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Pat made breakfast in bed for Pran for the first time not long after they started dating. 

 

When it was still secret. When Pran still got so horribly flustered by it he couldn’t say, thank you, I love it, no one has ever done something like this for me before. When Pat still hadn’t learned the mechanics of Pran’s kitchen. 

 

Pran had not expected it to become a regular occurrence. 

 

He wakes up to the smell of warmth and sweetness. His nose twitches; there’s also at least a fifty percent chance there’s char in there, somewhere, but not enough to alarm him. He blinks his eyes open slowly, his bedroom door open and letting in low morning sun from the window by his desk. 

 

Suddenly, where the amorphous glow was seeping in is being blocked out, a face beaming at him from around the corner of the threshold. Pat, with rays of light around his head, making his hair look brighter. 

 

“Morning, handsome,” Pat greets, just a head and a shoulder, slightly sideways, and Pran urges himself not to blush, though he is always cruelly reminded that he doesn’t think that’s something he can control in his body. “Hungry?” 

 

“How did you possibly wake up earlier than me,” Pran starts incredulously, voice horse from sleep, “and how did you possibly not wake me up while doing it?” 

 

“You don’t remember? You must’ve been awake, because when I tried to get up, you grabbed my arm and you were like, Pat, stay, don’t leave the bed, you’re warm, Pat ,” Pat echoes his voice with a whine and a teasing lilt, and Pran holds up a pillow with arm cocked, ready to launch at Pat’s head should he try to embarrass him further. Pat just laughs, unafraid.

 

“I was just dreaming.” Pran defends weakly, dropping the pillow to his stomach. 

 

“You were dreaming about me?” Pat coos, nose scrunching. “Well, go back to sleep, don’t let me interrupt. I’m sure we were having lots of fun in your dreamland.”

 

This time Pran does throw the pillow, narrowly missing Pat, who dodges by disappearing from the doorframe briefly, until the pillow has thumped to the ground and he reappears. He’s still smiling widely. “Your aim needs work, my love.” 

 

Pran sticks his tongue out at him, but the feeling that sinks into his heart like syrup is unmistakable, and also not new. My love

 

Pat goes away, for a moment, before returning with hands on either side of a wooden tray. There was steam rolling off of the top, the food still hot, Pran could tell from the way the light was coming in. 

 

Pat grinned as he set down the food in Pran’s lap, a round fluff of dough with a smiley face of whipped cream, looking at Pran lopsided from the plate. “Pancakes!” Pat cheered proudly. 

 

Pran bit back a smile, looking up at Pat with concern. “The last time you did this, you almost set my kitchen on fire. How can I ever trust you?” 

 

Pat frowns, sitting across from Pran on the bed as he lets go of the tray. “I turned off the burner this time.” 

 

“Go double-check.” Pran said with a jerk of his chin towards the door. 

 

“I need to watch you take the first bite.” Pat retorts, leaning forward with anticipatory eyes. 

 

Pran rolls his eyes, but he gives in. He gives in a lot around Pat, and it’s becoming okay, because giving in wasn’t weakness. Sometimes it was just being cared for. It was good for the heart, no matter how he spun it. “Fine.” 

 

He cuts right down the middle of the crooked smiley face with the edge of his fork, taking a bite. It may be just the slightest bit overcooked, but the sweetness is just right. 

 

“You’re smiling,” Pat says happily. Was he? “You like it.” 

 

“It’s not bad,” Pran admits with a hum. “You’re not opening a brunch cafe anytime soon though.” 

 

“Who says I want to? I’d only have one customer I’d ever want to cook for anyway.” Pat grins, batting his eyes. “I can see the sign. Pat’s Bed and Breakfast, ” He raises his hands like he’s spreading out the image of his mind into the air, “But only one boy gets the breakfast. And the bed.” 

 

Pran smacks his shoulder lightly, shaking his head like it’ll drain the color from his cheeks. “Idiot.” 

 

“You love it. Give me a chef’s kiss, will you?” Pat leans forward, puckering. 

 

“Are you sure?” Pran eyes him, lifting a glob of whipped cream onto his fork to display between them. “First it was ketchup. Are you doing this on purpose?” 

 

Pat backs up, suddenly very okay with passing on his Chef’s kiss from Pran’s implication. “Okay, finish first, then you have to kiss me. So I know you can’t assail me with my own food.” 

 

Pran laughs, taking another bite. Without the room in the air being taken up by their banter, Pran has enough time to look at the silly pancake on his lap and the silly face of the boy who made it, watching him eat, and he swears he can feel his heart swell, almost too big for his own chest. Broken free, wanting to feel to full capacity, to look at Pat and know that something’s gone right for once. 

 

“You didn’t make yourself anything?“ Pran asks, away from his own thoughts. 

 

Pat’s eyes light up with horror, “Shit.” He hops off the bed and runs out of the room. 

 

Pran shakes his head. He should’ve known. 

 

 

“Draw me.” Pat says to him, one evening. 

 

Pran looks up from where he was attempting to draw the right length of scaffolding onto his current piece, which was not exactly for enjoyment on his part. Still, he gives Pat a look, flicking his pencil. 

 

“I can’t even draw people.” Pran argues. A stretched truth; he did do it, sometimes. But it wasn’t his skillset. And he mostly didn’t want to put to the test just how poorly he could do justice to Pat’s gorgeous features. He’d never live it down. 

 

Pat is undeterred. “Please.” He gives Pran the eyes . Pran hated the eyes, because Pran had an increasingly short resistance time to them, like slowly chipping away at a woodblock until it gained shape. 

 

“You won’t like it if I do,” Pran contends, going back to his shading, but Pat’s gaze is still on him. 

 

“I can draw you .” Pat declares, and he snakes Pran’s sketchbook out from underneath him, clutching it close to him and plucking another pencil from Pran’s holder. Pran feels a brief moment of panic at someone else touching his sketchbook, but it’s Pat, and Pat is holding it carefully as he flips to a new page, sitting it up between his knees, and the panic subsides. 

 

“Pat.” He says anyway, fake warning. 

 

Pat waves him off, clicking his tongue. “Shh. I’m an artist at work here.” He says, glancing between Pran and the page, his tongue held between his teeth like he is in great concentration. 

 

Pran just sighs and sits back, feeling a smile spread at the way Pat looks at him and the paper, scratching the pencil and nodding, humming “uh-huh”s like he’s really getting somewhere. 

 

“My best work yet.” Pat declares as he extends his arms outwardly with the sketchbook in hand, tilting his head to examine it. “Would you like to see yourself, Mr.Parakul?” 

 

Another thing—Pran couldn’t stand Pat calling him Mr.Parakul , because it totally messed him up and did really weird things to him, like making his stomach loop. 

 

“Mm.” Pran hums the affirmative, watching as Pat turns the sketchbook. 

 

What is drawn there is not a person. Instead, Pat has drawn a fairly poorly shaded heart shape. With a face. 

 

“I’m…” Pran blinks. “A heart?” 

 

Pat shrugs. “It's an abstract interpretation.” 

 

Pran wants to strangle him. With kissing. 

 

Pat looks at his work again, considering. “Ah, it’s missing something,” He takes the pencil and quips two small curves on either side of the mouth he’s drawn. “Now it’s definitely you.” 

 

Before making any rash decisions—which would probably end up with the destruction of his sketchbook as it was flung across the room, because it was a barrier between himself and Pat—he slowly takes the sketchbook from Pat’s hands, sitting it in front of him at his desk once more. 

 

He hunches over, a fresh page and his pencil grazing the only sound in the room. 

 

“What are you-“ Pat starts, and Pran hushes him, remaining focused.

 

Pran isn’t sure what he is trying to produce before he’s already moving the pencil around, creating curves and edges. When an actual picture is forming, he can’t be surprised at where his mind had taken him—Pat, but head turned away, his side profile watchful on something unknown in the distance. This was a Pat that was engraved in his mind, the one that he watched in classrooms and school assemblies. The one he watched all the time, and Pat’s accusation rang true: you always looked at me. 

 

He hadn’t been looking back, yet, at the time. But somehow he knew. A startling thing that Pran had a hard time getting himself to believe, the possibility that when he finally looked away, he, too, was being observed. 

 

It’s just a small doodle in the center of the page, and Pran can’t say if he got Pat’s nose right. He slides it over on the desk nonetheless, wordless. He watches as Pat cranes to look over from the edge of the couch, and when he looks at Pran again, Pran decides something; he much prefers the Pat that looks at him.

 

“You like my jawline?” Pat teases, though his gaze was still devastatingly genuine. 

 

“It’s one of your better features,” Pran teases back. It’s a lie; he thinks every part of Pat is beautiful, in some way. He hopes that Pat knows that. 

 

“I’ll show you my better features,” Pat grits out then, expression turning mischievous, and he’s tugging Pran towards the couch, trying to get him to fall onto him. 

 

Pran resists at first, because of course he does, and when he finally releases his feet from the floor intentionally, he’ll let Pat believe he was simply subdued by his strength. 

 

 

Pat always told Pran he loved his smell, and outwardly, Pran would grimace or say he knows because he uses three types of body wash. 

 

He doesn’t need to know that Pran secretly really likes how Pat smells, too. 

 

Pran had an awareness of his peculiarities; things should be orderly, they should be tidy, they should be clean and they should smell good whenever possible. Himself was no exception. Pat had even become somewhat acquainted with Pran’s shower caddy and mirror shelves. He’d spent a whole afternoon going through them, trying to piece together what exactly must’ve contributed to Pran’s signature scent. He’d gone back and forth, picking up bottles and opening them and taking a whiff, saying things like “no, not that…” and “maybe, but something else…” until he gave up and decided the products just must not be the answer. 

 

Pran couldn’t say. He had a routine, of course. Cucumber mint face wash for the morning. Coconut aftershave. An essential oil or two never hurt anybody. Pat had watched him go through the motions before bed and had looked at him blankly, eyebrows knitted together. 

 

“So many steps.” He’d been known to mumble. 

 

To which Pran would reply, “You don’t do anything like this?”

 

A shrug. “I use three-in-one.” 

 

A shudder down Pran’s spine, stricken with pure fear. How in the world did he love this man? 

 

But that was just it, wasn’t it? Because Pran, despite everything that made Pat and him nothing alike, was an absolute goner. And he liked Pat’s smell. 

 

Pran would never admit this aloud, because he had dignity. 

 

Everything he did for himself was a waste case on Pat, but when Pran got near him when they settled next to each other in Pran’s bed that was just barely big enough for two, it didn’t matter. He wasn’t even sure what it was , exactly. It was boyish, outdoorsy. It was the simplicity of it. Simple ingredients. Spray-on deodorant and a touch of grass and some lingerings from the very few times Pran agreed to do his laundry. And that was it. That was Pat. 

 

He would let Pat do all of the embarrassing himself on that front, though. Of course. 

 

One morning, though, Pran isn’t even fully awake when he realizes he’s smooshed into Pat’s Nong Nao. No Pat, but Pat’s Nong Nao, and that was pretty close. It smelled like him, and kinda like his apartment too. Who knows how many years he’s had this thing. 

 

Pran presses closer into it, locking his arm around it to pull it in. Where is Pat? He thinks distantly, almost desperately. In lieu, he presses his face into the Nong Nao, eyes still closed and body still heavy with sleep. 

 

No thought to the action, catching Pat’s scent on that dumb ugly doll filled his head with this brain-numbing longing, and he breathes in deeply, clutching Nong Nao as he did so. 

 

He doesn’t register anything else until suddenly he’s being ambushed— a heavy thud crashing into him on the bed from above, man-sized and crazed. 

 

Pran’s eyes fly open and Nong Nao is unceremoniously chucked away, his final destination unknown. The sleep is still settling out of Pran’s eyes and brain, and he’s halfway thinking he’s dreaming to see Pat on top of him, eyes blown wide and a smile on his face that could only be described as uninhibited. 

 

“What were you doing?” Pat asks, leaning down closer. 

 

Pran blinks. “I was sleeping. What were you doing? If you set my kitchen on fire again I swear you will—“ 

 

Pat is shaking his head vigorously. “No, Pran, what were you doing to Nong Nao?” 

 

Pran bites down on his bottom lip. He can’t possibly own up to it. It would be irredeemable. 

 

Pat’s smile gets smugger, leaning closer to Pran’s face from above, their noses close to touching. “What. were. you. doing. to. Nong Nao?” 

 

Pran shakes his head, their noses bumping in the motion, mouth firmly shut. 

 

Pat hikes up his knees and grabs Pran’s face between two hands. “You were sniffing him.” 

 

“This is a misunderstanding,” Pran begins to defend, though it doesn’t come out serious enough from either side of Pat’s palms. 

 

“Mr.Parakul,” Pat begins with a scolding-like voice, shaking his head, and there it was again, Mr.Parakul , and Pran’s a half-second away from flipping Pat over and making him forget this conversation altogether. “Is it at all possible that you were smelling my Nong Nao because…” 

 

“Don’t.” Pran warns helplessly. 

 

“Because you, too, enjoy your boyfriend’s scent? This isn’t one-sided after all?” Pat sounds absolutely joyous and a little more than satisfied. 

 

“It’s not what it looks like.” Pran declares, but it’s a moot point. Not only had he been caught red-handed, but it wasn’t even a fluke , because he’d do it again if he had the chance. He’s depraved like that. 

 

“The boy who always makes fun of his boyfriend for not having the busy pampering routine,” Pat narrates airily, effectively ignoring him, “And yet.” 

 

Pran doesn’t say anything, mouth a hard line. 

 

Pat smirks, all but collapsing into Pran from above, wrapping his arms on either side of his body. Pran has half the mind to try and push him off, thrashing until he leaves and lets him believe they’ll forget all about it, but it’s hopeless. Pat feels kind of nice, too. 

 

“I’m here now,” Pat mumbles happily into the side of his neck, “You don’t need Nong Nao. You’ve got the real thing. Inhale away.” 

 

“You’re disgusting.” Pran says, weakly. 

 

“What does that say about you?” Pat wriggles. “You like it .” 

 

He did. So much that it startled him every day. Not just this one thing, but everything. The culmination of things. It was driving him up a wall, though it had been for quite some time, and he can’t see the end of it. Maybe that was his fate; an endless loop where he would never get completely used to Pat, where it would never quite settle in that he’s his, where everything Pat did was a straight shot into Pran’s ever-open heart. 

 

Instead of answering, Pran returns Pat’s embrace, arms slinking around his shoulder and his waist. He presses his cheek into Pat’s forehead, whose skin is warm. He cranes just slightly to press a kiss to the spot he could closest reach. Indulgently, and hopefully secretively, he also breathes in once. 

 

They’re quiet for a long time. Pran doesn’t know how long. For once he doesn’t look at the clock or his wristwatch. He just makes shapes on Pat’s bicep and lets Pat thumb at his T-shirt.

 

Eventually, Pat says, “I love you.” 

 

It had long since been the first time he’d uttered those words. Still, it’s punctuated with sweetness and truth, and it takes a gap of Pran’s air regardless. 

 

Pran struggled with saying it, before, to anyone. He struggled saying it to his mother. He struggled saying it to his friends. He’d struggled to find the right way to say it to Pat, even when he’d wanted to. But now it slips out easy as ever, like saying his own name, “Love you too.” 

 

“That was such a nice moment we just had!” Pat says louder, almost feigning hurt. “Why don’t we always have these?“ 

 

“Because talking about a moment ruins it, asshole.” Pran says with a vague roll of his eye to the side. 

 

“You started it,” Pat taps his cheek, “Maybe if you weren’t so cute and didn’t get exposed sniffing my Nong Nao.” 

 

“I’m telling you—“ Pran felt the threat on the tip of his tongue. 

 

“Okay, okay, shh,” Pat concedes, putting his head back into the junction of Pran’s shoulder. “But seriously, you can borrow my shirts too if you want. I think it’s unfair that I just borrow yours. Can you please wear one of the sleeveless ones? I’m begging here.” 

 

Pran taps him. “Take a nap or something.” 

 

Wearing Pat’s shirt didn’t sound half-bad though. He wonders what took him so long. 

 

 

Sometimes, Pran’s mom calls. 

 

It’s weird. What they have fallen into. There’s the acknowledgment that the answer to the question “Where is Pran?” is almost always “With Pat”, and so they skip that part. She calls to remind herself that her only son is still breathing and eating and going to school. Maybe to convince herself she can still be a good mother. Maybe because she loves her son. Pran thinks it’s a little of both. 

She doesn’t call often. Every now and again. She’ll slowly say his name, every single time, and then she’ll ask the basics. He answers her. Yes, I am doing well in school. Yes, I am still class president. Yes, I eat three meals a day. Bye Mom. 

 

Pran thinks that Pat always knows when she calls, though he isn’t quite sure how. Pran has convinced himself that he’s mastered an ungiving facial expression, that he doesn’t tell on himself when he’s not alright. It doesn’t work with Pat though, it never has. 

 

“Did your mom call?” Pat will say, a gentle hand taking Pran’s. Pran has stopped trying to figure out how Pat knows him so well when he’s never tried to be known. It’s love, he supposes. 

 

He will nod. He will hold back a tear. Pat will hug him close, tucking Pran’s head under his chin and letting him rest there, cocoon himself into the touch and let it out. 

 

It happens a few times before the call is different. 

 

“You’re still studying well?” His mom is asking quietly over the receiver. 

 

“Of course.” Pran answers, and he knows that she knows she won’t get a more elaborate response. 

 

“And…” His mother sounds hesitant, voice clogging up, and Pran doesn’t understand it, “How is Pat?” 

 

Pran freezes. Immediately, without warning, tears are welling and breaking in his eyes. He clutches the phone so he doesn’t drop it. “He’s good.” 

 

“That’s good.” His mother says. “I won’t keep you any longer. I love you, Pran.” 

 

“Bye, mom.” He hangs up. He’s already crying, there’s no point in trying to stop it. He can’t tell what emotion inside him the tears are taking themselves from. There’s sadness. There’s anger. There’s also something verging on joy, because it’s the first time his mother has said Pat’s name without something venomous accompanying it in all his life.

 

Later, he sits on his bed, and Pat arrives. He looks at him from the doorframe, shoulders resting there, and looks at him with soft eyes. “Your mom called?” 

 

Pran almost laughs. His Pat, who knows him. He doesn’t want to beat around the bush, so he says, “She asked about you.” 

 

Pat’s eyes widen, mouth opening slightly. “She what?” 

 

Pran nods, understanding his disbelief. “Asked how you were.” 

 

Pat comes and sits down beside his legs, a hand coming to rest on his cheeks. “Are you okay?” 

 

Pran nods, pressing further into the touch. 

 

Pat’s face twists with attempted humor, “Did you tell her I’m still incredibly good-looking and charming?” 

 

Pran can’t help the smile that tugs at his mouth, though he shakes his head. “Not the time, you asshole.” 

 

Pat smiles gently, leaning closer. “Sorry. Just wanted to see you smile, is all.” 

 

“I know,” Pran answers, because he does. 

 

 

Ink and Pa still come over to dinner. 

 

Pran really likes having them around. He likes to cook for them, have conversations over the table about this thing and that thing. 

 

Pran thinks (he knows ) that for Pat, it’s bittersweet. Pa and Ink could go to Pat’s house together for a meal. Pat’s father could look at them, and then look away, face twisted with shame and wonder, why him of all people? Why the boy next door? Pa’s at least found someone suitable. 

 

Usually, they avoid it altogether, Pat and Pa do. In front of Ink and Pran, anyway. But tonight, Pa looks up from her curry and says softly to Pat from across the table, “Mama wants to know if you’ll be home for her birthday.” 

 

The table comes to a standstill, the air becoming unsure. Pran looks over to watch Pat, who stares at her as he slowly sets his spoon down, no distinguishable emotion. 

 

When Pat doesn’t say anything, Pa adds, quieter still, “She misses you.” 

 

Pran can see it now, because he knows Pat’s features. He’s seen him do it; his mouth falters, his eyes dim. “You think I don’t miss home? Does she think that I, what, that I want —“ 

 

Pa looks like she wishes she hadn’t spoken, so Pran grabs Pat’s hand softly, holding it still. “It’s okay.” 

 

“Shit! It’s not.” Pat says, visibly upset as he rises from the table and stalks into Pran’s room to be unseen. 

 

The remaining three are quiet at the table for a few seconds. Pa brushes her hair back from her face, letting out an exasperated sigh. Ink tucks her arm around her shoulder, drawing light circles with her hand. Pran feels so many things. Angry. Hurt. Responsible. “I shouldn’t have said anything in front of everyone, I’m sorry.”

 

“No, no, it’s okay,” Pran hurries to assure. He’d say the second person on his list of people he never wants to see hurting is Pa, right after Pat. “I will talk to him.” 

 

Ink and Pa help clean before they leave. 

 

Despite the amount of stupid arguments they’d had over many stupid, stupid things in all the years they’d known each other, Pran was sufficed to say that at the end of the day, since they’d been together, they’d argued very little. Especially over anything serious. 

 

They would argue over this, though, Pran can tell when he walks into his room. He finds Pat still standing, pacing the floor like he couldn’t find something. 

 

“Pat.” Pran starts. 

 

Pat stops walking, pausing in the middle of the room to look at him. His hair’s messed up. He looks beautiful, despite everything. Pran can’t help but notice it, even if it may not be appropriate to. 

 

“You…” Pran swallows, unsure of what to say, “You don’t have to avoid home forever. You can go see your mom on her birthday. You should .” 

 

“Is that not a disservice to you?” Pat asks back, and it doesn’t sound inflammatory, but rather, it sounds like this is what is genuinely concerning him. Like that was the big question going back and forth in his mind. 

 

Pran doesn’t know how to answer. He knows why Pat asks it, of course he does. They’d been so distant from their families ever since they’d found out, the only communication being Pran’s intermediate phone calls and Pa being two places at once. Were they saying they gave up on each other, if they wanted to be around their families again? If they wanted to forgive them? 

 

“Pat,” Pran says slowly, sitting on the edge of the bed, willing Pat silently to join him. He does, but he’s still strung high, bouncing his folded hands between his knees. “Go see your mom on her birthday.” 

 

“You aren’t answering my question.” Pat says without looking at him, a little more annoyed than before. 

 

“I don’t know the answer,” Pran says as honestly as he can. He owes Pat honesty, because he loves him. “But I think we should take this one step at a time. We can’t hide. We can love them and love each other, too. I know it feels like we can’t. But we can.” 

 

Pat frowns at this, like he isn’t quite believing it, but he turns to face Pran’s eyes nonetheless. “You won’t be mad at me?” 

 

Pran feels his heart break and mend again in just that split second, and he surges forward to wrap his arms around Pat, tucking into his shoulder. “I’ve quit being mad at you a long, long time ago,” He says into Pat’s shirt, boyish and outdoorsy scented. He smiles, eyes wet. “Just do it. We’ll be okay.” 

 

Here is what Pran was learning about loving Pat, amongst other things: he would keep him safe, always, just as Pat did to him.

 

 

“Let’s go for a drive,” Pat says to him one night. He’s already spinning the car keys around one finger, standing in Pran’s doorway when he’d opened it. 

 

Pran pauses to look him over, as if considering, but only maintains it briefly before he’s smiling lightly. “I need a jacket.” 

 

Pat takes the driver’s seat of his car, Pran in the passenger. Pran used to hate the passenger seat. He’d learned to drive from his dad, because his mother was too afraid to be in the car with him; the one time she did take him out, she made them switch places when he’d stopped too abruptly at an empty intersection. He didn’t have any siblings, so he never had to share the car. Pran was also not a fan of many things that he couldn’t have control of, and much like his mother, he got antsy at the feeling of someone else behind the wheel, his life in their hands. 

 

Pat was the only time he’d ever not thought about it. When they drove around together. It’s been countless times, and Pat always wants to drive, because it’s his car , and Pran will let him. He’s happily Pat’s passenger. 

 

“Where are we going?” Pran asks as they pull out of their apartment complex’s driveway and into the nighttime streets. 

 

“Nowhere,” Pat shrugs, smiling. “Anywhere.” 

 

And that summed it up, really. Where Pran would like to go with Pat. Nowhere , so they could stay in their space, where Pran wrapped his arms around Pat under a blanket that Pat complained was too warm, in a kitchen where Pran ran out of bread because Pat didn’t buy his own groceries, in a night filled with guitar strings and scratches on paper, nothing more or less. Anywhere , boundless, if they decided nowhere was no longer enough. 

 

“We need music,” Pat decides a moment later, turning his radio up, and god , the love of Pran’s life has horrible music taste. He never would’ve foreseen it,  in picturing his perfect person, but it was unfortunately true. Pat made fun of Pran for his music, too. He supposes it was a fair trade. 

 

Pat is singing along to the song animatedly, loudly, and off-key. Pran looks at him from his seat, wearing a look of disagreement, but Pat is shaking his shoulders and trying to serenade him and keep his eyes on the road at the same time, and Pran could never love anyone more than he loves him. 

 

“Sing with me,” Pat says in between breathless attempts to keep up with the lyrics on his own. 

 

“You know I don’t know this song,” Pran says back. 

 

“Then just pretend,” Pat slants his eyes and pitches his tone like it’s obvious, “The words are predictable anyway. Come on.”

 

Pran tries for a few seconds to do what Pat asked, mumbling along cluelessly with the song as it blared the speakers. 

 

The lyrics were admittedly predictable, but the song was too fast, and Pran gets tongue-tied quickly. He resorts to making obvious noises of unintelligibility, which makes Pat laugh. “Okay, at least you tried.”

 

They park at the edge of a street that overlooks a body of water. There were shimmers in the distance; islands, or towns on the other side. Pat still hasn’t turned that stupid music down. 

 

“Pat, we’re not even driving anymore, can we please —“ He reaches over to turn the volume knob down. 

 

“Hey, this is the best part!” Pat whines as he goes to grab at Pran’s wrist, but he’s already effectively turned the knob, leaving them in silence. 

 

Pat doesn’t let go of Pran’s wrist, though. He looks at it. He pulls it closer to him, inspecting. 

 

“Pat?” Pran says quietly, confused. 

 

“The watch.” Pat says, mostly to himself. 

 

Pran swallows as the realization slips through him. The watch

 

“You wear this all the time ,” Pat is saying, like he’s making a discovery, like he’s just found a fossilized dinosaur in his own living room, there the whole time but never noticed. “How did I– how did I not recognize it?“ 

 

Pran bites at his lip, and suddenly he feels warm and embarrassed, wanting to yank his hand away. He doesn’t. He just thinks about it. 

 

“I didn’t say anything about it,” Pran admits quietly, as if trying to be reassuring to Pat’s self-perceived naivety. “It’s just a watch.” 

 

“It’s not,” Pat says, shaking his head, “It’s not just a watch, this is — this is one of the first things I ever did for you. In return for something you did for me. Bigger than anything I could ever repay.” 

 

You are repaying me. By loving me. By accepting me . Pran thinks, but doesn’t say. “I don’t need to be repaid.” He says this instead, because it is also true, but not unbearably so. 

 

“And you kept it,” Pat is almost whispering now, “You said it was broken and junk but you kept it.” 

 

“How could I not keep anything that has to do with you?” Pran says, stunned by his own words, swallowing down the feeling of vulnerability. “Plus it still works. I was just saying that.” 

 

“You,” Pat huffs, releasing Pran’s wrist as he unbuckles and twists in his seat to face him, and now his expression has changed. He looks fierce, wide-eyed, a smile blooming on his lips, “How long have you liked me?” 

 

Pran had to have known it was coming, but he looks away, at the water, smoothing down his lips to keep his words at bay. 

 

“Pran,” Pat is leaning into him now, and Pran almost squishes the window glass. “Since we worked on the bus stop together?” 

 

Pran wrinkles his nose. “Cold.” 

 

Pat sits back, mulling it over, before it seemingly clicks for him what Pran is doing. “When I told you I liked Ink?“

 

Ouch , yeah, he remembers that, but it’s far off the mark. “Colder.” 

 

“Shit,” Pat mutters to himself, looking down at nothing in particular as he thinks. Then he raises his head, eyebrows curled in disbelief. “Since you had to transfer? In high school?” 

 

“Warmer,” Pran says now, looking into Pat’s eyes with a sudden surge of inhibition. 

 

Before that?” Pat all but shrieks. “When we were in the band together?” 

 

“Warmer,” Pran repeats, his voice getting quieter. His eyes are still locked on Pat. 

 

“Pran, you’re killing me!” Pat runs a hand through his hair. “Even before that? What about the day I gave you that watch? Surely it couldn’t have been any earlier than that. We were, like, seven!” 

 

“Definitely warmer,” Pran answers, “Although I’m not sure there’s any winning this game. I don’t know when. I just know there wasn’t and then there was.” 

 

“How do you not–“ Pat sounds exasperated. “At least I know when I fell for you .” 

 

Pran perks at that, intrigued. “Is that so? Do tell.” 

 

Pat says, “Inside of the guitar shop at the mall. I had just gotten done trying to flirt with Ink and realized everything that wasn’t working with her worked with you.” 

 

Pran swallows. He can’t even believe they’ve gotten this far and hadn’t told each other this yet, but at the same time, he can, because Pran had this habit of tucking such things away, like a shoebox in his heart. 

 

“But,” Pat interjects, like he’s just realized something, “It could’ve been before that. I don’t know. When I ran after you with your guitar. On the day you left. I’d never been more heartbroken in all my life. Getting dumped by my first girlfriend didn’t even hold a candle to it, I mean, I was–“ He lets out a long exhale. “And I’ve always thought you were cute, I think.” 

 

Pran smiles at that, warming under his cheeks, but responds in typical fashion, “How humiliating for you.” 

 

Pat is leaning over and into his space quickly, face close to his. “Says you .” He kisses him once on the cheek. “My bad, I think you’re the most irresistible person on the planet. Let me see your dimples. I’m going to bite them.” 

 

Pran frowns, fearful of that prospect, and yet simultaneously he feels light in his chest. In his heart. 

 

Another thing about loving Pat: he could feel many things at once. Often contradictory. And he is allowed to. 

 

He smiles involuntarily as his own thoughts, a mistake, because then Pat is muttering “ there ” and pushing into him, kissing and nipping at his face, the corner of his mouth, his nose, under his eyelashes. “I’m so in love with you.” Pat says against him. 

 

It’s fearsome, to be loved like this. It’s earthshaking. 

 

Pran wants to give it back. Tenfold. He’s sure he’ll figure out how. Maybe he doesn’t need to. 

 

“You’re not the only one,” Pran says when they kiss, finally, mouth to mouth. “Crazy about you. Besotted. Head over heels, is that what you said that one time?” 

 

Pat pulls his hands up to his neck, kissing him again. “I’ll show you head over heels.” 

 

Pran shrinks away, horrified. “Not in your car, you won’t.” 

 

Pat pouts, looking around at their surroundings, unaffected. “Why not?” 

 

“Pat.” Pran chastises. “That’s gross. That is so abhorrently unsanitary.” 

 

Pat works his jaw like he wants to say something about that, but he sits back in his seat and buckles his seatbelt. He starts the car, turning his head to watch as he backs out. “Fine. Don’t yell at me if I’m speeding on the way back.” 

 

“Pat.” 

 

“I’m kidding.” Pat smiles. He knows better, having Pran as a passenger. 

 

 

“I want to learn,” Pat says determinedly. “Which step is first?” 

 

“Cucumber mint face wash,” Pran holds it up, a hand underneath it to display it like a trophy. “Your face must first be moist. Not wet! But moist.” 

 

Pat nods, eyes focused. He waters his face just enough to sheen, and then turns to Pran, ready. Pran opens the face wash and puts a dollop onto Pat’s fingers. “You only need this much. A little goes a long way.” 

 

Pat nods again, rubbing his hands and then goes to put it on his face. Pran clears his throat first, freezing him in midair. “Circular motions.” 

 

Pat does as instructed, applying a little pressure in loop shapes.

 

“Wash that off,” Pran instructs, and Pat splatters his face, some of it getting into his hair and making the bangs that sweep across his face stick to his eyebrows. Pran pushes it away habitually. “Dry off.” 

 

Pat smirks at him, padding his face dry with the towel Pran provides. 

 

“Moisturizer next.” Pran says, picking it up to show him. Pat stops looking at the face care product, though. He’s looking at Pran’s face. “What?” 

 

“This would be a lot easier if we just shared a bathroom, don’t you think?” Pat hums, amused. 

 

Pran frowns. “Sharing a bathroom with you sounds like a nightmare.” 

 

Pat looks as though he doesn’t buy it. “No, I think we should share a bathroom. I think we should share everything, really. Going back and forth is so exhausting.” 

 

Pran sets down the moisturizer on the counter, a hand to his hip. “You’re suggesting…?” 

 

“Let’s move in together,” Pat says, beaming at him. “I’ve wanted to forever. Let’s do it. I can be a good roommate. It’ll be just like now, but cheaper rent!” 

 

Pran’s lighting up again, Pat permeating him with it. “Just like now, but more laundry.” Pran says with defiance. 

 

“What do you say?” Pat says, ignoring his concerns, eyes big and pleading. 

 

The truth is that Pran had wondered a million times how to ask Pat to move in with him without sounding like a loser. He’d sat awake, picturing that pretty picture over and over, where their keys would fit the same lock. He’d retreated several times, thinking Pat wouldn’t be ready. Or when he would find dirty shorts on his floor that didn’t belong to him. 

 

“I’ll think about it.” Pran says. He’ll pretend to think about it; when it comes to Pat, his mind was already made up.