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What if

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I.

 

 

 

In the beginning.

 

 

 

All it took was one look. A single glance.

Pete had smiled slightly, as a mark of respect, but inside he was shaken.

At the time, Pete was young, unconscious, perhaps hoping that coming to the safety of the Theerapanyakul family would give him something to think about apart from the life he had left behind.

He also thought that nothing would disrupt his hectic daily life like a bodyguard.

However, it was enough for him to meet her eyes to understand that his new life was going to be much more violent than the previous one.

He had silently followed the one he was going to obey, eyes to the ground, hands clasped, he had remembered with ease the layout of the place and the identity of each person he had passed that day.

When he and his guide, accompanied by a bodyguard already under the family's orders, had gone into the room that served as a meeting place. They were there, in such a heavy atmosphere, that Pete did not feel reassured by the presence of the guns on the table—a way of showing that despite the heated discussion, no bullets would fly.

Pete knew the identity of every person at the table. Moreover, he could tell the slightest information about each of them. When he looked up, however, his gaze went straight to Vegas Theerapanyakul, whose expression conveyed deep anger. His jaw was clenched. From the sight of that split lip, as well as the bloodstains on his uniform, Pete had deduced that the meeting had been about settling scores. Kinn had similar injuries, but kept a straight face.

Vegas had looked up at Pete as if, for a split second, he had become aware of the new recruit's presence.

Then, it took only that second for Pete to feel a deep tremor in his being. He forgot to breathe, and his whole body tensed up. The look in Vegas' eyes stabbed him, even if it was short-lived, and the wound opened.

The obsession was born, creeping in slowly, like gangrene, but Pete could not yet imagine how this moment would be the beginning of something much more painful.

Korn Theerapanyakul ended the discussion with a simple wave of his hand. Pete still felt the heavy atmosphere until the minor family members did not leave the place.

 

 

He saw Vegas repeatedly pull away from his father's powerful hand as he held me by the neck and at the sight of the white knuckles, Pete understood. He was holding him tightly, perhaps far too tightly. Surely, at that moment, Pete was the only one who felt anything other than hatred—but compassion and fear.

To Pete, Vegas seemed so young and already very disturbed by the environment he was in. Everyone turned a blind eye to the violence he was already experiencing, as if he only deserved to be his father's whipping boy.

Before he even got into his father's vehicle, his gaze fell on the building of the main family home. As if on cue, Pete flashed his broad smile. His eyes became half-moon shaped as his dimples appeared. In that smile he put a hint of warmth, tenderness and compassion, but the coldness Vegas returned to him made the sketch disappear, and again the gangrene gained a little more ground.

 

Several months had passed when he saw him again. The wounds had left their mark and his face was still closed with the occasional satisfied grin. This time his outfit reflected his personality and no one could deny the confidence in his walk.

Yet, he was so young and, despite his status in the family, he was not fully a man. He was trying to play on the field of the big boys. On the other hand, his father's rejection and attitude was like a venom in his system, and so he developed a hatred against his perfect reflection: Kinn himself.

His mission seemed to be clear and established in him: he had to be stronger, more imposing, more loving than he was. However, he was the opposite.

That day, the evening of their second meeting, Vegas had avoided Pete like water around a rock. Without a glance, without an ounce of attention, he had walked past him. Pete had felt his legs tremble, his body tense up again, and an unpleasant emotion settled in the pit of his stomach.

There was no particular reason for the comings and goings of Vegas during this period. Pete was busy being trained to be the head of the bodyguards, but he had eventually become the protégé of the eldest of the main family - Tankhun. As a result, he was mostly confined to duties incongruous for a bodyguard and often just guarding the main residence, or his boss's home.

 

The first time he was able to go into the field, he accompanied the second in command—Kinn Anakinn. He was then under the command of Big—a man with a hard face, but a perfect jaw and blind loyalty to Kinn. The latter had gone on a visit to one of the city's popular clubs, which they owned. Big had simply stipulated that all attention should be focused on Kinn so that he would not be embroiled in yet another rocky situation. The kidnapping quota had been exceeded by the second week of the month, and Big seemed to be bothered enough by the simple fact that Kinn was risking his life every time he showed his face in public.

Everything seemed to be going well until Vegas came to Kinn's table. He had dressed so that only he could be seen, and his presence had shaken the club like an aftershock. "Children are not welcome at my table," Kinn had retorted before raising a glass of dry whiskey to his mouth.

Vegas had given a slight laugh, the expression seemed to have amused him, but his slight smile faded as soon as his gaze met Kinn's. The visual battle was quickly interrupted by Korn's arrival. The visual battle was quickly interrupted by the arrival of Korn, "You can wear all the costumes you want, you're just a kid..." A simple wave of his hand and Vegas jumped to his feet before heading for the exit—Pete and Big were on his tail to make sure he didn't rock the boat, and there was a vehicle waiting outside.

It was at that moment that Pete's eyes met Vegas' again. The hatred in her eyes was so piercing that Pete felt a chill run through him.

Again, eye contact lasted only a moment.

One second.

"He's a thorn in our side," Big had whispered in Pete's ear as they walked back to Kinn's table. Best to ignore him, understand?"

Pete had nodded. He was not yet strong enough to allow himself to ask questions about how the family worked, about internal relationships, and about questioning the attitude people should have towards each other.

Over the next few months, Pete found himself wondering when he would see Vegas again. Sometimes he thought he would see him on a street corner on his day off. He also saw him several times in his uniform, accompanied by his younger brother, and Pete would occasionally catch himself following them without noticing.

So he would then turn back in fear of being spotted, but obviously, he was nothing to Vegas. Occasionally, he would ask if he remembered him, and then Pete hated himself for thinking so.

Why should he care about the eldest of the second family...

 

 

His dedication and perseverance earned him the trust of the Theerapanyakul family and some recognition. At the end of his second year of training, he received the badge, which he proudly hung on his suit. He no longer needed to refer to another bodyguard, he could take direction from the missions. Moreover, he had Arm and Pol under his joust, two guards whose main occupation was to keep an eye on Tankhun's extravagant attitudes.

Despite this, Pete's mind potentially wandered to Vegas. His curiosity even led him to learn more about the young man. He listened to the rumors, the gossip, the testimonies of some of his colleagues, the discussions in the locker room—they all had the same view on Vegas. He was manipulative, narcissistic and sickly selfish from Kinn's position. The more he tried to be like him, the further he got from him.

Yet, despite this, Pete wanted to know the real Vegas. The one who hid under that haughty exterior.

He tried not to show too much interest in Vegas and drowned out the questions about him with rambling discussions. Obviously, it was easy for him to appear to be a brainless neurotic to Tankhun.

 

 

 

Pete! He's always smiling, that one! Kinn had patted him on the shoulder as he came to the table for the meal. The father had insisted on family meals from time to time, but only his two older sons accepted the invitation. The youngest, Kim, seemed to have too much on his plate to show up—but that didn't discourage the father from continuing to invite him.

Pete would meet up with Big. Sometimes the father would insist that they come and eat with them, but the two bodyguards would stand on their two feet, straight, and decline the invitation respectively.

After this kind of meal, Arm and Pol would take over, so Pete would return to the flat he had been allocated on arrival and prefer to eat alone. Then he would meditate for a long time.

He put down the mask he wore every day, and his gaze wandered to the supplies that filled the room. He let the silence absorb the room, as if everything around him became black and his surroundings curled in on themselves.

He closed his eyes and tried to chase away what was drowsy inside him. The room grew darker, and he let himself go in his second state, staring again into the void.

Two knocks sounded at his door and he leapt to his feet. The noodles in his bowl had gone cold, and he reluctantly threw the food away—even though it had seemed bland from the first bite.

Arm and Pol stood in the doorway. "The boss wants to watch a show, are you coming?" Pete immediately put his mask back on and his lips split into a huge smile, making his dimples appear. "Now?"

His question seemed to surprise them, but his smile widened, and he caught himself: "I think he... I think we should get some food. We're out of popcorn."

Even though Pete had insisted on doing it alone, Arm went with him, not without taking any interest in the contents of the basket, which was filling up as they walked along the aisles of the nearest mini-market.

By the time they came out with two bags each, Pete's gaze had been drawn to the figure on the opposite pavement. Vegas was standing against a post, a cigarette tucked between his thin lips, listening with one ear to the animated conversation of the two men facing him.

He had lost all the images of the young boy Pete had once met. As the years went by, he began to exude the ease of a determined, mature, adult man.

Pete noticed that, unlike that chance encounter in the club, Vegas was dressed very smartly in black trousers and matching leather shoes with a red silk shirt as a top that caressed the shape of his shoulders and marked his slim waist.

Maybe within the Theerapanyakul family he was a big stain on the family tree, but at that very moment he was perhaps the most perfect person on the street. Pete realized he was watching him too much when Arm leaned in towards him, "I hear he's gone wild..."

Pete shuddered. Wild beast? He didn't really understand the meaning of the term. To him, Vegas was Kinn's cousin, a member of the family, and he should be accorded the same respect. However, with time, he understood that he was the only one who had this vision. "One of his bodyguards quit after seeing him torture a guy who just looked down on him... If he's having a problem with his shortness, he might as well say so instead of pulling our fingernails off."

A shiver ran down Pete's spine. His eyes were still focused on Vegas' face as he threw his cigarette butt on the ground, grinning with satisfaction at the animosity between his two comrades.

At that moment, Pete would have realized that if a mirror was facing him, the mask he was wearing at the time had fallen off. The look on his face was not the one he had when he was in the presence of his colleagues or the members of the Theerapanyakul family. He stood there in his second state and puzzled by the different expressions Vegas was wearing that day. The contact was broken when a vehicle passed and the young man's figure disappeared. For a split second Pete felt confused, lost before Arm came to pull at the sleeve of his blazer. "Hurry... they're waiting for us."

His colleague hadn't noticed the confusion in Pete's expression—he was a master at hiding his emotions. How could they know what was going on in the Vegas room? "You all went there what..." muttered Pete as he began to follow Arm's lead.

On the way back, Pete remained silent, and even when they arrived in Tankhun's living room and the program was ready to be launched, he simply put on a frozen smile as if to hide what he was feeling deep inside. His head hurt, but he continued to put on the expression of a happy man.

 

There was perhaps one thing that annoyed Pete and that was that Vegas' behavior was on everyone's lips. Like his father's actions, he had been relegated to a trusted, yet meek bodyguard.

Several terms were used to describe him, and even simpleton came to mind. Some even said he was “cute” and gave off sympathy. Next to Big, he was a little lamb.

Tankhun formalized Pete's position in his bodyguard as he entered his fourth year in the Theerapanyakul family. The elder's situation meant that Pete's main job was to watch him as he went from the living room to the bathroom, because as everyone knew, Tankhun did not go out. The very idea of stepping out into the street would cause him to become hysterical, and his rare outings had to be of extreme necessity.

To some, Tankhun had lost his mind. For Pete, he was far too fragile a person to be part of the milieu and with all the situations he had experienced as a child being the son of a Theerapanyakul had led him to extreme paranoia.

However, his official status changed the behavior of some of his peers—in training, in exercises, he could face Big without feeling like a loser.

But hand-to-hand combat was not what Pete was good at, and he preferred to keep his strengths safe so as not to reveal them to anyone who might betray the family.

"The second family is coming..."

Pete had come to the main door as soon as Big had announced the arrival of the guests. Business meant that a meeting had been requested by Korn and Gun. "...Hopefully the other nutcase isn't...

- Thank you for respecting the members of the second family," cut in Pete, as he lined up with the others as a vehicle pulled up."

A silence fell among the bodyguards and the door opened on Gun, his face closed, his eyes black with anger. Korn greeted him as kindly as ever, even if the electricity between the two men remained. You could see the sparks.

The back door opened and Vegas stepped out of the vehicle with a grin on his face. His mere presence silenced the murmurs that had once again risen among the bodyguards. Big even swore through his teeth as Vegas stepped forward proudly, putting his leather jacket back on properly before stopping in front of Big without losing his smile. "Miss me?"

Big glared at him as the young man took the same path as his father, but not without lingering for a split second in Pete's eyes. The latter shivered and tried, as best he could, to remain indifferent, but he had to admit, Vegas had a disturbing presence.

Although the contact lasted only a short time, which Pete seemed to be getting used to, this time Vegas gave him a small nod. A greeting as if to indicate that he could see him now.

Now he was on the same level as Big.

And now Pete could be a thorn in Vegas' side.