“You’re sulking,” Arthit said, poking the crease in between Kongpob’s eyebrows. “And you’ve been staring at your phone for the past ten minutes. What’s wrong?” Arthit wasn’t expecting Kongpob to turn his phone over to him, but he took it, reading through the LINE messages that were lit up on the screen.
the cute one: my lonely nights with ice cream and foreign dramas are over
the cute one: i finally have a boyfriend ≧◡≦
the small one: !!!
the mean one: why are you so excited? that thai program is nothing special
the cute one: (◞ ‸ ◟ㆀ)
the old one: n tin, don’t be rude
the small one: yeah, have you seen the pictures pete sent? he’s super cute (^///^)
the annoying one: watch what you say. i have p pha’s number on speed dial
the small one: you forget p pha is best friends with p kit. your future love life rests in my hands
the annoying one: i bow to you
the responsible one: that’s really great pete. make sure he treats you right, yeah? p will beat him up if he does anything wrong, okay?
the cute one: thank you p forth but ae isn’t like that.
the cute one: he’s the best
After he finished reading, Arthit handed Kongpob back his phone. “So N’Pete got a boyfriend. What’s the big deal?”
Kongpob adjusted himself to face him more, looking at him as if he’d just asked something ridiculous. But then again, to Kongpob it was. Because the answer was so simple. “The entire thing is a big deal. N’Pete just started college. He only just came out to his mom, and he only met this Ae kid a little while ago. He sounds alright but …” Kongpob glared at his phone, as if that would make things better. “I don’t know. They’re both young. I don’t want him to get hurt.”
Arthit clicked his tongue, leaning back against the pillows. “You were just a first year when you started all of your nonsense with chasing me. And look how that turned out.” Kongpob smiled slightly despite himself. He didn’t need to be reminded of that; he reminisced on it far too often. “And from what you’ve said N’Pete has told you, this Ae seems to treat him pretty well.”
“But that’s only from what N’Pete has said. And he’s just too good. He sees the best in everyone, even when they don’t deserve it.” Too many times, Kongpob had received LINE messages and late night phone calls with an upset, crying Pete, wounded by someone taking his kindness for granted. Just at the beginning of this school term, he had thought he’d found someone he truly liked, only to get stabbed in the back and beaten in the process. Then again, Pete had said Ae helped him through the entire thing – gushing on and on about how sweet and strong he was – but that didn’t mean he didn’t have the capacity to do something similar down the road.
Arthit pinched his cheek. “Stop worrying so much. You’re not his father.”
“I might as well be.” He had helped all of his juniors over the years with whatever they needed, but Pete was a special case. His father had left when he was so young, and he didn’t have the normal two parent relationship he should have had. So Kongpob had stepped in, still so young and naïve himself, to do what he could.
“You’re being ridiculous,” Arthit huffed. “If you’re that hung up on it, why don’t you ask to meet him? See how he treats N’Pete for yourself. That way you can stop your incessant worrying.”
Kongpob considered it. It wasn’t the worst idea. He’d be able to get a feel for just the kind of person Ae was. Maybe he’d even find a moment alone with him, just to give him a bit of a talking to.
“But if you’re going to, I’m coming with you,” Arthit said with little room for disagreement.
“Oh, are you?” He smiled, nudging his shoulder against him. “Why? Are you worried about N’Pete too? I saw you scrolling through his Twitter account the other day. Were you checking up on him?”
“If his father is going be so overdramatic about his personal life, then I guess his mother is going to have to be the rational one.”
“He already has a mother, P’.”
“Shut up, Kongpob. I’m going, and that’s final. I have to make sure you don’t murder that poor boy, or N’Pete will never forgive you.”
Ae hadn’t been too happy when Pete told him some person called Kongpob wanted to meet him. He didn’t know who he was, but what he did know was that he was a guy; and he didn’t like his Pete talking to other guys, especially when he seemed so close to them. But when Pete explained to him who Kongpob was, his anger turned into fear far too quickly.
Pete told him that he and Kongpob, while three years apart in age, had been friends since childhood. Their families knew each other, some sort of rich people thing. He’d been there for Pete when his father left, when he was bullied through high school over his sexuality, when Ae wasn’t. To be fair, he hadn’t known Pete then. Still, it killed him to know that there were times when Pete was hurting, and he couldn’t be there. But Kongpob had been. And because of that, Ae was terrified. He hadn’t met many of Pete’s friends, save for Tin, and Kongpob seemed to be a very important one. Which meant he had to make a good first impression.
“Ae, you really don’t have to worry so much. P’Kongpob is nice. He just wants to meet the person I’m dating.” Pete lowered his voice a bit so that the people loitering around the outside of the restaurant wouldn’t be able to hear. “Is that what you’re worried about? Because I told you, he’s also dating a man–”
“It’s not that,” Ae said, voice a bit more stressed than he intended it to be. It made Pete frown, chin ducking, and Ae wanted to slap himself. He shouldn’t take his worries out on Pete. Reaching up to stroke his fingers through his hair, he said, softer this time, “I just want your friend to like me, that’s all.”
Lips turning up the littlest bit, Pete said, “He will. When he sees how happy Ae makes me.”
God, his heart. Pete couldn’t just say those things, especially not in public. Grabbing his hand, intertwining their fingers, he pulled him closer. “Well let’s go then.” And despite how twisted his stomach was, he pushed open the restaurant door.
Ae wasn’t sure what to be looking for, but he didn’t have to look long. Pete was steering him towards a table near the back, a bright smile on his face as he exclaimed, “P’!”
He could only assume the one that waved was Kongpob, and he was much more handsome than Ae had imagined. He had a kind smile, a nice face. That familiar feeling of jealousy began to boil inside of him until he noticed the man sitting next to him. That must have been the boyfriend Pete had told him about, Arthit. He was looking at Ae with skeptical eyes, emotionless face unmoving, and the jealousy was replaced with butterflies.
“N’Pete,” Kongpob said, standing to greet them. “Look at you, you’ve gotten so big. It feels like only yesterday that you couldn’t reach the counter in my kitchen.”
“P’,” Pete said, embarrassed whine in his voice. “You saw me a couple of months ago, and I look exactly the same.”
“I wouldn’t say that.” That’s when he finally looked to Ae, smiling at him. “You look much happier now. Want to explain that?”
Always so shy, Ae felt Pete squeeze his hand as he said, “This is Ae. My boyfriend.”
Ae clapped his hands together, greeting his seniors respectfully. “It’s nice to meet you. Pete has told me lots about you.”
“Oh yeah? What sort of things? Were they bad?”
They ordered when their waitress came around, and that was when it all began. Kongpob looked to Ae, still holding that handsome smile. “So, Ae. N’Pete is in the International College. Are you too?”
“No, P’. I’m not smart like Pete.” Pete let out a little surprised noise that Ae only responded to with a fond smile. “I’m in the Engineering Faculty.” He hadn’t expected Kongpob’s eyes to light up the way that they did.
“So am I! So was P’Arthit until he decided to graduate and get a big boy job.” Arthit shoved Kongpob’s shoulder, but he only smiled wider. “How are you liking it? Are you enjoying your classes? Do your seniors treat you well? If you ever need any help, just send me a message, yeah?”
“Stop interrogating him,” Arthit said, pulling on Kongpob’s arm to get him to sit back in his chair. “You gave up your head hazer position last year.”
Ae cocked his head to side. “Hazer, P’?”
“Yeah, I was head hazer during my third year,” Kongpob said proudly. “It’s a huge part of the Faculty of Engineering at our school. You seem surprised. Do you not have a hazing program?” When Ae shook his head, Kongpob did as well. “That’s a shame. It’s a really good experience, if you go in with an open mind.” He rested his head on Arthit’s shoulder, staring up at him affectionately. “It’s where P’ fell in love with me.”
Arthit scoffed. “I think you have that backwards.” He looked at Ae and Pete, and to Ae’s surprise, his cheeks were flushed. Perhaps this guy wasn’t as big and bad as he originally took him to be. “This idiot came in on the first day and didn’t listen to me or any of my crew. He had the audacity to say that he’d make me his wife just to get his gear from me.”
Ae couldn’t help the surprised laugh that escaped his mouth. “Really? Did you actually?”
“Mhm,” Kongpob affirmed, completely unfazed. “And I’m getting closer to doing it. I just have to graduate and get a good job–”
“Stop talking nonsense.”
“But it’s true.”
Pete had been right; the two of them did look very happy together. He hoped that he and Pete were able to be like them a couple of years down the line, so happy and in love.
“Should I have done that?” he asked Pete who was looking at him with a confused expression. “Would that have gotten you to agree to going out with me sooner?”
“Ae,” Pete said, trying his best to hide his face. “Don’t say those things.”
“Why? Do you not want to marry me?” he teased.
“No, that’s not it; it’s just …” he trailed off, unable to look at any of them. Ae just rubbed his thumb over his cheek with a murmur of ‘cute.’
He’d gotten so lost in the adorableness that was his boyfriend that he nearly forgot about the two seniors sitting opposite him. That was, until Kongpob said, “Ah, young love.”
“And what are we?”
“P’, you know we’ve always been an old married couple.”
Their food came, and they continued to make small talk. After the initial worries Ae had, he was starting to see how cool of a guy Kongpob was. He was a good student with a lot of drive, and he cared a lot about his boyfriend. Ae could respect all of that.
Wiping at his mouth with a napkin, Pete pushed back his chair and stood up. “I’m going to go to the restroom. I’ll be right back.”
Ae took a hold of his hand, stroking his thumb over his knuckles. “Be careful, alright?” Pete nodded, flashing him a smile before he left, Ae’s hand not releasing his until not even their fingertips could touch anymore.
Arthit stood up. “I’ll go as well.” Leaning down to whisper something in Kongpob’s ear, he followed after Pete. That left just the two of them, him and Kongpob, and that intimidating feeling that he had managed to push away was coming back. Now that they were alone, Kongpob no longer had a smile on his face. He was looking at his lap, playing with the string wrapped around his wrist. He looked like he wanted to say something but was holding himself back.
“Take care of N’Pete, okay?” Kongpob blurted out. He was looking up at him now, eyes serious as he addressed Ae. Completely taken aback by his words, Ae was glad when he continued talking so that he had time to think of a response, “You seem like a really nice guy. I see how N’Pete looks at you; I see how you look at him. You care about him a lot. I really don’t doubt you, Ae, but … he’s gone through a lot already. He deserves to be happy.”
He felt like he was talking to Pete’s mother all over again, but this felt much different. Pete’s mother had been short, sweet, and to the point. Kongpob was much more thorough, looking at him with far too much concern in his eyes. But Ae could tell it was only because he cared.
“P’, if I ever hurt Pete, I … I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive myself. He means so much to me, and,” he had to pause to swallow, overwhelmed by emotion, “I like him a lot. I want to do all I can to protect him. To make him happy. I mean it with my whole heart, P’.”
Pete was everything to Ae. This was his first relationship, and he was absolutely overcome by how much he could care for one person. Pete was it for him. He didn’t care how little time had passed; his heart knew that this boy was the one. And he wanted everyone to know that.
The smile slowly grew back onto Kongpob’s face. “Thank you, N’Ae. I believe you. I’m glad Pete has someone like you.” Hearing those words come from someone who knew Pete so well, someone who wanted nothing but happiness for Pete, meant a lot. “Oh, and invite me to the wedding, yeah? We decided a long time ago that I was going to be the one walking N’Pete down the aisle, and if I’m going to give him away to anyone, I’d want it to be you.”
Fuck. That made him more ready for the future than ever before. “Sure, P’. As long as Pete and I get to come to yours.”
“Are you kidding? You two are going to be the flower girl and the ring bearer, P’Arthit already agreed.”