It wasn’t even yet 00:15 in the morning and Tine was already regretting possibly every decision he’d ever made leading up to this moment. The first of which being his pathetically plain bagel he’d chosen for lunch, the second being sitting down with a very desperate Pear, who was definitely aware of his inability to say no to his friends.
“I’m telling you, Tine, I need your help with this. I seriously have no idea how to talk to her,” said friend’s head was in her hands, dark hair spilling over the table as well as her sandwich which Tine was currently salivating over. “She’s just- she’s so pretty! And way, way out of my league! C’mon Tine, please?” Tine sighed, already knowing who would win this battle. Truth was, Pear had helped him more times than he could count, and therefore he felt it his responsibility to help in her rather frequent romantic endeavors. However, he’d never seen her this simultaneously lovesick and devastated before. Normally, he simply pushed her and her new crush in the right direction, giving advice and causing plenty of coincidental meetups. This, though? Being asked to ditch his friends (and the cute girls) from the swim team to join the music club of all things, all for one person? Tine couldn’t quite fathom it. Granted, he hadn’t exactly officially enrolled in any other clubs yet, and he wasn’t particularly fond of swimming, but no way was he going to miss his chance to ogle chiseled abs and leopard print bikinis!
(This, of course, was something Tine already knew was a lie. He wasn’t going to refuse Pear and she knew it.)
“Look, I just...I really care about her, y’know? I don’t think I’ve ever connected with someone like this before. I understand if you don’t want to uproot your plans for me, I really do. I promise I wouldn’t be asking you if I knew how to do this myself,” Pear is so clearly sincere, big brown eyes filled with regret, that the last few pieces of Tine’s resolve shatter at that very moment. “Okay, I’ll join the music club with you. You asked the right person- Mr. Chic can get any two people together in a heartbeat!”
It turns out, kickstarting someone else’s relationship might take a few more heartbeats than hoped.
Tine felt more out of place than he had since high school choir, shifting uncomfortably on the floor. Pear sat next to him, looking equally as nervous, eyes darting around in an attempt to find Earn. There was a worryingly large amount of new students enrolling for the music club, and Tine couldn’t figure out for the life of him why. The rest of these people didn’t also have secret crushes on musicians, right? A girl with long, cherry brown hair in twin ponytails stood up, smiling widely as she pushed her bangs out of her eyes. “Hi guys! My name is Air, and I’m a club secretary. This is P’Dim, our club president.” To Tine’s dismay the much more welcoming face of Air was apparently not the one he’d be reporting to. Instead, nearby students started a drumroll, which was quickly halted by the raise of a palm. A tall man with dark hair who Tine assumed was P’Dim stood up from his chair, clapping his hands together as his eyes narrowed. “Our music club was founded almost thirty years ago. It has brought fame and admiration to our university. But this year...” His voice dropped off, glare sharpening impossibly further as he scanned the room. “I hear that many of you join our club because of some guy.”
Tine turned to look at Pear in confusion, who was rolling her eyes. What guy?! At least it wasn’t Earn they were after, he reasoned. He saw the other students were almost all looking towards the left side of the room, and figured that was where he’d find answers. Peering over the person who sat in front of him, Tine scoured the room for all of a second before-
Who the hell was that.
Likely the most handsome person Tine had ever seen sat nonchalantly in a chair, one leg crossed over the other and rolling his pupils. Fluffy, light brown curls hung over large, dark Bambi eyes, low lidded and framed by lashes long as moth wings. His mouth was slightly parted, showing white teeth beneath soft, pink lips, and a jaw that would have looked gentle if it weren’t for his irritated expression. His white dress shirt was slightly unbuttoned, revealing an infuriatingly gorgeous collarbone, and Tine couldn’t help but notice the way his fingers were nervously tapping a rhythm on his knee, parallel to his devil-may-care body language. His nose scrunched slightly, brows furrowing, and his gaze flicked away, seemingly shy at the level of attention he was receiving. The way he lowered his head and curled his knuckles as his eyes darted back and forth reminded Tine of a cautious kitten. Putting it plain and simple- he was the most beautiful person Tine had ever seen, and by a long shot. His face had the capability to look so sharp and unforgiving even though he had relatively soft facial features, his eyes incredibly expressive and with hands that looked as slender and smooth as the surface of his guitar. He was mesmerizing. Tine could hardly rip his eyes away.
But, it seemed, he was quite the jerk, something promptly revealed by Pear who leaned into his ear to whisper, “He’s been an asshole to every single person who’s been nice to him. I can see how having all of these fans would be overwhelming, but he doesn’t even seem to treat his friends right!” Tine turned to ask Pear why in the world some random student would have fans, even if he was unfairly attractive, and also how it seemed he was the only person in the entire university who had missed this news, but unfortunately he was unable to as Dim continued his monologue. “If you are only here just to chase a guy, get up and find your way out.” Tine couldn’t help but give Pear a pointed look- which she quickly and nervously rebutted with, “He never said anything about a girl!” The room grew silent for a few seconds before nearly all the new recruits stood up and began to head for the door. P’Dim’s eyes flashed with panic and shock. “W-wait!” He called, holding up a palm. Everyone paused, looking back with eyes full of hope. Tine was baffled. “As long as you love music, we don’t mind how it all starts.” Tine chuckled- P’Dim sure changed his tune fast. The students rushed to claim their spots again, while Air whispered something into Dim’s ear. Tine turned to Pear with a smile and gave her a quick high five. “We did it!” Pear grinned back at him, hands twisting in her pink cardigan with nervous glee. She then brought her gaze back over to Earn, who gave her an encouraging, yet confused thumbs up, which promptly turned her red as a beet. Tine stifled a laugh- maybe this wouldn’t be as boring as he thought.
It turned out, P’Dim wasn’t such a stickler after all, as the very next thing the club did was the ‘special welcoming ceremony’ in which all students were required to dance, sing, and participate in a few different games. Tine thought this was possibly the best club initiation night of his life. Pear was not so enthused.
“I can’t dance, Tine!” She hissed, tugging at her skirt as her gaze flicked back to Earn. “Or sing! I’m going to make an absolute fool of myself!” Tine rolled his eyes before gently grabbing her by the wrist and pulling her to the front. She squeaked and immediately began trying to worm her way back to the middle, but he tugged her next to him. “You said you don’t want to make a fool of yourself, right? Well, Earn is in the back. This is the furthest from her you can get!” What he didn’t tell her was that Earn would most certainly see her at some point, but Tine was certain she’d be nothing but charmed by Pear’s amateur dancing skills. Once she got comfortable, even Tine had to admit she was extremely cute. He gave her a reassuring grin before turning back towards the front, where P’Dim and P’Air stood. Dim looked much cheerier than earlier, a wide smile spread across his face as he clapped his hands to bring everyone’s attention up front.
“Before you become our club members, you have to go through our special welcoming ceremony.” Tine couldn’t stifle the giggle that escaped from him upon seeing the ridiculous bejeweled cowboy hat and boots the club president was wearing. “You all need to sing these famous songs so loud that every being in this place can hear.” Tine was delighted at this, but practically felt Pear shrivel beside him. He gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze, trying to give her the most understanding expression he could. He wasn’t sure if he did a very good job, but she looked up and gave him a small, shaky smile nonetheless. “And that would be ‘Roasted Chicken’ and many activity songs,” Air added, soft voice amplified through a tinny loudspeaker. “Now everyone, get dancing!”
Tine immediately did the most dramatic rendition of the Roasted Chicken dance that he could, in the hopes that his ridiculousness would help Pear to come out of her shell. He quickly began stepping side to side in the rhythm of the others’ voices, wagging his arms like chicken wings with an ear splitting grin. He had very clear memories of desperately trying to convince Type to do this with him as a child, only to see the most stiff and painful looking ‘dance’ he’d ever witnessed. It was a memory he held close to his heart.
It appeared maybe he’d been a little too excited at the prospect of dancing, because as he sang he almost immediately felt eyes on him. He turned to see if it was Pear, only to see her halfheartedly wagging her hands while gazing at Earn with lovesick eyes. Yeah, she definitely wasn’t paying attention to him anytime soon. He looked to his left only to nearly jump out of his skin as he was met face to face with Handsome Guy (as he’d generously dubbed him in his head) who was looking at him so intensely Tine thought he would combust on the spot. The guy was staring at him like he intended to burn through him, and Tine thought he might succeed with the way his insides coiled into a hot mess and his cheeks turned bright red. He immediately concluded that Handsome Guy must own a pair of laser eyes. Tine tilted his head in confusion, pausing his dancing, and the moment Handsome Guy realized he’d been caught, he quickly looked away, pink dusting his cheeks. Tine was incredibly confused. His chicken dance couldn’t be so bad that someone else was getting secondhand embarrassment and looked good doing it, could it?
Once the song ended, Tine could see that Pear had loosened up a bit and he felt considerably better. Whatever, it didn’t matter if some guy was trying to incinerate him, he would dance however he wanted, embarrassing or not. “For the next song, come out here, Sarawat,” Dim spoke with a smirk on his face. Tine’s brow furrowed as his eyes went on a quest to find out who Sarawat was, only to see Handsome Guy next to him looking reluctant and uncomfortable. (It was still a good look on him.) “Come on out,” P’Dim chided, grin growing ever wider. With a long suffering sigh, Handsome Guy- Sarawat- trudged up to the front. He looked like such a kicked puppy once put in the spotlight that Tine could hardly believe the boy had ever done a wrong thing in his life. “The reason to dance is that,” Dim continued, putting a hand on Sarawat’s shoulder, “When we are on stage, we are all stiff,” He gave Sarawat a pointed look. “This will break the ice and make you relax.” Something told Tine his companion wouldn’t be relaxing anytime soon.
Sarawat was pushed over towards the center, looking more nervous by the second. Tine really wished he’d been the one picked instead, but the rest of the club seemed delighted, cheering and squealing at his every movement. “The song ‘Apple Papaya Banana Orange’ is next up!” Air announced, before delving straight into singing, voice booming through the loudspeaker. Sarawat was stiffly shuffling from side to side, eyes averting the crowd and not even trying to sing. He was the pinnacle of anxiety, and Tine couldn’t find out for the life of him why no one else seemed to realize, or care. Finally, the song ended, and Sarawat gave the audience an awkward nod before speed walking away, this time as far in the back as he could go. At first, Tine felt guilty at how uncomfortable he’d obviously been in the situation- but then he was shocked by the fact that the person Sarawat had gone over to talk to was Earn. They appeared to be close, too, Earn leaning over and whispering something in his ear with a grin, only for him to playfully shove her away with a roll of his eyes. For a panicked moment, Tine wondered if they were together- but no, that couldn’t be right, Pear had specifically said Earn was single. So then...Tine suddenly did a little hop, a smile lighting up his whole face. He couldn’t talk to Earn about this, but if Sarawat was close to Earn, then he could use him to find out more information about her! It felt a lot safer than asking directly from Earn, as she’d likely either 1. get suspicious or 2. think he was the one hitting on her. This, this was the perfect plan!
Except then Tine remembered exactly how anxious Sarawat had looked when used for entertainment for the rest of the club, and a stone dropped in his stomach labeled with ‘worst person in the world’.
He didn’t have much time to mull over the idea, though, because next thing he knew P’Dim was calling his name. “I need a cheerleader. Tine, come over here!” He looked around for a few more moments before realizing yes, he was the only Tine that Dim was referring to, and stepped forward with a smile on his face. He was more than happy to show Mr. Chic’s renowned chicken dance in front of the rest of the club.
After a few riveting rounds of ‘Roasted Chicken’ they moved onto a new game, one much more partner centered. It was a sort of spider dance, where one person bounced up and down underneath the other, who was to do the same motion but elevated. It seemed rather...sensual by school standards, but the other students looked so stupid doing it that Tine couldn’t help but laugh. Dim’s demonstrations were also something he’d fondly look back on whenever the club president tried to be ‘no more mr nice guy’ again.
Problem was, Tine’s partner was Sarawat. Now, although Sarawat was extremely handsome, normally Tine was fairly mellow when it came to these types of things- or at least tried to be. Sarawat, on the other hand, looked like he was about to be sick. His face got redder and redder the closer they got to their turn, kept licking his lips and wouldn’t meet Tine’s gaze, eyes darting all around the room and fingers twisting in the bottom of his shirt. Tine almost felt nervous just looking at him. He was quickly reminded of how he’d looked up in front of everyone, and that was only a few minutes for a simple dance. The constant attention on him must be torture- Tine didn’t blame him for appearing a little standoffish, if he was such an introvert. Finally, when they were third in line, he came up with a solution.
“You should go partner with Earn instead,” he spoke nonchalantly, gently pushing Sarawat in her general direction. She’d already gone once, with someone other than Pear (Pear had been far too nervous to even breathe around her, much less be her partner) but Tine doubted P’Dim would care. “Why?” He was jolted out of his thoughts by a soft, velvety voice, and looked up to see Sarawat looking back with confusion and something close to hurt. Tine gnawed at his lip, contemplating what to say before giving up. “I can tell you’re uncomfortable doing this with someone you don’t know. I figured you’d be better off with her, and I’m fine doing the dance with whoever.” He gave Sarawat what he hoped was a reassuring smile. His companion blinked (big, dark eyes, silky, long lashes) before schooling his expression into neutrality. “Uh, okay. Thanks.” He stood in his spot for a second too long before seeming to notice what he was doing and gave Tine a curt nod, stiffly walking over to Earn. Tine went over to find Pear again- this way there wouldn’t be an odd person out.
Next was possibly the most cliche and simultaneously perfect game that could’ve possibly been chosen. Two partners each took a single snack in between their lips, inching closer and closer to each other as it was eaten, until they inevitably kissed. Tine didn’t exactly understand what the particular point of this game was, or who it was that won in the situation- but he knew he had to get Pear and Earn together.
Except, there was one not-so-small issue- he was paired with Earn.
He couldn’t deny that she was pretty, with a gentle face, auburn hair, and a smile that lit up the room. She didn’t seem fazed by the fact that she was paired up with him. Tine, on the other hand, was frantically looking for Pear, who he finally located with no one other than Sarawat. Pear gave him a look that very clearly said both ‘don’t you dare get me with Earn, I won’t be able to take it’ and ‘please god let me be Earn’s partner’. Tine decided to rely on the latter.
He scrambled to come up with a plan, realizing he didn’t have much time and simply blurted the first thing that came to mind. “Uh, Earn? I think we should switch partners with Sarawat and Pear, Pear has a crush on someone and she probably isn’t comfortable doing this with another person. She’d feel a lot better if it was you,” he gave Earn a wobbly smile, flinching more at every word that came out of his mouth. Wow, way to not be obvious. Earn blinked, something flashing through her expression before she nodded, giving him a sweet smile in return. Tine breathed out a sigh of relief and walked over to Pear.
“Hey, Pear,” Earn grinned at her and Pear blushed profusely, mouth hanging open slightly. “U-uh, yeah? What is it?” Her eyes darted back and forth between her and Tine. “Well, we just thought we should switch partners,” Sarawat looked ready to faint and Tine felt increasingly concerned. “Um, w-well, uh, yeah, s-sure! I agree! Let’s do that!” Tine winced at how squeaky Pear’s voice had become. Earn nodded and headed over to the center. Pear turned to look at Tine, face full of desperation and terror. He gave her a thumbs up, whispering ‘good luck!’ before pushing her over to where Earn was waiting. He felt about two seconds of smug accomplishment before he remembered who exactly his new partner was.
He turned towards Sarawat, who seemed to have already been looking at him, this time not bothering to look away. His expression was indecipherable. Tine let out an awkward chuckle, rubbing the back of his neck and averting his eyes. “Um, sorry, that was a bit...anticlimactic of me, wasn’t it?” Sarawat didn’t have time to respond before the two of them were being moved towards the center in a flurry of excited fans, who quickly circled around them once they were facing Dim.
“Alright you two, here you go!” P’Dim held out a cookie stick, which Sarawat gazed dumbfoundedly at. After a few awkward seconds, Tine leaned over and took it instead, placing it between his teeth. Sarawat just stared at him. Tine wiggled it up and down in his mouth, raising his eyebrows until his partner finally stepped forward and gingerly took the other end into his mouth.
With Sarawat’s popularity, Tine had been almost expecting him to act first and get it over with, but instead he was just...looking at him. Tine couldn’t make out what was flickering through his eyes. He could feel his own cheeks heat up as the standoff continued, the cheers from the other students fading into the background as he was encompassed by Sarawat’s gaze. It felt like an eternity before finally, finally he took a bite, inching the tiniest bit closer towards Tine. Tine took a considerably larger chunk, which had Sarawat frozen in place, looking like a deer in headlights. Tine sighed, realizing he’d have to take the reigns if he wanted to ever finish this game. He came closer and closer, nibbling on the snack ever so slowly- because how could he not, when Sarawat’s face was bright pink and his pupils bled into his irises in a pool of black, and his lips were open ever so slightly and his breath hitched and came out in soft puffs that glanced across Tine’s face-
Tine chomped down the rest of the stick.
It seemed he’d been correct, as Sarawat’s lips were soft and pliant. It only lasted a few seconds, but to his surprise, Sarawat almost immediately opened his mouth. Without thinking, Tine delved into it to take the remaining piece of cookie still lying on his tongue.
Well. He pulled back from a stiff as a statue Sarawat, dragging his palm across his mouth. That was certainly...an experience. Slightly disgusting, slightly surprising, and very, very stupid on Tine’s part. He could practically sense the amount of ridicule he was going to get from his brainless group of friends. Sarawat’s eyes were half lidded, mouth still parted as if his internal system had shut down on the spot. Tine took an awkward step back, which seemed to reboot his partner. Sarawat blinked a few times, as if he was still processing something, before his face fell back into an expression clearly meant to be indifferent, but far too soft to be read as such. The crowd around them was squealing and screeching their hearts out, which caused Tine’s face to become redder and redder. As nice as some extra attention was, he’d rather it have nothing to do with some false kiss in front of a bunch of fangirls. He wasn’t exactly a celebrity, and something about the hawk-like eyes watching his every move unnerved him. His posture was taut as a drawstring as he swallowed at the sudden dryness in his mouth.
He was shaken out of his stupor, however, when he felt himself being gently maneuvered back into the heart of the group. Warm hands gripped his shoulders firm enough to be grounding but gentle enough to trust. Out of nowhere, Tine found himself near where Earn and Pear were waiting in line. Looking around in confusion, he felt like a lost kid when his eyes finally met Sarawat’s- and really, those were Bambi eyes, weren’t they? Velvety and dark and heartbreakingly tender, and now Sarawat was speaking, and his voice was so syrupy and soft that Tine barely registered the words that were being said, just that he suddenly felt warm and sleepy and kind of like he wanted to listen to this man speak forever, and-
“-sorry about that. I’ll be out of your hair now.” The soothing voice was suddenly ripped away as Sarawat gave him an attempt at a smile and weaved his way back into the crowd, disappearing within an instant. Tine was dumbfounded- what the hell had just happened? Was this what it felt like to be on drugs? Had that cookie stick been spiked? All he knew was that this weird feeling in his stomach was very concerning and he wanted nothing to do with it. He was pretty sure he understood why the guy had so many fans for no reason now. How could he not, when he was so genuine and warm? It wasn’t just the ridiculous luck in genetics, but the absolute comfort and protection that practically radiated from the man. Tine was sure Sarawat could get anyone he wanted if he’d made Mr. Chic himself feel like that with just a few words. If all it took was a kiss to make Sarawat so comfortable and safe, then maybe he should let those fangirls at him after all.
Tine hadn’t even noticed he was still standing in a daze when Pear stiffly walked over to him with glassy eyes. Quickly snapping out of it, he put on a smirk as he raised an eyebrow. “So? How’d it go? Was it everything you dreamed of?” Pear slowly turned to him and nodded, a small, timid smile blooming on her bright red face. Tine couldn’t imagine it was anything more than an excruciatingly long drawn out peck, but after his unexpected endeavor he wasn’t really one to talk. “I think I could die right now and I’d be completely fine with it,” she was practically swooning by now, eyes full of stars as her grin grew ever wider. Her demeanor suddenly changed when she turned to him with concern. “Wait, but…I’m sorry you had to be paired with Sarawat because of me. I didn’t even think of that.” Tine regarded her with confusion, befuddled at the guilt in her voice. “Why would you be sorry? I completely understand why he has so many fans now, when he acts like that,” Pear looked even more dumbfounded than him and they both looked at each other with equally quizzical expressions. “…Uh…” Pear was the first one to break the silence that had fallen between them. “What do you mean, ‘acts like that’?” Tine was feeling more unsure by the second. “Yknow, so, well, gentle and considerate, and….” He trailed off, scratching at the abrupt heat on his neck and looking away. “I guess, he really knows how to use his looks to his advantage, right?” He glanced back in the hopes that Pear would now get what he meant, but she only shook her head with furrowed brows. “No, he doesn’t. He’s cold and selfish towards everyone he sees. It’s a miracle he has such a nice face when his personality is such a letdown. I don’t know what you’re talking about- did he act differently towards you?”
Suddenly, Tine didn’t feel so inclined to let Pear know what he meant. It now felt like some sacred thing, like if he told someone about Sarawat’s weird possibly-drug-induced-spell it would all fall apart and Sarawat would come back to scoff at him and beat him up or something. Maybe it was better to just let people think he was crazy. Or maybe it was true, and Sarawat had been an absolute asshole after all, but his twisted mind was too screwed up to register it. Either way, he was no longer as willing to share his experience, even though he did feel a spark of guilt at keeping this apparent anomaly from his best friend.
“Uh, nevermind. Don’t worry about it,” Pear looked ready to object and Tine quickly spoke again. “It sounds to me like you’re trying to change the subject here…the real question is, how did Earn react to the kiss?”
Pear was sent into another tangent of blubbering, flustered excuses and Tine hoped it would be enough to permanently distract him from the weird thoughts currently frying his brain.