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Better Latte than Never

Chapter Text

There was someone sitting at his usual spot.

Gulf stood in front of his favourite cafe and squinted his eyes under the bright afternoon sun. He was late. The lunch crowd had already filled up most of the tables in the tiny shop and he cursed silently at himself for leaving his adapter behind in the dorm - if only he had realized sooner and not when he was halfway across the campus. The latest sweat drop trickling down his back reminded him again he needed to get out of sweltering heat. Fighting back another sigh, he scanned across the cafe floor again and spotted an empty table in the corner. He made a beeline for it. 

Dropping his bag down onto a spare chair, he peered over to the figure now sitting in his favorite seat. The man was hunched over typing furiously away on his laptop, his face hidden. He wore a dark blue printed T-shirt and washed jeans, and a ridiculously bright mustard beanie. The man had to be insane wearing a beanie in this weather. An unfinished cup of what he presumed was ice coffee sat melting near the edge of the table. He let out a sigh, the man didn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. 

An unfamiliar looking tall lady with long hair appeared to take his order while he was setting up his laptop. He had been relieved to find a power outlet. There was no way he was going back to his dorm after all that trouble to retrieve the adapter. The lady scribbled his order on a notepad and sauntered off. It was strange to not see the cafe owner around today. Gulf didn’t remember a time where the middle-age lady wasn’t around. He stretched his neck to look over at the cashier and saw two other unfamiliar looking ladies working behind the counter.

Something was definitely not right today. First, he forgot to pack his damn adapter. Second, his usual spot was stolen taken by a stranger. Third, his favorite Khun Fon wasn’t around and he didn’t know why. Could the day get any worse? He had been looking forward to a nice relaxing afternoon after a particularly stressful week. Holding back yet another sigh, he sat back in his chair and waited patiently for his food. The same young lady sauntered back with his order of ice latte and spaghetti carbonara. 

“Thank you, is Khun Fon not in today?” he asked.

“My Mae got injured in a fall so she’s at home resting. My sisters and I are covering for her until she gets better.” the young lady replied.

“Khun Fon had a fall!? That’s terrible! I hope she isn’t too badly hurt. Can you please help me tell her Nong Gulf says to take care?” He felt bad for the lady.

“She fractured her ankle but it isn’t too serious. She just needs rest for a few weeks. Thanks for your concern, I will let her know.” the young lady answered, smiling. “You can call me Arch by the way.”

“Thank you too, P’Arch.” Gulf said. 

Arch smiled again and left the table. The ladies he saw behind the counters had to be Khun Fon’s daughters. Gulf remembered her mentioning them before, he guessed the tall one had to be the youngest since Khun Fon said her daughters’ heights were inversely proportional to their ages. He sniggered at the memory as he dug into his spaghetti. At least something was amusing today. The salty peppery taste was a warm familiar welcome to his taste buds. There was a reason he visited this cafe so often. They made the best spaghetti carbonara. 

His mood picked up considerably after inhaling the plate of creamy goodness and he sat back in his chair while sipping his ice latte. Having not gotten a good look at the man’s face before, Gulf shifted his eyes to his favourite spot again. Mr-mustard-beanie was no longer typing but had his headphones on and was watching his screen intently. He had never seen him around. The man had thick brows that framed his large striking eyes, a sharp nose with defined bridge and a small chin. He was incredibly handsome, like he had just walked out of a magazine. Gulf would put the man’s age at around mid-twenties, not very much older than him. Smooth and pale skin were very telling of one's age.

As if sensing his gaze on him, the man looked over. Gulf immediately turned his head back towards his laptop while his heart suddenly hammered against his chest. Since when did he become so nervous around another man? Stealing another peek from the side, he saw the man watching his screen again and sipping his coffee. His pink lips pursed around the straw, sucking gently at it. Realizing he was staring again, he pulled his gaze back. Working on his assignment now seemed like a very good idea. He straightened himself, put on his earphones and started typing away, brushing aside the fact he just spent a good few seconds staring at another guy’s lips. They were pretty good looking lips though, for a man that is. 

He looked up from his screen after some time to admire the greenery around the cafe, which he did on numerous occasions since it momentarily helped him escape the stress in his mind. Khun Fon had a serious obsession with potted plants. There were hanging potted ivies all around the cafe and various other plants Gulf didn’t know the name of placed at corners and outside the entrance. With the dark brown wooden flooring and iron chairs and tables, the whole place looked like a greenhouse. There was also a yellow wooden swing bench in front of the cafe for customers to sit while waiting, and the best spot to take in the whole cafe was the table next to the counter, currently occupied by Mr-mustard-beanie. 

He'd been frequenting the cafe for close to a year now. The place was quiet in the afternoons and near enough to his dorm to walk to. The quaint shop front was nestled in a quiet corner street with little traffic outside and if one didn’t look hard enough, they would miss it. He was glad to have discovered this gem while out exploring one day. They did make really good iced latte and of course, his favorite spaghetti carbonara. He was happy for the place to stay hidden and would hate for it to be crowded with noisy students and tourists all the time. 

It was mid afternoon by the time he finished his first assignment, and his brain was near fried by then. Taking off his earphones, he surveyed his surroundings. Most of the lunch crowd had left, leaving only a handful of tables occupied. He could hear the soft piano music playing in the background without the chattering from other customers. Mr-mustard-beanie was still sitting at his spot but with a book now in his hand. It had an English title Gulf couldn’t make out clearly. Seeing the relaxed posture of the man made him suddenly feel like taking a break.

Being a struggling final year university student was tough, academics wasn’t something he naturally excelled in. It was a miracle he made it to Chula and even more of a miracle that he made it through the first three years of study. He chose to read education because his Mae said he would make a great teacher. Gulf wasn’t so sure about that but he tried to do his best anyway. His recent internship had been enjoyable enough to encourage him further. Deciding it was really time for him to take a break, he took out his phone to reply to some messages before starting up a mobile game to play a little.

Someone tapped on his table while he was in the middle of a raid. Without looking up he asked, “Can I help you?”.

“Do you always talk to people without looking at them?” the voice teased. It was deep and rich. A man’s voice.

“Alai na? No! Sorry, I am just very busy with my game right now. I’ll be done in like 10 seconds tops. What do you need?” he replied without looking up. His team was winning, there was no way he was taking his eyes off the phone.

“When you’re done with your game, can you please help me look after my stuff that’s on the table? It’s in the corner by the counter, my macbook is on it. I have to go to the washroom.” the voice asked again.

“Sure thing, I’ll be done in a second.” They were almost there!

“Thanks.”  

The victory message appeared after a few seconds and he looked over to the counter. His favorite seat was empty except for the Macbook on the table. Realization dawned on him. The man who just spoke was Mr-mustard-beanie! Cursing under his breath, he put his phone down and kept his eyes trained on the table. He hoped the man didn't mind him from before, he wasn't being intentionally rude. Mr-mustard-beanie came back after a few minutes. He noticed the he man was as tall as him, maybe even taller. He walked with an air of confidence Gulf seldom saw in men his age. The handsome man directed a wide smile at him as he sat down. Gulf felt his cheeks tingling again. He was most definitely not blushing! Returning the smile so as not to seem rude again, he looked away only after the man gave him a tiny nod.

His ears picked up some shuffling noises from the man’s area and he couldn't helped turning his heading towards it again. Mr-mustard-beanie was packing up. The man gave him another smile when he got up and walked over to him. Gulf tried his hardest to stay calm.

“Thanks for helping me look after my stuff just now.” 

“You’re welcome.” He grinned slightly.

Mr-mustard-beanie opened his mouth again, as if wanting to say something but he paused and smiled instead. Then, he turned around and left. Gulf continued staring after his figure as he walked out of sight and shook his head when he realized his eyes were still trained on his disappearing back. Judging from the way the three ladies behind the counter were staring too, he figured it was probably normal for him to be like this since the man looked like a freaking magazine model. It was definitely not because his heart had fluttered ever so slightly when the man smiled at him.

Nope. No way.

Checking his watch and he realized he had to go soon since he was meeting Mild later. That idiot would never let him hear the end of it if he was late. He hurriedly packed his things and left the cafe as well. 

Chapter Text

Gulf settled into his seat and let out a breath.

He'd been relieved to find his favorite table empty when he ran to the cafe late again. There were dark clouds hanging in the afternoon sky and it looked like it was going to pour any time soon. He had just finished a meeting with his professor, who'd given him a stern warning on handing in an incomplete assignment, which he hadn't been aware of. Gulf had later realized it was because the work he'd done while at the cafe that day was not saved, and he posited the reason for it was not being able to sit at his usual spot. A convoluted conjecture but it made sense. He remembered thinking how awful the day was and had hoped it got better. Unfortunately, it didn't and the day only got worse. In fact, the days after got worse and now he was dealing with the consequences.

His forehead suddenly felt tight and he could feel the beginnings of a migraine. 

A lady with shocking red highlights appeared beside his table. “What would you like to order, Khun Phi?” she asked. This had to be the middle sister, judging from her height and the hair.

“A hot latte and a brownie please. Can you help me heat up the brownie as well? Thank you.” he answered. Some sugar would be good for his migraine, he hasn’t eaten anything since late morning. 

“Sure. Oh, by the way, my Mae says hi. She’s doing fine and will be visiting when she’s better.” The lady smiled. 

“That’s good to hear! Thank you for telling me Khun Phi. I’m looking forward to seeing her again.” He was happy the Khun Fon was fine. 

“No problems. You can call me Al since you are a friend of Mae.” Al smiled at him warmly. She reminded him of Khun Fon.

“Okay. P’Al. Thanks again.” He returned the smile with the same warmth. 

Al walked away after and he looked around the cafe. The crowd was smaller than usual today, which might be due to the oncoming rain. He spotted the familiar mustard beanie at the corner he was sitting in the other day. The handsome man was reading the same English titled book as before. It was strange that he chose that seat when he could have taken the one Gulf was currently in. He was about to unpack his laptop when Al hurried towards him.

“N’Gulf! We have run out of brownies! I’m so sorry. Would you like to order a cake instead?” Al apologized.

Gulf couldn’t contain his disappointment. He had been looking forward to having a brownie as a pick-me-up and he wasn’t in any mood for anything else. “It’s okay, P’Al. I will just have the hot latte then. Thank you.” 

“Are you sure, N’Gulf? You look pale today. Some sugar will be good.” Al looked at him, concerned.

“It’s okay, P’Al. Thanks for the concern.” He smiled. He wasn’t sure why Al thought he looked pale. He felt fine except for the slight ache in his temples. There was nothing a good cup of good wouldn't solve. 

He finished unpacking his things and started work on the unfinished assignment. A soft breeze had picked up and he could smell the earthy petrichor in the air. He also felt the slight tingling sensation of someone staring. Looking over his laptop, he scanned the cafe floor. Mr-mustard-beanie had put away his book and was staring intently at his laptop typing away. The man looked up suddenly and smiled in his direction. His heart sped up. No, it skipped a heart. He wasn't sure. Trying not to seem too awkward, which he wasn't very good at, he returned the smile with one of his own and looked back at his screen. 

A few minutes later, Al came with his order. He mouthed a thank you without taking his eyes off his screen and was just about to reach for his coffee when his nose suddenly picked up the sweet scent of chocolate. He turned his head towards the side and there it was, a plate of delicious smelling brownie with vanilla ice cream sitting beside his cup of latte. Didn’t Al say they ran out of brownies? Puzzled, he looked over at the counter and gestured for Al.

“P’Al, didn’t you say the brownies had run out?” he asked, confused.

“Yes, N’Gulf. The man over at the corner said you can have it since you looked a little pale. He had ordered the last one.” Al replied while pointing towards the corner of the cafe.

There was only one person sitting there and it was none other than Mr-mustard-beanie. “You mean the hand-, I mean the man wearing the mustard beanie?” he asked. 

“Yes! He said he overheard our conversation and thought you should have the brownie instead. He said it’s on him too.” Al beamed at him. She was clearly happy with what was happening.

“I see.” He was shocked. Such kind gestures did not happen to him very regularly.

“You should head over and thank him.” Al winked and hurried off.

Gulf contemplated his next course of action for a good few seconds before getting up and heading over to the man. 

“Hey, thanks for the brownie. I should pay you back for it.” He said while trying not to fidget. Why was he so nervous?!

The man looked up from his screen and gave him a wide smile. “You’re welcome. You don’t have to pay me back, although I wouldn’t mind having one on you the next time.” he quipped.

“Ah right. Sure. Erm. Next time then. Thanks again. I appreciate it.” he scurried off before the man could say anything more.

Gulf tried not look at the man’s direction while settling back in his seat. His heart was beating rapidly against his ribcage and it showed no signs of slowing down. He quickly took a sip of the latte, letting the warm velvety liquid slide down his throat and washed away the tension in his body. Talking to Mr-mustard-beanie was more daunting than he thought. The man had such discerning eyes they made him feel exposed. Looking at the piece of brownie sitting invitingly in the corner with the melting vanilla ice cream on the side, he took the spoon in his hand and dug in.

The brownie tasted heavenly and his migraine was half gone by the time he was done. He guessed he really needed something sugary like Al said. Licking the last remaining traces of sweetness on his spoon, he took a peek at the man again. Mr-mustard-beanie was deep in a conversation on his phone and he looked somewhat annoyed. Gulf wondered why. He will have to ask him the next time. If there was a next time. A ping from his phone alerted him to the fact that he only had two hours left before the deadline of his assignment and he quickly got back to work.

After a torturous hour, he finally finished the long overdue assignment. He made sure to check and save before powering off his laptop. The sky had opened up while he was deep at work and the pattering sound of the rain now filled the cafe. He propped his chin on his hand and looked out the entrance. The streets were empty and there were little cars travelling. The rain wasn’t too heavy, one could still walk in it if they had an umbrella. Drinking the last of his now cold latte, he started packing up and was about to leave when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around. It was Mr-mustard-beanie. 

“Hi, do you mind ferrying me with your umbrella to my car? It’s just parked across the street.” he asked and pointed to a very expensive looking dark blue sedan in the distance.

Gulf was tempted to reject him. He wasn’t used to having strangers coming up to him asking to share his umbrella. However, the man did offer up the last brownie to him and paid for it as well. He wasn’t planning to be an asshole today. He wasn't an asshole, period.

“Sure. Are you leaving now?” he asked. 

“Yes. I’m ready to go actually. Let me just grab my bag.”

“Alright. I’ll wait for you at the entrance then.” He made his way to the front of the cafe.

“Okay, I’m done. Let’s go?” the man said.

Gulf opened the umbrella and made sure they were both sheltered before stepping into the rain. The sound of heavy droplets drumming on the umbrella filled his ears. They walked shoulder to shoulder towards the dark blue sedan. He could smell a faint, strangely familiar cologne from the man. Mr-mustard-beanie was the same height as him he realized but he was much broader. The umbrella could barely fit both of them. When they reached the car, he made sure to keep the man covered when he got in. 

“Thanks for the lift! I’m Mew by the way.” the man called out from the rolled down window.

“You’re welcome, I’m Gulf.” he replied.

“It was nice meeting you. Nong Gulf. I’ll see you soon.” Mew beamed at him.

“See you soon.” 

He watched as the car drove off and disappeared into the nearby junction. The man was a mystery. Gulf felt drawn to him, and at the same time apprehensive as well, which had never happened with anyone he met before. Mew and him would probably meet again and perhaps then, he could figure out why. Perhaps. He turned on his feet and started in the direction of his dorm.

Did Mew just call him Nong Gulf?

Chapter Text

Someone was staring at him.

No. Someone was glaring at him. Mew peeked from behind his laptop at the lithe figure standing in front of the cafe entrance. The young man’s eyes shifted from his direction and squinted under the hot sun. Mew was surprised he hadn’t escaped into the shade of the shop and was instead standing outside, scanning the cafe floor like a hawk. The young man surveyed for a good while before taking long strides towards a table in the corner Mew usually sat at. Mew was early today and thought he might be up for a change in scenery so he took the table by the counter. He initially thought the young man wouldn’t mind, but judging from the way he was shooting lasers at him before, he thought wrong.

It was lunch hour and the cafe was packed with students and office workers. Mew peeked at the young man unpacking his things. He was in t-shirts and jeans again, and his hair the usual messy fluff. He was chatting with the new tall waitress and smiling. The young man had a nice smile. It lighted up his entire face and his eyes narrowed into little crescent moons that crinkled at the corners with the undereye puffed up at the bottom. Mew had noticed him immediately when he appeared at the cafe a few months ago. His slim figure had strolled in and sat down, completely oblivious to the stares he got from people around him. He carried an air of aloofness that almost made him seem cold. Yet despite that, Mew couldn’t help but be drawn towards him. He always had a thing for the quiet ones. Just like Ar-. No, he wasn’t going to let his mind go there. He took another sip of his iced latte and went back to finishing the last of his report.

About half an hour had passed when he wrote his finishing paragraph. While massaging away the kinks in his neck from sitting hunched over for so long, he looked around. The reason why the young man was a permanent fixture at this table was becoming clear to him. It was great for people watching and the view was unbeatable. He had discovered the cafe by accident a few months ago and hadn’t stopped visiting since. The numerous potted plants placed around the cafe reminded him of the one he used to frequent back in London and the coffee beans they used here were one the best in the area - well balanced and flavourful without being too acidic. Also, the cafe owner was an absolute angel. Mew had never seen someone as generous as her, always providing extra servings to student customers.

He was halfway through an episode of One Piece when he felt eyes on him. Looking over his screen, he saw the young man whipping his head back to his own laptop. His ears were red. How cute. Taking a sip of his iced latte, he noticed the man’s eyes lingering on him again. He was about to smile in return when the young man quickly shifted his gaze back to his screen. His ears have gotten even redder now. Mew laughed to himself. How adorable. The young man started typing furiously at his laptop and his brows furrowed in concentration. Seeing this, Mew guessed the man was done looking at him and turned his attention back to his anime.

The third time he felt eyes on him again was when he just started on his book. Only this time, he did not look up. As much as he wanted to see those red ears again, he didn’t want to scare the young man. After all, Mew did take his favourite table which wasn’t a nice thing to do. A ping came from his phone. It was a text from his Mae, asking him to pick her up from her friend’s place. Mew put down his book. He should probably use the washroom before leaving. Standing up and looking around, he could see the cafe was near empty now. The counter was strangely empty too. Where did the three ladies go? He looked over at the young man whose eyes were glued to his phone. Mew guessed he had no choice but to ask the man to keep an eye on his stuff.

He walked up to him and tapped on the table. The young man was completely engrossed in his mobile game. He could see his long lashes fluttering as he blinked his almond eyes. He had a very pronounced nose bridge, the highlight was his heart shaped face. His chestnut lips were slightly parted and they looked incredibly kissable. Mew gave himself a mental slap and tapped the table again.

“Can I help you?” the young man asked. Was he seriously talking to him like this?!

“Do you always talk to people without looking at them?” he asked. What a strange man.

“Alai na? No! Sorry, I am just very busy with my game right now. I’ll be done in like 10 seconds tops. What do you need?” he replied, eyes never leaving the screen at all.

Mew stared at the young man for a second.

“When you’re done with your game, can you please help me look after my stuff that’s on the table? It’s in the corner by the counter, my macbook is on it. I have to go to the washroom.” he said in the end.

“Sure thing, I’ll be done in a second.” the young man replied.

“Thanks.” he said as he made his way to the washroom.

When he made his way back, the young man wasn’t on his phone anymore. The three ladies behind the counter had also miraculously reappeared. Mew was amused to find the young man watching his stuff on the table so intently. He sat down and gave him a wide smile. The man froze, his cheeks flushed this time and he smiled back awkwardly. Mew held back a laugh, the young man was so adorable he couldn’t help but want to-. He stopped himself. There was no way he was going to allow himself to go through with that thought. Grabbing his stuff from the table, he quickly stuffed them into his bag. He needed to leave as soon as possible. Heaving the bag on his shoulder, he walked over to the young man.

“Thanks for helping me look after my stuff just now.” he smiled.

“You’re welcome krub.” The young man grinned slightly. His cheeks were still red.

Mew wanted to comment on them but decided against it. He smiled instead. Forcing his body to turn around, he walked out of the cafe, feeling eyes on him the whole time.

He will be back soon enough.

Chapter Text

“N’Gulf! We have run out of brownies! I’m so sorry. Would you like to order a cake instead?” 

He looked in the direction the red-haired waitress was hurrying towards. The young man was sitting in his usual spot again. Mew had deliberately left it empty for him, not wanting to be a recipient of his death glare like the last time. Instead, he had relinquished his old spot at the corner and was half-way through his novel when he heard the lady rushing towards the young man. Nong Gulf. That was what the woman said. How did she know his name? Things had been a little odd with the cafe lately. The owner who was always around had been replaced by three young ladies. A tall one with ridiculously long brown hair, a shorter one with red highlights and lastly, the most petite of the lot, who was always behind the counter. He made a mental note to ask Gulf next time if he had the chance. The young man seemed to know the ladies well.

Gulf.

It was a nice name. He would have to find an opportunity to introduce himself. The young man looking rather pale today. His lips were slightly patched and lacking the usual pink it had. He was kneading his temples too. Mew felt bad for the man, he knew the struggles of being a student all too well. He was one himself. He glanced towards the entrance, the sky outside had darken further. There was a slight breeze blowing in and it rustled the plants in the cafe. 

With the oncoming shower, it was getting harder to concentrate on the book he was reading. He didn’t like the rain, at least not where he was now. London rained all the time and he enjoyed strolling in it’s frequent light drizzles. Rain in Bangkok reminded him too much of the past. A past he wished he could completely move on from. A past that made him uproot himself and escape to a place thousands of miles away. More than two years had passed but what happened that day still felt fresh in his mind. If only he didn’t-.

He gave his head a shake. Things were good now. He was in a better place. Snapping his book shut, he put it aside and opened up his laptop. He was in the middle of deciding on what to do next when he felt the familiar tingling on his neck. He peered over the screen. Seeing the young man looking over, he pulled his lips back into a smile. The man looked panicked for a second before returning with his usual small grin. He looked tired and eyebags hung heavily beneath his eyes. Mew wondered what made him look so weary.

“Here you go, brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot latte.” said the red-haired waitress. 

“Thanks.” he handed her his card. She was about to walk off when he called again, “Khun Phi, wait!”

 “Yes?” she asked.

“Is this the last piece of brownie? I heard you talking to the young man over by the counter just now.” he asked.

She looked puzzled for a second before exclaiming, “Yes! He tried to order one but we ran out unfortunately.”

“Oh, did he order anything else?” 

“No, just a latte.. I wished he did though, he looks kind of pale doesn’t he?” She looked over.

Mew thought about how Gulf looked moments ago and decided to do something nice for him.

“He can have it.” he said. 

“Khun Phi?” 

“I mean, let the young man have the brownie. I’ll pay for it, but can you please help me bring it to him instead?” he smiled at her.

The lady beamed. “Sure! I will do that! That is so kind of you! My Mae would be proud!” She took the plate of brownie and hurried off. Did she just mention her mother?

He saw her place another cup of coffee on her tray and walked towards the young man, who was so engrossed in whatever he was doing he didn’t even notice his order was placed on the table. Mew laughed to himself. What a strange man indeed.

“Thank you again. You are so sweet. I’ll let him know it was you alright?” The lady had returned with his card. 

“Sure.” he smiled at her. He wasn’t expecting anything in return. The man clearly needed the dessert more than him. If he wanted, he could always come back another day for it. 

“Wait, who is your Mae?” He quickly added on. 

“Oh! You don’t know? My Mae is the owner of the cafe. Her name is Fon.” 

“Oh, I never knew. Sorry. Why isn’t she around?” he asked. 

“Oh my Mae had a minor accident, so me and my sisters are helping out here. I hope the food and coffee is still as good!” 

“That’s terrible. I hope she recovers soon. The food and coffee is still great, don’t worry. Thanks for letting me know.” he smiled reassuringly at her. 

“You’re welcome and thank you too!” 

Mew silently chided himself for never bothering to ask for the sweet older lady’s name even though he had been a patron for so long and suddenly felt embarrassed for accepting all the extra food servings. It now wasn’t surprising to him the whole cafe looked like a greenhouse. The cafe owner’s name literally meant the rain. She gave life to the plants just like how she gave life to the weary students customers who came through the door. Mew reminded himself to bring some flowers for her the next time he came. 

“Hey, thanks for the brownie. I should pay you back for it.” a voice sounded from beside him. 

He looked up from his screen and saw that it was Gulf. The young man was shuffling his weight on his feet and fidgeting, clearly nervous. 

“You’re welcome. You don’t have to pay me back, I don’t mind having one on you the next time.” he looked hopefully at the man.

“Ah right. Sure. Erm. Next time then. Thanks again. I appreciate it.”

He was about to say something when the man turned around and scurried off like a squirrel. The tips of his ears were red again. Mew laughed to himself again, shaking his head. The young man was such a joy to watch. The phone in his pocket suddenly vibrated. He dug it out and saw Tul’s name. 

“MEW!!!!” the panicked voice shouted over the phone when he picked it up.

“Alai Na, Tul! Why are you shouting!!” His eardrums were still ringing.

“SHIA! Mew I need your help!” Tul wailed.

“What is it?” he asked. What was the man up to again?

“Please say you will help me first. It’s an E-MER-GEN-CY.” Mew had a bad feeling about this. Tul was always up to some form of shenanigan. If the man wasn’t his best friend, he would have dumped him into the Chao Praya a long time ago.

“Okay. Tell me.”

“Can you help me mark all the undergrad papers from the quiz last week?” the man asked.

“Alai wa?! NO. It’s your turn this time around. I have my own papers to mark too!” he protested.

“Please Mew, please. I need to head back to Chiangmai this week. My Mae threatened to disowned me!” the man pleaded.

“What did you do this time, Tul.” He pinched his nose bridge. He could feel a headache developing. 

“You don’t have to know, Mew. All you need to know is it involves a girl and my Mae is over the roof. She’s already trying to get my Pho to write me off the will!” He knew it. When it came to Tul, a girl was never not in the picture.

He let out a sigh. Dumping the man in the Mekong now seemed like a really good idea. 

“Okay Tul, I will help you, but you owe me. Please mark my share of papers the next time.” 

“THANK YOU. MY PHI. MY SAVIOR. RAK NA KRUB.” the man shouted again over the phone.

“Ok. Ok. Stop yelling. You are breaking my eardrums and since when did you start calling me Phi.” 

“Sorry. Anyway Mew, Saturday night’s gig is cancelled then, since I won’t be around.”

“Sure. I’ll be busy marking your papers anyway.” 

“I’m soooo sorry Mew. Take care of yourself. Remember to eat. Chocolate doesn’t count as food. If you lose too much weight, your Mae will come after me too. I can’t handle two angry women at once. Anyway thanks again. See you next week! I’ll be back by Friday.” And he ended the call. Just like that.

What an ass.

Mew let out a sigh. Tul could be insufferable at times but he was a good friend. The man had been around since the start of university. He had seen him through his toughest times and never left. Looking at his watch, he realized he had only about an hour left before he needed to head back to the campus. There were still some research papers he needed to read. 

He was lost in the diagrams and formulae when the white noise of the splattering rain reached his ears. The downpour came suddenly and he could see people running for shelter outside. He checked the time again. He needed to leave soon. Packing his things from the table, he suddenly remembered he left the umbrella in the car. Cursing under his breath, he looked outside again. The rain was definitely too heavy for him to run to his car without getting drenched. He could only hope that it was a flash shower so he sat back and waited.

It had been close to half an hour since and the rain still hadn’t let up. Mew looked to the counter, ready to head over to borrow an umbrella when he noticed the young man getting up to leave. He spotted an umbrella in his hand and he found himself moving towards him. 

“Hi, do you mind ferrying me with your umbrella to my car? It’s just parked across the street.” he asked while pointing to his car across the street.

Gulf studied him for a second, as if considering whether to say yes.

“Sure. Are you leaving now?” he said.

“Yes. I’m ready to go actually. Let me just grab my bag.” 

“Alright. I’ll wait for you at the entrance then.” The man made his way to the entrance.

He quickly grabbed his bag and ran towards the young man.

“Okay, I’m done. Let’s go?”

Gulf opened his umbrella and they both left the shelter of the cafe together. The young man was as tall as him and he could smell a faint scent of vanilla from him. He smelled good. Mew wondered how he would smell fresh out of the shower too. They made quick work of crossing the street and before he knew it, they had reached his car. The young man made sure to keep him covered when he got in. Such a gentleman. 

“Thanks for the lift! I’m Mew by the way.” he said as he rolled down the window

“You’re welcome, I’m Gulf.” 

“It was nice meeting you. Nong Gulf. I’ll see you soon.” The "Nong" had rolled off his tongue faster than he could stop himself.

“See you soon.” 

He stared after the man in his rearview mirror. He was going to miss him for a while.

Chapter Text

He glanced at the entrance again.

“Gulf.”

The tarmac outside was blistering from the friction from driving cars. There was hardly anyone out in the sun except for a few pedestrians. He spotted a couple sharing an umbrella and walking down the street with a cup of ice coffee. He hasn’t seen Mew for almost a week now, and he wondered if it was only by pure coincidence that he managed to bump into the man twice in a row. 

“Gulf!”

Gulf still owed the man some brownie and ice cream and he didn’t like owing anyone anything in general. The man not turning up at the cafe despite him visiting almost daily was a source of great frustration. What if he never came back? Gulf let out a sigh. His eyes search the streets again for any sign of a mustard beanie.

“Gulf Kanawut Traipipattanapong!!!”

“Shia!” he called out, his bum almost slipping off the seat of the chair.

“You don’t have to shout Mild!!” he scolded the man sitting beside him.

“Gulf, you have been staring at the streets for the past half an hour and you haven’t ordered anything. What’s wrong with you today? Look, I’m even done with my sandwich!” Mild said and pointed to his empty plate. 

“It’s nothing, I’m just tired.” he answered back nonchalantly.
 

“Just tired? Nothing!? You have been looking off since last week! Why do you think I’m sitting here right now staring at your brooding ass.” his best friend exclaimed, looking very annoyed.

“Because of my good looks?” He grinned. 

“Shia! What’s with you! Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? Your eye and forehead is purple. Blue and PUR-PLE! Shia! Why do I even bother. If it weren’t because I’m your best friend, I would have left you on the field that day.” Mild sat back in his chair and crossed his arms, looking away from him. Gulf let out another sigh.

“Mild, I’m sorry. I am just a little stressed out. School has been tough. The other day I even handed in an incomplete assignment and got points deducted because of it.” He tried his best to look as apologetic as possible. 

Mild pursed his lips and glared at him, before uncrossing his arms and looking at him.

“Gulf, I understand but you did miss the ball on saturday and ended up with this ugly bruise on your face. You were supposed to headbutt the ball, not FACE-butt the ball! How did you even make the school team is beyond me.” his best friend chided him again.

“It was an accident? I thought I timed it right, turns out I didn't. Haha.” he laughed. 

It was a lie. At least half a lie. He had timed the ball correctly, but he thought he saw a flash of mustard yellow and looked away for a second. Before he knew it, pain had erupted on his face. The ball had impacted him at high speed. He had collapsed onto the field, groaning in pain. Mild and the rest had carried him to the doctor’s office and they were given a stern lecture on safe sports. Thankfully. nothing on his face was broken but a gigantic bruise had developed over his right eye and side of his face. His best friend had been particularly guilty about the incident since he was the one that kicked the ball. Which was why the man was now sitting with him at the cafe. 

Mild rolled his eyes at him and said, “Fine. Can you order something now? I want to order some desserts. Boat will be here soon and he wanted some brownies.” 

Brownie. He paused for a second and wondered if the man will be at the cafe today. 

“Okay. Let’s order then.” He gestured for the P’Arch.

“Nong Gulf! Ready to order now?” 

Mild gave him an odd look and he mouthed back a “What?” 

“I’ll have a iced latte and-. No, I’ll have an iced mocha and spaghatti carbonala” he said.

“I’ll have a brownie with a double scoop of vanilla ice cream.” Mild ordered, smiling at P’Arch.

“Sure, the extra scoop will be on the house. Student special.” P’Arch said and winked before sauntering off.

“It’s spaghetti carbonara. Gulf.” 

“Yeah. I said spaghatti carbonala.” he repeated himself.

“Alai na, no. It’s SPA-GHET-TI CAR-BO-NA-RRRRRA” 

Gulf rolled his eyes at him.  “Whatever. She understood anyway.” 

Mild looked like he wanted to say something more before he paused, then shaking his head and asking, “So, how do you know her? Are you dating again?”

“Alai na! NO. I don’t date. What’s wrong with you?” He couldn’t believe the man.

“Aow. I’m just worried for you. What do you mean you don’t date. You had a girlfriend and her name is Po-” 

Gulf shot him a warning look.

“-om. Gulf. You can’t be seriously still hung up over what happened? It’s been almost a year!” 

He wanted to smack the man’s head. “Mild. I’m not hung up over her. I just don’t like to talk about it. That crazy woman has caused enough damage to my reputation.” he said while scrunching up his nose in disgust.

“What do you mean by damage to your reputation. Nobody believed her claims of you cheating because you don’t even talk to other people! Heck, the reason why she even started the stupid rumor was because you didn’t talk to her and she was your girlfriend!” Mild shaked his head at him.

The man was right. He didn’t like to talk much, preferring to listen or observe from a distance. He also liked to keep to himself and enjoyed solitude a lot more than people think he did. Outside of football practice and class, he didn’t have many friends. In fact, he didn’t think he had any at all outside. There weren’t many people out there he’d called friends. Mild and Boat were. Also a friend currently doing his internship named Run. “What about Mew?” His treacherous mind said. He ignored the thought. He had only met the man twice in his life. 

“Mild!” a voice called out. It was Boat.

The tall man came through the entrance and sat down beside Mild, giving his cheeks a light peck. Boat was the inseparable boyfriend of Mild and they had been together since their second year. The two were supposed to meet today for a date but Mild insisted on checking up on him, hence the reason they were sitting in front him. Gulf hated to be around when those two were together. He always felt like the biggest light bulb. To be fair, Mild and Boat weren’t the most touchy couple out there but their constant eye mooning and sweet talk made Gulf want to barf. 

“Hey Boat.” he greeted the man.

“Hey Gulf, how’s the eye?” the tall man asked.

“I’m okay. It’s hurting less now. Thanks for asking.” he replied.

Just then the food came and they ate in silence after, with one of them sometimes asking about each other’s school work. He was glad those two were too preoccupied with themselves to bother him. While finishing up the last of his pasta, Gulf suddenly remembered he meant to ask Mild about Mew. 

“Mild, do you know any student by the name of Mew?” he asked. 

“Huh? No. Boat do you?” Mild turned to look at his boyfriend. 

“Not me. But why do you ask?” Both men turned to look at him. 

“Oh it’s nothing. Just a guy I’ve been seeing around the cafe. He’s tall, very handsome and wears a mustard yellow beanie.” He regretted the moment the words left his mouth.

The two men in front stared back at him. Eyes wide.

“Alai na? It’s nobody. He just happened to buy me a brownie the other day-” he covered his mouth immediately and cursed.

“A man bought you a brownie?” Mild looked at him dumbfounded.

“Yes? But it’s only because it was the last one and I guessed he wanted to be nice so he gave me his.” he replied.

“He gave you the last brownie because he wanted to be nice? Did he pay for it too?” Boat asked, eyes wide.

He nodded at the two men.

“Shia.”

“SHIA!”

Both men cursed at once. 

“Gulf do you like men too!? Why didn’t I know before? What did you say his name was? I want to know everything! When you did first meet him? Do you have a picture? Do you know his full name? We should search for his social media!” Mild yelled, looking like he was ready to pass out from talking non-stop.

“Gulf. Do you need help finding out about him?” Boat asked calmly. At least someone was level-headed enough. Gulf was getting ready to hurl his plate at Mild already.

“Yes.” he replied. 

Mild opened his mouth to say something but Boat covered his face with his hand. 

“Alright. His name is Mew right? We can ask Run. He’s a comms student so he should be able to find out something.” 

Right. Run was the gossip column of their group. He knew almost everything that went on in school. The only reason why Gulf didn’t think about the man was because he was currently missing in action and was slogging away at his internship with a broadcaster.

“We should ask him in our line chat group tonight after his work.” Boat smiled at him.

He liked Boat. The man spoke reason, unlike someone else he knew. Mild peeled his man’s hand off his face and exclaimed, “Let me talk!”

Gulf saw this as a signal for him to leave. He grabbed his bag, mouthed a quick thank you and bolted, almost knocking over a plant at the entrance. He could hear Mild shouting from behind him calling him back. He ran as fast as he could and by the time he reached the campus, his legs were burning. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and realized there were stares coming from oncoming students. Gulf was puzzled for a second before remembering what his face looked like. He took a left at the junction he usually crossed right on and made a detour back to his dorm. 

The route led him to a part of the campus he hadn’t been to for a while now. The small lake beside the path glistened under the late afternoon sun and the trees rustled gently from the soft wind. He could smell the faint scent of jasmine that came from the garden. He had forgotten how tranquil the place was. It used to be his secret resting spot when he wanted to hide from the hustle and bustle of the campus. Sometimes he would take naps there but recently he hadn’t found the time to do so. Not since the start of the academic year. 

He walked towards a bench under some shade and was about to sit down when he heard a voice calling out.

“Nong Gulf?”

Chapter Text

“Nong Gulf?”

He turned around. Standing under the shade of a nearby tree was Mew, whose eyes had widened at the sight of him. He wasn’t wearing his usual mustard beanie.

“What happened to your face?!” the man asked in astonishment.

“Erm. It was an accident?” he said. He wasn’t sure what to tell the man.

“Accident!?”

“Yeah. During a football game. Got hit by a ball.” He smiled sheepishly. “It’s nothing really.”

The man strode over, closing the distance between them. His hand reached out but it stopped midway and returned to his side. Mew shook his head a little and let out a small laugh.

“Nong Gulf, you are a strange man. You know that?” Mew said.

“Alai na?” he asked. What was strange about him? He was as normal as the next guy!

“Strange and funny, possibly na rak too.” the man added on.

Gulf felt the tips of ears warm up and he was tempted to look away at the grinning man. Was he teasing him? 

“Why did you call me Nong?” He suddenly remembered to ask.

“Cause I think I might be your Phi?” Mew teased. “I’m quite sure I’m older than you.”

“Really? I thought you look like a student my age.” Gulf said. 

“Aow. That’s flattering. You don’t look older than 25. Am I right?” The man was beaming now. 

“Krub.” He nodded back.

“I’m 28, Nong.” 

He stared at the man. Floored. Where did he go wrong with his judgement? He studied the man again. There were soft, dark brown curls hanging over his forehead and thick eyebrows, framing his face. It was a different look from the one when he was wearing a beanie, which with the bright colour did give the man a youthful image. However, with his well-styled hair now showing, current dress shirt on and long pants, he did look a little older. And smarter too.

“I’m a PhD student here at Chula. My research building is just nearby.” the man said, pointing to the building behind him. 

“Oh.” He managed.

The man let out a chuckle. “You don’t have to look so shocked, Nong. You don’t mind me calling you Nong right?” he quizzed.

How could he mind? The man was more than half a decade older than him!

“No, I don’t mind,” he answered. His legs were getting tired from standing - he did run all the way back from the cafe, so he made a move to sit down.

“Can I join you?” Mew asked.

“Sure.” He had wanted some time alone but thought it might be rude to reject the man.

Mew made his way to sit beside him on the bench. Gulf placed both hands on his sides and leaned back. He tilted his head up and  took a deep breath. The sweet-smelling jasmine was now mixed with the faint scent of cologne coming from the man beside him. The trees and bushes whispered around them carrying distant chirping and chattering from birds and people afar. The shade provided by the canopy and moving air cooled the area considerably. He opened his eyes. The late afternoon sunbeams that managed to peek through the trees bathed certain parts of the path with a golden glow. He missed the place. 

“N’Gulf, what are you doing around the area?” Mew  asked. 

He turned his head towards the man and found him looking back at him intently. His neck tightened instantly, and he forced his shoulders to relax.

“Just passing by. I didn’t want to take the main route back to my dorm because people were staring.” He turned away, suddenly feeling self-conscious about the bruise on his face.

“Does it hurt?” 

“Not really. Only when I blink too hard or touch it.” he replied.

“I see.” 

A comfortable silence settled around them. He heard the man shifting and curiously turned towards him. Mew was mirroring him from before, tilting his head at the sky. His eyelashes fluttered when he closed his eyes. Gulf studied the man’s face. There were tiny dots of black just below his left eye and on his cheekbones. The man had incredibly good skin, almost unblemished and smooth, unlike his own. Mew looked stunning up close. The man opened his eyes and Gulf immediately looked away, feeling heat pooling around his cheeks. 

“I come here often when I want to take a break from writing reports or grading papers. It’s a nice place to relax since it’s quiet. I could show you around if you want.” the man shared.

“It’s okay P’Mew. I know this place well. I used to come a lot, but this year I’ve been so busy I have no time to.” he replied. 

“Not too busy for coffee and desserts?” Mew teased. 

Gulf nodded sheepishly. 

Mew seemed to consider something before saying, “No wonder I haven’t seen you around. I only started coming here at the start of the academic year.”

“P’Mew didn’t do his Master’s in Chula?” he asked.

“No, I did my Master’s in London.”

“Is London nice?” Gulf had never been outside of the region before so he was curious. 

“Yes, it’s nice most of the time.” Mew laughed a little. “It isn’t as nice when it’s raining constantly though and London rains a lot. You will like it over there, plenty of cafes around.”

“Oh. If there are many good cafes, I will surely like it. Did you do your Bachelor’s in London too?” He continued asking while smiling at Mew’s comment.

“I didn’t. I received my degree here in Chula. I majored and still am majoring in Industrial Engineering.” the man said.

Gulf was impressed. Engineering wasn’t the easiest subject to study. He would never dream of majoring in engineering. Reading Education was difficult enough.

“P’Mew is so smart.” he stated, and he meant it. The man was smart.

“Okay N’Gulf. Tell me what you want.” Mew eyed him suspiciously. 

He cocked his head at the man.

“You have been complimenting me since we met just now. You must want something from me, is that right?” 

“Alai.. No! P’Mew. I-” he stuttered. There was an intense rush of heat to his face and his body stiffened. He gave the man a what-the-hell look. 

Mew chuckled. His deep and rich voice resonating across the quiet park. He glared at the man.

“Sorry, Nong. You are na rak when you blush. Have you seen your ears? They get so red! Your face now looks like a painting. There is blue, purple and red!” Mew laughed even louder.

He suddenly felt like smacking the man, just like how he did with Mild before. Which was his cue to leave. He stood up immediately and said, “I’m heading back to my dorm.” 

“And you can screw yourself.” He started in the direction of his dorm.

“Wait! N’Gulf! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh! Bumping into you made me really happy so I couldn’t help myself. Don’t be mad?” Mew called out from behind him. 

“It’s okay, I need to leave anyway. I have some assignments I need to complete.” He took another step forward.

“Oh! Then let me walk with you back then.” the man said.

He turned around to face the man, shooting him a pointed look before saying, “Okay, suit yourself.” Mew wasn’t the only one who found him strange, he felt the same way about the man himself too.

The man jogged up to the side of him and they made their way to his dorm.

“N’Gulf, actually it was such a relief to be able to talk to you. I have been stuck in the office almost everyday marking quiz papers. I didn’t even have time to go get my favorite latte!” Mew lamented as they strolled along the path. 

“Oh, that’s why I-” He stopped himself. He wasn’t going to let the man know he had been waiting for him to turn up at the cafe.

“That’s why…?” the man asked.

“It’s nothing.” he replied, speeding up his stride so he was walking ahead of the man.

“Hey! Why are you suddenly walking so fast?” the man called out from behind.

“I have to hurry. I’m-” he paused, trying to think of a reason. “I’m hungry.” he said. 

He was an idiot.

“Oh, then we better hurry then. Wouldn’t want our N’Gulf to be grumpy from being hungry.” the man quipped.

Gulf ignored the man and carried on. They reached his dorm soon enough. He was glad the man was silent for the rest of the journey. He has had quite enough of social interaction for the day. Both Mild’s and Mew’s teasing were too lethal a combination for him. 

“Thanks for walking me back, P’Mew. See you around.” he said when they reached the entrance of the building. 

“Enjoy your dinner N’Gulf. Take care of yourself. I like your face better when it’s only just red. ” the man teased and walked off. 

Gulf stared at the man’s back and prayed for the ground to open beneath him. It didn’t in the end. Turning around, he made his way inside the building.

To be continued.

Chapter Text

Wednesday PM

Spice Boys

Boat, Gulf, Kaownah, Mild, Run

 

(21:05) Gulf: Hey Run, do u happen to know anything about a PhD student in Chula named Mew?

(21:05) Mild: GULF. WHY DID U IGNORE MY MESSAGE.

(21:06) Gulf: I had nth to say

(21:06) Mild: SHIA! Why do I even care. 

(21:06) Mild: Wait, your Mew is a PhD student?!

(21:07) Gulf: Krub

(21:07) Mild: Aow. Good catch. How old is he, do you know?

(21:07) Boat: Wow, PhD student.

(21:09) Gulf: 28

(21:09) Mild: Aow

(21:09) Boat: Aow

(21:09) Run: Aow

(21:10) Mild: Run! Do you know Mew? How’s the internship?

(21:10) Run: No I don’t. I’m dying from being overworked. Today I had to buy 50 cups of coffee!!

(21:10) Mild: Why do you need to buy coffee?

(21:11) Gulf: Take care Run.

(21:11) Boat: Yeah, remember to rest.

(21:12) Run: Because I’m an intern, you dumbass.

(21:12) Mild: Who are you calling dumbass!!!

(21:12) Run: U.

(21:12) Gulf: 555

(21:13) Mild: SHIA! U IDIOT. I WAS ONLY JUST AS

(21:13) Mild: DHKajkdoiw

(21:13) Mild: fjskfhueibfk

(21:13) Mild: .

(21:14) Mild: fjue mksfrl;

(21:15) Gulf: ?

(21:15) Run: U okay Mild? I was just joking.

(21:16) Boat: He’s okay.

(21:16) Gulf: …

(21:16) Run: …

(21:17) Kaownah: …

(21:17) Run: Hey Kaownah

(21:17) Gulf: Hi Kaownah

(21:17) Kaownah: Hi guys, I know someone called Mew.

(21:18) Gulf: really?

(21:18) Kaownah: Ya. He sometimes sings for my band.

(21:18) Run: Wow cool.

(21:18) Gulf: you are in a band?

(21:18) Kaownah: erm ya?

(21:19) Run: 55555555

(21:19) Gulf: Aow. I didn’t know.

(21:19) Mild: you are an idiot Gulf. Kaownah has been in a band since last year. Which hole have u been living in?

(21:19) Run: 5555555555

(21:20) Boat: 55555555

(21:20) Gulf: I really didn’t know

(21:20) Mild: YOU SAW HIM SING LAST YEAR AT THE CHRISTMAS PARTY U DOOFUS.

(21:21) Gulf: oh. I thought it was one-time.

(21:21) Run: 55555555

(21:21) Kaownah: 5555555

(21:21) Gulf: Sorry Kaownah, I really didn’t know.

(21:22) Kaownah: It’s okay. We don’t see each other that often.

(21:22) Run: Ouch.

(21:22) Boat: 555555

(21:22) Mild: Gulf is anti-social. He lives in a hole. Only place he goes to now is that stupid cafe.

(21:22) Gulf: _|_

(21:23) Run: 55555555

(21:23) Boat: 55555555

(21:23) Run: Even though I’m always busy I knew he was in a band. Gulf u need to be a better friend.

(21:23) Kaownah: :’)

(21:23) Gulf: Ok I will. We can all go watch your band play. 

(21:24) Mild: You mean watch Mew play.

(21:24) Gulf: Alai wa.

(21:24) Boat: That’s a good idea. Maybe Mew will be there. ;)

(21:24) Run: I’ll try to join!

(21:24) Kaownah: Thanks guys. I play every Saturday at the usual place.

(21:24) Gulf: Where’s the usual place?

(21:25) Kaownah: Above the cafe Mild says you go to

(21:25) Gulf: Thanks. Wait, above the cafe? 

(21:25) Kaownah: Yes. It’s a bar at night.

(21:25) Gulf: Oh. Okay.

(21:25) Mild: Why am I not surprised u didn't know that Kanawut. So, Kaow, what do u know about Mew?

(21:25) Run: 55555 ya kaow tell us

(21:25) Gulf: I want to know too.

(21:26) Mild: You sure you don't know everything already?

(21:26) Run: 55555 so is kaow going to tell us instead?

(21:26) Boat: I think he’s typing

(21:26) Mild: stop rushing him!

(21:27) Kaownah: I know he’s Tul friend who just came back from overseas less than a year ago. He’s also a PhD student. Fairly rich. He’s popular around the guys and girls because he’s good-looking but he keeps to himself. Tul is always protective of him. He doesn’t talk to strangers much. 

(21:27) Mild: He bought Gulf a brownie.

(21:27) Kaownah: Aow.

(21:28) Run: AOW. looks like I missed out a lot. U have to tell us more Gulf.

(21:28) Gulf: I said he was trying to be nice.

(21:28) Mild: Right. He gave up the last brownie for you and still paid.

(21:28) Kaownah: Wow. That's the first I've heard. He's really never interact much with strangers.

(21:28) Mild: Maybe he likes you Gulf.

(21:28) Boat: Yeah I think so too.

(21:29) Gulf: No.

(21:29) Run: WAIT. This guy bought a brownie for our cold and aloof Kanawut? Wow. I need to meet him. Kaow, you have a picture?

(21:29) Gulf: Alai wa.

(21:29) Kaownah: I think I have a picture somewhere. Mew doesn't have social media. Not that I know of.

(21:29) Mild: Just like kanawut

(21:30) Gulf: Alai na

(21:30) Boat: Do share the photo

(21:31) Kaownah:

(21:31) Mild: SHIA HE’S HOT

(21:31) Boat: Wow he’s good looking. 

(21:31) Run: Shia…. Gulf you’re a lucky man

(21:32) Kaownah: 5555555 people go crazy when he starts singing. It’s quite funny to watch.

(21:32) Gulf: There’s nothing going on.

(21:32) Mild: Fine. Ok. So when can we go watch the band? Let us know when he’s singing!

(21:32) Kaownah: This Saturday? He should be singing. Even if he doesn’t, sometimes he comes to watch.

(21:33) Mild: Sounds good.

(21:33) Run: Okay. I should be done by then. Internship ends this week.

(21:33) Gulf: I have to study for mid-terms

(21:33) Mild: ...

(21:33) Boat: Are you sure Gulf? We can leave earlier.

(21:34) Mild: You're an idiot Gulf. Why are you giving up a chance to see your Mew sing.

(21:34) Run: Come on Gulf. Let's hang out I haven't seen u for so long!

(21:34) Kaownah: Will be nice to see you too Gulf. I can introduce you to my bandmates.

(21:36) Mild: Gulf?

(21:36) Boat: Maybe he fell asleep?

(21:40) Mild: It's only 10pm!?

(21:41) Run: Maybe he really fell asleep

(21:41) Kaownah: Hmmm

(21:50) Gulf: Okay. This Saturday then.

(21:51) Mild: Great! Now Gulf. Answer my text please.

(21:51) Gulf: No.

(21:51) Mild: U...faafsdsas.

(21:51) Mild: da2wDSFEEA

(21:52) Boat: See you all on Saturday. 7pm?

(21:55) Run: Sure. I'll come at around 7.30pm

(21:56) Kaownah: I'll be there before 7pm to set up. See you!

Chapter Text

There was a couple sitting in his corner.

Mew cursed under his breath and surveyed the cafe floor again. He finally understood how Gulf must have felt when the younger man saw him in his favorite seat - mildly territorial. There were no empty tables other than the one by the counter. Although he wasn’t sure if Gulf would turn up, he didn’t want to risk the younger man appearing and finding him in his spot again. He debated whether to take the seat again as he really wanted that iced latte he had been craving for more than a week. Damn Tul and his girls. His third attempt at finding another empty table unfortunately yielded no success, so he let out a sigh and made his way towards the only empty table. 

Settling into the table, he took another look at the couple sitting in his corner. The two male students were sharing the same cup of coffee and a plate of half-eaten brownie with melted ice cream. They seemed to be engaged in an intimate conversation with the taller man’s arm wrapped around the smaller man’s shoulder. They were giggling and smiling. Mew suddenly felt like he was invading their privacy and peeled his eyes away from them.

“Khun Phi, what would you like to order?” 

He turned around and saw an expressionless dark haired lady. This had to be one of the sisters.

“An iced latte and a strawberry crepe cake.” 

“Okay.” 
 
What a weird woman.

While waiting, he let his mind drift again to the events that happened two days ago. The last person he had expected to see that day was Gulf and the man had strolled into the park like he did so many times into the cafe - aloof and nonchalant. He was shocked when he called out to the younger man and saw that ugly bruise over his right eye. His mind had conjured up all kinds of worst kind scenarios to explain the state of his face. However, he had been relieved when the younger man had said it was from an accident, even though he didn’t believe him at first. The circumstances of his injury sounded almost comical to him, it wasn’t everyday one would hear of someone being hit right on the eye by a football. 

He had almost reached out to touch the man’s face, but managed to stop himself in time. It happened again when they were seated together at the bench. Mew had been so completely enamored by the younger man’s carefree expression that he found his hand reaching out on its own, almost touching the blue-purple skin. He was only able to pull back when the younger man opening his eyes snapped him out of his trance. Even with the ridiculous looking bruise on his face, Gulf still managed to maintain his alluring boyish charm. His pink chestnut lips had curled into a soft smile that made Mew want to cover with his own. 

Mew smiled to himself.

The entire encounter with Gulf that day had repeated several times in his mind. From him mistaking Mew to be a lot younger and allowing himself to be called Nong, to their conversation while sitting on the bench and his relentless teasing that led up to the walk back. Mew couldn’t get enough of the man. He couldn’t get enough of his blushing cheeks and red tipped small ears. He couldn’t get enough of his angry pout and squinting eyes. His only regret was not asking the younger man for his number, having only realized it when he was almost back at the research building.

“Here’s your order, Khun Phi.” said a familiar voice. It was the lady from that day. 

“Thanks,” he replied.

“You’re welcome. No brownies for today? We have plenty.” she asked.

“No. It’s fine.” he said, before remembering to ask about Gulf. “Have you seen Gulf around lately?”

“Gulf? Nong Gulf?” 

He nodded.

“Oh, I think he’s been here almost everyday. He always looks like he’s waiting for someone. Oh! He’s injured though! Something about football. He was here on wednesday with some friends!” she said.

“I see. Thank you.” he said. The lady smiled and walked off.

Was Gulf waiting for him? He gave himself a mental shake. He was not going to start projecting like a schoolgirl with a crush. Not at an age that was nearing thirty. It was embarrassing enough that he spent the past two days thinking about the younger man. Mew was not ready to date. He was also not going to date another student. He was done. He had to be. A ping came from his phone.

Tul: You up to sing this Saturday? 
Mew: Sure.
Tul: Okay I’ll let kaow know, he’s bringing friends. 

That was odd. Kaownah never brought friends. His phone on the table started vibrating. He half expected to see Tul’s name again when the name that appeared made him do a double take. It was P’Stamp. His cousin almost never called. Being a police inspector did not allow him the luxury of time to do so.

“Sawadee Krub, P’stamp.” he answered the phone.

“Nong. I have bad news. Ready yourself.” P’Stamp’s voice sounded serious. 

“What bad news, Phi.” This was making him nervous. 

“He’s back in town. Your ex-boyfriend is back in Bangkok. My boss just told me today, after the Chief Superintendent told him.”

His blood ran cold, and he gripped the table, hard. Opening his mouth, he wanted to say something but nothing came out. He could feel his neck starting to break out in cold sweat and it was getting harder to breathe. Art was back in town.

“Art is…” 

“...Krub. Nong. He’s back.” 

“It’s been almost-” he couldn’t continue.

“I know Nong. It’s been almost 3 years. Listen. He can’t hurt you anymore. You know that right.” 

He took in a deep breath and willed himself to relax. He got this. 

“I know, Phi. Thanks for telling me. Do you know why he’s back?” he asked.

“He’s back for his studies. Master’s I think. Not at Chula, don’t worry. He’s at Kasetsart.” 

“I see.” Thank god.

“I called you to let you know in advance, so you don’t get a shock when you see him. Don’t worry, Nong. You'll be fine, I know you're stronger now. And also, it was NOT your fault. Remember that.” 

“Thank you P’Stamp. I know.” he said. It felt like a lie.

“If you need anything, I’m a call away. If you can’t get to me, just call Hope. She can help you.” 

Mew thanked his cousin again before putting down the phone. He was still reeling from the news. He had never thought about preparing himself to see Art again. Heck. He thought he never had to see the man again. But who was he kidding though? He was back in Bangkok and the city wasn’t the biggest out there. If the man was back, they were bound to run into each other someday. He certainly hoped that day would never come. He took a sip of his iced latte and realized he had lost his appetite. Turning around to grab his laptop from his bag, he spotted a familiar young man standing at the entrance, staring back at him.

It was Gulf.  

Was he standing there all this time? The younger man looked like he had just finished class as he was still wearing his uniform. The bruise on his face had faded quite a bit, though it was still fairly obvious. Mew gestured for him to come over. All the seats in the cafe were still occupied. He thought they might be able to share his, even though it would be a bit of a squeeze.

“Hi P’Mew.” Gulf called out. He was smiling a little. 

“Hi N’Gulf. Have a seat. We can share the table. I’m sorry I took your favorite spot. It was full-house when I arrived.” he said.

“Thanks P’Mew. ” the man said as he sat down. “Wait. How do you know this is my favorite spot?” 

“Oh.” He silently cursed himself. 

Judging from how the man always seemed to have his head in the clouds, he probably never noticed Mew until that day he took his spot. He guessed there was no harm telling the man he’s been a patron of the cafe far longer than he thought.

“I always see you in this seat Nong. I’ve been coming here for the past few months.” he said. 

“Aow.” Gulf’s eyes darted around as if he was trying to search through his memory. “Maybe that’s why I found your col-. I mean your mustard beanie so familiar.” he said 

“Maybe.” Mew replied. “I also think if you spent less time in your head you would have noticed me earlier.”

“P’Mew!” 

“Sorry, I just like to tease you.” he winked at the man.

The younger man shot him a weak glare and ignored him. He called for the waitress.

“N’Gulf, good to see you! This man over here was just asking about you! ” the lady said excitedly.

Shia! Mew thought to himself

“Oh. Really.” Gulf turned to look at him with his eyes narrowed. Mew shifted in his seat.

“Yup! So what would you like to order?” asked the lady.

“Okay I’ll have a iced latte and a brow-” 

“Nong, wait! Would you like to have my cake? I don’t want it anymore.” he interjected. The call before had completely ruined his appetite. Rather than waste the cake, he thought Gulf should have it. 

“Alai na, why? P’Mew not feeling well?” the younger man asked, looking concerned.

“No Nong, I just- don’t feel like eating anymore and I don’t want to waste it. Help me eat it, please?” He tried to keep his voice from shaking and hoped the man would stop asking why as he didn’t know how else to explain himself.

“Okay. I’ll just have an iced latte then.” Gulf said eventually. 

The younger man turned around to look at him. Mew tried to suppress the rising uneasiness that was threatening to overcome him and smiled back. The younger man continued to study him for a few seconds before saying, “Thanks P’Mew. I like crepe cakes.” And he beamed at him.

Mew let out a huge breath, feeling the tension leaving his body. If the younger man noticed, he didn’t say anything. He took the spoon on the plate and dug into the cake. Mew watched him savour the cake blissfully, smiling at every bite he took. Gulf really knew how to enjoy the simplest pleasures in life he realized. 

“Is the cake good?” he asked.

“Kwab.” the younger man said between bites. “I rike the desert at tis cafe.”

“Gulf, please talk after you swallow. Be careful not to choke yourself.” he reminded the man. 

He didn’t know why, watching the man eat made him feel at ease all of a sudden. The queasiness he felt before was slowly being washed away by every smile the young man gave him and his heart, for the first time in a long while, felt warm. 

“P’Mew, what are you doing here?” the younger man asked. Mew noticed more than half the cake was gone already.

“I was planning to relax and watch some anime. I spent all week grading papers. I thought I deserved some rest.” he sighed.

“I see. I have many assignments to complete and my mid-terms are coming soon so I’m planning to be productive today.” Gulf said with a determined look in his eye.

“Alright, I’ll leave you to it then.” he said and pulled out his headphones. 

Neither of them spoke for the next hour. Mew sometimes took a peek at the man beside him, watching him knit his brows in concentration and sometimes making inaudible sounds of exasperation. Just as Mew was about to start his next episode, he heard a loud slam to his side. He looked over to see the young man’s face sprawled over his laptop, in agony.

“N’Gulf, are you okay!?” he asked. Was the man in pain?

“I can’t do this anymore!” the young man cried out as he got off the laptop.

“Gulf?”

“This assignment is too difficult! I’m going to fail. I’m never going to graduate. All these years of studying is going to be WASTED!” 

“NONG!” he shouted at the man.

“P’Mew?” Gulf finally calmed down a little to look at him.

“What are you having trouble with? I realized I never asked what you are majoring in.” He wondered why he never thought to ask. 

“Oh. I’m reading Education. Specializing in Technology. Does P’Mew think he can help me?” The younger man directed a hopeful look at him.

“I can try.” he said. He couldn’t say no to the younger man even if he tried.

“Okay P’Mew. I’m supposed to curate a lesson on statistics. But I can’t figure out what I should teach first. Descriptive? Inferential? Is descriptive too easy? Should I start with probability first then move straight to Bayesian? P’Mew, I am very bad with statistics. If you can help me I’ll be very happy.”  

Mew stared at the younger man. He had never seen him talk so much before. Also, was he serious? Mew could more than help him. He could ace for him.

“N’Gulf, did you forget what I majored in? Industrial engineering is about optimizing processes, most of the time using statistical analysis. I’ve been doing statistics for the past 7 years.” He hoped he didn’t come off like he was boasting.

“Aow. I didn’t know.” Gulf said. “Thanks P’Mew.”

“Alright, let’s take a look at your assignment questions.” he shifted his chair closer to the younger man.

They worked on the assignment for the next hour, with Mew giving tips while Gulf typed furiously on his laptop. The younger man looked incredibly adorable with his face so focused. Mew smiled to himself, he had been really upset when his cousin called but the company of the younger man made him feel slightly better.

They parted ways soon after as he needed to go pick his Mae up from her friend’s place. Gulf had thanked him profusely before saying he was heading back to his dorm to rest. He had offered to give the younger man a ride but he refused, saying he preferred to walk instead. Mew didn’t push and let him go.

“Thank you, Gulf.” he mouthed as he watched the man disappear into the streets.

Wait.

“Shia!!!” he cursed. He forgot to ask for the younger man’s number again!

Chapter Text

“You want a lift home, N’Gulf?” Mew asked. 

“It’s okay, P’Mew. I am good. I like walking back. Thanks for offering.” He declined the man, not wanting to trouble him anymore.

“I see. Take care of yourself Nong. Remember not to get hit again with a ball. I prefer your face just red and not with blue and purple.” the man teased.

“P’Mew!!” he protested, shooting a dirty look at the man.

“Aye, I know. I know. I won’t tease you anymore.” The man laughed, his white teeth showing and eyes crinkling at the corners. 

Seeing this, Gulf found himself unable to stay cross with the man any longer. He pulled his lips back into a grin, glad that after what he saw today, Mew was at least laughing.

“Take care too P’Mew. I hope- you feel better.” he said.

A small smile appeared on the man’s face.

“I’ll see you soon, N’Gulf.” It sounded like a promise.

“See you.” he said.

Gulf had to force himself to turn around and walk off. He didn’t want to leave the man alone. Not when Mew had looked so distraught earlier. He had arrived at the cafe seeing the familiar mustard beanie at his favorite spot and had debated whether to confront him when he saw the white knuckles gripping the table. Mew’s expression had been frozen in shock. Whatever that was in that phone call, it shook the man. Gulf hadn’t felt so helpless in a while. The urge to go up to the man and give him a hug was so strong it surprised Gulf himself and yet, he couldn’t do so, because they weren’t close enough for him to take such liberties. 

He turned back in the direction of the cafe and saw the empty lot. Mew had left already. Gulf recalled wanting to ask the man about the phone call but seeing how panicked he was when they were ordering food, he changed his mind. He had dug into the cake with gusto in a weak attempt to distract the man from whatever troubles he was having. It had worked, because Gulf felt the man’s soft eyes lingering on him and he eventually saw a smile appear on his face. Mew’s offer to help him with his assignment despite being upset earlier had touched him, and now he was determined to return the favour in any way possible. He also wanted to be able to comfort the man, just like how he had offered the brownie to him when he was feeling down that day. Gulf wanted to do the same and in order to do that, he had to get closer to the man.

He was going to be Mew’s friend.  

Before he could do that, he had to head back to his dorm to finish the last of his assignment. Picking up his pace and he continued towards the building. The student crowd had mostly cleared by now and the campus streets were empty. Which meant that he could walk around without people staring at his face. He looked over at the grass field and wondered if he should cut across it since the sun setting meant the area wasn’t under it’s direct scorching rays anymore. He eventually decided on it and took a few strides to step onto the soft ground when a voice called out from behind him

“Gulf!!” 

It sounded like Mild. He paused for a second before continuing his brisk pace. If he pretended not the hear the man, perhaps he would leave-

“Gulf! I know you heard me!”

Letting out a sigh and he stopped in his tracks. He turned around and saw Mild jogging towards him with Boat leisurely following behind. Both of them waved at him. Weren’t they supposed to be on a date? Gulf remembered Mild talking about it during yesterday’s dinner.

“Hi guys.” he greeted them. 

“So. How was your day?” Mild asked, wearing an odd expression Gulf couldn’t make out.

“Good? I got a lot of work done today.” he answered. 

“Hmm. So, nothing else happened?” Mild asked. He noticed Boat also had an odd curious look on his face.

What was up with these two?

“Erm. Yeah.  Should there have been?” he asked. He had a bad feeling all of sudden. Maybe he should have ignored them.

“Where do you think we went for our date today, Gulf.” Mild asked. He had an evil grin on.

“How would I-” Realization dawned on him. “Were you two at the cafe?!” 

Both men nodded. 

Shia. He bit his lips, looking to the side.

“We saw the both of you huddled together and hunched over a laptop. If it wasn't for the waitress telling us you were at the cafe, we wouldn’t even have noticed! How very discrete of you, choosing such an obscure table beside the counter.” Mild exclaimed while Boat nodded his head.

He blinked at the two men. Of all places these two could have gone on a date at, it had to be his favourite cafe. He was beginning to suspect it might have been Mild’s idea to spy on him but he didn’t think the man was that sly. 

“It was Boat’s idea.” Mild said, as if he read his thoughts.

“I was craving for some brownie and ice cream.” Boat smiled sheepishly at him.

“We weren’t spying on you Gulf. If that’s what you were thinking.” Mild stated.

“How-. Nevermind.” He gave up. Nothing got past Mild, he was a law student for a reason.

The shorter man leveled a look at him before closing the distance between them. He placed his hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently

“It’s nice to see you making friends outside of our circle, Gulf. Whatever relationship you two have, we are happy as long as you are happy.” the man said.

What was Mild talking about? Why was he suddenly behaving this way? What happened to the usual drama queen? What relationship? His best friend’s odd behavior was confounding him.

“I’m not in a relationship with him.” He corrected the man. 

“Relationship. Friendship. Whatever. It’s all the same. As long as you are meeting new people, it’s all good. After what happened between you and Poom, you withdrew so much into yourself and your studies, it made us worried. By us I mean all of us. Run and Kaow included. You stopped being actively involved in our lives, Gulf. We didn't know what to do and we also didn’t want to push you too much but-” Mild dropped the hand from his shoulder, his expression strained.

Boat, who was standing behind Mild, came closer to circle his arm around the shorter man. 

He looked him in the eye before saying, “We wanted to give you space, Gulf and we knew how much you cared about your studies but it was really hard watching you live your life simply going through the motions. And then, you got yourself injured by the football and it worried us even more. You never missed a ball before.”  

Gulf contemplated both men in front of him, suddenly feeling guilty. He knew he hadn’t been a good friend for the past one year. Deep down, he also knew that he wasn’t the same person as before. Whatever happened between him and Poom had affected him more than he cared to admit. Even though hardly any damage was done by the scandal she created, the betrayal by someone so closed to him had cut deep. Gulf loathed the sleepless nights he wasted wondering what drove her to say the things she said. He had tried his best for her, but the woman was never satisfied. He was never good enough, no matter what he did. 

Truthfully, he had felt relieved when they broke up. It meant he finally didn’t have to answer to anyone anymore. He felt free. However at the same time, he felt maligned and misunderstood, and it had hurt. Which was why for the past year, he hadn’t noticed much around him. Retreating inside his head was comforting. It kept him safe from the dangers outside. The only person that managed to draw him out of it and catch his attention was Mew and funny how that happened. He would never have known the man if he hadn’t chosen to sit in his spot that day. 

“Mild. Boat. I’m sorry for worrying you guys so much. It’s been a long time I know. I think I’m doing better now or starting to do better. Thank you. I appreciate the concern. I just need a bit more time.” he smiled at them and added,  “P’Mew and I- are just acquaintances now. But I think we can be friends. He helped me with my assignment today.”

“It’s okay Gulf. Your happiness is important to us, Remember that. Also, about P’Mew. I think you can try to be more than-” Mild couldn’t finish his sentence before Boat interjected.

“That’s good news Gulf. We want the best for you. Take all the time you need. Also, if P’Mew helped you before, maybe you can ask him to tutor you?” he suggested. 

Mild, who looked annoyed earlier at being interrupted nodded along grudgingly. Could he? It would be great if Mew could tutor him but he was supposed to be the one helping the man not the other way around! 

“I’m not sure… P’Mew seems busy and I don’t want to disturb him. I don’t even have his number.” he admitted. It never occurred to him to ask for the man's number. People usually asked for his number and not the other way around.

“There’s no harm in trying, Gulf. Let’s ask Kaownah if he will be there tomorrow at the bar alright? Then you can ask him if he wants to help you. Also, you can ask for his number too.” Boat smiled at him. The man really knew how to get to the point. 

“Sure. I will.” he replied.

“Great. See you tomorrow then.” Boat said.

“See you Gulf.” Mild added.

“See you.” 

The two men walked off with their hands interlocked. Boat whispered something into Mild’s ears and the shorter man laughed. Gulf watched in light amusement as they disappeared at the corner of the building in front. He was grateful for their friendship, however annoying they can be sometimes. Then he turned around and made his way across the field. 

It was closed to 8pm when he finished the last part of his assignment. A ping came from his phone. It was a message from their group chat.

Spice Boys
Boat, Gulf, Kaownah, Mild, Run

(19:45) Kaownah: I have bad news guys. Mew won’t be coming tomorrow. Sorry Gulf.

(19:45) Mild: Oh.

(19:46) Boat: That’s too bad. Sorry Gulf.

(19:46) Mild: We can still watch you sing Kaownah.

(19:46) Run: I’ll be there to watch you sing Kaow

(19:46) Gulf: I’ll be there.

(19:47) Mild: You better be. It was your idea.

(19:47) Mild: Also that means we can’t execute our plan tomorrow.

(19:47) Run: What plan?

(19:47) Kaownah: Yeah. What plan?

(19:47) Gulf: Shut up Mild.

(19:48) Mild: I’ll let you guys know tomorrow. hehe

(19:48) Run: Please do, I am VERY intrigue and also in need of a good story.

(19:48) Kaownah: 5555. Do share.

(19:48) Gulf: See you all.

(19:48) Kaownah: See you.

(19:47) Mild: See you! Don’t be late Gulf.

(19:48) Gulf: I won’t.

(19:48) Run: See you guys!

(19:48) Boat: See u.

Gulf put down the phone and found himself feeling a little disappointed. He had been looking forward to seeing Mew again the next day and possibly surprising him. Then again, he was supposed to be there to watch Kaownah so it shouldn't matter much if Mew wasn't there. He knew they would meet again for sure, whether it be at the cafe or the bar, and that was reassuring enough. He ignored the text that just came in from Mild and picked up his lecture notes. He had tons of revision to do for his mid-terms and if he wanted to pass, he better get started on them. Just as he was about to read the first page of his lecture notes a thought came to him. 

How long had Mew been watching him to know his favorite spot was the table by the counter?

Chapter Text

He was late. Again.

It was already close to 8pm and he still hadn’t reached the other side of the campus. A call from Mild asking where he was had woken him up from his afternoon nap. He later realized he had forgotten to set his alarm. His best friend wasn’t too impressed with his excuse and had told him to “get his ass over as soon as possible”. He picked up his pace to a slow jog and continued along the campus path. When he got to the main field, he noticed the route he usually took was cordoned off. The harsh lights shining in the area revealed helmet-wearing workers out and about. There was no way around the construction site. He muttered a few curses and turned to take the other route that led through the park.

The path along the small lake was quiet at this hour during the weekend. The soft yellow hues from the street lamps illuminated the path as he trot on it. He could see the silhouettes of the dark trees that flank the pavement in front and the small lake was pitch dark on the moonless night. The park in the evening looked serene and eerie at the same time. Just as he was about to pass the other side of the small lake, he spotted a figure in the distance, sitting very still on a bench and staring ahead. Gulf looked around, except for him and the figure in front, there was no one else. He was tempted to turn back but that would mean he had to cut through the other half of the quiet park, again. Sensing rising fear inside him, he willed himself to stay calm, there was nothing to be afraid of. All he needed to do was not look at the figure and keep his eyes trained ahead. He quickened his pace into another jog again and resisted the urge to peek from his side as he passed the figure, concentrating on the brightly lit buildings beyond the park entrance.

“Gulf?”

Shia! Someone was calling his name. He instinctively wanted to slow down and turn around but stopped himself. His heart beat rapidly against his chest and he could feel goosebumps forming on his neck. He had heard stories of people getting slapped when they turned around to their names being called. Gulf wasn't going to let that happen so he increased his pace instead, hoping the voice wouldn't follow him. Just then, heavy footsteps sounded from behind him and he felt shivers run through his body. Something was following him! He pushed his legs to take larger strides, feeling his muscles burn as he frantically ran for the entrance.

“Nong Gulf!!”

The voice called out again but he was too overcome with fear to react to it. All his mind could think of at the moment was to get to safety under the halo of lights from the buildings ahead. He was only a few metres away from passing the iron gate when he felt a heavy clap on his shoulder and an invisible force pulled him back.

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” he screamed in terror, losing his balance as the momentum he powered into his run was suddenly reversed by whatever that had grabbed on to him. He could feel himself falling back and his arms flailed about trying to reach for something to hold on to but it was a futile effort. It now seemed impossible for him to break his fall so he closed his eyes to brace for the impact to come.

“Gulf, it’s m- OOF!” the voice calling out from behind him was cut off when his own body landed on something soft and warm.

He heard a groan and opened his eyes to see there was a pair of arms wrapped around his torso.

“Shia!” he cursed, wrenching the limbs away and rolling off onto his side. He looked at the figure he landed on and his heart skipped a beat.

It was Mew, and he was lying on the floor groaning in pain.

“P’MEW!” he shouted as he rushed to the man’s side, checking for any signs of injury. “I’M SO SORRY! Are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?!”

“Guullf… you..” the man grunted.

He put both hands under the man’s neck and back and hoisted him into a sitting position, combing through the man’s hair for any bumps or wounds. He was relieved to not find any. Checking over the man’s body again for any visible injuries, he made the assessment that the man was not in any mortal danger. Sitting back on the ground, he rested Mew’s head on his shoulder while he waited for the man to collect himself.

“Gulf. Help me up.” Mew finally said after a minute or two.

He helped the man up and led him to a bench nearby. They sat down in silence while the man massaged his own neck and shoulders. Gulf thanked god the man was wearing a sweater, if not his arms would have definitely been scraped.

“P’Mew...” 

He looked at the man, trying to sound as apologetic as possible. He felt really bad. Mew stopped massaging his shoulders and turned to him. He seemed to search his face for a moment before smiling.

“N’Gulf. You are quite the sprinter aren’t you, I almost couldn’t catch up!” The man laughed. “Luckily I did but I didn’t expect you to be this clumsy. If my reflexes weren't as fast, I wouldn’t have caught you in time!”

“P’Mew! You could have been seriously injured! Why did you stop me!” he scolded. How the man could still be joking in a situation like this was beyond him.

“I couldn’t just let you run off like that, couldn’t I?” Mew said, smiling while grimacing a little.

“P’Mew, are you still hurting?” he asked.

“Oh, just a little sore. Nothing serious. Now, tell me why did you run off!” 

“I’m sorry! I thought you were-. I thought-” He couldn’t continue. How was he supposed to tell the man he thought he was a ghost!?

“You thought I was a ghost, didn’t you?” The man suddenly looked unimpressed.

“Yeah.” he admitted, feeling his face heating up from embarrassment.

“Wow, even at night I can still see the red on your face and ears.” 

Gulf rolled his eyes at the man. 

“What were you doing sitting in the dark alone scaring people!?” he demanded. “You sat so still it didn’t look like you were alive!!”

Mew laughed while pinching the bridge of his nose.

“N’Gulf, I wanted some time alone and this park is quiet in the evening. When you saw me just now I was deep in thought.” Mew explained. “I should ask you the same question too. What were you doing here?”

Shia! He had forgotten why he was here in the first place. He had to go, if not Mild would kill him.

“I’m so sorry P’Mew! I’m late and my friends are waiting for me!” He made a move to get up.

Mew placed a hand on his arm, stopping him.

“Wait N’Gulf. Where are you going? I can send you there if you want. My car is just parked nearby.” the man said.

“Oh.” 

If the man drove him, he could get to the place in less than ten minutes. Walking would take close to thirty. 

“Okay P’Mew. Thanks.” he replied.

“Alright N’Gulf. Let’s head to my car first, then you can tell me where you are heading to.” the man said as he got up, his hand still on his arm.

Mew led him through the entrance of the park and they reached his car a lot faster than he expected. The blue sedan was parked alongside the entrance to the park. As they got into the car he caught a whiff of the familiar cologne and noticed the mustard beanie on the dashboard. If only the man had it on just now, he wouldn’t have mistaken him for a netherworldly creature.

“So where are you heading towards?” Mew asked while buckling his seatbelt.

“The cafe we always go to.” 

“Isn’t the cafe closed already? Why are you heading there at this hour?” 

“I’m heading to the bar above the cafe to watch my friend sing.” he said. “To watch you sing too if you have been there instead of sitting here scaring passerbys.” he thought to himself.

“Alai.. Who's your friend?” Mew asked again. His face was a mixture of confusion and surprise.

Shia. He had forgotten Mew knew Kaownah. He tried to think of some excuses but it was too late and there was no harm letting the man know anyway.

“I’m going to watch Kaownah. He’s part of the group of friends I hang out with.” he said.

“Oh.” The man seemed to consider his words. “I know Kaownah, I was supposed to sing with his band today. Another member of the band is a good friend of mine too. Do you know Tul?” he asked.

Gulf shaked his head.

“Ah. Well, since you are headed there and I’m driving you, I might as well turn up.” Mew said, grinning happily. He started the engine and they made their way to the bar.

Mew was a speedy driver. By speedy, he meant the man could maneuver the car through the smallest openings between cars. He was glad they were only heading somewhere near as the man swerved left and right through the busy Bangkok traffic. Gulf was in a hurry but he wasn’t in such a hurry to meet his creator. Mild had called him again during the drive to check on him, warning him that if he bailed out, he would never let him off. Gulf had to reassure him he was on his way several times before the man hung up. Mew had shot an amused look at him while he drove.

They reached the small street in less than five minutes and Mew parked his car at the usual lot. They made their way to the staircase beside the cafe that now had it shutters down. As he climbed the steps, he could hear the rhythmic sound of music and a familiar singing voice coming from the bar. The band was already playing. They stepped through the entrance of the bar and he scanned the floor for his friends. 

He could hear Kaownah singing a Thai song on the stage. His friend sounded good as always. He made a mental note to tell the man later. As he ventured further into the softly lit bar, he suddenly felt eyes staring at him, or rather behind him, at Mew. He could see why, a tall handsome man such as Mew walking into a bar was surely to command some attention. Gulf eventually spotted his friends near the stage and strangely enough, they were all staring at him with wide eyes. He wondered what made them look so surprised.

Shia.

They must have seen him walking in with Mew.

Chapter Text

“Was that...” Mild asked.

“Yeah.” he said, moving to the spot beside Run. 

The three men sitting at the table never took their eyes off him as he sat down, as if they were waiting for him to say more. Gulf shifted in his seat. 

“Nice colour on the eye. Gulf. Mild got you good.” Run flashed him his usual toothy grin.

Mild shot a heated look at the man and Gulf rolled his eyes. 

“Hey Run, long time no see.” he greeted.

“Hey. Yeah, it’s been a while. How have you been?” Run asked.

“Good. You?”

“Pretty good. Finally done with the internship and got my hair dyed back to blonde.”

He laughed at the man. “It’s nice to see you again Run.” 

“How-” 

“Mild, I think we should-” Boat put his hand on the man’s shoulder.

“I bumped into him downstairs,” he said. 

The three men stared at him again.

“Oh.” Mild blinked several times at him. “That is such a coinci-”

“Hey guys!” Kaownah appeared beside him. The band’s first set was done.

“Thanks for coming to see my band play. Shia! Gulf! What happened to your face?” the singer grimaced at him. 

“Football,” he answered the man. 

“Right. Glad you made it though and bringing P’Mew along too. Who would have known!” The man exclaimed while taking the empty seat between him and Mild.

“They apparently bumped into each other downstairs.” Mild remarked, unconvinced. 

“Oh, I see.” The singer nodded his head. “Why haven’t you ordered anything, Gulf?” 

 “I was busy answering questions.” 

“Oh. Let’s get you something to drink then, Khun Phi!!” Kaownah called out to the waitress.

Gulf ordered a pint of beer. His friends thankfully, with the appearance of Kaownah have stopped looking at him for answers and were busy with their own conversations. He took a look around the place. The seating in the bar were all dark wood and leather and had comfortable cushions on them. Small candlelights were placed on each table and the lights hanging over were dim yellow. It gave the place a cozy vibe. Soft english music was playing in the background and it didn’t overpower any conversations customers had. Gulf liked the place already. The house brew was good.

“So Kaow, how long have you been playing at the bar?” Run asked.

“About two months? We used to play only on occasions, like when you saw during Christmas.” the singer replied. 

Everyone nodded along.

“Tell us about your bandmates Kaow. I think they look different from last year’s” Boat asked.

“Oh yeah. A few of our older members left. Tul, our bassist and Silver, our drummer are the original members. The rest, Vikki on the guitar and Ria on the keyboard are new members. ” 

“Oh. Then when did P’Mew start singing with you guys?” he asked, taking a sip of his beer.

“You were waiting to ask this question huh.” Kaownah grinned at him. 

Gulf  glared at him and continued sipping his beer.

The singer let out a snort. “Only a few months ago. Tul got him to join one of our jamming sessions. So now he sings with us occasionally when he’s free. He wasn’t supposed to be here today though.” 

He nodded his head along and was about to ask why when a voice called out.

“So which one of you is Gulf?” A tall man appeared beside him. He looked like the bassist Kaow mentioned.

Everyone on the table pointed towards him and he turned to the man slowly, looking up at him. 

“Ah… yes! You came in with Mew. Thanks for bringing him. I was quite miffed that he bailed out last minute. I’m Tul, by the way.” the man said while offering his hand out.

“I bumped into him downstairs.” Gulf said, shaking his hand loosely.

“Oh really? Then why did he say he ran into you at the campus park? Also, why is his shoulder hurting? And why do you have a bruise on your face? Mew refused to tell me so I’m here to ask you.” The man looked concerned.

Shi-a. 

The place suddenly felt very small and the table became quiet. There was no way he could talk himself out of this, his friends would never believe him. Turning to the exit and then back at the table, he saw that his friends were all looking at him with confused expressions. He took a swig of his beer, and then a second one, he was going to need it. 

“Didn’t he run into Mew downstairs?” Mild asked, breaking the temporary silence.

“That’s not what Mew told me. He said he drove him here.” Tul replied.

“Gulf…” Mild let out a warning sound. 

“Shia,” he cursed out loud this time.

“Aow.” Run chirped.

Tul came closer to the table and put his arm around his shoulder. “Now. Now. N’Gulf isn’t it? Don’t be shy. Tell me what happened. I’ll buy you a drink.” And he winked.

Gulf buried his head into his hands. What was he going to do now?

“Tul? What are you doing here?” Mew’s voice called out from behind. “Why is N’Gulf’s head buried in his hands!? What did you do, Tul!?” 

He took his hands off his face and turned around. “P’Mew…” he pleaded.

“Hey Nong. Don’t worry I got you.” Mew squeezed his shoulder. “Tul! Silver was asking for you!”

“Alai… what does she want??” 

“I don’t know, just go over before she gets annoyed.” Mew said.

Tul shot both of them a doubtful look before muttering something under his breath and walking away.

“So N’Gulf, are these your friends?” Mew leaned in asking.

“Yeah.” he said.

“Oh. Hi guys. I’m Mew by the way, a PhD student at Chula and a friend of Tul and Kaownah.” 

“Hey, Run here.”

“I’m Mild.”

“Boat. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you guys.” Mew greeted back. “So, are you all students of Chula? How did you know each other?” 

His friends nodded and then turned to him.

“Ah. Mild is my best friend from high school, we play football together. I knew Boat through Mild’s relationship with him. Run is Mild’s roommate and Kaownah is Boat’s roommate at the dorm.” he answered.

“I see. Well, I only just met Gulf about 2 weeks ago at the cafe downstairs.” Mew said. “Are you guys here for N’Kaow?” 

A few of them nodded their heads again.

“So how did you guys end up here together?” Mild asked 

Gulf let out a nervous laugh. 

“It’s a long story. Maybe Nong, you can tell them next time. By the way, do you want to go take a look at the balcony? It’s quite nice.” Mew asked.

Gulf had never been more thankful for the existence of the man. “Sure.” he chimed.

“Wait Gulf-” Mild called out as Mew gestured for him to follow.

Gulf ignored the man and got off his seat. He was glad to be able to escape. Following the older man towards the side of the stage, he saw him open a glass door that led onto a balcony outside. Stepping through the doorway, he was immediately hit with sounds from distant traffic and the hot humid air. He looked around. There were some rattan sofas placed against the wall and potted flowers along the railing. Hanging around the balcony were garlands of softly shining fairy lights. It was beautiful. Mew smiled at him as he admired the place.

“It’s pretty isn’t it?” 

“Yeah. It’s beautiful.” he said, touching some of the lights as he moved around.

Mew walked over to one of the sofas and gestured for him to sit. He made his way to the spot beside the man and sat down. They stayed like this for a while, neither of them speaking. Gulf appreciated the silence. It was comforting. After the near disaster back at the table he was grateful for some peace. He turned to the man and found him leaning back with his eyes closed. He was wearing a small smile on his face. It reminded Gulf of the day they bumped into each other at the park. He was leaning in for a closer look when without a warning, the man opened his eyes, and he found himself staring into a pair of deep dark orbs. 

“Shia!” he jumped, moving quickly away from the man. 

Mew chuckled. “Nong, do you still think I’m a ghost? Why do you look so scared?”

“P’Mew!” 

How was he supposed to react when the man opened his eyes so suddenly!

“Sorry, Nong. I should know better now. You scare easily.” he said, still laughing. 

“P’Mew…” He let out a low growl. 

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop.” The man conceded, still giggling. 

He gave Mew a dirty look before leaning back onto the sofa, looking ahead. A thought came to him while he was studying the hanging lights. 

“P’Mew, why did you decide not to sing tonight?” he asked. 

“I- I didn’t feel like it.” 

“Oh,” he said. “Why?”

“Well… Wait, how did you know I was going to sing tonight?”

“Alai… P’Mew I asked you a question first!” he protested. 

“Did Kaow tell you? Or did you ask him?” Mew had a glint in his eyes. 

The man was incorrigible. 

“NO. It was Tul, you friend. He said you bailed on him.” Gulf glared at the man.

“Aow. I see.” 

Mew fell silent, seeming to consider his words.

“What else did he say?” the man asked. 

“He said… He said you told him we ran into each other at the park. And that your shoulder was hurting. Is your shoulder okay P’Mew?” He had forgotten to ask about the man’s shoulder in his panic just now. 

“It’s okay, Nong. Just a little sore. Nothing an ice pack wouldn’t fix.” The man smiled reassuringly at him. 

“Oh… then I think you should go back home soon to rest.” he said.

“Nong! Are you trying to get rid of me so soon?!”

“Alai.. no! I’m trying to show care and concern you ass!” he yelled at the man. 

“Okay. Okay. I know. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. You look so na rak when you’re angry Nong.” 

Gulf rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. 

“Alright, alright. Thank you for the concern Nong. I was planning to head off soon anyway. Are you going back too?” Mew asked. 

“Nah. I’ll stay with my friends for a little while. I was supposed to come watch Kaow anyway.” he said. 

“I see. Then you better head back, we’ve been out here for almost an hour.”

“Shia!” he cursed. He didn’t know so much time had passed. 

Mew laughed and got up. “Let’s head back now then.”

They made their way back to the bar. Kaownah was already in the middle of singing another song. Gulf settled back into his seat while Mew left for his own table. He took a sip of his beer. Then, realizing it wasn’t cold anymore, he gulped down the rest of it.

“How was your date?” Mild’s voice sounded over the table.

He choked, spewing some of the liquid he was drinking onto the table. His friends immediately got up from their seats and rushed over to him. He gagged, trying to catch his breath.  

“You okay Gulf?!” Run asked, his hands clapping his back.

He nodded his head, still coughing.

“Gulf! Are you sure you are okay!?” Mild called out.

“Tis, your fault-” he continued coughing.

“Sorry Gulf. I was just curious. You were gone for so long! I thought you two-” 

“Mild!” Boat yelled at the man. “Tii rak, let him recover first before we ask any questions.”

Mild seemed to relent and sat back in his seat. Run was still patting his back. He coughed a few more times before feeling his throat slowly relax and his breath even out. Sitting up straight again, he looked at his friends. They all looked concerned.

“I’m okay guys,” he said.

“You sure?” Boat asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

“You gave us a scared Gulf!” Run exclaimed.

He smiled apologetically at the man.

“Nong!” It was Mew. “You okay? Just spoke to the rest. I’m leaving soon. You sure you don’t want a lift home?”

He nodded. “It’s okay, P’Mew. I’ll head back with the rest.”

“Alright Nong. I’m off then. Bye everyone!” Mew waved and walked off.

He turned back to his friends. Kaownah seemed to have magically reappeared at his seat and was giving him an odd look, so were the rest.

“Guys….” he said.

“Sorry Gulf. I didn’t mean surprise you.” Mild apologized.

“It’s okay.”

“So, did you have a nice talk with him outside?” Run asked, wiggling his eyebrows at him as he moved closer.

He leaned back. “Yeah I did. P’Mew is nice. He doesn’t talk too much.” he said. “He just likes to tease me a lot.”

“Why did you reject his offer to send you back?” Mild asked.

“Cause I value my life.” he said.

“Alai na?”

“Did you get his number?” Kaow teased.

“How did you-” 

Shia. He forgot.

“I’ll be back!” he shouted as he got off his seat and ran for the door as fast as possible.

Skipping down the stairs, he searched for any signs of the man. When he got to the bottom, he saw that Mew had already reached his car and was getting in. 

“P’MEW!!” he shouted across the street.

The man stopped and turned around, looking confused.

“Nong?”

Gulf jogged up to the man.

“P’Mew…” He tried to catch his breath.

“What’s wrong N’Gulf? You okay?” the man asked again

“P’Mew… Can I have your number?” 

Mew blinked at him.

“It’s okay, if you can’t! I was thinking since we are becoming some sort of friends, we should at least have each other’s number or maybe even Line account or something. Plus I still owe you some brownies and cake. Also, I was also hoping you can tutor me on some of my assignments. But it’s okay if you can’t cause-” 

“Hand me your phone.” The man extended his hand. He was smiling.

“Alai..”

“So I can key in my number.” 

“Oh.” He handed his phone to the man.

He looked around the streets while the man keyed his number into his phone. There were still some people strolling about and coming out from the numerous bars in the area. It was saturday night after all.

“Done. Take care of yourself Nong. Goodnight.” The man handed his phone back, still smiling.

“Goodnight P’Mew. Take care of your shoulder.”

“I will Nong. See you”

“See you.”

Gulf waited for Mew’s car to disappear into the distance before he made his way back to the bar. His friends were still chatting when he got back to the table.

“So Gulf! Did you get his number?” Run asked.

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“I was planning to give you but you ran out so fast!” Kaow said.

“Oh.” He forgot Kaow knew Mew.  “It’s okay. I think it’s better to ask in person”.

“Hm. True.” 

“So Gulf, show us his number.” Run asked, trying to peek at his phone.

“Alai… No!”

“Come on! We are curious!” the man said.

“Yeah! Show us!” Mild chimed in.

“Okay, okay. Wait.” 

He opened his contact list and his eyes widened. Mew had saved his own name with an emoji beside it.

 

Chapter Text

“P’Mew… Can I have your number?” 

The scene that happened the night before kept replaying in his mind. It replayed when he got back to his apartment last night. It replayed when he woke up in the morning. It replayed while he showered. And now, it was replaying while he had breakfast at his balcony. He took a bite out of his sandwich and looked into the distance. The buildings in front of his apartment were glowing under the morning sun. Numerous birds were perched on the side of the windows chirping away, contributing to the chorus of city sounds from below. 

He wondered what Gulf was doing today. 

Mew was shocked when the younger man asked for his number. Gulf never gave any indication that he was interested in any form of relationship with him. So far, their interactions had only been possible because they met by chance. He thought about the times he had forgotten to ask for the man’s number. It was as if he wasn’t meant to. The younger man had said they were becoming “some sort of friends”. If only he knew what it meant. It was a question he would have to ask the next time they meet. Now that he had the younger man’s number, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see him again.

He took another bite of his sandwich.

He was developing feelings for the younger man, and it was hard not to. Gulf was full of surprises. From the ridiculous encounter at the park, to him asking for his number and then the unexpected text that came later the night. The man had managed to surprise him more times in a day than anyone he knew did. Earlier the week, he had been so affected by the news from his cousin, he didn’t eat for a day and had to cancel on Tul for Saturday because he didn’t think he was up for it.

Gulf had changed that. 

The younger man brought smiles and laughter out of him when they were the last thing on his mind. He never thought the cold and aloof young man who strolled into the cafe a few months ago was capable of giving him such joy. At least not until he spoke to him. Gulf was almost like an accidental guardian angel, banishing his troubles and chasing away his demons. Mew wasn’t ready for a relationship but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from making a good friend and then maybe, just maybe he could allow himself to hope for something more.

He finished the last of his sandwich and reached for his phone on the table, bringing up the text conversation he had with Gulf the night before.


(11:33) Gulf: Hi P’Mew. Gulf here. I know it’s late. Just wanted to let you know. I’m sorry about your shoulder and thanks for the lift plus everything else. Goodnight and take care. 

(11:35) Mew: Nong! It’s okay. I haven’t gone to bed yet. You’re welcome. Thanks for showing care and concern. Goodnight!

(11:36) Gulf: Goodnight.

(11:36) Mew: Sweet dreams.


Mew smiled to himself. He didn’t expect the younger man to text so soon. Gulf spoke even less than he did and he thought he was the quiet one. He wondered when they could meet up again. The younger man did say he needed his help with his assignments and since the university’s midterms were near, he could imagine how stressed he would be.

Putting the phone back in his pockets, he downed the last of his coffee and started clearing the table. A sudden vibration came from his phone, startling him, and something dropped on the floor. Cursing, he bent down to pick the fallen fork up and felt his right shoulder pulling painfully. He was going to have to get that checked out soon. 

He ran into the kitchen to put the cutlery and plates into the sink and fished his phone out. He had half-hoped that it was Gulf, but Tul’s name appeared instead.

That buffoon. Why was he calling so early?

“Morning Tul.” he answered the phone.

“Mew! Open the door. Please?” Tul’s voice sounded over the phone

“Alai..”

“I’m outside. Quick, open the door. I’m carrying a lot of stuff and I look weird talking to my watch.” 

He put his phone on the table and walked over to open the door. Tul was standing outside with multiple bags of groceries.

“Why didn’t you use the bell?” he asked.

The man looked at him and brought up the bags he was holding.

“Oh.”

“Can you please give me a hand?” 

“Sorry. Okay.”

Mew took some of the load off the man and placed them on the kitchen counter. He peeked in some of the bags and saw various fresh produce and snacks. He thought he saw some bottles of supplements too. What was Tul up to?

“Tul! Why did you buy so many things and why are you here so early in the morning?” he asked.

He wasn’t sure what he friend was up to, budging into his place so early in the morning, but he was sure his friend was not an early riser.

“Well I miss my friend!” the man declared, looking a little hurt by his questions while he stood at the hallway of his apartment.

“You saw me last night, Tul.” 

“Yeah, but you spent most of the time with your boyfriend and I was busy with the band! We spoke less than ten sentences yesterday and half of which were you telling me to go away!” Now the man definitely looked hurt.

Mew now had to do some damage control.

“Sorry. I kind of lost track of time yesterday and he’s not my boyfriend.” 

“Fine. He’s not, but he’s cute. Anyway, I wanted to check in on you since you cancelled on me so suddenly. Plus, I owe you for helping me mark those quiz papers.” The man said as he walked over to the kitchen counter to place the rest of the bags.

“I brought some snacks back from Chiangmai as well. My Mae insisted.” Tul said, pointing to another bag.

“Thanks. You didn’t have to.” 

They spent the next few moments storing away all the stuff Tul brought. There was enough food on the table to last him for more than a week. Was the man trying to make him fat? When they were done, Tul came up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. He looked serious.

“Mew. What happened. You may think you hide it well but I can tell when something’s wrong.” the man said.

Mew looked at the man. He knew this moment would come eventually.

“Let’s get you a drink first.” 

He walked to his fridge and took out a can drink before gesturing for his friend to sit at the sofa. Handing him the soda, he sat down as well.

“Mew.” 

“Art is back in town.” 

His friend’s jaw went slack.

“How-”

“My cousin told me.”

His friend stood up suddenly, eyes wide with anger.

“SHIA! FUCK! WHY IS HE BACK? HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE GONE FROM THE COUNTRY FOR AT LEAST A FEW YEARS!” Tul’s nose flared as he shouted.

“It’s been a few years.” 

“NOT ENOUGH. Not after what he did…” The man seemed to notice his outburst and pinched his nose, falling back onto the sofa.

“Tul… You can’t blame everything on him. It was partly my fault too. If I didnt-” 

“STOP. Just stop. You need to stop blaming yourself. What you did back then was something any normal person would have done. What he did wasn’t, so please, Mew. Just-.” The man closed his eyes and said in a small voice, “I can’t lose my best friend again.” 

“You didn’t lose him.” 

“I know, but I almost did!! Do you remember how you looked then? You were a shell. A shell of your former self. And after that you left without a word! I didn’t even know when you’ll be back, not even your family knew!”

“I did come back, didn’t I? Plus, I texted you while I was there.”

Tul stood up again. 

“Texted me? After what!? Half a year? Do you know how worried I was? How worried everyone was? Your Mae cried almost everyday. She just didn’t tell you that’s all.” 

He looked away from the man. 

“I’m so-.” 

“Shia! Mew! Don’t!” His best friend stopped him and stormed off.

He understood why Tul was mad. The man must have been holding back all this time so Mew could have some space. His best friend had welcomed him back with smiles and laughter, as if his two years abroad was nothing more than a summer vacation and their friendship resumed like old times before. He had meant to talk to him, but life back home had been so overwhelming, he failed to notice more than half a year had passed already.

Mew got up and headed towards his best friend, who had in his anger taken to the balcony to cool off. He was leaning against the railing, staring into the distance.

“I’m sorry Mew.” the man said.

“I’m sorry too, Tul.” he said.

“You always kept your troubles to yourself Mew and never told anyone else. Not even to me. Not even to your family. You don’t know how much it frustrated me, not being able to help you. I always thought my silly antics and jokes were enough but I never felt so helpless until-.

Tul let out a sigh.

“Forget it. The past is the past. I should ask you how you are feeling now instead of dumping all these on you.” the man said, turning towards him. 

Mew gave him a small smile.

“I’m okay Tul. I wasn’t before but I am now. I know I’m not good at sharing my problems with others and I think that was part of the reason why I did what I did back then. I thought I was alone but in reality I wasn’t. You were always there, supporting me in your own way and I wished I knew that then.” he said.

And he really did. The decisions he made then were not that of a sound man. If he weren’t so stubborn, and actually talked to people, things would be different now perhaps. 

“I- I’m glad to hear that Mew. I really am. I just want you to know, any troubles you face now, you got me. You have your family. Your sister may be overseas now, but you know she will drop everything to help you if needed.” 

His friend had such a look of absolute conviction on his face. It was hard not to believe him. Mew suddenly felt his chest swell with warmth and he smiled widely at the man. 

“I will Tul. Thank you.” He then contemplated for a second before saying, “Art being back did affect me more than I’d like to admit but- something happened after so now I’m feeling better.” 

Tul considered him for a moment, eyes searching his face before breaking into a large grin himself.

“You mean someone happened.”

“Tul…” he warned.

“What! The only thing that happened after you told me you weren’t showing up was you showing up with a young man!” the man exclaimed.

It was now his turn to sigh.

“Do you… want to know more about him?” he asked.

The man gave him an incredulous look before saying, “Are you seriously asking me that question?” 

Mew spent the next hour telling Tul about Gulf. From when he first saw him at the cafe, to their first interaction, and subsequent ones after. He left out the part where Gulf thought he was a ghost. The younger man didn’t need any more embarrassment.

“Wait, hold up. So he bumped into you and you fell?” Tul asked.

“Yeah.”

“How hard did he bump into you? I’ve seen the guy Mew. He’s as slim as a noodle!” 

“He can run really fast though.” Shia. That came out faster than he could stop himself.

“Aow? How do you know he can run really fast? Did he run into you?! Is that why you are hurt?!” God, Tul and his theatrics. 

“Alai… NO. He didn’t. I’ve just seen him running around, that's all. Can you stop interrupting me? We’ve been talking for almost an hour!”

“Sorry, sorry. Go on.”

“Anyway, I asked where he was going and he mentioned the bar we play at so I asked why he was there and he said he was meeting his friends to see Kaow play.”

“Oh.” the man said. “I guess that’s when you offered to fetch him?”

“Yeah.” he answered.

“Did he scream for his life?”

“Alai wa! Tul! What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Your driving Mew. It scares even the bravest.” 

“Bloody hell! Tul! My driving is-”

“Bloody heeelll~” the man repeated after him in a faux british accent.

He scowled at the man. Chao Praya. He was going to throw the sack of rubbish sitting in front of him into the Chao Praya.

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop, don’t be angry. Gupi looks really nice and cute. If I liked men, I would totally go for him. Which is why I think you should.”

“You only talk to him for like what? Five minutes tops? How do you know he’s nice?” 

The man was unbelievable. That was why he always got into trouble with girls. He had the judgement of a baboon.

“Well. I have a good feeling about him and you know how accurate I am when it comes to such things. I won’t mention the past again but you know.” the man reminded him.

“You’re an idiot, Tul.”

“You’re best friends with an idiot. What does that make you?” 

“An idiot too.” He smiled. 

Tul grinned back at him and the next thing he knew, they were both laughing.

“Mew, I’m glad we talked.” the man said.

“Me too.” 

“It took awhile though.”

“Better late than never right?”

Tul let out a small laugh.

“Yeah. I guess. Take care of yourself. If you need anything, I’m always a call away.” the man said, face solemn again.

“I know. I won’t forget. Thank you Tul.” he said.

His friend made a move to get up.

“I have to go now.”

Tul stood motionless for a moment before moving closer and wrapping his arms around him, pulling him into a deep hug.

“Make sure to eat. Although I can feel some muscles, I still think you need to pack on a bit more weight.”

Mew brought his hands up and patted the man’s back.

“I will Tul. Don’t worry. I will.”

After the man left, he collapsed onto the sofa. That conversation before had taken a lot out of him, he didn’t think he could continue with any of the activities he planned for the day. He shifted his weight and winced at the sharp twinge in his shoulder. It was a signal for him to get to the clinic soon. Grabbing his car keys, he left the house. 

While he was driving on the road, a text came in. Glancing at his phone on the dashboard, he saw that it was a text from Gulf. He made a quick swipe on it.

(11:45) Gulf: Good morning P’Mew. Are you free now?

Chapter Text

Someone was knocking on his door. 

Gulf opened his eyes. His room was already brightly lit. He blinked away the grogginess and glanced at the clock on the wall. It was only just past 11am, there was still time for him to snooze. He shifted to his side and curled into a comfortable position while hugging his pillow. The knocking continued but he couldn’t be bothered, sleep was more important.

“Gulf!!” 

*Knock* *Knock*

If he ignored whoever who was at the door long enough maybe they would leave. 
  
“GULF!!” 
 
*KNOCK* *KNOCK*

“Shia!! Who is it! Let me sleep!” he called out.

His phone started vibrating, it’s ringtone blaring against his ears. 

“Gulf!!”

He opened his eyes and glanced at the phone beside his pillow. It was Mild. He cursed under his breath. He couldn’t ignore the door now, his best friend would never let him hear the end of it. Punching his pillow in frustration, he let a loud cry. So much for wanting to sleep in. He got up and shuffled towards the door. 

“Wait, I’m coming!” he called out. The knocking stopped.

Swinging open the door, he saw three smiling men standing in front of him. It was Run, Mild and Boat. Run opened his mouth.

“Good morn-” 

He closed the door.

“Shia! Gulf wait!” Run called out trying to stop him.

“Gulf, we brought you your favourite iced latte and spaghetti carbonara!” Mild’s voice sounded from behind the door.

Spaghetti carbonara? For breakfast? 

He opened the door. 

“What do you guys want?” he asked.

“Good morning, Gulf. Can we come in first?’ Boat smiled at him.

He looked at the three men and sighed heavily. 

“Alright, come in. Let me wash up first.” He turned around and made his way to the bathroom. 

“Thanks Gulf!’ Run exclaimed and walked in.

“Morning Gulf.” He heard Boat said from behind. 

“Gulf, we placed the food on the table! You should hurry before it gets cold.” Mild called out.

He brushed his teeth and washed his face as quickly he could and left the bathroom. His friends had placed his breakfast on the small dining table and were making themselves comfortable around the room. 

“Morning Gulf!” Kaownah's face appeared from his side. 

“Shia! Kaow! When did you appear!” he jumped back in surprise.

“I was standing at the door! Beside everyone! Didn’t you see me?!” The man looked hurt. 

“Eh. No. I didn’t see you. Sorry, and morning.” he greeted the man. 

Turning around, he eyed the rest of the gang suspiciously. Since when did his dorm room become their groups’ point of gathering? 

“We met up at your favourite cafe for breakfast and since we know you will sleep in till you miss breakfast and maybe even lunch, we bought something for you. You should eat it while it’s hot.” Mild said while sipping his own takeaway iced latte.

“Thanks. I wasn’t planning on skipping lunch. I have revisioning to do.” he said while sitting down at the table. 

He took a sip of the iced latte, and the fog in his mind started lifting. The spaghetti was still warm, smelling heavenly and his stomach growled in response. Wasting no time, he dug  into the creamy dish.

His friends watched while he ate, having their own conversation about the coffee and the cafe.

“I don’t know what they add into the coffee, it just tastes so good.” Kaow remarked.

“Yeah! I really should go there more often.” Run added.

“Lub,” he said between mouthfuls of spaghetti.

“Alai na?” Kaow asked.

“Luv,” he said again.

“Love. He’s saying love.” Mild answered, rolling his eyes. “Gulf is in love with that place, he goes there at least twice a week without fail. If you can’t find him, just pop by the cafe, he might be there.”

“Oh… is it because of P’Mew?” Kaow grinned at him.

“Aieee onwy jut met hiii a tu weet ago:” 

“Gulf, maybe you should talk after you swallow.” Boat said.

“No need. He said I only just met him a two weeks ago.” Mild answered.

“Aow. Mild, that’s amazing.” Run remarked.

Mild looked smug. 

“I’ve known this child since high school. There is nothing I don’t know.” he said.

“Woo shu callin shell!” he tried to say, still chewing.

“So does he like P’Mew?” Kaow suddenly asked.

He choked again. 

Only this time, he managed to swallow his food before he started coughing. Mild handed him a tissue and gave him a disapproving look while Run patted his back. 

“Sorry, Gulf.” Kaow said, looking apologetic.

“That I don’t know. You will have to ask the man.” Mild said. 

“Let him finish his food first guys.” Boat reminded everyone.

He gave the tall man a grateful look and went back to his food. 

By the time he was done, his friends were either lounging on the beanbag at the corner, sitting on his chair at the study or on his bed. He threw the takeaway boxes outside the dorm and made his way back. 

“So, what do you guys want?” he asked. He knew the breakfast came at a price.

There was silence. 

Mild looked at Run, who shrugged, gesturing to Boat, who just smiled and turned to Kaownah, who put up his hands and said, “Don’t look at me, I already asked my question.”

Gulf gave the group of clowns an unimpressed look. 

“You clo- guys want to know what happened yesterday right?”

The four clowns nodded their heads.

He sighed. “Fine, I’ll tell you. I bumped into Mew on the way and he offered a ride so I took it.” 

Silence again.

“Then, how did P’Mew injure his shoulders?” Kaownah asked. 

“I slipped and fell, he caught me.” he answered.

“Oh.” Kaownah looked perplexed.

“Yup.” It wasn’t a lie.

“I still don’t get how he injured his shoulder.” Mild remarked.

“I fell on him.”

“Oh.. Alai na??!?” Mild let out a cry.

“Aow.” Run piped. 

“YOU FELL ON HIM?” Mild asked, incredulous.

“Yeah,” 

“Then how is he now!?

“I don’t know, I haven’t asked. He did say yesterday he was okay though.” 

“Oh.” 

“I think you should check in on him, Gulf. P’Mew did looked like he was in pain when he spoke to us yesterday.” Kaownah said.

“Oh…” He considered, before saying, “Yeah, I guess there’s no harm asking.”

He sat down on his bed and started tapping away on his phone when he looked up and realized there were four pairs of eyes trained on him.

“Is that how you talk to other people usually?” Run asked, sounding doubtful.

He ignored the man and tapped the send button.


(11:45) Gulf: Good morning P’Mew. Do you have time now?


“For goodness sake, why do you need to ask if he has time now? Just ask if his shoulder is okay!” Mild huffed impatiently at him.

He looked up at the man. “Alai na! There’s nothing wrong! I am making sure he has time to respond to me asking him a question.” 

He threw his phone back on the bed and laid down. 

“Gulf, how do you feel about Mew?” Boat asked. He sounded genuinely curious.

The room became quiet again, this time Gulf could hear the ticking of his clock.

“He’s nice,” he replied.

“Is...that all?” 

“I sometimes enjoy his company.” 

Silence.

“Are you... attracted to him in any way?” Mild voice sounded from his left. He turned around and looked at the man sitting with his boyfriend together on his beanbag.

Was he attracted to the man? He did find himself staring at the man a lot and blushing sometimes. Mew was incredibly handsome. Anyone would be taken in by the sight of him he was sure. 

“He’s really handsome,” he answered. 

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say!?” Mild looked like he was done with him.

Gulf sat up and frowned. What did they want him to say? 

“Gulf, have you thought about being with men before?” Kaow asked.

He shaked his head. He rarely thought about being with women, let alone thought about being with men. The question however had piqued some interest in him. He would have to ponder over it later.

“You’d look good with him,” Run remarked.

“Yeah, Gulf. I agree. You seemed really at ease with him too.” Mild chimed in.

“Aow. We agreed on something.” Run said.

“Shut up, Run.” Mild retorted.

“I agree too. Especially with the at ease part.” Boat said.

“Me too.” Kaow added.

Was he really that at ease with the man? He didn’t mind and even enjoyed their interactions sometimes. Mew was quiet and gave him space naturally, as if it was something he needed himself. Gulf really liked that, because nobody he has met so far other than maybe his friends, truly understood his need to be left alone, or at least be left to his own devices. He hated being controlled.

“He gives me space. I like that.” he finally said.

“That’s good to hear.” Boat smiled at him.

Kaownah got up from his study table and walked over to sit beside him.

“As someone who knows P’Mew a little longer, I’d say he’s a really good catch. He’s very caring and always looks out for his friends. I don’t think you should let an opportunity like this go.” the singer said.

“I don’t know… I’ve never been with a man.” It was the truth. The idea of it was still foreign to him.

“Do you have a problem with it?” 

“Of course not! My best friend is gay! You are gay and Run is Bi!” he exclaimed, feeling slightly insulted to be asked a question like that.

“Glad you still remember that.” Mild said, unimpressed.

He stuck his middle finger at the man.

“Sorry, Gulf. I didn’t mean it like that. I meant if you have a problem with being with a man.” Kaownah clarified himself.

Did he? He wasn’t repulsed by the idea that was for sure, but he had never thought about being with a man. In fact, he never really gave relationships much thought until he was with that woman. Even then, when he was with her he didn’t have a lot of chances to think about it since she did all the work. He was basically just a passenger in the relationship. 

“I don’t think I have a problem but I never really gave relationships much thought.” he admitted.

“Not even with your ex-girlfriend?” Kaownah asked.

“No. She did all the work.” he replied.

“What do you mean she did all the work?” The singer looked confused.

“She followed him around, texted him, called him, fed him, tried to bath him and wanted to bed him. He didn’t want to.” Mild stated.

Gulf glared at the man.

“What!? It’s the truth!” 

Kaownah grimaced at him. “Sorry Gulf, I knew about the scandal she created but I didn’t know the relationship was like that.” he apologized.

“It’s okay, not many knew.” he said. “She was nice at first.”

“Until she wasn’t.” Run suddenly called out from the other side of the room. 

“Yeah, until she wasn’t.” he said softly.

A solemn atmosphere descended on the room. Poom was nice at the beginning. Gulf had been moved by her sincerity, which was why he agreed to date her. He thought maybe they could try and see if the relationship could blossom. However, he realized in the end, or rather someone pointed out to him that he didn’t see her as anything more than a sister. He had tried to hint to her many times but she couldn’t or didn’t want to accept it. His own sister, Gift, had eventually got tired and told him to just be honest. He did. That was when all hell broke loose. The relationship didn’t blossom, it imploded. 

“Gulf.” Kaownah called out from beside him.

He turned to look at the singer.

“I think P’Mew likes spending time with you. I’ve never seen him look so content with anyone. From what I observed and the way P’Tul talks to him sometimes, P’Mew seems to be haunted by something from his past. I know something happened that made him leave the country. P’Tul is very hush about it so I never asked further because I don’t think P’Mew wants anyone to know.” he said.

Gulf looked at the singer intently. 

He remembered that day at the cafe. How upset Mew was with the phone call. How the man had looked like he was on the verge of a panic attack and the wild look in his eyes. Then, yesterday at the park, Mew was just sitting alone and staring into space. Gulf suddenly felt his chest tighten, he was upset for the man. 

“I know. Sometimes P’Mew looks sad and I don’t know why, it makes me sad too.” he said.

“You could be developing feelings for him.” Boat said. 

“I’m not sure…” 

He was really not sure. Having known the man for only about two weeks, it was hard to say what kind of feelings he had for him. What he did know was, he felt like he had known the man forever. It was surreal.

“You can take your time to figure it out. Like I did with Boat.” Mild advised.

“Are you sure? You wouldn’t stop talking about him the WHOLE semester!” Run exclaimed. 

“Nobody asked for your opinion!” Mild yelled at the blond man.

“I’m just pointing out a bad example.” Run defended himself.

“You did spend an entire semester mooning over him, Mild.” he said.

“Shia! Not you too!” Mild looked betrayed.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Thanks for letting me know guys.” Boat said, before giving Mild a long drawn out peck on his cheeks. Mild’s face instantly became red.

There was a collective sound of groans from around the room. Gulf brought his palm to his face.

“Ew.” Run said.

“Yeah. Ew.” he mouthed.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up from his hand.

“Gulf, it took me months to figure out if I liked Turbo. So I think you should take your time. Even if you both don’t end up dating, I still think you two would make great friends.” Kaownah had a reassuring smile on his face.

“Thanks. Kaow, I appreciate it.”

“I would totally do him if I were you.” Run said.

“Shia! Run! What the hell” He yelled at the blond man. 

“What!? He’s hot.”

“Ignore him, Gulf.” Mild said. “Run likes to 'do' anyone he finds hot.”

"Just like you doing Boat?” the man shot back.

“Shia! That’s it! I’ll get you, you bastard.” Mild lunged for the man but was stopped by Boat, who held onto his waist. “Let me go! Boat!” Mild yelled.

Boat just smiled and held on tighter, burying his face into the shorter man’s neck.

Run stuck his tongue out at the man again.

“Okay, okay you two. You still have to go back to the same room tonight to sleep. Please play nice.” Kaow reminded the pair.

“I’ll get you in your sleep, just watch out.” Mild pointed at the man.

Run rolled his eyes and said, “Sure, I’d like to see you try,” before tilting his head at Boat, “If he lets you back into the room.”

Mild eyes widened and he looked like he was ready to have another go at Run but Boat never budged, still smiling. The man played rugby, a man of Mild’s size was nothing to him.

“Shiaaaaaaa!!! Boat! Let me go now!” Mild flailed about.

Gulf brought his palm to his face again before glancing at the clock on the wall. It was close to 1pm. His assignments and revisions were waiting for him to be completed. He had to act fast.

“Guys, I need to do my assignments now and I have revisions as well. So it’s time for everyone to get out.” 

His friends made sounds of protests but they eventually relented as he shoo-ed them away. 

“Su su na, Gulf. If you want to know more about Mew, I’m only a text away.” Kaow said, winking at him as he stepped out.

“Take care. Remember to eat.” Mild said.

“Take care Gulf.” Boat smiled at him, arm still around Mild’s waist.

Run was the last one out of the door.

“Gulf, if you are still unsure, you know- about men, I have some videos I can-”

He closed the door.

While he was preparing for his assignment he heard a ping from his phone. It was a reply from Mew. The man had apologized for the delay and asked what he needed. Gulf inquired after his shoulder and the man said all was good. Mew then proceeded to ask when he needed help with his assignments and revisions. He was surprised the man remembered. Gulf reminded himself he still owed him brownies and cake. Possibly more now, with the tutoring. He told the man he would be at the cafe Wednesdays till Saturdays up till midterms, which were in two weeks time. The man had graciously offered to tutor him on Wednesday and Saturdays starting next week. Gulf was elated, he was finally getting some help!

A thought then came to him.

Who the hell was Turbo?

Chapter Text

Mew was late.

Gulf peered over to the empty street for the upmteenth time, checking for any signs of the dark blue sedan. They were supposed to meet up about half an hour ago. He had sent a text to the man asking if he was on the way but hadn’t received a reply. He wondered if Mew was caught in a jam somewhere and couldn’t respond. The city’s roads were notorious for poor traffic conditions during lunch hour. Furthermore, the weather was exceptionally hot today, so his car may have broken down or something. Gulf debated whether he should call the man.

“Nong Gulf, how was the food today?” P’Arch voice sounded.

“It’s good, P’Arch. Thank you.” he answered.

“Are you waiting for someone?” 

“Yeah.” 

“I see. Well, I hope he gets here soon!” the tall lady smiled at him and sauntered away.

He hoped so too. After their text conversation on Sunday, Gulf had been eagerly waiting for Wednesday to come. He was excited to see the man. His friends had helped sort out his thoughts enough on Sunday for him to realize he enjoyed the man’s company very much. He was glad that they were able to spend some time together. Mew's offer to tutor him on so many occasions meant that Gulf didn’t have to think of reasons for them to see each other. He was bad at asking people out.

“Nong Gulf!” It was Mew!

He snapped his head towards the direction of the voice and his smile dropped. The man beaming at him had his arm in a sling.

“P’Mew! Your shoulder!?” he asked. Didn’t the man say his shoulder was fine?!

“Oh, Nong. It’s really not serious. I pulled it while it was still stiff from the fall. The doctor recommended I try to keep it in the sling for at least a week. I can still move my shoulder. Besides, it’s the left one so I don’t have too many issues.” the man reassured him.

Gulf stared wide-eyed at him. “You said you were fine, P’Mew… I’m sorry.” he apologized. He was really an idiot.

“That was the reason why I didn’t tell you. I knew you would feel guilty. I don’t like to see N’Gulf sad. Even though I still think he looks na rak.” the man grinned.

He levelled a weak glare at the man. Mew laughed.

“Come on, Nong. We haven’t gotten started on the revisions and you are already glaring at me.”

He made a “hmph” sound and looked back grudgingly at his screen while the man settled into the seat beside him. 

“Nong, need a little help here.” 

He turned to look at the man, who smiled at him sheepishly. His hand was holding the tangled mess of his laptop adapter wire. Gulf let out a small laugh and helped the man set up his laptop. 

“Have you eaten?” Mew asked after they were done.

He nodded his head. 

“Ah okay. Let me order something then.” 

“Does P’Mew want some brownies?” he remembered to ask.

“If it’s you buying, I don’t mind.” the man winked at him. 

He felt his cheeks heating up and quickly gestured at the counter. A short expressionless lady appeared moments later.

“What would you like to order?” she asked.

“Brownie with ice cream please.” he ordered.

“And an iced latte please.” Mew added on.

“Okay.” the lady walked off.

“Aow.” he let out.

“She’s a little odd isn’t she?” Mew asked.

“Yeah.”

While waiting for the food to come, they settled into an easy conversation. Mew had asked about his week and he recounted the events in brief to him. His professor had praised his work on the assignment the man helped him with and gave him the highest grade possible. Gulf was overjoyed, he hadn’t done so well for his assignments in a while and it was all thanks to Mew.

“That’s great, Nong! I’m glad your professor gave you a good grade.” Mew sounded happy for him.

“It’s all thanks to you, P’Mew. Thank you for offering to tutor me.” he said.

“It’s my pleasure, Nong.” the man smiled gently, looking him in his eyes.

Gulf could feel the flush coming back to his face and he looked away. He heard a small laugh from the man. 

The food came soon enough and Mew ate in silence while he worked on his assignment first. He peeked from his side occasionally to check on the man, who was enjoying the brownie with a look of pure bliss on his face. Gulf smiled at the sight.

“N’Gulf, do you want some?” the man caught him staring. 

“I- Sure. Thanks.” 

He was about to call the waitress for an extra fork when he found himself staring at a piece of brownie with some ice cream on a spoon. Mew had offered to feed him. 

He looked at the man in shock.

“I-” he tried to say something but the man stuck the spoon into his mouth so fast, he had no choice but to accept the piece of chocolate.

“Good?” the man asked, beaming at him.

He nodded his head. His face and ears felt very warm all of a sudden and he quickly looked back at his screen. The man chuckled this time.

They started on his technical assignments after Mew was done eating. The plan was to complete the work that needed to be handed in first before they moved on to the revisions for his midterms. Gulf realized the man was a freaking genius. Other than statistics, Mew was well-versed in Physics and other engineering disciplines. The man could also code as well. He was perfect to be his tutor since his Education degree was in Technical education. 

The man was patient and never hesitated to explain to him in detail when he couldn’t comprehend certain things. He had a way of helping him grasp concepts which his professors could never do, and he did it in a way that guided him to the understanding instead of just forcing it into his head. Gulf was grateful for this form of teaching because he learnt best from it. Where had the man been all his life? He could have saved him a lot of pain the past few years. 

By the time they were done, almost two hours had passed and Mew announced that he needed to go soon as he had to pick his Mae up again. Gulf got up and started helping the man pack up his stuff.

“P’Mew, do you always pick your Mae up?” he asked out of curiosity. 

“Ah. No, but I do sound like her personal chauffeur huh? My Pho is out of town for business and my Mae had been visiting her friend because she fell or something.” 

“Oh I hope it’s not too serious! The cafe owner here, Khun Fon fell too, which is why her daughters are managing the cafe now.” He shared. “What does your Pho do, P’Mew?”

“Oh yes, I’ve heard about the cafe owner. Didn’t know her name was Fon. My Pho is a businessman. He has a few factories opened in Thailand and Vietnam.” 

Wow. Mew’s family must be rich. No wonder the man could afford to study overseas. 

“P’Mew’s family must be rich.” he commented. 

“We are comfortable.” The man remarked, smiling. “What about you, N’Gulf? What does your family do?” 

“Oh, my family owns a restaurant near Chatuchak. They sell traditional southern Thai food.”

“Aow! That’s awesome. You should bring me there sometime.” the man smiled at him. “So does N’Gulf know how to cook?” 

“Not really, even though I used to help out at the restaurant with my sister. I only know how to make crispy pork Krapow. It’s my favorite.” he grinned widely. He LOVED crispy pork Krapow.

“Oh! I would like to try that someday. N’Gulf has a sister too?” the man asked.

“Yes, older sister. What about P’Mew?” 

“I have a younger sister, Jom. She’s in Japan right now, doing an internship.” 

Gulf looked at the man in surprise. Gift was in Japan doing an internship too!

“Aow! My sister, Gift is also in Japan. She’s in Tokyo doing an internship!’ 

“My sister too!” 

They both stared at each other for a moment before breaking into laughter. 

“What a coincidence, Nong!’ Mew was grinning ear-to-ear.

“Yes, it is,” he smiled in return.

“Alright. I have to go now. So I’ll see you on Saturday morning?” the man asked.

He nodded enthusiastically before blurting out, “Are you singing on Saturday, P’Mew?” Shia! His treacherous mouth was at it again.

“N’Gulf really wants to hear me sing, huh?” 

Gulf pursed his lips and looked at the man, holding his breath. He was not going to blush again.

“Not this Saturday, but I am singing the next. Please come watch me, Nong.” the man asked.

“Okay. I will.” 

“You should bring your friends too. They seem like a fun bunch.” the man said as he made a move to get up. 

He’s rather not, but if they heard from Kaow he went, they would never let him hear the end of it. 

“I will, P’Mew. Please take care of your shoulder!” he called out as the man walked off. 

“Thank you, Nong. See you.” the man smiled again.

“See you.” He waved at the man.

Gulf spent an hour more at the cafe before packing up and leaving as well. While he was deciding on his dinner, he thought about his favourite dish. Perhaps it was a good idea to make some crispy pork Krapow for Mew as a thank-you for his tutoring. The man seemed genuinely interested when he asked about his cooking. Gulf wasn’t going to miss out on any chance to do something nice for the man. 

However, where can he find a kitchen? His family restaurant would be too busy. Cooking at his family home would raise so many questions from his parents, he shuddered at imagining it. He would have to ask his friends, one of them had to have a kitchen. He tapped on Mild’s contact number. The man took a while before picking up.

“Hi Gulf, what do you want?” Mild’s voice sounded impatient over the phone. There was some shuffling in the background.

“Mild!” he called out. “Do you know if anyone’s dorm has a kitchen? 

“Alai na?! Why do you need a kitchen?” 

“I want to make something for P’Mew since he’s tutoring me.”

“Oh. Ok. Wait! Since when did he start tutoring you?!!” 

“Today?” 

“Oh.” the man said. He heard some more shuffling and hushed whispers before Mild asked, “When do you need it?” 

Gulf hadn’t really thought about it. He was meeting Mew on Saturday morning, which meant he wouldn’t have time to make the Krapow. He could do it the night before and keep it fresh in the fridge. However, that would mean Mew needed to have an oven to heat up the crispy pork and some extra sauce to go with it in case the dish dried out. 

“Gulf? You there?” Mild’s voice sounded again.

“Sorry, Mild. I need to check. Can I call you back?” 

“Okay then. Don’t take too long.” the man said. 

Gulf disconnected the call and tapped on Mew’s number next. 

“Nong? What’s up? You need something?” Mew asked.

“Hello P’Mew. Do you have an oven?” 

“... Yes, Nong. I do. Why do you ask?” 

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just curious.” 

“You called me just to ask if I have an oven?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“Thanks, P’Mew. I have to go now. See you on Saturday! Bye!”

“...Bye? See you?” Mew said. He sounded lost. 

Gulf disconnected the call. He felt bad for confusing the man, but he couldn’t tell him he was making crispy pork Krapow for him. It was supposed to be a surprise. He called Mild again. 

“Yes, Gulf. Have you decided when you need the kitchen?” Mild asked. 

“Yes. Friday night.” he answered.

“Is Friday night okay?” Mild’s soft voice sounded over the phone.

“Mild?” he asked. Who was the man talking to? 

“Okay. Wait! Stopped! Let me tell him first.” He could hear Mild’s voice over the phone again. The man was giggling. He had a bad feeling about this. 

“Mild!” he yelled into the phone. 

“Okay Gulf. Boat says you can come on Friday night. Kaow should be okay with it too.” Mild finally said.

“Oh. Okay. Tell Boat I said thank you.” he answered

“He says thank you.” 

“Hey Gulf, no problem. You’re welcome.” It was Boat’s voice. Why wasn’t he surprised?

“Yeah, we’ll see you on Friday.” Mild said. 

“Wait, I didn’t ask you to-“

“Okay. That’s it. Stop disturbing me and Boat.” the man said. He could hear more strange noises and giggling from his end.

Gulf suddenly understood what he was hearing.

“Shia!” he yelled and disconnected the call. 

He was going to pretend he never heard any of it. That was too traumatizing for him. Now all he had to do was to figure out where to get those ingredients on Friday before heading to Boat’s dorm. A trip to the local market might be needed if he wanted fresh ingredients. 

While he was walking back to his place after dinner and going through the ingredient list again, he realized something.

He didn’t know where Boat stayed. 

Chapter Text

He pressed the doorbell. 

Gulf rarely came to this part of the campus. The building looked older but he heard the rooms were bigger and had kitchens. He wondered how much the monthly rent was. Boat had texted him his address later the night after their phone call as if he knew Gulf would forget to ask. Sometimes he forgot how amazing the man’s psychological prowess was. The bags in his hands were getting heavier by the minute and nobody has answered the door yet. He had bought extra ingredients since his friends were going to have dinner together. 

He pressed the doorbell again. 

“Wait!” The voice sounded familiar.

The door swung open and Run appeared. 

“Hey Gulf!” the man greeted him with a toothy grin.

Gulf was tempted to walk off. Was the entire gang here? They would never let him cook in peace.

“Gulf? You coming in?” Run asked.

He let out a sigh.

“Can you help me with the bags?” he asked the blond man.

“Oh right! Sorry Gulf. Let me help you.” 

Run took some of the load off his hands as he stepped in. The room was big. No, the apartment was big. There were two rooms and a small living. The open kitchen was off to the side. Mild and Boat were sitting together on the sofa chatting with an unfamiliar looking man. Kaownah was nowhere in sight. He placed the ingredients on the kitchen counter and headed to the living.

“Hey guys.” he greeted his friends.

“Hey! Gulf!” Mild said.

“Nice to see you again, Gulf.” Boat gave him his usual smile.

“Hey Gulf.” The unfamiliar man greeted him.

Gulf furrowed his eyebrows. He really didn’t know this man. Where did he come from?

“Who are you?” he asked the man. 

There was a collective groan from the room and the man smiled nervously at him.

“Gulf! Please! For goodness sake!” Mild sounded exasperated..

“Hey Gulf! Nice to have you here! Meet Turbo, my boyfriend. I asked him to join us today because he hasn’t met everyone yet. Hope you don’t mind.” Kaow had magically appeared beside him.

“No I don’t mind. Wait, your boyfriend?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“Yup!” the man beamed at him while he sat beside his boyfriend.

“Oh.” he said. “How-?”’

“Gulf, Kaow announced he was attached to everyone during one of our gatherings in June.” Run informed him from the kitchen. He was still laying out the ingredients.

“Oh. Sorry. I don’t think I caught it.” he said, looking sheepishly at Kaownah.

“Daydreaming again maybe.” Mild remarked. He ignored the man.

“It’s okay, Gulf. I think there was something bothering you that time, maybe that’s why you missed it.” Kaow said, smiling. ‘It’s a small matter. At least you know now, better late than never right?” 

Gulf returned the man’s smile. He always liked Kaow. Boat and Kaow were his favourites among their group of friends. Run came in a close second and Mild could jump into the Mekong for all he cared. His best friend was a nuisance.

He glanced at his phone, it was past 5pm already. 

“I have to go cook soon. Did you guys order anything else?” he asked. 

“Yeah, we ordered a few different Pad Praks, Tom Yum Goong, Chicken Gaeng Keow Wan, Pad Krao and Pad See Eiw.” Run replied from the kitchen.

“And some prawn cakes.” Kaownah added on.

“Oh yes, and some prawn cakes.” Run said.

That was a lot of food. How were they going to finish it?

“That’s a lot.” he commented.

“There are six men in this room. It’s enough.” Mild said.

Gulf rolled his eyes and made his way to the open kitchen. Someone had turned on the TV and he heard a lakorn playing in the background. He needed help if he was going to finish making the dish in time for dinner. 

“So, who wants to help me?” he called out from the kitchen.

“I’ve done my part already. Laid out the ingredients and utensils for you, Gulf. I need to rest now. I spent all night editing a paper.” Run said.

“Me. I’ll help.” Mild said, while making his way towards him.

Gulf looked at the man, confused. Mild almost never offered to help him cook. This was new. 

They got down to work immediately. He asked Mild to cut the slab crispy pork belly while he got the pan ready.

“Sorry, Gulf.” Mild suddenly said while cutting the meat.

“Alai na, why are you apologizing?” he asked while he poured some oil onto the pan. 

“I remembered what happened in June,” the man said.

What happened in June? What was Mild talking about? The oil in the pan started to sizzle and he gestured for Mild to place the pieces of sliced pork on the pan. 

“What happened in June?” he asked. 

Mild was quiet, before mouthing a “Poom”. He glared at the man.

While the smell of the cooking meat filled the room, he suddenly remembered what happened. Poom had contacted him some time back in June, tearfully apologizing and asked if they could get back together. He had rejected her and told her to never contact him again. She didn’t stop. At least not until Mild threatened her with legal action. He remembered being very upset about it.

“Gulf, you need to flip the pork.” Mild said. 

He snapped out of his trance immediately and started flipping the small pieces of pork. 

“I remember now,” he said, while staring at the slightly charred pieces of pork. 

“You okay?” the man asked again. 

“Yeah.” he said. 
 
They cooked in silence after. Gulf heated the sauce on the same pan he used to fry the pork so the flavours from before could be incorporated into it. He had bought the pre-mixed sauce from a vendor his family goes to at the local market. The elderly lady made them fresh everyday and it tasted really good. 

The delivery came while he was finishing up the dish. Mild had appeared with a plate and a box for him to pour the contents of the pan into. He had saved a bit of sauce on the side as well for Mew. He had tasted the dish and thought it turned out better than expected. Hopefully the man liked it. 

“How is it?” he asked while Mild took a sample bite.

“It’s good!” the man said, eyes wide.

“Great! Thanks.” he smiled.

They both left the kitchen area and made their way into the living. The dining table had already been prepped with all the food from the delivery. Gulf felt his stomach growl in response at the sight of it.  

“It smells good, Gulf. Thanks for cooking for us.” Boat said while smiling. 

“Hey! I helped too!” Mild exclaimed.

“You mean helped to sample.” Run called out from the sofa.

“Shia! Run-“ Mild looked like he would have lunged for the man if he wasn’t holding a plate. 

“Thank you Tii Rak.” Boat said, which seemed to placate the man enough that he ignored Run’s comment from earlier.

“Alright everyone, let’s eat!” Kaownah said. “Thank you, Gulf!”

The rest said their thanks as everyone dug into their dinner with gusto. 

“So what are you majoring in, Gulf?” Turbo asked after a few minutes had passed.

“Education, specializing in Technology,” he said between bites. “What about you?” 

“Oh I’m doing Music. Same as Kaownah. We are classmates.” the younger man said.

“Oh. Cool.” 

“I’m doing Mass communication, by the way.” Run shared. 

“Shut up, nobody asked you.” Mild said.

“It’s okay! I was planning to ask him as well. What about you, Mild?” Turbo asked, looking a little nervous. 

“I’m reading law. Boat reads Psychology.” Mild replied, answering for Boat as well.

“Nobody asked you abou Bo-“ Mild stuffed a piece of prawn cake into Run’s mouth with his hands.

Run made sounds of protest at the man while he tried to chew the gigantic piece of deep fried prawn cake. 

“Shut up and eat your prawn cake, Run.” Mild scolded the man.

The rest of the table erupted in laughter and Run sat back in his chair, glowering. Mild looked smug. 

They continued eating while Kaownah shared more about his relationship with Turbo while everyone listened. Mild and Run as usual almost had another row but Boat interjected and dragged his boyfriend along with him to do the dishes. Gulf decided to sit back and relax at the lounge chair near the TV. He was too tired to partake in any of the conversations the gang was having at the kitchen. However, he wasn’t too tired to feel accomplished for the day with the tasty Krapow he made and was eager for tomorrow’s meeting with Mew. He smiled to himself at the thought of it.

“Yo Gulf, what are you smiling at?” Run asked while sitting down on the sofa beside him.

“Nothing.” he said, staring ahead.

“Hm. Right. By the way, do you know Mew’s full name?” the blond man asked.

Gulf turned to look at the man, puzzled. “Hmm, no. Why do you ask?” 

“Nothing. His name just sounds a little familiar. Like I’ve heard it before but I don’t remember where and when.” the man said, looking puzzled.

He considered the blond man’s words. Run knew a lot of people. He was one of the most well-known students in school and his column on the university’s newsletter was read by many. Perhaps he had heard of Mew before the man left the country. However, Gulf remembered what Kaow said about Mew not wanting others to know about his past. He probably shouldn’t probe, neither should Run. 

“I don’t think you should try to find out more. If P’Mew doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe it’s better to leave it. I don’t want to see him hurt.” he said.

“Yeah I figured. Don’t worry, Gulf. I won’t look into it. I just asked out of curiosity to see if his full name rang off any bells in my head.” Run smiled at him. “Anyway, you have my word, I won’t pursue the matter.”

Gulf nodded at the man. 

He was glad to know his friends respected Mew enough not to probe into his past. However, he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling he had after hearing what Run said. If the blonde man found his name familiar, it meant that he might have been involved in some sort of scandal in the university. Could it be why he left the country? Gulf gave himself a mental shake. He already told the others not to probe, he shouldn’t do it himself. 

However, the nagging feeling stayed.

Everyone left Boat & Kaownah’s dorm just past 10pm. Kaownah left to send Turbo back while Boat did the same with Mild and Run. Both of them offered him a lift but he rejected them in favour of walking. His dorm was less than twenty minutes walk away. Plus, he needed time still to digest all the food he ate. He made sure to check the krapow was in his hands first before heading back to his dorm.

He was enjoying the leisurely walk down the campus streets when he saw a dreaded familiar face. It was Poom. He had forgotten she lived nearby. Looking around desperately, he tried to find a place to hide when he heard her called out to him. Gulf regretted not accepting the ride from Boat.

“Gulf?”

He stood frozen. His body wouldn’t move.

“Gulf! It’s you really! Why are you here?”

Shia.  He turned around to look at the woman.

“Just passing by, I got to go” 

“Wait, Gulf. I want to talk. Ever since-”

“No! I told you to leave me alone!” he shouted at the woman.

“Gulf! I’m sorry! I really think we should talk.” The woman started coming closer. 

That was when his body finally remembered how to move. He bolted for his dorm. Gulf ran like his life depended on it, his legs burning as he sprinted through the campus buildings and towards his dorm. The woman had called out after him and gave chase. He didn’t dare look back in case she managed to catch up.

He got back to his dorm building in less than ten minutes, never stopping to take a break until he got to the door of his room. He hoped Poom didn’t follow him all the way to the dorm. That crazy woman didn’t know where he stayed, that was how he could avoid her all this time. He quickly unlocked the door and shut it behind him, leaning against it as he tried to calm himself down from the panic earlier.

When his breathing finally evened out. He got off the door and packed the krapow into his mini-fridge. Taking out his phone from his pockets, he called Mild.

“Gulf? What is it?” Mild asked.

“I saw her.” he said.

“Saw who?”

“I saw Poom.” 

He heard silence from the other end, before some shuffling could be heard.

“Gulf! Do you need us to come over? Mild is calling Boat now.” Run’s voice sounded.

“NO! I’m okay. I saw her while on the way back. I managed to run back and I don’t think she followed.”

“Gulf! Boat is turning back to your place. He’s coming up to check on you.” Mild said.

“I’m fine guys! It’s okay!” He was starting to regret telling them.

“Gulf, Boat can make sure she didn’t follow you as well. So just let him come check up on you okay?” Mild reassured.

“Give me the phone.” He heard some shuffling again. 

“Gulf, Run here. No harm for Boat to check on you. Don’t be angry. We are just worried. That woman is crazy.” Run said

He let out a heavy sigh.

‘Alright guys.” he said.

“Gulf, anything just call us, we are only a few minutes away.” Mild said. 

“Yeah!” Run’s voice sounded from the background.

‘Thanks guys,” he said and disconnected the call.

Boat came up a few minutes later. He opened the door to the man.

“Hey Gulf, how are you?” the man asked, looking concerned.

“I’m okay. Just a little rattled.” he said.

“Alright, I checked the building perimeter before I came up. I didn’t see her. So don’t worry okay?” The man said, clapping his hand on his shoulder. 

“Thanks Boat. I appreciate it.”

“Goodnight Gulf.”

“Goodnight.”

Closing the door, he went to wash up. Mew and him were meeting early tomorrow morning, he had to focus on that. He had to focus on the gift he had prepared for him. He had to focus on the revisions they will do tomorrow. He had to focus.

 

He couldn’t sleep that night.

Chapter Text

Gulf was late.

No. His nong was very late. More than an hour had passed since the time they were supposed to meet and the young man was nowhere to be seen. Mew was starting to worry. He had tried calling Gulf’s phone several times but no one picked up. He knew there was a chance the younger man overslept but it was still uncharacteristically of him to be this late. He had a bad feeling. Something must have happened. He called Kaownah.

“P’Mew! Good Morning. How can I help you?” Kaownah’s bright voice answered.

“N’Kaownah, do you know where Gulf stays?” he asked.

“Why do you ask, P’Mew?” 

“We were supposed to meet but he hasn’t showed up and it’s been more than an hour.” he said.

“Are you serious?! Shia.. Erm… Hold on“ 

Mew heard some hush whispers in the background.

“N’Kaownah?”

“Okay, P’Mew. I’ll text you his address. Can you let me know if he’s okay once you’ve checked up on him?” 

“I will. Thank you Kaownah.”

Mew disconnected the call. The text from Kaownah arrived while he was packing his things. Gulf lived rather near to the cafe, if he hurried it wouldn’t take him more than fifteen minutes to reach there. He quickly stuffed the rest of his things into his bag and left for his car.

He reached Gulf’s dorm in less than ten minutes. Parking alongside the street, he made his way up the building. Mew was worried for the younger man and he hoped that it was just a simple case of him missing an alarm and sleeping in. When the lift door opened, he immediately got out and looked around. He spotted a figure standing hunched against a wall. It was Gulf. 

“Nong?” he called out to the figure, whose head snapped in his direction.

Mew ran towards the younger man, and was taken aback by the sight of him. Gulf’s hair was messy and his shirt disheveled. There were greys that hung heavily beneath his puffy eyes. What happened to the man?

“Are you okay, nong? Why didn’t you pick up my call?” he asked.

The younger man turned his gaze back down towards the floor.

“I’m sorry P’Mew, I woke up late and saw your calls and messages, but I didn’t know what to say.” 

“Nong,” he let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding. “You could have just told me.”

“I felt bad.” 

Mew looked at the troubled figure of his Nong. Something was off. It wasn’t just a typical case of him feeling guilty about waking up late and missing their appointment. There was more to it. He studied the younger man’s form closely and that was then he noticed the red cooler bag he was carrying. 

“What’s this?” he said, pointing to the bag.

Gulf brought the cooler up and looked blankly at it. 

“It’s crispy pork krapow.” the younger man said. 

“Oh.” Why was the man holding a box of crispy pork krapow? Was it for him? 

“Why are you holding it?” he asked.

There was no answer. 

Mew looked around the bare dormitory corridor. He wanted to find out more from the younger man but the current place they were in just did not seem like the most ideal place to do so. 

“Nong, do you still want to head to the cafe? Or finish your assignment?” he asked 

“No…” Gulf said.

“Then what would you like to do?” he asked.

“I don’t know P’Mew.” 

Mew rubbed his temples. He reminded himself to be patient. Gulf needed him.

“Nong, we can’t just keep standing here,” he said.

“I’m tired, P’Mew.” the younger man said softly.

“Okay. Do you want to head back to your room to rest?” he suggested.

Gulf nodded his head and started digging for his keys.

“Do you mind if I go in?” he asked. He wasn’t sure if the younger man minded his company. 

“No.” The younger man said as he opened the door.

Mew followed him into the dark room. The curtains were drawn and the bed was messy with unmade sheets. There were notes strewn all over the study and an unwashed cup on the small dining table. 

“Sorry for the mess, P’Mew.” Gulf said. 

“It’s okay, Nong.” he said.

Mew watched the younger man drop his bag near his study and went to the fridge. 

“P’Mew, do you want a drink?” the younger man asked.

“It’s okay, I have some water,” he replied.

“Okay.” 

The younger man shuffled to the window and pulled the curtains apart, letting the late morning sun rays in. Mew felt the whole place liven up, but it also highlighted the chaotic state of the room. The sheets weren’t just unmade, there were pillows thrown on the floor. He also spotted some books lying around too. What exactly happened? 

“Nong? What-” he stopped himself, perhaps the questions can come later. “Do you want to take a rest?” he asked. 

“No…” Gulf said, still standing at the window. “I won’t be able to sleep.” 

Mew wondered if the younger man had insomnia. Was that why he looked so terrible? How much sleep did he actually get the night before?

“Why?” he asked. 

Gulf turned around, not meeting his eyes. 

“I can’t stop thinking.” he said. 

“Think about what?” Mew asked.

“How weak I am.” 

“How-“

Mew couldn’t believe his ears. How did Gulf come to the conclusion that he was weak? What could have made him think this way? The younger man was fine when he saw him on Wednesday. Something must have happened. Mew was determined to find out.

“Why do you think you are weak?” he asked.

Gulf was silent. He had turned back around to look outside the window. Mew moved towards the younger man and stood beside him.

“I don’t think you are weak, Nong. I always thought you had this quiet but steady energy around you. It was what caught my attention the first time I saw you.” he said. 

It was the truth. When he first saw the younger man, what drew him in wasn’t his good looks or his lithe figure, it was the quiet resilience in his demeanor, as if whatever challenges life threw at him, he would only waver but not collapse. Mew could still see the quiet resilience in the man now, he just needed help finding it. 

“If I am not weak, then why do my friends always feel the need to cover for me?” the younger man finally said.

“What do you mean?” he asked, turning to look at the younger man.

“They always protect me,” Gulf’s gaze shifted down as he spoke, ”as if I am too weak to handle myself.”

“Nong, your friends protect you because they care for you. It doesn’t mean you are weak.” he reminded the man. 

He wondered again if that was what Gulf was struggling with. Just because his friends protected him, it didn’t mean he was weak.

“It’s not just that. They protect me because I- I always run and hide behind them.”

“Why do you run and hide behind them?”

“It’s what I do.”

Mew reached out and placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. 

“Is that what you are upset about?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Are you upset because your friends protect you or because you run and hide behind them?”

The younger man sagged a little and leaned forward onto the windowsill. 

“Both, P’Mew. Both.”

“I see.”

Mew gripped Gulf’s arm and turned his body around. He then placed both his hands on his shoulders.

“Nong, look at me.” he said.

The younger man looked up, his eyes were shining.

“Having friends to protect you isn’t such a bad thing. We all need people like that in our lives because going through everything by yourself is just too hard. Trust me. I know.”

“But I-” 

“Let me finish first.” he said, gently. “I don’t know why you run or why you hide, but we all run away at some point in our lives. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you’re human.”

Mew could see his words sinking into the younger man from the way his expression shifted.

“But P’Mew, running away doesn’t solve any problems.” the younger man said while shaking his head.

“Yes, it doesn’t, but we all solve our problems at our own time. You can’t rush such things. It has to be when you’re ready.” 

“What if I’m tired of waiting?” 

“Waiting for what, Nong?”

“To be ready.”

“Do you think you are ready?” he asked the man.

Gulf was silent for a moment, his expression still shifting in thought before he twisted his body out of Mew’s hands and made his way to the bed. He sat down with his hands beside him, his shoulder slumped forward.

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” he said.

Mew silently chided himself. Of course the younger man didn’t know. There was no such thing as being ready. ‘Ready’ was the wrong word to use. No one was ever truly ready for anything. They just needed to get through the first hurdle. Looking over at the Gulf, he made his way to the bed and sat down beside the younger man.

“I’m sorry Nong.” he said.

“P’Mew?” the younger man’s eyes were on him.

“I shouldn’t have used the word ‘ready’ because I don’t think we would ever know when we are ready. We just need to do what we have to do.”

“I don’t understand, P’Mew.” 

“It means, if you are tired of waiting, then stop waiting. Do whatever it is you want to do and don’t hesitate anymore.” 

He hoped the younger man understood what he meant. If Gulf kept on waiting he would never be able to get past whatever he was troubled with. 

“I want to stop running.” the younger man said.

“Then stop.” he said.

“But I don’t know how to!” the man yelled, before turning towards him. “Can you tell me how to stop, P’Mew?”

Mew knew what the man was struggling with, he knew it all too well. 

“Do you not know how to or are you just afraid to?” he asked.

Gulf stared at him, stunned, before he tore his gaze away. 

“Nong-” he said.

“I’m afraid to, P’Mew! I’m scared!” the younger man exclaimed as he buried his face in his hands.

He placed his palm on the Gulf’s back and patted gently. It pained him to see the younger man looking so vulnerable.

“What are you scared of?” he asked, voice soft.

“Being hurt.”

“But you are already hurting, Nong.” 

Gulf was silent before his body started trembling. He could hear sounds of soft hitching breaths from the younger man.

“Nong?” he called out, scooting closer to him.

“Yes. P’Mew I’m already hurting. I’ve been hurting for a long time.” the younger man said before turning his face to Mew.

Mew felt his chest tightened. Gulf was crying. There were tear streaks running down his face and he sniffled slightly with each muffled sob.

“Oh Gulf...” he pulled the man into his arms. 

Gulf started sobbing the moment his face touched his shoulders and he felt the younger man wrapped his arms around him tightly.

“P’Mew... I thought if I kept running, everything would go away and I would forget eventually. And I did forget but it kept catching up to me.” the younger man said as he cried.

Mew patted the younger man’s head.

“What keeps catching up to you?” he asked gently.

“My past.”

Mew was no stranger to painful pasts. His own had nearly destroyed his life and changed him completely as a person. He knew he hadn’t known Gulf long enough to interfere in his affairs but he wasn’t going to sit back and let the younger man fall into the abyss like he did. 

“Then you have to face up to your past.” he said.

“What if my friends don’t let me?” the younger man asked.

“Tell them to screw off.”

Mew heard a snort from his shoulder. 

“P’Mew!” the younger man called out. 

“I mean it. Your friends are great to always help you but if they are preventing you from facing up to your problem then yes, you can tell them to screw off.” 
 
He heard more silent laughter from his shoulders. Mew wasn’t sure if the younger man was crying anymore. 

“Nong, my shoulders are for you to cry on, not for you to laugh on.” he said in jest. 

Gulf pulled back from him and gave his shoulder a slap. He wasn’t crying anymore and looked slightly annoyed by his teasing. There were still tear streaks on his face and his eyes were even puffier now. Mew bit back another comment. 

“Thank you, P’Mew.” he said, smiling slightly.

“You are welcome, Nong. I don’t think I did much.” he said.

“You did a lot.” the younger man said, before pausing for a moment. “I will tell you everything eventually.”

“Take your time. You don't ever have to tell me if you don't want.” he reassured.

Gulf smiled at him again and shifted himself further into the bed. He laid down on his back staring at the ceiling.

“P’Mew, I’m so tired.” he said.

“Then sleep.” Mew replied.

“But I have assignments to do.”

“You can do it later. I’ll help you.” 

“Okay. Thank you, P'Mew.”

Mew looked at the younger man's prone figure for a moment before heading into the bathroom. Grabbing a small hand towel from the sink, he went over to the bed.

“Nong, you should wipe your face.” he called out to the man.

There was silence. Gulf’s eyes were closed.

“Nong?” he called out again, bending over the bed.

The younger man seemed to have passed out from exhaustion. The lack of sleep and their talk must have taken a huge toll on him. Mew sat down on the bed beside his sleeping form and brought the small towel to his face, gently wiping off the dried tear stains while being careful not to wake him up. Gulf looked peaceful, his features relaxed as opposed to before. Mew brought his hand up to gently cup the resting face, rubbing his thumb slightly under the closed eye. 

“Rest well, nong. Everything will be better when you wake up.” he said.

 

To be continued.

Chapter Text

“I’m going to talk to Poom.”

Silence fell on the room and Gulf found himself staring at the stunned faces of his friends. Friends who had once again decided that his room was a great gathering place for a sunday afternoon. He knew they were here to check in on him after Mew’s call to Kaownah. What a bunch of mother hens. Well, at least the mother hens had enough sense to bring his favourite spaghetti carbonara again. He shouldn’t complain.

“Alai…” Mild said, crying out, “SHIA!”

Multiple voices of protest erupted around him as everyone reacted to what he just said.

“Guys, please.” he pleaded.

Nobody stopped to listen to him. Mild was yelling about him getting hurt again while Boat was trying to calm the man down, Kaownah was telling him that there are better ways of dealing with this and Run, the usual goofy man, was unexpectedly calm and smiling faintly at him.

“GUYS, PLEASE.” he shouted.

His friends' voices died down immediately and they looked at him expectantly.

“Took you long enough, Gulf.” 

It was Run, who was lounging on the bean bag in the corner.

“Alai…” he shot the blond man a questioning look.

“You always avoided talking to her, like you were running away or something.” the man said.

“How-” 

Gulf was speechless. Run was not someone he would have expected to have any hint of insight on anything other than campus gossip or videos he didn’t want to receive.

“You didn’t even allow us to mention her name in front of you. As if not talking about her meant that she didn’t exist.” Run added on, pulling a face at him.

Gulf opened his mouth, ready to defend himself when Boat stepped forward.

“He’s right, Gulf.” the man said, serious.

“Boat! We talked about this!” Mild held the man’s arm, shaking his head at him.

“Mild. It’s been long enough. We can’t keep letting him continue like this.” Boat turned to chide the man.

“I know! I just don’t want to see him hurt again. Don’t you remember what happened?” Mild protested.

“I do remember! But we can’t always protect him and he will never be over it if he doesn’t confront her!” the taller man yelled.

Mild became quiet, taken aback by his boyfriend’s rare display of anger, before cursing softly and sitting back down on the bed.

Gulf was confused. His friends were talking about him like they have done it many times before, and he wondered how long they have been at it as well.

“What are you guys talking about?” he asked.

“Gulf, are you sure about this?” Mild turned to him asking.

“Yeah. If I weren’t sure, would I be telling you guys?” he said, gesturing with his hands up.

“Ignore them, Gulf. Just do whatever you want.” Run said.

“Why?” Kaownah, who had been quiet so far, asked.

“Oh. Well…”

It was because of his conversation with Mew. Gulf had been so frustrated with his inability to figure out why he was upset the night before yesterday, it almost drove him nuts. He had spent the whole of Friday night tossing and turning in his bed, thinking about why he ran from poom and why he felt so bothered by Boat checking in on him that he only fell asleep in the early morning. Unsurprisingly, he had woken up late and by then his mind had completely overturned itself and he couldn’t think straight anymore. 

Gulf later found himself unable to move from the spot in front of his door. Guilt for wanting to cancel on Mew had prevented him from returning to his room, and fear of facing the man had prevented him from leaving for the cafe. When the man found him in the end, he was closed to having a breakdown, which he did eventually, and instead of being put off, Mew had held him in strong arms and offered his shoulders for him to cry on. The man hadn't a clue on what was going on then, but he stayed anyway, and painstakingly helped Gulf unravel the tangled knot he had worked himself into.

“Well?” Mild asked.

“It was because of Mew.” he said.

“Alai wa?” his best friend stared at him

Just then, Kaownah jumped up from his seat at the table.

“Oh yes! P’Mew found you yesterday!” the man exclaimed.

“Yes.” he replied, smiling slightly at the singer.

“Wait!!” Mild looked to Kaownah. “What’s going on?” 

Gulf was confused again. Did his friends not know Mew found him yesterday? What were they doing here then? Admiring his room?

“Oh, P’Mew called me yesterday saying Gulf was late for their meetup and I gave him his address so the man can check up on him.” the singer replied.

“Aow.” Run quipped.

“Shia!” Mild cried out. “Why didn’t you tell us?!”

“I forgot?” Kaownah shrugged.

“Is that why you suggested we gather here today?” Boat asked, looking at him knowingly. “So you can find out what happened?”

“Yeap.” the singer said, grinning.

“Wow.” Run quipped again.

“Shut up.” Mild jeered at the man.

Run pointed the finger at him.

“So what happened with Mew?” Mild turned to him.

Gulf debated on how much to tell them before deciding on the most cryptic answer he could think of.

“He told me that I can tell you guys to screw off.”

“ALAI WA?!” Mild shouted while he stood up, eyes wide and almost bulging.

“Ouch.” Run said.

Gulf smirked, proudly.

“Tii rak, come here. Sit down first.” Boat said, gently.

The taller man pulled Mild into his lap and wrapped his arms very firmly around him. Mild became docile instantly.

“Gulf, if you can tell us a bit on why you want to talk to Poom, we will be happy to know. We really care about you.” the taller man said. 

He couldn’t say no to the man. Boat always had a thing about him, his words persuaded easily without trying. He wondered if it was why the man was studying psychology or if it was studying psychology that made him this way. He thought the former sounded more plausible and he was sure the rest would agree with him. 

“I was in a bad shape and Mew helped me.” he said succinctly.

“Okay.” the taller man smiled at him. “I’m glad.”

“He told you to stop running, didn’t he.” Run said, unamused.

“Yeah.” he said. “I was tired of it. Tired of, being scared.” 

“I could tell.” the blond man said.

“Oh.” 

“Everytime Poom came looking for you, you would hide behind Mild or us but then you would sulk for days. As if you were angry with yourself.” 

He was starting to see Run in a new light. The man was more insightful than he ever thought he was. Gulf did sulk, but he never truly knew why. He never bothered to find out anyway, thinking it was Poom herself that made him upset, and he made more efforts at trying to forget anything to do with her than trying to figure out why he was upset in the first place. At least not until the night before yesterday. He guessed he reached his limit.

“I never knew.” he admitted. 

“Yeah, and then you forget about it like it was nothing.” the blond man laughed, shaking his head.

“Just like how you forgot what happened in June.” 

Mild, who had been quietly listening from his boyfriend’s lap finally said something.

The smaller man continued, “You told me to get her off your back when she kept texting you. I never asked if you even tried replying to her, and then you forgot about it completely.”

“Sorry.” he said, looking at his best friend apologetically.

“It’s okay. All in the past.” the smaller man smiled.

He suddenly felt like he had misunderstood his friends. What would he do without them? Where would he be? They stood by him all this time. They shielded and protected him so he can slowly come to terms with his own fears. Gulf felt like he was the luckiest person out there and Mew had a hand in it. He wouldn’t be having this conversation and learning so much about them if it wasn’t for Mew. 

“Thanks guys.” he said.

“You’re welcome,” Mild said, and the rest smiled along.

“So when do you plan on talking to Po- I mean your ex-girlfriend.” Run asked.

“It’s okay, you can say her name now,” he said.

“Right. Poom. No more whale?” The blond man’s toothy grin was back.

“Whale is fine,” he said.

Run gave him a wink.

“Maybe some time next week.” he said.

“Aow, that’s fast.” Mild remarked.

“I want to get it done and over with before midterms start.” he said.

“Oh.” 

“Will you let us know when?” Kaownah asked.

“Yeah, of course. But you guys can’t help me, I have to do this alone.” he said.

“Of course.” the singer said.

“We could always watch.” Run said.

He rolled his eyes at him. 

“I’m not-” 

“Gulf. We want to see you so we can be proud of you.” Boat asked, smiling sagely.

He sighed. Boat was using his secret weapon of persuasion again. The man was definitely the most dangerous in this bunch. 

“Alright, but I don’t even know her number.” he said.

He had deleted everything that had to do with the woman. He had erased her phone number, removed her from his Line account, Facebook account and various other social media platforms. He was that thorough. Someone once said he only worked in extremes.

“That will be my job to find out for you.” Run said, flashing him his signature toothy grin.

He knew he could count on them. His friends were one of the most resourceful people he knew, but then again, they were the only ones he was close to so there wasn't much for comparison. 

Run definitely was well connected, he was acquainted with almost the entire campus, or rather almost the entire campus was acquainted with him. The star editor of Chula’s Whispers. If he wanted to obtain someone’s number, Run would be the man he would look for. 

“Thanks.” he said.

Their discussion on the matter went on for an hour or so after. Gulf had decided he would probably meet Poom on Friday, so he wouldn’t be too affected during lessons if anything went south. He secretly chose the date as well because he knew he would be seeing Mew on Saturday. The man would definitely be able to lift up his spirits, no matter the situation. Furthermore, his excitement to watch the man sing would overcome any bad feelings he might have. 

His friends eventually left his room in the late afternoon. Gulf had watched them shuffle out one by one, feeling more grateful than ever for their company. Even though his friends showed care in excess sometimes and he felt suffocated by their meddling, he would never take for granted their friendship. Just like how, he won’t ever take for granted Mew’s actions towards him.

The man had stayed yesterday even after he fell asleep abruptly. He cleaned his room, bought him lunch and wiped the dried tears off his face. Gulf had awakened later on to the sight of the man sitting silently at his study, reading his notes. He had watched the long fingers flipped each page gently in a trance until Mew realized he was awake. 

They ate lunch together later and the man never once asked about the events in the morning. He did however ask about the cooler bag again and Gulf had sheepishly told him it was for him. However, he couldn't hand it to the man as the krapow had been left outside for too long, it wasn't safe to eat anymore. Mew had thrown the dish away in a huff and made him promise to cook a fresh one for him in the future; at his place. 

He had blushed mightily at the comment before Mew took his hand into his own, reminding him that if he had any more problems, he could always give him a call. Gulf could still feel the phantom touch of the man's hand, and how comforting it was to him - just like the familiar cologne he always wore. Everything about Mew was comforting and Gulf wanted more. 

He wanted to feel the flutter in his heart again when he saw the man smile brightly at him when he agreed to make the krapow for him at his place. He wanted to feel the warmth in his heart again when the man said he would find more time to meet him next week. He wanted to feel whatever else that was in his heart again when the man was around him.

He wanted to feel.

Was this what falling in love felt like?

Chapter Text

He finally knew why Gulf loves the carbonara here so much.

It was good, beyond good. How did a small cafe in the middle of a quiet street manage to get a dish so right when many other restaurants in the city couldn’t? It was a mystery to Mew. He took another bite of the creamy bundle of deliciousness and peered over at the counter. The three ladies were busying themselves with food preparations and coffee brewing. Was there a secret to the way they made things? Everything the cafe had on their small menu was soul healing good.

The tall brunette, or rather Arch, as Gulf called her met his eyes and smiled at him, before making her way to the table. 

“Hello, Khun Phi.” she greeted, smiling.

“Hello.” he smiled back at her.

“N’Gulf isn’t here with you today?” she asked.

“Oh he isn’t, we didn’t plan on meeting today.” he replied. 

Gulf had said he would be busy in the afternoon but didn’t mention why. He wasn’t sure what he was busy with since he remembered the younger man saying he only had morning lessons on Fridays. Mew mentally chided himself. The younger man obviously had a life outside of assignments and revisions. He had friends and other commitments. Mew wished he wasn’t just someone Gulf met up with because he needed tutoring. Even though the younger man was coming to see him sing tomorrow and had promised he would make Krapow for him after the midterms, it still wasn’t enough for him. He wanted more, much more. 

“Oh! Is that why you are in his spot?” the brunette asked in jest. 

Mew was slightly taken aback. It seemed like everybody in the cafe knew that was Gulf’s spot, which at the rate they were going with their meetups, was fast becoming their spot.

“Yeah, you could say that,” he laughed.

The tall lady beamed at him before sauntering away, bidding him an enjoyable lunch.

Mew didn’t plan on coming to the cafe today, since he and Gulf met up twice earlier in the week, but the younger man had raved about the carbonara to him so many times he wanted to try it for himself. He couldn’t have it tomorrow, since he was only meeting Gulf in the late afternoon, and also planned for dinner with the band. Hence, why he was here.

It was also because he missed the younger man and the cafe reminded him of Gulf.

He took the last bite on his plate and sat back, thinking about the events earlier the week. The younger man had met up with him as usual and did not mention once  their conversation on Saturday. He did however, thank him again for cleaning up his room and buying him lunch. Gulf also mentioned that he spoke to his friends and they came to an understanding in the end. Mew was happy for him. The younger man was definitely in better spirits and It was a reassuring sight.

Mew sipped the ice latte and glanced outside. The afternoon sun had managed to scorch the tarmac enough that a mirage had appeared over the roads. He watched in a trance the blurry swirls above the ground before he spotted someone across the street. Someone with a face that haunted his dreams. Someone who plagued his mind with memories of times he wished he could forget entirely. Mew shakingly put his cup down. 

It was Art, and he was making his way to the cafe.

Mew got up immediately and started shoving his things into his bag, all the while trying to control his trembling hands. He cursed silently when he knocked over the near empty cup, spilling its content over the table. Someone rushed over to him but he did not care to look up. All he could concentrate on was packing as quick;y as possible and getting the hell out of the place.

“Khun Phi? Are you okay?” 

He saw a flash of red hair at his side. 

“I- I have to go, sorry about the drink.” he said in haste, heaving his bag over his shoulder.

He dashed out of the cafe and didn’t look back once.

Mew ran and ran, and by the time he’d stopped, he was bent over his knees and panting heavily. Taking a deep breath to calm his pounding heart, he pushed back the nausea that had risen up from his gut and looked around. He had sprinted all the way back to the campus and stopped at the entrance of the park. Mew closed his eyes, trying to focus on the sounds of his surroundings and his breathing eventually even out. A walk in the park would calm his mind and he made his way towards the sanctuary.

Mew was glad he didn’t drive today, he wouldn’t know how to go back to retrieve his car if he did and would have had to get Tul to help him do so. He was about to pass a bush in the corner when he noticed four men standing behind it and behaving suspiciously. One of them looked like Kaownah.

“Nong Kaownah?” he called out.

The younger man turned back, looking surprised. It was indeed Kaownah. 

“P’Mew!” the man whispered, before putting a finger on his lips to shush him.

The other three men turned back as well and stared at him with jaws agape.

“What’s going on?” he whispered back. 

Kaownah gestured hastily at him to go over and Mew stepped behind the bushes, unsure.

“So, what’s going on?” he asked, softly. 

“Look over there. P’Mew.” Kaownah replied, pointing beyond the bushes. 

It was Gulf. 

The younger man was standing in the middle of a pavilion, as if he was waiting for someone. 

“We need to get closer, if not we won’t hear anything!” said the man with blond hair whose name Mew had forgotten.

“Let’s move to that bush behind the pavilion!” said another man. 

Mild. Mew remembered him. 

“Okay, let’s go!” whispered Kaownah, who motioned for him to follow. 

He followed the group of tiptoeing men as they slowly inched their way across the side of the park and onto the grass behind the pavilion. Mew was stumped. It wasn’t enough that Gulf was puzzling already, his friends were worse. Whatever they were planning seemed downright bizarre to him and Mew couldn’t believe that he was taking part in it too! Why were Gulf’s friends spying on him? When they reached the spot just behind the pavilion, he saw Gulf standing about a metre or two away, his back ramrod and face severe. 

“N’Kaow, what’s going on!” he asked again, losing patience.

Mild turned around to glare at him. 

“If you can’t keep quiet, screw off!” the man scolded him.

Mew was ready to retort when another man, presumably Mild’s boyfriend placed his hand around the smaller man’s mouth and shushed him. 

Kaownah pulled him away.

“P’Mew, sorry I can’t tell you more right now without Gulf hearing us, but trust me you would want to see this. It’s related to what happened on Saturday!” the singer said, before crawling back to the spot behind the bushes.

Mew stared at the backs of the four men crouching behind the bushes. If he didn’t have to be quiet he would have laughed at how comical the scene was. It just didn’t look right. He wanted to know what happened to Gulf but he didn’t think this was the best way to do so. Just then, a young woman appeared, making her way to the pavilion and his curiosity peaked. To hell with it. He would explain himself later on if needed.

He quickly crawled back to beside Kaownah.

“Glad to have you here with us man.” said the blond hair man.

He smiled at him.

“Don’t worry about Gulf being angry at you for spying on him. He likes you waaaaaay too much to be angry at anything you do anyway.” the man said and winked.

Did the man just say Gulf likes him way too much? Mew was about to ask what the man meant when the young woman spoke and his attention turned to her.

“Thanks for agreeing to talk to me, Gulf.” she said.

“So, talk.” Gulf said, tersely.

What did the woman do to evoke such apathy from the younger man? He scooted closer to the bush and strained his ears.

“Gulf. I want to apologize.” the younger woman said.

“You already did.” Gulf said, expression still impassive.

“Yeah, but you keep ignoring me.” the woman said.

“What makes you think after what you did, I would still want to talk to you?” Gulf sneered.

This was the first time Mew had seen the younger man look at someone with such contempt. What did the woman do?

“You owe me! You owe me for all the lies you said! You told me you had no feelings for me in the two years we dated!” the woman cried out.

Mew felt like he had been hit by a bucket of cold water. Gulf had a girlfriend. The man liked girls. 

“I never lied to you. I said we could try to make the relationship work but I never said that I had feelings for you.” the younger man said.

“Yes!” Mild let out before he covered his mouth with his hands. The pair did not notice the man’s slip up.

“You said you cared for me! Was that a lie too?!” the young woman tried to step closer.

Gulf walked further out of the pavilion, away from the young woman and she followed him.

“Shia! I can’t hear them now.” exclaimed Mild.

“Should we move closer?” Kaownah asked.

“No! They will see us.” the smaller man said.

“Shut up and wait then.” called out the blond hair man.

“Who are you telling to shut up?” Mild raised his voice.

“Keep quiet they are coming back!!” the boyfriend shushed them.

“Poom. There is nothing left for us. The day you chose to spread the rumor I was cheating on you, everything ended. You did this to yourself.” Gulf said calmly as he moved back into their hearing range.

Rumor?

“But- but nothing happened. Your reputation was still intact. Nobody believed me anyway.” 

“Nothing happened? You hurt me, Poom. I thought we were friends. Friends help each other. They don’t spread malicious rumors of each other.” Gulf looked upset.

“Gulf! I’m sorry, please. Friends forgive each other too!” she cried and tried to step closer to the younger man again.

“YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND!” Gulf shouted.

The young woman stood shocked, staring at Gulf after his outburst, before her expression turned livid. She raised her hand up as if she was ready to strike the younger man. Mew felt his body moved on its own and he stood up from his position. Someone beside him cursed.

“Nong! Be careful!” he called out.

He was too late. The woman's hand was already midway from Gulf’s face. The younger man spotted her hand immediately and caught it with his own. He held onto it firmly as the woman struggled.

“P’Mew?” Gulf stared at him with saucer eyes.

“I-” Mew was as shocked with himself as the younger man was.

“Let me go!” the woman screamed.

Gulf turned back to her. 

“Enough, Poom. We are done. Stop looking for me. If not, I’ll do worse than letting Mild loose on you.” he said, letting go of the woman’s hand.

“Yes! Tell her! Gulf!” Mild had stood up as well, before realizing what he had done and cursing softly.

Mew saw his boyfriend bury his face in his palm. 

“You could use me, Gulf.” Mew heard the blond hair man mumble to himself.

“Gulf, you bastard! I won’t forget this!” The woman looked at Gulf with hate in her eyes, then glancing at him before storming off. 

Gulf turned to look at him and then at the rest of where his friends were before walking away, sitting on a bench nearby. He was rubbing his temples.

“Nong, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-” he said as he ran over.

The younger man removed his hands and turned to his friends. 

“Did you guys bring P’Mew here?” he asked.

There were sounds of protest from the bushes. 

“No! I bumped into them, Nong!” he exclaimed

“Oh.”

“I was just taking a walk in the park.” he said. 

“With a stained shirt?” the younger man looked lost.

Mew looked down at his shirt and remembered the coffee he spilled. He was so focused on trying to get out of the cafe, he didn’t notice his shirt was stained.

“I-” he turned away from the younger man and stared at the ground.

“It’s okay, P’Mew. I know you didn’t mean to eavesdrop, unlike some people I know.” 

Mew looked up again and saw the younger man glaring at his friends, who had stepped inside the pavilion.

“You said we could watch!” the blond hair man yelled.

‘Yeah! But not this near?! What if Poom saw!?” Gulf yelled at them.

“Well, she did anyway.” the man said, before turning his head at him.

Mew smiled sheepishly.

“Gulf, I’m proud of you.” the boyfriend said.

“Me too, Gulf.” Mild said.

The rest chimed in as well and Gulf smiled faintly at them. The younger man looked drained; the confrontation must have taken a lot out of him.

“Nong,” he asked. “Just now-”

“P’Mew, that was Poom. She was my ex-girlfriend.” Gulf said.

“Girlfriend…” he said uttered.

So the younger man really had a girlfriend. Mew suddenly felt like he needed to leave. He had to get out before he say anything stupid, or worst, do anything stupid.

“Nong, I gotta go. I’ll see you.” he started walking out of the pavilion.

“P’Mew?” the younger man called out to him.

He didn’t turn back and kept walking. He couldn’t look back, he wouldn’t be able to leave if he saw the man.

“P’Mew, WAIT!!” 

He stopped, staring ahead, he didn’t dare turn his body. Whatever the man had to say, Mew wasn’t ready to hear it.

“Didn’t you hear just now? I had no feelings for her! She was my girlfriend but I had no feelings for her!” Gulf called out from behind. 

“Just because you don’t have feelings for her, doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings for others,” he said. 

He had meant to say other girls, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He took a step forward.

“I do have feelings for others!” 

His heart skipped a beat as he took another step.

“I have feelings for you, P’Mew!” 

Mew stopped. 

The wind picked up, blowing at the trees around him and a leaf fell onto the ground ahead. It danced around a few times before landing on his feet. Two arms appeared from beside him, wrapping around his body before he felt an enveloping warmth on his back. 

“P’Mew, I like you.” the younger man whispered from his shoulders.

He stared at the arms around him before taking in a deep breath and placing his own hands over them. Gulf liked him, the younger man had feelings for him. Just like he did. He turned around, pulling the young man closer with an arm around his small waist. Gulf was looking at him with misty eyes. Mew loved those eyes, he could look into them all day. He brought a hand up to cup the heart-shaped face, rubbing the cheeks softly. Gulf leaned into his touch with eyes closed. 

“I like you too, Gulf.”

Chapter Text

He was stuck.

Gulf was hiding behind a pillar across the street from the cafe. It was raining heavily and the wind blew harshly. He’d forgotten to pack his umbrella and his phone was out of battery. Looking back at the teeming rain, he weighed his options. It was either he waited out the storm, or ran across the street without cover. He didn’t want to be late so there was only one option left. He turned towards the street, checking for any incoming cars and took in a deep breath. He sprinted out into the open. The torrential rain hit him like a wall and he almost stumbled, but he managed to hold himself and made his way across the street.

He stopped outside the cafe, completely soaked through and peered in. Mew was sitting at the table by the counter, reading. His long fingers flipped each page with gentle care. The mustard beanie rested on his head and he was wearing a white shirt and washed jeans. The man looked good as always. Gulf suddenly felt self-conscious about his appearance. This was their first time meeting after the confession and he looked like a dripping cloth. His shirt was almost translucent, his jeans hung heavily at his waist and he didn’t even dare think about how his hair looked like.

“Nong!?” 

It was Mew. The man had spotted him.

“Hi P’Mew,” he said, shyly.

“What happened to you?!” the man asked, eyes wide.

“Erm, I ran through the rain.” he said. 

The man blinked. “You ran in the rain? Don’t you have an umbrella?”

“I forgot.” he said, before looking down. “I wanted to call you but my phone was out of battery.”

He heard a sigh from the man. 

“Nong. You need to change out of those clothes, if not you will catch a cold.” the man said. 

“I don’t have a change of clothes.” he said.

“Nong,” the man put his hands on his shoulders. “Wait for me, I have an extra shirt and a pair of pants in the car.”

He looked up and saw the man running back to grab his umbrella from his bag.

“P’Mew!” he called out, but the man ignored him and opened his umbrella just outside the cafe.

He watched Mew run across the road and opened his car boot, grabbing a small bag from it. As the man ran back to him, he noticed the umbrella he was holding had a worn handle, and he felt a sudden strange sense of familiarity. He had seen the umbrella before, or had he not?

“Nong!”

He was snapped out of his thoughts.

“You can change into this. There’s a towel inside too.” the man said.

“Okay, thanks P’Mew”

The man took his bag from him while passing him the small bag and he made his way into the washroom. He changed out of his soaked clothes and put on the dry ones Mew gave him. The shirt was too big, its sleeves hung almost to his elbows but the pants fitted, owing to the drawstrings on the waistline. He quickly dried his hair on the towel and made his way back. The man was wiping his bag dry with some paper towels when he sat down.

“Ah. The shirt is too big on you, but you look so na rak in it.” Mew said, looking up at him and smiling.

Gulf ignored the extra commentary and said, “It’s okay. The pants fit. Thank you P’Mew.” He hung his wet clothes and the towel over the empty chair beside.

“Alright Nong, you want to order something first?”

“Sure.”

He ordered a hot latte and they got down to work. The rain outside continued to pour heavily, and he shivered and sneezed throughout. Mew looked at him in concern several times but did not say anything. He was on maybe his sixth sneeze and possibly his ninth shiver when he felt a jacket being put over his shoulders. 

“P’Mew?” he looked at the man questioningly.

Mew scooted his chair closer to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. The smell of cologne with a hint of vanilla hit his nose and he suddenly felt very warm, maybe a little too warm.

“Nong, I can’t take any more of your sneezing and shivering. Let’s work like this, I’ll keep you warm.” the man grinned.

He said nothing and continued staring at his screen, his face now warmer than his whole body. The man chuckled and Gulf gave him a side eye. The rest of their tutoring session was uneventful and the rain let up considerably after an hour. Mew was still holding him when they decided to take a break, and his arm travelled down to his waist, resting its palms near his thighs. 

Gulf shifted slightly, not used to being in such proximity with another person. He didn’t know what possessed him to hug the man yesterday. When he saw Mew’s dejected self leaving the pavilion, something ignited within him and all he could think of then was stopping the man. In the end, he did more than stop the man, he confessed his feelings, and in front of his friends no less. 

“Nong? You okay?” the man noticed him shifting.

“It’s okay, I’m just not used to being this close to someone.” he said.

“Oh.” the man pulled away.

Gulf felt the arm moved and he immediately grabbed the hand on the side. Even though he wasn’t used to it, the man’s closeness was comforting and he didn’t want him to stop holding him, no matter how strange it felt. 

“Nong?” the man asked. 

“It’s okay, P’Mew.” he paused, trying to find the words to say, “I’m not used to it but it doesn’t mean I don’t want it.” He didn’t dare to look at the man.

The arm around him tightened and he felt the man leaned in closer, placing his chin on his shoulders. He thought he felt a kiss too. 

“Nong, anytime you feel uncomfortable, you have to tell me okay?” the man said.

“Okay.” He looked down at the hand he was holding and placed it on his thigh. “I feel comfortable now.”

Silence. He definitely felt a kiss on his shoulder this time. 

“Gulf.”

He snapped his head to the voice. Mew straightened behind him.

It was Poom. 

He didn’t see her coming into the cafe at all. Had she been inside the whole time? Why was she here? The woman never liked going to cafes.

“What do you want, Poom.” he asked, looking at the woman.

She had a tight expression on her face.

Mew’s arm tightened around him. “Nong..” 

“It’s okay, P’Mew. I can handle this.” he told the man.

“Handle me?” the woman said. “I’m just someone you need to handle huh?”

“Get to the point, tell me what you want.” he shot a glare at the woman.

“Is he your faen?” Poom asked, pointing at Mew.

“So what if it is. It’s none of your business.” he said coolly.

“It is my business!! You cheating liar!” she yelled at him.

Gulf was in shock. Had the woman gone crazy? He was thankful that the cafe wasn’t crowded because the woman’s outburst would have attracted the attention from other customers. 

“Shia! Poom. What the hell do you want? What does it matter who I like? All you need to know is I don’t like you.” he spat.

“You are a liar! You hear me!? A LIAR!” the woman cried out.

“Please leave.” 

He turned to the voice. It was the odd waitress lady.

“Who are you to tell me to leave!” Poom demanded.

“You are disturbing my customers on their date.” the lady deadpanned.

Poom cursed at the woman, who looked indifferent.

“I’m calling the police.” the waitress walked off.

The woman turned around to him.

“Gulf, just watch out. I’ll pay you back for everything you did.” she sneered, her cherubic face turned ugly and repulsive.

“No, you won’t.” he said.

“You-” Poom looked ready to yell again.

Just then, a broom appeared from his side. The waitress was trying to shoo the woman out with the broomstick.

“Get out. I called the police already.” the lady said, sweeping at the woman’s feet.

“Get off me!” Poom threw a glare at her, before turning to him and storming off.

“Aow. It worked.” the lady said, before turning to them, ”Now you can enjoy your date,” and she walked off.

Gulf stared after her. What just happened? 

“Nong… you okay?” Mew asked.

“Yeah I’m fine,” he stared blankly ahead, still trying to take in everything. 

Mew folded his arms around him and he felt himself melt into the man. Whatever just happened took a lot more out of him than he thought. He laid his head back onto the shoulders behind and let out a breath of relief.

“So... are you my faen? Since we are on a date.” Mew asked.

He gave the man a side eye again.

“Do you not want to be my Faen!?” Mew asked, sounding hurt.

“I-” 

‘You said you like me!” the man exclaimed, before rubbing his ear. “Nong, you look so na rak now with your ears red.”

“P’MEW!!” he yelled at the man and got off him in a huff.

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop. The waitress just glared at me. Let’s get back to work.” the man laughed.

Gulf turned to the counter. The waitress held up the broom in gesture and pointed at Mew. He burst out laughing.

“Nong?”

“Okay P’Mew let’s get back to work.” he said, still laughing. 

They got back to his remaining tasks for the rest of the late afternoon. By the time they were supposed to leave, the rain had stopped completely and Gulf found himself unwilling to part with the man. 

“See you later, Nong.” Mew said, while walking to his car.

“See you... P’Mew” he said.

Mew opened the car door and threw his bag in, before turning around. The man reached out to hold both his hands.

“Nong, you looked so handsome just now when you stood up for yourself.” the man smiled proudly.

His heart fluttered.

“P’Mew…” 

The man squeezed his hands, still smiling.

“I’ll be off then. See you tonight.” 

He continued to stare after the disappearing car as it drove off to the distance. The touch of Mew’s hand still lingering on his.

He made his way back to his room with a light spring in his steps and spent the rest of the early evening in nervous anticipation. His friends came to pick him up and it was Mild’s idea to. His best friend had said that was the only way to ensure he wouldn’t be late again. He had scoffed at the offer but grudgingly accepted anyway because his track record with punctuality was terrible. He didn’t want to risk having to walk through the park at night again. If he saw another figure, it would most definitely not be Mew. 

Gulf shuddered at the thought. 

“Guys, Poom came to the cafe today.” he said while in the car.

“SHIA! WHAT?” Mild yelled from the front seat, turning back to him.

Gulf was glad it was Boat driving, he wasn’t sure if the smaller man could drive straight after hearing what he said.

“What did she want?” said Run.

“She threw a fit and got chased off the cafe by the waitress with a broom.” 

“Oh.”

“Are you okay then?” Boat asked, eyes still on the road.

“Yeah. I told her off.” he said.

“Becareful Gulf, I heard recently she’s been close to some bloggers on the campus.” Run reminded him.

“She can say what she wants. I don’t even look at social media anymore.” 

He hadn’t checked his accounts for more than half a year. 

Run leaned closer to him, his face concerned. The man was serious.

“Yeah, well I just wanted to remind you to be careful, that’s all.” the blond man said.

Even if the woman did plan anything, he wouldn’t be able to stop her anyway. He will just have to deal with whatever that came his way eventually.

“Thanks.” he said. 

The rest of the car journey was filled with other conversations which he tuned out and it wasn’t long before they reached the bar. Kaownah was crooning a love ballad into the mic, setting a light mood to the dim place. They sat at a table near the stage and listened. Gulf was finishing his orders for beer and food when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Hello Nong,” Mew greeted him. “Hey everyone.” He waved at the table.

“Hello P’Mew.” he turned to the man. 

The man looked very happy to see him. “Are you ready to hear me sing?” he asked.

“Yes, P’Mew.” he chirped.

Whistles came from around the table.

“Gulf is more than ready!” exclaimed Run.

“Yeah, he hasn’t stopped talking about it since yesterday.” said Mild.

Gulf turned to glare at his friends and Mew laughed.

“Alright, Nong. Don’t be angry. Your friends are funny. I have to thank them too. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have gotten a confession from you!” the man said.

“P’MEW!!” he exclaimed loudly, drawing attention from nearby patrons.

Mew chuckled and rubbed both his ears with his fingers, before leaning in to whisper into one of them.

“Nong, you look so na rak now, I want to kiss you.” 

He felt blood rushed to his head and his whole body tightened up. Warm, he was warm again. The man chuckled and strolled off after, saying he needed to prepare. 

Gulf turned back to the table, his mind a complete blank. 

“Gulf, what did P’Mew say? You look like a cooked lobster.” Mild asked.

“I-”

“Probably said he wanted to kiss him or something.” remarked Run.

“No!” he exclaimed. 

“Aow! I’m right! Your face just got redder! So what did he say?” the blond man asked.

He made a grab for his beer, ready to hurl it at the man.

“Hello everyone!!” greeted Kaownah, who magically appeared and drew everyone’s attention away from him.

He mouthed a greeting and silently thanked the man for his timely appearance.

“Hello, Kaow. Taking a break?” Run asked.

“Yeah, I am. P’Mew’s going to sing a song. He’s been preparing for it the whole week.” Kaownah said, pointing to the stage before turning to him, “He’s singing for you, Gulf.”

He turned to the front. The rest of the band members have left the stage except for Tul, who was holding a guitar. Mew appeared from the side, carrying a guitar as well and sat on the high chair in front of the mic. The soft spotlight lit on him and accentuated his sharp features, giving him almost an ethereal look. Mew almost looked like an angel. His heart fluttered again.

“Hey everyone. Mew here.” 

The crowd cheered.

“Thanks for the warm welcome.” the man smiled. “I’m singing an English song today, something I listened to during my stay in the UK. It’s a song dedicated to a very special Nong of mine.” 

Mew’s gaze turned to him.

“Nong, I hope this song conveys to you what I can’t express. This is  ‘Human’ by Aquilo.” 

The man started strumming the guitar.

I know that it’s been rough,
It shows in your reflection,
You’ve fallen out of touch,
Got lost along the way,
I know it’s not enough,
But these things they all get better,
And even if it’s tough,

Gulf stared ahead, entranced by the man’s voice. 

This is us, you know it on the inside,
This is us, so you should show it on the outside,
This is us, dust the dust up off your shoulders,
Feet on ground, you’ll come round,
And be human again.

There was a sharp intake of breath. It was his own.

“-if you are tired of waiting, then stop waiting. Do whatever it is you want to do and don’t hesitate anymore.”

I know that it’s been hard,
But even when its hurting,
You’re gonna have to start,
To learn to recognize,
That even in the dark,
There's lines between the spaces,
Hiding where you are,

“You are already hurting, Nong.” 

This is us, you know it on the inside,
This is us, so you should show it on the outside,
This is us, dust the dust up off your shoulders,
Feet on ground, you’ll come round,

Everything else around them seemed to have faded away. It was just him and Mew.

You know it on the inside,
So you should show it on the outside,
Dust the dust up off your shoulders,
Feet on ground, you’ll come round,

And be human again.

“-It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you’re human.”

A lump has formed in his throat. He blinked and felt wetness flow down the side of his cheeks. Mew’s gaze on him never wavered the whole time he sang. It didn’t waver as his body moved on its own and he found himself standing in the front of the stage. Mew got off the chair and laid his guitar aside, stepping towards him.

The bar was quiet.

“Nong, I hope you liked it.” Mew said, smiling softly.

He blinked more wetness out of his eyes. Words couldn’t describe the myriad of feelings he had at that moment. All he knew was that he wanted to be in the embrace of the man standing in front of him. He wanted those strong arms around him. He wanted to feel safe, comforted and warm. He wanted to be with Mew.

Gulf’s body moved on its own again, and he covered the distance between them in a second, crashing his body into the man and wrapping his arms tightly around him. 

“I loved it, P’Mew. Thank you.” he said, burying his head into the man’s shoulders.

The man held him tightly in return.

And he never wanted to ever let go.

Chapter Text

He had to let go eventually.

The crowd was applauding with loud cheers and whistles. Gulf was glad the lighting in the bar was dim, and they were not standing under any spotlight. If not, he would have made for the exit already.

“Kiss!” shouted a voice. It sounded like Run.

“Yes! Kiss!” That definitely sounded like Mild.

“Kiss!”

“KISS!” 

Everyone in the bar started chanting for them to kiss. Gulf looked at the man in front of him, who had a small smile on his face. He looked like he was ready for a kiss.

Shia.

“Nong, they want us to kiss.” the man said.

“P’Mew…” He was not going to kiss the man in front of everyone. No way in hell.

Then, the man leaned in to whisper into his ear. “I do want to kiss you, but not in front of everyone.” 

The chanting got even louder and Gulf felt like the walls were closing in on them. How were they going to get out of this?

“Let’s go, Nong.” the man said, grabbing his hand and pulling him towards the exit by the side. 

He had no choice but to follow. It was the only way out for them. 

The crowd roared as they ran for the glass door and they emerged outside onto the balcony, the muffled sounds of cheering behind them.

“That was-” he said, panting

“Close.” the man finished for him.

Mew pulled him into a crushing hug and he sank into the embrace, inhaling the man’s scent. Vanilla and cologne. The smell of home.

“I’m so happy you are here, Nong.” the man said, holding him tightly.

“Me too, P’Mew.” he answered. “I’m glad I got to hear you sing.”

The man pulled back and cupped his cheeks, wiping the wetness from the side of his face. 

“Can I kiss you now?” he asked.

Gulf looked at the man in front of him. His eyes were bright, yet a little hesitant and full of untold secrets. The pink lips on him looked soft, just like the first time he saw them, pursing over the straw at the cafe and he wanted to know how they felt like under his fingers. He wanted to know how they tasted.

He wanted to kiss the man.

But he also had other ideas.

“No.” 

The look of shock on Mew’s face was so comical, he burst out laughing. Gulf pushed hands on his face away playfully and ran to the edge of the balcony, taking a deep breath as he got there. The air was cool and crisp and there was an earthy scent. The streets below were quiet as it was still drizzling slightly. He could make out the fleeting raindrops, illuminated by the yellow fairy lights. They looked like tiny little falling stars. 

He felt the man’s presence appear beside him. “Nong…” Mew whined. 

“You can kiss me P’Mew but…” he trailed off, trying to contain his smile.

“But…?” 

Gulf turned around to face the man, who looked like someone who just had his candy snatched away. He was pouting like a child.

“Hmm.. you have to answer some of my questions first.” he said. 

“Okay…” Mew seemed to consider his proposition very carefully, furrowing his thick brows in the process. “What do you want to know?”

He knew his idea would work. Now he can finally get to know more about the man, without him deflecting questions with teasing.

“Hmm..” he tapped his chin while thinking. 

“Wait.”

Gulf suddenly had a bad feeling. “P’Mew?” he asked.

“You have to answer my questions too.” The man smiled widely at him, seemingly proud of himself.

“Shia.” he cursed, before covering his mouth. He wasn’t supposed to say that out loud.

Mew tilted his head back laughing, his voice hearty and full, maybe a little evil as well.

Gulf felt something rise within him. There was no way he was going to let Mew play him at his own game. No. Way. Tonight was his night! If he had to bare his soul, then so be it. It would be a worthy sacrifice on his part; if there was even any need for it, since the man knew almost everything about him already.

“Okay.” he said, accepting the challenge.

Mew leaned onto the railing beside them, propping his elbow on top. “Alright. I’ll let you go first. What’s your question?” 

He eyed the man. As the person who started the game, it was only natural that he went first, what was the man yammering about.

“When did you first start noticing me?” he asked. 

“Pass.” the man said casually.

“P’Mew!” he exclaimed. “That’s not part of the game!” 

“Aow, so it’s a game!?” the man asked in feigned surprise.

“Yes!” 

“What’s the prize then?” the man leveled a look at him.

“Erm…”

“Nong…” the man started leaning closer to him, stopping only inches away. “What’s the prize?” he breathed.

He blinked a few times at the man’s intense eyes, trying to stop himself from getting lost in it. There was no way out for him now, he might as well pull out the trump card.

“You get to kiss me.” he said.

“Aow.” The man pulled back straight away, looking smug. 

Gulf’s cheeks were warm again. Very warm.

“Okay. So what was the question then?” Mew asked.

“I already asked you!!” he yelled at the man. He was going to lose at this rate and end up knowing nothing again.

The man laughed, putting his hands up in apology before leveling his gaze at him.

“The very first time I saw you.” 

His heart skipped a beat. 

Wait. 

“When was the first time you saw me?” he asked. How long had the man been watching him?

“Nong… It’s my turn now.” the man reminded him.

He glared back and said, “Fine.” 

Mew reached out to rub his ears again and he swatted the hands away. “Tsk”

The man smiled. “When did you start liking me?”

Gulf was stumped. He had never thought about it, at least not until yesterday when he had to chase after the man. By then, he was already sure of his feelings, but when he did start liking Mew? When did he start developing feelings for him? His mind started going through all the times they have interacted, from their first conversation, to them sharing an umbrella. Their chance encounter at the park and the first time the man helped him with his assignment. That ridiculous incident at night and then him asking for Mew’s number. Their numerous meetups at the cafe and then, his breakdown. 

The images in his head swirled continuously and they flickered in and out of his conscious mind. But there was always a constant. An image that stayed unwavering, steady.

“Nong?” 

It was the image of Mew he had awakened to that afternoon, sitting at his study and reading a book. Bathed in the golden sunlight shining through the window, the man had looked like a guardian angel, patiently watching over him. He didn’t notice then, but his heart had skipped and fluttered gently with each page the man turned. It was at that moment, he felt a gentle flame lit inside him.

“When I woke up,” he said.

“Alai..” Mew gave him a look before exclaiming, “Nong! What do you mean ‘when you woke up’? Are you cheating!?” 

“I’m not cheating. You just need to guess when, that’s all.” he grinned at the man.

Mew narrowed his eyes at him. Now they were even.

“My turn.” he said, feeling very satisfied with his cryptic answer.

“When did P’Mew start lik-” he stopped mid-sentence.

Mew had given him a peck on the cheek. 

He stared at the man in shock. He should have known. Mew was a cheater. 

“P’Mew!!!” he yelled. “That’s REAL cheating!!’ 

“Nong started it first.” the man said, looking incredibly proud of himself, with his arms folded and leaning against the railings. 

Gulf gave the man a look, turned, and walked away, feeling a little disappointed that he didn’t take their ‘game’ seriously. For someone as smart as Mew, he probably should have figured out by now what he was trying to do. Maybe he should resign to the fact that he might never know more about the man. At least not on the things he wanted to ask about. It was too difficult.

He was about a few steps away from the door when he felt himself being locked in place by a pair of arms around him. He tried taking a step forward, but the arms held on even tighter.

“P’Mew…” he warned.

“I’m sorry, Nong.” the man said, nuzzling his shoulder.

He let out a sigh.

“Just before songkran.” Mew said. “That was the first time I saw you.”

Six months. The man had watched him for almost half a year. How had he never noticed him? The man’s mustard beanie was eye-catching enough. 

“That’s…” he said

“Yes, Nong. I watched you for that long.” the man said.

“How come I never saw you?” he asked, still finding himself unable to believe that he never noticed the man.

“I always sat in the corner, Nong.” Mew replied, resting his chin on his shoulder, “And you were always in your head.”

“I don’t-” he tried to protest but stopped. He did miss out the man for half a year.

“I only managed to get your attention when I sat in your spot, Nong.” The man squeezed him. “You looked at me like I was some kind of asshole.”

Gulf snorted. He was annoyed back then for sure but he didn’t think it was that obvious.

A sudden chill blew at them and he shivered. He felt like sneezing.

“Nong?” the man turned him around. He looked concerned. “Are you cold?”

“A lit-” He sneezed. 

“Do you want to go back in?”

He shaked his head and sneezed again. He was not going back in until more time had passed. He wasn’t ready to face the crowd, or his friends. 

“Alright, let me get my jacket. Stay here Nong.”

Another gust of wind blew and he shivered. Was he catching a cold? The rain seemed to have gotten heavier and he could hear the soft drumming on the roof. He made his way to the sofa and sat down, rubbing himself with his hands for.

“Nong!” Mew was back, and he was holding a jacket. “Put this on.” 

He slotted his hands into the sleeves as Mew placed the jacket over his shoulders, immediately feeling warmer. 

“Better now?” the man asked.

“Yeah. Thanks P’Mew.”

The man drew him in with his arms again and he laid on the broad chest behind, resting his head against the crook of the man’s neck. He felt warm now. Safe and warm. 

If Mew had watched him for that long then when did he start developing feelings for him? If he asked, will the man tell him? He studied the long fingers resting on his lap. Mew’s hands were full of large veins, they travelled down from his arm all the way to his knuckles and he traced each and every one of them with his fingers. The man was fond of wearing rings as well and he counted them as his eyes moved from finger to finger.

The man let out a small laugh. “Nong, you’re tickling me!”

“When did P’Mew start liking me?” he asked.

He felt a kiss on his ear and he tried to reach out for them but the hands in his lap grabbed his own. He was about to look up when the man spoke.

“I’ve always admired you from afar, Nong.” the man breathed. “But that changed after the day we talked.” 

“The day you sat at my spot?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Then when-”

“There wasn’t a definite point in time when I realized I liked you.” Mew propped his chin on his head. “It was gradual.”

Gradual. He didn’t know why, but he felt happy hearing that. It meant Mew had feelings for him all along.

“Somehow whenever I’m down, you always seem to magically appear. Both times at the park, then at the cafe and yesterday when you said you liked me.”

The times at the park. Was Mew referring to him bumping into him initially at the park? Was he talking about that day when he ran from him? He definitely still remembered what he saw that day at the cafe. The image of Mew gripping the table till his knuckles turned white was still fresh in his mind. The man must have been really upset to look like that. Then, yesterday when he saw Mew, his shirt was stained and he had a strange look in his eyes that was inexplicably sad, forlorn even. He suddenly felt his chest tightened. 

Gulf turned around and wrapped his arms around the man’s waist, hoping that whatever comfort he was given before could be felt by the man as well. 

“P’Mew, whenever you’re down, I’ll always try to be there for you.” he said.

The man rested his chin on his and said, “Thank you, Nong.”

He could hear the soft beating of Mew’s heart against his ears and he wondered if they fluttered like his own did.

“Saturday,” he said.

“Nong?”

He got up and looked into the man’s large eyes.

“That saturday afternoon when I woke up.” He could see realization starting to dawn on the man.

“When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was you, sitting at my study under the sunlight.” he smiled at the man.

The man looked at him with eyes wide.

“You looked like an angel, P’Mew. That was when I-” 

Mew kissed him. 

He heard a sharp intake of breath, it was his own.

The man’s lips were soft and they caressed his own gently at first before they became more urgent. Mew kissed him like he had been waiting to do so for the longest time. His lips moved with yearning and nudged with untold desire. It was exhilarating and it left him wanting more. 

They pulled back breathless, staring into each other’s eyes.

“Nong,” the man whispered.

“P’Mew,” he breathed.

They kissed again.

And again.

Until they couldn’t anymore.

Chapter Text

“P’Mew, my lips are numb.”

The younger man’s chestnut lips were ruby red and swollen, begging to be kissed again, but Mew knew if they went for the fourth one, Gulf’s lips would definitely be bruised. His own was close to bruised already. He reached out to stroke the soft lips gently with his thumb.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

“No.” the younger man said. “It just feels swollen and numb.”

He let out a small laugh. “My lips are swollen and numb too.” 

“Yes, I can see that, P’Mew.” Gulf smiled.

“Come here.” he said, patting the spot beside him.

The younger man shifted closer and Mew pulled him against his chest. Gulf laid his head on the crook of his neck and let out a sigh.

“Comfortable?” he asked.

“Yeah.” the younger man said. “Feels warm.”

He tightened his arms and placed a kiss on the fluffy mane under his chin. He felt warm too.

“Me too.” he said.

Gulf was playing with his hands again, turning his rings and tracing his veins. They tickled. 

“Nong…” he said. “Do you like my hands so much?” 

“Yes,” the younger man said, while turning the ring on his thumb. “Your fingers look nice when turning pages.”

“Aow.” So the younger man liked to watch him read. He leaned closer to his ears. “My fingers can do many other things too.” he whispered into his ears.

His favorite red ears were back, and he could see the flush forming. He reached out to rub them and the younger man swatted his hand away. 

“Tsk.” 

He let out a small laugh before leaning in to give the red ear tip a kiss. The younger man let him.

“P’Mew.” 

“Sorry, Nong. You are too na rak.” 

“No. I wanted to ask you a question.”

“Oh.”

More questions. 

He had to answer two difficult questions before Gulf allowed him to kiss him. Although technically, the younger man didn’t let him, he just went for it. He had looked so earnest, Mew could no longer hold himself back anymore. The lips he had kissed were shy and hesitant at first, almost inexperienced but they learned fast and soon they had kissed back with the same amount of voracity he had. He couldn’t get enough of it. Everytime they pulled away, he drew the younger man back into his arms again and tasted those lips till he was out of breath. He wanted to kiss them again and if it meant he had to answer more questions, then so be it.

“P’Mew?” Gulf called out again, “So can I ask you a question?”

“Does that mean I get to ask one back too?” he said.

“If you promise not to cheat.” 

He let out a small laugh. “Okay, I promise.” he said. “So what’s the prize this time?”

“P’Mew!” the younger man slapped his hands. “It’s not a game!”

“But you said no cheating!” 

The younger man became quiet. 

Gotcha.

“Nong…” he said.

“Fine, what do you want then? No kissing. My lips are still swollen.” the younger man said.

“Aow, no kiss?” 

“Yes!! I mean, no!!”

He wanted to laugh. Gulf can be so adorable sometimes. No. Most of the time.

“Well then…”

Mew couldn’t say he wasn’t disappointed, but maybe it was for the better, his lips were still tingling and the younger man’s still looked slightly swollen. 

And kissable. 

However, just because he couldn’t kiss the younger man on the lips, it didn’t mean he couldn’t kiss him elsewhere. Mew smiled to himself. 

“Nong…” he said, as he leaned forward and locked his arms further around the younger man.

“What, P’Mew? You still haven’t told me what you want.” the younger man said.

Mew looked at the exposed neck in front of him. “I want to do this,” he whispered and bent his head down to press his lips onto the smooth skin.

The younger man shuddered in his arms and said nothing.

He continued to nip at the crook of the younger man’s neck, ignoring the tingling in his lips. 

“P’Mew…” Gulf sounded like he was moaning.

He stopped at the spot the younger man had reacted to and sucked, hard.

This time he definitely heard a moan and he continued sucking at the spot until his lips were numb again. Pulling away to admire his work, he saw the small area had turned a nice shade of red. The mark will definitely last at least for a day or two. He bent down again to press another soft kiss on it, and inhaled the younger man’s scent. He liked how Gulf didn’t smell like anything he had come across. He smelled unique.

“P’Mew.” 

“Yes, nong.”

“You cheated again.”

“Aow, I just showed you what I wanted, that’s all.”

Silence. The younger man was probably sulking again.

“You sounded like you liked it.” he added on.

“P’Mew!” 

“Okay, okay. Nong. Please ask your question.” he said.

A few moments passed before the younger man spoke.

“When was your first kiss?” Gulf asked.

Mew hated his first kiss. It was part of a dare with his classmates and they made him kiss a girl. He didn’t like it one bit. It wasn’t because she was a girl but it was because he didn’t like her. He realized at a very young age, he couldn’t kiss just anyone, it had to be someone he had feelings for. Someone he liked. Someone like Gulf.

“High school.” he said.

“Aow. That’s young.”

“It was part of a stupid dare. What about you, nong?” He asked.

“In university.” the younger man said. “It was with Poom.”

Poom. He realized Gulf hadn’t told him anything yet about Poom and he was curious about the mysterious woman in the younger man’s life. She had given him such a hateful look in the afternoon, he almost had chills. Maybe it was time to ask him about her.

“Nong, can I ask you something too?” he asked.

The younger man crossed his arms and sat up, leaning away from him. Mew could almost see the gears turning inside his head as he waited for him to reply.

“No.” 

Here they go again. His nong would be the death of him someday.

“Why!?” he asked, feigning surprise.

“Because P’Mew cheated again.” 

“Aow, I didn’t!” he protested.

“Yes! You kissed me again!” the younger man said.

“You liked it!”

Silence. He never would have thought the cold and aloof young man would be this petty.

“Nong…” he pulled the younger man back against him, “Do you remember asking me two question just now?”

“Yes.”

“How many did I ask?”

“...One.”

“Yup.” he said.

“Fine, ask your question then.” the younger man grudgingly said.

He let out a small laugh and nuzzled Gulf’s hair.

“Can you tell me about Poom?” he asked.

“That’s not really a question, P’Mew.” the younger man replied.

“I know.”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes, nong. I do.”

The younger man related his story in detail. From how he met Poom - they met at a freshman’s party, to how they became friends. They had bonded over their mutual love for computer games to Mew’s surprise. The young woman did not look like someone who played computer games. Then, after a year of knowing each other, she confessed her feelings to Gulf. At that time, the younger man didn’t have any romantic feelings for her but he was still willing to try something out anyway. The trying lasted for two years until he finally broke up with her at the urging of his sister who felt that he had wasted enough of his time. Mew listened carefully the whole time and did not interrupt the younger man.

“I wanted to set things straight with her one last time but she had to go spread that crazy rumor about me cheating on her. I swear it was the idea from one of those new friends she made then. She changed completely after meeting them. She turned nasty.” Gulf said, sounding slightly frustrated.

The rumor. The younger man did mention something about yesterday but he’d forgotten to ask. Confessions did funny things to a person's memory.

“Was it bad?” he asked. The younger man didn’t seem to care much about it.

“Nope. It fell flat. Nobody believed her. I was still really hurt though. She was a good friend. A sister to me.”

“I see.” He was glad the younger man wasn't adversely affected by the rumor but he still felt bad for him being hurt.

The younger man was quiet again before he heard a snort.

“P’Mew, you know what the irony was? She wanted to kiss me for so long and when I finally did, that was the one thing that made me realize I didn’t like her for sure.” Gulf said.

“Aow, why?”

“It felt like I was kissing my sister.” the younger man made a face. “It was weird.”

Mew let out a small laugh. He had felt weird kissing his high school classmate too.

“It felt weird for me too, when I kissed the girl in my class.” he said. “I mean not that I don’t like girls, it’s just I didn’t like her.”

“Alai… You kissed a girl?” Gulf had turned back to look at him with his round eyes. “P’Mew like women too?”

“Yes.” He did, he was just more partial towards men. Especially men who blushed easily, had doe eyes and chestnut lips. “But I like men for now, because nong is one.”

He stared at those ears as they turned red again. He was about to reach out when Gulf covered them with his hands and gave him a dirty look.

He grinned.

“When did P’Mew found out he likes men?” the younger man asked, still glaring at him.

It was also back in high school. He realized he liked watching boys as much as he liked watching girls. He struggled for a while before coming to terms with it since he was the eldest son after all and if he chose a male partner, there would be no Jongchevaveet children. At least there was Stamp, he could continue the family line for them, if he wasn't married to his work. His Pho wasn’t thrilled when he came out, but his Mae supported him, so did his sister. He got lucky, many others he knew never came out in the end, still living in secrecy.

“High school too.”

“Oh.” The younger man paused. “That’s early too.” 

Not early enough. He was already seventeen.

“What about you, Nong?” he asked.

“When I met you.” Gulf said, softly. 

Mew felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. He'd totally forgotten that Gulf dated a woman before and if he only just knew that he liked men, that meant his family might not know yet, which meant that they didn’t know about their relationship. And if they didn’t know about their relationship, there was a chance they wouldn’t approve and if they didn’t approve, it would mean the end of them.

“P’Mew?” 

He wasn’t ready for all this to end yet. He hadn’t been this happy for a long time. Why did good things never last for him? Was he cursed? Was he cursed to go through the same challenges and the same pain again? He wasn’t ready to let go of all this wonderfulness just yet. He wasn’t ready to let go of Gulf.

“P’Mew, let go. I can’t breathe!” 

He didn’t want to let go of Gulf.

“P’MEW!!”

He let go immediately. He had hurt the younger man. He didn’t mean to but he did, just like before. 

“P’Mew?!” 

He felt hands cupping his cheeks and the younger man’s face came into his view. Gulf was looking at him with wide, worried eyes. He tried to focus on them. Those big round eyes that he loved, that he sort comfort in and then slowly, he felt his breathing even out. He hadn't realized he was panting before.

“Nong?” he let out softly.

“P’Mew, are you okay? You had me worried.” the younger man.

“Have you told your parents?” he asked shakily.

“What do you mean P’Mew?” The man looked lost.

“Have you told your parents you like men!” he yelled.

“No!” the man seemed taken aback by his question. “Why are you asking?”

So he could make sure their relationship was safe to move forward.

“Are you planning to tell them?” he asked, serious.

“Yes, eventually…” the younger man said. “I don’t understand the rush, P’Mew. We only just confessed our feelings to each other yesterday!”

“It’s still important! I can’t risk-” 

Gulf stared at him wide eyed and confused. He knew he was making the younger man worried, but the important things had to be said, even if he came off too harsh.

“Promise me, Nong.” he said, softly. “You will tell your parents soon.”

“Okay.. but-” 

“Wait!” he said. Gulf looked hurt.

“If they don’t approve, you have to tell me okay?” he said, gripping the younger man’s shoulders. “Please? Nong, you have to tell me.” 

“Okay P’Mew, I promise.” Gulf looked more than worried. He looked afraid. “P’Mew, what’s wrong? You’re scaring me…”

He let out the breath he was holding and held the younger man’s hands in his own.

“I’m okay, Nong. I’m okay.” he looked at the concerned face.

“You are not okay, P’Mew!” Gulf exclaimed. “You scared me… I thought you were-” 

He pulled the younger man back into his arms and held him tightly. “I’m sorry, Nong. I didn’t mean to scare you, or worry you. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

“It’s okay, P’Mew. Can you at least tell me why you were so upset?” the younger man asked.

“I-” 

He wasn’t ready. He needed time. Gulf deserved to know. The younger man had looked so distraught at his expense and he had yelled at him, hurt him, but he didn’t think he would be able to tell him anything just yet. He just couldn’t.

“You don’t have to say anything now.” The younger man said softly against his chest. “But promise me too that you will let me know what troubles you so I can be there for you.” 

Mew pushed aside the fear in his mind. For Gulf, he had to try. If the younger man had let him into his life, the least he could do was let him into his own too. Even if he had to painfully peel the scabs that had formed over his wounds to reveal what was underneath, he would do it for his nong, because he deserved it and perhaps then finally, they could heal properly.

“I promise you, nong.”

“Okay.” The younger man shivered again.

“Are you cold?”

“Yes. Hold me tight, P’Mew.” The younger man burrowed into his arms.

“Okay.” Mew pulled him even closer, until he was almost draped entirely over his body. 

They stayed pressed together until Tul came out to check in on them. By then, he realized Gulf had fallen asleep, breathing softly against his chest. He wondered if the younger man was coming down with a cold since he was shivering and sneezing the whole night. He might have caught it when he ran under the rain in the afternoon. His silly nong. The younger man must have been afraid of keeping him waiting. Mew stroked the soft cheek gently, rubbing under the eye. 

“I’ll try my best for you, nong. I’ll try my best.”

Chapter Text

“I lost control last night, Tul.”

They were seated at the table on his balcony. His friend had dropped in unannounced again but Mew was glad that he did. After what happened last night, he thought maybe it was time to speak to someone about it. He felt guilty for losing control and almost hurting Gulf. Something had to be done, he couldn’t allow his mind to trap itself again and he needed help with it.

“What do you mean you lost control?” the man said. “Gupi still had his clothes on when I came out to check in on you both.”

Mew buried his face into his hands, he should’ve known the man would interpret his words like that. Tul was an idiot, and a pervert. 

“I meant I lost control as in I lost emotional control!” he said.

“You cried?” The man cocked his head at him.

Mew sighed.

“Look man, you have to give me some context here. All I know is you kissed him last night!” The man defended himself.

“How do you know that!?” he exclaimed. “Were you spying on us?!”

“Both of your lips looked like they were stung by bees, Mew. I’m not dumb.”

“Oh.”

The younger man did say his lips were swollen as well. They still felt slightly tingly as he bit into the sandwich. 

“They still look swollen now. Just saying.” the man puckered his lips in response.

Mew glared at him.

“Come on, what’s the problem. Tell me. You are in the presence of a genius in problem solving.”

He rolled his eyes at the man before sighing again. “I don’t know where to start.” he said.

So much had happened in the last twenty-four hours that keeping track of everything was near impossible. All he could recall was that Gulf liked his singing, they hugged, they kissed and then he lost control of his emotions. There was also that incident in the afternoon with the younger man’s ex-girlfriend as well. His mind felt so overloaded with information and saturated with his own thoughts that he really didn’t know where to begin telling the man what happened.

“Start from the beginning then, or at least somewhere.” 

“We kissed, then we started talking about our first kisses and then Gulf asked me when I first knew I liked men, and I asked back the same. Then, he told me he only knew that he liked men after he met me.” he said in one breath.

“Right.” Tul said. “You know Mew, that’s probably the most amount of details I’ve ever got from you when it came to your relationships.” 

Mew gave the man a look and went back to eating his sandwich. At the rate they were going, it would be nighttime by the time they finished this conversation and it was only morning. He wondered if Gulf had woken up already, the younger man said he would call when he did. 

“So he only knew when he met you huh?” Tul asked. 

“Yeah.” 

“Man, you turned him gay.” 

“Alright, get out.” 

The man put up his hands in gesture. “Okay, okay. Sorry, but I don’t really see a problem with that? Don’t people find out one way or another?”

“Tul.”

“Yeah.” 

“You remember what happened with Art right? Why we had issues in the first place.”

“I can’t forget if I wanted to.” the man grimaced.

“Yeah.” he said, looking out into the morning horizon. “Since Gulf only just found out he likes men, it means the only person that knows that now is himself. And me. Also his friends as well.”

It was the reason for his loss of control. There were just too many uncertainties in their relationship right now. Anything could go wrong, and his fear of things falling apart was so great, it made him almost mad with anxiety. He didn’t know he could be this affected and it felt like his mind suddenly had a life of its own. It was making assumptions and drawing conclusions quicker than his rational side could catch up and it scared him.

“Oh God. You idiot.” Tul sighed loudly. “You are worried about his parents aren’t you?”

He turned back to the man. “Yeah.” he said.

“You know it’s still too early to be worried about such things right? Have you even asked him out officially?” 

“I know, but I couldn’t help it. My mind just went into overdrive when he told me that and I made him promise to tell them soon and to tell me if they disapproved.” he said as he stared into his cup of coffee. He felt ashamed. “I haven’t asked him out officially. We just sort of went with the flow."

“Mew!” Tul put his cup down. “Why would you make him do that? Whether he says anything or not is up to him and not for you to decide! Poor Gupi, he must have been so confused.” the man raised his voice.

“I know that!” 

“Then why!?”

“I told you I lost control!” he shouted at the man.

Tul’s face remained fixed on him, before he turned away, looking out into the skyline and fingers tapping on the table.

“Going with the flow is good.” the man said after a few moments. He got up and walked towards the railings, leaning forward against it. “You didn’t used to be like this Mew, afraid of the unknown. You used to take everything in stride.”

“I’m not the same person anymore.” he said.

“Neither am I.” the man stated. “But you never used to back down from such things. You were fearless, determined. Strong.”

“I was young.”

The man let out a small laugh. “We are still young, Mew. What are you talking about?”

“I don’t think I could go back to being my former self.” he said quietly.

The man turned to him. “You don’t have to, you just need to find back the parts you lost.” 

“I am tired.” he sighed.

“Not too tired to kiss Gupi.” 

He glared at the man again.

“What?” Tul gave him a look. “You were eating his face out when I saw you both.”

“So you were spying on us!” he said, standing up as well.

The man shrugged. “I had to go out to check in on you two once in a while. Make sure nothing got out of hand.” he said.  “Or got out.” The man raised his eyebrows.

“Tul!”

The man chuckled.

He let out a huff and started clearing the plates on the table. The man was insufferable. 

“Mew.” the man placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know what you are afraid of, but please remember, they are not the same person.”

“I know.” he said casually.

“No, you don’t just need to know.” The man kept his grip strong on his shoulders and shook them. “You need to understand.” 

Mew looked up from the table at him. Tul’s eyes were dead set on him.

“You need to stop letting the past drive your actions, Mew. It’s not fair to Gupi or to yourself.” the man implored on him.

“I know, Tul. I’m trying my best.” he said.

“Do you trust him?” 

Of course he did. Gulf was one of the most genuine persons he had ever met. The younger man was simple and straightforward. Although he was cold and aloof on the surface, underneath he was sensitive and kind and Mew was sure that the man would never intentionally hurt him. There was nothing to be afraid of. In fact, he was more afraid he might be the one to hurt the younger man instead.

“Yes.” he answered.

“Then all is good.” the man said and started helping him with clearing the dishes.

They cleaned up in silence, neither of them spoke as one washed the dishes and the other dried them. When they got to washing the cups, Mew suddenly remembered he had forgotten to tell the man who he saw on friday. 

“Tul, I saw Art on friday.”

The man dropped the plate he was holding, staring at him in shock and Mew reached out with his hands immediately to catch it. 

“Alai na! Tul! Be careful, I brought these back from the UK!” he yelled at the man. He thanked God for his quick reflexes.

“Then don’t drop news like that when I’m holding your precious china!” Tul retorted and glared at him.

“Fine.” he passed the plate back to the man. “Let’s finish up before we continue.” he said.

They finished washing up quickly and sat at the sofa in the living room after. Tul was flipping the channels on his TV while Mew sipped his second cup of coffee. He hadn’t slept well last night and he was planning to do some reading later in the day so he needed the extra caffeine boost. 

“So, you saw him?” the man asked, eyes still on the TV.

“Yeah.”

“Did he see you?”

“I don’t think so, I left in a hurry.”

“You ran, didn’t you.”

“Yeah.”

The man put down his remote and turned to him. “Mew. Are you okay? Seeing him again after so long.” the man asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t have time to think about it. Gulf’s confession sort of overshadowed everything.” he said, smiling slightly

“He has that kind of effect on you huh?” the man asked, slightly amused.

“Yeah he does.” 

“Mew.” the man clapped his hand on his shoulder again. “I can tell Gupi is a good guy so hang on tightly to him okay? Don’t let the small things ruin it for you both.”

“I will.” he said.

“You should talk to him as well. Clear things up. I can imagine how confused he might be right now.”

“He seemed alright yesterday night but I’ll talk to him.”

The man clapped his shoulder again and went back to watching the TV.

Gulf had woken up from his nap and went about the rest of the night as if their kiss was the last thing he remembered before falling asleep. He was in good spirits during their car ride back and had asked even more questions, even though he sneezed half the time. The younger man quizzed him endlessly about his time in the UK, his singing, his favorite songs and made him promise to sing to him again, but not in front of a crowd. He’d only stop when they reached his dorm.

When they had to go their separate ways eventually, Gulf was unwilling to let him go, hanging on tightly to him. He told Mew he couldn’t be there fully for him for the entire week because of midterms but promised he would always be a phone call away. Mew had been almost moved to tears hearing those words and held him back just as tightly. They finally only separated in the end when one Gulf’s neighbours came back. 

Mew was worried right now because the younger man said he would call to let him know that he was alright since he looked ill yesterday. 

“He hasn’t called me.” he said.

“Call him then, what’s the problem?” Tul said, eyes still staring at the screen.

“He said he would call.”

“Maybe he forgot?”

“He doesn’t forget such things.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Mew, just call him.” the man groaned at him in frustration.

He took out his phone to call the younger man and realized he had a missed call from Gulf earlier and several messages and missed calls from Kaownah. Mew hit his own head, he had left his phone on mute the whole time! He tried calling the younger man but there was no answer. Strange. He then opened the message that Kaownah sent him.


(11:45) P’Mew! It’s an emergency! 
(11:45) Gulf needs you now! He’s sick!
(11:45) Please get to his dorm as soon as you can!


Mew got up from the sofa immediately. 

“Tul we need to go, it’s an emergency, Gulf is sick.” he said.

“What?!” 

“We have to get to his dorm.” 

“Why!?”

“Because he’s sick!”

The man stood up as well.

“No, not we. It’s YOU.” Tul pointed at him. “Gulf is your boyfriend. Not mine. Besides I have a date this afternoon.”

Mew rolled his eyes. “Fine, let's get out, I have to go.” 

They left his place at record speed, or rather he did while rushing his friend off. Then he drove to Gulf’s dorm as fast as he could. He tried calling Kaownah on the way but the young singer didn’t pick up. Mew was ready for the worst when he reached the entrance of the younger man’s room. 

“Nong! Are you okay?!” He knocked on the door.

There was no answer. 

“Nong Gulf!!” He knocked on the door again, this time harder. 

There was still no answer and he kept knocking, only stopping to call Kaownah again, who didn’t pick up.

Then, he heard some shuffling behind a door and a voice called out. 

“Wait! Can’t you guys wait?! What do you want!” 

The door opened and his jaw almost dropped. 

Standing in front of him was Gulf. Eyes wide and in shock. Hair wet and skin glistening. He was only wearing his boxers.

Mew gulped. “Nong?” 

The younger man blinked once.

Then twice. 

“SHIAAAA!!!!”

Chapter Text

“P’Gift, I like men.”

It was early morning and he was talking to his older sister on the phone because he couldn’t wait anymore. Whatever Mew said last night weighed heavily on his mind and even though he was nursing a pounding headache right now, all he could think of was doing something so the man could get a peace of mind. He couldn’t call his parents to tell them about his newfound sexuality, that would be too sudden and too disrespectful. His sister on the other hand would be more receptive, so he took a small gamble and gave her a call instead. 

“Gulf, you called me all of a sudden to tell me you like men?” his sister asked.

“Yes, P’Gift.” he said.

He heard a sigh over the phone.

“Are you angry that I like men?” he asked in a small voice. 

“No! Of course not. You are free to like whoever you want, Nong. I just wished you gave me some heads up.” his sister replied immediately.

“What kind of heads up did you want? I can only call you.” he said.

“Oh, yeah you’re right. So, why the sudden phone call then? Do you have someone you like?” his sister ask.

“Yes.” he smiled into the phone.

“Oh…” Gift paused. “Have you told her? I mean him?”

“Yes, and he likes me too.”

“Oh! That’s great! Wait, are you seeing each other already?! Why didn’t you tell me anything nong!” his sister exclaimed over the phone.

Shia. He was in trouble.

“P’Gift, you are overseas and I didn’t want to disturb you…” he said.

“Gulf, even though I’m overseas you can call me and when has me being busy ever stopped you from disturbing me in the past?” 

“Sorry?”

The truth was he had thought of calling his sister before but he really didn’t want to bore her with details of something that wasn’t even concrete, she was overseas after all. Furthermore, the events that happened the past few weeks had just been so overwhelming, he really didn’t think of talking to her.

His sister sighed over the phone again.

“I want the details now.”

He told his sister everything, from the first day he and Mew met till last night. He had omitted some details so she wouldn’t ask too many questions, especially Mew’s breakdown and his own as well. He definitely did not mention the incident late that night in the park. He was glad his sister was taking all this well since he was afraid she might have been angry with him still for not telling her any sooner.

“So you have known each other for close to a month?” his sister asked.

“Yes, P’Gift,” he replied.

“And his name is Mew?”

“Yes.”

“Sounds familiar, do you have his full name?”

“Eh…” He forgot to ask for Mew’s full name. There was never really a need to. 

“You are dating someone you don’t even know the full name of?” 

“Well…” he tried to think of something. “We are not dating, yet. Just going with the flow.” 

Him and Mew hadn’t had any chance to discuss the relationship yet. He wondered if there was even a need to. Wasn’t revealing their feelings for each other enough? They could always work on slowly advancing the relationship from there, just like yesterday when they kiss. It all felt very natural. Gulf liked the rate at which things were moving along.

“Not dating? Have you two done… anything?”

“We kissed.” 

That came out faster than he could stop himself. He cursed silently. Now his sister was going to ask even more questions.

“You kissed but you haven’t talked about your relationship?”

“Yes.” He held his breath.

“Do you plan to?”

“I don’t know, P’Gift. Is there really a need?” he asked.

“If I was dating someone, I would really love for them to officially ask me out. Ask me to be their faen.” she said.

“Oh.” 

He never did answer Mew when the man asked if he was his faen that saturday afternoon. Maybe telling the man he wanted him to be his faen would make him happy. 

“Nong, you are so dense sometimes, but I can’t blame you since the only relationship you had was that disastrous one with what’s her name again?”

“Poom.”

“Yeah, Poom. What a nasty woman.”

“I confronted her and told her off.” he said proudly. 

“Oh really!? That’s good. It’s about time you stop hiding behind that lawyer friend of yours.”

“He’s not a lawyer yet. P’Mew helped me.”

“Oh he did?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s good to know. I’m happy for you, Nong. Please bring him home when I come back.”

Could he bring Mew home? Would his parents mind? The man had looked so scared yesterday, it scared him too. What if his parents didn’t approve?

“P’Gift… do you think Pho and Mae will mind?” he asked, suddenly feeling small again.

“Don’t be silly, Nong. Don’t forget our uncle is gay too.” she said.

He had forgotten about that. Their uncle lived in Australia with his partner and he hadn’t seen him in years but their parents used to bring them to visit often.

“Oh, I forgot.”

“Nong. Don’t forget to tell Pho and Mae too. Please don’t call them though. Tell them face to face. If not they will really be angry.” his sister’s voice was stern.

“I know. P’Gift.”

They chatted about other things after. Gift shared with him her life in Japan and promised to bring back lots of souvenirs for him. By the time the call ended, it was just past eleven. His headache had gotten even worse and his body ached as well. Maybe he was really coming down with a cold. 

Just as he was about to head into the bathroom to wash up, a knock came from the door. His friends wouldn’t be serious about dropping by just before midterms, would they? He thought he would finally have a Sunday morning free, but it seemed like his friends had other ideas. 

He shuffled to the door and opened it. 

“What do you guys want?” 

Standing at the door was Mild, Run and Kaownah. Boat was strangely missing. He looked around them. 

“Stop looking, Boat has studying to do.” Mild said.

“Don’t you guys have studying to do too?!?” he asked.

“Music students don’t have midterms.” Kaownah quipped.

“I did my internship already.” Run remarked.

“I have near eidetic memory.” Mild declared, lastly.

“Show off.” he commented.

“Can we come in, Gulf.” the singer asked.

“Fine.” he turned around and shuffled back into his room. He was about halfway in when he realized his friends hadn’t stepped in. “Guys? Didn’t you say you want to come in?” he asked, turning towards the door.

“Have you looked into the mirror, Gulf?” Mild asked, looking hesitant.

“I don’t think he has.” Run remarked.

“No? I know I look terrible. I’m not feeling so well.” he said.

“No, Gulf. We are not referring to that even though yes, you do look terrible. But-” Kaownah faltered.

Run started pointing at the back of his neck and the rest followed along. He blinked. There were now three grown men pointing at their necks standing in front of his door.

“Alai na, what are you guys doing? Can you come in first? I don’t want the neighbours to start asking questions.” he said impatiently.

Mild rolled his eyes and stepped in and the rest did as well. His best friend grabbed his arm and pulled him into the bathroom, stopping in front of the mirror. The rest of them also came in as well. He was now staring at his own reflection plus the reflections of three of his friends. 

Queen?

Mild pulled his pajamas collar down and bent his head to the side, pointing to a bruised spot on the side of his neck.

He stared at the spot and blinked. 

It could only be one thing.

A hickey. 

“SHIA!!!” he yelled into the mirror.

“Man, your boyfriend really did a number on you yesterday, didn’t he?” Run said and started laughing.

He leaned closer to the mirror trying to get a better look. The spot was a nasty colour of red and purple and it was huge. Very huge. How did he not notice that before? Mew sucked really hard at his neck yesterday but he didn’t think the man would leave a spot this big!

“P’MEW!!!!” he wailed into the mirror. 

Sounds of laughter started to fill the bathroom. His friends were bent over and howling. He could see their expressions in the mirror. Mild was close to tears already, Run was wheezing and Kaownah was plastered against his shower stall.

“Stop laughing guys and tell me how to get rid of it!” he yelled at them.

His friends just kept on laughing and he slumped onto the sink. How was he going to go for his exams looking like this? 

“Gulf, there’s no way of getting rid of it except to wait. Boat once gave me a hickey that lasted a week!” Mild managed.

A week. Gulf didn’t think he could survive even a day outside with that big of a hickey on his neck. Was there a cure for acute embarrassment because he would definitely need one. He stormed out of the bathroom and sat on his bed. His day just got even worse. First he woke up with a terrible headache and a stuffy nose. Then, he couldn’t stop thinking about the night before and almost worked his mind into a knot again. Now his friends were laughing their asses off in the bathroom at his hickey! The only solace he had was his earlier conversation with his sister. He was missing the man before, because he didn’t pick up his call but now he wasn’t anymore. Gulf was going to stay as far away from him as possible, at least until the hickey disappeared.

“Are you guys done laughing?” he called out.

His friends came out after a few seconds, each taking a seat around him. They were still trying to contain their giggles and snorts. Gulf glared at each of them.

“You told us nothing happened yesterday night, Gulf.” Mild said, still smiling.

“‘We only talked.’ That’s what you said.” Run added on.

“Not good to lie, Gulf.” Kaownah reminded him.

He rolled his eyes. “Fine, we kissed. Are you happy now?”

“Oh we knew. We just didn’t say anything because your boyfriend was hanging around you like some bodyguard.” Run said.

“Alai.. how?” he asked.

“Did you see your lips yesterday, Gulf?” Mild said while puckering his lips.

“No?”

“You looked like that pokemon!! What’s the name, Run?”

“Jinx.” Kaownah replied.

Gulf buried his face into his hands. He didn’t know his swollen lips were that obvious. He knew they were red but the light in the bar was so dim, how did his friends notice?

“It’s okay, Gulf. There’s nothing wrong with kissing your boyfriend. It’s perfectly normal.” Mild reassured him.

“He’s not my boy-” he sneezed.

“Aiee, Gulf are you sick?” his best friend asked, leaning forward to place his hand on his forehead.

He slapped the hand away. “Yes, so if you guys don’t want to catch anything you can leave.” he said.

“You are not getting rid of us so easily, Gulf.” Run smiled.

“Then what do you guys want, I’m really not feeling well.” he said.

The three men sighed. 

“You look miserable, Gulf.” Mild commented.

“And sulky.” Run said.

“Do you miss, P’Mew?” Kaownah asked.

“No! I was a little before but now I’m not, not after seeing what he did to my neck.” he crossed his arms and looked away.

“We just wanted to drop by to check in on you. You were looked so pale yesterday.” his best friend said.

He rolled his eyes. “You guys just want to be nosy about me and P’Mew.” he said.

Mild looked at him, unamused as always.

“Yes.” the blond man grinned at him, shameless as always.

“So P’Mew isn’t your faen yet?” Kaownah asked.

“No. We haven’t talked about it.” he said.

“Oh…” the singer trailed off, looking down.

“You can just ask him then.” Mild stated.

“Unless you are waiting for him to ask.” The blond hair man leaned forward, raising his eyebrow at him.

Gulf fell back onto his bed. Did he really want the man to ask? Would it even make a difference? He didn’t think he would mind either way. They already made their feelings known to each other, that was enough for him but maybe for Mew it wasn’t enough. Maybe the man needed more security to feel safe, then perhaps he wouldn’t be so afraid anymore. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do, asking Mew to be his faen and he knew the man would never say no, judging from the state of his neck.

It was decided then. He was going to ask Mew to be his faen after midterms. 

“Okay.” he said, sitting up.

His friends didn’t reply to him but were mumbling to each other and staring into Kaownah’s phone. 

“Guys?” he asked.

His friends immediately stopped what they were doing and looked at him, each smiling oddly. 

“Alai…” he said.

“Gulf, it was nice checking in with you again, I have to head back to study. Take care of yourself. Please see a doctor if you need to.” Mild said as he was getting up.

“Me too. I have to study for finals. Take care Gulf.” Run said while getting up too.

“I’m heading out to meet Turbo. See you around, Gulf.” the singer was already standing.

Gulf stared after the three men as they made their way out of the room, closing the door behind them.

“Bye?” he called out into the empty doorway.

That was really odd. His friends never voluntarily left his dorm room, it was their favorite place to hangout on a Sunday morning. He rubbed his temples, his head had gotten even heavier. Perhaps a long hot shower would help and also clear his nose as well. He hadn’t brushed his teeth or washed his face, so a trip to the bathroom was overdue. Getting up from the bed, he shuffled into the bathroom and started washing up. 

A knock came from the door when he just stepped out of the shower. His friends had to be back or something. They would have to wait for him to finish up first.

Another louder knock sounded and there was some muffled shouting as well. Gulf quickly wore his boxes and stepped out of the bathroom. He didn’t want his neighbours to complain. They already did when the guys came over and made too much noise the last time. 

“Wait! Can’t you guys wait?! What do you want!” 

He opened the door. 

Standing in front of him weren't his friends. It was Mew and he was staring at him with eyes wide, his jaw slacked.

The man gulped. “Nong?” he called out.

He blinked once at the man.

Then twice.

“SHIAAAA!!!!”

Chapter Text

“SHIAAAA!!!!”


He sneezed.

And then he sneezed again.

“Nong!” the man called out.

Gulf looked up at the man, trying to catch his breath before he started shivering from the cold draft that was blowing in his corridor.

“P’Mew-” he said before sneezing again.

“Get inside!” The man pushed him back into his room and closed the door behind him. 

Mew dragged him inside the warm bathroom and took the towel from the sink to wrap around him. He also grabbed another towel from the door and draped it over his head. The man dried him thoroughly as he trembled, ruffling his hair and wiping his body. 

“Nong, are you feeling better?” the man asked, still holding him by his arms.

He pulled the towel tighter around himself and nodded his head.

Mew gripped his arms tighter. “Nong, what were you thinking? Opening the door wearing so little!”

“You kept knocking on the door.” he said, shrugging.

“Oh.” the man blinked, loosening his hands. “I thought you were sick! Kaownah texted me saying it was an emergency.”

“Alai…” he let out a sigh. So that was why his friends left in such a hurry and no wonder the man kept knocking on his door. 

“P’Mew, I’m fine, just feeling a little under the weather. My friends were probably just messing with you, that’s all.” 

One day. One day he will get them for this. 

The man leaned in closer. “Nong, even though they may not have been serious, you don’t look so well. Are you sure you are okay?” 

Gulf suddenly felt very warm. The man was standing way too close to him and he was only in his boxers!

“I’m really okay.” he said while pulling the towel tighter around him.  

The man didn’t look like he believed him. “You seemed really flushed, are you down with a fever?” he asked, placing a hand on his forehead.

He was flushed, but not from fever, it was from the sheer embarrassment he was experiencing now standing half naked in front of the man. 

“P’Mew, can we do this after I’ve put on some clothes?” he asked.

Mew pulled back his hand immediately and stepped away, as if he only just noticed the state of undress of the person standing in front of him. “Oh- Okay.” he said and scurried out of the bathroom.

He let out the breath he was holding and made quick work of wearing his clothes. When done, he walked up to the mirror, and that was when he spotted the patch of colour on his neck. 

The hickey.

He had forgotten about it when Mew appeared. The bruise still sat angry on the side of his neck, red and purple. There was no way the man didn’t notice it when he was drying him just now. Did he pretend not to see it?

“P’Mew.” he said as he stepped out of the bathroom.

“Feeling better, nong?” the man asked. He was sitting cross legged at his study.

He walked over to his bed and sat down. “Yes.” he said before leveling a stern look at the man. “But I would feel even better if my friends didn’t spend almost ten minutes laughing at me just now.”

Mew scrunched his nose. “What do you mean?”

He pointed to the spot on his neck and the man’s eyes widened.

“Nong, about that.” he smiled sheepishly at him. 

“How am I supposed to go for my exams with this on my neck?” he asked.

The man got up and walked towards him, hands up in gesture. “Look-”

He put up his hand. “Stop,” he said.

“Nong?” Mew said, stopping just a metre away from him.

“I’m sick, don’t come near me.”

The man gaped. “Nong, I thought you said you were okay!”

“I am okay, and I am also sick so don’t come anywhere near me or anywhere near any parts of my body.” He glared at the man.

“Nong…” Mew tried to move closer again. “I’m sorry.”

He gestured with his hand to stop him. “Stay where you are or I’ll throw you out of the room.”

“Nong…” the man pleaded. “What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Can you make the spot disappear?” he asked.

“Erm.” The man pursed his lips.

“I thought so.”

“I’ll let you give me one too.” the man offered, smiling slightly.

He shot him another dirty look. The nerve. “Nope. No thank you.” he said and turned to look away.

He felt some movement from the side and the next thing he knew, he was lying flat on the bed and Mew was holding him by his waist, his head pressed onto his chest.

“P’Mew get off me!!” he yelled at the man, trying to push him off.

The man’s grip on him tightened. “No! Not until you forgive me.”

“P’Mew…” he tried pushing at the shoulders again but the man’s hold was too strong.

“I’m sorry, Nong. I got carried away.”

Gulf looked down at the figure hugging him, it's weight pressed heavily on him and it made it hard for him to breathe. 

“P’Mew… Get up, I can’t breathe...” he called out.

The man got up instantly, his expression panicked. “Are you okay!? I didn’t hurt you again, didn't I?”

“N-no. I’m okay.” He was taken aback by Mew’s reaction.

The man seemingly sagged in relief the moment he heard him and Gulf saw an opportunity he couldn’t resist taking.

He tackled the man.

“Nong!?” Mew cried out in surprise.

He pinned the muscled body underneath him by sitting on it’s stomach and leaned forward, bringing his lips to the exposed curve of the man’s neck.

“Nong!” 

Hands came up to grip the sides of his waist.

He sucked gently at the spot before licking it lightly, tasting the saltiness on the skin mixed with the faint smell of vanilla. Gulf didn’t know kissing someone on the neck could be this intoxicating. It felt like his senses were on fire. A moan sounded from the man as he continued licking and he felt the arms wrapped around his waist. It looked like he was doing something right and he latched onto the spot again, sucking as hard as he could.

“Nong!” the man groaned as he tightened his hold on him, pressing him hard against his body. 

Gulf sucked till his jaw was tired and lifted his head up to look at the spot. It was red and huge, maybe even bigger than his own. He leaned down again and placed a soft kiss on it before sitting back up to admire his work. The man’s eyes were still close and he was breathing heavily. 

He reached out to rub the spot on the neck, staring at it as it became redder under his thumb. A hand came up to grasp his arm and he realized the man’s heavy-lidded eyes were on him. Gulf felt himself being drawn into the gaze as the man got up and flipped him back onto the bed. 

His hands reached out to grab the broad shoulders. “P’Mew.” he said, looking up at the man. 

Mew’s intense eyes were still trained on him and he slowly leaned in.

“I’m sick. You can’t-”

“Are you still angry?” the man whispered, his nose barely touching his.

He shook his head.

“Good, because I was planning to kiss you if you were still angry.” 

“I told you I’m-” 

Mew leaned in and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

“-sick.” he said. 

“I don’t care.” 

He gave the man a look before pushing him off. This time the man let him and he sat up. 

Mew laid on his side, staring at him intently and reached out to hold his hand, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles. “I’m sorry, nong.” he said after some time.

“It’s okay, we are even now.” 

The man sat up, still holding onto his hand and placed a kiss on it. “I didn’t mean that.”

“Then what-” he felt himself being pulled into an embrace.

“I’m sorry for last night, nong.” Mew said in a quiet voice.

“Last night-”

“I shouldn’t have said those words to you. I shouldn’t have made you promise those things. It was selfish of me and unfair to you.” The man’s voice cracked. “It doesn’t matter when or whether you tell them, nong. It’s not up to me to decide.” 

He slowly let the words sink in, pulling away from the man and asked, “Why are you saying this all of a sudden?” The man's sudden declaration was baffling.

“Because I care for you and I don’t want to hold you back.” the man said, before smiling. “Also because someone gave me a dressing down this morning.”

“Who-” 

“You don’t have to know.” the man laughed a little. “Just know, I don’t ever want to hurt you like that again.”

He felt chills, but it wasn’t the kind of chills that made him shiver, it was chills that made his heart full. Mew cared for him, cared enough that he was willing to let go of his fears. 

“P’Mew…” he said, cupping Mew’s face. “Thank you. This means a lot to me.” Then he squeezed the cheeks in his hands. “It’s okay, if you hurt me again, I can always get even.” he grinned, glancing at the red spot on the pale neck.

“Nong…” the man gave him a look.

“If P’Mew always apologizes so fast when he thinks he is in the wrong. I am okay with it.” 

Mew narrowed his eyes at him and he suddenly had a bad feeling. “P’Mew?”

The man lunged forward, pinning him under his weight again. “I really want to kiss you now, nong.” he said and leaned in.

He covered his mouth with his hand. “I’m sick!” he exclaimed.

“There are other places I can kiss.” the man said. “For example, here,” he kissed his forehead. “Here,” he kissed his left eye. “Here,” he kissed his right eye. “And then here.” he kissed the tip of his nose.

“P’Mew…” he breathed.

The man peeled the hand covering his mouth away and leaned in. Gulf braced himself, closing his eyes.

A low rumble sounded.

He opened his eyes. Mew was staring surprised at him.

Then, another rumble sounded, louder this time. It was from his stomach. 

“Nong?” the man propped himself on his elbows. “Are you hungry?”

He nodded sheepishly at the man.

The man gave him a look. “Did you eat anything at all today?” he asked.

“I had a cup of milk?” he said. That was all he ate in the morning before he took some painkillers for his headache. 

“Nong! That’s not enough!” the man sat up immediately. 

He let out a sigh of relief and shrugged his shoulders. He rather be chastised than be kissed while he was sick. The man was insatiable.

The man sighed. “I’ll go out and buy some congee for you. Wait here.” he said as he got up.

“P’Mew!” he called after the man.

Mew turned around and gave him a stern look. “You are sick, Nong. How are you going to go for your exams if you don’t eat and recover fast? Have you taken your medication?”

“Yes. I took them in the morning.” he said. 

“Good, I’m heading out now.” the man made a move towards the door. 

“Thank you, P’Mew.” he said. 

“You’re welcome, nong. I’ll be back soon.” 

Gulf watched as the man closed the door before he started sneezing again. He had been trying to hold them back since the man kissed him. His head weighed heavily on his shoulders and he felt really warm. The tumble with Mew on the bed just now must have taken a lot out of him and the thought of it made his face warm again so he pushed it to the back of his mind. Getting up from the bed, he started cleaning his room, clearing away some books from his study and wiping the tables.

He was halfway through reorganizing his notes when Mew came back with the food. The man got him some chicken congee and some rice for himself and they sat down, eating in relative silence. 

“I told my sister.” he said while sipping his congee.

“About what?” Mew asked, eating a spoonful of rice.

“About us.”

The man almost choked. 

“P’Mew!” He quickly stood up and patted the man’s back.

“How-” the man coughed.

“I didn’t want you to worry so I told her.” he said and continued patting the man’s back. “She’s happy for me, in case you’re wondering.” 

“Nong, you didn’t have to.” the man said between coughs.

“But I wanted to. I’m planning to tell my parents too.” he said. “Even though I am a little scared.”

The man stopped coughing. “I’m glad to hear that and it’s okay to be scared, nong." he said, and was quiet for a moment before continuing, “I was scared too when I told my parents.”

He stopped patting the man’s back and sat back down in his chair. “Are your parents- Do they?”

“They are fine with it.” The man smiled.

“Oh.” he said. “Then why-?” 

The smile dropped and the man got up to clear his plate. “Nong, eat up. You are sick, remember?”

“But-”

“I’ll be back, nong. I have to throw this.” 

"P'Mew, I-" He stood up.

The man picked up the rubbish from the table and turned towards the door, not saying a word.

"P-" His heart sank. 

He stared after the rigid figure. Mew never turned back a single time as he walked out. 

“I wished you could tell me why.” 

He whispered into the empty room.

Chapter Text

“P’Mew, can I ask you a question.”

More questions. 

He hoped Gulf wasn’t planning on continuing their conversation from earlier. It was hard enough to avoid it the first time already. He wouldn’t know what to do if the younger man asked a second time. 

Looking up from the research notes he was reading, he glanced over at the figure resting on the bed. It was mid afternoon and the younger man had just woken up from his nap. Surprisingly, the first thing he thought to do was not to get up for a drink, or head to the loo, or just simply look at his phone, but to ask him a question.

Mew thought that the younger man’s obsession with digging into his psyche only lasted for one night but it seemed like he was wrong. Gulf was obsessed, period. He had entertained all of his queries yesterday because he felt guilty for his outburst. However, since there wasn’t an issue now, and he didn’t want to answer any difficult questions, it was time to turn the tables around. 

“No.” he replied, turning back to the research notes. 

“P’Mew…” the younger man begged.

“What do I get in return for answering your question, nong?” he asked.

“You can’t kiss me! I’m sick, remember!?” 

“There are other things, nong. I don’t just want a kiss.” he said. 

In fact, he wanted many other things, especially things that were not appropriate for discussion during the day. 

“Fine. Then I won’t ask my question then.” 

Mew looked up at the younger man, who was now sulking on the bed. He looked a little flushed, as if he was blushing. 

Intriguing.

“Okay, nong. Ask your question.” he said.

“I thought you wanted something in return.” The younger man crossed his arms. 

Sulking Gulf was cute.

“It’s okay, I’ll let you pass this time since I kissed you just now.” He smiled at the man.

Gulf rolled his eyes at him before asking, “How do two people become faens, P’Mew?”

He was not at all expecting such a question, but it was an interesting one. He never really thought about it. To him, when two people who liked each other came together, they automatically became faens. It was that simple.

“When two people like each other, they become faens.” he replied.

“So, are we faens now?” the younger man asked.

So that was what he meant. Time to have fun.

“I don’t know.” he replied.

Gulf uncrossed his arms and sat up straight. “But you said when two people like each other, they become faens!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah.” 

“So you like me and I like you, doesn’t that make us faens!?” 

“Hmm.” he tapped his finger on his chin, looking away.

“P’Mew always cheats.” The man was sulking again. “And here I was thinking maybe I should ask you to be my faen.”

He stopped whatever he was doing, and looked at the younger man. Then he cursed himself silently.

“Nong.” he said, getting up from the chair. “I was just joking. Were you serious when you said you wanted to ask me to be your faen?”

Gulf pouted and looked away, still looking flushed. Odd. 

“Sorry, nong.” he made his way to the side of the bed and sat down. He tried reaching for the younger man but his hand got slapped away. 

He tried leaning closer to the younger man and found himself stuck. There was a foot pressed against his chest, preventing him from moving closer.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you are trying to do, P’Mew. I fell for it once, I won’t fall for it twice.”

Mew looked down at the foot, then at the person in front of him and smiled. An idea just came to him. The younger man’s face immediately changed when he saw him smile and tried to remove his foot from his chest.

Too late.

He grabbed the foot by the ankle and yanked. The younger man yelped and his arms flailed as he was pulled away from the pillows he was leaning on. Shifting forward, he pinned the younger man underneath him with his body. 

“P’Mew! Get off me!” Gulf yelled, trying to push him off.

“No. Not until you ask me to be your faen.” he said.

“You will catch a cold from me!” 

“Too late to worry about that, I already kissed you.” he said. 

“P’Mew…” 

He bent his head down to kiss the red tipped ear and then pressed another kiss on the hickey he made last night. The spot was warm.

Too warm.

Lifting his head up immediately, he looked at the younger man’s face again. He was still flushed and he felt for his head and neck. The skin was abnormally warm.

“Nong!? Are you having a fever?” he asked. 

The younger man was silent for a moment before answering, “I don’t know but I do have a headache and I think I saw stars when you pulled me.” 

Gulf saw stars when he was pulled and he didn’t think it was important enough to tell him. The younger man really needed to get his priorities right. He should have known better as well, no one blushed for that long and the younger man had looked flushed ever since he woke up.

“Nong, do you have a thermometer?” he asked.

“Yeah in the cabinet above the sink in the bathroom. Why?” 

“We need to take your temperature!” he said while getting off the bed.

“Wait P’Mew!” Gulf called out.

He ignored the younger man and made his way to the bathroom, retrieving the thermometer from the cabinet. 

“Say ‘Ah’, nong.” he asked.

Gulf opened his mouth and he placed the small instrument under his tongue. They waited for it to sound and it beeped, twice. He knew it, the younger man had a fever. Taking the thermometer out of the younger man’s mouth, his eyes almost fell out when he saw the reading.

“Shia! Nong, your temperature is 38.6 celsius! How did you not realize that? Don’t you feel uncomfortable?!” he exclaimed.

“I don’t know, P’Mew. I feel okay.” Gulf said.

“Are you sure?” he asked. He didn’t know anyone who could function normally with that high of a fever.

The younger man gave him a look and pivoted himself onto the edge of the bed, standing up in one swift movement.  “See! I’m okay!” he said, posing before he started swaying.

“Nong!” He got up instantly to catch the younger man.

“P’Mew, now I don’t feel so good.”

He lowered the heavy body in his arms onto the bed. “Nong, you shouldn’t have done that. You are running a fever!” 

Gulf laid on the bed, his face still flushed, “P’Mew…”

“Wait here, I think I saw some medications in the cabinet.”

He made his way into the bathroom, opening the cabinet to search for the painkillers and finding a worned looking package of pills. He studied the box of paracetamol and his eyes almost fell out again. The expiration date was months ago. Gulf had been taking expired medication for months!

“Shia!” He cursed out loud. 

“P’Mew? Is something wrong?” The younger man called from outside. 

“Don’t get up! I’m coming out!” he shouted. 

Mew could feel himself developing a headache as well. He didn’t think his nong would be this careless and he also didn’t know how he managed to survive this long eating expired medication. 

“Nong! Do you know your medication is expired!” he said as he got out of the bathroom. 

“Erm, no?” The younger man replied. He was now lying on some pillows and looking at his phone. 

“No?!” Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. 

“P’Mew. It’s okay. I’m still alive and kicking.” the younger man smiled, kicking his foot slightly. 

“You can’t even stand up, nong.” he said.

“I-” 

He let out a sigh. “Nong, since your medication is expired, I’ll have to head down to the pharmacy to get new ones for you. Meanwhile, please stay where you are and rest.” he said as he grabbed the key card on the table.

“P’Mew, you don’t really-“ 

He leveled a stern look at the younger man. 

“Okay. Thank you, P’Mew.” 

There was fortunately a pharmacy opened nearby and it was within walking distance so he didn’t have to drive. Entering the store, he headed straight for the dispensing counter and got the cold medication plus other generic ones since he wasn’t sure if everything in that cabinet was fit for human consumption. The pharmacist gave him an odd look when he took everything that was recommended and gave him an even odder look when he requested medication with the longest expiration period. Mew smiled back at her, mouthing a thanks, before heading to the cashier to pay. 

“P’Mew?” a voice called out just as he was about to leave.

It couldn’t be.


He turned around slowly to face the owner of the voice. 

“Art.” he uttered.

The young man stared at him with eyes wide. 

He wanted to run, to get away from the figure standing in front of him, but his feet stayed rooted to the ground.

He couldn’t run. 

He shouldn’t run. 

His past was catching up to him and if he kept running, there would be no end so he might as well face it head on. Straightening his back, he took a step forward. 

Art seemed to snap out of his shock when he saw him moving closer. “P’Mew, are you here to buy something?” he asked.

“Yes.” 

The young man bit his lips, and didn’t say anything else. 

“I have to go, I’m in a rush.” he said and turned around. He needed to get back to Gulf. 

“P’Mew! Wait!”  

“What is it?” he said without turning around.

“I-”

He took a step forward.

“I’m sorry, P’Mew.” 

“Okay.” he said.

“N’Art!” another voice called from somewhere in the store.

He heard some movement from the back and felt a hand press into his own.

“What-“ he turned around.

“P’Mew, I wrote my number on the paper. Give me a call okay? I want to talk.” The young man said and ran back into the line of shelves.

Mew let out the breath he was holding, almost collapsing onto the floor but he held himself against the wall. He looked down at the note in his hand. Why did the Art want to speak to him? There was nothing left for them to say to each other and he did not wish to hear anything from the young man. Stuffing the piece of paper into his pockets, he quickly made his way out of the pharmacy. He had to concentrate on getting back to Gulf and not anything else. 

By the time he got back to the room, more than half an hour had passed and the younger man’s fever had spiked even further. Mew quickly fed him the medication he bought. Although delirious when he woke up, the younger man managed to swallow all the pills he stuck inside his mouth, much to his relief. Then, preparing a cold towel, he placed it on the younger man’s forehead and pulled the study chair to his side so he could watch over him. 

While he was changing the basin of water for the cold towel, he remembered the note in his pockets. Taking it out, he contemplated throwing it into the bin but decided against it. Even though he didn’t want to speak to Art, he had a strange gut feeling that he might need it in the future, so he stuffed it into his wallet instead. 

It was another two hours before Gulf woke up again. By then, his fever had reduced significantly, the flush on his face dissipated and he sat propped against the pillows on the headboard, looking tired and miserable. Mew could understand why, fevers were uncomfortable and the younger man probably didn’t want to succumb to it, but he did, so now he was sulking. 

“I’m sorry for making you worry, P’Mew.” the younger man.

“It’s okay, nong. I’m glad I was here to take care of you.” he said. 

“But still, I made you worry.”

“Then next time tell me when you are unwell.” 

“Okay.” the younger man said, eyes looking around before saying, “P’Mew, I still have a question.” 

He shook his head. The younger man was sick and he still wanted to ask him a question. 

“You need rest, nong.” he said.

“I rested enough already.” 

He sighed. “Alright, what's your question?” 

“Will P’Mew promise to answer?” 

Mew had a feeling he knew what was coming and he prepared himself for the worst. If the younger man asked about last night again, he would have to think of some way to answer his question without revealing too much, but first, he had to set some ground rules.

“P’Mew?” 

“Yes. I promise, but I must be able to choose how much I want to tell you.”

The younger man cocked his head at him before saying, “Okay.”

“Alright, ask your question then.” he said and held his breath.

“Do you want to be my faen?”

He snorted, “Was that all you wanted to ask?!” 

Gulf blinked at him, mouth slightly agape, before looking away dejectedly and shifting towards the other side of the bed.

“Nong.” he called out. 

The younger man didn’t respond and he cursed himself again. Getting up from the chair, he climbed onto the bed, kicking his shoes off and sat beside Gulf. The younger man scooted further away from him, almost nearing the edge of the bed. He reached out to wrap his arms around the slim waist but got pushed away. 

“Nong.” He said, placing his hand over the younger man’s instead.

“Let go.” The younger man tried to pull his hand away but he held on.

“Of course I want to be your faen, nong.”

“You never take my questions seriously.”

“I am now-”

“Then you don’t share anything.”

“Nong-”

“I understand if you don’t want to share but at least don’t mock me when I’m trying to be serious.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, I’m tired so I’ll rest now. I need to do my revisions later.”

He looked at the figure hovering over the edge of the bed, feeling like he really screwed up this time. 

“I meant it when I said I wanted to be your faen. I’ve been wanting to for the longest time.” He squeezed the hand in his. 

There was no response. 

He let go of the hand, scooting closer and laid his head down on the younger man’s lap.

“P’Mew! What are you doing!”

He looked up at the heart-shaped face and those bright, round eyes before taking a deep breath. “I can’t tell you everything now because I’m still trying my best to move on. It wasn’t my parents that disapproved, it was someone els-“ His voice cracked. “It was someone close to me. Someone who broke my heart, nong. Shattered it to pieces and I’m still trying to find-” 

A hand covered his mouth.

“You don’t have to say anymore, P’Mew. I won’t force you to say anything.” 

He pressed a kiss into the palm and felt Gulf shudder. Turning his body, he sat up and pressed his lips deeply onto the younger man’s, feeling his breath hitched under him.

“Do you want to be my faen?” he asked, pulling away.

“Yes.” 

He leaned in again but a hand stopped him. “I really don’t want you to fall sick, P’Mew.”

“I already said it’s too late.” he said and lunged for the younger man.

“P-”

He tasted those sweet and warm lips again, feeling the younger man shudder every time he pulled at his lower lip gently or when he brushed his tongue over it. Gulf went completely pliant under him, lost in the sensations he was laying on him and let out soft whimpers from his throat. 

When they pulled apart, the flush was back on the younger man’s face and his lips were swollen again, just like last night. 

“You are definitely going to fall sick now.” Gulf said.

“Is Tua Aeng going to take care of me when I’m sick?” he asked cheekily.

The younger man blinked, “What did you just call me?”

“Tua Aeng.” he smiled. 

Silence.

“Do you not want me to call you that?” he asked.

“No!” the younger man exclaimed. “I- I like it.” 

“Are you still upset?”

“No.” 

“Good, because I was worried, since we won’t get to see each other again until Friday. I wouldn’t want you to sulk for so long.” 

Gulf glared at him.

He laughed. “Alright, you need rest and I have to go soon. The first paper I have to invigilate is at nine tomorrow morning and I have to prepare.” he said as he got up from the bed.

“Okay. Can you stay until I fall asleep?” 

“I was already planning to.” He smiled, sitting back down on the chair beside the bed. 

The younger man smiled back and closed his eyes, his breathing evened out in a matter of minutes. Mew reached out with his hand again like he always did.

“Rest well, Tua Aeng.”

Chapter Text

“Gulf.”

Tua Aeng. Mew had called him Tua Aeng. His darling. His babe.

“Gulf…”

He wondered if the man would call him that again later or maybe he would feed him a piece of brownie just like before, or lay a jacket on him when he was cold.

“GULF KANAWUT TRAIPI-”

“WHAT!” he yelled. “Can’t you see I’m busy!?”

Mild shot him a look. “Busy with what? Daydreaming? You were smiling like an idiot.”

“No, I wasn’t.”

Run leaned in and whispered, “Yes, you were.” 

He glared at both men. They were catching a break at the cafeteria on campus, having just finished their last paper for midterms, or rather he and Mild did. Run was nosing around as usual. He hadn’t seen his friends the whole week and he knew the reason why they wanted to meet today was because of the prank they pulled on Mew, which he had no intention of divulging any information on.

“Hey guys.” Boat appeared behind Mild.

The tall man sat down at the table and gave Mild a peck on his cheeks as everyone greeted him. He wondered if Mew would do the same when they meet later. 

“Haven’t seen you for awhile, Gulf.” Boat said.

“Yeah, it’s been awhile.” he said.

The tall man smiled. “How are you?” he asked.

“Good.” 

“Hope you and P’Mew are doing well.” 

“Everything is well. Thanks for asking, Boat.”

“They are more than well. This besotted fool was smiling like an idiot just now.” Mild interjected.

“Shut up.” he said.

“Did you and P’Mew do anything on Sunday?” a voice came from beside his ear.

“SHIA!” he jumped.

A smiling Kaownah had magically appeared, again. He looked back at all his friend’s expectant faces, then at the drinks in front of them and thought of something.

Something ingenious.

“P’Mew!” he pointed to a random direction.

The moment his friends turned their heads in that direction, he dumped the salt and sugar on the table into all their drinks.

“Where?” Mild asked.

“There! Behind the trees!” he said as he stirred the drinks on the table.

“I don’t see him!” Kaownah said.

“You need to look harder!” 

He finished stirring all the drinks and sat back down. “Sorry, I think my eyes were playing tricks on me.” he said.

Kaownah gripped his shoulder. “Gulf! Are you so in love that you are imagining P’Mew!?”.

“I am NOT in love!” he said. 

“He is.” Run said.

“What were you doing just now hovering around the table?” Mild looked at him suspiciously.

He immediately started swatting at the drinks. “There were flies.” he said.

“Oh.”

“Anyway, everyone. I’m glad midterms are over so cheers!” he brought up his drink.

His unsuspecting friends followed along, knocking their cups together in merry and he watched in glee as every single one of them took a swig of their drinks.

Anytime now.

“SHIIAAAAA!!!!”

“WHY IS THIS SO SALTY AND SWEET!”

“MY TONGUE!! BLEAGH!”

“Did the store make a mistake?”
 
He burst out laughing, almost falling off the chair he was sitting on. The look on his friends’ faces were priceless as they spat and coughed his concoction out of their mouths. Gulf never knew revenge would be so sweet, or salty, and it tickled him to no end watching his friends falling for such a simple trick. What a great end to his midterms. 

“Gulf Kanawut Traipipattanapong.” Mild said, his face red from coughing. “Did you do this?”

“Yes.” he said, still sniggering.

“WHY!” 

“Because you guys played a prank on P’Mew.” he said.

“Gulf, I wasn’t there.” Boat coughed.

He should feel guilty since the man wasn’t at his place on Sunday but he wasn’t. “Sorry, Boat. Since you are an extension of Mild. Well…” 

Mild’s face became redder and he looked like he was ready to explode, meanwhile Run and Kaownah were still downing water rapidly.

“Okay, guys. I gotta go meet P’Mew. See ya.” He stood up and made a run for it.

“GULF COME BACK!!! I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS!” Mild called out from behind him. 

Laughing maniacally as he sprinted across the field and not caring for the odd looks he received from passersby, he circled around the campus building, only stopping when he reached the entrance. There, he took the usual turn at the junction and made his way to the cafe. It was time to meet his faen.

As he crossed the sidewalk, a crack of thunder sounded from the sky above him and the wind picked up out of nowhere. There was a storm brewing and he put more effort into his steps, taking bigger strides. He couldn’t afford to get caught in the rain again, falling sick was not fun, even if there was someone to take care of him, or kiss him better.

The heavy shower came suddenly and he ran towards the familiar row of shophouses, stopping behind a pillar to search his bag. He’d forgotten his umbrella again, as if it was becoming a habit of him. Fishing out his phone from his pockets, he checked the screen and let out a sigh of relief, it wasn’t dead this time. There was help he could call on. He dialed Mew’s number.

“P’Mew!” he called out over the phone.

“Yes Tua Aeng.” Mew answer. Tua-Aeng.

He smiled into the phone. “P’Mew, I’m stuck across the street from the cafe again.”

“Oh really? You forgot your umbrella again?” the man asked. His voice sounded unexpectedly loud and clear.

“Yes. Can you come fetch me?”

“Sure, look behind you.”

He snapped his head around. Mew was standing behind him, holding the red umbrella with the worn handle and smiling at him. His heart soared.

“P’Mew!” He leaped onto the man, wrapping his arms around his neck.

Mew caught him just in time, locking his arms underneath him. “Nong! Be careful!” 

“Why are you here?” he asked, still hanging on to the man.

“Waiting for you.” 

“Oh. How did you know I would be here?”

“I just arrived, nong. My car is just parked in front of you.”

He glanced over the man’s shoulders and sure enough, the blue sedan was parked at the side of the road.

“Nong, you okay? Did you get caught in the rain again?” the man asked.

“No, I’m okay.” he replied.

“Alright, shall we go?”

“Yes, let’s go.”

“Nong, you need to let go of me.”

“Oh.” He loosened his arms immediately and stood up. “Sorry.” he smiled sheepishly at the man.

“Does nong like me to carry him so much?” 

He felt his ears heating up. “P’Mew...” 

Mew smiled at him, rubbing his ears before giving him a peck on his cheeks. He then walked towards the edge of the shophouse and opened the umbrella. “Let’s go, Tua Aeng.” he said, holding his hand out.

He took a few steps forward, taking the man’s hand and they both stepped into the open together. 

In an instant, the sights, sounds, and smells around him faded into the background and everything seemed to slow down. All he could make out was the intoxicating cologne the man wore, and the steady beating of his own heart as he watched in rapture the man looked left and right down the road before pulling him along. Step by step, breath by breath, and side by side, they crossed the street under the thundering rain, his eyes never once leaving the man’s face. 

It felt like a dream.

Surreal

“Nong?” 

Mew was closing that familiar looking umbrella.

“Tua-Aeng!” 

He snapped out of his trance. “P- P’Mew…” 

“Are you okay? You didn’t catch a cold again, didn’t you?” the man asked.

He shook his head. “No! I’m fine.”

“Alright, let’s head in.” 

They made their way into the cafe and towards their favorite table. Settling in, he watched as Mew dug into his bag and took out a jacket. 

“It’s okay, P’Mew. I’m not cold.” he said.

The man stared at him before bursting out in laughter. “Nong, it’s for me. I’m cold.” 

“Oh.” He could feel his face heating up. That was really embarrassing. “Why are you cold?”

“I’m still recovering.” the man smiled at him.

He leaned closer to the man. “Are you sick?” he asked.

“Yes, nong. I was bound to catch something since I kissed you so many times.” 

He reached out to check the man’s face and felt for his neck before spotting the enormous bruise on the side. It was the hickey he made on Sunday. His own was a faint yellow now but the man’s was still slightly red and purple. He guessed he went a little too overboard.

“Sorry, P’Mew.” he said. 

“It’s okay, nong. I was the one that wanted to kiss you.”

“No, I mean the-” he pointed to the side of his neck.

“Oh.” the man blinked. “It’s okay, nong.” he smiled.

“I still feel a little bad.” 

The man leaned in as well, smirking, “Well, you could always let me-”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?” he interrupted.

“It wasn’t serious, nong.”

“But-”

“It was just a cold and I didn’t develop any fever. Furthermore, I took non-expired medication so I recovered within two days, unlike someone I know.” 

He glared at the man. 

“Ah. I see you both are finally together.” 

He turned towards the voice. It was Khun Fon. She was sitting in a wheelchair, her foot in a white cast and smiling at them.

“Khun Fon!” he stood up excitedly.

“Hello N’Gulf. How are you?”

“I’m good! How are you feeling? Are you back?” he asked.

“I’m fine and I’m just here for a visit.” the older lady said, before turning to Mew who was silent, “So you finally picked up the courage to talk to him?” she asked.

Mew looked surprised. “Khun Phi, how did you-”

“I saw you watching him for months, young man.” 

“Oh.” Mew said, before breaking into a smile. “I didn’t really talk to him. I sat in his seat, Khun Phi. He was so angry with me, but I was glad it got his attention.” the man said, before turning to him, “Finally.”

He glared at him again.

“See! That was the look he gave me when he saw me in his spot!” 

The older lady let out a small laugh. “N’Gulf, don’t be angry at him. He did wait for months.”

He shot the man another dirty look before sitting down.

“Thank you, Khun Phi. By the way, I haven’t told you this before but I really like this place.” Mew said.

“Call me Fon. And thank you. I’m glad you like it here.” the older lady said and smiled, “N’Mew.” 

Mew blinked a few times before answering, “Alright Khun... Fon.” 

“Khun Fon. Please get well soon so you can come back.” he added.

“I will, I have a really good friend who visits me very often. I have to thank her for keeping me entertained.” Fon said with a glint in her eyes. 

“That’s great.”

“Alright boys, I’m heading off to rest. Someone will come take your orders soon.” the older lady started to turn her wheelchair around. 

“See you Khun Fon.” “See you.”

Fon paused and then turned back, smiling gently “I’m glad you two finally found each other after so long.” 

“She’s really happy we found each other huh.” he remarked as he watched the older lady wheel herself away.

“Yeah.” Mew smiled. “But how did she know my name?”

He shrugged. Fon had her ways, she was mysterious like that.

They placed their orders after Fon left and while they waited, he recounted the hilarious prank he played on his friends earlier. Mew listened in quiet amusement and expressed disappointment in not having been there to witness everything. He offered to pull the prank off again when the man was around but was told not to since his friends wouldn’t fall for it again. Agreeing with the man, he was about to ask him more when their orders arrived and the steaming plate of spaghetti drew his attention away from the conversation.

“Maybe next time I’ll spike their food,” he said while taking a huge bite of his spaghetti. 

The man gave him an amused look. “How are you going to do that?”

“I’ll cook for them and then maybe add lots of chilli. I love chilli.” he said. Even in his spaghetti.

The man stopped eating his sandwich. “Nong.”

“Yes, P’Mew.”

“When are you going to make me your Krapow. You promise to do so the last time. Did you forget?” the man pouted.

“Oh.” He did remember. “I thought you forgot about it, and you never say when you are free.” 

“I’m free next Sunday.” the man replied.

“Alai na?” Now it was his turn to stop eating. “You mean you will be busy the whole of next week!?” 

The man wrapped his arms around him, rubbing his tummy. “Nong… I have a mountain of papers to mark and that is on top of the research I need to do and other assignments I have to grade. Your nightmare may be over but mine just started.” he said.

“Oh.” he looked at the man’s pouting face. “Does that mean we won’t get to see each other until next Sunday?” he asked, trying to hide his disappointment. The man was still rubbing his tummy and it felt nice, he should do it more often.

The man nodded, “I won’t get to see my Tua-Aeng.” He hugged him even tighter, burying his face into his neck.

“You mean you won’t get to kiss me.” 

“Yes.”

“Hm.”

The man looked up at him. “We can kiss now.”

“You are sick and you’ve already kissed me enough over the weekend.”

“Kisses with you are never enough, Tua-Aeng.” the man gave him a peck on his collarbone.

“Stop! Someone might see us!” 

“We can move to the car.” 

He gave the man a dirty look, pushing him away and went back to his food. “Eat first, talk later. You don’t much time left, P’Mew.” The man had to leave in less than half an hour!

“Okay, Nong.”

They finished eating quickly and left the cafe. By then, the rain had stopped and they walked towards Mew’s car together.

“Tua-Aeng, let me fetch you back.”

He knew what Mew was thinking, if he didn’t think of something else to say, they might really end up in the backseat of the car with the man eating his face out.

“No, I can walk.”

The man opened his mouth, about to say something.

“What is P’Mew’s real name?” he blurted out.

The man looked at him oddly. “Why does Nong want to know?” he asked.

“My sister said I should know the name of the person I am dating.”

“Oh.” the man smiled. “Your sister is right.”

“Okay, so what’s your real name.” he asked again.

“Tell me yours first.”

He narrowed his eyes at the man. “Kanawut Traipipattanapong.”

“Kana…” the man buried his face into this neck again. “That’s such a na rak name, Tua Aeng.”

“Okay! I’ve told you mine. What’s yours?”

“Kiss.”

He should have known better, the man never stopped cheating. Letting out a sigh, he gave the man a peck on his cheek. 

Mew beamed. “So nong, next Sunday at my place?” 

“Why do you keep changing the subject!?”

“Answer that first.”

“Yeah, next Sunday at your place.” he huffed.

The man got into his car and shut the door.

“P’Mew!” he called out. 

The windows rolled down.

“Suppasit Jongcheveevat.”

Chapter Text

Gulf POV

Saturday, 10th October

“Gulf.”

Kaownah had a nice singing voice, but Mew’s was better. He missed the man’s singing and wondered when he would hear it again. Maybe he could suggest the man to sing to him on Sunday. Next Sunday. A week more he had to wait.

“Gulf!” 

Run should shut up.

He looked at his phone. Mew texted him in the morning and didn’t say much after. The man was busy marking papers.

“Don’t bother him, he’s sulking because he can only see Mew next Sunday.” 

Mild should shut up too.

“Aow! That’s long, I feel for you Gulf.”

“Stop teasing him, guys.” 

Boat should always be allowed to talk.

“Don’t forget what he did yesterday, Boat.”

“It was a good prank.”

“Do you still want me to come over tomorrow?”

“Gulf, you should not have done that.” 

Boat should shut up.



Sunday, 11th October

“Yes. P’Mew dropped by on Sunday.” 

His friends had threatened him with one prank from each of them if he didn’t tell them what happened last Sunday. He relented in the end because if anything happened to him, he knew Mew would never let them off and that would result in world war 3. Gulf did not like wars. 

“So? What happened then?” Mild asked.

“I was very sick and he took care of me.”

“That’s all?” Kaownah commented.

“Yeah.”

Run grinned. “They definitely kissed.”

“Did you and Mew kiss? Weren’t you sick?” Boat joined in. 

“Aow, look at his ears.” 

Run was an idiot. 

His friends asked no more and a war was averted. It was a worthwhile sacrifice. 


Monday, 12th October

“Nong!”

“P’Mew!”

The man hugged him. “I only have 10mins before I have to go. I miss you, nong.”

“You saw me last Friday.”

“I want to see you everyday.”

His heart skipped a beat. “Me too.” 

He liked kissing, especially with Mew. Only with Mew.


Tuesday, 13th October

“P’Gift. I finally ask Mew to be my faen.”

“Oh, that’s great! I’m happy for you, nong.”

“I’m happy too.”

“When are you planning to tell Pho and Mae?”

“Not so soon. I want to ask Mew to be with me.”

“Are you sure!?”

“Yeah.”

“What if he minds?”

“Then I’ll do it myself.”

“Did you ask for his name?”

“Yes, Suppasit Jongcheveevat.”

“WHAT! JONGCHEVEEVAT?”

“Yes. Why P’Gift?”

“I know a Jongcheveevat too. She’s another fellow intern.”

“P’Mew said his sister works in Tokyo too.”

“Okay, nong. Let me go ask her. Let’s talk another day.”

“Bye P’Gift”

“Bye.”

Was there such a thing as coincidence?


Wednesday, 14th October

“P’Mew I miss you.”

“Me too, Tua Aeng. I’m glad to be able to see your face, even though it’s on my phone.”

“Me too.”

“P’Mew, mountain or the beach?”

“Beach. You?”

“Mountain.”

“Then I choose Mountain too.”

“P’Mew! That’s cheating!”

“I like whatever Tua Aeng likes.”

“Then I choose the beach too. I want to go to the beach with P’Mew.”

“Nong…”

“If P’Mew can cheat, why can’t I?”

“Do you want to go to the beach?”

“Yes!”

“Okay, I’ll bring you next time.”

“Thank you, P’Mew. I’ll bring you to the mountain next time.”

“Thank you, Tua Aeng. But which one?”

“All of them.”

“Then I’ll bring you to all the beaches too.”


Thursday, 15th October

“Nong!”

“P’Mew!” He leaped into the man’s arms.

“I have 15mins today.” 

“I miss you, P’Mew.”

“I miss you too, Tua Aeng.”

“Can we kiss?”

“I wasn’t going to wait for you to ask.”

He loved kissing, especially with Mew. Only with Mew.

And he might want more than kissing too.


Friday, 16th October

“Mild, did you think about Boat all the time when you dated him?”

“Yes, Gulf.” 

“So it’s normal.”

“Yes.”

“You will also always want to-” Run was at it again.

“Shut up Run.” Mild should just get a new roommate

“Shut up Mild.” Run too.

“You want a piece of me?!”

“Nah, only Boat wants that.”

“Alai wa! Run you better-”

“Yes. I always want Turbo.” 

Silence.

His friends were idiots.


Saturday, 17th October

“Gulf, Mew knows how to sing this song too, so if you like it, you should get him to sing it to you.”

“I- Okay, Thanks Kaownah.”

“Aiee, look at the smiling man. He’s happy to see his faen tomorrow.”

“Shut up Run.”

“Remember to ask him to use protection, Gulf.”

“I second that. Mild, let’s make up.”

“Sure.”

Back to being best roommates.

“I hate you two.”

“So what are you planning to do at his place tomorrow, Gulf?”

“I’m planning to cook him crispy pork basil krapow.”

“Spiiiccyyyyy”

“Spicccyyyy”

“What about dessert? I heard from Tul, P’Mew likes chocolate.”

“Dessert?”

“He’s the dessert obviously.”

“I second that, Run.”

“I am happy for you, Gulf. However, please remember, to use protection.”

Boat should sometimes not be allowed to speak. 


Mew’s POV

Saturday, 10th October

He missed Gulf. He wanted to rub that soft tummy again. It was so soft he could lay his head on it as a pillow.


Sunday, 11th October

“I miss him, Tul.”

“You just saw him on Friday!”

“That’s two days ago.”

“Yeah! Two days ONLY.”

“Two days too long.”

“...”


Monday, 12th October

“I’m going to meet Gulf.”

“Alai na!? Where!?”

“At the park.”

“Your class is in 20mins!”

“I can make it.”

“Alai…”


Tuesday, 13th October

“I miss him, Tul.”

“You saw him yesterday!”

“Only for ten minutes.”

“You can always video call him.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Why!?”

“Kissing my phone is not the same as kissing Gulf.”

“...”


Wednesday, 14th October

“I missed him, Tul”

“Shut up.”

“I will video call him tonight. Kissing him on the screen is better than no kiss.”

“SHIA, SOMEBODY SAVE ME FROM THIS IDIOT!”


Thursday, 15th October

“Why are your lips swollen!? Didn’t you say you were going for a walk?”

"I did, with Gulf.”

“Then why are your lips swollen?”

“We walked while kissing.”

“...”


Friday, 16th October

“Tul, I-”

“Shut up. I don’t want to hear anymore about you missing Gupi.”

“I wasn’t going to say that.”

“Then what.”

“Do I smell like vanilla?”

“How would I know how you smell?”

“Gulf said he likes vanilla and that I smelled of vanilla sometimes.”

“...”

“I think I might be crazy for Gulf.”

“...”

“So, I’m really crazy for Gulf then.”

“Yes, and you are driving me crazy too.”


Saturday, 17th October

Kitchen. Done.

Living. Done.

Balcony. Done.

Bathroom. Done.

Bedroom. Done.

All cleaned. 

He was ready.

He should clean the storeroom too.

Or maybe he should clean the balcony again.

Nothing could go wrong could it?

Chapter Text

“Are you guys sure!? This place looks expensive!” 

His friends had dragged him to a fancy looking store selling chocolates after hearing he was going to get some at the supermarket. 

“Yes. Chocolates from supermarkets do not make appropriate gifts for a faen, Gulf.” Mild said.

“Why!? The chocolates are nice!”

“They may taste nice but they don’t look nice!” his best friend admonished.

Run clapped a hand on his shoulder. “He’s right, Gulf.”

He let out a sigh and looked over at the display. The little nuggets of chocolates were pretty and well crafted, and they came in all kinds of shapes and designs but their prices were exorbitant. Way too above his budget. He didn’t think he could afford to buy many of them. 

“I don’t think I can afford them.” he said dejectedly.

“Gulf, you don’t need to buy a lot, a small box is enough.”

Pouting at his best friend, he said, “But if I bought one from the supermarket, it would be a huge box!” 

He had pictured himself handing a huge hamper size of chocolates to Mew. 

“But it won’t look nice!” the man exclaimed before pointing to a small box on display. “Look at this, Gulf. Please tell me it looks better than the one at the supermarket.”

The small purple box was wrapped with ribbons and had a nice bow on top. It looked cute. 

“Yeah it looks nice.” he admitted.

“That’s settled then, now we just need to choose which flavour of chocolate to buy.” his best friend said.

They made their way into the store and true enough, all he could afford was just the tiny box Mild pointed at before. 

“They say you have to choose four flavours, Gulf.” Mild told him.

He stared at the display. There were more than twenty selections and he didn’t even know which flavours Mew liked. 

“So Gulf, have you decided?” Run came over to ask him.

Still staring, he replied, “No. I don’t know what P’Mew likes.”

“Why not just ask him?” Mild said.

He thought for a second. The gift was supposed to be a surprise. He couldn’t just ask the man outright what flavours of chocolate he liked.

“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore.”

Run snorted. “Why don't we ask the lady at the counter to recommend the flavours then?”

“You know what? That’s a great idea.” Mild said.

He nodded along. 

After speaking to the lady, they ended up with ten selections to choose from and this sparked a bickering session between his two friends.

“Hazelnut, Dark, Almond and Coffee sounds better.” Mild said.

“No! That’s boring. You should go for something special, like Chilli, Ginger, Pineapple and look!” the blond man pointed to a greenish looking ball, “Olive oil basil!”

He suddenly had an image of Mew’s face with the same colour as the truffle Run just pointed to. There was no way he was getting that for the man.

“Alai na, Run. Stop playing around. That’s not even in the selections they recommended.” he scolded the blond man.

“Fine.” Run said, pointing at the display again, “We should take the Rum, Champagne, Amaretto and Baileys.”

“Shut up Run, you are not helping! Only Champagne was recommended!” Mild yelled at the man. “And why all alcoholic ones?!”

“When there’s alcohol in the system, it's easier to get it on.” the blond man winked at him.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. Maybe getting the box of chocolate from the supermarket was a better idea after all.

“Shut up you two.” he scolded. “I’ll do the choosing.”

He knew Mew liked coffee so that was one down. Dark sounded safe and the lady said that was one of the most popular flavours. Two down. He also remembered the man once mentioning he liked pistachio so three down. There was now one more flavour left to choose from and he thought a fruit flavour would complete the set. 

Time to call the man.

“P’Mew!” he greeted.

“Hello Tua Aeng. You need something? I’m still preparing.”

“Rasbelli, Strobelli, Blacbelli, Blubelli or Passion fluit. Please choose one, P’Mew”

His friends started sniggering. He ignored them.

The man let out a small laugh. “Nong.. Why are you asking me this?”

“Can P’Mew just answer, please?”

“Okay, okay. I like ‘Strobelli’” 

“Okay, thanks P’Mew. Bye.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah. I gotta go. See you later.”

“See you Tua Aeng.”

He put down the phone. 

His friends were still sniggering away when he made payment for the chocolates, only stopping when he shot them a death glare. Then, he walked out of the store, feeling immensely proud of himself. The box looked really pretty like Mild said and it was packed in a adorably small paper bag.

“I hoped P’Mew likes it.” he said, looking at his purchase.

Run squeezed his shoulders. “Don’t worry, Gulf. Your Faen will love it. I’m sure he loves everything you buy.”

He nodded. Run was right. Mew would love it regardless of the flavors. The man had a sweet tooth. 

“Alright, Gulf. Next up it’s flowers.” Mild grasped his arm.

“Alai na! I’m broke!” he protested.

Flowers were even more expensive than chocolates!

Mild pulled back his head. “Gulf! You can’t possibly be meeting your faen without flowers!?” 

“I’m already cooking for him! Plus what part of ‘BROKE’ do you not understand!”

“I’ll pay.” Mild said. 

“Oooohh.” Run cooed from his side.

“Alai wa, Mild, how can you pay for flowers that I’m giving to my own faen!??”

Mild let out a sigh. “Gulf, remember I kicked that ball at your face?”

“Yeah.” Of course he remembered, it hurt like hell and he had to deal with odd looks from people for close to two weeks.

“Anyway, when you saw the doctor, did you pay for yourself?”

“I think so.” He couldn’t remember, it was a really long time ago.

“I was supposed to pay for you, Gulf, since I injured you with the ball. So technically if I buy the flowers later, it’s not really using my money but yours instead.”

It took him a moment to process what his best friend just said. Trust the law major to come up with such a convoluted excuse so he could help him pay for his flowers. 

“Are you sure?” he asked, still in doubt.

“Yes! So let’s go!” Mild grabbed his arm and dragged him.

Run followed along and held on to his other arm. “Let’s go!” he said.

“Shut up, Run. You are not the one buying the flowers.”

“I can help him to choose the flowers, you idiot.”

“You will just make things difficult.”

“Shut up Mild.”

“Excuse me, I’m the one paying.”

“Technically, you said it was Gulf’s money.”

“You!”

His friends continued bickering as they made their way to the florist and he was almost close to smashing their heads together when a call came from Mew, saving him from committing murder.

“Hello, P’Mew, do you need anything from me too?”

“Hello Tua Aeng. No, I forgot to tell you to wait at the entrance of the mall later.”

“Oh.” he said. “You could have just texted me.”

“I wanted to hear your voice.”

He felt blood rush to face.

“But you just heard me!”

“Yeah, but it wasn’t enough.”

“P’Mew…”

“You could have texted too, does that mean nong misses my voice too?”

He could feel his entire face heating up now. His friends noticed and started oohing and aahing. He glared at them.

“I gotta go, P’Mew. See you at 5pm at the entrance.”

“Nong!”

He disconnected the call. 

Putting the phone back into his pockets and he looked back up. His friends had wide grins on their faces. 

“What?” he asked.

Mild kept grinning while Run wiggled his eyebrows at him. 

“Can we go in now?” He pointed to the florist. 

“Sure.” Mild said. 

Run whistled. 

His friends were idiots. 

He thought choosing flowers would be easier than choosing chocolates since there were less selections but he was wrong. His friends were at it again.

“Roses are classics! You never fail with them!” Mild yelled while pointing to the roses on display.

“They are boring! I think Tulips are much better and they come in so many colours!” Run replied also pointing to the tulips on display.

“But they don’t mean anything! Roses signifies love and passion!”

“You idiot! Tulips have meaning too! DEEP love and PERFECTION.” 

“Love and passion sounds better.”

“No! There’s no depth and perfection can’t be beaten!”

“I stand corrected!”

“I stand corrected too!”

His friends were really testing his patience today and he was getting ready to pick up the watering can on the side to water some sense into them.

“Shut. Up.” he said. 

His friends turned to look at him. 

“I’ll decide. Since it’s my money anyway, right?”

His friends stared at him for a moment more before nodding their heads in sync.

He took a look around the store and spotted a bouquet in a corner. It looked different from the rest of the flowers displayed. He walked over to it and picked it up.

“Khun Phi, these are dried flowers and that’s cotton.” the lady in the store said.

“What do dried flowers symbolize?” he asked.

“Everlasting love.”

“Okay I want this.”

The bouquet was beautiful. It had different hues of blue and the beautiful white cotton in the middle. The lady later told him that dried flowers lasted for up to a year, which meant Mew could keep the bouquet as decoration in his place. It was a worthwhile purchase, he felt. 

“Everlasting love, huh” Run said while they left the store.

He rolled his eyes. 

“It’s a nice bouquet, Gulf. I quite like it. It’s unique.” Mild came up beside him.

“Thanks. I think so too.”

He looked at the items in his hands and smiled, feeling proud of himself again. As much as his friends’ bickering annoyed him, he was glad they joined him. He wouldn’t have made the purchases if it weren’t for them.

“Thanks guys, for joining me today. I really appreciate it.”

Run gave him a side hug. “No problems, Gulf. We are happy to help!”

“I think you cause more problems than help, Run.” Mild came from his other side to give him a hug too.

“Shut up, Mild.”

“Shut up, Run.”

“If you two don’t stop, I’m gonna smash your heads together.”

That shut his friends up.

There was still some time left before he had to get to the entrance so they sat down for coffee at a cafe nearby.

“Gulf, I’m happy for you.” Run said all of a sudden.

“Me too.” Mild added on.

He sipped his coffee, looking at his two closest friends in front of him. They were smiling widely, happiness showing in their faces and that made his heart full.

“Thank you, guys. I’m happy too.”

Silence fell on them for a few moments before someone spoke again.

“How long have you known Mew exactly?” Run asked.

“One and a half months,” he replied.

“Aow. Do you still not know his real name?”

“I do know his real name,” he answered. “He just told me last week.” 

His friends suddenly leaned forward.

“What’s his full name?” Run asked.

“Suppasit Jongcheveevat.”

The blond man’s eyes widened. 

“Jongcheveevat… The name sounds familiar.” Mild said.

The blond man suddenly stood up and gripped his shoulders. “Gulf, tell me honestly. He treats you well right? Everything you tell us is true right?”

“What-”

“Just tell me, Gulf.”

He pushed the blond man’s hands away. “Yes! Of course!” he replied. “He took care of me when I was down with fever! He has been watching out for me since the beginning!” 

“Run, why are you overreacting?” Mild asked from the side.

The blond man studied him for a moment before saying, “It’s nothing, you should go soon. He’s waiting for you.” 

He glanced at his watch. It was indeed almost time for him to go but he couldn’t just leave when his friend had such a huge reaction to him mentioning Mew’s name.

“Run-”

“Just go.”

He took one last look at the Run’s tense face and got up, leaving for the entrance of the mall, all the while feeling a strange sense of uneasiness in his gut. Run seldom looked this serious and it scared him. Things between him and Mew were going so well, he couldn’t afford anything going wrong. There had to be some kind of misunderstanding.

Sitting down in a chair near the door, he placed all his bags beside him and held the bouquet in his lap. He fiddled with the flowers while he waited for Mew. It was almost nearing five o’clock but the man hadn't, which was odd because he was usually early. Then again, the traffic in the city is unpredictable, the man was probably held up somewhere. He just needed to be patient.

Half an hour passed and there was still no sign of Mew. He gave the man a call earlier but the line was busy, so he thought to try again later and it was about time he did. Taking out his phone again, he tried to call the man’s number but he beat him to it.

Letting out a sigh of relief, he picked up the call.

“P’Mew!” 

“Nong.” Mew’s voice sounded rough.

“Are you coming soon!?”

“I’m sorry, Tua Aeng. I can’t come anymore.” 

His hand loosened around the bouquet and it rolled down onto the ground. 

“Wh-why?”

“I’m sorry, I have reasons I can’t tell you.”

“P’Mew…”

“Tul is going to come pick you up. Go home first okay?”

“What about you?!” he stood up.

“I’m sorry, Tua Aeng. I’m so sorry.”

The man sounded like he was crying.

“P’MEW!”

The call disconnected.

Chapter Text

The bouquet was enormous.

He was at the florist collecting the bouquet of sunflowers he ordered for Gulf and he had completely underestimated the size of it. Twelve was perhaps too many of the yellow petaled flowers to fit into a normal bouquet - judging from the stares he was getting from other customers in the store, and the size of it dwarfed the lady that was holding it out to him. He held back a laugh. The image in front of him looked so ridiculous, it was almost comical.

“Thank you.” he smiled at the lady, taking the bouquet from her hands.

“You’re welcome. Is this for your faen?” the lady asked, trying to peek around the huge bundle.

“Yeah, it’s for my faen.” he said, tilting his head to look over.

The lady smiled. “She’s lucky then.”

“It’s a he.” 

A loud squeal came from behind the bouquet, drawing even more attention from others in the store and he smiled sheepishly before heading out.

He hoped Gulf liked the sunflowers. They reminded him so much of the younger man’s warm and bright smile that he couldn’t wait to see his reaction later when he handed the bouquet to him. It was going to be his surprise, or rather the main surprise on top of many other surprises he had in store for the younger man today. He had prepared a song to sing, set up a romantic table at the balcony and even ordered some desserts - brownies, Gulf’s favorite. 

The day was going to be perfect.

The driveway to the entrance was full when he arrived so he parked alongside the building first and waited for it to clear. However, some time passed and the driveway was still packed so he decided to get out of the car and walk to the entrance instead, since it was almost five o’clock already. Taking off his seatbelt, he was about to get out of the car with the bouquet when an anonymous call came in. He placed the flowers back down and picked up the call.

“P’Mew here.” he greeted.

“Are you Mew Suppasit Jongcheveevat.” the voice asked over the phone.

“Yes, speaking.”

“I’m Deng, Art’s brother.”

His breath hitched. “How did you get my-”.

“I want you to come see my nong. He’s in the hospital.”

“What? No!?” He said, gripping his phone tightly.

“He wanted to talk, didn't he? I saw you both at the pharmacy.”

The pharmacy. The day that Gulf was sick and he had to rush down to get him medication. He thought he only saw Art at the store, but there was that voice who called out to the young man after. So that was Art’s brother. Wasn’t he supposed to be living overseas?

“Yes he did, but there’s nothing left for us to talk about.” he said.

“I don’t care. My nong wanted to speak to you so I’m making sure he gets to speak to you.”

“No. I’m done with him.” He picked up the bouquet and reached out to open the car door again, ready to end the call.

“You don’t have a choice.” the man stated.

He stopped.

“What do you-”

“Open the photos I sent you.”

He placed the flowers in his lap and looked at his phone, tapping on the pictures sent to him. 

What he saw made his heart drop.

They were photos of him and Gulf at the cafe, smiling and hugging, their faces clear as day. There was one of him putting a jacket over the younger man's shoulders and another one with him placing a kiss on it. 

So many photos.

“How did you-”

“It doesn’t matter. Are you coming?”

He hesitated. The man showed him the photos for a reason. He had to have some kind of plan for them.

“Not if you tell me what you plan to do with them.”

There was a moment of silence on the line.

“I found out what happened two years ago.”

He had a sudden bad feeling.

“If you don’t come now, I’ll post about your past on social media and tie your faen’s name to it. Yes, I know his name too.”

He gasped. “You- you can’t do that.”

“Then come now or I’ll post the photos in an hour’s time.”

“No! There's someone waiting for me!” Gulf was waiting for him, he couldn’t just leave now.

“The address will be sent to you.”

“Wait-” he called out into the phone.

The call dropped and a text with the address came. 

“Shia!” he punch the steering wheel hard, scraping his knuckles against it.

His past. 

The man threatened to dig up his past and involve Gulf, drag his name along with his own. He couldn’t let that happen, or let the younger man find out about his past this way. Even though the scandal was old, there were still many articles and blog posts out there buried in the internet. Most of them were sensationalized, hurtful to read, and wholly untrue. Although those with his full name published were taken down, one only needed to look hard enough, they would be able to tie them to his name. Tie his shameful past to his name.

And if Gulf read them.

No.

That wouldn't happened, not if he did something about it.

He couldn’t afford for another scandal to blow up again, the consequences would be too much to bear so he couldn’t let Art’s brother go through with his plans, not with Gulf’s reputation on the line.

The hospital was quite a distance away and there was not enough time for him to explain things but if he left now, the younger man would be waiting all alone at the entrance. 

Alone and distraught.

He had no choice but to call Tul. Having someone be with the younger man was better than having no one.

“Tul.” 

“Mew?”

“I need your help. Can you help me pick Gulf up from the mall and send him home?”

“What!? Why!?”

“I need to head somewhere else.” 

“Where!? What’s going on?”

“I can’t tell you, there's no time.” 

“Mew! What’s going on?”

“Please Tul. Just help me.” he begged.

“No! Not until you tell me what’s going on.”

He shut his eyes and hugged the bouquet in his hands. 

“It’s Art.”

“What-”

“I need to head to the hospital.”

“Why-”

“It’s a long story and I don’t have a choice.”

“Text me the address.”

“Tul! You have to pick Gulf up!”

“Text me the address or I won’t pick Gulf up.”
 
“Okay. I’ll text you the address.” he relented. 

He hung up before his friend could say any more and texted the address to him. Then, he put down his phone and looked at the yellow flowers again. Today was supposed to be a special day, a beautiful day. He wanted nothing more than to head to the mall now and whisk the younger man back to his place but he couldn’t, because he had to protect him. 

And in order to protect him, he had to hurt him.

Each petal on the sunflowers was like a declaration of all his untold feelings for Gulf and now, he didn’t know if he would get the chance to hand it over to him, or if the younger man would even wanted it after today. A droplet fell onto one the yellow petals and he realized it was his own tear. He blinked, looking towards the driveway ahead, and inched his car forward, until it was near the entrance. Then, he looked through the side window. 

The lithe figure of Gulf was sitting on the chair looking at his phone, his expression worried and in his hand was a beautiful bouquet of blue flowers. 

He let out a sob.

The younger man had bought him flowers too.

While he stared, his hands moved on their own and he found himself calling the younger man.

“P’Mew!” Gulf immediately smiled into the phone. Such a bright smile.

His heart pulled painfully “Nong.” he let out.

“Are you coming soon!?”

He swallowed the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry, Tua Aeng. I can’t come anymore.” 

The younger man let go of the bouquet and it fell onto the ground. 

He bit back a sob.

“Wh-why?” the younger man’s eyes were wide.

“I’m sorry, I have reasons I can’t tell you.”

“P’Mew…”

His hand reached out to caress the image of the younger man on his window.

“Tul is going to come pick you up. Go home first okay?”

“What about you!?” 

“I’m sorry, Tua Aeng. I’m so sorry.” he sobbed.

“P’MEW!”

He dropped the call.

Tearing his gaze away from Gulf, he stepped on the accelerator hard and drove into the main street ahead, knowing if he lingered any longer, he would never be able to leave.

“I’m sorry, so sorry.” 

He had no choice. 

His mind was a complete blank by the time he reached his destination and he stood staring at the closed door of the ward, unable to reach out to turn the handle. He felt numb, bitter and weary, just like a prisoner. A nurse came up to him, asking if he was visiting, and he nodded his head slightly. Then, she opened the door and he took a cautious step forward. 

“You came.” 

Deng was looking at him while seated on the chair beside the bed, and he was holding the hand of the unconscious figure of Art. The man looked around his age and bore a keen resemblance to the young man lying next to him. He was really Art’s brother. The one that was overseas all these years.

“Yes. I’m here” he said, training his eyes at the man. “What about the photos? And the posts?”

“Don’t worry. I never planned to release them anyway, I just needed leverage to get you here.” Deng said. 

He let out a silent breath of relief but immediately felt indignant. “Why? Just so I would talk to Art?” 

“Yes, but I want to talk to you as well.”

He almost sneered. If there was nothing left between him and Art to talk about, what else could there be between him and his brother?

“What is there to talk about?”

The man leveled a hard look at him. “Plenty.”

"How did you get the photos?" 

"I got it from someone. Don't worry, that person isn't planning on doing anything with it either." the man said. "I know the younger man in the photo had nothing to do with what happened."

"Good." he nodded and looked away, shifting his gaze to the figure on the bed. “What happened to him?” he asked.

“Anemia.”

“I see.”

It didn’t look like he was able to leave anytime soon so he looked around and sat down in the chair nearest to the door. “So what do you want to talk about?”

“Tell me what happened.” the man said.

“What?” he blurted out.

“Tell me what happened two years ago.”

Now he was even more bewildered. “You mean you don’t know?” How could the man not know? Didn’t Art tell his brother?

“Nobody tells me anything and my brother refuses to even mention it.”

“But you expect me to tell you?” he said, pointing to himself.

“Yes!” The man stood up. “Because you were directly involved!”

He gaped at the man. “I didn’t have a choice.” He never did. 

Deng looked like he wanted to retort but became silent for a moment. “The articles, were they true?”

The articles. They were all either half truths or just plain trash. “Not all of them.” he spat. 

“Then tell me which one isn’t! Tell me the truth!”

The truth.

The truth was a lot more complicated than the man thought. There wasn't just one truth, there were many truths and they were intertwined together to form one. He couldn't just reveal one part without the other. It was not his place to, and the greatest irony was, trying to tell one part of the truth was the whole reason why he was here in the first place, why all this started. 

And it was his fault.

“No.” he said. He won't repeat the cycle again, not with Gulf involved with him now.

The man rushed forward and grabbed his collar, pulling him up from the seat. “Why!? Is it because you are guilty?” the man's eyes were wild. “Did you really use your family’s influence to force my brother to drop the charges?

“NO!” he pushed the man away.

Deng staggered back in surprise. 

“He dropped the charges because he lied! Nothing happened!” he yelled.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Then why are you asking me to tell you the truth!” he panted heavily.

“Khun Phi. Please keep your voices down. This is a hospital.” the nurse who opened the door for him earlier came in. 

He took a deep breath to calm himself, turning towards her. “I’m sorry.” he said.

The nurse nodded at him and then gave Deng a warning glance before leaving the room. 

“I’m leaving.” he shifted his gaze back to the man.

He couldn’t give the man what he wanted and since there was no danger of him releasing the photos then there was no reason for him to stay.

“No, you can’t leave.”

“You can’t hold me back.”

“I still have the photos.”

He felt anger rising within him and he clenched his jaw, “You said you wouldn’t release them.” 

“Yes, but you have to tell me the truth first.”

“I told you already, I can’t tell you! It has to come from Art!” 

He hated this, he hated being pushed to the corner again. Why was he being forced to make choices that he didn’t want to make? 

The man walked towards the bed, looking down at Art. “He won’t tell me.” he said, then he turned towards him. “If nothing happened, why would he refuse to tell me anything?”

It was because if Art told him the truth, he had to tell him the whole truth. Everything.

“I don’t know.”

The man was instantly in his face again, breathing down on him. 

“You were his friend. You should know.” he seethed.

“I can’t, and I won’t tell you because I. don’t. KNOW!”

“THEN WHY WOULD HE ACCUSE YOU OF SEXUALLY ASSAULTING HIM!”

“Khun Phi!” it was the nurse again. 

He turned towards the door and his stomach twisted.

Standing behind the nurse was Gulf, looking at him with eyes wide and palm covering his mouth.

“P’Mew?”  

His Tua Aeng was here.

And he heard everything.

Chapter Text

“P’MEW”

Silence. 

Mew hung up on him. 

The man stood him up.

No.

Tul was coming to pick him up and Mew would be waiting for him at his place, he had to be. There must be a reason why the man didn’t show. Maybe his car broke down or he had a stomach ache, or his dog fell sick. There could be so many reasons. Gulf kept his phone in his pockets and realized the bouquet he was holding on to had fallen on the floor. Quickly bending down to pick it up, he dusted off the flowers gently. His present to Mew couldn’t be dirtied. It had to look pristine. 

Everything was going to be okay. He just needed to be patient. 

“Tul is coming to pick me up and Mew would be waiting for me back at the dorm.” he told himself. Sitting back in the seat, he held on tighter to the bouquet and waited with bated breath.

“Gupi!” It was Tul.

He let out a sigh of relief. 

The tall man had arrived quicker than he thought. Glancing at his watch, he saw only about ten minutes had passed since he put down the phone. So, Mew had planned for Tul to pick him up all along. Maybe the man had prepared a surprise for him.

Everything was going to be fine.

“P’Tul!” he called as the man came closer.

Tul smiled slightly at him. “Let me help you with your stuff.”

“Okay,” he said, handing some of the bags to the tall man but kept the chocolates and bouquet in his hands.

He wanted to ask Tul about Mew but the tall man took the bags from him without saying a word and ran back to his car. Thinking maybe the man would tell him more later, he followed along quietly.

“P’Tul? Are you sending me home?” he asked as he got into the passenger seat.

The man’s expression was tight, “Yes.” he said.

He put the seat belt on and they drove off into the streets. While on the road, he turned to the tall man again, asking, “P’Tul, is P’Mew waiting for me back at the dorm?”

Tul didn’t answer, and his eyes were trained on the road. The tall man’s silence sounded off alarms in his head and he fought back any disturbing thoughts that emerged. Looking down at the flowers in his hands and then at the chocolates, he tried picturing himself handing them to Mew. He tried to concentrate on the man's smile. There was still hope for their current situation, he just needed to be patient.  

Except that he couldn’t.

Nothing he did or thought of was helping. 

Mew sounded awful over the phone, as if something horrible had happened to him and there was no denying that whatever that was going on, it was bad. His thoughts began circling and all kinds of scenarios popped into his head, none of them any good. He wanted to know what was happening but his driver wasn’t saying a word, as if he was afraid to tell him.

“P’Tul, you can tell me. I can take it. P’Mew isn’t coming at all right? Does he not-”

“SHIA! FUCK!” the man cursed loudly.

Tul turned his steering wheel sharply, making a u-turn at a junction they were coming up to and headed in another direction. A direction that did not lead back to his dorm.

“P’TUL!” he yelled as he hung on to the top handle in the car. The man’s driving was as bad as Mew’s!

“Sorry Gupi.”

“It’s okay.” he said before asking, “Where are we going?”

“To find the idiot.”

“P’Mew?”

The man smiled at him, “Yes. You know he’s an idiot too.”

He let out a small laugh. 

“Don’t worry, Gupi. Mew isn’t doing this on purpose and I can’t tell you what’s going on because I’m not too sure what’s going on myself either.”

“Okay.” he said, looking at the man.

Tul flashed him a smile and ruffled his hair. “Don’t look so sad. Mew had been talking about meeting you for the entire week. It almost drove me nuts. He’s crazy about you.”

He smiled and hugged the bouquet tighter. It was reassuring to hear what the man said even though he never doubted Mew’s feelings for him.

“Thank you, P’Tul. But can you tell me where we are going?” he said.

“The hospital.”

He drew in a sharp breath.

“It’s not what you think. Mew isn’t injured. I think someone he knows is.” the man said, before his eyes hardened. “Someone hateful.” he spat.

“Okay.” he said softly, taken aback by the man’s reaction.

They reached the hospital just as the sun was setting and he followed Tul along, reluctantly leaving the things he was holding onto behind. They walked through numerous corridors and had to stop a few times to ask for directions but they eventually reached their destination, or so he thought they did since the tall man stopped in front of a ward. 

There were muffled voices coming through the closed door and he couldn’t make out what the people inside were saying but their voices suddenly became louder.

“-KNOW!” That voice. It had to be Mew.

The nurse rushed past them and opened the door, revealing the back of Mew and an angry looking man.

“THEN WHY WOULD HE ACCUSE YOU OF SEXUALLY ASSAULTING HIM!” the man pointed at Mew.

He gasped and covered his mouth with his hand.

“Khun Phi!” the nurse scolded.

Sexual assault. His ears didn’t hear wrong. The angry man accused Mew of sexual assault.

That couldn't be real.

Mew whipped his head around and he saw the man stiffened immediately.

“P’Mew?” he asked in a small voice.

“This is the last warning. If you don’t keep your voices down, I will have to ask you to leave.” 

“Nong…” Mew call out shakily, eyes shining. “I-” The man let out a sob and looked around, before settling his gaze back on him. “I’m sorry, nong.” he said, and took off into the corridor.

“P-!”

The nurse shushed him with a glare and he tried going after the man but Tul stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Let him go, he probably needs some time alone and it’s too late to chase after him.” the tall man said. 

“But I need to find him- I need to know if-” he pleaded, pulling against the hand that was holding him back.

He needed to hear from the man himself, needed to know if what he just heard was true.

The hand on his arm twisted him around and gripped his shoulders tightly. “Do you trust me, Gupi?” Tul looked pointedly at him. “Trust me that I’ll tell you more later.”

He studied the tall man’s face. Tul wouldn’t have brought him here if he didn’t know at least something that was going on and Mew was probably long gone by now.

He gave Tul a small nod.

The tall man smiled at him before walking up to the nurse. “Khun Phi, we won’t make any noise, will you let us go inside, please?” 

“No-” the angry man inside the ward protested.

Tul placed a hand on the nurse’s shoulders, “We know your work is difficult, and we will try our best not to bother you. My faen is a nurse so I understand.”

That did the trick. The lady was a goner. She smiled at the tall man, almost blushing and walked back behind the counter. 

Then, Tul leveled a deadly glare at the man who was shouting at Mew before and stepped into the room, gesturing for him to follow. He went inside as well and saw a young man lying unconscious on the bed and the man from earlier was now standing in front of Tul.

“Who are you?” Tul asked, curtly.

“I should ask you the same.” the man answered.

“I’m Mew’s friend, so is he.” Tul pointed at him.

“I know who he is, he’s Mew’s faen.” 

He leaned back a little. “How did you-”

“I won’t ask again. Who are you?” 

The man let out a breath, “I’m Deng, Art’s brother.”

“Why did you make Mew come here?”

Deng replied, “I wanted to talk. My brother wanted to talk.”

“Talk?” Tul mocked. “That didn’t sound like talking to me.”

The man remained silent.

“How did you make him come here? What did you say that made him drop everything to come here?”

Deng fidgeted. “Does it matter? He came in the end.”

Tul stepped forward and grabbed the collar of the man’s shirt, “I don’t like asking twice.” 

Gulf stepped back a little. Tul’s menacing aura was scaring him and he thought it scared Deng as well, judging from the man’s tight face.  

“I used photos of him and his faen,” Deng said, looking at him. “I- I told him I would release them with his past on social media if he didn’t come.” the man said shakily.

“How-” he let out. How did the man obtain photos of him and Mew? What past was he referring to? What was so terrible that Mew dropped everything to come here? He wanted to ask those questions but the scene in front wasn’t allowing him to.

Tul gripped the man’s collar tighter, pulling him up uncomfortably. “You did what?” 

“But I never intended to follow through! I just want to know the truth.” the man pleaded.

Tul slammed the man into the wall hard. 

“P’!” he cried out, before covering his mouth. They had to stay quiet but it seemed like a fight was going to go down.

“You dare threaten my friend?” 

“I said I just wanted to know the truth!”

“The truth.” Tul spat and pressed the man into the wall harder. It looked like it hurt. “Haven’t your family done enough? First it was Art, then your Pho and now you.”

“What did my Pho do!?” 

Tul ignored Deng’s question and said, “You want the truth? You should ask your little brother. He knows the truth.”

“Why does everyone keep telling me that! My brother won’t say anything!”

Tul looked at the figure on the bed with contempt. “Because he’s a little piece of shit.”

“Don’t say that!” The man tried pushing Tul away but the tall man’s hold didn’t waver.

Gulf reminded himself to never piss Tul off.

“Mew is innocent, remember that. He may not think to pursue this matter with you because he’s too kind, but I’m not. I won’t hesitate to use my family against you if I need to.”

Deng stared wide-eyed at Tul. “You’re bluffing.”

Tul whispered something into Deng’s ears and the man immediately tried to get away again. He looked very afraid.

Gulf was afraid too and he had moved back so much that he was pressed against the wall already. “P’Tul…” he called out softly. 

Tul whipped his head around and his expression softened immediately. Giving Deng a last shove and glare, he walked over to him and said, “Sorry Gupi. I scared you. Let’s go, we have no more business here.”

“P’Deng?” a voice called out from the bed.

“N’Art! You’re awake.”

“Good, you’re finally awake.” Tul said. “Come near Mew again and I’ll destroy you.”

“P’Tul-” the young man on the bed called out in panic. "What's going on-" 

The voice faded out as he felt himself being led out of the door and into the corridor. Then, Tul slapped a hand on his shoulder, “Alright Gupi, let’s bring you home.”

“But-” 

“Let’s talk in the car okay?” the man gave him a reassuring side hug.

“Alright.”

By the time they left the hospital, the sky was already dark. He wondered where Mew went or whether he was safe. 

“P’Tul..” he said while they were in the car.

“The man lying on the bed was Mew’s ex-faen.”

He gaped at the tall man driving.

“Don’t worry about those photos, the man probably would never do anything to do.”

Looking back down on his lap, he said, “You were really scary, P’Tul. You looked like you were going to eat the man up.” 

Tul laughed and ruffled his hair, “Nah. I only look scary, deep down I’m a teddy bear. Soft and cuddly.”

He found that very hard to believe. “If you say so, P’Tul.”

“Gupi.” the man’s tone changed.

“Yes?” he looked at the man.

“Whatever you heard just now was true but Mew is innocent.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“It means the accusation was real but Mew was innocent.”

He gripped the seatbelt tightly. It must have been awful, being falsely accused of something so horrible. No wonder the man was so upset. “Was that why P’Mew was so upset?” he asked in a small voice.

“Yes. So give him some time okay?”

“Okay.” he said softly. “Do you know why? Why the man accused Mew.”

The man’s gaze on the road hardened. “I do.”

Tul didn’t say more and he didn’t ask further. If the man wanted to tell him, he would have said something already. 

They reached the dorm after dropping by to grab some takeaway, since he was hungry and Tul offered to help carry his bags up but told him to leave the bouquet and chocolates. The tall man promised he would deliver them personally to Mew. Gulf thanked the man and they made their way back to his room. The corridor was empty when they arrived and he noticed a bundle of yellows and browns in front of his door.

It was a bouquet. An enormous one.

“Mew, you idiot.” Tul said from behind him as he bent down to pick up the bouquet.

The flowers were beautiful. They were bright, cheery and for him. Hugging the bundle tightly, he stood up and looked at Tul, his eyes watering. The tall man reached inside the bouquet and pulled out a note, handing it to him to read. 

He looked down at the writing.

To my nong,

I hope you like these flowers because they remind me of your warm, beautiful smile. 

Phom Rak Khun, Tua Aeng.

Your faen, Mew.

Chapter Text

“Gupi, how are you feeling?”

He wasn’t sure. 

After waking up in a befuddled state and almost crushing the bouquet of sunflowers which he fell asleep holding onto, he really wasn’t sure. His eyes were swollen from crying and he had trouble opening them fully since they hurt when he did. There was weariness in every part of his body and even though he slept throughout the night, there was still a fog hanging over his mind. 

Gulf felt utterly drained out.

“I’m okay, P’Tul.” he said while still fiddling with the petals.

Luckily the vibrant yellow had earlier caught his attention just in time before he flipped himself onto them, if not the bouquet would have been flattened. He had later got up to placed the bouquet safely on the study. 

“That’s good to hear.”

He stopped touching the flowers and sat down on the study chair. “Did you managed to find P’Mew?”

“No, Gupi. But I left your stuff at his door and dropped him a text to let him know what happened.” the man said.

He heaved a sigh of relief. A text explaining what happened was good. At least now the man didn’t have to think that he might have misunderstood him. “Thank you, P’Tul.”

“Did he contact you?” 

“No. I sent him a text to thank him for the flowers but he didn’t reply.” he said. He wanted to send more messages but held himself back since Tul said the man needed space. 

“I see. Give him some time, Gupi. He hadn’t dealt with this in a long while, and I think he’s still in shock.” 

“I know, P’Tul. I’ll try my best.” He had to. For Mew he had to try, no matter how agonizing it was to do so. 

He hated feeling helpless.

“Alright, Gupi. I’ll let you know immediately once I get word from him, okay?” the tall man said.

“Thank you, P’Tul.”

He ended the call and slowly made his way to wash up before heading out for his lessons. The morning went by in a haze as he shuffled between classes but time passed fast and before he knew it, afternoon had arrived. He sat alone at the cafeteria in a daze, staring out into the campus field in front of him, thinking just a few weeks ago he had sprinted across the same grass patch after pulling a prank on his friends, and into the strong arms of Mew. 

Mew.

He missed the man, and wished he would reply to his text.

“Gulf!” A hand clapped on his shoulders and he looked down quickly. It was Run. 

Mild appeared as well and sat in front of him.

“So Gulf, how was yesterday? Did Mew like the flowers and chocolate?” the blond man asked from beside him.

His hand gripped the cup in front of him tighter. 

“Gulf? What’s wrong?!” Mild asked, tilting his head to look at him. “Why are your eyes so red!?”

He bit his lips.

Run gripped his arm all of a sudden. “Did he hurt you?”

“No!” he shrugged off the blond man’s hand. “P’Mew would never hurt me, not intentionally anyway.”

“Then what happened!? Why do you look so sad?” Mild kept asking.

His eyes started watering and he let out a sob. “P’Mew didn’t come yesterday.” 

“Shia!” Mild stood up and rushed over to sit beside him, putting an arm around his shoulders. “Gulf, it’s okay. Tell us everything slowly, okay?”

He didn’t even know where to start or how much to tell them. “I don’t know how.” he choked back another sob.

“Okay.” Run said, before moving closer and placing a palm on his knee. “Why didn’t he show up?” 

He sniffled. “Someone threatened him.”

“Alai wa!?” his best friend cursed.

Run squeezed his knee, “Gulf, who threatened him?”

“His ex-faen’s brother.” 

Mild gasped.

“Alright. Take it slow, Gulf.” the blond man said. “How and why?”

He shut his eyes and felt wetness at the sides of his cheeks. 

Mild took out a piece of tissue and started wiping them. “It’s okay Gulf, you can tell us.”

“His ex-faen brother threatened him with photos of me and P’Mew because he wanted to know the truth.”

“Photos!?!” Mild exclaimed. “Truth!?”

“Mild, please. You are not helping.” Run chided the man. “Gulf, how did he threaten Mew with the photos?”

“He wanted to post them on social media with-” 

“With?”

“Mew’s past.”

The blond man sighed heavily and removed the hand from his knee. “I was afraid this might happen.”

“How-?” He turned towards the blond man. Run’s expression was tight. “Do you know something, Run? It seemed like yesterday you did.” he said, recalling the man’s strange reaction to Mew’s full name. 

“Yes.” the blond man said. “I think you should see this.”

The man handed him his phone, and on it was an article dated more than two years ago. Mild leaned in closer to read as well.


Master’s student Mew Suppasit was accused of assaulting a fellow sophomore student by the name of Art. (...) Witnesses saw both students arguing outside the dorm of the alleged victim and had heard noises from his room after (...) Charges were mysteriously dropped after one week. (...) Rumors on the ground say that it may have been due to the influence of his family - Mew’s uncle is a district judge and his cousin is a police inspector, that forced the alleged victim to drop the case. 


Art. The young man on the bed. Mew’s ex-faen. The accusation came from him!

“Assault.” he whispered. “There was no mentioned of sexual assault?” 

“There were, but they were speculations. I showed you the most tamed article. This was a huge scandal, Gulf. I’m surprised you didn’t know.” 

“He was busy playing video games then and he knew less than the average frog living in the well.” Mild answered for him. 

On any given day when his mind was functioning normally and his mood was better, he would have glared at his best friend. Now he could only manage an inaudible sigh. 

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier, Run?” he asked.

“It was a scandal, Gulf and I didn’t want to ruin your date but it seems like even though I didn’t, someone else did.” the blond man gave him a wry smile. 

He sighed again and then realized something about the article. “It doesn’t mention Mew’s full name. How did you know it was him?” 

Run arch an eyebrow at him, “All those articles with his full name had been taken down and I didn’t save any of them so I can only show you this, but I wrote down his full name for… research purposes.” 

“Research purposes?” He cocked his head at the blond man. 

“Blackmail material.” Mild commented.

“Shut up Mild. I’m glad I did it, at least I have something to share with Gulf, unlike someone.”

“No, I won’t shut up.” his best friend spat at Run before turning to him, “Gulf, what is Mew’s family name again?” 

“Jongcheevevat.” 

“SHIA!” Mild cursed loudly, slamming his palm on the table. “Now I know why his name sounded so familiar! His uncle is district judge Jong!” 

His best friend’s outburst made him lean away instinctively. “Mild?” he asked.

“Alai wa, Mild.” Run scolded. “The article already said his uncle is a district judge.” 

His best friend ignored the comment and suddenly leaned in very close to him. “Listen to me Gulf, your faen is innocent. I know this case.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything earlier!” He felt like slapping the man. No. He felt like slapping both men.

“I forgot and didn’t make the connection! The scandal was so long ago and I ONLY just knew about this!”

“Didn’t you say you have near eidetic memory?” Run interjected.

“Shut up Run, I said near for a reason.”

Gulf realized in the midst of his friends’ chaotic discussion, his tears had stopped flowing. Instead, he could feel a rising desire to smash both of their heads together again - just like yesterday. 

“Shut up.” he said. “Mild, please explain.”

“I can’t say much actually. It was a criminal case.” 

He glared at the man. 

“Wait! Let me finish first.” his best friend gestured with his hand. “I know he’s innocent because there were witness accounts putting him elsewhere. Judge Jong had nothing to do with the charges dropping. They were probably dropped because there was no case to be made.

This was new information. He would call it a revelation even. Mew was exonerated. But why did he not tell the man in the hospital that? Did he not know? 

“How do you even know all this?” Run asked, looking doubtful.

Mild rolled his eyes for the 100th time this week. “I’m a law student. We exchange information about large cases around all the time for educational purposes.”

“You mean gossip all the time.”

“Not anymore than you. You literally write a gossip column.”

“It’s quality news.”

“I’m sure it is when the target audience is dumb.”

“Shut up Mild.”

“Shut up Run.”

“Shut.” he looked at Run, before turning to Mild, “Up.” 

His friends zipped their mouths. 

A ping sounded and he glanced at his phone. There was a notification of a message and it was from Mew. Grabbing his phone immediately from the table, he opened the text.


Mew: Nong, I’m at the park now, can we meet up?


He fired over an immediate ‘yes’ and got up from his seat. 

“I need to go now, Mew wants to meet.” he said as he tried to squeeze past his friends.

“Gulf!” His friends called out after him.

“I’ll catch you guys later!” he shouted back as he sprinted across the field, all the while feeling a sense of dejavu.

His long strides brought him to the park in no time and he panted heavily from the exertion he pushed himself into making. The sky rumbled above him as he stepped into the main area and the wind danced around him, almost like he was stepping into the eye of a storm. As he searched around, he spotted a hunched over figure wearing a mustard beanie, sitting on a wooden bench and an image flashed across his head, too quick for him to register but felt incredibly real. 

“P’Mew?” he called out.

Mew looked up, his eyes were swollen and red. “Hello, nong.” the man said.

His heart broke at the sight of the man. “Are you okay?” he asked, taking a step closer.

“I’m hanging in there.” The man gave him a small smile.

“I loved the sunflowers, P’Mew.” he said, sitting down beside the man. “And I read the note too.”

Phom Rak Khun. 

He wanted to say the same to this man as well, but something seemed to be holding him back. 

“I’m glad to hear that, nong. I loved your flowers and chocolates too.”

“P’Mew... Yesterday-”

“Tul just told me what happened yesterday after I left,” Mew said.

“I see.” 

“He also told me to tell you that there’s no need to worry, he will settle everything.”

“What do you mean?”

“The photos.”

“How is-”

“I don’t know, he said he would take care of it so we can move on.”

To move on. 

There were much more than just photos to move on from. There was Mew’s past, the people involved and the events that occurred yesterday. He didn’t know how they were going to move past all that without the man addressing them..

“Nong.” The man took his hand into his own and he turned to look at him. “I know you have many questions and there are so many things I want to tell you but-”

“I believe you, P’Mew.” he said. “I know you are innocent.”

“I know, Tua Aeng. Thank you.” the man smiled gently at him. “But I need time. Time alone to figure things out.”

His chest tightened. “What do you mean?”

“It means I have to go away for a while.” 

“No.” he let out a whimper.

Mew reached out to stroke his cheek. “Nong, what happened two years ago broke me and I lost a part of myself out there. I-” the man’s voice cracked. “I need to find back what I lost and in order for me to do that, I have to go back to the very beginning.”

“To where?” he asked softly. “Can’t we do this together?”

“No, it’s something I have to do alone and- and I’m going home.”

“Home.” He choked back a sob. “How long?”

“I don’t know.” Mew said. “But I won’t take long. I promise.”

This time a sob escaped him. “I don’t want P’Mew to go.”

The man drew him into his arms. “I don’t want to go too, Tua Aeng but I have put this off long enough. I can’t keep running and in order for me to stop, I need to find back what I lost.”

“I can help you.” he offered. 

“You have helped me enough already and if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have found the courage to make this decision.”

He hugged the man tighter. “I don’t want P’Mew to go.” 

“I won’t be far, Tua Aeng. My home in the city. You can still text me from time to time.”

“But I won’t get to see you!” he cried out, tears streaming down his face. “Why does it have to be like this!”

Mew pulled away, “Tua Aeng, please don’t cry.” The man wiped his tears away. “Don’t make it harder for me than it already is. I promise you, I will be back and then we will face my final hurdle together, okay?”

“Final hurdle?”

“Yes. I will tell you the truth. The complete truth. I promise you.”

His breath hitched and he sniffled. “Truth?”

“Yes. Truth. You deserve to know everything.” the man smiled.

His mouth trembled. “O- Okay.”

Truth. Mew was willing to tell him something he had been adamant about keeping secret all this time and he could live with that. If he had to wait then so be it.

The man rubbed his thumb over his lip. “Nong, can I kiss you?” he asked.

He nodded his head.

Mew leaned in, pressing his lips deeply into his own. The man kissed him with longing and desperation, like it was going to be the last time they do so in a long while. Yet, it was a kiss full of promise, full of hope and his heart gradually stopped hurting with each breath he took. The first raindrop came down on them and that was when they finally pulled apart.

Stealing one last kiss, Mew stuffed the red umbrella into his hand. “Tua Aeng, take my umbrella, okay? I’ll run to my car.” The man said as he got up. “And don’t lose it! It’s special to me.”

“P’Mew, wait!” he called out after him.

The man turned back, “Rak na, Tua Aeng,” and then he was off.

He stared at the red umbrella with it’s worn handle in his hand.

“Khun Phi?”

He felt the stirrings of another memory but it went away as quickly as it came.

Opening the umbrella just in time before the downpour descended on him, he looked back in the direction Mew ran towards. 

“Rak na, P’Mew. I’ll wait for you.”

Chapter Text

The dorm hadn’t changed.

He was standing in the corridor of Art’s old dorm room. The last time he was here, they had a huge fight and he had left fuming with anger, hell bent on getting back at the young man. 

“P’Mew! I beg you! Don’t do this! We can talk this out! P’MEW!!”

He swallowed the lump in his throat. The person living in this dorm room was not Art anymore. There was nothing left for him here except for painful memories, but he couldn't leave. In order for him to move on, he had came back to face the echoes and images of his past. He needed to hear them, to see them again and then, to finally put them aside. 

The idea to do this came to him after he ran off from the hospital that Sunday. He had driven around aimlessly and found himself stopping at the restaurant he and Art used to frequent. The place hadn’t changed and the moment he got out of his car, his mind was hit by a deluge of memories from the past. He had stood unmoving outside, inundated by the images and voices in his head, and when it was over, he felt a strange sense of peace, as if his heart and soul was finally able to put something to rest.

There was still one more place he had to go before he finished his long overdue walk down memory's lane. Taking one last look at the dorm corridor, he turned around and left. Following the pathway from the building, he came up to the bench he always sat at and rested his legs. The park was different from the rest; besides having the only one good memory from his past, it also had all the recent ones he made with Gulf. It was his place of comfort; his place of hope.

After he ran out from Art’s dorm that day, his legs brought him to this place and he had sat on the same bench, crying his heart out. The sky had opened up later on him and the cleansing rain washed away all resentment he felt, leaving him only with regrets. He vaguely remembered later a small voice calling out to him, checking if he was alright and then when the voice left, he had found a red umbrella lying beside him. 

Someone had given up their temporary shelter from the rain to him and he had kept it all along because it was his token of hope. Now, it was with Gulf, who was one and the same. Taking one last breath of the soothing air, he got up from the seat, and started making his way to his car. Coming here was like closing the last chapter of a book he had kept opened for a very long time and now he was ready to put it aside so he can face his final hurdle. However there was still one more thing left to do and he had to get home first.

The traffic on the Saturday afternoon was smooth and he reached home just as his Mae was preparing for dinner. After leaving the park that day with Gulf, he had driven back to his apartment, packed all his essentials, including the gifts from Gulf and headed back to his family’s mansion. When he reached home, his Mae had quietly welcomed him with open arms and his Pho strangely, did not asked any further questions other than whether he was doing okay. His parents' actions had touched him and he regretted not communicating more with them, which was why after spending days gathering his wits, he finally decided to talk to his Mae.

“Hello, Mae.” he greeted as he made his way into the kitchen. 

“Hello, Mew. You are back from your excursions?” his Mae asked.

“Yes.” he answered, going up beside the older woman, “Let me help you.” he said.

“It’s okay, Mew. I have the helper with me.”

“But I’ve been back all week and I haven’t helped you once.” 

“Alright.” his Mae relented. “You can help chop these vegetables up.”

“Yes, madam.” he said and took the chopping board from his Mae.

“Do you have more places to go?” 

“No, Mae. I am done.”

“If you are done, then stay home.” his Mae smiled at him, taking some of the chopped vegetables from him. “I like having you home.”

He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to hug his Mae and he wrapped his arms around her. “Mae. I’m sorry.”

“Mew.” His Mae stopped whatever she was doing. “Why are you sorry?”

“Everything.” He placed his chin on her shoulders. “I’m sorry for making you worry for so long. I’m sorry for leaving so suddenly and I’m sorry for making you cry.” 

“Mew." His Mae held his hand tightly. "Do you want to sit down and talk about it?”

“Yes, Mae.” he said. “I do.”

“Alright. Go sit at the table. I’ll make you a drink. What do you want? Ice chocolate?”

“Yes. Ice chocolate.” he answered, making his way to sit down at the dining table.

His Mae gave him a smile and started preparing the drink for him.

He watched with a sense of nostalgia as the older woman shuffled around the kitchen while making his favorite drink. She used to make ice chocolate for him whenever he was upset and now she was making it for him again.

“Mae.” he said as the older woman placed the cup of ice chocolate in front of him. “I’m sorry for disappointing you.”

His Mae sighed heavily and sat down beside him. “Mew, you never once disappointed me. Sometimes, I feel afraid and scared for you but you never disappointed me.”

“But Mae! What happened then-”

His Mae reached out to grab his hand, “Mew! That wasn’t your fault. We all know that. Me, your Pho and Jom, we all know that.”

“You don’t know what I did.”

“We do. We know everything.” 

He looked at Mae’s pleading eyes, “How did you-” 

Tul.

“Tul told us. He told us about Art’s family, what he did when you were together and what you said before everything happened.”

“Tul, that bas-”

“Don’t blame him, Mew. I made him tell me.”

His family knew. All these years, he kept secret the shameful words he said to Art because he was afraid that they would judge him. 

“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked.

His Mae squeezed his hand. “Why mention something that will cause you pain? You came back a completely different person, Mew.” His Mae paused and let out a sob. “My son who used to smile all the time, stopped smiling.”

“Mae…”

The older woman took a deep breath, “Stop blaming yourself for what happened because nobody here blames you.”

“Mae!” he threw his arms around the older woman and wept into her shoulders. “I’m so sorry! I should have said something a long time ago but I was so afraid of you judging me and hating me for bringing shame to the family.”

“It’s okay, Mew.” his Mae rubbed his back. “It’s okay. Mae will never blame you for something like that. Never.”

He continued sobbing into his Mae’s shoulders until he realized that if he didn’t stop, his Mae wouldn’t stop as well. Drawing in a deep breath, he held back more tears and pulled away. 

“Mae, I will stop crying. I’m sorry for making you cry again.”

His Mae sniffled softly, “It’s okay, my son. I am crying tears of joy because I am so happy you were willing to talk to me about this.”

“Me too. I’m sorry I took so long.”

The older woman patted his shoulder, “Why did you suddenly want to talk about it? Is that why you came home?”

“Mae, I came home to heal so I can move on. Tul said I should speak to you and also I felt.. it was time to do so.”

Tul had yelled at him over the phone when he told the man what he planned to do. However, after countless of explanations on his part, the man finally calmed down but still sternly told him that he shouldn’t miss the opportunity to properly speak to his Mae, and possibly heal some family wounds.

His Mae held on his hand again, “I am so happy to hear this. Tul is a great friend for helping you.”

Tul wasn’t the only person who helped him. There was someone else as well. Someone he trusted and loved, someone who had been waiting patiently for him to return. Someone who had been sending him the same text message every morning since he came home. 

“Su su na. P’Mew. I miss you.”

“Mae, someone else had been helping me as well.”

“Oh? Who is it?”

“His name is Gulf." he said, smiling. "And he's my faen."

His Mae blinked, gaping at him in surprise, “Faen?”

“Yes.” he said. “I love him, Mae. He’s the one who gave me the courage to face my past.”

“Mew.” his Mae broke into a wide smile. “You have a faen? Why didn’t you tell me about him?

"Things happened really fast and I didn't have a chance to tell you yet." he smiled sheepishly.

“Please tell me more?” 

He spent the next hour telling his Mae about Gulf. From how they met to their chance encounters and to some of their recent interactions. His Mae hadn’t looked so happy for him in a long while and seeing her beaming widely made him feel like he had finally emerged from an arduous journey through a very long, dark tunnel.

“He’s really special, Mae. Always full of surprises. You will love him.” 

“No wonder recently I’ve noticed a change in you, you finally started smiling for real. So was it because of him?”

“Yes.” He let out a small laugh. “He makes me smile a lot.” 

“Are those flowers from him too?”

He nodded his head.

The older woman laughed, “That's why you keep staring at it all day. You even scolded Chopper for biting it and you never scold Chopper.”

His tiny pomeranian almost destroyed the bouquet when he forgot and left it on the sofa the other day. Luckily, his helper had spotted the small ball of fur pouncing on the flowers early enough to snatch the bouquet away. He later gave the naughty boy a stern lecture at the bemusement of his Mae. Till now, his dog hadn’t stopped ignoring him and was probably sulking at a corner in the mansion.

“Yes. The bouquet is very important to me. Not even Chopper can touch it.” he laughed. “Alright, Mae. I need to head somewhere now. Sorry I can’t stay for dinner.” he said as he got up.

“Where are you heading?”

“I’m going to find-”

The doorbell to his mansion rang. His helper ran to the entrance to open the gate and a familiar car drove into their driveway. 

“Tul?” He called out as the man opened the car door.

“Mew!” the man ran to him. “You need to stop this!”

“Stop what!?” 

“You need to stop running away! Can’t you see you are hurting Gupi! He looks like a ghost!” 

“Hello Tul.” His Mae greeted.

“Hello Mae, sorry I need to kidnap your son somewhere, his poor, sad and hurting faen is waiting for him.”

“Oh. Okay. Please go ahead.” His Mae smiled at Tul.

“Mae!”

“Mew, did you hurt your faen?”

“I didn't mean to! I needed to be alone to sort things out!”

His Mae huffed and gave him a stern look, “Didn’t you say your faen helped you? You should go to him and apologize!”

“Okay! Okay! I was planning to anyway! I just didn’t think Tul would appear all of a sudden.” he exclaimed.

“Go get change. I’ll wait for you, we are heading to the bar.” His best friend said as he leaned against the car. 

“Tul, come inside. Let Mae make some ice chocolate for you.”

“Mae! I’m your son! Not Tul!” 

All he heard was laughter from the kitchen as he climbed back up to his room to change. He wore the outfit he first met Gulf with and made sure to put on the mustard beanie as well, hoping the younger man would feel better after seeing the getup - if he remembered it at all. When he came back down, his Mae and Tul were in the kitchen, chit chatting. 

“Ready to go?”

“Yeah, let go.”

They bid his Mae goodbye and left for Tul’s car. As he was strapping himself into the seat, he spotted some ropes on the car floor. 

“What are these?” He asked Tul. 

“Contingency plan, in case you refuse to follow.” the man said as he started the car.

“Alai wa! Tul. You planned to tie me up?!?” he shouted at the man. 

This was ridiculous.

“Mew, Gulf looks really bad. I saw him on Friday. He’s so upset, he actually went back home earlier today and almost gave everyone a heart attack because we thought he disappeared!” 

The words felt like a punch to his gut. “I-” 

“Mew, I understand why you are doing this, but the least you could have done was reply to his texts!”

“I did!” 

“A ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough!” the man yelled, almost swerving the car.

He sighed heavily. “I was afraid if I said anymore, I wouldn’t be able to follow through with what I was doing.”

“You are going to have a lot of making up to do.”

“Yeah. I know.”

He might need to offer a lifetime of questions for Gulf to ask, if the younger man was willing.

“Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Not really, but I figured things out.”

“Okay.”

“Tul.”

“Hm?”

“Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Every corner in his room reminded him of Mew.

The man’s laughter, his smiles and the faint scent of his cologne seemed to permeate every inch of space around him. Gulf was almost at his wit’s end. He thought waiting for Mew would just be like before, but he was wrong. Waiting when there was an end in sight was manageable, however waiting when there wasn’t one was almost too painful to bear.

His nerves felt raw all the time and his restlessness made getting through each day a struggle. He felt like he was fighting a losing battle and each retreat dimmed the spark he had within him. There was only so much he could take before he broke down. If he knew falling in love would make him feel this much agony, then he wouldn’t have in the first place.

But then, did he ever have a choice?

He wanted to be angry at Mew but he couldn’t, because he knew the man needed the time, the space and the support. However, that didn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed, sad and hurt. He was disappointed because the man didn’t think he could walk this journey with him, sad because he would only reply to his text with a single ‘thank you’ and hurt because he missed him so much. 

Waiting was hard.

And waiting for someone was even harder.

Looking around his room, he suddenly felt like the walls were closing in on him and he needed to get out. 

It was all too much.

So he called home. 

“Mae.” 

“Gulf? Why are you calling all of a sudden.”

“I want to come home, Mae.”

“Why?”

“I want to see you. I miss you. Please?”

He heard a sigh over the phone.

“I have to leave for the restaurant soon, Gulf. Unless you come now, I don’t think you will be able to catch me.”

“Okay I’ll leave now. See you Mae.”

“Wait Gulf-”

He put down the phone, silently apologizing to his Mae for cutting the call. Then, grabbing his bag and making sure the red umbrella was inside, he rushed out of his room. 

“Mae!” he called out as he opened the gate of his family home. 

“Gulf? I’m in the kitchen.” the older woman's voice sounded from the house.

He threw his bag onto the sofa in the living room and made his way into the kitchen. Seeing his Mae after so long made him suddenly crave for her familial embrace. He wanted and needed her comfort because he didn’t know where else he could find it.

“Mae.” he walked up to the older woman and wrapped his arms tightly around her. “I miss you.”

“Gulf, why are you like this all of a sudden.” 

“I just miss you.” he said in a small voice.

“Gulf” the older woman sighed. “I know something’s wrong. You never come home unless something’s bothering you.”

“I’m okay, Mae. I just- I just wanted to see you.”

“Alright, let go of me, I haven’t taken a proper look at you.”

Pulling away from the hug, he saw his Mae’s eyes widened at the sight of him.

“Gulf! What happened to you! You looked terrible!”

He looked down. 

“Gulf.” his Mae pulled him towards the living room, sitting him down on the sofa. “What’s wrong?”

He couldn’t tell her, not without revealing everything, and he wasn’t ready for that yet. 

“School has been tough,” he answered.

“Okay.” His Mae didn’t look convinced. “Are you staying for the night?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright, I have to go soon. Your Pho is waiting for me at the restaurant. There’s some sticky mango rice in the kitchen. Go help yourself.” his Mae said as she got up from the sofa.

“Thank you, Mae.”

The older woman stood up and made her way towards the kitchen but stopped midway and turned back, giving him a hug. “Gulf, if you are upset about something, you can always tell me okay? I’ll be back tonight, we can talk.”

“Okay, thanks Mae.” he said, feeling slightly better already.

“Alright I’m heading off.”

His Mae went back to the kitchen and came out with a few bags before heading towards the main door.

“Mae.” he called out as the older woman was exiting.

“Yes, Gulf?”

“You love me no matter what right?”

“What?” His Mae looked confused. “Why are you asking?”

“I just want to know.” 

His Mae gave him a small smile. “Of course, son. I love you no matter what. See you later.”

“See you.” 

Getting up from the sofa, he shuffled to the kitchen to look for the rice his Mae mentioned but when he saw it, he suddenly didn’t feel like eating anymore. His appetite these past few days had almost completely disappeared; much to the frustration of his friends. They’d been visiting and dropping by everyday to check in on him but there was only so they could do to help. Other than heading out for classes, all he wanted to do was sleep, and sleep was all he did. 

He grabbed a glass of water to drink instead and headed up the stairs to his old room. The familiarity he felt was a welcome comfort when he stepped into his old space and he headed straight to the bed to lie down, curling up into a ball. Inhaling the soothing scent from the sheets, he allowed the quietness of the house to lull him to sleep and rest came almost immediately.

By the time he woke up, the sky outside was almost orange. He reached into his pockets for his phone and realized it wasn’t there. Thinking he might have left it in his bag, he slowly got out of the bed and made his way back down to the living room. When he took out the device from his bag, his eye almost fell out at the sight of his notification screen. 

There were more than twenty missed calls from his friends and numerous text messages asking where he was. 

He dialed Mild’s number.

“GULF! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?” Mild shouted into the phone. 

“Alai na, what’s with the shouting!” He was still feeling groggy and his best friend’s shouting gave him a slight headache.

“Gulf! Run came over to check in on you and you didn’t answer the door! Then you didn’t answer any of our texts and calls!”

Mild needed to stop yelling.

“I was taking a nap!” he yelled back.

“Dammit Gulf! Do you know how worried we were!?! I swear, someday-“

The man was cut off and he heard some hushed whisperings.

“Hi Gulf, Boat here, where are you?”

“Hey Boat.” Finally, no more shouting. “I’m at home. My family’s home.”

The hushed whisperings were back.

“Okay. Gulf. Run’s coming over shortly. Don’t go anywhere. We will be there a little later.” Boat informed him.

“Oh. Why? Is everyone coming?” 

“We will tell you later. Kaownah’s at the bar.”

“Okay. See you?”

“See you.”

He put down the phone. Mild sounded really pissed at him and he felt slightly guilty all of sudden. His friends had been visiting every day so it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for them to visit today, but he really didn’t think of that. In fact, his mind hadn’t been thinking much lately.

The doorbell rang in less than ten minutes and when he opened the door, Run rushed in, crushing his body into a hug.

“Dammit, Gulf. Don’t scare us like that again.”

He guess he really went too far this time.

“I’m sorry.” he said. “I forgot you guys were coming.”

“It’s okay.” The blond man sighed. “We know you didn’t do it on purpose.” The man said, still holding on tightly.

“Run.” he said. “Can you let go now? I can’t breathe.”

“Sorry.” Run let go of him. “Can I go in?” he asked.

“Sure,” he said, and then made his way back into the house, gesturing Run along. “Come in.” 

“We are going to the bar later.” the blond man said. “Boat’s coming to pick us up.”

He stopped and asked, “Why? I planned to stay home.”

“Mew will be there.”

Mew.

He should feel something but he didn’t. 

“I don’t want to go.” he blurted out.

“Gulf?”

He ignored his friend, heading inside the house and into the kitchen. 

Run budged in while he was pouring a cup of water for him. “Gulf, you can’t be serious. Haven’t you been waiting for him?!”

He looked back at the man. “I’m tired.”

“Of what?”

“Of constantly feeling like I’m going crazy.”

The blond man shook his head and went back into the living room, collapsing onto the sofa. He followed and placed the cup of water on the coffee table.

“You are not the only one going crazy. We all are and we are tired too.” the blond man said.

“Sorry.” he said, sitting down beside the man. “I missed P’Mew so much that- that I’m angry that I miss him so much.” He felt slightly silly saying that.

“That’s because you are head over heels for him.” Run sighed. “I know the feeling.”

“You do?”

“Yeah.” The blond man smiled to himself. “There was someone I once liked but he never noticed because he was so dense. In the end, I just gave up.”

“Alai..” Run was being an idiot again. 

The blond man turned to him. “Gulf, Mew loves you, he’s doing this for you.”

“How do you know that?” 

The blond man ruffled his hair, “Cause I’ve been spending some time with P’Tul. And-” The man paused and took a sip of his water. 

Tul? Run? Together?!

“You guys are together?!” 

Run spat the water back into his cup. “Shia!” the blond man cursed. “We are not together!”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry.” He tried sounding as apologetic as he could. 

“You really are dense.” The blond man sighed. “I’ve been spending time with P’Tul because he needed my help with the photos.” 

“Photos?” 

“You can’t seriously have forgotten about that, haven’t you?” the blond man looked at him in disbelief.

He cocked his head at the blond man.

“The photos.” Run reiterated. “Photos of you and Mew, remember?”

Right. The photos.

“What about them?” he asked. “And why does that have to do with you knowing Mew loves me?”

The blond man sighed. “P’Tul asked me to help him find the source and since we have been spending time together, he told me some things about Mew.”

“Oh.” That made sense. “What did he say?”

“Gulf.” the man shifted closer. “You know how it felt to be betrayed right?”

“Yeah.” He knew it well enough.

“Imagine learning that you were betrayed by someone you love and trusted, and then having them betray you again on the same day.” Run winced as he said. “Can you imagine how painful it must have been for the man?”

“I guess so.” he said.

“It affected him so much he dropped out of his nearly finished Master’s and left the country.”

He studied Run’s face. The man seemed genuinely sympathetic towards Mew’s plight, which was a stark contrast to his attitude on Monday when he thought the man had hurt him. How bad were things for Mew that made even the cynical Run feel for him?

“How do you know all this?” he asked.

Run looked away. “I put two and two together from the bits that Tul told me.”

He drew his legs up onto the sofa and hugged them. “I still don’t feel like going. I’m tired.” he said.

“Gulf.” 

He looked at the blond man. 

“Do you still like Mew?” 

“...Yes.” And maybe a little too much. 

“Then what’s the matter?”

He shifted his gaze back onto his knees. 

Run sighed before saying, “I know you are scared and you’ve been hurt. But you both like each other and that’s-“ the man’s voice cracked.

“That’s?”

“That’s such a rare and wonderful thing.”

“Run?” He tilted his head to the blond man. 

“It’s so hard to find someone you like who likes you back, Gulf. So don’t take it for granted because I wouldn’t.” 

“Run…“

“I’m sure you have many things to say to him. Didn’t you mention regretting not telling him you loved him?”

He did, on Tuesday, before he started his downward spiral into despair. 

“Gulf-“ Run hesitated. ‘Words, if left unspoken for too long, they never get spoken again. Trust me, I know it too well.”

Gulf had never seen this side of his goofy friend before. Run looked so vulnerable, so emotional, it felt he was talking to another person. Someone who was recounting a painful personal experience.

“Have you left words unspoken for too long before?” he asked softly.

“Yes.” the man smiled sadly. “And I regret it all the time.”

There was no denying his friend’s words had touched him deeply, and they had cut through his dense fog of doubt. It was time to stop wallowing in self-pity. Mew needed him, now more than ever. He couldn’t turn his back on the man.

“Alright. I’ll go.” he said. 

Their friends came as the sun was almost setting and the ride there was silent as neither of them spoke. Mild, who was usually full theatrics was quiet after seeing both of their solemn expressions. It was as if his best friend knew what kind of conversation they had and wanted to give them some peace.

Kaownah was waiting for them below the bar when they arrived and everyone made their way up except for him. His legs were stuck midway up the stairs as if they couldn’t go on anymore. 

“I need a moment.” he told his friends.

“It’s okay, guys. Go up and rest. I’ll stay here with him.” Kaownah said before smiling gently at him.

There was always something mysterious but yet gentle and kind about Kaownah. It gave him a little bit more courage to take a few steps up. 

Stood at the cold face, stood with our backs to the sun.

His heart skipped a beat. That voice. Kaownah smiled.

I can remember being nothing but fearless and young

Mew.

We've become echoes, but echoes, they fade away

He took another step and then another.

We fall into the dark as we dive under the waves
(I heard you say)

“How-”

The devil's on your shoulder, strangers in your head
As if you don't remember, as if you can forget
It's only been a moment
It's only been a lifetime
But tonight you're a stranger
Some silhouette

“He’s singing about his past.” Kaownah said.

Let's go out in flames so everyone knows who we are

He was nearing the top.

'Cause these city walls never knew that we'd make it this far

Kaownah kept smiling at him.

We've become echoes, but echoes are fading away

Mew’s voice echoed down the stairway.

So let's dance like two shadows, burning out a glory day

He was at the top.

Devil's on your shoulder
Strangers in your head
As if you don't remember
As if you can forget
It's only been a moment
It's only been a lifetime
But tonight you're a stranger 
Some silhouette 

He entered the bar.

Just hold me

He froze.

Just hold me

His legs started moving.

Just hold me

And Mew was looking at him.

Just hold me

There was wetness in his eyes.

Devil's on your shoulder 
Strangers in your head 
As if you don't remember 
As if you can forget 
It's only been a moment 
It's only been a lifetime 
But tonight you're a stranger 
Some silhouette 

“P’Mew…” 

It's only been a moment 
It's only been a lifetime 
But tonight you're a stranger 
Some silhouette 
But tonight you're a stranger
Some silhouette 

Under the spotlight of the bar, the figure on the stage looked like a silhouette. A silhouette among the crowd, just like he was as he stood. 

Were they echoes of their past? 

Or were they echoes of what was around them now?

And when they finally fade, what would be left in their place? 

It can only be, the future.

Chapter Text

“Hello Tua Aeng.”

The young man standing in front of the glass door looked pale and slightly gaunt. His eyes were hesitant and his posture unsure. Mew felt a pinch in heart. Tul was right, Gulf looked like a ghost. 

He took a step forward, and the younger man seemed ready to bolt, as if he was afraid, but his feet stayed rooted to the ground. Continuing his advance, he slowly made his way to the lean figure in front of him. Gulf’s eyes had turned downcast and his shoulders hunched. 

Taking the younger man’s hand, he placed a soft kiss on his palm. “Nong, I’m sorry for making you wait.” he said.

Gulf shifted his gaze away from his hand and looked to the side, “It’s okay.” 

The younger man was always bad at lying and he was definitely not okay. Drawing the small waist towards him in an effort to comfort, he felt the distinct lack of softness. The younger man’s tummy was gone. 

“You lost weight, Tua Aeng.” he said. 

“I haven’t been hungry much lately.”

He held the lithe body tighter. “Did you eat just now?”

The younger man nodded his head, still looking to the side. 

“Tua Aeng, are you still angry with me?” 

“No.” 

“Then, what’s wrong.” He probed further.

Gulf said in a small voice, “I’m sad. Sad for P’Mew.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because you sounded sad while singing.” 

The pinch in his heart grew into a throb. He thought Gulf was upset at him, maybe even mad but he didn’t think the younger man would be sad for him.

“I didn’t mean for you to hear that.” he said. 

“Why?” The younger man laid his head on his shoulders. 

How was he to explain to Gulf that he never found what he was looking for despite going back to all the places of his past? Even though closing the chapters and talking to his Mae gave him some form of peace, he still felt damaged. 

Still felt broken. 

“I didn’t want you to know that I never found what I lost and that- I’m still broken.” 

The body in his arms stiffened. “Does that mean you are going away again?” the younger man asked,

“No.” He was done. There was no point looking back anymore. All that’s left in the past was just shadows; silhouettes. “I’m done. I’ll just have to make do with who I am now, or whatever that’s left of it.” 

“I like P’Mew as he is now.” Gulf said, rubbing his head against him. “Even if he’s broken.”

The throb in his heart subsided a little. “Thank you, Tua Aeng. I will learn to like myself too.” 

Gulf pressed closer and he looked up, realizing they were standing in front of the glass door, which meant whoever was inside could see them.

“Nong. I think we need to move, can you let go of me?” They had to move, especially since he wanted to kiss the younger man.

“No.” The arms squeezed even further. “I don’t want to let P’Mew go. He might run away again.”

“Nong.”

The younger man didn’t budge, so he locked his arms underneath his bottom and hoisted him up.

“P’Mew!!” Gulf yelped, his limbs wrapping around him for support.

“Tua Aeng, you said you didn’t want to let go so I’m carrying you.” he said as he carried the young man to the sofa at the side.

He heard a huff and let out a small laugh. Reaching the sofa, he tried to place Gulf on it but the limbs around his body refused to let go.

“Tua Aeng…” 

“No.”

He sat down instead, still holding onto the warm body. “If you don’t let go, I’m going to kiss you.” 

“Okay.”

He blinked. 

Gulf leaned in, pressing a chaste kiss on his lips. “There, kiss. I miss you so much, P’Mew. I miss our-”

He leaned in to taste the sweet softness again, reveling in the warm sensations from each time their lips brushed together. Kissing Gulf felt like home; a different kind of home from the one he just came from. It was a home that was full of possibilities and dreams. It was a home he never wanted to let go of again.

“Tua Aeng, I miss you too.” he said after pulling away.

The younger man beamed at him before placing his head back on his shoulder “If P’Mew misses me too, then don’t let go again.”

“I won’t let you go again.”

They laid quietly like this just like many times before until one of them spoke again.

“If you kissed me, does that mean I get to ask a question?”

Questions. He loved questions now. The younger man could ask him all the questions in the world now and he would gladly answer them.

“Yes, Tua Aeng.” He ruffled the younger man’s hair. “I will answer all of your questions from now on and I wouldn’t ask for anything in return.”

Gulf lifted his head, looking slightly disappointed. “Why?”

“To make up for going away. I’ll let you ask everything you want.” he said.

The younger man pouted. “But I want kiss P’Mew.”

He pressed a chaste kiss back on those red lips again. “There, kiss for you.”

More pouting. 

“You look so na rak when you are pouting, Tua Aeng.” he teased.

The pout turned into a weak glare and he leaned in, peppering kisses over all the younger man’s face.

“Stop it, P’Meew.” Gulf giggled, trying to push him away.

“Didn’t Tua Aeng want to kiss?” he asked.

“Tsk.” Gulf pouted again and laid back down on him. “So now you will answer any question of mine?”

“Yes.” Even the hard ones.

The younger man became quiet again and he waited while playing with his hair. 

“P’Mew, are you happy?”

He didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know.”

“Then are you sad?”

That he knew the answer of. “No. Tua Aeng.”

“Okay.”

Was that all the younger man wanted to ask? He’d expected more. “Do you not have other questions to ask?”

“No.”

“Don’t you want to know-” Realization dawned on him. Gulf was waiting for him to share. The younger man cared too much for him to ask about what happened and if he didn’t say anything, the younger man would never ask.

“It’s okay, P’Mew. As long as you are with me, it doesn’t matter.”

He looked down at the figure hugging him and suddenly felt like a fool. A fool for thinking that he might be judged or hated for his mistakes. Gulf would never do that to him, he was too good for that.

Taking a deep breath and he started telling the younger man everything. How he met Art, how they got together, and how happy they were initially. He almost broke down when he started talking about the change in their relationship; how Art had become distant, how he found out that the young man’s family didn’t know he was gay and how he had held on to their relationship even after knowing it was doomed to fail. 

Gulf kept telling him to stop but he didn’t want to, the story had to be told in full. He had to keep his promise. 

“I loved him, nong and I believed he loved me too.” he said.

The younger man was holding his hands now, and rubbing his knuckles. 

“But then I found out-” he choked. 

“P’Mew, please.” Gulf pleaded. “If it hurts so much, don’t say anymore. I don’t want you to hurt anymore.”

“Tua Aeng, just hold me please?” he asked. “It hurts less when you do.” It always did.

Gulf was instantly wrapped around him again, his hold secure and tight. 

Safe.

“I found out Art was seeing a girl and that he had been doing so for months.”

It was Tul who found out. His friend had seen Art out on a date with a woman in Siam Square. In fact, he had seen the couple several times but didn’t have the heart to tell him. 

“I confronted him, and he said it was all for a show because his Pho suspected something. But-” He let out a sob. “But in fact she was-”

The woman was Art’s fiancee, he later found out. The news should have been a shock to him but it wasn’t. By then he had developed so much resentment for the young man, for his inability to be frank, he wasn’t surprised by any of his actions. In fact, his anger grew and everything cumulated to the stand down they had on that fateful day.

“P’Mew?” Gulf’s round and bright eyes were staring at him. The younger man must have noticed his distress.

He couldn’t resist reaching out to rub the soft cheeks, watching as the beautiful eyes closed under his touch. 

Feeling slightly better, he said, “I’m okay, nong. The woman was his fiancee.”

Gulf’s lips parted in surprise. “Fiancee.” he breathed.

“Yeah.” 

He was reaching the crux of his story now and had to take a moment, so he leaned in, pressing his lips onto the younger man’s, hoping that it would give him enough strength to continue on.

Drawing back, he said, “I confronted him again when I found out about his engagement and that was the last time I saw him before I left the country.” 

“Was that when-“

“Yeah.”

He closed his eyes and buried his nose into Gulf’s hair. There was still a faint scent of shampoo. Strawberry. The younger man’s hair smelled like strawberry. 

“I said some words to him I shouldn’t have, nong.” he said. “I threatened him just like his brother did.”

Gulf stiffened at his words. “What did you say, P’Mew?”

Steeling himself, he said, “I told Art, I would reveal our relationship to everyone around us. To his family. To his friends. To everyone.” 

His shameful words. 

Words which he could never take back. That split second decision to say those words to the young man started the series of cascading events later on, which till this day he still regretted.

The younger man became quiet. 

“Nong.” he said. “There is never a day that goes by that I don’t regret saying those words to him.” 

“Did you?” Gulf asked. “Did you reveal everything in the end?”

“No.” he said. “I couldn’t do it. I still can’t do it, not even when his brother threatened me that day.” 

“P’Mew…”

“Even though I didn’t follow through with my words, Art believed me and he was desperate enough to-” he stopped again, unable to continue.

It was almost too much.

“He accused you of assaulting him.” the younger man finished for him.

“It wasn’t just that.” he said. “He hurt himself, nong. That was how he made it believable. People heard him. Heard the noise and just because they saw me and him arguing earlier, they thought it was me who did it.”

Art had gone to such lengths to prevent him from revealing their relationship and his sexuality. The young man was so afraid of his family finding out, he was willing to hurt himself. How could he then have the heart to reveal anything now? What kind of monster would he truly be if he did? He couldn’t do it, not if his conscience still had a say.

“What happened next?” Gulf looked up at him from his chest.

“The police came and the scandal happened. My family tried to help but there was only so much they could do.” he said.

“I heard there were witnesses.”

“How-” The circumstances surrounding Art’s decision to drop the case was never made clear to the public.

“Mild told me. He’s a law student.” 

“Oh.”

“I knew you were innocent all along.” The younger man smiled reassuringly at him “Even before Mild told me of course and… before Tul told me too.”

“Thank you, Tua Aeng.” He tried smiling back but couldn’t. “Even though I was innocent, I still brought an enormous amount of stress and shame to my family. The scandal stretched on for weeks, almost to a month.” 

And the worst thing was, he left the country before the storm blew over, leaving his family behind to pick up the pieces. He had selfishly left so he could escape everything, but he didn’t think about how his loved ones must have felt. It was his words that started everything, he had to be accountable for that and the pain he left behind for his family was on him too. Even if they didn’t blame him, he did. 

It was all on him.

“P’Mew, look at me.” 

Somewhere during the time he was lost in his thoughts, Gulf had straightened himself and was cupping his face. “Nong?” he blinked at the younger man.

“It’s not your fault, P’Mew. You didn’t do anything wrong.” 

“No-” 

“P’Mew! Listen! It’s not your fault!” The younger man was holding his face firmly now. “I can see that you still blame yourself so please stop! Nobody would blame you for what happened.”

“But I brought shame to my family. My words started everything!” 

“NO! IT DIDN’T!” Gulf slapped him on the chest.

He stared at the younger man’s flushed face. “Nong…”

“You didn’t choose to cheat, you didn’t choose to lie and you didn’t choose to be accused.” The younger man was closed to tears. “P’Mew even if you feel guilty about what happened, it’s been so long. How long do you intend to blame yourself!?” Gulf cried as he gripped his shoulders.

Had it been that long? Was two and a half years a long time? Was there an expiration date on guilt? 

He reached out to wipe the tears from the younger man’s face. “Don’t cry, Tua Aeng. Why are you crying?” he asked.

“Because P’Mew is crying too.”

He blinked and felt wetness flow down the side of his face.

“I understand now.” Gulf reached out to wipe his cheeks as well. “Why you are still broken.”

“Why?”

“Because you never allowed yourself to heal.” 

“Because I-” 

“P’Mew, you are broken because you never forgave yourself, that’s why you can’t heal.” 

The younger man’s words echoed deep into his mind and they cut through the fog that had been hanging over his head for the longest time.

“Nong.” he breathed.

“P’Mew, it’s okay now. You are free as long as you let yourself go. Just like you told me to before.” Gulf sobbed.

He broke down. 

Weeping into the younger man’s shoulders, he let out all his frustrations, his guilt and his regrets, and with each tear shed and each sob cried, he released all the pain inside him. Slowly and gradually, he felt the ropes tied around him unravelling and he was finally able to breathe again. 

Gulf held him for the longest time, never saying a word and only rubbing his back in gentle circles. Although he came undone in the younger man’s arms, he didn’t feel as broken anymore. It was as if pieces of himself were being mended back together and he was starting to feel whole again. 

And all it took, was a single word.

Forgiveness.

“Tua Aeng.” he called out softly.

“Yes, P’Mew.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Gulf’s shirt was a mess when he drew back but the younger man didn’t mind, saying it was his way of paying back for the last time. They stayed plastered together until Tul came out to check in on them. His friend had initially looked like he wanted to tease them but upon seeing their faces, he became solemn and left without saying a word.

“Tua Aeng, do you want to see the sunrise?” he blurted out of nowhere, surprising himself.

“P’Mew… we are in a mess and how do we go?”

“I’ll call a cab.”

And they did. Sneaking past all their friends, they took the cab to the beach while ignoring the odd looks the driver kept shooting at them. When they arrived, the sounds of waves crashing onto the dark shore greeted them and he pulled the younger man to his favorite spot. They held each other tightly while seated on a bench and waited for the night to end. 

The sunrise was beautiful. 

As the sun's golden rays shone over the horizon and onto them, he felt like it was ushering in a new chapter into his life. A new chapter he wouldn’t be writing alone, but with the younger man whose hand he was holding tightly onto.

“Tua Aeng.” 

“Hm?” 

“Are you ready for the finishing line?”

“Finishing line?”

“Yeah. After the final hurdle, we head for the finishing line.”

“We?”

“Yes. We. So are you ready?”

Gulf smiled the widest and brightest he had ever seen.

“I’m ready.”

Chapter Text

“P’Mew, are you sure about this?”

Gulf was currently looking at the five grown men squeezed together at a small table beside them. People around the cafe were shooting odd looks at them because they had sunglasses on and were scanning the floor like bouncers at a bar. It was quite a sight to behold, considering the sun wasn’t even shining outside and there was no reason to wear sunglasses indoors.

What a bunch of idiots.

“It’s okay, Tua Aeng. I find it quite funny.” the man laughed.

The scene in front of him was not funny at all. It was ridiculous. His friends were up to their shenanigans again and it wasn’t enough for them to do it on their own, they had to get Tul involved as well. The tall man and Run seemed to have developed a close friendship after working together to find out the source of their photos, and now they were almost inseparable, which was another sight to behold. 

Unable to watch the group of misfits scare any more customers, he got up from his seat and stormed towards them. 

“Guys! What are you doing!” he scolded. “You said you wouldn’t-” 

“Shhh. We are trying to be as discreet as possible, Gulf.” Mild replied, dipping his head down.

“Discreet!?” he exclaimed. “THERE ARE PEOPLE STARING.”

“Tua Aeng, it’s okay.” Mew came up from behind him, rubbing his tummy. 

“Go back first, P’Mew.” He pushed the man back to his seat. “Let me sort these clowns out first.”

Turning back, he leveled a glare at all his friends.

“It was his idea.” Run pointed at Mild. “He made us wear the sunglasses.”

“You AGREED.” Mild retorted.

“I had NO choice! You said it was EITHER sunglasses or a mask!”

“Well, you CHOSE sunglasses so suck it up!” 

Run immediately stood up, ready to lunge for his best friend but was held back by Tul. “I’ll tell you to suck it!”

“Ah Run, chill please.”

“I only suck Bo-.” Boat covered Mild’s mouth before he could finish his sentence.

The entire cafe was watching them now and he had to fight back the urge to either throw his friends under the cars outside or dropped one of the hanging plants on them.

“You.” he gestured to Tul, “And you.” then to Boat. “Control them and please take off the sunglasses.” he said and walked back to his table with Mew.

“Guys just listen to him.” He heard Kaownah said. 

They were waiting for someone very important and he couldn’t risk any of his friends messing things up for Mew. The man had waited long enough, and prepared long enough for this day. 

Mew leaned in to give him a hug when he sat down. “Nong. Don’t be angry at them, they just want to help.” 

“By causing more trouble?” 

He turned around to shoot another dirty look at his friends, who grinned back sheepishly at him. The awful sunglasses were finally off their faces and they look like regular patrons now, albeit a little odd still since they were squeezed together around a small table.

Mew laughed. “See, they look normal now.” 

He let out a huff, rolling his eyes before taking the man’s hand, “P’Mew, are you really sure about this?” 

“Tua Aeng.” Mew squeezed his hand. “I have never been more sure about this. It’s the finishing line.”

The finishing line. 

He never would have thought the finishing line meant this. There were so many ways Mew could have chosen to end his course but he decided to go with the most dramatic one. 

Confrontation. 

A peaceful confrontation, the man had said. As if there was such a thing.

He took a sip of the ice cold bitter coffee and sat back in his seat. They came early so there was still more time to wait. His friends were initially not invited but Mew had told Tul about it and the tall man informed Run, who then spread the news to all his friends. 

So all of them appeared together, and in sunglasses.

“I see him.” Mew said. 

The figure walking into the cafe wasn’t very tall, and was around the same height as Mild. He was dressed casually and rubbing his hands nervously.

“Hello P’Mew.” the young man greeted.

Mew gripped his hand and greeted the newcomer. “Hello Art.”

“Shia! That’s him.” 

“Shhh.”

He tried giving as menacing of a side-eye as he could at his friends.

“Hey,” he said.

Art shifted his gaze to him. “You are-” 

“He’s my-”

“I’m Mew’s faen.” he said.

“Oh.” Art said, sitting down in front of them.

“Hello! What would you like to order?” Arch had appeared beside them.

“Black coffee, please.” Art answered.

Black coffee. He didn’t like the young man already. No one drank black coffee unless they were psychopaths.

Arch smiled. “Alright! N’Gulf, I haven’t seen him before, is he a friend?”

Silence. 

Nobody replied, even the other table had fallen silent.

His face must have looked really bad because Arch immediately stuttered an apology and scurried off saying she will be back with the order.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, P’Mew.” Art said.

“If I didn’t your brother might have forced me to again.” 

That must have hurt. Mew wasn’t mincing his words. 

“Sorry, P’Mew. My Phi… He was worried for me.” At least the young man had the decency to look apologetic. 

Mew face hardened. “He threatened me, Art. He threatened my Faen.” 

The young man shrunk back into his seat. “I- I’m really sorry. If I knew what he was up to I would have stopped him.”

“But you know why he did it.”

“I don’t-“

“Here’s your order!” It was Al this time. He glanced over at the cashier and saw Arch peeking from below the counter. The oldest sister wasn't around.

“Art, why did you want to talk? There's nothing left between us to say.”

The young man steadied himself. “I wanted to apologize.”

“You already did.”

“I don’t think it was enough. After what I did, I thought I should formally apologize to you.” the young man got up.

“Art?”

The young man walked over to Mew and dropped his knees onto the ground. 

“Shia! Art, get up! What are you doing!?”

People around them started whispering and he could see fingers pointing from the corner of his eye.

“I’m sorry, P’Mew. For what happened then and what my Phi did.” 

He looked at the figure kneeling on the floor, Art looked sincere. Almost too sincere, as if he was trying to make up for not being able to do something. 

Like telling the truth. 

“Art, there are other ways to apologize. You don’t have to do this.” Mew tried getting up.

He grabbed the man’s arm and sat him back down.

“Nong?”

“I don’t know what else to do.” Art responded. “I’m so sorry.”

“If you really want to apologize, you should tell the truth.” he said.

“Yes!” It was Mild’s voice.

He glared at the other table again and mouthed a ‘shut up’ at them. 

Art had sunk further into the ground, “I can’t.” he said. “Please don’t force me to.”

“Okay, Art. Nobody is forcing you. Please get up first.” Mew said before turning to him, interlacing their hands together. “Tua Aeng, just let me handle this okay?” 

He nodded grudgingly.

The young man continued to kneel on the ground. 

“Art, please-” Mew was cut off.

“Nong Art!!” 

Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. It was the man from the hospital. 

Deng.

“Shia!!” Tul cursed, getting up from his seat.

“P’Deng!” Art got up immediately. “Why are you here?”

“I follow your car!” Deng exclaimed. “Why were you kneeling!”

Art did not answer and only looked down.

“You!-” Deng lunged for Mew, grabbing his shirt collar and he stood up to stop the older man but Mew pushed him back down with his arm.

“P’Deng!”

“I told you to never-” 

Deng let go immediately and staggered back at the sight of Tul, who was glaring hard at him.

“Tul! Sit down!” Mew scolded. “I’ll handle this!”

“P’Tul, come sit down.” Run pulled the taller man back onto his seat and nodded at him.

He returned the nod. They couldn’t let Tul loose on the older man when the goal was to keep the confrontation peaceful. If it was even possible by now.

“Did you make him kneel?” Deng asked with teeth clenched.

Mew exhaled. “No. He did it on his own.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” the older man said.

He wanted to say something but held himself back.

“Art, please.” Mew said.

“It’s true, P’Deng. I kneeled on my own.” The man was still looking down. 

“Why did you kneel!” Deng shook the young man’s shoulders.

Art kept silent.

“N’Art! Why won’t you say anything!”

He had enough. This was going nowhere. Screw peaceful confrontation.

Standing up, he said, “He apologized because he falsely accused P’Mew of assault.” 

“Nong!” 

“P’Mew! Stop protecting him anymore! He needs to own up to his actions!”

Deng stepped towards them again. “What do you mean by falsely accused? The articles-”

“The articles don’t tell the whole story!” 

He wasn’t going to let Mew suffer anymore. If he had to be the bad guy, then so be it.

“There were witness accounts putting P’Mew somewhere else! There was no case to be made!” Then pointing to Art. “He lied! And it was bec-”

“Tua Aeng, stop!” Mew was holding him back now. “Don’t say anymore!”

“P’Mew!”

“Yes. I lied.” the young man finally admitted.

“N’Art?” Deng asked.

“I falsely accused P’Mew of assault.” 

“Why!?”

Art looked away from his brother.

“Because he-” Mew covered his mouth.

“Why won’t anyone say anything!” Deng exclaimed.

Tul stood up. “Because he’s-”

“Because I’m gay.” Art said.

Gasps came from all around them.

He peeled away Mew’s hand. “He didn’t want your Pho to know he’s gay.”

“What?” Deng looked even more stunned by his words. “Is that true, N’Art?”

The young man nodded slightly.

“Why?”

Art kept silent.

“N’Art!” Deng shook the young man’s shoulders again.

“Because Pho hates gays!” Art buried his head under his hands. “He tried to pin sexual assault on P’Mew when I only said assault! Because HE HATES GAYS.”

This time he heard himself gasp as well. 

“Pin sexual assault? How?” he asked Mew softly.

“His Pho is the Police superintendent.” 

He almost cursed out loud.

“I- I never knew.” Deng shook his head. “Why didn’t you tell me!?”

The young man hunched over sobbed pitifully. “Deng, you were overseas for so long. How would you know? And how I would know if..”

“If what?”

“If you hated gays too!! HATED ME!!” Art collapsed onto the floor, weeping.

He felt sorry for the young man, almost to the point his heart was breaking. Having to live in such fear of his own family must have been a torture for him.

Deng walked over and bent down beside him. “How could I hate you, Nong? I’m your brother, your family!”

“P’Deng.” Art looked up from the ground. “But Pho is family too.”

“I’ve lived overseas since I was young. My thinking is different from him, Nong. I have gay friends. How would I hate you?”

“You- you don’t?” Art stared wide-eyed at his brother. 

“Oh, God. My baby nong. Of course I don’t!” The older man pulled Art into a hug.

Something didn’t add up. 

Turning to Mew, he tried to signal to the man his confusion.

“Half brother. They grew up together but separated.” 

“Oh.” It all made sense now.  

Mew walked up to the brothers, gesturing him along and together they helped them up.

“Please accept my apologies. N’Mew.” the older man said.

“It’s okay. You were just worried.”

Deng patted Mew shoulders, “Even then, we still caused you a lot of pain so let me just-” the older man bent his knees.

“P’Deng, stop!” 

They pulled Deng up. 

“Please, just let it go. I’m tired already.” Mew sighed heavily. “Let’s end this once and for all today.”

The two men nodded their heads, apologized again and left the cafe. When their figures were out of sight, him and Mew both collapsed back onto the chair, completely drained. The man drew him into his arms, nuzzling his neck. 

“Thank you, Tua Aeng.” 

“You’re welcome. P’Mew.”

“Fuck.” Tul cursed.

“Yeah, fuck.” Run added on.

He looked over at his friends table. They all had different expressions on their faces, some still in disbelief and some solemn. Looking further, he realized the cafe had completely emptied during their confrontation and the sisters were nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s everyone?” Mild asked. He had noticed the lack of human presence in the cafe too. 

“I think everyone left while they were fighting.“ Kaownah commented. 

His friends all started looking around. It was dusk already and almost near closing time for the cafe, so it was strange that nobody was around. 

“Over here!” The voice sounded like one of the sisters. 

From the corner of his eye, he saw a wheelchair coming out of the back room of the place. It was Khun Fon, and standing behind her were the three sisters and an older lady. 

“Khun Fon?” 

“Mae?” 

“Hello Mew.”

He didn’t hear wrong. Mew said Mae and the older lady responded. 

“I don’t understand,” Mew said. “Why are you-“

“Tul called me.”

The man turned to Tul, who shrugged. 

“But how do you know-“

The older lady smiled. “Mew, she’s one of the witnesses.”

“Shia.” Tul cursed. 

“We thought we could help but it looks like we weren’t needed.” Mew’s Mae added on, smiling.

“How?” Mew asked.

“I asked P’Stamp.” the older lady said, walking over towards them. “She’s the friend you’ve been fetching me to visit.”

Mew stared at his Mae, seemingly at a loss for words. 

Khun Fon was the injured friend of Mew’s Mae who Mew had been fetching to. He cursed silently to himself. What a twist of fate.

“Khon Fon. A witness?” Mew asked again.

“Yes, N’Mew. I saw you at the park.” The cafe owner said.

Mew walked slowly over to the woman in the wheelchair and fell to his knees. 

“Mew!” “N’Mew!”

The man started sniffling and he ran towards him, kneeling beside. 

“P’Mew…”

“You- Khun Fon, why didn’t you say anything?” Mew asked.

“I was content with just watching from afar. Besides, it was nothing. Just giving a statement.” Fon said.

Mew turned to his Mae. “Mae, why?”

“Mew-”

“I told her not to tell you.” Fon answered instead. “After hearing about what happened, I decided that it was better not to bring up the past. It’s been long enough.”

Mew became quiet.

“Did you hear everything just now?” he asked the two ladies hesitantly.

“Yes, N’Gulf.” Fon smiled at him. “We heard everything, or most of it. Please, stand up. You are making me uncomfortable.”

He pulled Mew up and they both stood in front of Fon, who looked fondly at them. 

“Thank you.” Mew said between heavy breaths. “Thank you so much, if it wasn’t for your statement-” 

“N’Mew, I wasn’t the only one who saw you.” Fon said.

“What do you mean?” Mew asked.

“Someone was with you at the park.”

“Who?” 

Fon directed her gaze at him.

?

Chapter Text

They were at the park.

Fon, being her usual mysterious self, had dramatically wheeled herself off with Mew’s Mae in tow, not saying anything more and leaving them to figure out her cryptic words. Mew later dragged him out of the cafe and drove him back to the campus, insisting he wanted to show him something - much to the disappointment of his friends and himself, because he thought they would be heading out to celebrate. 

They did pass the finishing line after all.

Though the dust had settled, he was still slightly bothered by Fon’s pointed gaze at him. The cafe owner had looked directly into his eyes when she said she saw someone with Mew, as if she thought he was the one. But that couldn’t be possible. He never met Mew or Fon until he came to the cafe and if he did, he would definitely remember, no matter how poor his memory was.

“Tua Aeng, I want to show you something.” 

Mew stopped in front of a clearing at the park. It looked like the area he passed by that night when the man nearly gave him a heart attack. There was nobody around since it was the weekend and the place was covered in soft orange-yellow hue from the setting sun. It looked rather nice, romantic even he would say and might have been great for a date if the man didn’t look someone just stole his candy.

“What do you want to show me?” he asked.

“This.” Mew pointed to a bench.

A bench. 

The man dragged him all the way here to show him a bench. 

“A bench?” 

Mew's face finally lightened up a little. “Sorry, Tua Aeng. This is where I think Fon saw me that day.”

“Oh.” He stared at the wooden seat. “Were you sitting on it?” he asked.

“Yeah.” The man sat down, motioning for him to follow. “I was surprised she saw me because I had my head down almost the whole time.” 

“What were you doing?” he asked while sitting down.

Mew’s smile disappeared and his eyes clouded over. 

“I was crying.”

He heard himself drawing in a sharp intake of breath.

“Tua Aeng?”

Crying.

He remembered something. 

Something that happened in the past. Something he had long forgotten because of the passage of time and how inconsequential it was.

“P’Mew.” he turned to the man. “I remember something.”

“Remember what?” Mew frowned at him. 

He remembered a stranger.

A man sitting hunched over on a rainy day, crying his heart out. His sobs so heart wrenching, it had stopped him in his tracks while he was passing by the park.

“I was passing by the park that day.” he said, blinking. “Then I heard crying and when I walk over-”

An image as clear as the day flashed across his mind. It was the image of the man and what he wore that day. 

He cursed. 

“Tua Aeng.” Mew pulled him closer. “What did you see?”

“I saw-” It couldn’t be. “I saw a man hunched over, sitting on a bench. He was crying his heart out and it was so loud, I could hear it even under the heavy rain.”

Mew’s eyes widened and he straightened himself. “What else did you see?” the man asked shakily.

“P’Mew? Do you have your mustard beanie?” he asked. 

The man furrowed his brows. “Yes, why?”

“Can you take it out now?”

Mew reached into his bag and pulled out his beanie. Then, he snatched the piece of clothing and put it on the man’s head. 

“Nong? What are you doing?” The man adjusted his beanie. 

He stared at the image in front of him and felt his throat slowly tightened up. “P’Mew, can you show me what you did that day? Please?”

Mew blinked at him a few times before bending over and burying his head under his hands.

His heartbeat sped up the moment he saw Mew’s posture and he stood up immediately, stepping back.

It was him. 

The stranger. 

The beanie was soaked through then so he couldn't recognize it when the man was wearing it dry but under the light of dusk, it looked just like the one he saw on the stranger.

“Nong?” Mew looked up again at him. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s the same. The same thing I saw.” he said.

“What same-?” 

“Khun Phi?”

“Khun Phi?” he said. 

“Leave me alone!”

“Leave me alone!” he added on.

“Khun Phi. Are you okay?”

“Khun Phi. Are you okay?”

Mew stood up slowly from the bench, almost as if his legs would buckle at any moment.

He didn’t remember the rest but he did recall one last thing. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out the red umbrella.

“I’ll just leave this here for you.”

“I’ll just leave this here for you.” he said, placing the red umbrella on the bench.

His umbrella.

“It was you.” 

“Yes.” he said, still looking at the umbrella on the bench. “It was me.”

He felt himself being pulled into a crushing embrace.

“P’Mew…”

“How-”

“I don’t know.”

He really didn't know. In fact, he was completely, utterly stumped. This was a revelation that he never would have imagined possible, at least not until moments ago. They had met each other coincidentally all those years before and never knew. Even when the umbrella was staring into his face the whole time, he never made the connection between the stranger he saw that day and Mew. If Fon didn’t trigger the man, trigger him, would they have found out? Would he have remembered?

He still had many questions that needed to be answered. Questions on why the man was even crying on the bench in the first place. Was it because of Art? And if Fon saw him as a witness, did that make him a witness too? He didn’t recall giving any witness statements on assault, though he did recall giving a statement on a robbery but that was really long ago and details were lost to him. 

He was so far gone in his thoughts that when he came to his senses again due to the rumbling in his stomach, the sky had already darkened into the night. Mew was still holding tightly onto him and was probably as consumed in his thoughts as he were before. He slowly pushed the man away.

“P’Mew?” he said, waving his hand in front.

Mew’s face was blank and his eyes vacant. The man was still in shock. Reaching out with both his hands, he gave the expressionless face a squeeze and then pinched the cheeks, pulling them side to side.

Mew’s eyes focused on him immediately and his hands came up to grip his wrist, stopping them from moving.

“Tua Aeng…”

“P’Mew, I thought I lost you.” he teased.

“I’m just still in shock that’s all.”

“Tsk.” he tutted at the man. “The sky is already dark, how long do you plan to be in shock.”

He was hungry.

Mew pulled him close again. “I’m just really happy that’s all.”

He looked around the park and realized it had gotten eerily quiet. Too quiet. A shiver passed through his body. There seemed to be shadows moving under the streetlights and the dark trees stood ominous in front of them. Then the wind picked up and another shiver passed through him. They had to get out soon because he was going to scream from fright at any second.

“P’Mew… Let’s go...”

Mew kept his arms locked firmly around him. “No.”

“Let’s gooo…” He tried pushing but the hold did not budge. 

That’s it. No more being nice. His sanity was more important.

“P’Mew!” he scolded. “You are lucky I heard you during the day, if it was at night, I would have ran as far as possible!”

He heard a muffled choke and felt shaking.

Pulling away, he leveled a glare at the man.

“Tua Aeng, are you scared?” Mew laughed.

He slapped the man’s shoulder. “YES! Can’t you see I was shivering!?”

A gust of wind blew and he shivered again. Mew laughed even harder. 

He narrowed his eyes at the man. If no one was leaving, he would. Turning around, he bolted for the entrance of the park. 

“Nong!”

“See if you can catch me!” 

He could tell Mew was giving chase from the strides he was hearing and they got louder with each step he took. Cursing because the man was catching up, he put more energy into his sprint and pushed forward, ignoring the burn in his legs. There was no way Mew could catch up to him now, he wasn’t a midfielder for nothing.

Just as he was about to reach the entrance, hands appeared from beside him and pulled him back. 

“SHIA!” he cursed as he fell back onto a hard body.

This time they didn’t land onto the ground because Mew was holding him steadily.

“Tua Aeng. I caught you.” The man panted heavily against his shoulders.

He wiggled and tried getting away but couldn’t. “P’Mew!”

“I won’t ever let you go again.”

He stopped moving. 

“You are my hope. Now and then, you were always my hope. Just that I didn’t know."

He sighed. Something had to be done, if not the man would brood till the end of the month.

Twisting his body around, he cupped Mew’s surprised face and leaned in to give him a deep kiss. 

“Here, now you know.”

The moment he felt the man’s arms loosen, he bolted again and ran all the way to the car, laughing as he did. Stopping at the vehicle, he tried hiding behind it but was wrestled back into the strong arms again.

“Tua Aeng, you are getting naughtier.” 

He giggled and tried wiggling again. “P’Mew, I’m hungry, can we go for dinner now?”

Mew narrowed his eyes and leaned in closer until his nose was brushing against his. “I’m hungry too.”

“Oh. That’s great. Let’s go.”

The man grinned devilishly and reached out to open the car’s back door behind him.

“P’Mew?”

The man pushed him inside and he fell back onto the backseat with a yelp. 

“Yes. I’m hungry. Hungry for you, Tua Aeng.” 

Mew maneuvered their bodies until he was under the man, and he heard the door close. 

There was silence. Other than their breathing, there was no sound in the car. He was about to say something when lips descended hard onto his own and all thoughts left his mind. Mew pinned him down on the seat and kissed him thoroughly, from his mouth, to his cheeks and then to his neck. The man spent the most time sucking at the spot below his ear and he was sure another hickey was in the making. 

“P’Mew…” 

It was getting hard to breathe since there was no ventilation in the car. 

The man continued his work on his neck and didn’t budge. 

“I can’t breathe…”

The man lifted himself off a little. “Tua Aeng, I can’t breathe too.”

“Then why aren’t you getting off me!” He scolded, while trying to push the man off.

“Stayover at my place?” 

He had to take a moment to let the words sink in. Mew was asking him to stay over, which meant he would be sleeping at his place. Which also meant many things could happen. 

“Erm…” he looked away. 

“Tua Aeng, you don’t want to?”

“No! I mean yes! No-” 

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, it was just that he hadn’t thought about staying at the man’s place before and that made him nervous.

As if sensing his slight distress, Mew started stroking his hair. 

“Tua Aeng, we won’t do anything you don’t want. I haven’t seen you all week so I wanted to just hold you to sleep tonight.”

That was it. The assurance he needed.

“Okay.” he said.

After a few bumps to the head from trying to untangle themselves and getting out of the backseat of the car, they drove off to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant before making their way to Mew’s place. He sat throughout the latter journey with a strange mix of emotions and he was unsure why. Mew kept glancing over at him before saying he had a surprise back at his place, which piqued his curiosity and helped alleviate the odd uneasiness in his gut.

He loved surprises.

“Tua Aeng, wait for me.”

The man opened the door and shut it.

He blinked several times at the closed door before looking away and checking out the quiet corridor. The units were far apart, which meant there was probably better privacy for each tenant, unlike his own dorm room where the moment his two forever warring friends started their arguments, the entire floor could hear.

After what seemed like ages, the door finally opened and Mew peeked out with a grin on his face. The cheeky man, having the gall to still smile after making him wait for so long. He sulked at him, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall behind. Immediately noticing his displeasure, Mew came out and led him in by the waist, all the while apologizing for his delay. 

“Nong, sorry to make you wait.” 

He crossed the threshold and the first thing he noticed was his favorite vanilla scent and the annoyance he felt earlier gradually disappeared with each whiff he took of the place. Walking further in he noticed the open kitchen, the living and dining area, and the beautifully lighted balcony that almost took his breath away.

Walking up and stepping onto the platform, he studied the lights and realized they were intricately weaved around each railing. Some of them were hanging off the top as well, held together by poorly placed tapes. He let out a small laugh. At least they did their job and weren’t as obvious in the night with the lights on. 

“P’Mew, it’s beautiful.” he said.

The man enfolded him from behind and placed a kiss on his shoulder. “I’m glad you like it, Tua Aeng.” 

Mew must have decorated the balcony for their krapow date. 

“Did you decorate it for our date the last time?” he asked.

Mew pressed him further into his chest. “Yes.”

He looked at the lights again and was suddenly reminded of the events from that day. He recalled how worried he felt when Mew didn’t arrive, how disappointed he was when the man called to tell him he couldn’t come, how shocked he was when he saw Mew at the hospital and how absolutely crushed he was when he found the bouquet at his door.

Everything was coming back in full force and hitting him right where it hurt the most, his heart. 

“I was really sad that day.” he said.

“Tua Aeng…”

“I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I wished nothing bad happened and I wished we at least had a chance to do something nice together before everything fell apart.”

Mew slowly turned him around. “Tua Aeng, we have all the time now.” The man said, cupping his face. 

“I know but I still feel sad. Sad that I couldn’t be there for you. Sad that you had to go away alone to face everything.” he sniffled.

The man pressed kisses onto his eyes. “Tua Aeng, have you forgotten? You were there for me all those years ago. I kept the umbrella as a token of hope because of your actions that day.”

He blinked back tears and looked up at the man. “I know. It’s just, so many things happened and I didn’t get the chance to tell you how I felt.” he sniffled again. “I wanted to be strong for you so I never said anything but it’s getting harder to hold them back now.” 

“Oh Tua Aeng.” The man pressed his head onto his shoulders and he sobbed into it. 

He hated feeling this way, hated that he was ruining this happy moment for them but he couldn’t help it, couldn't help if the emotions he fought so hard to pushed back were rearing to the surface again. He wanted so bad to feel better, to have all his trepidations chased away. And he wanted it from Mew, needed it from him.

Nothing was going to hold him back now, not even himself.

Wiping away his tears, he looked at Mew again. “P’Mew, make me feel better please?” he asked.

“How?” the man asked. “How can I make you feel better?”

“Love me.” he said softly. “Make love to me.”

“Tua Aeng…” Mew stroke his cheeks. “I don’t wish for us to rush into it and you don't seem to be in the right state of mind. Let’s take our time okay?”

“I want you, P’Mew!” He bit his lips. “We don’t have to go all the way but I still want you.”

There was silence for a moment.

“Are you sure?” The man asked in a low voice.

“Yes.”

Mew kissed him gently at first as if afraid he would break from his little meltdown earlier but he pressed himself deeper into the man and rubbed his body keenly against him. The man let out a groan, abandoning all traces of his self-control and kissed him so passionately that he was almost completely out of breath. He wanted more and more couldn’t be achieved with them still standing out on the balcony.

“P’Mew.” he breathed.

The man was working his neck again and he whispered, “Yes, Tua Aeng.”

“I think we should head in.” 

The man pulled away and held his hand, leading him out of the balcony and into his bedroom, where they sat down next to each other.

“Tua Aeng. What do you want to do now?” the man asked.

He didn’t know. The endgame he knew but the stages between, he wasn’t as sure. Asking his friends had ended up in near disaster and he swore never to do it again because somewhere in his room, there was a box full of condoms. 

He looked down at his knees. “I don’t know.”

The man lifted his chin up.. “Do you trust me?” he asked.

He trusted Mew more than he trusted most people in his life.

“Yes.” 

Mew shifted closer and guided him with his body until he was lying flat on his back. Then he leaned in to kiss him, first on the lips, then on his neck and then down his body. Everything was so slow and so painfully sensual that he thought by the time they got to any deed, it would probably be morning already. He sat up all of a sudden, surprising the man into sitting back and gripped the ends of his shirt, taking the top off in one swift motion.

“Tua Aeng!”

“P’Mew, this is so slow.”

“What-?”

“If you are so slow, I’ll set the pace.” he said.

He missed the bold man that pinned him onto the bed and kissed him when he was sick.

“Oh nong, what am I going to do with you?” Mew shook his head.

“P’Mew should take his top off too.” he said.

Mew’s shirt was off in a second and he lunged for his naked torso, straddling on top of it. The man’s hands came up immediately to grip his waist. Then he leaned in and sucked at the pale collarbone, before moving to his sternum and then to his dusty brown nub. His actions elicited a string of moans from the body underneath him and he felt a twitch in his pants. 

Sitting up again he said. “P’Mew. I think we should take off our pants too.”

“What?!”

He got off the bed and took off his pants, leaving only his boxers on. Then, he jumped back on Mew and started tugging at his waistband. 

“Tua Aeng! Wait!”

Stopping his actions, he sat back on the bed and waited patiently.

The man sighed. “Nong, why are you in such a hurry?”

“Because P’Mew looks like he’s holding back.”

Mew blinked at him. “You don’t want me to?”

He shifted closer to the man until he was top of him again and started tugging his jeans off. This time there was no resistance and soon, they were only wearing their boxers. 

“Is this a clear enough answer for you?” he asked.

He was flipped back on the bed in an instant and Mew attacked his body with a vengeance. The man left no area untouched with his mouth and hands, sucking and kneading with an urgency he knew that came from deep within him. 

“P’Mew..” he moaned when one particular spot Mew sucked on made him shiver uncontrollably.

His hands were not idle and they explored the vast smooth expanse of the body on top of him, loving how when he brushed certain spots, the man would shudder just as he did. His desire was evident under his boxer now and he wanted nothing more than to rip them off so he could feel the man without any more hindrance. He knew Mew wouldn’t do anything until he initiated so he took matters into his own hands again.

“Can we take everything off?” he asked. 

“What?!” Mew lifted up his head, looking surprised again. 

And an idea came to him.

Making sure the man’s eyes were on him, he grasped the waistband of his boxers and slowly pulled them down. Mew’s eyes widened the moment he realized what was happening and inhaled sharply when his entire self underneath was revealed. He had to fight back a blush when he saw the man’s reaction. 

It was not the time to be shy. 

The man stopped his hands while his boxers were halfway down his legs. “Tua Aeng, why are you in such a hurry?”

He didn’t know. All he knew was he wanted to feel better, he wanted to forget everything bad that had happened. 

“I don’t know. I just- I just want to feel better.” He said, looking away.

“Okay, then I’ll make you feel more than better.”

Mew took him into his mouth and he cried out, gripping his hair tightly as the man moved up and down. His mind had been completely overwhelmed by sensations and he couldn’t think of anything else other than the building tension in his abdomen. Mew peeled his hands off his hair, pinning them to his sides and all he could do was grip the sheets tightly.

He didn’t want this, not like that, not when he was the only one feeling good. If there was pleasure to be had tonight, it must be shared.

“Stop!” he cried out.

Mew stopped immediately, looking puzzled at him with his lips swollen and shining. 

“I don’t want to be the only one feeling good, P’Mew.” He reached out to stroke the man’s face, rubbing his lips with his thumb. “I want you to feel good too.”

“How?”

He remembered something from the videos Run sent him.

“Like this.” He straddled the man again and rubbed their hips together.

Mew heavy lidded eyes became even darker and he tore both of their boxers off. When they were fully exposed, he gasped at the sight of the man and swallowed nervously. They weren’t heading to the end tonight but if they did in the future, he would have to be ready, very ready because the sight of the man made him squeeze his bottom tight.

The man climbed on top of him again and pressed their bodies together. He whimpered the moment their hips touched and moaned loudly when the rocking started. Gripping the man’s shoulders tightly, he arched his back to match the rhythm set, feeling his tension gradually peaking with each thrust. He tried his hardest to hold back, because the man had only just started working on his own release but he was fighting a losing battle and was getting close.

As their mutual movements started to speed up, so did his loss of control and with a loud cry, his body liberated itself of its searing need. Mew continued his rigorous rocking as he shuddered through the waves of his release. Nearing his end, he heard a grunt and felt hot wetness landing on top of his belly. The man sagged against him and they breathed together, chest to chest until the wetness between them started to dry.

“Tua Aeng.” Mew propped himself on his elbow, leaning in for a kiss. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m okay.” 

“We should take a shower.” the man looked between them. “There’s a bit of mess.” he smiled.

“You mean, a lot. P’Mew.” he laughed. 

“Yes.” 

Mew leaned in to kiss him again and moved to get off but he stopped him.

“P’Mew, I don’t know when but I want more next time.”

“Me too, me too.”

They made quick work of washing up themselves in the shower as he was near collapsing from exhaustion. Having gone through a ‘peaceful’ confrontation, then having to remember a long lost memory, to running away from unseen terrors and having near sex for the first time was enough to send him into hibernation for a week. Also not to forget being pinned into the backseat of a car as well. 

He was more than ready for bed.

They laid cuddled to each other with his head tucked underneath Mew’s chin. He hadn't felt this warm and comforted in a long time and wanted to relish in it but sleep was hovering at the edges of his consciousness. There were still words he wanted to say to man so he lifted his head off his chest and sat up.

“Tua Aeng?”

“P’Mew, you kept the flowers.” He pointed to the bouquet that lay on the side table.

Mew smiled. “Yes, and I kept them here so when I wake up, it’s the first thing I see.”

His heart skipped a beat. 

“I did the same too but the flowers spoiled eventually.” he pouted.

“I’ll send you one every week.”

He smiled at the man. “It’s okay, having you around is enough.”

Mew shifted forward and drew him back into his arms. His eyelids became even heavier but he held on. 

“Do you remember the note you gave me?”

“Yes.”

“Can you say those words again?”

“Rak Na, Tua Aeng.”

His favorite words.

“Rak Na, P’Mew.”

And he finally fell into a peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

“Tua Aeng, wake up.”

The warm body plastered all over his figure showed no signs of movement and remained still.

“Nong.” He shook the slim shoulders.

No response.

He didn’t know Gulf was such a sleepyhead in the morning and all his attempts so far at getting him to wake had been unsuccessful. No amount of calling and shaking had been effective in rousing the younger man and he was running out of options, where the options left require less restrain.

Trying one last time before moving onto less restrained methods which he had been entertaining for the past few minutes, he shook the body in his arms again and finally got a response, but it wasn’t the response he wanted. The limbs around him tightened further and the younger man pressed himself closer against his sides. He sighed. It was mid-morning already and if they didn't get up soon, his hopes for them to have a nice breakfast together on the balcony would be dashed. Unless of course, they had other fun.

“Tua Aeng.”

He heard a soft whine. So Gulf was awake. 

Steeling himself, he flipped their bodies over and pinned the younger man under him. 

“P’Mew!” Gulf eyes shot open and he pushed against him.

Too late now.

Grabbing the hands on his shoulders, he pinned them beside the younger man’s head and muffled any more of his protests with his lips. Gulf struggled against him initially but became pliant the moment he started nudging his lips open.  

“Are you going to wake up now?” he asked, pulling away.

Gulf nodded slightly, eyes unfocused and lips still begging to be kissed. Unable to resist himself, he leaned in again and gave the younger man another long drawn wake up call. 

“P’Mew!” Gulf protested, turning his head away. “I’m awake, can you let go of my hands now?” 

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes!”

As tempting as it was to keep those soft hands pinned, he thought it might unbecoming of him as a gentleman to continue so he let go of his grip and rested his hands beside the younger man’s head, playing with his hair. Gulf placed his hands on his shoulders and gave a light push but he stayed firmly on top of him. He liked their positions now and was hoping it could lead to more. More than what they did before. Although in all honesty, he would settle for anything now even if it was to just have a taste of what the younger man was like when he was needy and demanding. 

Just like last night.

He loved demanding Gulf.

“P’Mew, are you getting off me?”

“Do you want me to?” He asked, dropping his voice low.

The younger man looked away, pinching his lips.

Leaning in, he brushed the tip of their noses together. “Tua Aeng, I want you.”

Gulf shifted his gaze back at him. “Now?” he asked.

“Yes.” 

“How?”

“Anyhow you want.” he said. 

The younger man pinched his lips again. “I-”

The doorbell rang. 

He cursed under his breath and heard Gulf snorted. 

“Now P’Mew has no choice but to get off me.” 

He flicked a finger lightly on the tip of the younger man’s nose. “You are really getting naughtier, Tua Aeng.”

“But you still want me.” Gulf smirked.

Narrowing his eyes, he pressed their bodies closer together. “Yes, the naughtier you are, the more I want you.”

The doorbell rang again. 

He huffed loudly and Gulf giggled. 

“Aren’t you going to get the door?”

Lifting himself, he rolled off the warm body and sat up.

The younger man turned over and propped on his elbow, smiling at him. 

“Tua Aeng.” he said. “Aren’t you curious about who might be at the door?”

Gulf frowned. “Who might be here so early?” 

Technically it wasn't that early anymore but out of all the people he knew, there was only one person that would appear on a Sunday morning and that was, Tul.

He sighed. “I think it might be Tul.”

The younger man sat up immediately. “P’Tul!” he said, beaming.

“Do you like him so much?” he asked. 

“Yes, P’Tul is always nice to me.” 

It was his turn to snort. Only fools would like Tul. That man was clown through and through and he wouldn't hesitate to call him a troll even if he was feeling more generous. “Wait till he starts teasing you.”

Loud knocks sounded from the door. 

Cursing at his best friend’s lack of patience, he got off the bed, pulling Gulf along as well and they shuffled to the door.

“Wait! I’m coming!” he shouted as the knockings continued.

Gripping the handle, he opened the door, “Shia! Tul, don’t you have any patien-”

“Hello Mew.”

His jaw dropped and Gulf immediately hid behind him, gripping the back of his shirt.

Standing at his door was his Mae, Stamp and Tul.

“Hi N’Mew.” Stamp greeted.

“Sh-” he covered his mouth.

“Wow, Mew. Is that how you greet your Mae and your cousin? And is that Gupi I see behind you?”

“Alai…”

“Mew, can you let us in first?” his Mae asked.

“Su-Sure, Mae. Of course, come in.” he turned and let his guests in.

His Mae took a look behind him and smiled before heading to the sofa in the living with Tul and Stamp.

“H-hi.” he heard Gulf said from behind him. 

Pulling the younger man to his side, they went over to the sofa where everyone was sitting.

“So erm, this is Gulf. My faen.” he introduced. “And Gulf, this is my Mae and my cousin Stamp, a police inspector.”

“Hello, Khun-”

“Call me Mae, Gulf.” his Mae smiled gently.

“Hello Mae. Hello Inspec-”

His cousin laughed. “Just call me Stamp.”

“Hello P’Stamp.”

He could tell Gulf was extremely nervous just from how small his voice was. The younger man didn’t do very well with strangers, let alone his Mae and cousin. He would be nervous as well if he met Gulf’s parents and relatives too.

His Mae got up from her seat and sat beside Gulf, taking his hand in hers. “Gulf, thank you for taking care of my son.”

“I-” The younger man stared wide-eyed.

“Mae, I think you are scaring him.” he laughed.
 
Gulf collected himself immediately. “You’re welcome, Mae. P’Mew takes care of me too.” he smiled.

His Mae patted Gulf’s hand gently.

“What brings everyone here?” he asked.

His Mae and Stamp looked at Tul.

“I thought you might have some questions so I called your Mae and she called your cousin.” Tul said. “But I didn’t expect Gupi to be here too!” he gestured at Gulf.

He did have questions. In fact, he had been meaning to ask them since yesterday but was distracted by all the happenings in between.

“Yeah, I do have many questions.” he said.

“Sure go ahead, I’m just a facilitator.” Tul got up. “Let me go get some drinks for everyone.”

He nodded at his best friend and turned to his Mae. “Mae, how did you know Fon?”

“I told her.” Stamp answered.

“Why?” 

“I made him.” his Mae cut in. “I wanted to thank her on your behalf and... we became friends along the way.” 

“I see...” 

“She kept me company after you left and it helped me get through a lot of things.” His Mae smiled sadly. 

His heart sank. “I’m sorry, Mae.”

He felt a hand squeezing his knee. It was Gulf, who gave him a reassuring smile. 

“It’s all in the past already.” his Mae continued. “I am glad everything turned out well in the end.” She beamed at Gulf, who smiled shyly back.

“N’Mew.” Stamp straightened from his seat. “There was another witness. I didn’t divulge his name because he was still nineteen at the time.”

Nineteen. 

He turned to Gulf, who looked like he was having some sort of internal monologue with his brows drawn together and lips pressed thin. The same look he saw yesterday at the park when the younger man was trying to remember him.

“Gulf, you were nineteen two years ago right?” 

“Hmm.” Gulf tilted his head slightly. “I think so. Yeah. I think.”

He pinched his nose. Why did he bother asking?

“Mew, did you manage to recall who you were with when Fon saw you?” his Mae. 

“Fon didn’t tell you?” he asked.

His Mae shook her head. “Fon said some things are better left to fate.” 

He had to find a chance to sit down for a chat with the cafe owner one day. She must be a formidable woman to have been able to withstand his Mae’s persuasiveness. Nobody he knew so far had been able to say no to his Mae when she really wanted something- she was that good.

“It wasn’t me who recalled.” he answered, turning his head to Gulf. "It was him."

Everyone turned to the younger man, who started stuttering. “I- Well- Erm-”

“He remembered seeing me,” he said.

“What!” Tul exclaimed. “Gupi saw you!?”

He hadn’t noticed the tall man sitting down behind him.

“Yeah, well he didn’t technically see my face but he remembered me or at least the figure of me.” 

He wasn’t really sure how to explain to them. 

“I saw P’Mew crying in the rain while passing by the park and I gave him my umbrella, but I didn't see his face because he was hunched over like this.” Gulf said in one breath and bent himself over.

Everyone blinked.

He had to fight back a snort. The younger man was on autopilot again, he only talked like that when he was very nervous.

“Yes. Gulf gave me his umbrella.” he said, pulling the younger man up and drawing him close.

“It’s okay, Tua Aeng. I’m here.” he whispered.

Gulf slowly relaxed against him. 

“Aow.” Tul said. “So Gupi saw you all those years ago!?” 

“Yes,” he said.

“Fu- Sh- Good God.” 

He shot his friend a dirty look, who still looked like he just heard the most shocking news of the century and his mouth was opened wide enough for an orange to be stuffed in. 

“Gulf, isnt it?” Stamp’s voice suddenly cut in.

“Y-yes. P’Stamp.”

“What’s your full name?”

Gulf tensed up again. “Erm-”

“It’s okay,” he whispered again.

“It’s Kanawut Traipipattanapong, P’Stamp.” the younger man answered.

Stamp’s expression changed the moment he heard the name. His cousin reached into his pockets quickly and took out his phone, tapping and scrolling before showing the screen to Gulf. 

“Is this your name?”

The younger man squinted at the phone before pulling back his head abruptly. “Yes! How did you-”

“Witness statement.” Stamp answered.

“But I don’t think we’ve met before.” 

“It wasn’t me who did the interviews, it was my partner Hope. I removed myself from the case since I’m family.” 

“Oh.”

“Nong. Did you remember giving any statement?” he asked.

Gulf shook his head. “No…I-” he said, frowning.

He gave the younger man a squeeze. “It’s okay. You don’t have to remember, just knowing that you were a witness is enough.”

His Mae was holding Gulf’s hand again. “Yes, Gulf. It was a long time ago. Some things are better left in the past.” 

The younger man relaxed again. They had to end this conversation soon. He didn’t want any more distress for Gulf.

“I think we should just leave the matter as it is.” he said.

Everyone nodded. 

Their conversation soon drifted to lighter topics, much to his relief. His Mae quizzed Gulf enthusiastically about their relationship and he had to step in a few times when the younger man started stuttering on some difficult questions. 

“Mae…” he said.

“Alright, alright.” His Mae looked at her watch. “Ah. I have an appointment with Fon.”

“Do you need a lift?” he asked. 

“It’s okay, Mew.” She waved his hand. “Latte is coming to fetch me, we are heading for lunch.”

“Latte?” 

His Mae cocked her head. “Her oldest daughter.”

“Oh.”

Gulf let out a loud snort.

So that was the lady’s name, no wonder she never introduced herself.

“Anyway, I have to go.” His Mae stood up to leave. 

His cousin followed along, but not before telling him he would check with his partner about Gulf. He told the man there was no need for hurry and they left the conversation at that. With the two older folks now gone, that meant only one guest was left at his place. 

Tul.

“Why haven’t you left?” he asked his friend.

“Tsk.” his friend tutted. “I have a reason, okay?”

“It’s okay, P’Tul can stay.” Gulf said, looking up at him.

The younger man had burrowed into his arms the moment his Mae and cousin left and was now cuddled against him.

“See!” Tul pursed his lips at him. “Only Gupi is nice to me. Meanwhile my best friend-”

“Alai na, Tul. Just get on with it, why did you stay back.”

“Well, I would like to announce.” his best friend stood up dramatically. “That me and Run has-”

“Are you two together?” Gulf interrupted, sitting up.

“SHIA! NO!” Tul exclaimed. “The man is straight.”

“Run isn’t straight, he’s Bi.”

“Oh.” 

If there ever was a time he saw Tul completely dumbfounded, this was it. The man looked like the equation he just spent a week solving turned out to be wrong and the answer he had been referring to was wrong too. 

“So, what did you want to tell us?” he asked again.

“Right. Erm.” The man paused, thinking. “Do you think I could be Bi too?”

“Alai wa, Tul!” 

Gulf giggled.

“Okay, okay.” Tul put up his hands in apology. “We found out who posted the photos.” 

“Who?” Gulf asked.

“It was a girl named-”

“Poom” 

“Aow, Gupi!?” The man sat back down. “You knew?”

“Had a gut feeling when you said girl.” Gulf shrugged.

Tul shook his head. “Anyway, the reason why we took so long was because they were taken down from the school forum she posted on."

“Why?” he asked.

“Hmm.” The man pressed his lips tight. “Not sure, but Runny seems to think it was because of the comments.”

“What did the comments say?”

“That you two looked cute.”

He felt shaking, and then the next thing he knew, Gulf was doubled over in laughter.

“Shia! She must have been pissed!” The younger man kept laughing.

Tul smiled at them. “Yeah. Anyway that’s the end of it. I have no more business here.”

His friend finally made a move to get up and leave. Thanking the man and seeing him out, he was about to close the door when a hand stopped him. 

“Eh Gupi.” Tul called out. 

“Yes?” Gulf answered from the sofa.

“Do you think Run would be down for some fun?”

He closed the door.

The younger man giggled from the sofa. “P’Mew, why didn’t you let me answer?”

“Gulf, Tul is a womanizer. Your friend wouldn’t stand a chance if he had his eyes set on him.” He drew the younger man into his arms again.

“Mew, you don’t know Run. He’s not the most popular guy on campus for nothing.”

He didn’t know the blond man was that well-known.

“Oh. I didn’t know.” 

“He’s the chief editor for the school paper and writes Chula’s famous gossip column.”

That made a lot of sense. Maybe those two might be a good fit after all. 

“I see.” he said. “Anyway, Tua Aeng, sorry about just now. Do you have to leave soon?” 

Gulf burrowed deeper into his arms. “It’s okay, P’Mew. I’m glad I got to know. And yes, I have assignments due so I need to head back soon.”

He sighed, feeling slightly disappointed. “Maybe we could grab brunch first?” he asked.

“Sure, P’Mew.” The younger man said, before pulling away and looking playfully at him. “But before that I want to do something first.”

“Do what?” he grinned.

Gulf shifted until he was straddling him. “Round two.”

He laughed. “Okay,” he said, making a move to push the younger man down on the sofa.

A palm on his chest stopped him from moving forward. 

“I want to be on top this time.”

He laughed again.

“Sure.”

Chapter Text

There was someone sitting at his usual spot.

Gulf stood in front of his favorite cafe and squinted his eyes under the bright afternoon sun. He wasn’t late, since there was nothing he could forget to bring. All he was told to do was to bring himself, and he did. The shop was strangely empty except for the lone figure sitting at the table. Two months ago, standing at the same exact spot, he was disappointed at seeing his favorite seat taken, but today he wasn’t, because the person sitting in it was someone who could make his heart soar with just a smile.

Mew. 

His faen sat in the seat, wearing a yellow mustard beanie, white printed shirt and ripped jeans. In his hands was a book and long fingers which he loved to watch was flipping each page with gentle care. Placed on the table was a bundle of striking yellows that caught his attention even as he was standing far across the street. It was a huge bouquet of beautiful sunflowers, just like the one he found in front of his room two weeks ago. 

And it made him smile.

Taking a step past the entrance, he strode towards the man. 

“Hello, P’Mew.”

Mew looked up and smiled at him. “Hello Tua Aeng.”

“Is this for me?” He reached out to touch the delicate petals.

The man stood up, keeping away the book and held up the bouquet to him. “Yes, it’s for you.”

He couldn’t resist smiling. “Thank you, P’Mew.” he said shyly. Eagerly reaching into the bouquet, he tried searching for a note but found none. “No note?” he asked.

“There’s no need for a note when I can say it in person.” Mew reached out to stroke his cheeks. “I hope you like these flowers because they remind me of your warm, beautiful smile. Rak Na, Tua Aeng.”

His heart soared, rising to heights it never did before. Placing the bouquet back down, he leaped into the man's arms and pressed their lips together. “I love the flowers, but not as much as I love you. Rak Na, P’Mew.”

They stared into each other's eyes for a good while before the hands around him loosened and he was let back down. Looking around, he realized the cafe was still empty and he asked, “Where’s everyone?”

Mew beamed. “I reserved the whole place.”

“What!?” 

“Only for a short while.” the man laughed. “They still have a business to run.”

“Yes, we still do.”

It was Fon.

“Hello, Khun Fon.” he greeted.

The cafe owner wheeled herself out of the back room. She was followed by her daughters who were carrying some food. “N’Mew told me you remembered.”

“Yes.” he said, watching as the sisters placed his favourite dishes on the table.

“Good. That’s what I hoped for. Looks like fate really intervened in the end.” Fon smiled faintly.

The cafe owner was being mysteriously cryptic again and he cocked his head at her.

“You know, after watching you two for so long, I had planned to do something, but somehow just right before the day I decided to talk to you both-” the lady huffed. “I fell. So I guessed it was all meant to be.”

He nodded along, unsure of how to react.

“Anyway boys, enjoy yourself.” Fon wheeled herself off. 

“Wait.” The oldest sister, Latte spoke. “A young man came by today morning and dropped this by the counter, asking if we could help pass it along.” She said, placing an envelope on the table before leaving to follow behind her Mae. Arch and Al smiled and left too.

Turning back, he saw Mew staring pointedly at the envelope. “P’Mew?”

“It’s from Art.” the man said, eyes never leaving the envelope.

“Are you going to read it?” he asked. 

Mew grabbed the letter and stuffed it into his bag. “We can do it later, let’s eat first.”

And they did. He savoured every bite of his favorite creamy spaghetti and finished the whole plate in record speed, much to the amusement of Mew. When dessert came, he nearly hopped in excitement because it was a piece of brownie with two scoops of ice cream. 

Mew fed him, just like he hoped he did all those weeks ago and he blushed through the whole of it, before offering to feed the man as well. After they finished lunch, the man held his hand and led him out of the cafe while he hugged the bouquet tightly. It was his bundle of gold, no one was going to take it from him, not even the person who gifted it since had he rejected his offer to hold it for him with a sharp sweep of his head to the side. That was how much he loved the flowers. Like he loved gold. Possibly more than gold.

“Where are we going, P’Mew?” he asked.

“Taking a walk.” Mew smiled, his expression not giving away any hint of what he was planning and he followed along, heart beating rapidly in anticipation. 

As they strolled leisurely, he realized the path they were on led to the park and he nudged the man. “P’Mew, are we going to the park?”

“Yes, we are.” the man continued smiling.

He liked the park and he liked it even more that they were heading there. The sun had hid itself behind fluffy clouds so it wasn’t as blazing hot anymore, making their walk a pleasant one, not that he would minded if it was. Being able to take a quiet walk with Mew was akin to having quiet alone time with himself, invigorating and recharging. When they reached the park, the shelter from the canopy cooled their surroundings even further and they passed the softly illuminated bench they met at before. He looked to question Mew but the man smiled enigmatically and continued leading him deeper into the clearing. 

As they turned the corner, the sight that greeted him nearly took his breath away. It was where they confessed their feelings for each other but that was not the reason for his reaction. It was what was inside the pavilion. Lining its edges were dozens of sunflowers and in the middle stood a guitar. It was absolutely, stunningly and near heart-stopping romantic, and he realized that his hand had unknowingly placed itself over his heart, as if it was trying to calm it's rapid beating, which juxtaposed to what the scene in front of him almost did.

The man led him to sit at a bench and took the instrument in his hands. 

“Tua Aeng, I hope this makes up for all the hurt I made you go through.” Mew said and started strumming with his long fingers, which immediately captured his attention.

I will never take back
The words that I said then
I will always come back to you

The man smiled.

Even in the meantime
I will always stand by
A mirror on the shelf

He swayed to the strumming.

Call you in the nighttime
Call you in the daytime
Can't fess up to you

A snap came from behind the pavilion.

'Cause I hope
We will never have to take back
What we said in the night
I hope that I will always have
All eyes on you

Know that I will take what I can
When you are there standing by
Soft, spoken in the dead of night
All eyes on you

Mew’s gaze never left him.

'Cause I hope
We will never have to take back
What we said in the night
I hope that I will always have
All eyes on you

Know that I will take what I can
When you are there standing by
Soft, spoken in the dead of night
All eyes on you

The man finished singing and put down his guitar, still smiling. “Did you like the song?” he asked.

 Another snap sounded and he heard muffled voices.

He glanced at the back of the pavilion and back at the man. “Yes. Are you a mirror on my shelf, P’Mew?”

“Yes.” Mew smiled wider. “I’ll show you how beautiful you are everyday.”

Goosebumps.

He felt goosebumps all over his neck. 

“Me too, P’Mew. I’ll show you too and I’ll tell you how beautiful you are as well.”

“Oh god, I can’t hear anymore of this.”

“Shut up! They will hear us!”

Mew’s smile turned puzzled and he looked back. 

Rolling his eyes, he said out loud, “Just come out, please. I know you’re behind.”

Five heads appeared from behind the bushes at the back of the pavilion. 

Five. 

One extra head belonged to Tul, who was standing beside a grinning Run. 

He cursed softly. 

Mew wrapped an arm around his waist. “Don’t be angry, Tua Aeng. I asked them for help.”

He sighed. “I’m not angry, P’Mew. Just surprised that’s all.” Turning to his friends, he gave them a tight smile and leveled a warning look at them.

“What!” Mild exclaimed. “Do you know how long we took to line these flowers!?”

He huffed, softening his expression and said, “Thanks guys.”

“Thank you so much, guys. I’ll give everyone a treat next time” Mew said.

His friends cheered.

“Anyways, we are off.” Tul said, dragging Run along. 

“Wait! So soon?” The blond man asked.

“Yes, let’s go have lunch, I’m hungry, very hungry.” 

“What? I didn’t agree-” 

He felt sorry for his friend for a second. The blond man was definitely a goner.

“We are off too.” Boat smiled, dragging Mild away too.

“Wait-”

Kaownah winked and followed behind.

“What just happened?” he asked.

“I have no idea.” The man snorted. 

Leaning against the man, he asked, “What do we do now?”

“Pick up the flowers?” 

He laughed. 

They did pick up the flowers and placed them in a bunch so anyone passing by could take one for themselves. Then, Mew led him to the bench from before and sat him down.

“Tua Aeng.” Mew played with his hair. “Are you happy?”

He was more than happy. He felt like the luckiest person ever.

“Yes.”

Mew smiled before reaching into his bag and taking out the letter from Art. “Can you do me a favor?” the man asked.

He nodded his head.

The man tilted his head up slightly at him, eyes shining. “Read it out loud for me?” 

“Okay.”

He opened the envelope.


Dear P’Mew,

By the time you read this letter, I think I wouldn’t be in the country anymore and I guess that’s for the better. After we spoke that day, I went home and confronted my Pho. We had a huge falling out and it resulted in me moving out of the house. It should have crushed me but somehow, I felt free and for the very first time in my life, I felt like I could be myself. I’m sorry for everything I did, and I know nothing I do or say could make up for it. Thank you for protecting me all the way till the end. I have decided to leave the country for good and to live with Deng and my stepmother. Sorry, you probably wouldn’t want to read any more of what I have to write here, so I’d like to end the letter here. Thank you for all the good times you gave me, I truly enjoyed them and I did love you. Sorry again. Sorry. I hope one day when we meet again, we can at least say a Hi to each other. Thank you, P’Mew. Take care.

Art.


“...Take care, Art.” he finished.

Mew blinked and tears fell down the side of his eyes. 

“P’Mew…”

The man turned away, leaning back and looked up at the sky. Then, he took a deep breath. “Do you remember what you asked me that day at the bar?” 

“P’Mew, are you happy?”

“Yes.” he said.

Mew smiled softly. “I’m happy, Tua Aeng. Truly happy for the first time. Happy that I met you. Happy that we are together. And happy that I got closure in the end.” he said, blinking more tears down.

He shifted closer and buried his head into the crook of the man’s neck. “P’Mew, I’m happy too.”

Closure. 

It was truly closure for Mew. He always knew the man couldn’t put behind what happened because some small hidden part of him was always worried for his old faen, even if the young man hurt him deeply. That was what he loved about Mew. His kind, soft heart that always looked out for others. It was his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. 

“Tua Aeng.” 

He tightened his arms.

“Nong…”

“I don’t want to let P’Mew go.” he said.

The man patted his head. “It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere now, even if I did, I’m bringing you along.”

He lifted his head and Mew reached out to wipe his cheeks.

“Don’t cry.”

“You were crying so I did.” he said. 

“I’m not crying anymore.”

He sniffled and collected himself. Today was a good day, a joyous day and there was no need for tears. 

“Okay. I’ve stopped.”

Mew laughed. “What am I going to do with you, Nong?”

“Love me?” he suggested playfully, wiggling his eyebrows at the man

The man tsked and flicked a finger on his forehead.

“P’Mew!”

“Tua Aeng, you are getting naughtier.”

He pinched his lips. “P’Mew likes me naughty anyway.”

The man suddenly grabbed him by his waist.

“P-!”

His lips were smothered and he gripped the man’s shoulders hard. They kissed, and they kissed until his lips became numb and swollen. 

Tearing his lips away, he said. “P’Mew, I can’t feel my lips.” 

“Me too.” the man laughed.

They both pulled apart and leaned back shoulder to shoulder staring into the sky. He loved the way the lights flickered with each rustle of the leaves above, as if they were shyly peeking out at them and yet, at the same time bringing small amounts of warmth and delight. Bringing everything that was good.

“Nong.”

“Hmm?”

“P’Stamp said his partner remembers you.”

“Oh.” But he didn’t.

“I know you don’t, which is okay.”

“What did she say?”

“She said you looked sick when she interviewed you, as if you were down with fever.”

He did remember being very sick after he met Mew. Running in the rain could do that to someone.

“I think I was down with something.”

“Yes. It all makes sense now.”

It didn’t make any sense to him.

“Okay. If you say so.”

The man snorted. “I’m glad I found out about this, even though it’s a little late.”

He turned to the man, whom he realized was staring at him. “Better late than never, P’Mew.”

Mew’s smile grew and he started shaking, small puffs of air sounding from his nose. 

“What?!”

“You mean better latte than never.”

"P'Mew." He pursed his lips at the man. "That’s a really bad pun.”

“No! That’s not what I meant!” Mew grabbed his shoulders. “The cafe!”

“The cafe?”

"The name."

 

The end.