"Why does it feel like you're breaking up with me, Phi?"
Mew sighs and pulls his faen closer. "Because that's how plenty of people will interpret it." He kisses the top of his head, inhaling the soft scent of his shampoo. "And maybe some people need to see it that way."
Gulf deflates in his arms, pressing himself closer to his chest. "Aow. It was fun being loud about our relationship. It felt like we were actually out and open about ourselves."
"I know. Me too, Tua-aeng." There's so much more he wants to add, but it's nothing they haven't discussed already. Nothing they haven't mourned in the days leading up to it.
"When should it start na, Phi?"
"New Year's Eve." He gave Gulf a wistful smile. "Poetic, isn't it? Last year we declared our love and this year we'll protect it."
Gulf looked so small then, his face peeking over the covers of their bed. "Does it really need protecting?"
Mew ran a hand through his lover's hair. "We talked about this, baby. Things have gotten worse. I hoped that stopping the top spender events would solve a lot of the issues, but the problem is bigger than we thought."
Gulf nodded, closing his eyes to Mew's caresses. "I don't mind when they ask me about you in my solo interviews, you know."
"You deserve to be the main topic of your own interview, Gulf. They should be asking about your upcoming projects, not what the status of our relationship is. For fuck's sake, Tua-aeng, you deserve more respect than that." His hands formed into fists.
Gulf smiled and kissed his knuckles until they relaxed. "What else could they have asked me, Phi? We already informed them I wasn't sharing details about my projects yet."
"Then they should ask questions about you as a person, not as Mew Suppasit's faen."
"But I am Mew Suppasit's faen." He chuckled and gave him a peck on the lips.
Mew smiled in spite of himself. "You're so much more than that, baby. And now they'll be forced to recognize that."
"Or start asking me why you've suddenly distanced yourself from me…" he pouted and buried his face into Mew's shirt.
His arms tightened around his junior. He expected as much. Fans would have a lot to say about it. Speculations would run rampant, and no doubt Gulf would bear the brunt of it. The media would want to hear from the sweet boy who had been cast aside. But that's why it was vital for Gulf to be the voice of reassurance.
"Our true fans will believe you when you tell them everything's okay." He stroked his back as he held him close. "And all those entitled shippers will finally see that they don't own us, Tua-aeng. We’re not circus acts. They don’t get to tell us what to reveal about our relationship."
"What if I want to reveal all of it, Phi?" His voice was so small and muffled against Mew's shirt. He sighed and looked up at him with large, earnest eyes. "What if I want the whole world to know you're mine? Who cares if some delusional fans think we're doing it for their pleasure? When you hold me on camera or flirt with me on IG, I get something out of it, too. And when you take it away from them…".
He clenched his jaw and steadied his breath. "When you take it away from them, you take it away from me too."
And that's how it went for weeks. The two of them talking in circles, making the same arguments each time.
"It'll be a way to free ourselves from their entitled demands."
"How can we be free if we're hiding who we are?"
Over and over until they ran out of ways to repeat themselves. How many other ways were there to tell your lover that you felt powerless in your own relationship?
Gulf stares at his private messages, the ones he wishes he could forget. The ones from toxic fans telling him he's not good enough for Mew or that Mew will leave him as soon as TharnType season 2 is over. The ones who have already started gloating about Mew's distance.
Don't you see? He was only like that with you because of work. But now he's free of you.
You used him for his fame and now he's finally seeing you for the snake you are.
We will protect Mew at all costs. How dare you take advantage of him. He knows better now and is finally getting to focus on his dream… without you.
He used to delete these kinds of messages. He'd even read the amusing ones to Mew as they lounged on the couch, tangled in each other's limbs. But now there's a semblance of reality to them. Their words may not be true, but it still looks like they are. All those warnings from toxic fans that Mew would abandon him, and now their predictions look accurate. He hates the thought of them being smug and thinking they’re right. What the fuck do they know? It’s not a break-up. It’s just… an embargo.
“How’s the embargo going?” asked P’Mild.
Gulf gave him the I’m so done face he learned from Mew. “Wa ngi na?” What did you say?
“The embargo,” he repeated. “You know, since you two put a stop to shipping.” He burst into laughter and patted his arm.
Oh. That. He shrugged and shook his head. It was too soon to tell.
Turns out, it’s not as bad as it seemed. Now that Mew doesn’t feel compelled to comment on his IG posts, he’s been even more flirtatious responding to them through private chat.
Nalak nalak. Can I eat you?
Big foam! Shower together tonight na? Naaaa? Wait for me, okay?
Wanna see you in those hiking boots. And nothing else.
Did they let you keep the boots?
Can I borrow them?
I’m going to borrow them. Love you.
Gulf really should delete those messages from the toxic fans. It should be enough to know that Mew does love him, so much so that he's doing this to protect their relationship. Whatever that means. Gulf's trying to understand.
What matters is that Mew still comes home every night and gives him a big hug, mumbling into his shoulder how much he missed him. He still pulls him into his lap whenever he can, usually while watching tv, squeezing him tight like a pillow. He still tries to shower with him at every possible opportunity, which means it takes twice as long to get ready for bed and can't Mew just wait until he's clean and under the covers before he pounces on him? Shower sex isn't as glamorous as everyone thinks and his fingers always get pruny.
It's a million other things that truly matter, that constitute their relationship. The way they can communicate with half sentences or no words at all. The way Mew always knows what he needs even when Gulf doesn't know himself. Or how Gulf can calm his doubts and worries whenever Mew gets too buried in his own thoughts. It’s the noise Mew makes when he’s grumpy and he wants Gulf to know so that he’ll wrap his arms around him and speak sweetly to him. P’Mew khraaaab… what’s the matter, thilak? It’s the way they save their socks for last whenever they fold laundry and roll them into balls and see who can toss the most into the sock drawer without missing. Gulf always wins. Mew’s punishment for losing is to give him a kiss on the cheek. Who’s the real winner here?
Another toxic message includes a picture of his IG post. The one with the sunflowers he gave to Mew on New Year's. The one Mew purposely ignored to prove a point. The text says Know your place. Mew doesn't love you.
He tosses his phone on the bed. Their bed. The one they sleep in every night, have embarrassingly cheesy heart-to-heart conversations in, and have mind-blowing sex in, thank you very much. He showers alone since Mew is still working. By the time he gets out, he hears the telltale click of a DVD case in the living room. Soft, padded footsteps travel down the hall and his faen appears in the doorway.
"Hey. do you want to watch this biopic on- well, hello there.” He stands with his arms crossed, eying Gulf, who's wearing nothing but a towel. “Forget the movie. Do you really have to get dressed na?"
Gulf turns to him and smiles. He does know his place when it comes to Mew. And with that, he lets the towel drop to the floor and beckons with the crook of his finger. Because he knows his place, and that place is in Mew's arms.