When Pete’s phone rings and he sees Kao’s name on the display, he picks up, purring, “Hi there, lover!” into the receiver.
It’s not Kao, though, it’s his mother. But before Pete can stutter out an embarrassed apology, she tells him in a hoarse voice full of tears, “Can you come, Pete? Please. Kao needs you…”
Of course. Of course he can. Anything for Kao.
On the ride there, ignoring all the speed limits and gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turn white, Kao’s mom’s words keep replaying in Pete’s head, over and over again, in an endless loop.
“It’s Non… he killed himself.”
Non killed himself.
Non came to Kao’s house and right there, in front of Kao, the brat offed himself. Pete would feel sorry for him - he’s not unfeeling, after all - if Non didn’t drag Kao into it, if he didn’t do it this way to hurt Kao. Because exactly that was Non’s intention, of that Pete’s sure.
When Pete arrives at Kao’s house, there are people everywhere, cops, EMTs and rubberneckers too, and the street is filled with official looking vehicles with flashing lights piercing the twilight. He parks his car in the first available space and then he jumps out and runs towards Kao’s house and when the cops try to stop him, he makes such a ruckus that Kao’s mother comes out and asks them to let Pete in. They do.
On his way in, Pete passes Non’s body, covered with a blood soaked white sheet. It’s still there. He feels his stomach rebel and he has to swallow hard. He hated Non, he really did. He hated him with passion but this… this is a mess! Shit…
Kao’s mom is waiting for him in the doorway. Pete squeezes her hand gently. Her skin is cold and clammy, she must still be in shock. No wonder, really… It makes Pete even more furious with Non, damn that brat!
And then he sees Kao.
He is in the living room, paler than usual, actually almost grey, even his lips seem bloodless. He looks washed out, faded, colorless - except for the blood splattered all over him. Some forensic guy is taking pictures of him - his hands, his face, his blood-soaked t-shirt - and the bright flashes of his camera make Kao flinch.
Pete sees the exact moment when Kao’s knees give out.
With a loud “Whoa there!” he jumps in to catch Kao and slowly, carefully he guides him over to the couch and helps him sit down. He holds Kao with one arm around his shoulders and feels his shivers; they come and go in waves, uncontrollable and disconcerting. Kao’s breaths are shallow and his eyes are glassy - and Non’s blood, it’s all over him. Shit!
“Kao? Kao, can you hear me?” Pete asks, shaking him gently, because Kao doesn’t even seem aware of him, of anything going on around him.
But before he can get Kao to respond, an annoyed looking plain-clothed cop stomps over, looming over them threateningly, and demands to know who Pete is and what he’s doing there. Pete’s already pissed off and this guy is rubbing him the wrong way. The way he stares at Kao… it’s as if he’s already judged Kao and found him guilty, as if he’s already decided that somehow, in some way, this mess is all Kao’s fault. Again.
It’s Kao’s mom who stops the situation from escalating. She steps in to say that it was she who called Pete and she introduces him as Kao’s classmate and…
“His boyfriend!” Pete snaps out loud, for everyone to hear. He shoves it down that prick’s throat, glaring up at him, daring him to say anything.
The cop doesn’t.
And then the man starts asking questions, about Kao and Non and about what happened here, jotting down the answers in his little notebook, pen scratching across paper.
It’s Kao’s mother again who answers his questions because Kao is… not really all there, it seems. He’s staring down at his hands, tightly folded in his lap to stop them from shaking. Pete keeps on holding him - both up and together. He wants to get Kao out of his ruined clothes and into the shower, wash the dried blood off him… but it seems the cop is determined not to let that happen any time soon. It seems that he’s still pig-headedly trying to pin Non’s suicide on Kao.
No way. Fuck the guy.
“You want to know who Non was?” Pete finally snaps, jumping in when the cop once again tries to insinuate that the brat is the victim here. “You really want to know what he did?”
The cop shoots him an annoyed glare. “Enlighten me,” he growls.
And so Pete does. He tells them everything, he says it out loud, for everyone to hear, all the dirty details, even those he kept to himself and never told Kao. He tells them all about how Non assaulted Kao, how he tried to ruin his life, how Non’s father threatened Kao–
“Non killed his father,” Kao whispers suddenly.
And everything screeches to a halt.
Silence settles over the room as they all stare at Kao in shock. Kao continues to sit there, shivering all over and staring vacantly down into his lap, but now his lips move and he starts talking, so quietly that they have to strain their ears to hear him.
“Non couldn’t take his abuse anymore so he took his father’s gun and shot him. He told me himself. And he also told me he came here to kill me too. He said it was all my fault, he said I ruined his life. But then he decided that it wouldn’t be enough, killing me. He decided that I should live - and remember. Never forget. That’s what he said. And then he pulled out his gun and shot himself in the head.”
Kao falls silent and he seems to fold in on himself. His shoulders hunch as if all that’s been holding him up until now left him with his words. Tears start running down his face, dissolving the dried blood and leaving clear pathways behind.
For a while, nobody moves, they all just keep staring at Kao. Then the plain-clothed cop utters an empathetic “Shit!” and turning around, he starts barking orders, sending his people to Non’s home because their simple suicide just apparently turned into a much more headache-inducing murder-suicide. What a damn mess.
Pete’s heart skips a beat and then another one when Kao’s words finally sink in. Non came here to kill Kao. That spoiled, psychotic brat came here to kill Pete’s boyfriend, Pete’s lover. He had a gun and he came here to– If he didn’t change his mind, Kao would be dead now.
Kao would be dead.
He would be gone.
Regardless of Non’s blood, Pete wraps his arms around Kao, pulling him close, almost into his lap. He wraps himself around Kao, all around him, hugging him hard, as if he can shield Kao this way, hide him away, keep him safe. And Kao’s mom is there too, now sitting on Kao’s other side, holding his hand, and she’s crying, her free hand pressed against her lips.
So close, it was so close, they both know, they realize it as their eye meet over Kao’s head. They almost lost Kao today…
Pete’s never hated Non more than in this very moment.
When the cops finally allow Kao to change - “His clothes, they’re evidence!” they don’t forget to point out - and shower, Pete’s there with him, in his bedroom and in the bathroom… in the shower itself.
He washes Kao’s hair and his face, his chest and his hands, making sure that all the visible traces of Non are gone but Kao still keeps seeing them, those blood splatters, so Pete gently runs the washcloth over Kao’s skin again and again and again, wishing it would be just as easy to erase Non from Kao’s memory.
Then, when the water runs cold, Pete dries Kao off and helps him dress - and then he takes both Kao and his mother home, to his house, to a safe place, and leaves the crime scene to the cops. They can do whatever they want there.
And still later on, after midnight, while Kao’s mom and Pete’s dad are talking quietly in the living room downstairs, Pete takes Kao to his bed and he holds him, spooning him, and Kao, safely tucked against Pete’s chest whispers, “I really thought I would die…”
Hearing that, Pete pulls Kao closer and he kisses Kao’s hair and he whispers back, into Kao’s ear, “I won’t let anything happen to you, ever. I promise.”
And Kao pretends he believes that Pete can do it. And Pete pretends it can be done, that he can protect Kao from all the hurt and all the bad people out there. And maybe, if they pretend long enough and hard enough, it can actually come true.
But for now, they sleep.