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for pete

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For as long as Tin could remember, Pete had been his only friend. With their full cheeks and chubby fingers, they would play whenever their parents had lunch together. Even as they got older and their little duo turned into a group, he stayed closest to Pete. The others were fine enough, a nuisance if nothing else, but Pete had always been different.

He was just so much more naïve than anyone else he associated himself with. Even though they were from familiar upbringings, the wealth hadn’t tainted Pete like it had him. Everywhere Pete went, he radiated such an innocent energy, and despite being the same age, it gave Tin the strange urge to protect.

In high school, when their classmates had discovered the truth of Pete’s sexuality, it had been Tin who had been by his side, sending any potential threat away with a single cold glare. When Pete’s family fell apart, Tin did his best to put what he could back together. Pete was much more of a brother than he’d ever considered Tul to be; he cared so deeply for him.

When he noticed that Thai program boy getting closer to Pete, Tin couldn’t help but grow worried. After being wronged by so many people in his life, he was always wary of people’s intentions. Thai program students just didn’t hang around International College students. No matter how many times he stressed that to Pete, he always disagreed, saying something to defend his new friend’s honor. That was just who Pete was; he saw the good in people to the point that it became a fault.

It was all together odd seeing Pete so easily befriending somebody. He usually didn’t stray outside of their little group, his shyness holding him back. Which was fine; Tin would always be there, even if he didn’t vocalize it often. But in a matter of weeks, this Thai program, this Ae, had somehow broken past Pete’s reserved outer shell. Tin had never seen him smile so much.

The tip of the iceberg was when – in a moment he wasn’t particularly proud of – he had pinned Pete against a wall, offering himself to him as a last resort. But Ae had shown up, claimed Pete as his own, and dragged him away. And Pete had gone with him willingly. All of this was much more than friendship, and his theories were confirmed when he saw Pete’s relationship status change on Facebook that night.

It wasn’t long after that he knew he wouldn’t be able to change Pete’s mind, so he stopped trying. He saw no point in it. Too often, Tin would only see Pete sad. It was a different kind of sadness than his own, more lonely than bitter. First his father had left, then there was that situation with that Trump kid he had him look into. Whenever he came to class, he just looked tired. Now, like a complete one-eighty, he practically shined when he walked into the room. Tin didn’t need to ask the reason; only one person garnered that reaction.

So instead, he went for a different approach. After classes, he went to the football fields, sticking out around all the sweaty, blue uniforms. He approached Ae without a word, the boy furrowing his brows at him. “Pete isn’t here,” he said, glancing towards the bleachers. “He has a study session today.”

“I know that.” Tin didn’t need anyone to tell him about his best friend’s schedule. Not when he’d had it memorized since the first day of classes. “I’m here to talk to you.”

The look on Ae’s face was one of pure shock, and as amusing as it was, he supposed he couldn’t blame him. Civility wasn’t Tin’s forte. But caring about Pete was. So he sat down on the bench on the sidelines of the field, the raise of his eyebrows beckoning Ae to join him. He hesitantly complied, leaving a noticeable gap between them.

“If you’re here to tell me to stay away from Pete, you’re wasting your breath,” Ae said, fingers gripping the undersides of the bench. While the idea had crossed his mind, he figured it would be more trouble than it was worth.

“That’s not the reason.” Staring across the field, he paused. He wasn’t good with this emotions thing. He’d repressed them for most of his life. There were so little things he cared about, but Pete was on that short list. He was doing this for him.

“I’ve known Pete my entire life, ever since we were children. How he is now is how he’s always been. You know, way too nice to everyone, even if they’ve wronged him.” Ae, who was being strangely compliant, nodded. “People have taken advantage of him” – just as they had taken advantage of Tin – “and his kindness. And for some reason, he still trusts so easily.” Which was why he was there. To trust a little less and see people for who they really were.

He turned to face Ae, looking him directly in the eye. “You and I are more alike than you think.” The face he pulled, so full of disbelief, was comical. “You want the best for Pete; so do I. And for some reason, he’s decided that’s you. I don’t like it,” he admitted. “But Pete is his own person. He can make his own decisions.”

Even if Tin didn’t agree with him, he refused to jeopardize Pete’s happiness. Not even he was that heartless.

“I don’t care if you date him,” he said. “But I do care if you hurt him. See it that you don’t. Because unlike Pete, I’m not so forgiving.”

There were no second chances when it came to Pete. If a single tear fell from his eyes, that person was done for. Boyfriends weren’t exempt from that.

“Do we understand each other?” Ae nodded at him. “Wonderful.”

With that, he stood up, leaving Ae to stare after him as he walked away. But he had accomplished what he’d come there for, and it was getting hotter by the minute. And he noticed Can running with his one friend towards the field, and he did not want to deal with that today. There was no need for him to be there anymore.

Only when he got to his air conditioned car did he drop his hard glare, reserves crumbling. Resting his forehead on the steering wheel, he let out a long held breath. He still didn’t like this Ae, wouldn’t see him as a friend for quite some time. But if he kept putting the sun into Pete’s smile, then Tin would play nice. For Pete. 

Bonus:

 

pete: ae told me you went to talk to him at practice.

pete: ae is a good person. i hope you’ll see that someday. you’ve been protecting me since we were kids and you’ve done a lot for me over the years. even though you have nothing to worry about, i appreciate that you do.

pete: thank you tin.