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Don't Let Go

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Three weeks past since Kongpob died. Some things took getting used to, like not needing to sleep, eat, or bathe. They were a part of his routine; he enjoyed showers before bed and an omelet from his favorite food stand. He also missed the simple pleasures of riding his motorbike or feeling the raindrops on his skin after a run.

There were experiences he didn't think he'd miss, Kong was a quiet guy by nature, but he enjoyed meeting new people. It was something that excited him about starting university. Death threw a wrench in that idea, but he was lucky to have Arthit with him. The older made the days better and the nights less lonely.

He walked around the campus he never attended and observed. When he wasn't with Arthit, he followed Em around. He tried to get an idea of what being a first-year would have been like for him. Today was one of those days; Arthit wanted to spend time around his friends by himself; it was Prem's birthday. Kongpob knew Arthit had a hard time expressing his sadness around him. He played the role of a good senior and attentive boyfriend.
Kong knew it was necessary, like in a relationship between living beings, to spend time alone.

Today, a new guy sat with Em and his ragtag team of friends. Kongpot was suspicious of the people who approached them; while the group could not see him, he wanted to protect them. Em clapped a hand on the guy's shoulder,

"I hope it's okay; I asked Tew to sit with us. He has been eating alone. It would definitely look bad to the seniors if we let our faculty moon eat lunch by himself." Em smiled at Tew, "now let me introduce you to everyone."

Kong watched as Em introduced Maprang, Prae, Oak, and blush slightly when he reached May. Tew made eye contact with Kongpob, clearly waiting for Em to make the final introduction.

"And that is the gang. Well, we would have had one more person, but he passed away before the semester started," Em paused, "he was my best friend."

Kongpob didn't think his death would affect Em as much as it did. They had been friends for a while, one of the few Kong trusted. Their friendship started when Kongpob protected Em from a high school bully. They chose each other as partners on class projects, and Em even got Kongpob into gaming. Few people saw Kongpob as more than a son from a wealthy family. Em was different, and he wished he appreciated it more while alive.

Tew made eye contact with him again, and Kong nodded, "I'm sure your best friend is happy wherever he is. Don't worry about him; worry about us; we have to go to hazing later."

Soft chuckled could be heard around the table. The group continued to chat about the hazers and how much homework they had to finish. Kongpob smiled at how seamlessly Tew fit into the group; no longer skeptical of the newcomer, he left them to their lunch.

The following morning, Knogpob set off for his daily jog. Running didn't have the same effect on him; nonetheless, he appreciated having a piece of his old routine. In the distance, he saw a familiar figure making his way around the track. Kong did his best to not scare the guy as he caught up to his speed,

"So, you can see ghosts?"

Tew looked to his right and sighed, "ever since I was a kid. I don't typically interact; I don't want to be labeled as the weird kid."

"I understand," Kong gave a soft smile, "I know you figured it out, but I'm Kongpob, Em's dead best friend."

His companion hummed, "ghosts rarely stay around people they don't have a connection to, and Em has a picture of you two in his room."

"Thank you for what you said yesterday. Em has taken my death harder than I anticipated he would."

"He talks about you a lot, about how great of a person you were. So, why are you following him around anyway? Were you more than best friends? Or is this some unrequited love story?"

Kongpob's pace faltered; he stopped to look back, "Oh, no. Not even close. I mean, I do have a boyfriend, who is also a ghost, but I was not dating Em."

Tew laughed, and Kong raised an eyebrow, "You were teasing me."

"Yes, I was," Tew slowed to stop and put his hands on his knees, "I needed to find a way to have you slow down; some of us still feel exhaustion. Plus, the way you look at EM is not how one would look at their lover."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I don't usually have company when I run. And if I do, they have no idea I'm here. I hope I didn't disturb your routine too much."

Tew waved him off, "Don't worry about it; I need to get ready for class anyway. Will I see you around?"

Kongpob nodded at his new friend as he turned to head back to see his boyfriend. New friend, when he died, he thought Arthit would be the last introduction he'd make. He'd never tell the older, but he envied how Arthit had the opportunity to experience university. He did his best to make Kongpob feel he didn't lose out on much, but the bond hazing gave Arthit's gang transcended death.

Kongpob glanced in the direction of the track and accidentally phased through a person. He opened his mouth to apologize but closed it when the girl kept walking; it reinforced reality: it didn't matter if Tew could see ghosts; Kongpob was still dead. Tew would graduate, get married, grow old... and Kongpob will still be here.

Arthit noticed he was quieter than usual but didn't push for him to talk. The older didn't know this was how Kongpob handled pain; he quietly smothered it until he could smile. His mother knew; she always knew how to break him out of his shell. The last time he spoke to her, they argued about where he'd live during college. Instead of the dorm, he was hopping from open room to open room at a nearby hotel. He missed home.

Another week passed, and Arthit had enough of sulky, quiet Kongpob.

"Are you going to tell me what's bothering you, or am I supposed to guess?"

Arthit sat down next to him on the bed when Kongpob didn't answer. The younger turned to rest his head on his boyfriend's shoulder, and Arthit wrapped an arm around his waist.

"I'm jealous, P'; did you know they have a memorial for you in the engineering building? I died before I became someone worth memorializing. P'Arthit. I'm angry that our lives were cut short. I miss being alive. I... I... I want to go home."

He didn't need to breathe, but he felt his airways close.

"Kongpob, take a deep breath. I'm here; I'll always be here for you."

Kongpob threw himself into Arthit's arms. To his credit, Arthit didn't make a noise of surprise; his arm secured tightly around the younger. He held still, listening to the cries no one else could hear. A hand found its way into the Kongpob's hair; as it cradled his head to his chest. For someone who was supposed to be the head hazer, Arthit was shockingly gentle. Moments like this, Kongpob felt safe, loved, and complete.

He felt his body relax; as he nuzzled into the older, wishing he could smell him. He thinks how lovely it would be to hear Arthit's heartbeat while blanketed in the scent of his cologne. A finger placed under his chin guided him to face up at Arthit. A fond expression on his face.

"Kongpob. How could you say that about yourself? Your best friend misses you, and I'm sure the people you went to school with had a service for you as well. I would miss you if you went away."

Kong swallowed down more tears, "I wanted to be more than the heir to Siam Polymer Group. I wanted people to know my name, not for vanity. There was always this pressure to prove I deserved the life I was given, but I didn't get to live it."

He felt Arthit squeezed him tighter, and a stray finger wiped a tear from his cheek.

"I know it's only been a few weeks, but I've never felt anything like this. Kongpob, you make this existence worth it, and I know you're sad. You have every right to be upset. Come to me when you feel low; I want to be there for you. While alive, I was never the best with words, always caught up if I was saying the right thing. But screw it, I love you, Kongpob. There is nothing you need to prove, and the people you left behind know that and carry you with them where they go."

The tips of Arthit's ears were pink; Kongpob would never understand what caused a ghost to blush; he wasn't complaining. He loved the way Arthit's skin blushed. He smiled for the first time in days, "I love you too. P'Arthit. Thank you."

"Don't thank me. I'm not sure how long we will be like this together, but I'm sure you'll return the favor," Arthit sniff kissed the top of Kongpob's head, "now, I hear you've made a new friend."

Kongpob froze in his hold, "How do you know that?"

"I met him while he was waiting for Knot. Guess the kid is the faculty moon. Not bad looking, but you'd have made a better one."

"I knew you thought I was handsome."

Arthit pinched his side, and Kong pouted, "Ow, P'Arthit."

"You interrupted me," the older rolled his eyes, "long story short, Tew made a fool of himself, realized I'm a ghost. Not just any spirit, his new ghost friend's boyfriend. We talked about you; and about the people who miss us. How would you feel if we tried to talk them through him?"

Kongpob sprung out of Arthit's hold, "he's willing to do that for us?"

Arthit nodded, "we will have to wait until hazing is over, but I think I know how to get my friends to believe him. He's not doing it just for us but to ease Knot's conscience. I think Tew has feelings for him. Could you imagine falling in love with your head hazer?"

Kongpob shook his head with laughter, "well, didn't I technically do that?"

Arthit joined the younger with chuckles of his own, "I guess you did." He grabbed Kongpob's hand, "want to go move things around Bright's room?"

"As long as you don't let go of my hand."