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1.


“I got it right this time.” Pat says with a smug look, steering his car to the left to park at the edge of the road.


“You should’ve gotten it right everytime!” Pran smacks Pat’s forehead with the remains of his boarding pass as Pat let out an ow , “if you had mixed up the airports this time too I would’ve broken up with you.”


If Pran was looking at Pat, he’d be blessed with a how could you leave a boyfriend of five years for a reason like that. Do I mean nothing to you? Do you not love me? Look.


But Pran had already unbuckled his seatbelt and was already arranging his tote bag to get out of the car, “Hurry up before either one of our parents come out of the house and see us.”


Out of the corner of his eyes, Pran sees Pat sigh and shake his head, a small grin playing at his lips as he bends down to pull the lever of the trunk.


They had parked in front of their parent’s houses, hoping that they’d be fast enough while unloading Pran’s luggage before any of their parents noticed that Pat had picked Pran up from the airport. Although, even though their hatred towards each other still burned hot, Dissaya and Ming seemed to cool their heads a little when it came to the children. Which is why they even dared to do something like this in front of their noses.


Doesn’t mean that they wanted to deal with the entire question-answer session if they ended up being spotted together. And as much as they wanted to flirt through the entire unloading task, they really needed to do this quickly.


Which is why, when Pran walks out of the car and comes face to face with his mother standing in front of their house, his brain short-circuits for a moment.


His mother’s face is awfully blank, and all these years of learning how to read her face seems to have been of no avail. Pat notices her too as she starts walking towards their car, and he can feel the panic soaring through his boyfriend’s veins.


Pat scrambles out of the car and joins his hands to form a greeting, and she returns it. 


“Park the car inside, it’ll be easier to unload the luggage. Now that he’s back for good, there’ll be a lot to carry inside.” she says, pointing towards her house.


Pat and Pran exchange a look, both of horror and confusion.


By the time they’ve come back to their senses, Pran’s mother has already walked up inside and opened the main gates to let the car be parked inside.


She peeks her head out to see why they’re taking so long, and Pat scrambles back into the driver’s seat, hoping he wouldn’t accidentally hit the dustbins or something in panic.


Pran’s father is also waiting inside when Pat finally parks the car in their garage (without any dustbin casualties, thank you).


As he climbs out of the car, he sees Pran hoisting boxes after boxes of his stuff he’d brought back from Singapore, Pran’s father helping take the boxes inside the house.


He stands awkwardly in front of them, lifting and lowering his hand not knowing what to do.


Pran’s father gathers up another box, but his grip slips and the box falls forward. Pat rushes up to help him, and then the two wordlessly lift the box from both ends and take it inside his house. 


He spot’s Pran’s mother inside the house, bringing a tray with glasses of water and snacks. As she watches Pat and her husband bring in boxes, she addresses her husband, “Why did you let him carry in the boxes?”


Ouch


He knew he wasn’t really invited in the house, and considering what happened between his father and her, he wouldn’t even blame her. But it hurt nonetheless, and Pat visibly deflates, suddenly wishing he could be helping Pran bring the leftover luggage. 


“Come in,” she continues, now looking at Pat, “you already picked Pran up from the airport, we can’t just make you work more.”


Huh?


Pran’s father laughs, “Yeah you’re right. I was being rude. Come in.” He gestures towards the living room, and Pat finds himself being ushered inside the room, his mind a mess in confusion.


So when Pran stops in his tracks, watching his boyfriend who his mother apparently hates, being offered biscuits in his house, on his sofa, sitting beside his mother, all Pat can offer is a very unwilling smile. It seems more like a plea for help.


Pran’s mother notices them having the silent conversation, “Pran, come sit. You must be tired, overnight flights are not really comfortable. Or do you want to wash up first?”


Pat looks at Pran in alarm, Don’t you dare go to freshen up and leave me here alone!


Looking at him like that, a part of Pran wants to be a brat and leave him with his parents. But maybe he feels pity for his boyfriend, or he just doesn’t trust his parents with him yet, but he shakes his head, “I’ll go later.” As much as he wants to take a shower and wash off the dirt and grime of travelling, his boyfriend is a priority right now.


He sits down beside Pat and Pran’s mother asks them about the flight, and if Pat had to wait too long, and if Pran had enough to eat from when he flew from Singapore to back home.


Then they talked about what Pran would do now that he was back for good, and Pat surprisingly finds himself included in their conversations. 


Later, when he parks his car in his own house’s garage, Pat belatedly realises that he may have eaten a little more biscuits than he usually does at other people’s houses.



2.


“Stop- Pat, stop-” Pran flattens his palm over Pat’s face, pushing him off as he tries to make as less sound as possible, “-my mother is downstairs- what if she hears you talking!”


“Just one last kiss~” Pat whines as he makes a kissy face, wrapping his arms around Pran’s neck, pulling him closer.


Pran gives in, letting Pat plaster his cheek with a crushing kiss, and for a moment wonders if he is dating a human or an overgrown puppy.


But his thought process doesn’t run long, there’s a knock at the door.


“Pran,” his mother’s voice sounds a little muffled from the other side of the door, “I’ve got some mangoes for you.”


Oh no


Pran’s heart clenches and he can feel the adrenaline run through his blood vessels. And his dumbass of a boyfriend is frozen, arms still linked over Pran’s shoulders. 


Pran frantically pushes Pat off, whisper-yelling at him a string of ‘ Go!’ , ‘Hurry!, and ‘Who closed the window oh god-’ hoping his mother didn’t hear the loud thud when he accidentally pushed Pat too hard and he fell on his butt.


Pat clutched his butt, wincing at the pain as Pran tried to drag him off and out of the window.


“Pran?” his mother’s voice sounded worried, “Is everything okay?”


“Everything is alright mom-” Pran doesn’t even get enough time to reply to his mother before Pat yelps.


“Pran-” Pran’s mother’s voice now sounds dangerously close to opening the door and storming in.


But Pran couldn’t be bothered right now. Pat seemed to have scratched his thigh on a nail on Pran’s window, and there was visible blood oozing out the cut.


And Pran’s mom decides that this is enough suspense. She shoves open the door with her shoulder, her hands carrying a tray with a plate of mangoes, and stops right there, frozen at the image in front of her. 


Her son, trying to push a definitely human shaped object out of the window, and the human shaped object definitely bleeding through a cut on the thigh.


“What is going on-” she started, placing the plate on Pran’s study table, so haphazardly that on any other day Pran would’ve winced, “Get him off of there!”


And maybe because she is a mother and maybe because she is a little more level headed, before either Pat or Pran can make sense of the situation, Pat finds himself sitting on Pran’s bed, and Pran is shoved off (out of the door not window) to get a first aid kit.


“Kids like you,” Pran’s mother is shaking her head in a way that reminds Pat awfully of his own mother, “how are you kids going to live alone if you hurt yourself this way? Some adults you are, show me how much is cut!”


Pat sheepishly stretches his leg out, and the cut doesn’t seem too deep, but it sure is long. Pran’s mother winces, the cut seems painful.


By this time Pran is back, his adrenaline still running high. He scrambles to take out the antiseptic and cotton, and his hands shake so much that he almost drops the bottle twice. Pran’s mom sighs and decides she has had enough of these dumb kids.


“Hand it over,” she says, taking the bottle from Pran as he looks on with a look both confused and slightly worried. 


She carefully wipes the cut, making sure there is no way the cut will get infected, and Pat has to gather all his will power to not flinch at the sting.


“Why do you have to use the window, you are not a child anymore. It’s a surprise this is the only time you’ve injured yourself!”


Pat and Pran exchange a gaze.


Pran’s mother looks up, “What? Did you two think you were being discreet? The entire colony would be able to hear you two talking.” She smiles, finishing wrapping up the bandage on Pat’s thigh.


She pats his knee, gives them a look which looks borderline - Pran doesn’t even dare say it - fond and points at the plate of mangoes, “Finish them up and bring the plate downstairs. I won’t disturb you two now.”


And as she walks out of the room, Pat and Pran are still too stunned to speak.


Later as Pran takes the empty plate back to the kitchen, he realises the plate held enough mangoes to be shared between two people.



3.


“Alright, alright. I’ll decide where to eat-” Pran hopes he is successful in scoffing of his stupidly-in-love grin while he argues with Pat on where to eat.


And by his mother’s amused voice, he absolutely fails at it.


“Are you going out to eat with Pat?” she asks, and Pran wonders how his house ended up being so calm about matters concerning the house next door.


“Yeah” he says, and he hopes his voice doesn’t sound unusual.


“Have you decided on where to eat?”


“Not yet”


“Then tell Pat to come here.”


“Huh?”


Pran’s mother looks at him as if what she said wasn’t the equivalent of saying that Wai had a crush on Pat.


“What?” she says, shrugging, narrowing her eyes teasingly when Pran looks at her in disbelief, “I think I should be allowed to make my son’s lover have a taste of Madam Dissaya’s seafood sauce?”


Pran feels his eyes burn, threatening to tear up. His mother laughs, gathering him up to a hug. Pran let’s himself hug her back, hiding his face in her arms. 


And when Pat does end up driving up to Pran’s house, ready to pick him up for their totally not a date (nope they’re just “competing to see who has a better choice in restaurants”), he is visibly alarmed at finding himself sitting on the dining table, caged on both sides by Pran’s parents.


Pran’s father is asking him about business, and he talks about how his father and he don’t get along when they work together. Somehow he feels Pran’s mother smirking at the back, but he cannot be too sure.


“Here,” Pran’s mother says, serving a bit of curry, so vibrantly red that Pat can only hope it is food colouring and not actual spice, “have some of this.”


Pat smiles and bows his head a little as thanks, and notices Pran watching him with a dangerous glint in his eyes.


Pat looks down at the curry, looks back at Pran, and gulps. This is just spice.


Hands shaking and completely unwilling, Pat dips the absolute tiniest amount of curry in the rice and brings it to his lips, silently chanting all the scriptures he’s read in his life and hoping he’s been a good enough person yet to warrant the pity of gods. 


The curry surprisingly tastes pretty good, although the spice still burns his tongue. Yet he could feel the taste on his tongue, and he can see the similarity in the taste of curry Pran has made for him. He’s definitely learnt it from his mother.


He makes an exaggerated gesture to display his appreciation, throwing his head back with a grin and smiling as he says, “so good I could eat this all day!” His mother loves it when he compliments her cooking like this, and he instinctively does this in front of Pran’s mother too.


There’s a moment of silence and Pat panics, what if they disapprove of his behaviour? 


And a moment later Pran’s mother bursts out laughing, and Pran’s father resorts to patting his back, smiling and shaking his head as he looks at both him and Pran.


Pran looks royally delighted, so Pat will take that as a win. If it makes his boyfriend happy, Pat will voluntarily eat twenty raw green chillies back to back without even needing water.


“That was Madam Dissaya’s seafood sauce. You should eat more.” Pran’s eyes still look like he’s up to mischief, and Pat knows he saw him trying to avoid taking the curry as much as he could.


Which could also explain why Pran was dipping way too much curry onto the rice on his spoon, and Pran’s mother looks at Pat with an expression which says she knows what her son is trying to do, and she approves of it .


Pran brings up the very dangerous looking spoon- filled with more of the curry than rice- right in front of Pat’s lips, “Try this?”


Pat looks at Pran, Do you want me to make a fool of myself in front of your parents?


And of course Pran can read his mind, his smile grows bigger.


And if Pat knows anything, he knows he’ll happily lose if it makes his boyfriend happy.


Not thinking anything more than goodbye taste buds , Pat shoves the entire spoon into his mouth. 


For a moment there’s nothing, and then all of a sudden the spice burns his tongue, and Pat almost spits everything out.


Almost.


Gagging and choking, he downs the broth straight from hell (this name which he, of course, doesn’t mention to Pran’s mother) and hopes his snot isn’t rolling down his nose when he says, “It’s really good”


Pran’s mother’s face changes from amusement to horror, as she grabs a tissue to wipe his nose, which means he did have snot out. Talk about impressing your in-laws.


Pran laughs out loud as his father hands Pat a glass of water, patting his back with a look seemingly very empathetic, and Pat wonders if he has had to go through this torture himself. He somehow finds it very comforting.


“Can you not eat spicy food?” Pran’s mother asks after Pat gets a little more collected.


Pat sheepishly nods and she looks at Pran.


“Pran, did you feed him that even though you knew he couldn’t handle it?”


Pran turns away and tries to smother his grin, which- Pat would like to point out- he absolutely fails at.


Pran’s mother mock-glares at her son, and she turns to Pat, “Are you feeling better now?”


Pat nods and drinks another gulp of water.


“We used to think that we would have to protect our son from his lover if they tried to pull tricks on him. Seems like now we have to protect his lover from him!” Pran’s dad laughs as he pats Pat’s back one more time, and somehow it feels comfortable.


 Even though his tongue is still burning, and he knows he won’t be able to taste anything for weeks, Pran will have to pay for this, even if he pays with kisses.





Pat fixes the collar of his shirt again as he rings the bell of Pran’s house. 


Pran was asked to give a speech at their university as a successful alumni, and of course Pat was going along with him.


He rubbed his hands together, suddenly feeling like his hands were exceptionally cold.


This was the first time he rang the bell to Pran’s uninvited after that time in college when Pran was ignoring him. Of course he was nervous.


Pran’s mother may have warmed up a bit to him, but that didn’t stop the years and years of hostility making him feel insecure.


Anyways, Pat was a bundle of nerves, and if nobody opened the door in the next ten seconds, Pat might even succumb to his anxiousness and walk back home.


Luckily, the gates opened, and Pran’s mother walked out.


“Come in! It’s cold outside” she waved at him, and Pat jogged up inside the house, greeting her along the way.


“Come sit, Pran is still getting ready.”


“Oh? It’s almost time to go.” Pat looks in the direction of Pran’s room and smiles, “Bet he’s still deciding if the cherry red shirt or tomato red shirt looks better on the beige pants.”


He hears a chuckle from the sofa, and then notices Pran’s father sitting down there with his phone in his hand. Pat joins his hand for a greeting and he returns it.


“You know how he is,” Pran’s mother says, bringing him a glass of water, “he needs lots of planning and precision to make everything absolutely perfect.”


Pat mutters a thank you while receiving the glass, “That’s probably why he’s such an accomplished architect!”


She laughs at that, and all of them sit down on the sofa.


Pat feels fuzzy, looking around the house thinking, Look how far we’ve come!


Now he could walk into Pran’s house freely. Sure, it was still somewhat awkward, but now Pran’s mother didn’t look at him with narrowed, suspicious eyes, and Pran’s father seemed to quite enjoy talking business with him.


It was cosy, it was comfortable. Two years ago he wouldn’t even have dreamed of this.


“But our Pran,” Pat finds himself being pulled back from his thoughts, “Pran stresses too much about perfection sometimes. It’s worrying” Pran’s mother laughs, making it seem like she was joking, but he can sense the concern in her voice.


He knows she’s been feeling guilty, perhaps that’s the reason why she decided to warm up to him. She feels guilty for forcing her son to listen to all she wanted all his life, knowingly or unknowingly.


“He’s been less strict to himself nowadays” Pat provides, hoping it’ll make her feel better.


She smiles.


Pran’s father jumps in, “Last day he snoozed his alarm twice, I’ve never actually seen him do that!”


She starts laughing.


“I’m glad he’s taking some rest, he works too much.” She says, shaking her head.


“He does!” Pat chimes in, “Most of the time I have to drag him off his desk to eat.”


“Really? Does he compromise on food too?”


“Sometimes, but I usually make him eat on time” Pat smiles, and Pran’s mother seems a bit relieved.


“Then we have to thank you” she says, a hand on Pat’s shoulder.


He lowers his head and smiles, saying nothing.


“Truly though,” she continues, “Pran may be a successful architect and doesn’t need us nagging after him, but for me, he’s still a child.”


She looks down on her hands, mindlessly twisting a pen around her fingers, “I am thankful that he has you to take care of him.”


Pat lifts his head up, realising that the mood is suddenly serious.


“Truly,” she says, looking at Pat now, eyes glistening with unshed tears, “thank you for taking care of our son when we didn’t.”


 Pran’s father rubs her back, and she lowers her head, a tear falling off her eyes.


Pat doesn’t know what compelled him to, but he finds himself hugging her, and Pran’s father wrapping his arms around both of them. 


He feels his own eyes stinging, and by the way his vision gets blurry, he knows a few tears have already left his eyes.


And when Pran finally gets dressed and comes downstairs, just to find his parents and his boyfriend in a weird group hug, definitely sniffling back tears, he doesn’t voice out any of his two hundred questions.


And both Pat and Pran’s mother are glad for it.



+1.


Pran was going to do something stupid.


He knew this was absolutely dumb, and might even end up being catastrophic. But there was a voice in his head (which sounded awfully similar to Pat, and that was mildly concerning) which told him to just go for it, who gives a damn about the consequences.


He took a deep breath and steeled himself.


He was going to climb into Pat’s balcony. For a change.


Maybe dating a person for five plus years makes some of their personality traits rub off on you, but Pran finds himself being extremely daring nowadays. 


Pran opens the windows of his room, a slight prickle of hesitation making his way in his heart. But he was determined, and there was no stopping him now.


He mentally measured the twist his body would require to go through the window without hitting onto anything, taking special care avoiding the nails (both he and Pat had learnt the lesson last time) and picked up a pair of slippers.


Pat may not mind jumping balconies while barefoot, but Pran will absolutely not subject his feet through the dust and dirt just to reach his boyfriend’s room.


He drops his slippers on the slab outside his window, hoping the noise they made when they dropped on the slab wasn’t enough to alert anybody.


Slow and steady, step by step, Pran let his body out of the window. Left leg first, then the left half of his torso, stepped on the slipper, and then pushed the rest of the body out of the window, accurately landing both his feet on the slippers. He lets out a silent yes! before planning how to enter Pat’s balcony.


It is easier than he thought, jump onto the next building, scale across the wall, and let himself in from above the railing.


As he lands on the balcony, he feels a smug feeling of accomplishment rising up on him. Fixing his pants and brushing the imaginary dust off of his t-shirt, he knocks on Pat’s door.


Silence.


Then he hears muffled voices, but it’s too far for him to understand who it belongs to.


He knocks again, “Dumbass it’s me”


Silence again.


Before Pran starts wondering if he imagined the voices in the room, he hears footsteps closing towards him, and then watches the doorknob turn.


And comes face to face with Pat’s mother.


Uh oh.


“Pran?” Pat’s mother turns around to face Pat who was sitting behind his drum set, looking both bewildered and shamelessly amused.


Pat’s mother turns to face Pran, “What are you doing here, dear? And how did you-” She stops herself, perhaps knowing how he ended up jumping into her son’s balcony. 


Pran joins his hand for a wai and she smiles, and Pran wonders if he should just jump back into his window.


“Pran can join us too!” Pat says, and Pran feels a foreboding feeling creeping through his spine.


“Ah yes!” Pat’s mother first looks at Pat, and then back at Pran, “Do you have time? Would you join us to watch a movie?”


“Eh?” Pran cannot stop himself before blurting out his confusion, but Pat has already walked up to him, and now has his arm slung over Pran’s shoulder, dragging them inside the house along with him.


Pa is fiddling with the DVD player placed below the TV where Pran is dropped off. Pat has gone off with his mother to bring snacks, and he is left alone in the living room with no idea what to do.


He looks around the house, glimpses of which he’s seen through Pat’s photos, and awkwardly scratches the back of his neck.


“Oh P’Pran? You’re watching the movie with us?” Pa finally notices Pran.


Pran smiles and nods as a response, and Pa seems overjoyed.


“What are we watching?” 


But before Pa can reply, a voice behind him says, “The movie Pa made herself.”


Pran whips his head back, just to find Pat’s father standing right behind him.


He hesitantly lifts his hands to form a wai and Pat’s father just nods.


“Sit down, guests shouldn’t be kept standing.”


“Yes.” Pran says, because what else could he say? And he sits down on the edge of the couch.


Pran’s mother whips her head out of the kitchen, “Pran, do you want juice or iced tea? Pat says you like iced tea. Do you want me to make some for you?” 


Pran hurriedly shakes his palm, insisting he doesn’t want anything, “Oh no I don’t want to trouble you-”


“Oh it’s fine! It won’t take longer than a minute!”


“Just drink what you want, don’t hesitate to ask.” Pat’s father says, patting his shoulder, and Pran mutters out another Yes and shrinks back into the couch.


Fortunately Pa finishes loading the movie on the TV and she sits beside him and chatters on about how she filmed and created the movie, and how much Ink helped her. Pran smiles and lets himself be taken in by the conversation.


The movie ends and Pran finds himself clapping alongside everybody in the room, genuinely impressed by the quality of the piece. Pa was talented, for sure.


Pat goes on an exaggerated speech about how cool the movie is, and Pran adds in a few words himself, laughing and high fiving the siblings. 


But then Pran’s mother calls him to ask if he is coming back for dinner, and he realises then that he is missing from his house.


“I’m coming back mom-” he starts, getting up from the couch, but Pat’s mother places her hand on his arm.


“Won’t you stay for dinner?” she asks, loud, probably for everyone in the house to hear it and not just Pran. 


And if the silence on the other side of the phone is to be taken into account, Pran’s mother heard it too.


“Are you in the house next door?” she asks.


“Yeah”


“If you’re having dinner there it’s fine, I just wanted to ask if you’d want dinner.”


Pran can just choke out an oh okay before his mother hangs up, and he looks at Pat’s mom, clearly sensing the smug look on Pat even though he cannot see him behind his mother.


“I think I will be staying for dinner.”