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Fork in the Road

Chapter Text

Pran came back from the bathroom to find two empty tables with none of his friends in sight. He knew he had been waylaid by one of the university organisers but he didn't think he had taken that long. He looked around, scratching as his head as he tried to work out where they had gone. He was sharing a house with Louis and he knew Wai wouldn't normally disappear on him like this. Pran pulled out his phone and messaged Wai but didn't get any response.

He sighed and put his phone back in his pocket. It was probably for the best. He wasn't great company at the moment and it was getting harder and harder to pretend everything was normal when it wasn't. He had enjoyed the thought of coming on this trip and forgetting about everything for a weekend, but then Pat had invited himself along. Not only was he being his usual distracting self, but Pran was also having to step in between his friends and Pat every single time the group met up.

Pran put his hands in his pocket and started to wander down to the beach. Time without his friends or Pat would help. Pran could get his head on straight and figure out what to do with this whole thing. He had thought that ignoring Pat would work, getting Pat to forget him and their kiss and whatever that meant. But no, it was like Pat had dug his heels in and refused to budge, never really leaving Pran's side despite the relocation and being surrounded by people that hated him.

In the privacy of his own head, Pran had to admire Pat's guts. If there was a camp which had Korn and his lot on it and Pat was ignoring him every time Pran tried to talk to him-- Pran didn't think he would be brave enough. He felt a flicker of guilt at how he had treated Pat, especially when he should have known the silent treatment wouldn't discourage Pat. Even when Pran was at his most sarcastic, Pat hadn't been scared off. But this time, he wasn't even letting Wai run him off like he had in the past. It was like, now they had kissed, he knew what was in Pran's head.

Too bad he didn't seem to know exactly why they couldn't do anything like this.

"Uncle!" Junior's voice had Pran turning, disturbed out of his thoughts by the unexpected sound. Then he shouted again and Pran started to run. There was a child demanding an adult's attention and then there was a child scared and panicking and it was easy to tell which one Junior was. Pran ran as fast as his flip flops on sand could go and skidded up in front of the leader's house just as Tong did the same.

"What's happening?" Pran asked before he realised that Tong would know about as much as he did.

"Uncle Tong!" Junior's voice came from the side of the house and both of them made their way around the corner.

"Junior, what's wrong?" He was standing and crying but appeared unharmed even as his uncle fussed over him. Pran looked past him at a figure slumped against the wall of the house, squinting in the shadow to see who it was.

"Some men hurt P'Pat," Junior sniffled to his uncle, reaching out for comfort which he was readily given.

"Pat?" Pran said, completely disbelieving but then the figure turned their head a little and a beam of light fell on his face. "Pat!" Pran was slamming down on his knees beside Pat before he could even think about it. He cradled Pat's face, uncaring about his audience as he urged Pat to move again, to open his eyes. "Come on, Pat. Open your eyes." Pat's eyelashes flickered and Pran almost choked on a sob of relief.

"P'an?" Pat murmured and this time Pran did make a sound.

"Yeah, it's me. It's me. Ai'Pat, can you open your eyes? For me?" Pran asked oh so gently. He felt like if he was too loud Pat would break but all he wanted to do was scream and sob. There was something wet underneath his hands trickling down Pat's face and he could see it was dark in the dim light.

"I thought he was dead," Junior sobbed and Pran could understand that fear well enough.

"My eyesss are op'n," Pat managed to get out, though it was hard to understand him.

"Oh really?" Pran asked. He could see one eye in the light and it was firmly closed. He took a deep breath. What good was his pride when Pat looked like that? "How can I talk to you when your eyes are closed?"

That got Pat to open his eyes, though it was barely noticeable. "You goin' to talk t'me?" His smile showed up, a little smaller and wonkier than usual. "Knew you'd cave."

"Yeah, yeah. Come on, I don't want to talk on the ground. We'll get inside and then we can talk in there." Tong stepped forward to help Pat get to his feet as Pran made sure Pat didn't fall over.

"Junior, why don't you go and open the door?" Tong told Junior, who was watching Pat fretfully. The boy nodded, obviously grateful to have something to do and hurried up the steps. Pran went to pull Pat's arm over his shoulders and Pat let out an awful sound which Pran never wanted to hear again. He froze and stared at Pat.

"My arm, I heard it crack before," Pat whispered as if someone was eavesdropping on them. Then Pran remembered Junior.

"We need to go to the hospital then," Tong said. "But let's get inside first so we can see properly." Far more gently than he had ever been with anyone before, Pran helped Pran inside, watching every step as if Pat was a toddler just learning to walk. Between them they managed to get a limping Pat into the house and Pran got his first look at Pat in the look.

"Pat," he breathed. Pat glanced at him, meeting his eyes and then dropping down to the floor. Tong helped him into a chair and instructed Junior to go and get the first aid kit.

"My neighbour's a nurse but she's on shift at the moment. She taught me though." Tong gave Pat a reassuring smile, which faded when he looked at Pat's misshapen, discoloured wrist. Pran was too busy staring at the bruises and marks showing up on Pat's face and neck. There was even a strange dirt pattern on his cheek which looked like the sole of a shoe, at least the tip of it.

"Who did this to you?" he whispered. A horrible suspicion was starting to brew at the back of his mind and he wanted Pat to disprove it. He needed Pat to say it wasn't them, for Pran not to have been betrayed like this.

"I don't know. It was dark and they jumped me. I didn't recognise them," Pat said, more to Tong than to Pran. He didn't look at Pran at all and although the words were what Pran wanted to hear, he couldn't shake the idea that Pat was lying. Pat was so direct and he always looked at Pran, even when it wasn't advisable to do so. Pran wanted to grab his chin and pull his gaze back to him and then get him to repeat the words but he held himself back. He didn't want to hurt Pat even more than he already was and, like a coward, he didn't want to face the truth.

"The important thing is to get you better." Junior returned with the first aid kit and Pran helped Tong to clean and cover what they could. Tong had seemed worried about some bruising on Pat's ribs and between that and the arm, he had decided going to the hospital was better sooner rather than later.

He sent Junior off to a neighbour and went to get the car sorted, leaving Pat and Pran alone. Pran took Pat's hand and brushed his fingertips over his bruised and bleeding knuckles. He had fought back hard, but numbers must have overpowered him. The images kept playing in Pran's head. Pat walking down to the beach when he was set upon by several dark figures. Eventually he falls to the ground but the figures keep on going, leaving Pat bleeding and bruised on the sand.

"Was it them?" he asked, staring down at their hands. It didn't even cross his mind that he was holding hands after he had spent so long keeping Pat at arms' length. "Did you recognise them?"

"It was dark, I'm not sure," Pat said quietly. Pran lifted his gaze and stared at him. Pat looked back at him and then away. He was lying and there was only one reason why he would lie about that.

Before Pran could confront him, Tong came back. Pran squeezed Pat's hand and then let it go. "Uncle Tong, could I ask you to take Pat to the hospital? I'll find Wai and tell him to find somewhere else to sleep tonight. We don't want him to come back and find the house all shut up and worry." He made sure to keep his voice polite. Tong nodded slowly like he knew there was something else going on here but he didn't quite know what. Pat stared at Pran.

"Pran," he said and then glanced at Tong. "Just, be here when I get back?" Pat asked. "If it's okay with you, Uncle Tong."

"Sure, sure." Tong nodded. "Pran, if you could let know Wai to swap houses with you and then I'll bring Pat back here." Pran gave him a grateful smile and waved them off. As soon as the truck and Pat's concerned gaze faded out of sight, Pran's smile slid off his face. He pulled out his phone and dialled a number.

**

Wai and the rest of their friends were drinking a little further down the beach. Pran could hear them before he could see them and it was only when he turned the corner of the empty meeting building that he saw them. What little hope he had left that Pat had been telling the truth and hadn't recognised his attackers vanished as soon as he saw the reddened knuckles, the blood spatter on their shirts and even a mark on Louis' face where Pat had obviously gotten a punch in.

Pran didn't think he had ever been so angry with someone before. When his mother had transferred out of school, he thought he had been furious at both her and Pat but really he was more hurt than anything, desperate to find a way that he could have both Pat and his parents and despairing when there was nothing. But now? Pran could feel himself shaking and he had a strong urge to just start swinging, to kick and injure them as they had done to Pat. Pran had known violence before and he had gotten into enough fights to know that particular adrenaline rush, but even at his worst, he had never wanted to hurt someone like this before. His friends were sitting around, drinking and laughing, while Pran felt like his insides were tearing themselves apart.

His friends had ganged up on Pat, four on one, and beat him bad enough to break bones and put him in hospital. And for what? At most, Pat had been mildly annoying to Pran and that was only to get Pran to talk to him. He wasn't acting any different really, apart from how he was willing to do it in front of Pran's friends. And they had proven that they couldn't even handle Pran and Pat being the slightest bit friendly.

"Pran!" Louis called and Pran walked over to the group, making sure none of his turmoil showed on his face. "Come and have a drink with us." The four of them were already on their way to being drunk and Pran wondered if the alcohol had some influence on their decision.

"No, I don't think so," Pran said quietly. Wai looked at him and put down his beer can before standing up.

"Pran," he said cautiously. He was obviously seeing something in Pran's face or body language but didn't quite know what it meant. Pran crossed his arms, all the better to hide the fists his hands clenched into. "What's wrong?"

Pran wanted to laugh, and scream and shout at the people before him until he had no voice left. But he wouldn't lose control like that. There was no chance of getting into the fight with the four of them was going to go well and he had to be there when Pat came back from the hospital.

"Can you explain to me why you decided to go after Pat after I told you to ignore him? Why you decided to ambush him, four on one?" Pran asked. The questions killed any remaining merriment in the group.

"He was bothering you all camp," Wai said, the same aggrieved expression coming onto his face as it had when Pran had sent him away a few days before. He had always been protective of his friends, just like Pran returned the favour. But this? This was too far.

"Yeah," Bie said and Pran made an exaggerated expression, mouth open with realisation.

"Oh I see," he said. He could see Wai stiffening because he knew Pran better than the others. "You put one of our classmates in hospital for being irritating, how kind of you. Don't worry about getting me a birthday present because that was just so special."

"Hey, you don't even like him," Toto said.

"Wrong, try again." Pran was through being careful. Let his friends know that they were friends, let his parents find out. Who cared anymore.

"You're f-friends?" Wai asked and Pran wondered if he had been going to say something else before stumbling over the word.

"Don't be stupid, Pran wouldn't be friends with an Engineering student," Louis said, more to Pran than to Wai. "He wouldn't forget what faculty he's in."

Pran kept on smiling, though he knew it had turned bitter and vengeful. "I wouldn't worry about it, Louis. When your injuries tell Uncle Tong exactly who put Pat in hospital, I wouldn't be so sure you lot will be in the Faculty anymore." Even in the dim yellow lights from further up the beach, Pran could see the pale faces and worried glances the four of them exchanged. "What? Did you think you would get away with it? Don't worry, Pat won't be telling anyone that he was you because he knew I would be upset. But I don't really care."

"What do you mean?" Toto asked. Wai was looking at Pran like he had never seen him before but rage had obliterated any chance of Pran caring about that.

"Here's what is going to happen. Wai is going to stay with Louis tonight, as I told Uncle Tong. You four are not to go near Pat at all, either here or back at the uni or I will tell the professors myself exactly what you did to Pat."

"You're joking," Louis said, looking like someone had hit him over the head.

"Why would I joke? Since me telling you to leave him alone didn't work and you thought four of you jumping one person was the correct solution to someone getting on your nerves, it seems like it will be the only way to get through to you. Stay the fuck away from Pat. Ignore him like you should have done in the first place. Do you understand now?"

"You can't just do that." Bie stepped forward menacingly and Pran jerked his chin up so it looked like he was squaring up for a fight.

"I just did," Pran said quietly. "What are you going to do to me? You going to put me in hospital? Maybe break my arm or kick me in the head or even crack my ribs?"

"We didn't do that," Wai said and then faltered at the look on Pran's face. "Pran, please. We didn't mean to hurt him that badly, it was only to get him to leave you alone."

"Maybe when Pat gets the cast off his arm, I'll be able to look at any of you and not want to knock your teeth in," Pran replied. "But until then, if you go after Pat again, be prepared to put me in hospital first." He turned on his heel and walked off, feeling glad when no one tried to follow him. He hadn't been joking, there was a good chance he would punch one of them if they had followed him.

He went back to the group leader's house, letting himself in with the key Tong had given him. As soon as he was in the still house, everything started to catch up with him. He headed to the back of the house and quickly found what looked like a guest bedroom. He climbed onto the bed and buried his face in the pillow, confirming that it smelt faintly of Pat's shampoo.

"Pat," Pran sobbed and then finally broke down. He cried, messy and loud, as he struggled to reconcile Pat being so hurt by Pran's friends. None of the fights had escalated that far but the odds had never been so uneven before. The terror that had filled him when he had seen Pat lying slumped against the house had made everything else pale in comparison. And the people who had done that to Pat weren't people Pran could hate in an uncomplicated fashion, like he would for anyone else who hurt Pat like this. No, they had hurt Pat because of Pran, because Pran hadn't wanted to talk to Pat and Pat had pushed like he always did. Pran had even liked it, Pat showing how much he cared about Pran. He came on this trip without any of his friends, just for Pran, and look at what happened to him.

After he had finished crying, Pran went to the bathroom and quickly washed his face. His eyes remained red but there was nothing he could do about that. Instead, he went back to the bedroom to prepare the bed for Pat's return. He grabbed extra cushions when he could and set up water and clean clothes and towels for Pat. Everything he did helped to distract him from his own pain and guilt. Pran's friends had done this to Pat because of him. He couldn't change that now, all he could do was try to help Pat in any way he could.

Tong and Pat came back about an hour later when Pran was endlessly scrolling through social media and debating whether or not to send a quick message to Safe back in Bangkok about how things would be different when the group came back. As soon as he heard the truck pull up, he was off the bed and waiting by the front door. Two people came up the path, one leaning heavily on the other. Pran slipped his shoes back on and hurried down to help Pat.

"Uncle, is he okay?" Pran asked when Pat didn't say anything, simply transferred his weight to Pran and let his head fall onto Pran's shoulder.

"They had to pull his wrist into place," Tong said, "so they gave him some strong painkillers. But the X-ray afterward shows he doesn't need surgery now so they've put a cast on and he should be fine to have the rest of his check-ups in Bangkok." He handed some paperwork to Pran who stashed it in his pocket while keeping Pat on his feet.

"Ah, thank you, Uncle." Pran helped Pat back to his room, coaxing him out of his clothes and giving him a quick wipe down with a clean cloth to get rid of some of the blood and sand. The small cut on his forehead had been cleaned and dressed but there were still traces of dried blood around his ear and chin which had been missed by the hospital staff. The cast on his arm was soft and white, covering the top half of Pat's arm, and Pran was careful not to get any water near it.

"Such a good nurse," Pat said quietly as he swayed on the chair. Pran stopped him from toppling off with a hand on Pat's shoulder. He had managed to wrestle Pat's shirt off him and was now trying not to look at the marks on his rib cage. Now Pat's skin was cleaner, it was easier to see the rapidly purpling marks on his head and rib cage where he had been kicked and punched. "Don't, Pran," Pat said, getting distressed. Pran swiped away a tear, irritated for crying again. He wasn't supposed to be thinking about it right now.

"It looks painful," Pran said, his voice more choked up than he thought.

"No, they gave me good medicine." Pat's grin was slightly lopsided but he managed to reach up with his good hand and swipe Pran's tear away with his thumb. "Don't cry, Pran. I don't want to make you cry. Not again."

"It's fine." Pran wiped his cheeks himself and went back to making sure Pat was clean before bed. "Just, do whatever the doctor says, okay? That will make me happy." After scrubbing Pat's skin as best he could, he helped him into a clean T-shirt and managed to get his shorts off, leaving him in the same boxers but at least cleaner than he was before.

"You sleeping with me?" Pat asked, just enough of an innuendo in the words to make it sound dirtier but not enough that it would ruin Pat's plausible deniability if Pran called him out on it.

"I don't want to roll on your arm in the night," Pran said, eyeing the half cast with worry. Tong had said surgery wasn't needed because the bone was back in place but that meant if Pran did anything wrong, the doctors might change their mind.

"Lie on my good side," Pat urged. "The cracked ribs are on the same side as my arm anyway. I'll feel better if you're next to me. Pleeease?" He almost pouted at Pran and it was heartbreakingly adorable, two words Pran would make sure never to say out loud for fear that Pat would realise what a soft touch Pran was for him.

"Okay, okay. But you're getting into bed first and we're propping that arm up. Uncle Tong gave me a leaflet about this and he said something about keeping it up." Pran sorted through the paperwork he had dumped on the table earlier and found the leaflet he had glanced at when getting Pat undressed.

"But you'll stay?" Pat asked and Pran nodded. "Okay then. Whatever you say." He gave Pran another one of his lopsided grins and Pran was helpless to do anything but smile back.

"Yeah, I'm staying," he said softly. He wasn't going to run from Pat anymore.

Chapter Text

The next day, Pat woke up with a painful headache and an arm that was throbbing in pain. He groaned as soon as he woke up but it was only when he felt the bed dip that he opened his eyes. Pran was there, his hair a complete mess and a concerned expression as he bent over Pat.

"What is it? Is it your arm? I'll get your painkillers." Then Pran was gone and all Pat could do was lift his head a little to try and follow him with his eyes. As soon as he pulled his head up though, his chest felt like it was on fire and he immediately dropped back down on the pillow.

"Fuck," he said. He almost asked what happened but then memories of the last night started to come back to him. They were all a little blurry and all over the place but he remembered the other Architecture students beating him up and then Pran was there with Junior, looking like he might cry. Pat hadn't said anything about who attacked him, mostly because he knew Pran would take responsibility for it but also he thought expulsion would be too harsh a punishment, no matter how much he didn't like Pran's friends. And if that happened, his parents would get involved and then Pran's parents would find out somehow and that was the last thing either of them needed.

Besides, his arm and his chest may hurt, but Pran was here next to him. There were far worse things in life and if Pat had to get a little beat up to have Pran talking to him again, he would take it. Maybe he could use this opportunity to talk to Pran about the kiss and what it meant. Pat thought it meant they liked each other and wanted to try and be boyfriends but then Pran had looked upset and hadn't talked to Pat in days, so really Pat didn't know what was going on. He had to be told what was going on otherwise he might get it wrong again.

Pran came back with a blister pack of pills and a glass of water, putting them to one side before he put an arm behind Pat's shoulders and helped him to sit up. The pain drove everything else out of Pat's head for a few moments and after he was upright and the pain had settled, he was disappointed that he hadn't been able to enjoy Pran touching him like that.

"Painkillers," Pran said, popping out four pills from two different blister packs. "They'll take a little while to start working but if they're not enough, there is a stronger painkiller you can take. It will make you sleepy so maybe we should save it for the bus journey."

"Will you be sitting with me for the bus journey?" Pat asked. Everything hurt now and it was much nicer to focus on Pran being with him. He didn't think talking about the kiss on the rooftop was a good idea right now, but when they got to Bangkok, Pran might be happier to listen to him after spending the day with Pat.

"Of course," Pran replied. "Drink that water, I'm going to tell Uncle Tong you're awake." He left the room and Pat alone with his thoughts. Unfortunately, the pain started to get bad enough that it was hard to concentrate on anything else. He carefully lowered himself back down to the bed and fell asleep again while waiting for Pran to come back.

The rest of the morning pretty much passed like that. Pran would wake him up for food, water and his pills but otherwise Pat would fall asleep at the drop of a hat. He didn't think he had slept so much since he was an actual child.

"What did you expect?" Pran said when Pat complained about it after he had finally managed to get dressed. "You were up all night at the hospital and you're injured. You need rest to heal." He looked worried and Pat was fast starting to hate that expression. "Do you think you'll be okay on the bus?"

"I'll be fine. And I want to go home." With Pran by his side, Pat didn't say. Uncle Tong knocked and came into the room at this point. "Uncle Tong, when is the bus leaving?"

"You've got an hour before it leaves but I'll make sure it doesn't miss you." He gave Pat a searching look. "Pat, now you've had a rest, do you remember anything about the people who hurt you last night?"

Pat wasn't even remotely tempted to say who it was. "No, Uncle, it was dark. I'm sorry." Uncle Tong didn't look surprised and nodded in acceptance.

"If it's okay with you, Junior would like to say goodbye." Pran glanced at Pat, who nodded enthusiastically. He had managed a half-hearted shower and clean clothes a little while ago so he was feeling much better about everything. Uncle Tong disappeared out of the room and a moment later, Junior appeared.

"P'Pat, P'Pran!" Junior looked surprised and delighted to see the two of them. Pat grinned at him. "You look much better!" Oh yeah, Pat had forgotten that Junior had been there last night when Pat had been dragged into the house. It must have freaked the kid out a little.

"Looked worse than it was," he replied breezily. "And now I've just got to have this cast on for a bit and I'll be good as new. Especially with Pran here helping me." He gave Pran a cheesy grin and got an arch look in return. Junior laughed at the both of them.

"Oh good. Uncle Tong said he helped a lot last night. Will he help you when you're back in Bangkok?" Junior asked and this time Pat was the one to glance at Pran, his eyebrows raised.

"Of course," Pran replied to Junior without looking at Pat. "If I leave it up to Ai'Pat, he'll end up using the cast as a club or forgetting to take his medicine."

"The cast is hard anyway," Pat protested, though he wouldn't use it like that when his arm hurt far too much. But it was fun to play along, especially when he got that outraged look from Pran that made him look like a cat that had his tail trodden on. Pat had to remember to tell Pran that comparison, he might actually hiss at him.

Junior laughed again and Pran turned the conversation around about what Junior was going to do now they were going and whether he ever wanted to come and visit Bangkok at some point. Pat joined in as much as he could but the pain and medicine was making him far more tired than usual and by the time Uncle Tong came to tell them that the bus was there ready for them, he had stifled several yawns.

Pran gathered their bags and bullied Pat into taking one of the stronger painkillers before hustling him out of the door to the bus line. The two of them received several looks and Pat wondered how bad his face had looked. He hadn't really paid much attention when he had used the bathroom that morning, too busy trying to stop himself from falling over as he got his clothes back on after his shower. Stopping Pran from walking in on him while he was naked had seemed far more important than eyeing up his own face but now Pat wondered if that had been the best choice.

"Hey, Pran." He turned to look at Pran, to find him glaring at someone behind Pat. It was a dark, painful look and Pat was immediately on edge as soon as he saw it. "Pran?" Pat started to turn to look over his shoulder and Pran stopped him. He still looked angry, his jaw tight, but his eyes had softened as he looked at Pat.

"Yeah?" Pran asked, his voice a little hoarse.

"What's wrong? Who were you glaring at?" Pat asked, though he had a feeling he knew the answer.

"No one important," Pran answered breezily. "Come on, I want to get a seat near the front." He hustled Pat onto the bus, ignoring all attempts by Pat to look back at who Pran was glaring at. Pat gave up and simply went where Pran directed him, which was to a set of double seats to the right so Pat could be by the window and lean on his uninjured side. He settled down and yawned as soon as he got comfortable.

"Go to sleep, Pat," Pran said without looking at him as he went through his bag. "The painkillers will be working now. If you're tired, sleep." Pat wanted to say that he didn't want to waste a whole bus ride with Pran by sleeping, especially since Wai had gotten to sit next to Pran on the way here, but a yawn split his face before he could even say the first word.

Pran looked smug and Pat took advantage of his injuries to elbow him in the side, knowing Pran wouldn't retaliate. He was right, Pran didn't elbow him back but Pat's injuries didn't stop Pran from pinching the inside of his knee.

"Ouch!" Pat said, faking pain but then he jerked his arm in the wrong way, jarring his ribs and the fake sound turned into a hiss of genuine pain. Pran looked a little concerned but mostly he just looked judgemental, as if he was the living embodiment of 'I told you so'. It said something that Pat found Pran ridiculously attractive even with the most self-satisfied look in the world on his face. Pat pouted but Pran's expression didn't change so Pat settled against the window with bad grace. Maybe he could pretend to sleep and 'accidentally' touch Pran.

Pran's smug expression disappeared as soon as he looked to the front of the bus. Pat tensed, following Pat's gaze to see the other Architecture students in a group near the front of the bus. Toto and Bie slunk off to one of the double seats near them, going nowhere near Pran. Wai gave Pran and Pat a conflicted expression but seemed to see something in Pran's expression to warn him off. Louis, on the other hand, didn't quite get that.

He approached the two of them, giving Pat a look that seemed to be a mixture of disgust and guilt, before giving his full attention to Pran.

"Pran-- " Louis started but Pran interrupted him before he could go any further.

"No." Pran wasn't loud or even particularly forceful, but everything in his voice said not to go any further. Pat, who had been reading Pran's moods for years, knew that this wasn't the kind of anger that could be laughed off or distracted. This was a Pran who you left alone.

"Pran," Louis protested and now Wai was there, grabbing Louis' elbow and trying to pull him back to the front of the bus. They were starting to draw attention and Pat could see Pran getting more and more tense.

"I said no," Pran said in that same, calm tone.

"Louis, let's go. This isn't the place to do this," Wai hissed at him and eventually succeeded in pulling Louis back down the aisle. Pat watched as Pran reached into his bag and pull out the headphones which Pat had given him and carefully put one in each ear. His movements were jerky and uncoordinated, the only sign of his turmoil for his face was blank.

Pat opened his mouth and then closed it again. They were both tired and stressed and, more importantly, they were on a bus filled with people. If Pran didn't want to talk about it right now, Pat could do that. But when they got back to Bangkok, he would start trying to pull it out of Pran.

He leaned back against the window and twisted so his leg was pressed against Pran's. Pran glanced down but didn't say anything or move away, so Pat closed his eyes as satisfaction warmed inside of him. A nap might be a good idea, especially with Pran so close. 

Chapter Text

The morning after they returned from the green village trip, Pran woke up in his own bed and it took him a second to work out why he felt so torn. He and Pat were public friends now and something else that neither one of them had talked about yet, but in gaining this, he had lost trust in Wai and Louis. He had gained Pat, but he wasn't speaking to two of his friends now.

A minute later, Pran's alarm clock went off and he pulled himself out of bed to switch it off. His morning routine was so ingrained in him that he could get through it with a minimum of thought, though he did everything a little quicker this morning so he could head over to Pat's room in time for his alarm clock.

He heard the buzzing of the alarm clock through the door as he approached and he knocked loudly when he heard the alarm being switched off. After waiting a few moments, he knocked again and finally heard some stumbling sounds on the other side of the door.

A yawning, shirtless Pat answered and the door and Pran didn't know what struck him first, Pat's injuries which were now coming out in full colour since it had been over twenty-four hours since it happened, or the miles of skin that were in easy reach of Pran's hand.

"Um," Pran said, tearing his eyes away from Pat's chest in what he hoped wasn't too obvious a way. "Have you taken your painkillers this morning?"

"I just woke up," Pat whined. He walked away from the door, leaving it wide open. Pran followed him in and closed the door behind him. Pat tried to lean over and get something only to stop and clutch at his ribs with his good hand.

"Pat, don't do that." Pran made his way over to Pat's side quickly. "You're supposed to be resting. What were you trying to get?" Pran scanned Pat's cluttered desk and tried not to grimace at the mess.

"In the top drawer is a spare key. I was going to give it to you so you can come in whenever." Pran froze for a moment and Pat gave an impatient gesture, which made him grimace in pain.

"What about your friends? What about your parents?" Pran still remembered having to hide from Pat's dad under the bed.

"They won't come in without knocking," Pat said. "And I don't mind my friends knowing about you. I thought you were okay with it after what happened on the trip?" He gave Pran a look and Pran busied himself with getting the key out of the drawer.

"You have to shower now," Pran said. Pat made a face at him which Pran thought was intended to be cute but just ended up ridiculous. "I'm sitting with you in lectures today."

"Wait, what?" Pat managed to say before Pran shoved him gently into the bathroom. He opened the door again just to throw a towel in after Pat and then closed the door again. A few seconds later, Pran heard the shower start up and he suddenly thought of something.

"Ai'Pat." He threw open the door, only to immediately shut it again. Pran felt like his face was on fire and he wondered if he could get rid of what he had just seen. He shouldn't have seen that, it was an accident.

"Er, Pran?" Pat called through the door. He sounded uncertain but Pran knew it would only take a little encouragement before he would start flirting again.

"We need to wrap your cast in plastic before you can get in the shower," Pran said. "Put a towel on." He went to search Pat's kitchen area for a plastic bag and by the time he went back to the bathroom, knocking and waiting for an answer this time, Pat had a towel around his hips. "You can't get your cast wet," Pran said as he lifted up Pat's cast and started to fix the plastic bag in place.

"Sooo," Pat said and Pran pulled out a length of tape as nosily as possible. "Are we going to talk about what just happened?"

"We're going to be late if you don't shower now," Pran said, carefully not thinking about what had just happened. "We don't have time to talk about what was or wasn't seen." He wrapped the tape around the top of Pat's cast in a way which was going to hurt to take off but Pran could put off regret until later. "Done."

Pat didn't say anything as Pran fled the bathroom and slammed the door shut. He breathed for a moment as he listened to the shower run and put a hand over his face. If it had been anyone other than Pat, Pran would have apologised, they would have laughed and that would be it. But Pat, he was different. Pat had always been different.

Pran started to go through his bag again, double checking he had everything for the day. He didn't think about how he was going to sit with Pat and his friends, he didn't think about his friends' reaction to him sitting with Engineering and he definitely didn't think about the glimpse of Pat from behind as he pulled his underwear down.

**

The two of them went to lectures, both of them carefully not talking about the bathroom earlier or the rooftop kiss or even why Pran was accompanying Pat to lectures in the first place. Pran had texted Safe and was ignoring the many, many replies from him that were making his phone vibrate.

"What are your friends going to say when they see you with me? With us?" Pat asked as they started to approach the building where they had most of their joint lectures.

"They're not going to say anything. I told Safe where I'll be and Louis and Wai know exactly what is going on." And if they approached them just to pick fights with Engineering, Pran would have to follow through on his threat. He didn't want to get his friends into trouble, but they put Pat in hospital and the very thought still made his heart pound in anger.

"Pran, what are you thinking about?" Pat asked, worried. There was a shout from further ahead and they turned to see Pat's friends from Engineering heading towards them.

"Pat, what the hell is going on?" Korn asked as he came to a slow stop when he saw Pran next to Pat, and Pat's injuries. "What happened to you?"

"It's fine." Pat waved off his concern with his good hand. "Pran is helping me out while I've got this on." He waved his cast at his friends. "I messaged you."

"You didn't say how you got hurt though," Chang said slowly and Korn started to eye Pran with growing suspicion and dislike.

"I got into a fight," Pat said cheerfully. "Pran's been helping me out since then." Now all of Pat's friends looked at Pran suspiciously. He gazed steadily back at them, not saying a word in his defence. He may not have hurt Pat but it was his fault it had happened. "I said you guys would be cool with him hanging around." Pat didn't say anything else but Pran caught the undertones of 'if there is a problem, we'll go somewhere else' and his friends seemed to get that too.

"Great," Korn said, heavily sarcastic. "Can we expect any more architects to be joining us?" Pran could feel his jaw set as he struggled to withhold his anger. Pat glanced at him in concern and Pat's friends watched the byplay. Korn especially seemed to see too much.

"No," Pran answered. "They won't be coming near Pat." Pat leaned closer to Pran and whispered as if that would stop his friends from hearing.

"Pran, what did you do?"

"Don't worry about it," Pran answered as casually as possible. Korn made a sound which Pran had never really heard before. When Pran looked at Korn, he was staring at Pat like he couldn't believe his eyes.

"From Architecture? This is them?" He directed the questions at Pat, who grinned, unabashed.

"Yeah." The rest of Pat's friends looked between the two of them, appearing just as confused as Pran felt. Korn put his hands up in the universal sign of someone giving up and then turned to Pran.

"Fine. But if any of your friends show up, I reserve the right to push them off."

"Korn-- " Pat tried to protest.

"Okay, that's fine," Pran said, interrupting Pat, who stared at him. "Pat, it's okay." Pat let his objections drop but Pran could see that he was going to make him talk about it when they were alone.

"We're just not going to talk about why you look like this?" Chang asked, gesturing at the bruises on Pat's face and the cast on his arm.

"Oh look, we have to get to our lectures," Pat said. Before he could reach for his bag, Pran was picking it up and slinging it over his shoulder. "Pran, I have a good arm still!"

"Cracked ribs," Pran retorted.

"They're all on the same side," Pat said. "This side is fine." He waved his good hand in Pran's face, who stared stonily back at him.

"Raise your unbroken arm above your shoulder. If there isn't any pain, you can have your bag." Pran crossed his arms and watched Pat's face as he lifted his arm above his head. Try as he might, he wasn't able to conceal the wince as he did so. "You fail, I get your bag." He turned on his heel and started to walk towards their main lecture. "Are you coming?" He didn't really care about the other engineering students, they could come and go as they liked.

"You know, sometimes this just makes you a masochist," he heard Korn said and the slap of skin on skin. Pran turned to look but then Pat was right beside him and pushing him onwards.

"Ignore him," Pat said. Pran carried on walking but took note of the pink flushed across Pat's cheeks. "Come on, let's get inside." The rest of the engineers followed and Pran caught sight of Safe with Louis and Wai. They were all staring at him, their disbelief obvious and Pran kept his head high. He wasn't leaving Pat's side, not for this.

"Oh this is going to be interesting," one of Pat's friends said behind him and Pran silently agreed.

Chapter Text

Safe stared at Louis and Wai as they explained, a little, about why Pran was avoiding them and wondered when his friends had become so stupid. Yeah, sure, some engineers deserved a punch in the head but to put a guy in hospital was going too far.

"You thought a four on one ambush on a university trip where it's common knowledge about the rivalry between our two faculties was a good idea," Safe said. He wasn't used to being the smart one of their group of friends, that was Pran and sometimes Wai when he was paying attention. Mostly Pran.

"Look, in hindsight, it was stupid," Louis said in what he obviously thought was a rational tone. Safe leaned forward as more people started to file into the lecture hall and their private conversation was soon at risk of not being private at all. Pran was sitting on the other side of the room to where they normally sat, surrounded by engineering students. The engineers didn't seem too upset to have Pran in their midst and Pat looked absolutely delighted even as his cast and bruises on his arms and face gave him a ghoulish look.

"In hindsight? How much did you have to drink?" Safe asked Louis in disbelief. They all liked to go into fights when they thought they could win but Pat had let Wai call for help from his friends before starting in on him, so why had Wai thought the opposite was a good idea? "You know Wai is terrible at ideas."

"Hey," Wai protested. Safe ignored him and carried on talking to Louis.

"Remember the gambling ring he thought it would be a good idea to set up? Remember the painted car? Or what about that whole blind date swap?"

"I have good ideas too," Wai protested again, but this time it was much weaker. Maybe Safe should remind him of all his terrible plans whenever he got an idea into his head. They might actually be able to get things done instead of clearing up after Wai, especially since it looked like Pran wouldn't be doing that any time soon.

"Putting an engineering student into hospital and then thinking you won't get caught and expelled wasn't one of them." Safe finally turned to Wai to scowl at him. "You're an idiot."

"I know, alright?" Wai snapped. He looked unhappy and petulant, his frown deepening as he glanced at Pran at the front of the room. Safe shook his head but started to walk down to their seats. It was hard to ignore the whispers as they walked by, especially since there was a bruise on Louis' face and Wai's knuckles were reddened and bruised. It was a miracle neither of them had been pulled up on it by one of the professors.

For a moment Safe was tempted to leave Wai and Louis behind, to stay away from them so he wouldn't be associated with people who would ambush a guy four on one and do it in such a stupid way too. But then the impulse left as quickly as it arrived and he took them to their usual seats halfway across the space. Pran and the engineers were sitting a little further forward but, while the wavy-haired engineer, Chang, glanced back at them, none of the rest appeared to acknowledge their arrival. Appearances could be deceiving though.

"What I don't understand is why you haven't been killed yet," Safe leaned over and said to both Wai and Louis. "I would have thought the other engineers would push you two in front of a bike as soon as they found out."

"I don't know." Now Louis looked concerned and Safe wanted to roll his eyes. The threat of expulsion didn't worry him but the thought of the engineers fighting him was something to think about. "Maybe Pran said something to them? Why else would they let him be around like that?"

The lecturer walked into the lecture hall then and the three of them decided that getting called out for talking during the lecture was the last thing they needed right now. Louis tilted his head forward to hide the bruise on his cheek and Wai put his hands in his lap, using the table as a screen. Safe wondered why they hadn't just sat a little further back if they were so worried about the professor seeing but obviously Wai and Louis' brain cells had decided to take a holiday for the week.

Safe sighed and covertly watched Pran. He was taking notes but Pat was constantly touching him, distracting him. To be fair, the cast was covering the hand he wrote with but it was like he couldn't go a minute without having Pran's attention on him. It would drive Safe mad but Pran seemed to like it. He scolded Pat in a whisper and flicked his fingers away but Safe could see the badly hidden smile from across the room and if he could see it, Pat could definitely see it.

He remembered the text he had gotten from Pran this morning, saying Pat was injured, Pran was going to be helping him and Wai and Louis were not allowed near Pat. It had made no sense then and only a little more sense now he had Wai and Louis' side of things. Pran being upset about Wai and Louis ganging up on someone and possibly getting everyone into trouble, that was something he could see Pran doing. But now Pran was acting like the two of them had wronged someone precious to him and that was far more than the guilt Safe had expected. Pat and Pran didn't like each other, everyone knew that, except Pran's reaction didn't match that at all.

He jumped as the lecturer knocked on her lectern, calling out someone that was on their phone. The whole class relaxed as she went back to her lecture, knowing that they had escaped her eagle eye attention for now. Safe tried to focus on what she was saying but his attention was diverted once again when Pat leaned over to talk to Pran, the bend of his body so awkward that it drew the eye more than if he had just done it normally. His arm couldn't be that badly hurt, Safe didn't know why Pat was acting like that, at least until he saw Pran's reaction. Pran turned his whole body to look at Pat and this time it looked like Pran was quizzing Pat about something, quietly and discreetly, but it was still Pran talking in the middle of a lecture.

Safe almost gaped at them but then remembered that he was supposed to be doing this secretly and turned his head back to the front. He had to talk to Pran and soon.

 

Thankfully, after their lunch, the Architects had a lecture on modern Thai architecture, while the engineers split off to go who knew where. The important thing was that Pran wasn't able to follow them, even though it did look like he was giving a lecture to Korn, gesturing to Pat's arm all the time.

"I'm going to try and talk to Pran," Safe said to Louis and Wai, both of them suddenly looked far more interested than in whatever was on their phones.

"Good idea," Louis said and made as if to come with him. Safe put up his hand to halt him, making sure his opinion of Louis' idea showed on his face.

"No, you two stay here. He's so angry with the two of you that he's sitting with the engineers and didn't even have lunch with us. So maybe let me talk to him first." He might actually get more answers out of Pran this way. It was weird being the one to approach Pran when all of them knew that wasn't how their group worked. Oh they were all friends, definitely, but it split off into Wai-Pran and Safe-Louis and that was how it had always been. If Safe wanted to try a new bar, he would invite the whole group. If he wanted someone to hear the song he had just been practicing on the drums, it would be Louis he would call.

So approaching Pran on his own, to talk about what was likely to be a sensitive subject, felt strange. Safe almost turned back, content to let Pran's anger settle a little and him rejoin the group later, but he was curious.

"Hi, Safe," Pran said. They were two corridors over from the room where their lecture was held and it was like Pran had been waiting for Safe. And, far more importantly, he didn't look happy to see him.

"Hey, Pran." Safe hoisted the strap of his bag further onto his shoulder and felt nerves twist in his stomach. "Can I talk to you?" Pran gave him a searching look but nodded all the same.

"Sure. Come on, let's get a seat near the back." A huge concession on Pran's part, he hated sitting near the back in any lecture, preferring a comfortable middle ground. The two of them walked down the corridor and into the seats at the back, all of it in silence. There was another five minutes before the lecture started and people were slowly starting to trickle in.

"I wanted to talk about what happened on the trip," Safe said, knowing their time was short and wanting to get this conversation out of the way. "I've heard what Wai and Louis told me and your texts told me nothing at all. So, what happened?"

"What did they tell you?" Pran asked. There wasn't a lot of expression in his face and it made Safe feel even more nervous. Pran was expressive and it was only when he was fighting to suppress all his emotions that you had to worry.

"Louis, Wai, Toto and Bie ambushed Pat on the last night. Wai said it was because Pat was annoying you but I feel like that was more of an excuse. You came to yell at them afterwards, saying Pat was in hospital and they weren't to go near him otherwise you would go to the uni and tell them what happened." Which would mean suspension or expulsion. Considering the two Faculties' records, Safe didn't hold out hope for the lighter punishment. What he didn't get was why Pran was even threatening them with that. "I don't get it. Yeah, it was a stupid plan from the start and a cowardly one if I had to say, but the two of them have done stupid stuff before."

"Yeah, I know." Pran was staring at the whiteboard at the front of the room throughout Safe's explanation but now turned to look at Safe. His eyes weren't blank anymore, they were shining with hurt. And rage. "But it was Pat."

"I thought you weren't even friends but now you are? When did that happen?" Safe glanced around and then back at Pran, leaning forward a little. "Pran, your reaction, it's extreme. I mean, Pat's your friend, fine, but are you sure that's all there is?"

Pran looked like he was chewing something over, nodding his head a little. Then he looked up. "Pat and I are friends. Our families don't like each other so we got used to keeping it under wraps, and then the faculties started fighting like this and then we had to keep on hiding it." He sniffed and shook his head. "Are you sure, Safe? Are you sure that if Wai, me, Toto and Bie hadn't ambushed Louis and hurt him so much you thought him dead when you first found him and he had to go to hospital, you would just forgive us? You would say 'oh it's just a stupid mistake, I know you didn't mean it to get so out of hand'?" Pran's gaze was far too direct and Safe had to look away. "Think about it, Safe, really think about it."

So Safe did. He thought about how he would feel finding Louis bleeding and bruised, passed out on the beach, and then slowly realising Pran and Wai had been the ones leading the attack, that they had ambushed Louis out of nowhere and hurt him so badly that he had to go to hospital.

"They cracked his ribs, broke his arm and gave him bruises everywhere. One of them kicked him in the face, which the doctor said was only a glancing blow because otherwise it could have fractured his skull," Pran said quietly. "Pat was told to rest for the next couple of days but he says he feels fine and he doesn't want to miss any lectures and fall behind. I'm not saying I won't ever forgive them. But I'm just so angry."

Safe imagined being told Louis had a fractured skull, hooked up to one of those beeping machines you saw on TV and knowing it was his friends who put him there. The helplessness, the betrayal and yes, the anger, would be hard to control. It was amazing Pran hadn't punched both Wai and Louis as soon as he saw them, but that was probably what he was hoping to avoid by keeping them at a distance.

"Yeah," Safe replied quietly as the image of Louis being kicked in the head by Wai disappeared. "Yeah, I get that." At some point during their talk, the room had filled up. Wai and Louis were sitting far over on one of the sides, not looking around in a way that was almost pointed. "I know they're going to ask, but how long do you think?"

"That it will take?" Pran asked. "I don't know whether I'll ever be able to forgive them properly but I think I can stop being so angry with them after Pat stops looking like he got hit by a bus."

A couple of weeks, Safe thought, just to be careful. That seems reasonable. "Can I tell them?"

"Yeah." Pran shrugged just as the lecturer walked into the room. She looked flustered and rushed, no wonder considering she was coming up to ten minutes late. "Tell them I need time. It's hard not to punch them when I see them so I just need to keep away from them for a while."

"Fair."

 

"So what did he say?" Wai and Louis had cornered Safe as soon as he left the lecture. Pran had disappeared somewhere a couple of minutes before the end and Safe tried not to wonder where.

"He told me what happened from his point of view," Safe said, walking quickly to try and take the three of them out of the building. "And he's going to need some time before he can see you and not punch you in the face."

"Wait, what?" Wai blinked at Safe and stopped dead, thankfully in the grassy part just outside the door which led to a shaded alleyway rarely used.

"He made me see what it was like for him and yeah, you're both arseholes."

"What?" Louis yelped. "Safe..." But Safe was on a roll and he wasn't going to stop. It was like some of Pran's anger had leeched out into him.

"I sort of want to punch you myself and I don't even like Pat," Safe said, only just remembering to keep his voice down at the last second. He might understand Pran's impulse to threaten it but he wasn't going to get Louis expelled just because he couldn't stop yelling.

"What? Why?" Wai looked completely surprised by this and now Safe wanted to punch him for his own reasons.

"Pat and Pran are friends. Apparently they have always been but can't tell anyone because of something to do with their families. They're friends and you went behind his back, knowing that he doesn't want you to do it, and put the guy in hospital. Not to mention you said you did it because Pat was annoying Pran but we all know it's because you think Pat's a dick." He was directing this more at Wai than Louis because he knew no matter what Louis said or thought, he wouldn't have come up with the ambush plan. "So not only did Pran's friends beat up his other friend in a way that could have seriously hurt him, but then they tried to say it was because they were defending him. He's angry and he's hurt and he feels guilty, so yeah, he needs some space. You get it?"

Wai looked like something was finally, finally clicking for him. Safe was panting with how much he had been talking and Louis' hand was on his arm.

"Okay, we get it. We'll give Pran and Pat some space," Louis said quietly. Safe nodded but was too tired to feel relieved.

Chapter Text

Pat listened to Pran lecture Korn about what to look for in a head injury and how to look for it in someone who didn't want to say anything. Pat knew he should be offended but all he could think about was how caring Pran sounded. This wasn't just admitting they were friends, this was him proving it to all of Pat's friends, even though Korn was looking at him like he had come from another planet and Chang and Mo were exchanging looks like they didn't know what was going on.

"...and if he starts feeling dizzy or gets photophobic, then he needs to go and lie down. If he throws up, he'll have to go back to the doctor and I know he doesn't want that." Pran turned to look at Pat. His arms were folded and he looked like a disapproving mother. If Pat didn't like him so much, he was sure he would be giving Pran the same expression Korn was giving him. "Rest when you need to. I mean it, Pat. I'll see you at five." Then the moment teetered between them and Pat couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if his friends had been there. Would Pran have touched him like he had the night he got injured? Would he allow a hug, or as much of one as his injuries allowed? Or maybe Pat would even get another kiss.

But his friends were there, Pat was Pat and Pran was Pran, so they just ended up nodding at each other and Pran turned on his heel and left the group. Pat watched him go despite knowing how obvious he was being.

"Pat," Chang said slowly, "how badly was your head injured?" Pat shrugged, or at least made a jerky movement with his good shoulder. The painkillers Pran had pushed him to take with his food at lunch were starting to kick in.

"Not that badly. Pran and the doctor are overreacting." For some reason, that didn't make Chang's expression lighter. "I've had worse during rugby." Nope, that didn't work either.

"What is going on with you two?" Mo asked. "And what was with that thing about architecture and masochists?" This question was directed more at Korn than Pat and even the memory of it made Pat's face flush.

"Well, Mo, a masochist is-- " Korn started and then got elbowed in the side by Chang. "Ow! See if I tell you now." Korn turned away and made out as if he were pouting.

"Pran and I are friends. But we couldn't really tell people because our parents don't like each other and then we came here and you guys didn't like each other." Pat went to grab his bag, only to have to dodge a kick from Mo, who grabbed his bag before he could.

"Oh no. I'm not sure why but I feel like if you end up hurting yourself, I'm going to wake up to Pran standing over my bed with a knife." Mo looked serious when he said this but Pat laughed. Pran may have a bit of a temper but he wouldn't do something like that, especially over Pat. He hadn't even punched his friends over Pat's injuries, Pran wouldn't do anything to them over something like a bag.

He said this, only to get all three of his friends staring at him, Korn turning around just to give him a disbelieving look.

"You're kidding, right," Chang said slowly.

"Pran's a vicious little weasel, everyone knows that," Korn blurted out. Pat frowned. He didn't like anyone calling Pran that and especially Korn. Korn put up his hands. "In the nicest possible way. Wai's an arsehole who I would punch in the face any day but at least you know he's coming. Pran would be the one to lie in wait and stab a threatening letter to your door with a knife after stalking you for days." That was oddly specific.

"Wait a minute." Chang narrowed his eyes at Pat. "Is that how you got those injuries? Did someone lie in wait for you?" Pat didn't know what his face was doing but he hurriedly tried to control his expression.

"Did Pran?" Korn asked in sheer disbelief. Mo and Chang gave him identical looks and Korn rolled his eyes. "Fine, fine. Not Pran." Then his gaze sharpened. "Wai?"

"It was dark, I didn't see," Pat said in the hopes they would stop reading him. But, judging by the dawning looks of realisation on his friends' faces, he failed miserably.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck." Korn turned away and ran a hand through his hair. Mo scowled as he stared down at Pat's arm and Chang crossed his arms, looking throughly pissed off.

"Does Pran know?" Chang asked.

"I told him it was dark," Pat said stubbornly.

"Pran guessed," Chang said wryly. "So if you are friends, then I'm guessing Pran wasn't involved in the lying in wait part. Wai was and we can assume Louis too judging by the bruise on his cheek. Who else?"

"No one," Pat said firmly. Chang didn't believe him, he could tell, but he looked like he knew Pat wasn't going to say anything about who else was involved.

"Okay then, but what the fuck are we going to do about it?" Korn asked. "We can't just let them get away with this." He gestured wildly at Pat, including the bruises and cast.

"You're not going to do anything." Pat stepped forward, grabbing all of their attention. "I'm fed up of our faculties fighting all the time. Pran's dealing with it and I'm the one who got hurt so I get to decide what gets done. I don't want to have to intervene with the teachers all the time so we can keep on with our extracurriculars. I don't want to have to worry about where we go to eat or work to avoid those guys. They did this," this time he was the one to gesture to his cast, "against Pran's wishes because they thought I was bothering Pran. He told them not to and they did it anyway, in the name of 'defending' Pran. And if you do the same thing to me as they did to Pran, then I'll do exactly what Pran is doing. Got it?"

His friends nodded and there was a moment of silence before Mo tilted his head in question.

"What do you mean intervening with the teachers or worrying about where we eat or work?" he asked. Chang looked like realisation was starting to dawn and Pat groaned inwardly.

"We should get to our next lecture," he said and started to walk off in the right direction, ignoring the calls of his friends and the fact Mo still had his bag. He was starting to get really fed up of the questions about him and Pran. Thankfully his friends seemed to pick up on this and when Korn started to moan about the project they were given in their next lecture, Mo and Chang went along with the change in subject.

Of course, Pran was right there at five o'clock. Pat wondered if he had slipped out before his own lecture finished in order to be there for Pat's to finish. He didn't know what his face was doing at the sight of Pran but it made Korn snort and shake his head.

"How did we miss this?" Chang whispered but it didn't seem like it was to Pat so he ignored his friend to grin at the approaching Pran. Korn handed over Pran's bag like a school teacher handing over the child at the end of the day.

"He was fine. He almost fell asleep in the last lecture and he definitely has a headache even if he hasn't said anything but no dizziness or throwing up," Korn said. Pran gave him a grateful smile and Pat felt a spark of jealousy which he resolutely ignored. He wanted Pran to get on with his friends, but there was a tiny part of him which only wanted Pran to smile at him.

"Thanks." Pran tilted his head to look at Pat. "Do you need to sleep?"

"I'm fine." Pat stifled the yawn that wanted to prove him wrong but judging by the mocking look in Pran's eyes, he wasn't very successful. "I don't need a nap, I'm okay." This sounded far more convincing but Pran's expression didn't change.

"So no drinking tonight then?" Mo said, a little hopefully.

"Mo, he's on painkillers. We don't want to send him to hospital again," Chang pointed out which saved Pran of doing the same thing. Pat yawned, it taking him by surprise so he wasn't able to stifle it. Pran shot him a look and Pat could just see a bed in his future. Then again, if he could persuade Pran to give Pat his bed then a nap might actually be worth it.

"See you both tomorrow," Korn said with a wave. "Have a good nap, Pat!" Pat stuck his middle finger up at his friend, only to get a mocking laugh in return. The three of them walked off while Pran and Pat started to walk back to their building.

"Do you want to get a cab instead?" Pran asked, his forehead creasing in concern. Pat shook his head and yawned again.

"It's not a long walk, I'll be fine." Pat remembered those words by the time they arrived at their apartment building and regretted them. What was normally a short walk took twice as long and Pat felt drained by the end of it. He had put his arm around Pran's shoulders in what he told himself was a way of getting closer to Pran but turned into a far more supportive measure than Pat had been expecting.

"Bed, Pat," Pran said quietly as he all but dragged Pat into the lift and then out of it again.

"Want your bed," Pat muttered. It felt tiring to talk as if all his energy had gone into keeping him going through the day and now it was just him and Pran, he could finally relax and let the exhaustion overtake him. He straightened up as best he could to try and take some of the weight off Pran but then he tripped over his own feet and Pran had to catch him.

"Okay, okay," Pran said, his voice warm. Pat smiled at the sound of it and closed his eyes. He kept on walking, trusting Pran to guide him to where he needed to go and sure enough, he was being lowered onto a soft bed that smelled completely of Pran. Pat buried his face into the pillow and knew no more.

Later he blinked awake, feeling ten times better with his head but his arm and ribs were starting to ache something fierce. He tried to move his broken arm a little to relieve some of the cramping and only send sharp pains through his chest and torso. He swore and smothered the word into the pillow, the pillow which smelled like Pran. It was far more soothing than anything else could be.

"Pat?" He was wrong. The only thing better than being surrounded by Pran's smell in Pran's bed was Pran himself. Pat rolled over, far more slowly and gently than he would have normally. Pran was there, sitting on the edge of the bed with a glass of water in one hand and the other loosely clenched over something. "Painkillers."

Pat made a face but his ribs and arm hurt enough that he took them without further prompting. After he had taken them and downed the glass of water, Pran helped to move the cushions so Pat could sit up without having to strain his ribs.

"Feel better?" Pran's eyes were soft when they looked at Pat and the look in them was something he never thought he would see. He smiled and reached for Pran with his good hand, tugging until Pran moved closer and eventually lay down next to Pat.

"Much better." Pat's voice was hoarse, as if it had been days since he last talked. Pran instinctively went to elbow him, as he would have at any other time in response to Pat's teasing, and then seemed to remember what happened at the last minute. Pat was pretty sure his grin was delighted at this realisation, considering Pran's glare when he noticed it.

"After the painkillers kick in, you have to get up. I read that it's good for you to do gentle movement otherwise your muscles get tense." Pran had the serious tone of voice which he got whenever he talked about one of Pat's injuries. It was the tone of unrelenting Pran, the one who had made a decision and was going to stick to it. It was wildly attractive and deeply annoying all at once, which was a combination only Pran seemed to stir in him.

"When did you read about that?" Pat asked, genuinely curious.

"You've slept a lot since you came back from the hospital," Pran said simply. Pat nuzzled the part of Pran he could reach, the top of his head, and ignored the spike of pain from his ribs. They hurt all the time anyway, he had to learn to ignore it.

"Such a good nurse." His tone softer than the teasing words would imply. Pran turned his head to nudge his nose against Pat's shoulder and closed his eyes.

"What else can I do? Leave it to you?" Pran scoffed.

"Ai'Praaan," Pat called gently and Pran wrinkled his nose. "Are you going to sleep?"

"What, are you the only one who can have a nap?" Pran shuffled onto his side and buried his face in Pat's shoulder. The fondness that welled up in Pat wasn't a new feeling around Pran but the intensity of it was and he allowed the wave of feeling to carry him through.

"Why are you so cute?" Pat asked quiet enough that Pran could pretend he hadn't heard him if he wanted. Pran didn't respond so Pat took that as his answer and closed his eyes.

Forty-five minutes later, Pat's painkillers had kicked in and now he was nosing around Pran's dorm while Pran sorted through his notes for the day. Pat noticed something was missing and double checked in Pran's bedroom.

"Pran, where is your guitar?" Pat asked and then immediately regretted it when Pran looked like someone had punched him in the stomach.

"It's with Wai," Pran said. "My mother-- she doesn't like me playing it." Maybe if Pat hadn't known Pran for so long, maybe if they didn't have the history they did, he wouldn't understand just what this meant.

"Because of me," he said quietly. "We played together in a band and were friends and then she didn't only transfer you to another school but also stopped you from playing guitar." There were many times when Pat had hated the feud between their families, ever since Pran had saved Paa when they were kids, but this was something different. He knew it had been hurting Pran, to be transferred like that for not doing anything wrong apart from being friends with someone else, but to know that something else he enjoyed was taken from him too. Pat thought there was a limit on how upset he could be with their parents but it turned out there was no limit on that.

"It doesn't matter now." Pran stepped into his space in a way that Pat was always amazed by. He put his good hand on Pran's waist as Pran cupped Pat's head. Every time Pran touched him so affectionately, Pat felt dazed like he was in a dream he never wanted to wake up from. "I thought... it was just... why bother starting something when you know it's going to turn out badly?" His fingers were carding through the hair on the back of Pat's head, the gentle touch warring with the tortured expression on Pran's face. "But you got hurt anyway. And then I was just making us both miserable for no reason."

"You had a reason, a good one." Pat shrugged, a small movement so he didn't throw Pran's arms off. "But we both know that this feud is ridiculous and eventually it's going to come to a head, no matter what we do. It might as well be for something that makes us happy."

Pran watched him, his eyes softer than Pat had seen them and he gently pulled Pat into a kiss, one of their first ones since the rooftop. This one was far gently, more coaxing each other into responding rather than passion demanding a response. Pat curled his good hand around Pran's neck, much like before and then tried to put his broken arm around Pran as well.

Pran pulled back at the sound that came out of Pat. There was no way of disguising that as a good noise, which was unfortunate because it meant Pran stopped kissing him.

"What's wrong? Did that hurt?" Pran asked. He was stepping away and Pat hated that. Even more than the pain, he hated how Pran was so close to him but Pat couldn't be with him like he wanted to. Even this gentle kissing ended sooner than they wanted because Pat's stupid ribs had to remind him that they had been cracked a few days ago.

"I tried to lift my other arm and I forgot why I can't do that." Pat kept one hand around Pran's nape even when Pran started to move further back. "Hey, no. More kissing."

Pran laughed a little at that and moved in just to give Pat a quick peck. When Pat tried to deepen it, Pran moved out of reach. "You're hurt."

"So?" Pat was prepared to argue that hardly mattered. "I'm not going to not kiss you for the next six weeks." That was the minimum amount of time the doctor had said the cast would be on and then the possibility of physiotherapy afterwards. Pat wouldn't be playing rugby any time soon so he really didn't want to lose another activity that made him happy.

Pran laughed again but his cheeks flushed a little and Pat leaned in a little, very interested in how that colour rested on Pran's cheeks. Pat wondered if Pran would turn the same kind of red after doing certain activities together.

"Stop, Pat. We have to go out to dinner and you're still on a million painkillers. I know your ribs and arm are still hurting and we don't have to kiss straight away. I'm not going anywhere." Pran's voice grew more serious by the end and Pat watched him, both of them remembering what had happened after the rooftop. Pat remembered the endless knocking on Pran's door, just to get him to answer. This was Pran saying that he wouldn't do that again.

"Promise?" Pat asked, half teasing, half not. Pran nodded and brushed his knuckles over Pat's bruised cheek where the bootprint was getting a little too visible. He hadn't even been kicked that hard, but he bruised really easily.

"Did you want to take a shower before going out?" Pran asked. Pat looked down at the cast and made a face. It was always such a pain getting the cast all wrapped up and then having to redo any dressings which had gotten damp.

"Nah, I'll have one later." Pran nodded and accepted this, so Pat was sure he didn't smell too bad. He went over to sit on Pran's sofa, enjoying how even the cushions smelled like Pran, as the man himself got a towel and clean clothes and headed into the bathroom. Pat had just heard the shower start up and was prepared to have a little doze on the sofa while waiting for Pran, when he heard someone knock on the door.

Pat looked around and sighed. He was going to have to get up, which was always an undertaking nowadays. At least Pat was already sitting up, which made standing up so much easier when he didn't have to use his upper body much. He went over and opened the door, prepared to tell whoever it was that Pran was in the shower and to come back later, when he noticed who it was.

"Oh. Wai." The two of them stared at each other for a moment, Wai looking almost horrified to see him while Pat was just surprised. There was something nice about being in Pran's apartment, rather than being the interloper trying to get around an overprotective friend. "Pran's in the shower. Did you want me to pass on a message for him? Or did you want to wait?" He was about to step back to let Wai in but the other boy just shook his head.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea. Especially not with how Pran's warned us off." That was something Pat wanted to raise with Pran later. Had he said something else to his friends? "But since you're here, I just wanted to say sorry."

"Okay?" Pat was a little confused. Wai and the others had wanted to beat him up and yeah, Pat got a little more hurt than anyone really expected or wanted, but he was surprised at Wai apologising for that.

"I mean it," Wai said, looking pained. He kept glancing at Pat's cheek and forehead, as well as the cast on his arm. "It was a stupid plan in the first place and I shouldn't have gone through with it. I can't speak with the others but I didn't apologise the day after because Pran had asked us not to go near you. When I heard you had gone into hospital and about your arm and your head, I knew we had gone too far. If I was pissed off at you, I should have just fought you one on one."

"Yeah, you should have," Pat said, surprising himself a little. "Fighting me because you thought I was hurting your friend is one thing but four people ambushing me on the beach was a little much, don't you think?" He grinned as Wai looked at him directly.

"It was, yeah. I know I should go and tell the professors about it but I can't."

"Oh no, don't do that. It wasn't that bad." Pat shrugged but was a little too rough with it and ended up hiding a wince. Not terribly well if Wai's sardonic look was anything to go by. "Look, Pran would be upset if you lot were expelled. And it wasn't that big."

"Pat, who are you talking to?" Pran was suddenly right there behind the door and Pat startled guiltily, he hadn't heard the shower stop or Pran come out. He was going to hide the fact that it was Wai but then Pran saw who it was and his whole face changed.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Pat had never really heard Pran sound so cold before. Even when he had been angry with Pat, there was always some kind of passion behind the arguments. What Wai was getting wasn't even cold fire, it was just pure ice. A week ago, Pat would have been happy with Pran choosing him so obviously over Wai but now it was just upsetting because this was hurting Pran. "I told you not to go near him."

"Pran, this is your room," Pat said because he had a feeling Wai saying anything right now would just make things worse. "It's fine, we were just talking." He got in the way as it looked like Pran was about to go barrelling out of the room and punch Wai in the face and Pran skidded to a halt. "Come on, Pran, I don't want to have to get between you two. I'm pretty sure that wasn't what the doctor ordered and you told me to do what the doctor ordered."

"Who asked you to get between us?" Pran snapped but the intensity of the rage died slightly. "Leave, Wai. I don't want to talk to you."

"Okay, Pran," Wai said quietly and then left. Pat spared a moment of sympathy for him but then he went back to focusing on Pran. He had gone from relaxed and happy to tense and stressed and Pat hated seeing him like this.

"What did he want to talk to you about?" Pran asked. It looked like he couldn't sit still but he didn't know what he wanted to focus on right now. Pat closed the door behind him and wondered if he should try and touch Pran, bring him out of it.

"I think he wanted to talk to you," Pat said quietly. "He wasn't expecting me. He apologised and I told him he had stupid plans but I accepted it."

"How?" Pran asked, his eyes getting a little wild. "How can you forgive him so easily?"

"Pran, he's your friend," Pat said as he watched Pran pace his room.

"I know and that makes it worse!" Pran gestured wildly and then scrubbed a hand through his hair. He looked like a startled porcupine afterwards but it wasn't funny at the moment. "He's my friend and he did that to you because you had what? Tried to get me to talk to you again? Someone kicked you in the head, you could have been really hurt and I wouldn't have even be able to visit you in hospital. The last thing you would remember would be me ignoring you."

Pat finally realised what was going on. Finding him had terrified Pran and now he had time to think about the possibilities and the chances of things going wrong, it had only gotten worse. He felt betrayed by Wai but Pat thought Pran's anger was far greater than it would be just because he had been so scared.

"But I'm fine, Pran." He grabbed Pran's shoulder and gently pulled him round to face him. "They're your friends. They were misguided and stupid, I know something about that, but you have to forgive them. You can't fight on every front, Pran." As always, the looming shadow of their parents coloured their every conversation about the future. Being friends, being boyfriends, was taking a big risk and Pat wasn't ignorant of that, even if he thought Pran was worth the risk.

"I know," Pran managed to get out. "I will forgive them eventually. But I just need you to heal up a little, just so I'm not reminded of how much you got hurt every time I see them."

"That's fair." Pat thought about if the situation was reversed and his friends had beat up Pran enough to put him in hospital. "If things were the other way around, I would be the same." Actually he probably would have punched his friends a few times but he knew Pran liked to tear someone apart with words and was all the more devastating for it. There were a bunch of times where Pat would have preferred a punch in the face from Pran, rather than what he had ended up saying.

"Can we just not talk about them tonight? Our friends, our parents, anything like that." Pat loved that idea and grinned at the thought of getting Pran all to himself, no one interfering for once. He nodded and gestured Pran closer. He stepped into Pat's arms, though the one with the cast was just kind of slung around Pran's waist in an awkward way. Pat nuzzled his nose into the skin beneath Pran's jaw, loving the fresh scent coming off Pran's skin.

"You smell nice," he said, making sure his lips brushed against Pran's skin with every word so he could enjoy the shiver he stirred.

"You are such a weirdo," Pran said, his voice so much softer than the words he was saying. "Why do you like how I smell so much?" His fingers gripped Pat's T-shirt, pulling him in closer so there was barely a finger's width between their bodies.

"No one else smells like you." Pat rubbed the tip of his nose against Pran's skin and then gave the same spot a gentle kiss. "It's all Pran." He could feel Pran's shoulders shaking and the muffled snort of laughter coming from Pran. "Pran's the best," Pat added and could feel Pran softening even without looking at his face.

"Pat's the best," Pran said, so quietly that Pat wasn't entirely sure he was meant to have heard. The instinct to draw back and make a joke of it was strong but Pran was so warm against him that Pat didn't want to move.

Pat might have to thank Wai and Louis and the others. He hated how hurt and upset Pran was at this whole thing but Pat found it hard to believe they would be here now if it hadn't been for Pat being hurt like this. He would gladly take several broken ribs to get Pran with him like this. Soon they would have to separate to go for dinner but they felt like they were on the same side now. And if Pat had to get injured to achieve that, he would gladly go through it all again.

Maybe he shouldn't mention that to Pran anytime soon though.

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, Pran walked up to the bench where Wai was waiting for him. Pran felt better when he looked at his friend. The anger had almost burnt itself out, healing at the same rate as Pat's injuries. Pran had to stop Pat using his cast as a club to hit his friends with and that, more than anything Pat could say, convinced Pran he was in far less pain than before. The doctor had warned his arm and ribs were still healing so caution was advised but all the bruises and muscle damage were gone, leaving Pat full of energy and unable to go on the rugby field to burn it off. It meant Pran could kiss him without fear and look at him without the attack being the first thing he thought of.

"Pran." Wai stood up as he noticed Pran. He looked more apologetic than Pran had ever seen him, even more than he had when he had come to Pran's room that first day.

"Hey, Wai." Pran walked over and sat on the opposite side of the bench. "How are you?" Safe had been a sort of go-between Pran and Louis and Wai, but Pran hadn't asked too much how they were doing. First it was due to the anger which coloured every thought of his friends and then it was because he knew just how awkward Safe found the whole situation.

"I've been doing okay. What about you? And Pat?" The look in Wai's eyes said he wasn't sure it was wise to ask about Pat but he was going to do it anyway. Pran appreciated it, more than he would ever tell Wai, because it made him feel like they would actually be able to move forward. They weren't going to pretend like this whole thing hadn't happened.

"He's doing really good," Pran answered. "The bruises and marks are gone and the doctor was pleased with how well his ribs and arm were healing. Now he just wants to get back to rugby."

"Yeah, course." Wai nodded. An awkward silence fell between the two of them. Pran mourned the way distance had fallen between them, how it felt like something had changed irrevocably, but he couldn't bring himself to regret the way he acted. If anything permanent had happened to Pat, there was a good chance that Pran would have never been able to look at Wai again, let alone forgive him. But, as Pat liked to remind him, he couldn't keep hating people because of what-ifs.

"Pat and I, we're dating now." Pran had been so scared about telling his friends when he and Pat first kissed, seeing them as another hurdle to worry about. Now it barely mattered. Pran knew he could survive without them and he had other people in his life who could help him carry on. But Pat's friends had been unsurprised when Pat had told them, unconcerned about any rivalry between their faculties or their seniors' reactions, and Pran just wanted that for himself. He wanted his friends to show Pran had been right to trust them, to befriend them.

"Yeah?" Wai looked on edge but unsurprised and Pran wondered if they had been that obvious. If Korn was here, he would say yes without a doubt.

"Yes. That was why Pat came on the trip in the first place. We had kissed and I was ignoring his attempts to talk about it." Pran didn't want any secrets between him and his friends anymore, even if they hated him for it, but most of all he wanted them to understand. He and Pat, they were something that couldn't be pushed or forced away. Pran's parents had tried, Pat's parents had tried but all they had done was made sure neither of them could see a life without the other in it.

"Oh," Wai said and then his eyes widened. "Oh."

"Can you not say it like that?" Pran pointed out.

"Like what?" Wai's lips were starting to curve into a smirk, obviously reading Pran's tone correctly.

"Like a million things suddenly make sense," Pran complained. "Paa had the same reaction when we told her. And Pat's friends."

Wai tilted his head to the side a little. "So you've been hanging out with the engineers recently." Wai's tone was neutral but Pran could feel himself starting to tense.

"Yeah, why?" He wanted to say something, to explain that it was because they were Pat's friends and Pat was injured and Pran was the only one who knew everything that was going on, but he didn't. He wasn't going to justify anything about that and he prepared to shut Wai down if he wanted it. "They're very like Pat sometimes," he murmured and then cursed himself for even giving this much of an explanation.

"They're like your harem," Wai said in a wondering tone and if Pran had a drink right now, he would be choking on it.

"What the fuck? No, no they're not." Wai's shit-eating grin said he definitely wasn't going to let this go.

"It's okay, Pran," Wai said, a mock-serious look on his face. "Louis and I will be properly respectful of all your boyfriends. We might even be nice."

"You're an arsehole," Pran said simply and Wai laughed. "No, seriously, if you say anything about this, Pat will give me the big eyes and Korn will never let it go." It would be ten years on and Korn would make jokes about it at Pat and Pran's wedding. He would make jokes about it at his own wedding. There would be no rest.

"Oh really?" Wai looked delighted at this information.

"I take it back. They're not like Pat, you're like them," Pran shot back and Wai laughed. Any awkwardness between them was gone and for the first time, Pran could see how their friendship might move forward in the future. It was good, he was glad he came.

 

He met Pat for lunch afterwards and as soon as he saw his boyfriend, he knew Pat had been worrying about this just as much as Pran had. The very thought of it made his chest feel warm, as if a miniature sun had taken up resident in there. Pran would call this sun 'Pat' if he wasn't sure his boyfriend would find out about it somehow and practically expire with how romantic it was.

"So?" Pat asked. He grabbed Pran's hand and gently pulled him down to sitting, not letting go even when Pran was seated. His other hand smoothed over Pran's knee in a way that Pran wasn't even sure he realised he was doing. He just touched Pran like that now he was allowed. "How did it go?"

"Really well." Pran smiled and brushed his fingers over Pat's cheek. There was no mark now, Pat's skin was as smooth as ever. No reminder for Pran for what could have been and with it, the hurt was fading too. "I think when your friends and my friends become vaguely civil towards each other though, we're never going to get any peace."

Pat laughed just like Pran knew he would and love for his boyfriend filled him to the brim. Pat made him happier than he ever thought he could be and Pran wished he could find some way of telling him how much he meant to Pran. Words didn't seem to be enough but Pat seemed to understand anyway. Maybe it was because he felt the same way about Pran.

"It's okay, when they're ganging up on us, we'll just sneak away." Pat leaned in closer, obviously teasing Pran with kissing him in public. Pran didn't lean away, rising up to meet the tease in a competitive way he was sure they would never really lose. Pat gave him a sniff kiss and Pran laughed, embarrassed and so, so fond.

"I guess there are worse ideas in the world," he managed to say, not being able to let Pat get the last word in. "Want to sneak away now?" Pran didn't care about the food or the people watching. Pat had all his attention and that was exactly where it was supposed to be.