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beyond the sea

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Kit woke up and almost screamed before the previous night’s event tumbled back into his sleep fogged brain.

Ming wasn’t as close as his racing heart believed him to be. He left a respectable distance between the two of them, a sizable gap between where each of their head’s lay. But he was still much closer than anyone had ever been in Kit’s personal bubble.

He wasn’t sure how to react. The denial in him told him to get up and run for the hills. But the more practical part of him, the tiny voice in the back of his head that he had been repressing for months, told him to stay, move closer, take a chance.

All of that was toing a line that he wasn’t comfortable crossing just yet. Last night was risk enough. And it was too early to make such big decisions.

Flipping onto his back, he shut his eyes. He could worry more about his new boyfriend when the sun actually rose. For now, he’d just enjoy sleeping next to him.

Wayo was still red, and Pha was still in love.

He’d slept shirtless with the claim that fabric would only irritate his skin more. So Pha had a very up close and personal view of the freckled pink of his back. His just as burnt shoulders were so narrow and enticing, and Pha had every need to kiss. So he did.

Lips grazed over skin, tickling Wayo until he stirred. The movement didn’t deter him, only made him dip down lower to kiss every bump in his spine.

“P’Pha,” Wayo whined, voice thick with interrupted dreams. “I told you not to.”

Pha chuckled. “My dick isn’t anywhere near you. But you said nothing about my mouth.”

There was no push away, no request to stop. Only a small curve in Wayo’s lower back and a lift of his hips. Pha took the hint and slid his boxers down his thighs before kissing that delectable C-curve. After waiting the entire night, he finally got his opportunity to eat his boyfriend up.

After being together for so long, Kongpob had learned how Arthit worked. Despite his tendency to sleep past his alarm, he somehow found it in him to get up before Kongpob when need be. And for a while, he’d done so in secrecy. That all changed when Kongpob caught him one morning.

His morning routine went as such: carefully snake out of Kongpob’s arms without waking him, tip toe to the bathroom to relieve himself, brush his teeth to satisfy his strange need for impeccable oral hygiene, and then slip back into bed so that by the time Kongpob woke up, he would have already deemed himself suitable for him.

Kongpob didn’t quite understand why Arthit did it. He liked him always, bed head and all, especially bed head. But he never stopped him. Instead he waited. And when he came back to bed, he was ready.

As soon as Arthit fit his head back against his chest, he got both of his wrists pinned to the bed, hovering over him with a smile that would catch him off guard and fluster him all at once. And before he could manage a word, he’d fit their lips together, and they’d drift from there.

There wasn’t anything better than kissing Arthit in Kongpob’s most humble opinion. He was so warm, so soft, so one-eighty degrees from what he showed everyone else. He felt special enough to see and taste and feel the secret side of his boyfriend that was reserved only for him. Especially with the sun coming through the window and the sounds of the sea on the tips of their ears.

“Ah, my eyes!” Ming shouted from the doorway, the slap of his palm over his face echoing through the hall.

Kongpob pulled back with a sigh, doing his best to shield Arthit. Because chivalry.

“Don’t mind me! Just came to tell you breakfast was ready!” Then he was disappearing towards the kitchen, shouting, “Mom and Dad are making out, don’t go in there!”

Kongpob shook his head before diving back down. Just a few more minutes, then they’d go downstairs to eat.

… 

The only thing that was more important to Ae than keeping Pete loved was keeping him well fed. And when he was woken up with a hand on his thigh and a pair of lips on his neck, Pete knew he’d have to use that knowledge to his advantage.

“Ae,” he drew out, purse to his lips as he looked up, pupils wide underneath his fluttering lashes. That mixed with Ae’s obsession with his everything first thing in the morning made for the perfect recipe for getting whatever he wanted. “I smell something good. Can you go get it for me? I’m starving.”

A kiss was dropped on to his forehead. “Of course. I’ll be right back.” He slipped on a shirt and was out the door.

Pete rolled into the warmth Ae left behind in bed. He’d become accustomed to the soreness that came with long nights with his boyfriend, but even if he could walk, he never minded a little pampering.

He nuzzled his cheek into the pillows. Having a boyfriend was the best. Having Ae was the best.

“You have your own room. You can’t do that there?” Tin asked as he walked into the kitchen to find Beam sitting on Forth’s lap, the latter pressing bits of dim sum to Beam’s accepting mouth.

“Forth is just bringing me breakfast, that’s all,” Beam justified after he swallowed, nudging his boyfriend to give him more. “I see you’re doing the same for N’Can.” He jerked his chin in the direction of the plate Tin was piling food onto.

“I’m not forcing everyone else to watch me.”

“Not now. But one day you’ll be less shameless, N’Tin,” Beam said, opening his mouth when Forth raised his chopsticks back up. “And then you’ll be able to get your revenge on me.”

When Pete came out of the bathroom, he saw Wayo standing against the wall waiting with hair more disheveled than only sleep could manage. A closer and look and he could see just the tip of a love bite poking out from the waistband of his shorts.

He smirked at him as Wayo went to claim his place in the bathroom, but before he could say anything, he was cut off with the low mumble of, “Not a word.”

Pete giggled as he retreated down the hall and back to his bedroom. It seemed he and Wayo were a lot alike.

When Kit woke up a second time, he was met with the opposite of what he woke up to the first time. Ming was nowhere to be seen, the space next to him vacant except for the wrinkled sheets.

But as he sat up, the door opened and shut quietly. Ming had returned with a plate balanced in hand.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” he said, offering a smile before sitting back down in the place he’d left. “I brought you some breakfast. I wasn’t sure what you’d want, so I got you a bit of everything.”

Kit took the plate, inhaling deeply. Everything smelt good, and after the dinner they’d had the previous night, he was sure anything that the auntie at the beach house made would be delicious.

“Thank you,” Kit murmured, accepting a fork as well.

“No problem,” Ming said brightly. “I’m gonna try and snag the shower, but make sure to eat all of that, yeah? Gotta have my boyfriend at his best!”

He left Kit with a blush and a heartbeat double its normal speed.

Kit’s eyes bugged in Pete’s direction as they all gathered to go down to the beach. “Did you try to eat him, N’Ae? His legs look like a crime scene.”

Pete pulled his swim trunks down to cover the purple marks on his inner thighs. Ae couldn’t quite match his boyfriend’s meekness, smirking with pride at his senior’s remark.

“I’d be disgusted if I wasn’t so impressed.” Kit didn’t care if they were dating now; he still smacked Ming’s arm over his sheer stupidity.

… 

“You’re already dating Ai’Forth, Beam,” Kit pointed out to his best friend. “You don’t have to act cute to try and get his attention.”

“I’m not acting. I’m this cute always,” Beam corrected as he kicked his legs back and forth. He laced his fingers under his chin as he watched his boyfriend bump the volleyball back over the net to Kongpob. “And I don’t need to try to get Forth’s attention. I just have to call him, and you’ll hear a whip cracking in the distance.”

Kit snorted. “And you’re proud of that?”

“Of course I am. But don’t try and make this about me.” Rolling onto his back and then to the edge of his chair, he leaned in closer. “Because I’m not the only one here with a boyfriend, and I need details.”

Pushing his sun glasses a little farther up his nose, Kit looked out towards the sea with a sniff. “None of your business.”

“I’m your best friend. Anything to do with you and the guy you’ve been crushing on for the past six months is my business.” He shook Kit’s thigh a bit. “At least tell me you were the one to confess.”

“N’Ming made his feelings known months ago, you idiot. Of course I confessed.”

“It’s still surprising! Next you’re going to tell me you kissed him.” The only noises between the two of them were the waves crashing on the shore and their friends’ laughter in the distance. “Holy shit, are you serious–”

“Would you keep your voice down?” Kit hissed.

“You kissed him?”

Kit slapped a hand over his mouth. “Yes. I kissed him. Will you shut up now?”

Beam pushed his hand away, and the brightness of his smile reflected his name. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of you. What happened after that? Did you just stick to a blowjob or did you finally pop your cherry?”

If anyone asked why his cheeks were red, Kit would blame it on the sun and not on the thought of Ming’s private plumbing anywhere near his virgin ass. Definitely not.

“Not all of us are you, Beam. We don’t hook up and call it our first date.”

“Well, why not? It worked for me.” He turned back to Forth, letting out a sigh. “Trust me, my naïve Ai’Kitty. You might not get it now. But one day you’re going to realize that you waited so long for something so great. And you’re going to feel like an idiot when you do.”

Kit snuck a glance towards the volleyball game just in time to see Ming spike the ball onto the opposite side of the net. He did some weird fist pump thing, high fiving his teammates, before he looked up to catch Kit staring at him. He pulled those ridiculous finger guns and blew him a kiss.

He was already starting to feel stupid. 

Can was incredibly focused on making the best sand castle – nay, the best sand palace – in the world. Or at least along the stretch of this beach.

Tin had been pulled away when Ming forced him into their game of volleyball, and honestly, Can was happy for that. He liked seeing Tin interact with people. It was refreshing.

So he watched from the sidelines with his fellow bench boyfriends. Pha had all but forced Wayo underneath a large umbrella after smearing sunscreen across his nose. And Pete had joined him to watch Ae in action.

Pete poked a long finger to the side of Can’s neck, just above the collar of his t-shirt. He hissed; the skin beneath was tender.

“That’s quite the hickey,” Wayo whistled.

Can was quick to move Pete’s finger away and shield the bruised side of his neck. Tin said he would be careful. Damn liar.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Ai’Can,” Pete said, voice so innocent that Can could have been fooled that they were just discussing the weather. “We’re just glad that you and Ai’Tin are getting along so well.”

“More than well,” Wayo smirked.

“You’re one to talk,” Can mumbled. “Your legs are more hickey than they are skin!”

“It just means Ae likes me.” Pete’s eyes got all dreamy, dazing over with thoughts that Can didn’t want to dwell on. “And besides, it’s not like I mind.”

He turned back to his castle. He didn’t need to hear any of that. Pete and Wayo might have been confident bottoms who could talk openly about the nastiest details of their personal lives, but he wasn’t. Plus, Ae and Pha were his friends. He didn’t need to imagine what they were like in between the sheets.

“Don’t scare him, Ai’Pete. Or Ai’Tin will never forgive us,” Wayo said and the two of them shared a giggle. “But seriously, Ai’Can. No one cares about your hickeys. We all have them. Why do you think P’Arthit is still wearing his shirt?”

Huh. He had never thought of that. Or that Arthit would be the kind of person to let Kongpob kiss him anywhere other than his face. You learn something new every day.

“Just don’t let Ming see them,” Wayo warned. “You think we’re bad? Ming is on an entirely other level of nosey. You’ll never hear the end of it.”

Which meant Tin would never hear the end of it. Ming knew how to get under his skin and push all the buttons Tin hated having pushed.

Dealing with an unhappy Tin was not how he wanted to spend his vacation. He wondered if the auntie who watched the beach house had any of that cover up stuff his mother wore.

“P’!” Ae exclaimed as the volleyball slammed into the sand just after grazing his ear. “That’s the third time you’ve almost hit me!”

“Stop defiling my Pete then! He’s the only good one I have left!”

Forth and Ming took offense while Tin only shrugged.

“P’Arthit, make him stop!”

Glancing over the top of his novel, Arthit barely spared him any pity. “You mutilated our son’s thighs. Now you have to deal with the consequences. Let this be a lesson to you.”

Ae groaned. All he could do was watch out for his nose.

Kongpob without a shirt on was just as glorious as he was eye-catching. The sun reflected off the sunscreen Arthit had immediately forced onto him when he’d decided to show off his bare chest. It was nowhere near the first time Arthit had gotten to see the gifts that were Kongpob’s abs and pecs, but it was always exciting.

And distracting. Because while he was trying to read his book, his eyes would periodically drift upwards towards his boyfriend. He never thought he’d be the type of guy to get twinkly eyed over some guy, especially so far into a relationship, but here he was, forever falling for this idiot.

His staring wasn’t subtle, and Kongpob was quickly drawn to his side. “Can I help you?” he teased. Now that his eyes were level with the abs he’d been so fondly ogling, he couldn’t look at them anymore.

“You could get me a bottle of water,” Arthit said, quickly raising the book up to cover his face.

“I could,” Kongpob agreed. He pushed the book back down, leaning in with a smirk. “But are you sure there’s nothing else you want?”

Everything about him was too much. The slope of his nose, the angle of his jaw, the slight smirked tip to his lips. Too much. It was all too much for Arthit not to do something about it.

Leaning up to close the small distance between their lips, he made his kiss long enough for Kongpob to feel it while still making it quick enough to surprise him.

“No,” he said as he pulled back, smiling triumphantly at the blank stare Kongpob looked at him with. “Just a bottle of water is fine.”

… 

“So you’re dating Kit now?” Pha asked Ming as he came into the house to grab a drink.

“Yep.” Ming uncapped a water bottle and took a long swig.

“You’re dating my best friend.”

“And you’re dating mine.”

A beat of silence passed between them, Pha filling it with, “Don’t break his heart.”

“Don’t break Yo’s.”

“Glad we understand each other.”

… 

Tin didn’t know why Can was so adamant about giving him his best stink eye, but ever since Tin had joined the volleyball game, he’d been sending it his way. He couldn’t come up with a reason as to why, but after so many months of receiving that same look (paired with right hooks and grabs at the collar of his shirt), he wasn’t having it.

So in the most rational way possible, he swooped over to grab Can around the thighs, hiking him over his shoulder. He could hear the others laughing and whooping at their expense, but he was far more focused on dropping Can into the water.

Can had smacked his back the entire trip there, and when he resurfaced, he switched to smacking his chest. “What was that for?”

“You looked like you needed to cool off,” Tin countered. “Why do you look upset?”

The scowl he had been wearing for the better half of an hour turned to a tight lipped pout with retreating eyes. “I don’t look upset.”

“Yes, you do. Now, tell me what’s wrong, or I’ll keep dunking you under until you do.”

As the blabber mouth he was, it didn’t take long for Can to say in a low voice, “You said you wouldn’t leave any marks, asshole. You lied and they saw.”

“Who saw what?”

“Ai’Pete and Ai’Yo! They saw the stupid hickey you left on my neck, and they wouldn’t stop teasing me about it.”

“They don’t have much room to talk though, do they? The only reason Ai’Wayo doesn’t have more is because of his sun burn.”

“That’s not the point!”

Can ran his fingers through his wet hair, and Tin waited for him to further explain. Sometimes, it took him a while to piece his words together. Tin was always patient; because that’s what a good boyfriend who cared so much for his boyfriend did.

“I’ve never done this before. Everything is new, and it’s scary.”

“Do you not want me to give you them anymore?” Tin asked with full sincerity behind his words. One request from Can and he’d be blemish free from then on.

“No, I…I like them. But people seeing them…”

“Makes you uncomfortable.”

“A little.” He peeked up at him. “Are you mad?”

How could he be?

Leaning down, he kissed his temple. “I have no reason to be. There are plenty of other places I can give you them.” He pulled back with a grin. “Maybe I can show you tonight.”

Can swam off, purposefully kicking water at his face.

“It’s been an hour,” Pha announced. He tipped Wayo’s head back, rubbing a second layer of sunscreen across his cheeks. “How are you feeling?”

“Mm,” Wayo hummed, eyes slipping shut. Pha’s hands were so big yet so gentle, careful not to press too hard on his still sensitive skin. “Better. The stinging has gone down. Can I come out from under here yet?”

“Nice try. But no.” Moving down to his neck, he pinched lightly at his chin, shaking Wayo’s head in his grip. “Too much sun exposure is bad for you. Clearly you’ve had enough.”

He finished and recapped the bottle. “Do you want anything? I’ll get it for you.”

“More pink milk ice cream?”

“Of course.” Pha sighed and leaned down to capture his love’s lips in a sweet kiss. “Anything for you.”

Beam tightened his arms around Forth’s neck as they waded deeper into the water. “You better not drop me,” he warned with little edge to his voice. “Or I’ll kick you out of bed tonight.”

“That’s such an empty threat and you know it,” Forth scoffed. “I’ve never met anyone who loves to cuddle more than you.”

“And you’re lucky that you’re the one I’ve chosen to cuddle.” Leaning down to rest his chin on one of the arms that was pressed into Forth’s shoulder, Beam sighed. “This trip has been great. It’s nice to spend time with everyone. And with you.”

“Aw, are you getting sappy on me now, babe?”

Beam smacked his back. “Shut up and let me compliment you. I know we spend a lot of time together at school, but this is different. It’s nice being able to wake up next to you and not have to worry about going to class or studying. We just get to be together, and I like that.”

Forth squeezed both of Beam’s thighs that were wrapped around his waist. “I like it too. I know we’ve had our problems, but I mean it when I say I’m serious about you.”

Nudging his nose against Beam’s cheek to get him to pull back, he smiled up at him when he did. “I love you.”

Beam breathed a laugh. “Who’s sappy now?” But he closed the small distance between them in a kiss regardless.

“I can’t believe you stole the last popsicle,” Tin told Pete. “I thought you were my best friend. One of the only people I could trust. And then you do this.”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Pete said as he took a satisfied lick. Pineapple was the best flavor. “Auntie just went to get more. She’ll even let you have first pick if you ask her nicely.”

Tin’s glare didn’t let up. “Why do you need it anyway? You’ve barely been in the sun. Has Ae been complaining about how you taste when he goes down on you?”

A volleyball whizzed past their cheeks before Pete could reply.

“Next time I won’t miss!” Kongpob called. “I told you to stop corrupting my good child!”

“Corrupting, my ass,” Tin mumbled. “You think this is all because of us? It was his idea to get Ae that present last month–” He left running down the beach when Kongpob began to chase after him.

Two hands found Arthit’s waist, and it was really distracting, especially when he was trying to button up his shirt. It was a light coral, like the color of the shell he’d found lying by his foot down at the beach. Contrasted against the tan of his skin, he thought it was a good fit. Kongpob must have agreed.

“I won’t be able to put my shoes on if you don’t let go,” Arthit said with little expectations of that shying his boyfriend away.

“How can I? You look so good; I can’t help myself.” He squeezed Arthit’s hips for emphasis. “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

With a roll of his eyes, he turned around in his grip to find Kongpob in his own formal attire. A maroon button up, lying nicely on the even nicer body Arthit knew to be underneath. It was the same color as his engineering uniform, the sense of familiarity and nostalgia wrapping around him like a cotton blanket.

How could Kongpob say any of those things when Arthit was clearly the luckiest?

“If anything, you’re the sappiest. Stop saying those things.” It was bad for his heart.

“Never.” Kongpob leaned in to ghost their noses together. “I’m going to keep saying everything you tell me to stop saying for the rest of our lives. Just so you always know how much I love you.”

Arthit shut him up the only effective way he knew how – with a kiss. He didn’t have to say any more. Because he already knew. 

“Have I told you how pretty you are today?” Ae asked.

Pete giggled as he smoothed his hands over his blush sweater. Perhaps it was a bit too heavy for a town by the sea, but it made him feel soft and happy so it was well worth it.

“You have.” Turning around when he decided he’d done enough primping, he added, “But I wouldn’t mind if you told me again.”

Ae got off the bed to stand in front of him. Cupped his cheeks and smiled bright. “You’re so pretty. The prettiest person in the world, and somehow, you’re mine.”

“I’m always yours,” Pete assured with a soft shyness, doing his best to maintain eye contact. But it was so hard when Ae made him feel so many things.

They kissed, and Pete’s head spun. So many feelings.

“Beam, let’s go,” Kit groaned. All of them, save for his best friend, were ready to head off to the heart of town for a nice dinner – a double date times three – and Beam being Beam, was taking the longest.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!”

He slid out in a crisp white button up, rolled up three-quarters of the way. A thin gold chain hung down half way, and his slacks were exceptionally tight, all for one person in particular.

Said person got up to meet him, looping an arm around his waist and hugging him close. Forth whispered something to him, making Beam giggle and Kit roll his eyes.

“This was what we were waiting for?” he exasperated. His best friend was so dramatic, and as much as he truly loved him, he couldn’t deal with him at times.

Ming leaned over, giving Kit a deep whiff of his cologne. He smelled like a man in all the ways that he could, and it made Kit’s heart jump up.

“You look better,” he whispered to him. Kit shivered. “It’s nice having the best looking boyfriend in the room.”

Kit couldn’t even muster up the strength to shove him away and only breathed when he leaned back.

… 

Can was really glad he had swum enough to work up an appetite, because this was the largest meal he’d ever been given the luxury of eating. Crab legs and sushi and coconut bread. You couldn’t even see the ceramic of his plate with how much he’d packed onto it.

“You’re going to make yourself sick,” Ae commented as he cut off a piece of salmon and offered it to Pete. “Pace yourself, Ai’Can.”

“Are you kidding?” Ming interjected. “With this kind of food? You’ve got to be crazy if you don’t eat until you burst!” He smiled wide, raising his glass in a happy cheer. “Even better, it’s free, because Dad’s paying.”

“I never agreed to that,” Kongpob said, but if anyone at the table heard him, they didn’t acknowledge him.

This was why he and Ming had become such good friends. Someone finally got him when it came to food. Food was the best! Especially this rich people food (even if the price tag it came with made him gag).

“Open this for me.” He swung a crab leg in Tin’s direction. He had more experience with this kind of stuff than he did. He probably cracked open crab legs dozens of times. Right?

Tin took it but didn’t crack it. “What’s the magic word?”

“Open it for me, or I’ll stay in Ai’Ae and Ai’Pete’s room tonight.”

“Who the hell told you that you could do that?” Ae asked.

But it got the job done. And he took his expensive treat with a happy smile and an accepting belly.

… 

“That’s a pretty necklace,” a man around Pete’s age said from over his shoulder. “It would look really nice with your sweater. And your eyes.”

Pete’s cheeks flushed. As they walked through town, they’d stopped at small local shops, and a display of jewelry had caught his eye. He’d picked up a clam shell necklace, strips of pink blended through the cream. He wasn’t much of jewelry person, but he thought he could be with something like this.

“I could get it for you, if you want,” the man offered. “What’s your name?”

A strong arm looped around his waist. “My name is Ae, and I’m his boyfriend. And the one buying him that necklace.”

Head down turned and metaphorical tail between his legs, the man left. Pete felt relieved. He still hadn’t gotten used to confrontation. Luckily wherever he went, Ae wasn’t far behind.

“Thank you,” he said with a soft breath.

“I was serious. Let me buy it for you.” His hands came to grab Pete’s necklace-free hand. “You want it, don’t you? I’ll get you whatever you want.”

Pete smiled. He had enough money to buy out this entire store, and Ae, fully aware of how full Pete’s bank account was, looked at him with such a serious glint to his brown eyes. He was so adamant about being the white knight, the type of boyfriend who fulfilled his boyfriend’s every wish.

Who was he to deny him?

Without a word, he handed Ae the necklace and watched with a warm fondness as he took it to the counter.

… 

“Look, I found the perfect one for you,” Beam said as he and Forth searched through racks of those ridiculous plastic keychains.

#1 Boyfriend was etched into the background of a cheesy beach at sunset. Beam handed it to Forth with a smile that immediately dropped when it was handed back to him.

“You don’t like it?” he asked.

“I do,” Forth said. “But I can’t keep it when it’s not true. That’s why you should have it.”

Beam covered his face with a hand to hide his laughter. “That’s so awful and so sweet.” He held out the keychain by the key ring. “Go buy this for me, you horrible sap.”

… 

Tin wasn’t sure how Can still had room for dessert after all the food he’d had at dinner, but if his boyfriend wanted a double scoop of cookie dough ice cream, he wasn’t about to tell him no.

The two of them walked along the pier, Tin keeping an extra close eye on Can and his ever moving arms. One wrong move and he’d have to deal with spilt ice cream and an upset boyfriend.

“Thanks for bringing me on this trip, Ai’Tin,” Can said in between licks. “It’s been really fun getting to watch you with your friends.”

Tin cocked a brow. “What do you mean?”

“Well.” He paused to munch on a softened piece of cookie dough. “It’s really rare to see you comfortable with people. And even though you always complain about how annoying you think your friends are, I can tell you’re comfortable around them. I like getting to see that.”   

Smiling up at him with flecks of chocolate at the corner of his lips, he said, “I like knowing that you’re not as alone as you think you are.”

His words struck him hard in the chest. He had always been alone. His brother hated him, and his parents saw him as more of a waste of space than anything else. Most days he would locked himself in his room, because somehow, he couldn’t feel the loneliness so much when he was actually by himself.

He had always been alone. But there had always been Pete. And Ming. And Wayo and Forth and Kongpob. They were always there. But as soon as he actually admitted that out loud, they’d be taken away, because that was the kind of game life liked to play. So he never did. But years had passed and they were still here.

“Maybe,” he settled with, because maybe was a lot less scary. Reaching down to curl his fingers between Can’s, he returned his smile. “Maybe I’m not.”

Kit had somehow ended up walking along the strip with Ming after an entire day of avoiding any alone time with him. His heart just couldn’t take it. Ming had given him all sorts of new, uncomfortable feelings before Kit had confessed. But now that he had, they had gotten even worse.

Being next to him made his chest tighten, looking at him made him feel faint, and seeing him smile made him want to do so many things he definitely wasn’t ready for.

Put all three of those situations together, and you had Kit’s current state of being: suffering.

They were just walking, barely even speaking, and there was so much tension. And Kit, despite how out of his element he was, hated it. He wanted Ming to crack some joke, say something stupid, say anything. Just get them out of this weird gridlock they’d put themselves in.

But the farther down the dock they went, the less hope he had in that happening. Ming’s excuse would probably be poor, something about not wanting to push Kit’s boundaries. But Ming was the confident one here; he was supposed to be the boundary pusher.

Not tonight it seemed. Which meant Kit had to take things into his own hands. Literally.

Before he talked himself out of it, he interlaced their fingers. At first, everything froze. Then, Ming was wrapping his fingers around his, fitting the tips in between each of his knuckles.

“Today has been a good day,” Ming said.

“Even now?” Kit asked with a dry chuckle.

“Especially now.”

The sun had disappeared, leaving a scattering of stars in its wake. They illuminated their faces as the sea breeze, filled with the scent of salt and sand, filled their senses. And as they walked, hand in hand, Kit’s heart bruised his ribs, numbed his ears with how strong it was. But there, with Ming, he was getting used to it. Its familiarity made him hold on tighter.