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When We Were Young

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The salty air of Phangan was a welcomed ambiance for Type. Inhaling a deep breath, he held it in until he felt that burn in his lungs before releasing it slowly. He did this a couple of times, just to feel something else that’s not trying to squeeze his chest. 



“Son!”




Another familiar thing he welcomes.




Slowly, Type looked back to see his mother’s wide smile, waving at him from the pier with his father beside her. Putting the heaviness he’s been carrying aside, he tightened his hold on his luggage and started walking towards his parents. The ride going to their resort distracted Type. Listening to his mother’s excited chattering about everything he had missed and his father’s teasing remarks just to annoy her, Type smiles. This, right here. This is familiar. Comfortable. This is his family that he loves and trusts—




He can do this.




***




”Mae, Por. Can I talk to you both?”




Kannika Pawatthakun has always been observant. And being a wife and a mother had just sharpened her senses, especially when it came to her only child. The week that Type has been home for his semestral break, he had been distracted—distant. She knows her son. She knows when he is happy or when he is sad. She can sense when Type is angry or when he is afraid. And for the past few days that she’s been watching him, she can tell that what Type is feeling is a mixture of those emotions,  but what stands out is the fear.




It pains her heart to see how her child is afraid to open up to her or his father. That Type can’t seem to open up to anyone for that matter. Ever since that dreaded moment—




Shaking that painful memory from her mind, she chose to focus on Type as they all sat down in the living room. Her husband placed a hand on her thigh, and she took it in hers as they both anchored each other on whatever it is their son wished to speak to them about.




“College is great,” Type started. “My grades are one of the highest, and I am a starter in our football team. I made great friends, Techno and Boat, and we had fun times. I play with them, goof around with them, study with them and sometimes we do drink together every after an exam, but nothing too extreme.” He looked up to to give his parents a small smile, as if assuring them that he’s not turning into an alcoholic or whatever.




”It’s been fun. I was fine,” he continued, but something in his tone changed. It was as if he was convincing himself, rather than stating a fact. The smile on his face fell, and he looked down. “But then—I realized I wasn’t. I wasn’t fine. I’ve never been truly fine since I was eleven.”




His mother lets out a pained gasp, not expecting his son to willingly open up about this particular part of his past. A past they all tried so hard to forget, but maybe that was the mistake. They all thought it would go away, that the memories would eventually fade. That if they lock up the man responsible for all this trauma, and surround their son with all the love and affection, that he would be able to forget it. And that's when they failed as his parents.




Not finding the words to say, Kannika and her husband held onto each other as they listened to their son.





“When I was—sexually abused,” Type uttered, voice growing cold as he forced the words out of his mouth. He needs to acknowledge this. He can’t sugarcoat what happened to him. “I was angry. I was mad at the man who did those awful things to me. I was furious of the people who thought they had the right to ask for my well being when in fact they just wanted to gossip about the boy who was molested. I was mad at gays because I generalized my resentment for one man to all of them. But mostly—mostly I was angry at myself. How could I have let that happen? Why wasn’t I strong enough? Why didn’t I scream louder to call for help? Why—“ he felt his throat close up as unexpected tears fell from his eyes. He wiped them angrily, then tried to settle his breathing. He needs this.




”I have—I have been so mad since that day that I didn’t realize what was happening to me. My automatic response to everything that goes wrong is anger. It’s amazing how I even have friends with all this anger and hate inside me, and they don’t even ask me why...as if they just understand that that’s who I am. And maybe I was like that. A guy so full of hatred to the world and to himself. Who blames people without asking for their reason. But—but I don’t want to be that anymore.”




Type paused, and for a moment his parents thought that was that, but then Type lifted his gaze. Tears starting to roll down his cheeks once again as he said with a broken voice,




”I fell in love with a guy. And it took me losing him to realize that I need to change. But I can’t do it on my own and...I want to be better. Please, help me be better.”




***




“Are you excited?”




Tharn looked down to meet his father’s eyes sparkling with glee and he chuckled. “I’m supposed to be the one asking you that,” he replied as he walked beside his dad and the nurse pushing the wheelchair towards the physical and rehabilitation area. 



“Psh. Stop trying to act all so cool. You’ve been bouncing your feet since 9 in the morning waiting for nurse Ja here to take us to where a certain physiotherapist is waiting,” Mr. Kirigun teased his son.




A flustered Tharn gawked at his father then looked at the nurse who’s trying to hide a smile, but failing miserably. “I was not!” 




His dad peered up at him for a second, then rolled his eyes. “Yep. Definitely excited. Will you stop blushing like a school girl or else my physiotherapist would know immediately that you have a crush on him. Didn’t I teach you better than that?”




”Taught me—wha,” Tharn stuttered, disbelief in his tone. “Dad, you only literally have mom. No other girlfriends. Just her,” he said matter-of-factly.




”Exactly. And now she’s my lovely wife,” Mr. Kirigun smirked. “I got her with my charms and she wasn’t able to resist. So—lose that blush and turn on your Kirigun charm to snatch my therapist or I’d be very disappointed if you fail.” Mr. Kirigun was having fun teasing his second son. It’s been awhile since they had such a talk, and seeing Tharn who was known to be the collected one of his three children was a feast to the eyes. If only he could take a photo to show his wife, it would have been more fun.




”Dad, please—can you not make such off handed comments when we are with Type? You might make him uncomfortable,” Tharn said, giving his dad a serious look. “We have just agreed to be friends. If you try to insinuate anything more than that, I might not even be his friend.”




Mr. Kirigun looked back at his son, and he saw the seriousness and determination in them that he sighed and slumped down on his wheelchair just as they reached their destination. “Fine.”




”Good morning, Mr. Kirigun,” Type greeted them as soon as he saw them enter the room. And if Type’s eyes had settled on Tharn first, noting how the other was wearing a black ripped jeans and black sweater with ‘Balenciaga’ on the chest area, instead of his father who is his patient, no one has to know.




”Good morning, Type,” his patient greeted him cheerily.




”Hi, Type,” Tharn’s soft voice said and Type let his eyes linger on him for a second, giving him a small smile and a nod before he put all his attention to his patient.




***




Tharn had waited at the bench on one side of the therapy area, watching silently. He watched Type’s professional demeanor as he guided his father to do the exercises they had agreed to do; the simple stretches, and curl of arms. His dad also had that determined look on his face as he followed his therapist’s instructions, and they would pause when he’d wince in pain but then would continue at a slower pace.




They spent the first session doing the same exercises and Tharn looked to his side when someone sat beside him.




”How’s your dad doing?”




”He’s doing pretty good for the first session,” he replied, leaning to give his mother a kiss on her cheek as a greeting. “How was your meeting?”




She squinted at him, before returning her gaze to her husband who was now being pushed by Type towards them. “I won’t talk business with you. Thorn told me not to.”




”Oh come on,” Tharn whined and his mother giggled at his pout.




”Honey, you’re here,” Mr. Kirigun greeted her happily, making grabby hands at her like a child. 



“I am. Why don’t we go back to your room now?” She said, giving Type a smile as she went behind his husband’s wheelchair and pushed him out of the room.




Leaving Tharn behind.




”Uh—aren’t you going to go back with them?” Type asked, confused as to why Tharn is still here.




Tharn watched until his parents turned to the right, their figures disappearing before he turned to Type. “Actually, I was gonna ask you for lunch?”




”Oh,” came Type’s reply, quite surprised by the sudden invite, but definitely happy about it. “Sure...um, but can you meet me at quarter to 12 in the lobby? I have one more patient to tend to.”




”Of course,” Tharn said with a smile but before he turned to leave, he handed his phone. “Give me your number so I can message you to ask if you’re done?”




With that, Type openly gave a smile as he took Tharn’s phone to put in his number. “Introduce yourself when you message me. Or else I won’t reply,” he said with a smirk.




”Why? Avoiding admirers?” The other replied with a smirk of his own.




”Nah. Just people try to scam me of my money.” They shared a laugh before they bid goodbye with a promise of meeting later.




***




Being friends with Tharn felt as easy as breathing.




At first Type thought that everything would be awkward, given their history of already seeing each other with no clothes on and the hurtful words that Type had told the other all those years back. He would have understood if Tharn would be guarded with the sudden offer of friendship, because Type hurt him and to be honest, Type had never forgiven himself for that. But that didn’t happen.




Tharn was all smiles and warmth. Their lunch outings had quickly become a welcomed routine as Type finished his scheduled sessions with his patients and Tharn just looked after his father while his siblings and mother were busy with their life. Their playful banters never failed to make Type feel light and happy as they make their way back to the hospital after their lunch. And the random messages were also something he looked forward to.




To Tharn:

I am bored.

Entertain me.






From Tharn:

What am I, your clown?

You literally only have 10 minutes left of your shift before we meet for lunch.




To Tharn:

So?😒




From Tharn:

So, endure your 10 minutes and be a good therapist.




To Tharn:

But 10 minutes is too long...😩




From Tharn:

I know you miss me, and I miss you too.

But be a good boy for the next 10 minutes, okay?

I’ll see you in a bit.☺️





“P’Type? Are you okay?” Nurse Ja asked in surprise, as the other suddenly dropped his phone and slumped down the table at the nurse station. His face was hidden in his arms, but his ears are visible.




His very red ears.




***



Two weeks into their friendship, Tharn had asked if Techno and Boat could join them for lunch.




”Eh? You want to meet Techno and Boat?” Type asked as they entered another restaurant that Tharn had found online and wanted to try.




”Yeah. I mean, your friends and I aren’t exactly close but it would be nice to meet up with people I knew from before. I’ll even invite Lhong?”




”I guess? Wait do you want to do it now?”




”Sure. It’s still early and Techno and Boat works in the same hospital, right?”




”Yeah. Let me just call them and ask if they’re in.”




So that’s how five grown men found themselves reacquainting in a sushi restaurant. Type had been a bit aloof from Lhong for a few moments since the other was looking at him with sharp eyes, but then he became more friendly as their lunch continued. Techno had wasted no time terrorizing Tharn with questions about his life in the States and Boat just listened attentively as he was too busy stuffing his face with the food.




***



In the third week, Mr. Kirigun is ready for discharge.




They made a schedule for their outpatient sessions and Type had advised him to take it easy for a few days, commenting on not doing a difficult zumba routine so soon. Tharn came back after settling the hospital bill and came back to his dad's room to find Type and his parents conversing lightly. The physiotherapist made a funny remark that caused his mother to giggle and her husband to splutter indignantly.




Tharn’s heart warmed at the sight.




It was then that Type looked at his direction and smiled. “Looks like you’re all set,” he told his patient and Tharn’s parents looked at their son. Tharn walked towards them, grabbing his father’s bag and moving behind his wheelchair to push him. As they exited the halls, Type walked with them until they reached their car which was already waiting. A driver took the bag from Tharn and his parents bid Type goodbye and the promise to not miss their first outpatient session before mounting the vehicle.




Type stood to the side and watched as Tharn kissed his parents’ cheek before closing the door. Then the car was driving away.




”Eh? You’re not going home with your parents?”




Tharn looked back at the other and smiled, “Nah. It’s 12nn, we have our lunch, don’t we?”




And Type felt his heart flutter, welcoming the pleasant feeling.




***




The day was going smoothly, in Type’s opinion. He had woken up this morning with a light heart because of the late night video call he had with Tharn last night. They just talked about random things, and it was Tharn’s deep voice that lulled him to sleep. When he checked his phone first thing in the morning, he immediately opened a message from late last night.




From Tharn:

 

Is my voice that boring that you fell asleep? 🙃

 

Good night, Type. See you tomorrow ☺️





And his morning felt fulfilling. He had met two patients for their sessions and it just so happened that those were the patients he adored in the pediatric department. The first patient was an 8 year old boy who broke his knee from an accident. His recovery was going nicely and they had both bonded quickly because of football, and the boy obviously looked forward to his sessions with Type because according to his patient’s mother, the child had always wanted a big brother just like him. And that warmed his heart. His second patient was a 5 year old little girl who has autism. She was quite delicate and Type worked with her patiently until she had learned to trust him and now her progress was something to behold. It makes him proud everytime she succeeds in their sessions and her big smiles are always a sight to behold.




And he can’t wait to tell Tharn all about it. They had agreed to just eat at the cafe across the hospital because Tharn needed a place to work on something and Type will immediately have a 1pm session with a patient so they have no time to dine somewhere else. Tharn had already messaged him that he’s in the cafe around 10 in the morning, and had told him to focus on work and for Type to not reply so the other begrudgingly obeyed and just wished for the time for lunch to come faster.




All in all, Type was having a great day and he was just jotting down the notes from his sessions before he was free to go to meet Tharn.




”P’Type!”




And—there goes his great day.




He continued writing his patients progress, all the while ignoring the annoying existence who slid beside him at the nurse station.




”—and our patient was a rich dude who thinks he can demand all shit—and he was—but then the operation was a success—and his family is so loaded, phi—“




Type tried to tune out the other’s blabbering.




“But really, that guy was too full of himself his chart even said he has STD and shit but he has a gall to deny—“




With this, Type closed the chart he is holding with a force before he turned to the other with a glare. The nurses who were hanging around and saw the look from the physiotherapist winced and all looked away, grateful that the glare wasn’t directed at them.




”Dr. Fiat,” Type started, voice cold. “You should know better than to spout confidential data about your patient. Do you want to be sued?”




”Oh, I—,” the young doctor grimaced, noticing his mistake.




”Go tend to your patients and try not to be so careless. You might end up losing your license because of your stupidity,” and with that, Type turned, giving the staff nurses a wai and started to walk away.




But the hardheaded doctor just can’t seem to get the hint.




In a flash, he strode towards the therapist and placed an arm around his waist, “Sorry, P. What about I treat you with coffee for—“




”Take your filthy hand away from me,” came a chilly voice. But the doctor just flashed a smile and then Type took his wrist, turned around and firmly pinned the filthy hand behind the doctor who yelped in pain. “Don’t touch me. You and I aren’t close. If you think what you’re doing is cute and shit, then you’re wrong. You are a menace and if you touch me again, I will not hesitate to break your hand so you won’t get to operate on anyone eve again and sue you sexual assault.”





With that, Type pushed the stunned doctor away and walked off.




He balled his hands to fists to hide the fact that they were shaking.




***



The moment Type sat down across from him, Tharn immediately noticed that something was wrong.




For one, Type didn’t announce his presence, he just quietly pulled the chair back and took a seat. Then he didn’t even greet Tharn because he had his eyes closed tight, and it was as if he was focusing hard on something with his brows furrowed. That was when Tharn noticed that Type was doing some sort of breathing exercise. He pushed his laptop to the side as he watched his companion with worried eyes but kept quiet. At least until Type’s breathing had settled and he slowly met Tharn’s worried gaze.




”Sorry about that,” Type said in a small voice, taking one last deep breath before he let out a small, tired smile.




”No need to be sorry,” Tharn replied. “Do you want to talk about it?”




Type looked at him, eyes contemplative and Tharn waited. If there is one thing that didn’t change about Type for the past seven years, it was that he mostly kept to himself. And Tharn respects that.




”Just—some asshole co-worker who can’t keep his hands to himself,” Type spoke, voice slightly shaking but he was trying to sound nonchalant about it. Upon hearing that, Tharn felt anger suddenly surface.




”What?”




”It was nothing. I was—“




”Where did he touch you?” A deep voice spoke and Type looked up in surprise to see Tharn’s eyes suddenly dark with fury.




”Tharn? Hey, I’m fine. I dealt with him,” Type spoke, voice turning softer as he noticed Tharn’s hand balled on top of the table. And without thinking twice, he reached out and placed his hand on Tharn, giving it a comforting squeeze. “Come on, breathe. I’m okay, aren’t I?”




It took a few seconds before Tharn could rein in his anger. He let out a sigh when the urge to search for whoever it was that touched Type and maybe break a bone or two subsided, and just focused his gaze on their hands. When Type noticed that his friend was looking at their hands, he flushed and tried to pull his hand away.




But Tharn caught it, swiftly covering Type’s slim fingers with his own and let it settle on the table. “Are you sure you’re okay?”




“Yeah. I am fully capable of looking out for myself,” Type replied sharply. When in fact, he was trying hard to not blush and duck under the table with how Tharn was gently rubbing his hand with his thumb. It feels so nice.



Tharn chuckled, noticing his friend’s reddening face. Adorable. “I know you can take care of yourself. I never doubted that,” he spoke softly. “I ordered your usual, by the way,” he opted to change the subject and gave the other a smile. And as if on cue, the server came with their warm food and they reluctantly pulled their hands away from each other to eat.




”What are you working on?” Type asks as he finishes his food and is watching Tharn busy on his laptop. “I thought you aren’t allowed to work yet?”




Sparing his friend a glance, Tharn smiled before he resumed typing. “Our family business is not the only thing that  I manage.”




Quirking a brow, Type stayed silent and waited. But Tharn made no indication of continuing so he whined, “Aren’t you gonna tell me?”





An amused chuckle left Tharn with Type’s childish whining so he decided to keep teasing the other with secrets. “If I tell you, then I’m going to have to kill you,” he ended with a low voice. And that rewarded him with a look of disbelief from Type that he bursted out laughing. When he calmed down, he said, “But really, I’ll tell you soon. For now let it remain as a mystery.”




Type squinted his eyes at him, before he settled back on his chair and drank his iced coffee silently. All the while watching Tharn with suspicious eyes. Feeling his friend’s gaze, Tharn looked at him and gave a smile. “What’s with that look?”




Suddenly leaning forward, Type cupped a hand on his mouth as he whispered, “you’re not doing something illegal are you?”




Amused, Tharn copied Type’s stance, their elbows almost touching and leaned in too close. “Do I look like someone who’s doing something illegal?” He whispered back.




Type’s eyes widened in surprise at Tharn’s proximity. He was so close that he could almost count his lashes and his smooth face was a sight to behold that for a moment he forgot how to speak. His gaze lingered on Tharn’s eyebrows, at his perfectly sculpted nose, his lips quirked in a playful smirk before he lifted his gaze on brown irises staring back at him with mirth and warmth that he didn’t realize he blurted out the words, 




“You look like someone who’s illegally handsome.”




It took a moment for Type to realize that he just, indeed, said that out loud when Tharn’s eyes widened and his mouth hanged slightly open in surprise. The physiotherapist’s face instantly became red and he stood up, avoiding Tharn’s eyes as he made an excuse that he needs to go back to the hospital for his next session when they both knew he still has 20 minutes to spare. But Tharn didn’t stop him, and just watched in amusement as Type hurriedly left the cafe.




Type was beating himself up for spouting out something so—so...God, there’s no way Tharn won’t know that he’s attracted to him. He basically gave him that information on a silver platter! Stupid, stupid! Stupid Tharn and his stupidly annoying handsome face! Damn it!




When he reached his office, he sank down his seat and wallowed in misery, when his phone notified him of a message. He had a hunch on who the sender might be, and despite the embarrassing episode he had earlier, he can’t stop himself from reaching out to his phone to read the message.




And he wished he didn’t because, what the hell, how the fuck would he stop himself from blushing now?!




From Tharn:

Hope your day gets better.

Message me when you get home after your shift.

And thank you for the compliment, you illegally adorable Type Thiwat.