Phupha rubs at his side soothingly. After a moment he squirms, tightening around Phupha’s finger. The elder chuckles. “Tian, you’re going to suck my fingers in if you keep doing that. Let me stretch you.”

“Don’t,” Tian rocks back on his hand, “Don’t just say that, ah.”

Phupha works him with one finger at first, going down to the knuckle before slipping the second one in. Tian keens at that, arching his back and pushing his ass toward Phupha’s hand, only stopped by the grip on his hip to keep him in place. Phupha curls his fingers and Tian’s hand immediately goes to his cock, fisting around it.

Phupha immediately pushes his wrist away. “No, Phu, let me – “

“No.”

Phupha,” Tian begs, tears gathering at his bottom lash line. He’s taken, for a moment, by the way Tian’s lashes catches it like dew on a spiderweb.

“No,” he says, a bit gentler, sitting up to shuffling them back. Phupha leans against the wall with Tian still in his lap, up until he pats Tian’s lower back. “Get me wet, Tian.”

Their gazes meet for one hot second. It’s a little different tonight, this thing between him and Tian. It stems back from Phupha’s endless desire to grab onto him in the most inopportune of times and coax these sounds out of him. It stems from the way Tian listens to Phupha in bed and nowhere else, his heart stuttering his throat, putting such trust in Phupha’s hands – trust that Phupha will take care of him, will treat him gently, will kiss him and fuck him and love him in turns without ever hurting him again.

Phupha feels unworthy of it, of such kindness coming from Tian’s hands that he doesn’t deserve. He’s honored to be able to kiss Tian’s sunshine-kissed skin, to see the flush rise on his shoulders, to have Tian look at him with affection that could fulfill him for a lifetime.

Tian shuffles back and lowers his head, hands reaching toward Phupha’s cock. He noses at it for a while, looking up at Phupha through his lashes, before reaching out to give a kittenish luck at the head. He’s so hard is painful, and even the slightest touch of Tian’s wet, hot mouth on him tests Phupha’s patience. Tian presses a kiss to his slit before taking it into his mouth. He’s never been able to get more than half of Phupha down, but he tries every time.

From then on it’s a little sloppy and a little rushed; Tian tries to take him in all at once and Phupha has to pull his head back gently so he won’t hurt himself. He gets an annoyed look for his troubles that only makes him want to laugh. Tian removes his mouth with a little ‘pop’ and climbs up over him again, bringing their faces close together.

He winds his arms around Phupha’s neck, so close that he could open his mouth and share every breath with Tian. “So this is what was bothering you,” Tian says quietly. Something about his eyes makes Phupha wait and simply look at him, at the curve of his cheek and his lip and his eyes. Moonlight could pool in his eyes, outshine every star held deep in the browns of his irises, and Phupha wouldn’t know any different.

Then, Tian puts their foreheads together and reaches behind him to sink down on Phupha’s cock.

He closes his eyes, breath hitching. Phupha holds onto his waist hard enough to leave bruises. “Tian,” he whispers, afraid that if he spoke any louder, it would interrupt whatever’s brewing between them. His skin feels like it’s stretched too tight over his muscles, like he’s trying on clothes three sizes too small. It’s not enough. “Tian, Tian, Tian.”

“Phu,” Tian murmurs, never kissing him, moving his hips up and down in a slow rock that makes Phupha feel like he’s going insane. “I missed you.”

His voice sounds small, like he’s trying to hide it. Phupha swallows and touches Tian’s cheek. He’s so warm, Phupha loves him so much that it feels infinite. “Missed you,” he echoes, because there’s nothing else to say. The language of their body is enough for Phupha; Tian grips at his shoulders and pulls him closer because he wants him there. Tian’s eyes water because sometimes it’s too much, isn’t it? Tian, just breathe. I’m here. I’m here. Phupha ducks his head against the hollow of Tian’s throat and presses his ear there. He tastes the salt of Tian’s skin and then revels in the strong, steady heartbeat.

Tian holds him close, running a hand through his hair, slowly rocking. He doesn’t bother moving faster, keeping it slow and steady. Maybe he knows that Phupha needs – this. Being with Tian, so close to him, held in his lemongrass and sunshine arms, digging in deep enough that maybe Phupha can find his way to Tian’s heart and sleep there forever. Sinking deep into Tian’s body so that there’s something, there’s a connection there that makes it hard for Phupha to let go. Tian is holding him down so that Phupha can never dream of letting him go again.

His love presses kisses against his forehead. “You could have just said, dumbass,” Tian laughs like the sound of kites whistling in the wind, free and boundless. “Mn. Phupha, I’m getting tired.”

“I’ll take care of you,” Phupha whispers into Tian’s skin, hoping his promises will sink in deep. “I’ll – “ he shudders, groaning, before stars explode behind his eyes. The feeling is so much, almost too much, if it weren’t for Tian making a small muffled sound a moment later. Phupha’s shirt gets covered in spend and sweat, but neither of them move. Even twitching makes his cock feel over-sensitive, but he doesn’t want to leave Tian’s warmth.

“We take care of each other,” Tian says, smoothing Phupha’s hair down. He cradles Phupha’s face and makes him look up in Tian’s warm gaze. “Also, you need to buy me new shorts.”

Phupha huffs out a small chuckle, which turns into a full-blown laugh. He tries to hide his helpless laughter by burying his face in Tian’s chest, but the other won’t have it, nuzzling their noses together. He carefully caresses Phupha’s brow with his thumb before kissing his eyelid, then the other, then slotting their mouths together. There’s no urgency, just their lips touching gently, quietly, a confirmation. Phupha’s hands flex over their grip on Tian’s waist before he pulls him close.

“Bath?” Phupha recommends, thinking of the enclosure outside.

“This late?” Tian squirms. “Pull out!”

“Slowly, slowly,” Phupha cajoles, feeling unnecessarily appreciative of the way white trickles down Tian’s thigh. Because he’s a good partner, he reaches over to grab the remains of Tian’s shorts from his ankle and uses it to wipe up the excess. Tian shudders when Phupha’s fingers curiously drift over his hole, still red and oversensitive.

“Actually, let’s go to the waterfall tomorrow morning instead,” Phupha says suddenly.

“The waterfall? Why?”

Phupha brings them both to the bed, wincing as it gives a loud creak in protest as they settle in. “Well,” he starts, “If you could wear a white shirt again…”