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never giving up my pride

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Ming was utterly disappointed in his friends. When he had invited them (though Kit preferred to call it begged) to go to pride with him, he thought they’d all be a bit more enthusiastic and get into the spirit. But they all showed up looking as normal as ever, as if this wasn’t about to be the best day of their entire lives.

“You’re all so boring,” he said as they all gathered in front of the festival entrance. “Where’s the enthusiasm? Don’t you want everyone to know how gay you all are?” They all glanced down to where they were holding their respective boyfriends’ hands. Alright. Case and point.

“Ming, you’re not even gay,” Kongpob pointed out.

“You don’t have to be gay to go to pride, P’. The bi bi bis and the pancakes and everyone in between can come. Either way, I’m showing my support!”

The rainbow tank top he was sporting seemed fitting, and the rainbow sunglasses over his eyes were too good to pass up.

“Unlike the rest of you! P’Beam is the only cool one!” he exclaimed as he and Forth came to join the rest of them. He wore a faded rainbow shirt that was cropped at the waist and a black choker around his neck. “There’s the spirit I’ve been looking for!”

“You look ridiculous,” Kit told his best friend, eyeing him up and down.

Beam only leaned in towards him with a smile. “The word you’re looking for is hot. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” Ming had a hold on Kit’s arm before he could lunge at him. “Kitty’s got his claws out today I see.”

“Beam, I swear, one more word out of you, and I’ll kill you.”

Ming cooed at his boyfriend, pulling him back to him so that he could wrap an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t be so jealous, babe. You’d look cute if you wore that.”

“Mingkwan.”

Tin sighed. “Maybe we should just go in.” 

Pete happily looped his arm through Wayo’s as they walked around the festival grounds, looking around with wide, excited eyes. The two of them had been the first to come to terms with their sexualities, having known who and what they were since high school. It hadn’t been easy for them, but they had finally become more confident with themselves.

They had talked about going to pride for years now, but neither of them had ever had the courage to do so. But thanks to Ming, they finally got their chance.

Having broken away from the group, they explored the different booths that were set up, looking at anything and everything they could. They were in front of a food stand that was selling cakes with the different pride flag colors iced on top, heads pressed together as they whispered to each other, when the woman sitting on the opposite side of the table smiled at them. “You two make a cute couple.”

Both of their heads snapped up, and they spared each other a glance. “Oh, no,” Pete tried to assure her. “We’re not–”

“Sweetheart, you don’t have to do that here. We’re all with you.” Her support would have been appreciated if she didn’t have the complete wrong idea. “Don’t be so nervous. You should be showing off your boyfriend, especially when he’s so cute.”

Pete ducked his head to hide how red his cheeks were getting. “Here,” she handed each of them one of the cakes. “Free of charge. Enjoy yourselves today!”

Pete steered Wayo away from the table quickly. He wanted to put that entire experience behind them and forget it ever happened. He didn’t need anyone else knowing about it, especially not Ae or Phana.

“So,” Wayo cleared his throat, looking up at him with a grin. “Where to next, boyfriend?

“Ai’Yo!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kongpob said as he bumped into someone walking opposite him. He stood back to make sure they were alright, eyes widening a bit when he saw who it was. “N’Dae?”

“P’Kongpob?” Dae said, seeming just as surprised as Kongpob was. “What are you doing here?”

“My friends invited me. What about you? Are you here with someone?”

Dae looked to his shoes, fiddling with his fingers nervously. “Well, um …”

“He’s here with me.” He and Dae both looked up to see Tew walking towards them. He had a stiff smile on his face as he wrapped a secure arm around Dae’s shoulders. “Hey, Kong.”

Oh. Oh. Everything was beginning to make sense. Kongpob couldn’t necessarily say he was too surprised. Tew had been dancing around his feelings for Dae for the entirety of third year. At least that seemed to have stopped.

“Well, good for you two.” He punched Tew’s shoulder lightly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

The look the two of them shared was a tense one. Dae’s head dipped a bit as he murmured, “I’ll go buy our wristbands, P’,” before he scurried off to the ticket tent.

Tew watched him go, biting his lip. Something was clearly wrong. After Dae’s initial reluctance, he’d come to be a sweet underclassman. He wasn’t as hesitant around his seniors anymore, so seeing him revert back to his old ways was cause for concern.

“Tew? Why didn’t you say anything about this?” he asked again. “We all know how much you like Dae. None of us would have treated you any differently.”

“I know. That’s not why.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “It’s his family. They’re … traditional as traditional comes. Lately, his grandmother has been asking him when he’s going to bring a girl home. It’s all been stressing him out, so I thought I’d bring him here to cheer him up. But seeing you …” he glanced back to where Dae had run off to. “I think it freaked him out.”

Kongpob liked to forget the part of the world that still deemed them wrong. It wasn’t worth his time to worry over, but that’s because he didn’t have to. He and Arthit had been together for so long, and both of their parents had been understanding when they’d finally told them the truth. Not everyone was lucky like he was. And to know that people so close to him had to worry and hide upset him.

“Do me a favor?” Tew asked, sounding so unlike the confident class president he was. “Can you not tell anyone about this? It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just … I don’t want to make things any harder for him then they already are.”

Kongpob nodded, sending him a kind smile. “Sure, Tew.”

Dae came back to hand his boyfriend his wristband, and that’s when Kongpob saw it. There was a softness to Tew’s eyes as he took the wristband from him. It was all too familiar. He was looking at him as though he was the only thing in the world; he did the same to Arthit all the time.

Slipping off one of the bracelets Ming had forced onto his wrists, he offered it to Dae. It was nothing big, just a couple of rainbow beads strung together. But it was still something.

Dae took it, looking to Kongpob for an explanation. “Everyone should be proud of who they are,” was all he said. He handed another to Tew and smiled when they both put them on.

“Thank you, P’,” Dew said, some of his confidence coming back.

Kongpob just patted both of their shoulders. He hoped that one day, they’d get the chance to tell the world what they were. But for now, he’d be silently cheering for them.

…    

“You know,” Beam said as he took a sip of whatever strange pink concoction Forth had handed to them. “I always figured Pha would end up at one of these things. If Kit and I came, I thought it would be for moral support.”

Pha laughed. “And somehow you’ve gotten gayer than me.”

“I’m not gay,” Kit said, and it sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than him and Pha.

“Bi then. Maybe Ming-sexual.” Beam ducked before Kit could slap him. “The fact is, you’re not straight. None of us are. So.” He held his glass up, beckoning the other two to join him. “To not being straight.” They clinked their glasses together in a cheers.

Ae sighed, sagging a bit in his chair. The only reason he was here in the first place was because of Pete. If it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have even considered going. He might have been in a relationship with another man, but that didn’t mean he had taken the time to figure out his sexuality.

When Pete had gotten Ming’s text, he had been so excited and immediately asked Ae if he could go with him. And because Ae had no self-control when it came to his boyfriend, he’d agreed.

Very quickly, he learned what a mistake that was. It was hot, there were so many people, and he’d seen far more dicks than he had ever wanted to. This pride thing just wasn’t for him.

Pete, always so caring towards everyone other than himself, had suggested they go sit in the shade to avoid the crowds. They found themselves near a group of lesbians who, because they found him too cute, offered to paint Pete’s face.

Reluctantly, he looked to Ae as if asking for permission. Ae shooed him towards them quickly. He didn’t want Pete to stop himself from doing something he wanted just to appease him.

So he sat and waited, watching the girls giggle at Pete as they swiped paint brushes over his face. Pete giggled right along with them, his smile reflecting in his eyes. He looked so genuinely happy. It had taken him so long to accept who he was, and Ae was just glad that he finally felt comfortable with himself.

When the girls finished, Pete turned back to him, and Ae felt the breath hitch in his throat. Multi-colored hearts were painted across his nose and cheeks like little freckles. Underneath, his pale skin was flushed from the sun.

“What do you think?” He was biting his lip, waiting for Ae to answer. But all he could do was stare. His boyfriend was just so stunning. “Does Ae not like it?” Pete asked quietly, eyes dropping when he was left with silence.

Quickly, Ae shook his head. “No, no, I do. You look so cute.” He cupped either side of Pete’s neck, stroking the soft skin there. Normally, he’d do so to his cheeks, but he didn’t want to mess up the paint.

“My boyfriend is always so cute.” That brought back the smile Ae loved. “Sometimes I think he’s too cute. What if someone tries to steal him away from me?” Grabbing his hands, he stood up, bringing Pete with him. “You’re not allowed to leave my side.”

Pete leaned into him. “I wouldn’t want to leave Ae anyway. I’m so glad he came here with me today.”

That alone made this entire thing worth it. Even if he was sweaty and his feet hurt from all the walking, Pete was happy. And that was all he ever wanted.

Kit pushed Ming’s hand off of his arm, ignoring the whine he got in response. But Ming was always persistent, refusing to give up until he got what he wanted. “P’Kit,” he drawled out, wrapping his arm around him this time. “Won’t you go on the float with me? Pretty, pretty please? I’ll give you whatever you want if you do.”

Kit wasn’t quite sure why Ming was so adamant about this, but then again, he hadn’t been sure why Ming had been so adamant about going to pride in the first place. While they were two guys in a romantic relationship, neither of them had ever labelled their sexualities. At least Ming seemed to fit in amongst everyone here, just excited as the rest of them. He couldn’t say the same about himself.

He wasn’t against the idea of pride; he was happy to see everyone looking so comfortable just being themselves. It was him that was the problem. While Ming was able to embrace whatever he was, he still didn’t know what to call himself. He had liked girls in the past, and now he liked Ming. Did that make him bisexual? But he had never liked other guys, so was that still the case?

Thinking about it made his head spin. So he was content to sit on the sidelines and watch his friends enjoy themselves. It was less stressful that way.

But Ming wasn’t having it, pulling him across the festival grounds to try and get him to have fun. It was sweet albeit annoying. He could deal with the face painting and the mass amounts of condoms being thrown at him, but getting up on a float in front of hundreds of people was where he drew the line.

Ming nuzzled his cheek against Kit’s shoulder, continuing to coo up at him. “Please, please, please.

“If you want to go so badly, go by yourself,” he said but Ming shook his head.

“I want to go with you. That way, everyone will get to see how cute my boyfriend is.”

Huffing, Kit turned away from him. “I don’t know why you’re so excited about this. You’re not even gay.”

“Remember what I said? About the bi bi bis? We get to be here too, and don’t you forget it!” Ming, with his hands shoved in his pockets, shrugged with a smile. “And besides, I’m in a relationship with a guy. And he’s the best guy in the entire world. So I think that’s plenty to be proud of, which is why we’re here in the first place, right?”

Ming’s confidence always astounded him. He wished he could be the same. But hearing Ming say all that made him realize that maybe he could. He was already here; he might as well enjoy himself.

Grabbing Ming’s wrist, he tugged him towards the large crowd that was forming near the street. “What are you doing?” Ming asked.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting on a float, so I can dance with my boyfriend. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” Letting out a loud cheer, Ming ran in front of him, pulling Kit along with him.

He still wasn’t sure what he was, but for today, he didn’t particularly care. For today, he would get on that float and spend time with the guy he liked, sexuality be damned.

Wayo wasn’t the least bit heavy and Pha was plenty strong, but that didn’t stop him from worrying while his boyfriend sat atop his shoulders. He had a hand on either of Wayo’s thighs, using all of his strength to make sure he stayed put. But it was proving to be difficult when his boyfriend continued to move on top of him.

He’d convinced him to lift him up when they’d gone to watch the parade after he complained that he wouldn’t be able to see anything because he was so short. So because Pha didn’t know how to say no to him, he’d crouched down and let him climb onto his shoulders. It had put him in a better mood, his smile wide as he watched the different floats go by.

“Are you enjoying yourself up there?” he asked to which Wayo simply kicked his legs back and forth against his chest. “Careful.”

“You worry too much,” he said, leaning down to press a kiss to the top of Pha’s head. “I like it up here. I can see everything.”

“I like how small you are,” Pha countered. It was one of the things that made Wayo so irresistibly cute. And it wasn’t any secret that he had a thing for the size difference between the two of them. It just made him feel that he could protect Wayo even more. “But I’m glad you’re having a good time.”

Wayo tapped Pha’s head, and he got the idea, crouching back down to let him off. Back on the ground, Wayo stood in front of Pha, looking up at him with a smile.

“Thank you for coming with me today, P’Pha,” he said. “I’ve wanted to come here for a long time, but I was always too scared to. I’m glad that my first time coming is with you.”

Though he didn’t vocalize it, he was glad Wayo had waited to go. That way, Pha got to stand by his side, able to show everyone just how happy he was to be with him. He wanted everyone to know just how important Wayo was to him.

“I’m glad I got to come with you too.”

Reaching up, Wayo wrapped his arms around Pha’s neck, pulling him down into a kiss. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, but it was deeper than usual for a public setting. He had no complaints, holding him at the waist.

He only pulled away when he heard loud cheering and shouts of ‘get it!’ from the street. On top of one of the floats, Ming was pumping his fist in the air while Kit stood buried in his side, flashing them a thumbs up.

Letting his head fall onto Wayo’s shoulder, he hugged him tight as his boyfriend laughed and patted his back. He appreciated that his friends were supportive of his relationship, but he really didn’t need them to be this supportive.

Beam wasn’t sure what was in the drink Forth had given him, but it gave his entire body a warm buzz. He had been excited to come when Ming had suggested they all go, but now that he was here, intoxicated on the drink and the atmosphere, he was more than prepared to be proud.

He and Forth didn’t need any excuse to show their affection to each other. If people stared, he let them. He didn’t even blame them; he was cute, and he had a hot boyfriend. But it was nice to love each other in a place that was practically made for people like them.

Which was why he had dragged Forth up onto a float with him, filled with the unexplainable need to dance. His boyfriend, bless his heart, went along with whatever Beam wanted to do.

He kept a strong hold on his waist, swaying along with him to the beat of the bass blaring through the speakers. Pressed chest to chest, Beam’s arms lazily slung around Forth’s shoulders, he moved his hips, just barely grazing them against his boyfriend.

“You’re teasing me,” he said, lips against his ear. It made Beam shiver in the best way.

“You’re stating the obvious,” he countered, squealing when Forth pressed a kiss above his choker. “I take it it’s working?”

His lips kept working their way around his neck, and it was a good thing Beam had lost his shame months ago because he’d be dying of embarrassment otherwise. People were watching; he could hear them chanting, but he didn’t care that much.

“You look so good in this,” he said, breath tickling his neck. A warm hand slid underneath the back of his shirt, fingers spreading out against his skin. “Do you even know how pretty you look?” He had a sneaking suspicion, considering that Forth’s hand kept dipping lower and lower, but he’d humor him.

“No.” He lifted his head so their noses brushed together. “Tell me?”

He was going to, if their moment wasn’t completely cut off.

“You two disgust me,” Kit said as he pushed himself onto the float, Ming not far behind him. “You do realize you’re in public, right? You could be charged with indecency.”

Beam would have been mad if he wasn’t so surprised. Kit hadn’t seemed too into Ming’s whole pride idea. And now he was pulling his boyfriend close to him, mimicking him and Forth in a far less crude way.

“So nice of you to join us,” he said, keeping himself close to Forth. “How did you manage to get him up here, N’Ming?”

“I didn’t,” Ming said, his smile breaking into his cheeks. “He brought me here.”

Beam raised his eyebrows, smirking as Kit glared at him. “Well, well. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Surprise,” he said dryly, wrapping his arms around Ming’s neck to pull him closer. When he kissed his cheek, Kit didn’t even flinch. It seemed that he was enjoying himself more than he thought.

“Come on, dance with us.” He bumped his hip against Kit’s.

Crinkling his nose, he shoved him away with his foot. “Keep your crotch far away from me, Beam.”

“Don’t worry,” Forth said, pulling Beam back towards him, chin on his shoulder and arms around his waist. “That’s only for me.”

“Oh my god, I refuse to associate myself with you two anymore. You’re the worst.

…     

By all intents and purposes, Tin should have known that he’d find Can confronting a group of protestors. He always managed to find trouble and get into fights no matter where he went.

Even though there were more of them and they were all taller than him, he refused to back down. He shouted in their faces, vaguely resembling an angry guard dog. Tin would have found it cute if he wasn’t concerned for his boyfriend’s wellbeing.

Paying little mind to the others, he grabbed Can’s hand to get his attention. “Stop,” he said gently. “There’s no point in talking to those who don’t want to listen.”

“You didn’t hear the things they were saying!” Can exclaimed, pointing accusingly at them. “It was awful. Who still even believes all that shit in twenty-nineteen?”

Can’s innocence was one of the main things that had drawn him towards Tin in the first place. The world had yet to ruin him, and Tin intended to keep it that way. But it made him oblivious to how people truly were. At school and at home, he was in a sheltered bubble, far from the outside world. But the truth reared its ugly head out here.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, tugging on his arm a bit to get him moving. The farther he got Can away from these idiots, the better. “I saw someone selling chicken skewers over there. I’ll buy some for you, come on.”

Tin had almost gotten him away when he heard one of the protestors shout after them, “Yes, go with him! Ruin your future before it’s even begun!”

Tin froze at the man’s words. They sounded far too familiar to something Tul would say for his liking. He was so tired of people thinking that they had a right to comment on his life, on the few things that made him happy.

He didn’t like to humor those who were so obviously looking for a reaction, but this wasn’t about him. This was about Can. What people had to say about him didn’t matter much to him. But when they directed their hatred towards Can, they crossed a fine line.

Turning back towards them, he said nothing. He only gripped Can’s wrist harder, pulling him close before he kissed him. It was deep, more passionate than Can usually allowed him to go in public. But seeing as he had already been fired up, he didn’t push away, only gripped his shirt to tug him closer.

When they parted, Can rested against his collarbone, breath uneven. Tin smirked triumphantly, looking back at them with pure satisfaction in his eye. Having rendered them speechless, he reveled at their dropped jaws.

“It’s funny you think I’m ruining his future,” he said, nosing into Can’s hair and glaring up at them. “When I have every intention to make it better.”

… 

“P’Arthit.” Arthit looked up from his phone to see Kongpob holding out a bottle of pink milk towards him. He took it, sipping from the straw graciously. While he had been sitting for the majority of the day, it was still ridiculously hot out.

Kongpob dropped into the chair next to him. He was tanner than usual from the sun, and he had his happy smile on. “Enjoying yourself?” he asked.

Kongpob nodded. “It’s been a good day. It’s nice to be in a place with people just like you.” He nudged his shoulder against Arthit’s. “What about you? Are you having a nice time?”

Arthit only shrugged. The only reason he was there in the first place was because Kongpob had so desperately wanted to go. He’d never go on his own. There were far too many people here for his taste, and he was just all together uncomfortable. Even though he was meant to fit in here, he didn’t feel like he did. He was dating another man, but that didn’t mean he belonged with all of these people. They were all so confident in themselves, and he just wasn’t.

Even Kongpob was more sure of himself than he was. While he wasn’t as up front about it as Beam or Ming were, he was more secure in himself and his sexuality. The little rainbow on his cheek was more than enough evidence of that.

“Where did you get that?” he asked.

“They were giving them out, so I took one. It’s fun.” Shifting to face Arthit more, he asked, “P’Arthit? Can I do something?” His words were vague, but he nodded anyway.

Turning Arthit’s cheek towards him, he dipped a napkin into his water bottle, pressing it against a piece of paper he laid against his skin. A couple seconds later, he peeled the paper back, smiling.

Opening his front camera to see just what he’d done, he saw a temporary tattoo similar to Kongpob’s in the middle of his cheek. Except this one had three lines of pink, purple, and blue. He blinked at his boyfriend, silently asking for an explanation.

“You told me you liked Namtan before,” he said. “And now you like me. You like men and women, so I just thought …” He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have assumed. I’m sorry.”

So that’s what this was. He’d heard the word bisexual before, but he’d never used it to describe himself. But what Kongpob said made more sense the more he thought about it.

Leaning over, he kissed his boyfriend’s clean cheek. That pulled him out of his sulking. “Thank you, Kongpob,” he said softly. “I appreciate it.”

Kongpob smiled back at him, intertwining their fingers. “Of course. Anything to make you happy.”

This idiot was always so embarrassingly sweet, and while he may not show it often, he loved him for it. Arthit still wasn’t sure he fit in here. But he fit perfectly with Kongpob, and that’s what mattered.