“Did you mean it?”
Pran’s question is soft, barely noticeable over the whir of the fluorescent bulbs as they make their way downstairs.
Pat squeezes the fingers intertwined with his, tears drying over his cheeks, “I meant it.”
“Where would we even go?” There’s a slight note of desperation there and Pat has the inane urge to laugh. He doesn’t care where they go, he’d go anywhere, go as far as his feet and money could take them, as long as Pran was with him.
But Pran is a planner by nature. Even in his grief he needs a plan, a set of steps that he can follow when his world is crashing and burning.
And it takes Pat a second to come up with his answer because he’s not sure either.
But a place comes to him, a memory of a time when things were fragile between them and there were more questions and answers and the roar of waves soothed him.
“The beach. We’ll go to the beach.”
Pran doesn’t respond but his fingers squeeze back and then they’re hurrying down to Pran’s apartment. A duffel bag is filled with clothes, chargers, some of Pran’s books and other essentials. Pran places Nong Nao in there too along as he passes but pauses when Pat tugs the little doll out and drops it on the bed.
At the raised eyebrow, Pat shrugs, “I don’t need it. I have you.”
He says nothing about it being the doll his dad had given him when he’d had nightmares as a child, a gift brought without his wife knowing to soothe Pat as he slept.
Pran doesn’t question it nor does he blush at what would normally have been a flirtatious comment. He zips up the duffel, turns off the lights in the apartment and waits for Pat to slide a note to Pa under his own room.
They take Pat’s car to the bus station, leaving the keys in the glove box for Pa. There’s no hesitation as Pat rounds the car to catch Pran’s fingers in his, keeping him close as they pay for tickets and board the bus.
It’s when they’re seated and 2 minutes before their bus is about to depart that Pran’s breath hitches.
“Do…do you think we’re doing the right thing?”
Pat looks at him, at this boy who he loves, whose broken-hearted sobs hurt more than a bullet graze or a football injury. Pran’s eyes are still red-rimmed, fear swirling in those beautiful brown orbs but there’s trust…so much trust.
It’s why Pat leans forward and presses his lips to Pran’s forehead, “We’re doing the right thing. I’m done letting the world hurt you- hurt us.”
The bus roars to life under them, conductor rounding up the last-minute stragglers and Pat decides to ask too.
“Do you want to do this? We can get off right now.”
Pran’s phone rings then, his mother’s picture flashing across the screen. He glances between Pat and the phone and Pat is ready to tug them up and off the bus if need be.
But the finger hovering over the screen makes its decision, swiping left to end the call and Pran drops his phone into his bag.
He leans his head onto Pat’s shoulder, a gust of air leaving his lungs as the door shuts.
“You, me and the sea. That’s all I need.” He says, eyes closing as the bus finally pulls away from the station.
They’ve each got multiple calls and a variety of messages from their family by the time they reach Pranburi Beach but none of them respond. The only reason their friends haven’t joined the barrage yet is because of Pa.
Pat’s message to his sister had been short and to the point: they were going away, they were safe and they’d be back…sometime.
Because Pat knew they’d have to go back but he refused to let anyone have a say as to when. No one else was ever going to have a say in their lives anymore.
Dawn’s breaking when they disembark and they’re both exhausted but by unspoken agreement, they head for the beach instead of the inn where Pran’s reserved them a room.
Pat’s about to lower himself on the sand but Pran keeps him upright, unearthing a blanket from his duffel. It startles a laugh out of Pat as Pran gives it a quick snap and lays it out on the sand for them.
“What? I may be broken-hearted but I’m not about to dirty my pants. I might not be able to do laundry for a while.” Pran sniffs as he crosses his legs, eyes going soft when Pat giggles and drops beside him.
As it has over the last few hours, their fingers find each other and Pat rests his head on Pran’s shoulder this time, chest expanding with each lungful of salty sea breeze.
They sit like that for a bit, just feeling the warmth of one another, watching the sun creep its way above the horizon. But at Pat’s fourth twitch, Pran looks at him with a wry look.
“Are you cold or is there something you’re not telling me?”
Pat lets out a huff of amusement; trust Pran to still pick up on his idiosyncrasies even now, when they’re both hurting and they’ve run away from their families and friends…Pran’s still in tune with him.
And Pat wishes that he didn’t have to say anything. Because there is a chance that once Pran knows the truth, he might side with his mother. He’d have every right too, Pat knows.
But Pran’s looking at him, their fingers still clasped together, dark bags under his eyes from the lack of sleep and all the crying and Buddha above, he still looks so beautiful. So damn beautiful and Pat loves him. Loves him with every fibre of his soul.
“I’m sorry Pran.”
The apology is sudden enough that Pran jerks and his lips twist up in this terrible parody of a smile because a small frisson of fear has just entered his eyes.
“Why are you apologizing? What- you’re gonna leave me here on-”
Pat lunges forward, his free hand wrapping around Pran’s neck to bring their foreheads together, “No! No I’m not leaving you! Never, not until the day you’ve had enough of me or maybe even after that. I’m not leaving you.”
Pran blinks in confusion, “Then why-”
“All of this…this feud…our rivalry….every single thing that we’ve suffered. It started because of me- because of my dad. And because he didn’t have the decency to apologize.”
And Pat tells him the horrible truth, how his father had destroyed Pran’s mother’s future. That everything she’d told Pran was probably true about the disgusting family next door, that they really were cheaters and frauds and terrible and they didn’t deserve forgiveness-
Pat doesn’t realize he’s been crying till Pran reaches up to cup his cheeks, thumbs swiping the salt away, “Pat...”
“No, no this was all our fault. Pran- if…if he hadn’t done that… if he’d just apologized, none of this would have happened to us- your ma! We ruined her life! And you..you wouldn’t have had to transfer away and I’m sorry fuck I’m so sorry...”
He’s full on sobbing now and Pran pulls him forward, cradling Pat’s head on his chest, fingers stroking the hair. It’s reminiscent of them not 6 hours ago, a painful, agonizing role reversal where Pat is the one that breaks.
“Pat…sweetheart…this is not your fault. No, no it’s not.” Pran hushes any protest from his crying boyfriend, hands still cradling the man’s head, “Your dad’s mistakes are not your fault. You’re not him. You’re a better person than your dad. You always have been. I don’t blame you, I won’t ever, okay? It’s okay, just cry, I’m here, this isn’t your fault.”
Pat clutches him, tears still strong but there’s a lightness in his shoulders now and things are not okay, Pran knows that. He doesn’t know if things are ever going to be okay with their families.
But in this moment, with the sun and waves there by his side and the man he loves in his arms, Pran knows that at the very least, the two of them will be okay.
Junior and Leung Tong spot them during the second day and the young boy runs up to them immediately, recognizing them from the school trip last year.
To their relief, Tong doesn’t ask a lot of questions past the initial hellos. He simply raises an eyebrow and then asks if they'd be up to helping out with his boat and the zero-waste facility.
It’s a welcome distraction that keeps them both busy during the day. Pran’s always up for learning something new and Pat’s got a knack for working with his hands so they enjoy every moment spent with Tong and his young nephew. It also sparks new ideas for Pran in terms of the bus stops.
Their eco-friendly bus stop has been a hit on campus and Logtech had reached out to Pran a few weeks back, asking if he’d be interested in designing and refurbishing a few more stops around the university. Pran had been hesitant back then given his workload but now he sends them a response in the affirmative and jots down whatever ideas he can think of in the moment in a little notebook.
During the day, Pat and Pran aren’t often together, Tong taking advantage of Pat’s engineering expertise to fix up things around the villa and camp. Pran spends his time with Junior, running errands or helping the younger with homework and teasing Pat for coming back looking like he’s bathed in grease.
The days are fun and busy but the nights…each night is spent curled up against one another. Sometimes there are tears, salt sloping down their cheeks before the other kisses it away. Sometimes there are apologies, whispers of regret in the darkness of the room that is answered with the squeeze of fingers and forgiveness.
And sometimes there are questions…they’re looking for us, should we go back? When do we have to go back? Do we even want to go back? Can we stay here for the rest of our lives?
None of those questions are answered not because they don’t want to but because neither boy knows the answer to them.
They still stay in contact with their friend groups. It’s actually a heartwarming shock when Pran checks his buzzing phone to find out Wai has made a giant group chat adding not only their architecture friends but the engineering guys as well as Ink and Pa.
It’s even more heartwarming when every single one of them promises not to say a word and simply asks that Pat and Pran stay safe and be happy. And then Korn tells them to use protection and the moment is gone.
Pran sincerely hopes someone (read: Wai) hit the idiot upside the head.
Pran wakes up before Pat does in their shade-drawn room, mouth open as he yawns. There’s a sliver of afternoon light peeking through from a crack and dust motes dance away in the gleam, intricate movements that Pran watches quietly.
Tong and Junior are visiting family today and both Pat and Pran agreed that today would just be a sleep-in day. It’s as he’s checking the time on his phone that another call comes in from his father, a call that goes ignored just as it has for the past few days.
It makes his heart heavy, seeing the multiple calls, the panicked and pleading messages and apologies from both his parents but Pran is so tired…of the lies and the excuses and the pettiness. His exhaustion outweighs his guilt and it’s why he keeps the phone back face-down.
Pat whimpers then, curled under his chin and fingers tight around his waist and Pran leans down to press his lips against soft hair in an effort to calm him. It soothes his boy, Pat’s fingers loosening enough to fall to his side.
Carefully maneuvering himself out of Pat’s grip, Pran quickly unroots a used t-shirt of his that Pat quickly glomps onto. Just that, that picture of Pat hugging his shirt and sniffing it even in his sleep, it makes Pran softer than he even thought possible and it’s why he bends to press his lips against Pat’s cheek.
Heading for the bathroom, Pran wonders on how to keep himself entertained. He doesn’t think he can sleep anymore and the idea of waking Pat right now is horrendous so he shelves it immediately. Deciding to simply read and wanting a change of scenery, he pens a quick note to Pat, promising that he’s still around but just in the lobby and that Pat should come find him later and they can get dinner.
In the lobby, Pran keeps to himself, settling on a seat warmed by the afternoon light and sketching a couple of the bus stop designs he’s been noting down. He’s in the middle of erasing a particularly wonky looking roof when someone clears their throat in front of him.
Pran looks up and for one horrifying second, he thinks his mother has found him. But then he blinks and the woman is unfamiliar to him, he realizes. She looks old enough to be his mother though, smile lines crinkling the corner of her eyes and Pran is quick to bring his eyes together in a respectful waii.
The woman smiles, her hands folding into a waii, “Sawadee kha nong. I apologize if I’m bothering you but I’m wondering if you could help me and my husband?” She gestures to an older gentleman behind her, seated at one of the small tables littering the lobby.
“Oh…sure. How can I help?” Pran follows her, giving the man a waii and thanking them for the seat they offer him. There’s a laptop open on the table as well as a book of English poetry compilations, some with authors that Pran recognizes.
The woman introduces herself as Karn and the man as Pon, “We’re vacationing and my son is teaching a poetry class for me and I promised I’d send him these translated verses but my husband,” Karn pauses to send her sheepish looking husband a fond but exasperated look, “Sweet as he is, is also quite forgetful and has misplaced his glasses. I work faster when I’m read to. If you’re not comfortable reading the English verses, I could dictate and you could type/ translate for me? It would be really helpful.”
“I didn’t lose my glasses. They just prefer not to be found.” Pon protests and it’s only years of having respect for his seniors drilled into his head that stops Pran from giggling at the older man’s pout. Still, his amusement must be very evident because Pon offers him a little wink.
Pran’s proficient enough that he agrees and he picks up the book of poetry. The verses are beautiful in their own right, covering topics regarding love, pleasure, tragedy and family. Karn’s fingers fly over the keyboard and the dictation is often intersped with her commentary. Pon stays silent for the most part but when voiced, his thoughts often make Karn pause and she quickly backspaces to add his musings.
It’s all good until Pran flips the page and begins reading the next piece of poetry.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you…but not from you. And though they are with you…yet they..they belong not to you.”
Karn doesn’t seem to pick up on his stutter but from the corner of his eye, Pran can see Pon raise an eyebrow. Clearing his throat, he tries to continue.
“You may give them yo-your love but not your thoughts, for they…they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit, not…no-not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them li-like you. For life goes not backward nor tarr-tarries with yesterday. You are the…are the bows from which-”
The book’s being tugged from his limp fingers which is good because the words are blurring in front of him, dancing off the page and into the air where they mock him with their truth; a truth that his own parents have not been able to accept.
“Nong Pran? It’s okay, you’re okay. Just take a deep breath for me. Come on, deep breath.” There’s a warm hand on his back and another on his cheek and it centers him, gives him the grounding he needs to suck in much needed air into his lungs.
Karn’s face swims into view before him, her eyes concerned as she holds his face, “It’s okay nong. You’re okay.”
“That- I’m sorry..I don’t know what-”
Karn shakes her head, “No, it’s alright. Khun Gibran’s words are poignant to be sure and they sometimes invoke strong reactions. Especially when you’ve got less than favorable experiences.”
That makes Pran snort, a derisive harsh thing that makes Karn’s lips twist into a sad smile, “Less than favorable is one way to put it. What parent lets their child live their lives without expectations? We’re made to carry their fears, their mistakes, their anger. I’ve been expected to live my life holding responsibility for their shortcomings. How is that fair?”
Pon’s palm is warm where he squeezes Pran’s shoulder, “It’s not. It would be a lovely world if parents would live their lives only wanting their children to live good lives, to live with the choices they make and to be happy. But some live their lives through their children and that’s no way to be.”
Karn’s hand moves up to Pran’s hair, tucking an errant lock behind his ear, a move so reminiscent of Pran’s own mother that his breath hitches to stifle his sob.
“I’m sorry, nong. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to deal with. Maybe your parents had their reasons for doing so but you should know…” And her face resolves itself into this terrible and beautiful brutality, the ferocity and all the love a lioness would have for its young, “You do not owe them your life, nong Pran, nor do you owe them your happiness. My Kao…such a good boy but far too self-serving for his own good. He nearly sacrificed his own happiness to keep me happy and I would have been a terrible mother to let him do so. My pain is my own. It’s not his to carry. Our pain is never for our children to carry. Remember that always.”
Pat finds him there, still talking to Pon and Karn once his tears have subsided and Pran’s eyes must still be red because he can see the hackles raise in Pat’s shoulder even before he approaches them.
It’s why when Pat comes close enough, Pran reaches out and wraps his arm around the engineer, bringing him flush to his side as he introduces his boyfriend. And that’s more than enough for Pat to relax against him, that brilliant smile appearing as Pon comments over how lovely a couple they make.
“You two remind me so much of our boys. They’ve been in love for years and just didn’t know it. Karn and I are lucky though…had Pete and Kao not fallen for each other, we might have never been brought together.” The man says, tugging Karn’s fingers to his lips and dropping a kiss over the knuckles, chuckling as his wife blushes.
Karn cajoles them into dinner too, something Pran protests because it’s supposed to be the older couple’s anniversary dinner. But the woman insists, “When you’re our age, dinner for two becomes all about how many flowers we have and how many times Pon can lose something. We’d love for the two of you to join us!”
Dinner is a fun affair, Karn and Pon regaling both boys with stories of their sons, “Oh and you wouldn’t believe the look on Kao’s face when he found out I heard all his little nightly romps. He’s smart but so dumb when it matters. It would have been more surprising had he not brought the same boy home for years.”
“Oh love, remember when I walked in on them “studying”? With all the studying he did, Pete should have been topping his classes. Instead he was just topping Kao.” Pon counters with a surprisingly salacious grin, causing Karn and Pat to burst out laughing and sending Pran into a fit of giggles.
When the evening comes to an end, the older couple make Pran promise to stay in touch and perhaps meet their own sons once they return to Bangkok.
In the wake of their absence, Pat turns to look at Pran, his jovial smile turning into something a little melancholy.
“That was…” The words sit heavy on his tongue, a little saddening and a little happy.
And Pran looks at him with the same expression, stroking his thumb over Pat’s knee, “Yeah. I know.”
Tonight had been a glimpse of what life would have been like. And it’s a painful glimpse to bear.
In their room, Pran showers first and then sits to finish his sketches and send them off to Logtech.
He seems to be done by the time Pat exits the steaming bath with a towel around his shoulders and clean boxers because all the lights in the room have been turned off and one window shade has been left open to let in the moonlight.
Pran sits on the corner of the bed, dressed in one of Pat’s shirts and boxers, fingers playing with the string on the headphone case as he watches the moon outside and the waves rushing to the shore.
Pran looks up at Pat, smiling at him when the engineer drapes the towel over the small couch and comes to squat on his haunches, resting his forearms on Pran’s thighs, “You look absolutely gorgeous in the moonlight.”
Before Pran would have blushed and pushed Pat away, gagging at the cheesiness. But today…he grins and flicks Pat’s chin, “You don’t have to keep flirting with me.”
Pat beams at him, this beautiful majestic thing that makes Pran’s heart hurt in the best way, “It’s not flirting if it’s true. You look exquisite and I would like to kiss you right now.”
The hand on Pran’s thigh burns as Pat leans just the slightest bit closer, “Can I? Will you let me kiss you, Pran?”
That playful light in Pat’s eyes is gone, replaced by something heavy…something powerful. The hands that were simply holding onto his knees for balance feel charged now, stroking Pran’s skin with hidden intentions.
It’s so much more than just a kiss, Pran slowly understands. Pat’s asking him if he’s ready to drop that last wall, shed that last bit of hesitation, the uncertainty that sometimes makes Pran raise his body over Pat’s so that they’re not flush with each other.
And oh…it’s so easy for Pran to say yes. Pat doesn’t know it…but there haven’t been any walls. Not since the very public claiming of each other in front of the Architecture building.
Which is why Pran has no qualms sliding his fingers into Pat’s hair and tugging him upwards till their lips meet, slow at first and then building in intensity, tongues seeking entrance and winding with each other.
And Pat meets him at every step, rising from the floor and pushing back until Pran is flat on the bed and he grunts as Pat’s weight settles atop him. His hand moving from the outside of his knee to his hip, teasing the skin under his shirt, a question.
Pran answers with a squeeze of his fingers and the shirt is off, Pat tugging it above soft hair and turning to drop it on the chair beside the bed.
When he turns back to the boy on the bed, Pat pauses, chest heaving and lips red as he stares down at a flushed Pran.
There’s only been one other time Pat had ever seen this much of Pran, one night so many years ago, a glance across houses before Pran had yanked his curtains shut. At that time, Pat had shaken his head, trying to get rid of the image and not really understanding the squirming in his gut.
Now he takes in his fill, watching as Pran pushes up on his elbows to match his stare. Pat is all raw strength and bulging biceps but Pran is lithe muscle through and through. He’s strong no doubt; Pat still remembers the foot to his chest that first day and the bruise that followed for days after.
But here, laying bare on a bed with eyes softer than a feather, Pran is beauty and lethal grace wrapped in love, strength tempered with a fragility Pat knows he’s privileged to experience. He leans down, nose finding that junction between Pran’s shoulder and neck where his scent is the strongest and presses his lips there as his hand trails down to grip Pran’s thigh and heft it higher.
Pat feels the hitch in Pran’s breath before he hears it, a slight stutter in the architect’s chest as their groins press together. And when Pat grins, the shy flush on Pran’s face turns into something primal and challenging.
“Quit teasing before I make you.” The warning is accompanied with a tug on Pat’s hair and the groan he lets out makes Pran move, rolling them until Pat’s under him and they’re laughing as clothes find their way on the floor.
It’s a first for them both in many ways and there’s awkward fumbling, some cursing and a whole lot of laughing and lube….but still…the two of them together is just so stupidly easy and so fun. It’s beautiful and ferocious. And it’s soft and soothing.
And the truth of it makes Pat furious.
Because this is what they could have had. He and Pran, the years of loneliness, anger, pain and that feeling of being lost…all of that because his father had been a lying thief, making excuses for his own mistakes years later by making Pat hate the one person who should have been his friend from birth. He and Pran could have had years of being happy, of being friends and-
Like a switch of a bulb, Pat feels the anger drain from him as he looks down on Pran, sniffing sleepily on his chest, hair mussed and love bites on display over his shoulders.
“Do you wanna go on a date with me tomorrow?”
And fucking hell, Pat thinks his heart might just burst out of his chest and if Pran weren’t laying on him, he’d clutch his pecs and wail dramatically about how absolutely cute sleepy Pran was.
But he refuses to jostle Pran even the slightest bit so Pat exhales hard through his nose and bends to kiss Pran’s forehead, lips against skin as he responds, “Yeah…yeah I wanna go on a date with you. Wanna go to the markets? We’ll grab some souvenirs for the guys and Ink.”
“Don’t forget your sister.” Pran chides, smacking Pat’s stomach but there’s zero effort to it.
Pat chuckles, tucking the sheets around them, “They’re basically married so what’s Ink’s is also Pa’s. But if it means all that much to you, I’ll buy Pa something too. Now sleep, sweetheart.”
Pran snuffles again, nodding as he throws his leg over Pat’s trying to draw him closer, breath evening out as sleep takes him. And Pat thinks that yeah…he has every right to be angry for nearly losing this.
But he hasn’t. And he won’t. And perhaps, one day…Pat might even thank his father for making him realise how close he was to losing Pran and in turn making sure that he never does.
The beach-side marketplace is small but packed with vendors offering everything from fresh produce and seafood to handmade trinkets and games. Pat feels every bit like a little kid as he jumps from stall to stall, whining at Pran to buy just one more snack for their room or another trinket for their friends. Pran pretends that he’s annoyed but his fond smile gives him away, not to mention the fact that he does buy everything Pat pouts for.
It’s a date like they’ve never had before, pressed close to each other, Pat swinging their joined fingers together as they walk, Pran snapping a few pictures with an instant camera he buys. He laughs when Pat squeaks and refuses to touch the live crabs. Pat immediately buys a set of sketch pencils he sees Pran eyeing, grinning when Pran excitedly rifles through them.
And every few seconds, they’re touching.
Pat’s always been a tactile person and Pran isn’t and that was okay with Pat. The few times Pran has reached out in physical comfort, winding their fingers together or putting an arm around Pat, the engineer has seen it for the gesture it is and loves that Pran loves him enough to come out of his comfort zone.
But the touches now? It’s more than hand-holding or an arm around his waist in public.
It’s Pran ruffling his hair to fix it after Pat tries on a comically large hat. It’s Pran pulling him to the side to get out of the way of rambunctious tourists. It’s Pran wiping Pat’s mouth from a stray drop of juice. It’s the hand on his back, the kiss he drops on Pat’s cheek, the way he hugs Pat when they win a bottle toss.
And it’s more than touching. It’s in the way Pran looks at him. When he puts his hands on his hips and feels the bruises in the shape of Pat’s fingers there, his eyes go soft and melty. When he tugs Pat away by the collar from yet another food vendor and sees the scratches down Pat’s back because of a particularly hard thrust, his gaze makes Pat swallow hard. And when Pat tugs him close and says stupid things like I love you, Pran’s pupils dilate and his eyes say it right back.
Today is more than just their first date in public where they can feel free and love each other in the open.
Because today reminds Pat of all the tomorrows he’s now going to have and he squeezes Pran’s fingers just a little tighter in joy.
Back in the air-conditioned room, Pran sits on the bed by himself, phone in his hand. Pat’s gone back to the market, freaking out that he’d left his wallet at the restaurant they’d gone to and he left Pran in their room with a quick kiss and a promise to return soon.
As he waits, Pran scrolls through the numerous messages and calls left by his mother.
A few days ago, he would have just shoved his phone aside and stared up at the ceiling, anger, hurt and guilt guiding his actions.
But Karn’s words from the night before have Pran floundering because he knows Karn is right. Dissaya had been wrong to push her ire onto her son, consumed by the pain of betrayal from someone she trusted. But for all her faults, she was still Pran’s mother and he loved her.
For every time she’d unwittingly cut a piece of Pran away, he remembers a time when she’d also fixed him. Every cut and scrape kissed away, every bowl of soup when he was ill, every time she sent him home-cooked food when he was homesick, every time she’d told Pran she was proud of him.
Pran remembers and realizes a truth that is bittersweet: that his mother was human with her faults. He would forgive her, of course he would. If Pran could forgive Wai for outing him, he knew he’d forgive his mother too.
The only thing is that he would need Pat by his side when he did so.
And Pat must have the greatest telepathic connection in the world because he steps into their room just then, a small bag in his hands. He smiles at Pran, eyes crinkling in that soft way that never fails to make Pran want to cry.
How this man is his is something he’ll never understand but he’s not about to let old feuds, faculty rivalries or the fucking universe take Pat from him. Never again.
He rises to meet Pat, pulling him into a hug that makes the other startle at first but quickly and enthusiastically reciprocate.
“Aww did you miss me that much?” Pat asks, soft teasing evident as he cups Pran’s head.
“I think I need to call my mom.” Pran says and he feels Pat freeze before pulling back to look at him.
“You want to leave?”
“No. No, I don't want to leave. Not yet. But I think I need to speak to mae. Because I need to be able to forgive her.” Pran says, fingers twisting in the hem of Pat’s t-shirt. “Do you think I should?”
Pat looks at him and his arm comes up, warm fingers stroking the skin of Pran’s cheek, “I think you should do what feels right to you. We’re not leaving here anytime soon and I’ll stay if you want me there when you call.”
Pran feels the relief fill his heart and he leans forward to bop their noses together, breath mingling as he exhales, “Thank you.”
But when he tries to pull away, Pat’s arm around his waist becomes a vice, keeping him secure and Pran looks at him in confusion. There’s something in Pat’s eyes, a little spark of unease that makes Pran wary and he takes hold of Pat’s hand, “What? What’s wrong?”
Almost like he’s steeling himself, Pat takes a couple of deep breaths, air whooshing out of him in every exhale and Pran is really starting to freak out when Pat finally says, “We knew we’d have to go back at some point. We always knew that. But I need to know something. The life we dreamed about? Do you remember that?”
Pran blinks at the sudden topic but he nods. Of course he remembers, a day that seems so long ago that came with tea and neatly made beds, a blackout, rain on windows and fairy lights and a conversation that seemed more like a promise.
“Yeah I remember.”
“Do you still want that with me?”
“Always but Pat-”
And Pran doesn’t think he can breathe and it’s too warm in the room and there’s a buzz in his pocket as his phone rings again but none of that registers to him because Pat is there, eyes wide and yearning and smile so beautiful as he grips Pran’s fingers.
“Marry me, Pran.”
“We- we’re still in college-”
“We’ll have a long engagement. I waited three years not realizing I loved you, I’ll wait three more knowing I do and wanting to marry you.”
“It’s not even legal in Thai-”
“We’ll go where it is. I’ll sign a piece of paper, I’ll walk around a fire seven times, I’ll pray to a God who I don’t believe in, I don’t care where just…marry me Pran. Will you?”
Pat’s crying now and Pran knows he is too, he can feel the burn in his eyes as he tries to gasp for air, “You fucking idiot you- yes I’ll- you fuck- you don’t even have a ring!”
“Who says?” And from his pocket, Pat’s pulling out a little bag and shaking it into the palm of his hand and a silver ring inlaid with seaglass tumbles out.
They’re still crying but they’re laughing as Pat slides the ring over Pran’s finger, as he grabs Pran and hefts him into the air, as he pulls Pran flush against him and kisses him until neither of them can breathe.
When they finally pull away, Pran’s heaving, trying to wipe his face and trying to smack Pat at the same time, “You fucker! I was gonna propose first!”
But he’s smiling, smiling so large that those beautiful dimples come out, dimples that Pat has missed seeing these last few days and he leans in to kiss them, asking, “Is it so bad? Losing this one time?”
And Pran looks at him, joy radiating from every fiber of his being even as he accepts defeat, ring glinting in the afternoon light.
“No. This time, losing is okay.”