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Pat holds Pran’s hands in his own and says the words he so desperately wishes he didn’t have to. “Sooner or later we will need to go back.”

The words have to be said and Pran needs him to say them, because —as Pat has learned over the years he’s known him— Pran is too good, too loving and caring and selfless to break Pat’s heart with the truth that this can’t last.

So, Pat breaks his own heart instead. He opens his mouth and says his piece, smiling at Pran to show him it’s going to be ok, even if he doesn’t know that.

It’s better this way, even if it hurts just as much.

Pran’s eyes are a well of tears, but he wipes them away with the back of his hand before they can spill and then he plays along, says something about the last night of their honeymoon and getting drunk, and smiles through the tears that appear again in the corners of his eyes.

The weight of the world is heavy, and it shouldn’t be their burden to carry, but it is.

 

 

 

They need to go back. Back home, back to their parents, back to their real lives.

Back, back, back, all the way back to before there was a them, which feels like an absolute fucking tragedy, because they’re so good together. Being with Pran feels so right that sometimes Pat can barely believe it’s real, but it is— or it was, will have been, anyway.

Tomorrow they’ll break up. Tomorrow, they’ll get onto the bus home as a couple and get off the bus as something else. Not as lovers, not as friends. They can’t even go back to being enemies, because they never really were.

Even when they weren’t together, before that when Pran got transferred and their friendship went on a brief hiatus, they were connected. Pat thought about Pran all the time, and even if no one knew about it, even if he kept it to himself, he had real memories, real longing and wondering and hope.

Back then, Pat had still had hope that one day he could see Pran playing guitar again. Hear that song he wrote in high school. See him smile. And he had. They’d found each other again, in the midst of the chaos of their friends, and he had heard Pran sing, he’d watched him play guitar. He’d also seen that smile, that blinding smile that makes Pat feel like he’s floating on a cloud, a hundred times again. He'd reunited with his favourite person and then he'd fallen in love with him, and everything had felt like it was falling perfectly into place. 

He was wrong, and now here they are. So this is different to when Pran got transferred out of their high school, because back then, Pat had still had hope, but that’s all gone now. They’ve tried, haven’t they? They’ve tried to make their parents understand and they’ve also tried to understand their parents, and it hasn’t worked out.

There isn’t any hope left and now being together is only a daydream away from ending.

Pat has never felt so hopeless, not in all of his life, not even when he raced after Pran with his guitar back in high-school and found he was too late to make things right. It turns out they were both too late even then, because their parents had already set into motion a rift that seems unmendable.

 

 

 

At the beach bar that night they drink cold cans of beer that turn warm in their hands.

It feels like they’re on the edge of something— a cliff, maybe. Or like this is their last night of freedom before they are carted off to prison. And maybe that’s a little bit dramatic, but Pat’s an actor now, he’s had a taste of the intensity of the drama and fuck it if he can’t be dramatic at a time like this. Because that’s what it does feel like, the thought of walking back through the gate to his parents house. Like a prison cell, cold and lonely.

It makes him feel guilty to think that way because deep down he does love his parents, even his father, who he’s going to struggle to forgive. He might never forgive him, really, but he’ll always be his dad, and he’ll always feel a sense of obligation to him, however fucked up that is in this situation.

Pat could never before have envisioned a life where he had to choose between the man he loves and his family, and he couldn’t have envisioned a life where he wouldn’t choose his family either, but he chose Pran with his whole heart when he suggested they leave town for a while. He chose Pran and he still would a thousand times over, but that would just be selfish. They have no money, they have nowhere to go, and Pran misses his mom so much. He doesn’t have to say it, Pat can tell he does. He sees it in Pran’s face, and he aches for him, because he knows that, despite that, Pran chose him too.

Pran accepted jobs for them, borrowed uniforms and made plans for them to stay here, even though he misses his family. If Pat wasn’t already sure Pran loved him before, he would be sure now.

They chose each other, and that’s meant to be the end isn’t it? Choosing to be with the one you love should be the most important thing. It should outweigh everything else— what society thinks, what your parents think, how you get by. Being in love should be all that matters, but that’s not realistic, Pat has come to realise.

He loves Pran more than he could ever imagine loving someone, more than he thought would be possible. He loves Pran, and this is what love is: it’s sacrifice.

It’s setting Pran free to fulfil his dreams. Earlier in the trip, when he asked Pran what he wanted to do after college, Pran had answered that his dream is to be an interior designer and musician. He’d looked so happy at the thought of it, so— so hopeful for his future, and he should be. Pran’s future shouldn’t be running away with him and working at a bar in a tiny fishing village. Pran’s future is important, but it can’t have everything in it. It can’t have his family and Pat in it. And Pat can’t take on his family’s business and be with Pran, if only because he doesn’t want Pran to feel uncomfortable being reminded of the name of the man who tried to ruin his mom’s life day in and day out.

They can’t have it all, and Pat can’t just keep Pran to himself, because that would be unfair. That would be selfish.

When Pran goes to get them another drink, Pat walks away for a while to stand by himself and look out at the outline of the ocean under the dark sky, and even though he feels desolate, like he isn’t sure he can even remember how to breathe, like he isn’t sure he will ever feel happy again after this night, he manages to put on a smile before he turns back to see the person he loves and cares about most in the world.

He loves Pran, so he’s letting him go, and nothing has ever felt worse.

 

 

 

Pran is persuaded to fill in for the singer who didn’t turn up at the beach bar, and it’s perfect.

Pat says back in his chair and watches Pran up there, in his element, guitar in hand. He watches him play, listens to him sing, sees him smile, and thinks, this is my favourite moment.

All those things that he’d hoped for when they were younger and apart, and they’re here, in front of him, right now. For one more night.

But all good things come to an end, just like the song, which ends with a round of applause (and some whooping) from the other people on the beach. Pran comes back over to their table, ears pink with embarrassment and pride.

“You were amazing,” Pat tells him, reaching out to stroke his cheek. He doesn’t care that there are people around, he doesn’t care who knows how much he loves Pran. He’s never cared. “As usual.”

“I think I could work on the chorus,” Pran says.

“No.” Pat shakes his head, rubbing his thumb over the stubble appearing on Pran’s chin. “It’s perfect as it is.”

“Like me?” Pran’s soft smile turns into more of a smirk. He’a such a flirt, and Pat loves it. He’ll never get tired of it, he thinks, except that doesn’t matter because after tomorrow Pran won’t be flirting with him again.

“Yeah.” Pat smiles. He doesn’t move his hand away from Pran’s face, he can’t bear to. He doesn’t want to stop touching him yet, and doesn't want to stop feeling Pran’s warmth under his own skin. Pran, a little bit drunk, nuzzles into his hand, and lets out a soft, tired, sigh against him.

Sometimes Pat wishes they’d never met at all.

 

 

 

They don’t sleep until it’s almost sunrise. Sleeping is a waste of time and they have barely any time left. Their time together is grains of sand running through Pat’s fingers, finite and running out, and it hurts. It hurts so much that it hardly hurts at all, turning Pat numb to everything except Pran’s touch and Pran’s kisses. That’s all he wants to feel for the rest of the night, all he wants to think about, and he imagines living in this moment forever quite happily.

Maybe they don’t have to go back at all, he thinks stupidly, as Pran pulls him close and tugs off his T-shirt, but even in his lust-fuelled haze he knows that he’s just clinging on to a life that he lost the moment he realised that their parents weren’t going to get passed their differences, not even for their kids.

This life was never really theirs to begin with, they just borrowed it for a while, and he is happy to borrow it for a little while longer. At least until the sun comes up.

They take their time, making out for so long his jaw starts to ache. He’s always been an advocate for a decent amount of foreplay, but they might as well be going for an Olympic-level record at this rate. He lies over Pran, bodies skin to skin, and pins Pran’s hands to the bed over his head, pressing kisses to his collarbone, slow and gentle.

“Hey,” Pran murmurs. “You know we can have sex more than once tonight don’t you?”

Pat hums in response. “I know.” He lifts his head and looks down at Pran, whose hair is fanned out behind him on the pillow. “But… the first time tonight will still be the first of the last times.”

“What?” Pran looks so fond, even if he’s confused, and Pat knows he's not making a lot of sense, but not much makes sense to him anymore.

“I just don’t want— I can’t—“ Pat chokes on his words, and— fuck, this isn’t very sexy of him, is it? He closes his eyes, frustrated with himself. Being in love is so fucking difficult, and yet he wants nothing else. 

“Hey. I love you.” Pran wriggles his wrists under Pat’s hold and Pat easily lets him go. He was always free to go. “I love you, Pat.” He cups Pat’s chin in his hands, pulls him softly down to kiss him.

“I love you too.” Pat breathes against Pran’s lips, kisses him again. “I'm sorry.”

“For what?” Pran’s eyes soften even more. He smiles, eyes wet with tears. “For loving me?”

“No, for—“

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Pran tells him with certainty. “Now, kiss me again. This is our honeymoon, or did you forget?” The smirk is back, like it never went away, and even though his eyes tell a different, sadder, story, it feels good to see.

Pat kisses him, and kisses him some more, and there’s an urgency to things now that grip at him with a tight hold and refuses to let him go. It’s not just sex, it never has been with Pran. It’s telling Pran he loves him in another way— letting his body do it instead of his words. And they’re good together, they’re so good when they communicate like this, like their bodies are vessels to a higher plane, and maybe that sounds a bit over the top but that’s how he feels right now, with Pat’s hands on him and his tongue in his mouth.

He reaches between them and wraps his hand around Pran, who mews against his mouth, his hips jerking up in eager response.

“Can I fuck you?” Pat asks.

He likes it both ways, they both do, but tonight Pat wants to feel all of Pran, wants to take him apart slowly, make him see stars that make him forget about what is ahead of them.

“Yes. Please.” Pran breathes, and then he opens up underneath Pat’s fingers, perfect and flushed and beautiful. Pat wishes he could imprint this moment on his mind, sear it there forever, and maybe he can, but maybe it will fade, like most memories tend to do over time.

Later, much later, when time has started its descent towards the heartbreak of tomorrow, they come together, panting and slicked with a satisfying perspiration. At first, they lie still and boneless, catching their breath in a sated silence. Tonight belongs to them, the moon hung low in the sky is theirs and theirs alone.

They’re the kings of their tiny universe, here in this room, and nothing else matters, if only for a few seconds. Tomorrow, they’ll break up, but for now they’re together. For now, they’ve conquered everything.

 

 

 

Pat’s heart breaks completely when they arrive on their street. He thinks he might be dying, but he knows that's not the case. Life has to go on, just not in the way he wants it to.

The journey home had felt like two hours of ending credits, Pat playing his happiest moments over in his mind while he stroked Pran’s hair absentmindedly. He’d put his SIM card back into his phone and had texted Pa to let her know he was on his way, and he’d closed his eyes and pretended to sleep when Pran called his mom to let her know he was safe and would see her in a couple of hours.

He knows that this is the only ending they were ever going to be allowed. He knows that thinking that he could be whoever he wants, love whoever he wants, was a stupid dream that could never come true under the circumstances. He knows that this is where they were headed all along, that they couldn’t be together, not really, not longterm, without the secrets and the sneaking around.

Pat knows all of this, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less when his heart breaks clean in two in the street outside his parent's house.

He looks over at Pran and he misses him already. He misses Pran so much that it’s unbearable. Depressingly lonely, he thinks. That’s what it’s going to be like, and there’s nothing he can do about it, because doing something would be too selfish. Regardless, he wants to. He wants to move, to walk back to Pran’s side and to hold him against his chest and say, “I’ve changed my mind. Please stay with me.”

Instead, he stays where he stands, feeling hot tears track his cheeks. “Let’s go home,” he says, and he manages to smile, even though his home is a man who he can’t call his boyfriend anymore.

He wants to see Pran smile back, one last time.

“Good luck, buddy.” Pran doesn’t smile at first, but then Pat sees, and it’s sad, but it’s there, and it’s so beautiful.

Pat’s chest feels empty all of a sudden, like a part of him has truly gone, when the gate to Pran’s driveway opens.

This is it, he thinks. This is the end. This is when they go back to the life they were meant to have, without each other. The life they didn't choose but that is theirs and running away won’t change that.

Pat hears Pran’s mom calling his name with a relieved sob and the thud of Pran dropping his bag to the floor to hug her, and he mourns the life they could have had, pausing on his own doorstep to imagine it all - graduating together, living together, starting jobs and getting a dog and cooking together, even though Pat is still not the best cook - before he pushes open his parent's front door.

Maybe, in time, they can forget.