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10.000 Hours

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Prologue

Mew is late for once and he thinks that maybe it’s a sign; a sign that he shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t do this and that he should just give up. 

His fans are surrounding him, taking pictures, asking for selfies with him and give him encouragement. That’s why he came here after all: so he doesn’t let them down. Without their constant enthusiasm he would have just stayed in bed, spend the day inside. It’s easier these days than showing his face somewhere, but they don't need to know of his inner turmoil and how badly he is still hurting.

Mew goes inside, takes care of the paperwork that is necessary for the casting and then goes right into the first round of the audition. It goes okay, he thinks,  and he tells his fans so, once he is back out and they are still waiting for him right at the entrance of the conference hall where the audition is being held. 

While he chats with his supporters, he looks around the room and checks for familiar faces of former colleagues or just those he knows from other castings and music videos. There are some people he recognises, but no one Mew really knows and he is grateful for that. It’s a small mercy that day that he doesn’t have to face someone he really knows and someone who could pretend now to not know him anymore. Just in case, he goes into the waiting room and tells his fans he needs to prepare for the next round – which isn’t a total lie.

”Knew you had to be hiding somewhere with the crazy girls waiting outside wearing your name on their shirts.” It’s Mild who interrupts his solitude a while later as he steps into the room, but it’s ok, because Mild does so with a large smile and hugs Mew tightly as soon as he’s close enough. ”It’s good to see you, man.”

”Yeah, you too.” Mew really means it.

”You could have called, you know. I meant what I said in my text,” Mild cuts straight through the chase, as he sits down beside Mew. They are alone in the small room with just four chairs and the door is closed.

”I needed some time after this mess.” Mew sighs deeply and runs his hand through his hair, before smoothing it back down.

”You’re good now?”

”I’m….” Mew doesn’t know how to continue. He doesn't want to lie but neither does he want to tell the truth. 

”It wasn’t your fault,” Mild interrupts his search for words with his statement. ”At least not all of it.”

”What does that mean?” Shock overrides the anger that flares up inside of Mew for a moment. What could Mild blame him for in this mess? He didn't do anything! He was the one who was screwed over and betrayed.

”You were both being idiots for posting all that shit online. Stuff like that, that’s private like fights and sulking doesn’t belong on twitter or IG or anywhere else. You can tease, you can joke, but real fighting isn’t supposed to be on there.”

”I know,” Mew admits lowering his head because he knows his friend is right. It was a childish and immature thing to do. ”I was just so angry and I wanted a reaction because he was ghosting me. I didn’t think it would get that much attention. That’s why after I left social media for a while after that last spat, so I wouldn’t be tempted again. For me that whole thing was done after that horrible interview.”

”Until he went and posted that fucking video, I guess.” Leave it to Mild to speak the truth out loud once again.

”Yeah.”

”How did your family react?”

The question surprises Mew. ”You mean about the allegations or about the fact that he outed me?”

”Both.”

”They know that I’m bi. I had a steady boyfriend for a while at college. He knew that, so maybe that’s why he thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to put it out there. I don’t think… it’s stupid, because it could ruin my career in the industry, but at the same time I don’t mind it that much. We’re playing in BL series so it should be ok to be bi or gay or whatever. People who want only straight guys play gay characters are hypocrites. But still… it’s not ok to do that to someone, you know?” Mew rambles as Mild nods but remains quiet and just listens for once. ”But about the rest, the allegations that I basically forced myself on him and he was just too scared to say something and how I lied and badmouthed him, texted his friends… My parents were angry. My dad wanted to sue, my mom cried. But it’s not like… it was only him and me there that night. It’s his word against mine. And I don’t want to sue, I just want to get over it and move on. There's no point in a 'he said, he said' kind of game that neither one could win.”

”He hurt you.”

”He did, that's the worst part for me. I thought it was mutual, I really did, otherwise I wouldn’t have kissed him.” Mew swallows hard. "I trusted him and thought he was my friend and wanted more, too."

”To be fair we all did. You were both all over each other all the time. Sure, you’re more tactile than he is, but you are that way with everyone. Honestly, I thought you already were a couple and just didn’t want to tell anyone. Especially after your vacation together and all the lives and pics you showed us. I mean, I don't pull down the pants of my straight friends to look at their naked butts while I'm in IG live…” Mild chuckles when he says the last part.

”I still don't get why he never said anything. All this time, not a single word. I know I'm  a hot head, but what's the worst that could happen? I'd yell at him, so what? But he stayed at my house, slept in my bed, went on vacation with me, had dinner with my family so it couldn't have been that bad right? And then… like, even when I kissed him, he didn’t stop me. He kissed me back. And then when he left, he said he didn’t want things to move too fast and so he shouldn’t stay that night. I thought we were on the same page, I was so happy. And then a couple of days later he texts me that he doesn’t feel the same. Just like that. He didn’t even call me or meet me in person. I felt… if he had just stopped me at some point and told me that he only wanted to be friends, it would have been ok. But…now I feel like I can’t trust my instinct anymore. Now, every time I go and hug a friend or touch them, I’m thinking: ‘Is this too much? Do I make them uncomfortable?’ It’s so fucked up.” Mew takes a deep breath to calm down.

”You can hug me and touch me all you want. But if you ever wanna kiss me…. Please no tongue, ok? Just a peck on the cheek.” Mew and Mild both have to laugh.

”That’s good to know.” Mew pulls Mild in for a hug.

”I’m really glad to see you here. I was scared you’d stop acting.” ild speaks into his shoulder.

”I thought about it, but first my manager talked me into a casting, now my fans…”

”What role are you auditioning for?” They finally let go of one another.

”I came here for P’San, but they just told me they want me to audition for Tharn as well. And you?”

”Techno.”

”You’d be good as the comic relief of the show. I hope you get the part.”

”You know, you’d be a good Tharn,” Mild says and cocks his head to the side looking at him. ”Maybe a bit old.”

”Asshole!” Mew slaps the back of his head, before they both start laughing again. 

”Mew?  You’re ready? We’d like and see you as Tharn with the Types now.” One of the assistants interrupts them and Mew gets up.

”If we don’t see each other at the next round tomorrow, let’s have dinner together soon, ok?” Mild asks and Mew nods in agreement. Even if he doesn’t get the role, he’s still glad that he came to the casting, just for this talk alone.

 

***

 

”Congratulations,” Mew says as soon as he slides into the booth beside Mild a day later.

”I should be congratulating you. You, grandpa,  got the main role!” Mew just laughs and shakes his head at his friend's teasing.

”You already know what you’re going to eat?”

”Why? Am I invited? You sure can afford it now.”

”I could afford it before.” Mew rolls his eyes as he checks out the menu himself. The waitress arrives a second later and they both order their drinks and food, Mew inviting Mild.

”I’m happy we’re going to be shooting together again. It's nice to know someone on set,” Mild starts chattering as soon as they are alone again.

”True. Although I’m curious about all the newbies this time. Some of them got the big parts as a first gig, so they must be good.”

”How about that kid who gets to play Type? He any good? I don’t even know what he looks like.”

”He’s…” Mew thinks about how to phrase it. ”It’s a weird story.” He finally says.

”How so?”

”Yesterday, with the first round of Types nothing clicked. And then today, when I got to the audition, my fan club was babbling about a guy they had chatted up and how he was auditioning for Type and how cute he was and how nice and how I needed to meet him. I didn’t even know who they were talking about. They showed me a guy sitting in a corner, starring blankly ahead or just kept playing on his phone. And then later, I had to play with him. It was like… instantly there was the chemistry I was missing with all other partners I had played with and he's a really good actor.  It was funny, because after the scene we did, he was completely red, like even his ears were burning because he was blushing so hard. So when they asked me who I would choose as Type, I said that I’d choose him. To make it even weirder when I stepped outside my fans were waiting with him and had us take a picture together that they sent me. It’s like… fate, even though that sounds cheesy.”

”Awwww…. That is fate,” Mild gushes. ”So, show me! I wanna see the Type to your Tharn!”Mew takes out his phone and shows him the photograph his fans took. ”Look at him! He’s a baby! A really, really tall baby, but… awwww. You look cute together. It’s his first job, right? What’s his name? Who is he?”

”His name is Gulf, it’s his first part and… that’s basically all I know. I’ll have the managers set up a meeting because, honestly, I don’t want to sign the contract before we hash out some important things. I need to know that he’s aware what he signed up for with this part and that he can handle what’s coming, especially concerning my history.”

”You’re gonna tell him about the mess and the accusations?”

”I think it’s more likely he already knows, but I want him to hear my side. It’s better he tells me now he doesn’t want to be a BL couple with me, than have him find out later and freak out. I don’t want another scandal.”

”Sounds about right,” Mild nods and seems to contemplate Mews words. ”What’s he like?”

”Hard to say, he didn’t talk much. Kind of quiet. Can’t tell if he’s just shy or arrogant. I think I’d go with shy… that blush. Yeah, shy.” Mew makes up his mind.

”He looks nice though. I hope the meeting goes ok, because you, my friend, need to be on this show with me.” Mild points his finger at Mew’s face and only takes it down when their drinks arrive a couple of seconds later.

 

***

 

”You’re ready?” his manager Boss asks Mew as they step out of the elevator in the office building.

”Yeah,” he nods. ”You know his manager?”

”I do. He’s a good guy and has been in the industry for a long time. There have never been any problems with him as far as I know.”  It’s a relief to know that, with the recent stunts and pettiness that go on between managers on sets on other BL shows. Mew hates that kind of crap and it can become impossible to work with certain actors, simply because their managers are assholes.

”Good, then let’s get this over with,” Mew nods as Boss opens the door to the meeting room.

Mew hasn’t seen or talked to Gulf since the casting a couple of days ago, but Mew is already running out of time for signing the contract. Yet, Mew couldn’t do it, without having this talk first, because he had learned from his past mistakes. This time Mew needs clear rules for this ship and he needs them in an official capacity.

When Mew steps inside the small conference room, he is surprised that there aren’t only Gulf and his manager, but two more people. Looks like his unknown costar always comes with a large team around him.

”Good afternoon,” they all greet each other. 

”Good afternoon. Let me introduce you,” Gulf’s manager, P’Best, says. ”This is Boss, Mew’s manager, Gulf, Mew you know each other already.  And these are Gulf's parents,” he introduces  everyone and immediately Mew greets them again. For a second he wonders how old Gulf is, because he brought his parents, but then Gulf’s father is already speaking.

”We just had to come and see the guy our son’s going to fall in love with,” he says and his joke breaks the tension as they all start to laugh; all except for Gulf, who seems embarrassed by his father’s joke, as he blushes again and mutters something.

”Nice to meet you both,” Mew tells them.

”I was surprised you wanted to meet in advance. Production told me you haven’t signed the contract yet,” Best says as they all sit down and he passes out drinks.

”You already signed?” Boss asks Gulf, who just nods.

”Lead in a BL series by Mame after the success of the last one? Sure deal,” Best shrugs. ”What's stopping you?”

”There are some things that we need to talk about before,” Mew answers before his manager can reply.

”Okay. What things?” Gulf’s mother looks intrigued.

”I need to be sure that you know what taking that role entails. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of work and there’s the whole fan service thing… we’ll need clear rules and communication for that.”

”I explained it all to Gulf before he went to the first casting for a BL show. And you’ve been through it, you can help him out, right?” Gulf’s manager asks and Mew does a double take. Surely he can’t be serious.

”Actually about that… you do know what happened last year, right? The scandal involving Mew?” Boss asks, when Mew can’t find the words and simply looks down at his hands. This is humiliating as well as hurting him, especially with Gulf’s parents in the room.

”We know,” Best nods and so do Gulf’s parents. The only one who looks completely clueless is Gulf himself.

”What scandal?” he asks and looks to Mew.

”It happened after the…” Boss starts to explain but Mew stops him with a hand on his arm.

”Could I talk to Gulf alone for a moment?” He looks at Gulf's parents when he asks the question.

”Of course. We’ll grab some coffee at the coffee shop downstairs and get to know each other better, right? Just call when you’re done,” Gulf’s mother decides and has the other three men get up and follow her out. 

Mew takes a deep breath and then starts to speak. ”You know I’ve been on WTD, right?”

”Yes.”

”And I was in another couple on the show.”

”Yes, I know. I watched the show.” Gulf seems unbothered.

”Thing is that I fell for my partner. I’m bisexual.” Mew admits to get it over with.

”I have a girlfriend.” Gulf shrugs again. ”I mean, I went to an all boys school and like kissed guys and stuff. I don’t mind you’re bi or gay or whatever.”

Mew can only gape at him. The blunt way Gulf speaks and just puts it out there, while he seems to be absolutely nonplussed by any of it, puzzles Mew. He didn’t expect that from this quiet kid.

”Thing is, that the feelings weren’t mutual. I didn’t know that though and so one night, while we were hanging out as friends, I kissed him. Instead of talking to me and telling me off, he didn’t though and things got crazy on social media and it became a huge mess. Then one night he wanted to get his version of events out and basically outed me in the video and made people think I’m a sexual predator or something and had molested him for quite a while. At least that’s what people made of it, even though I’m sure that’s not what he meant.”

”What a dick,” Gulf grumbles.

”I don’t mean to bash him. He had his reasons to be mad at me. I'm someone who likes to hug and touch people and not everyone is comfortable with that. I have a temper, I know that, too. I just… I don’t want you to be dragged into this mess in any way. But if I take this part then you will be dragged into it some way or another. Any skin-ship we’ll have to do, will be scrutinised all the time and some people might start rumours, especially because you’re new in the business and much younger than me.”

”Why did you audition for Tharn then, if you’re scared of the drama being brought back up?” Again Gulf surprises him with his pointed question.

”I didn’t at first. I came in for P’San and they asked me to audition for Tharn as well.”

”Yeah me, too. Audition for P’San that is…” Gulf mutters and looks at him for a moment.”I want you to be Tharn. I even told them when they asked me. It just… it didn’t feel right with the others.”

Mew's chin drops at the unexpected statement. Gulf picked him too after casting! Mew is speechless for a moment, then nods. ”I told them I wanted you as Type.”

A smile forms on Gulf’s face and his ears turn red once again. It’s endearing. ”Sooo….” Gulf says with a smile that looks kind of cheeky. ”I keep my girlfriend a secret, you keep your lips to yourself when we’re not shooting and we got a deal?”

Mew laughs out loud. That kid is certainly not what he expected and he has guts, he has to give him that. ”We’ll need to talk about rules for working together, for skin-ship, for fan service.”

”Like what?”

”Like… we can’t hang out alone in private, because it would start rumours if people notice. And you need to tell me when I make you uncomfortable, always and at any point. And we’ll need to have an agreement what touches are ok… that kind of thing. Just… talk to me and don’t put it online or tell others.”

Gulf looks at him for a long moment. ”I’m not a guy for hugging and touching and all that, but I’ll have to get used to it anyway. And I’d rather you show me and teach me than anyone else. You can trust me. I’m not known for talking too much or holding back,” Gulf says with another shrug. ”I’m more the 'kick and punch' kinda guy.” The smirk is back and Mew laughs again. ”You can deal with that?”

”Yes.” Mew nods.

”So you’ll sign the contract and be the Tharn to my Type?”

”I will,” Mew vows and suddenly feels so much lighter. It’s not only that he will work again and star as the lead for the first time, but also that he has a good feeling about working with Gulf. The chemistry that made him pick Gulf after the audition is still there and he likes him.

”You've read the books yet?” Gulf suddenly changes the topic.

”No, not yet. You?”

”A bit. It’s… interesting.” Gulf is smirking again.

”Don’t spoil it!” Mew says quickly and laughs. 

Gulf snorts. ”I couldn’t. Just wait! All I say is, we better get used to skin-ship really fast.”

This time Mew blushes at the implication and giggles. ”We should probably talk about the characters while we read the books. It’ll still be a week or two until we get the scripts.”

”Sure. We can meet and talk about it.”

”Uhm, I think calling each other would be better.”

”Fine,” Gulf is back to shrugging. ”Hey, you play games?” he asks then and again changes the topic abruptly. Mew nods and so before they even exchange Line IDs and phone numbers, they exchange their game IDs. That’s as far as they get, before Mew’s phone vibrates with a text from Boss, asking if everything is ok. He lets him know they can come back.

”So, you gonna be my son’s love interest or what?” Gulf’s father asked when they all came back. "You better have the dowry ready!"

”Pa!” Gulf grumbles.

”Yes, it looks that way. That is, if you’re ok with it, once you heard the whole story.” Mew says, after taking a deep breath. He owes these people honesty, because their son will spend the next months constantly around him and they will all be in each others life, especially if the show has any success.

”We know,” Gulf’s mom stops him.  ”And it’s not your fault and shouldn’t be an issue here.” She even gives his arm a squeeze, what makes Mew tear up.

”Thank you.” A wave of gratitude flows through him. These people are strangers who believe him, while people he's known for years have turned their backs on him after the scandal.

”Oh, don’t thank us. Give it a couple of weeks and you’d wish we’d have stopped you from dealing with this brat all day,” Gulf’s father jokes again.

”You’re that bad, Nong?” Mew turns to tease his younger partner.

”Stop teasing me,” Gulf whines and Mew can’t help but smile at the adorable display. He’ll definitely sign the contract as soon as he gets home.

”Shall we talk about the details then?” Best brings them all back to business.

”Thank god, yes!” Boss agrees and they start the more official part of the meeting, which means setting up some rules for working together and communication between managers. Mew listens carefully and partakes in the lively discussion, but when he looks to Gulf, he is zoned out and clearly not paying attention. 

That’s the moment when Mew fully understands that he will have to take the lead on everything with Gulf, especially interviews and public events. If Gulf won’t speak and focus in a room with just his parents and both of their managers, he can only guess that it will be a lot worse in a room full of fans or reporters screaming questions at them at events. And the first interview will come rather sooner than later.

 

***

 

”Why? Why won’t you just tell me on which page this scene stops?” Mew whines into the phone, where he sees Gulf’s laughing face.

”I had to read it, you have to read it, too!”

”But I don’t want to! This is too much!”

”Aren’t you the one who said he likes guys? You should be into this.” Gulf teases and points one accusing finger at Mew through the screen.

”Nooo! I don’t want to read in graphic detail about a hand job.”

”And where the cum is landing,” Gulf laughs as Mew scrunches up his face in disgust. He is no prude and he likes getting to the bottom of a character, but usually that doesn’t include reading sex scenes in such detail. ”Just be glad we don’t have to film it.”

”Then it would be a porn movie not a BL show,” Mew snorts.

”My parents would kick my ass.”

”And your girlfriend wouldn’t be too happy either,” Mew can’t help but point out.

”Maybe not,” Gulf nods. ”She told me to say hi. Maybe once we start the workshop we can all go out for dinner so you can meet?” Gulf suggests.

”Sounds good. We’ll have to take a couple of other people though, in case we’ll get photographed.”

”Mmmh,” Gulf makes. ”But about that interview tomorrow…”

”You’re nervous?”

”A bit. It’s in English and my English sucks.” Gulf admits freely.

”It’ll be fine. There are interpreters nearby so you can ask when you don’t understand a question and they will also translate when you want to answer in Thai.”

”How is she? You’ve been interviewed by her already, right?”

”Patty? She’s nice. Very easy going. Just, last time I did an interview with her, it was in the middle of that whole drama between me and … you know. We weren’t really talking at the time, but both tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. Looking back, you can cut the tension with a knife at several points during the interview. I owe Patty an apology for that.”

”You better do that before she’s going to ask mean questions,” Gulf grumbles a bit, but then smiles, which is when Mew understand that he is being teased again.

”You already know what you’re going to wear?”

”Jeans, Black or white shirt and my black jeans jacket. You think that’s ok? I mean, they told us to dress casually.”

”Sounds good. I’ll pick something similar so we won’t clash color-wise on screen.”

”Talking about clash… you’re ready to play another round? I’d rather dream of kicking your ass in the game than Tharn sucking Type off.”

It’s that comment that makes Mew guffaw as he quickly agrees to the game, glad that he can postpone reading the graphic descriptions in the novel.

 

***

 

Both Gulf and Mew are nervous the next day as they are sitting in make-up before the interview. Patty has already stopped by to chat a bit and she managed to put them at least a bit at ease.

Mic’ed and powdered they are sitting on bar stools beside each other. Patty quickly starts the interview and Mew answers the first question in Thai, simply to show Gulf that it isn’t a big deal. He talks about his first impression of Gulf when they met and Gulf does the same. Mew can’t help but tease Gulf a bit about how red his ears got back then, just like they do right then.

Patty wants to know more and addresses Gulf directly, asking him about his shyness and if Mew, being known already, made him insecure when they met at the audition. The question makes Mew tense, because any hint that he is intimidating, for whatever reason, could complicate things further down the line. So he waits with crossed arms for Gulf’s answer.

”No,” Gulf says in English and searches for the right words in the foreign language. ”I think that he will protect me.”Gulf smiles proudly and Mew is surprised and mirrors his smile. 

”Really? I will protect you?”  Mew teases, but is so incredibly touched by the answer. Mew has started to trust Gulf after their first meeting, but he hasn’t been aware of how much Gulf seems to trust him. It's the biggest compliment Gulf could ever give him.

”Yes, absolutely.” Gulf nods along with his words, giving them even more emphasis. It’s all Mew can do not to give him a hug right then and there. He is aware of the cameras though, so he tries to get his smile under control and focusses back on the interview.

 It’s not the only time though, that Gulf surprises him with his answers and the absolute trusts he puts in him: How to prepare for love scenes they are asked - Mew will help, Gulf answers. With questions Gulf doesn’t understand, Gulf turns to Mew for help and ignores the translator.

Another surprise is how open minded Gulf is. Would he rather have a role in a BG series than a BL one and he answers that for him there is no difference, because actors should be able to take on any role. Mew feels weirdly proud of this answer. It couldn’t have been better had they rehearsed it before.

As the interview goes on Mew realises that the tension vanishes and he simply has fun, because he and Gulf actually get on great, even in front of a camera and with someone interviewing them.

Mew can't remember the last time he laughed as much as he does during the interview and a couple of times he nearly hugs Gulf close, as they both laugh and giggle away. Mew doesn't want this interview to end and the laughter fills his soul to the brim with happiness. What a difference from the last time he was interviewed by Patty.  

It only really hits him how well everything went, when he finds Boss and Best beaming back at them once the interview is over. MewGulf has officially started and it couldn’t have gone better. Mew feels like he's walking on air and the smile doesn't leave his face for the rest of the day. Suddenly he looks forward to the workshop, the filming and everything else concerning the show, because he knows Gulf will be right there by his side. 

 

TBC