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“Thiiiird! It’s late, let’s go home,” Khai whines, leaning heavily against Third. They are among the last few students left in the library, the table they’re using is mostly empty, except for them and their strewn books. The place is quiet enough that they can hear the AC struggling to keep the humid heat out. The sky outside the floor to ceiling windows is tinted dark purple and blue, the setting sun’s last attempts to lengthen the day.

“You can go if you want. I need to finish this before I leave.” Third answers distractedly, fingertips flying over the keyboard of his laptop.

“But I’m hungry, let’s go get dinner together, na?” Khai continues to pout. In the three years they’ve been friends he has discovered the best ways to get what he wants from his best friend, so he rests his chin against Third’s shoulder and adds, “please, Third, pretty please.”

“I’m almost done with this. If you’re that hungry, you can go by yourself. Otherwise, shut up and let me work,” Third deadpans. Khai sighs, knowing a lost cause when he sees it. Still, he’s not one to give up so easily.

“Fine.” He rests his head on the table, arms wrapped around his stomach in an attempt to look as pitiful as possible.

Third gazes at him and rolls his eyes. “There’s an orange in my bag. You can eat that while I finish.” With that, he turns back to his laptop, doing his best to ignore Khai’s histrionics.

Knowing himself defeated, Khai pulls Third’s bag towards himself and rummages in it, taking advantage of the situation to snoop around. Unfortunately for him, there’s not much of interest other than perfectly organized books and notes, so he grabs the bright fruit from the bottom of it and sits back to enjoy it.

He rolls it in his hands a bit before breaking into the rough skin with his fingernail, the fragrant citrus scent filling his nose and his fingertips becoming sticky with the released oils. He entertains himself with separating the rind from the juicy fruit underneath in one consecutive piece. Then, meticulously, he separates each orange segment, lining them up on the tabletop, little orange soldiers ready for battle. He idly wonders if Third knows oranges are his favorite fruit. He’s not sure if he’s ever mentioned it before, but the taste and scent of a peeled orange always reminds him of his childhood. Of trips to the beach and his mom peeling oranges and mandarins for his sister and him, feeding them the sweet tangy wedges that would burst in their mouth as they played in the sand.

He turns to Third, who continues tapping away, all his attention on the screen in front of him and away from Khai. For some reason he finds this irksome, he is so used to being at the center of Third’s attention, that its absence makes an odd sort of itch burn in the center of his palms.

On an impulse, he grabs an orange segment and lifts it to Third’s mouth. His friend gives the fruit a fleeting glance before parting his lips to accept the offering. Khai is fascinated by the sight. His gaze drags over his best friend’s profile, from his hair which is slightly longer than he usually wears it, he’ll probably be taking a trip to the hairdressers soon, to his high cheekbones, rounded nose, and down to his plump lips. He thinks about how he’s never seen another guy with lips as full as Third’s. If he were to paint them red, he could certainly pass for one of those alluring models on lipstick ads. Not that he needs to, they’re already a very pleasing dark rose color all on their own. He offers him another piece and watches as some juice escapes from the corner of his mouth as he bites into it. The tip of a pink tongue pokes out to clear it away, the sight takes him by surprise, his breath unexplainedly catching in his throat.

He turns away, towards his orderly orange line, his face feels hot, and he’s not entirely sure why. He stuffs a piece of orange into his mouth, the sweetness of its juice a blessed distraction. He eats two more before deciding its safe to turn back to Third. He makes no sign of having noticed anything out of the usual, he itches his nose as he backtracks on a line on his document, his mouth pulling down at the corners in displeasure. He opens his mouth with a demanding little “ah” as he begins rewriting the offensive sentence.

Khai obeys and feeds him another piece of fruit. Third chews absentmindedly before licking his lips once again, chasing any escaped sweetness. Khai swallows and wonders what it would feel like to fill Third’s mouth with his fingers instead of the fruit. He imagines the wet heat of it, can practically see the rosiness of his lips puckered around the digits. It’s a perfectly ok thing to wonder, he tells himself as he gazes at the two remaining orange wedges. He’s a curious guy, and Third’s mouth is too perfect to not incite those sorts of thoughts. Anyway, it’s not like he would ever do it, they’re friends after all. Best friends. Khai closes his eyes as he pops another orange wedge into his mouth, it suddenly occurs to him that if he were to kiss Third at that moment his mouth would taste just like this, sweet and tangy, like his childhood memories.

It’s not like it’s the first time he thinks about stuff like this. Sometimes, when he wakes up at Third’s place after a night out, he’ll admire how pretty his friend is while he sleeps, too pretty to still be single if he’s honest. However, thinking too much about Third dating always causes a heaviness to settle in the pit of his stomach, so he tends to avoid it. Still, if it were to ever happen, he would have to fully approve of that person. He can’t possibly let him date just anyone. They must be worthy of Third. They have to be good for him. As the more experienced one it is his job to protect him from the campus playboys, because despite his savage reputation, Third is actually way too trusting. So, it falls on Khai to look out for him. He has to make sure that whoever Third loves is truly deserving of it.

He picks up the last orange wedge and offers it to his friend. Third takes it and smiles at him, eyes scrunched up, cheeks rounding, trust evident in every angle of his posture.

Khai feels a tightness in his chest and a lump rise in his throat as he smiles back. Outside the sky has turned indigo, the soft murmur of other students filters through the whoosh of the AC, and Third continues typing. Khai stays by his side.