Pete was stupid.
Kao thought so and you could never change his mind about it.
He hated him.
Hated how he teased him at the most random of times. Hated how blinded he always was by his sunshine-like smile. Hated the scowl that never ceased to bring flutters into his chest. Hated the tough act that seemed to hide the softest of hearts.
Kao hated how Pete always found a way to distract him from doing his work. He'd lightly sit there and stare at Kao, a half grin half smirk adorning his tanned face as his eyes bored holes into his boyfriend.
"𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘵 𝘮𝘦? 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘦?"
Pete would sigh. A lightness to his chuckle as his gaze never wavered from Kao's frame. Eyes racking over him before settling at his furrowed brows and slight pout before the smile would stretch even wider.
"𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘺 𝘴𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵."
Kao would scowl, throw a sarcastic comment and look away, but try as he might he could never say no to his boyfriend. So they'd end up hours later tangled with each other on the bed, heartbeats synchronized as they hang on to one another's tiny little breaths.
It was always at moments like these, little aspects of his boyfriend that made Kao certain that he was a goner. He knew him and Pete had a rocky start. He'd tried as hard as he could to not fall for the handsome asshole with a sharp tongue who seemed to love picking fights. Knew that it would be hard, especially if he were to face his mother with his sexuality. Something that was a fundamental part of him to one of the people closest to his heart. And hard it was.
For a better part of their relationship, he'd kept the secret from his mother, always overthinking, constantly looking over his shoulder in fear. Something that had played a part in the misunderstandings they constantly faced, but as it turned out, he had nothing to fear. His mother had been her usual supportive self; soft smiles, light hugs and reassuring hands that weaved through his hair lightly.
If anyone had told Kao a few years prior that Pete's very presence would be a lulling and calming anchor, he'd have laughed at their face and probably recommended a mental institute. But here he was. Weak at the knees from a single touch, eyes alight whenever he'd lay them on his tanned skin and beautiful hair, tone soft as he'd get lost in those deep hazel brown eyes. It was a wonder he was still alive with all the butterflies that his boyfriend managed to free within him.
Pete was his constant.
Funny thing about constants, one never imagines that they'd be stripped away.
The first time it had happened, Kao had been at work, his internship fully exhausting yet, fulfilling. He'd barely managed to pocket his phone before rushing out of the building, forgetting to even alert his supervisor, and to his boyfriend's side. Apparently, Pete had collapsed at work and had been brought in by a college, P'Dan. The anxiety that had been crawling at his skin, itching to explode within his very being was dangerously creeping behind the thoughts jumbled around his brain. He couldn't make sense of anything else. All he wanted was to see his Pete. Touch him. And make sure he was safe.
"𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘦, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸?"
Except he did.
He wished he'd seen it sooner. Noticed the signs as clear as crystal, pointing him in a direction his subconscious apparently refused to head into. Pete was eating less, his usual chocolate skin paler than ever; having a hint of grayness, the sparkly eyes had dimmed the slightest. How had he not seen it?
"𝘒𝘢𝘰, 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘭𝘺, 𝘐'𝘮 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺. 𝘐 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘦."
Except he wasn't.
The hospital visits grew. And so had the fragility surrounding Pete. They'd spend at least a week in the hospital in a month. Kao had practically memorized those halls; familiar and heavy steps dragging towards his beloved's room. Doctors having been confused, finally deciding it was time he be admitted.
He should've known.
"𝘐'𝘮 𝘴𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺, 𝘔𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘱𝘰𝘰𝘮. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘢𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯'𝘵 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘰 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥."
"𝘞-𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘥𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯?" He'd trembled. Fists closing in so hard until his palms bled through. "𝘏𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘦. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘩𝘦'𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘦. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘩𝘪𝘮."
"𝘞𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬𝘶𝘱." The documents he'd passed him might as well have been cryptic codes. His brain working a mile a minute as the blood rushed to his ears, defining the sounds coming out of the doctor's mouth. His lips trembled, opened up, before they froze and clamped back in silence. The ringing hadn't stopped. Kao wished it would so he could at least get his bearings straight. But it didn't. He sat there in silence, long after the young doctor had left him to his thoughts.
Is this what it felt like to have your heart pierced?
Pete had always had a way with words. Despite his foul mouth and colorful and harsh words, the softest of his tones had always been directed towards Kao. Even now, when he laid there, pale skin and tired eyes that shone with love, his tone was ever-so-soft. A hand stretched out, engulfing his lover's pale digits in his own, stroking the skin as if it might break if handled with anything but lightness.
"𝘋𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘥, 𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘺. 𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺. 𝘐'𝘮 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘐 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘦."
Even as he struggled with his words, Pete was still there, stupidly consoling him and wiping his tears as they refused to stop leaking. Tiny smile and soft touches.
Had he mentioned how much he hated Pete?
"𝘕𝘰 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘯'𝘵! 𝘠𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘥𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘗𝘦𝘵𝘦! 𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘦 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯, 𝘤𝘢𝘯'𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘦𝘦? 𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨!" And the fool had still smiled at Kao, as if he hadn't just been told that he wasn't going to be living for long, eyes holding a steely determination as they pulled his boyfriend to his arms and caging him. Kao's arms encircled his torso, head lodging in the crook of Pete's neck, frame trembling with heavy breaths and muffled sobs. Kao could never imagine his life without him. How could Pete still say that everything would be okay?
His sobs echoed in the empty room. Pete's dad had excused himself earlier after talking to the doctor, face pale before giving them space. Hands clutched to the shirts of his lover, Kao refused to let him go as he bawled for hours in Pete's arms. But never once had Pete left the smile that stretched his face.
"𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘦-"
"𝘕𝘰! 𝘕𝘰𝘱𝘦." Kao hiccuped. "𝘞𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵. 𝘠𝘰𝘶'𝘭𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦, 𝘥𝘰 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘦?! 𝘖𝘳 𝘐 𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰𝘥 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩! 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘦, 𝘗𝘦𝘵𝘦 𝘝𝘪𝘩𝘰𝘬𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘢?! 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘦'𝘭𝘭 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘱𝘵 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘥𝘰𝘨! 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘭𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘪𝘦, 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘶𝘯𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘣𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘸𝘦'𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘭𝘺!" His already hoarse throat had protested at the use but he didn't care. He had to tell him. Pete had to live. Or else he wouldn't know what to do with his life.
"𝘖𝘬𝘢𝘺." There was that smile again. "𝘐𝘵'𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺." Kao would rather believe it. He'd rather push down the horrible dread that was bubbling from his core, threatening to drown him from within. He'd much rather smile back at Pete and kiss him. Because Pete had to live.
"𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶."
"𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘵𝘰𝘰."
Surprisingly for Kao, the moment had been anticlimactic. Peaceful even. He'd imagined storms or hurricanes or even some rain to reflect his mood, but the day had been as sunny as Pete liked. Golden rays soft as they paddled across chocolate and pale skin. Kao's hand held his. Tightly, as they laid together, foreheads pressed against one another and heartbeats and breaths in sync. A pale hand had been tracing the other's face, eyes unblinking as they burned each one of his lover's features, as if to hold onto for eternity.
The wind had flowed from the open window and a soft breeze had swung Pete's bangs. The smile ever present on his face. His eyes carried content and shone with happiness, lips pressing a quick kiss to Kao's palm.
He'd known it was coming, hadn't he? And yet...
"𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶."
"𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘵𝘰𝘰."
Those deep eyes had closed slowly and the smile curved just a little as he found peace. Kao's heart slowed to a still as he could no longer feel the other's beating one. The silence and tranquility were detachedly numb as if he were standing in the eye of the storm. He blinked. And blinked. And again. Before he'd realized that the tears he'd long thought were dried up came gently falling. Somewhere in the world a star had burned out and Kao had no idea how he'd felt that happening.
His forehead still pressed to the other's, he closed his eyes, lashes fluttering wet. His heart rate continued to slow down, eyes replaying Pete's smile and soft words over and over again. And as if the universe had complied, far in the universe, another star right next to the first slowly burned out.
It was in that way, entangled in each other, that a nurse had found them. Peaceful as they'd slept forever. Together. Because there was no Kao if there was no Pete.