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The Occupational Hazards of Falling for the Moon

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Lunch time at the faculty of Engineering cafeteria found the head hazer and his close group of friends craning their necks trying to find an empty table, full food trays in hand.

The entire area was buzzing and bustling with activity, filled to the brim with Engineering students from all year levels. Trying to find an empty table was similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

"P'Arthit, over here."

Apparently, it was also similar to trying to avoid a certain first year student whom he had been (almost) successfully running away from for days.

Five pairs of eyes turned to the origin of the voice, though only four lingered on when they saw who it was (Arthit immediately looked away as if his eyes had been burned). He had half a mind to go and run, but that would be admitting that he was avoiding Kongpob Suthilak.  He'd deny that until the very end, even if he was.

"Oi, Nong 0062!" Bright exclaimed, geniunely surprised and pleased at the sight of the cheeky freshman and his own group of friends occupying a long table that could easily accommodate 5 more other occupants.

"Sawatdee khrap, P'Bright." All five boys waied at their seniors, before making room for them in an unspoken invitation to share. The third years didn't need more persuasion as they readily slid onto the empty seats, except for the head hazer who stood still, looking at everyone in the table except for 0062.

Really, how can they just expect him to sit with the cheeky freshman who just admitted he likes him?

But Arthit, His rational mind pleaded, they don't know that just yet.

Right. Nobody knew about the sleepover. Nobody knew about the missed calls, the unread messages. 

Nobody knew what the real score between them was, heck, even Arthit himself did not know which was true or not, and he does not want to know ever. 

For what? Kongpob was merely taking his I'll make you my wife joke too far and he'd be a fool to believe that the younger boy actually has feelings for him.

"Oi, Ai'Arthit." Knott broke his reverie, looking at him quizzically like he knew there was something wrong but he does not know what exactly. 

"Are you going to stand there the entire duration of our break?"

"Oh." Wow, the intelligent things that come out of his mouth. "Uhm, actually, I—

Shiyaa, I can't exactly tell them outright!

He cleared his throat again, determinedly not looking at a particular first year. "Actually, I—

He never got to finish his statement when somebody's phone rang. It was Kongpob's, who gave everyone at the table a look of unspoken apology before holding the device up to his ear and muttering in straight, perfect English to whoever it was at the other end.

"What did you do this time, Tin Medthanan? I swear you are going to push our N'Pete away the longer you keep at this half-assed plan of yours to chase that Thai Program from—No, you're...what? How did they let you in, you're not enrolled here! Don't tell me you paid—ugh, that's so typical of you, Tin, no wonder N'Pete whined sullenly at me the other day—Where? Cafeteria? Which faculty? Shiyaa, that's too far from Engineering you jacka—wait, you're still driving around campus? Yeah, yeah, I can see you, yes idiot I'm coming. Ugh, you and your trust issues, really!"

He then abruptly stood up, waied at the seniors at the table and left, but not without telling Em that he'd be skipping afternoon classes for a personal emergency.

The lot of them just looked at Kongpob's retreating back, the others noting how well the freshman's skills were in English while pestering Em about his friend's emergency situation.

Arthit stood rooted in his spot, his tray swaying lightly at the sight of 0062 running towards a sleek black BMW that just turned at the corner before revealing the driver. His mind raced back to the snippets that he got from Kong's phone call. He is neither especially good nor bad at English, but even so, he only caught a few words as they have been spewed out at rapid-fire speed. 

There were names thrown around, somebody named Tin, Pete, and...Thai Program? What kind of parents would name their kid like that?

"Oh wow," Bright's awe-struck voice carried through and broke his train of thought. "Is that a BMW? Sweet! I didn't know our 0062 knew people from the high-class society!"

Kongpob finally reached the luxury car and out came the driver, a tall good-looking guy with a serious face. He looked like he was a model that just literally stepped out of a fashion magazine, carrying his school uniform with the elegance and grace that most college boys don't have. Kong flicked a finger at the frown on the latter's face, and Arthit couldn't help but frown himself.

"Whoa, N'Kong flicked that handsome Nong's face!" 

Seriously, what is Ai'Bright doing, running a live commentary? "They must be very good friends with that person, huh? Do you know him, N'Em?"

Casting one last look at 0062 and his rich friend, he finally relented and took a seat opposite Em who was looking all uncomfortable at being placed under the spotlight. Well, he was just as curious as his other friends, after all.

"Uh, Ai'Kong has a different set of friends from...another circle." Em was speaking slowly as if threading on dangerous grounds. "That's Ai'Tin, they knew each other since elementary school? I'm not sure, P'Bright, I've only ever met them all but one time in passing, and out of all of them, I only got the chance to talk to Ai'Ming. They knew each other because their parents were friends, or so Ai'Ming said."

Toota gasped and tittered excitedly.

"If so, then would that mean N'Kongpob is a koon chai? I mean, that Tin character certainly looked like he carries no less than 5 000 baht in his wallet and if he's friends with him due to their parents, then they must have met through corporate galas and similar events, right?"

Well, Toota has a point. Em merely looked more uncomfortable but refused to say anything, so they decided to focus on their food instead.

***

"So, which one was P'Arthit?"

Kongpob looked up from where he was fastening his seatbelt to be greeted by the sight of Tin's smirking face. He rolled his eyes and said nothing, determinedly looking straight ahead as the Medthanan slotted his key in ignition and started the car.

"I had wanted to walk over to your table to introduce myself had you not decided to come running at me like a little lovesick wife."

"Huh." He grunted, glaring at the smug-faced driver. "And what, have you cause a commotion at the cafeteria? You know you don't look shabby at all and the people at SSU don't know you for the mean devil that you are, so they'd probably flock all over you like ants to honey."

Tin's grin widened that he resembled a cheshire cat. "Aw, now you sound like a jealous wife, Ai'Koon Chai."

Kongpob let out a short bark of derisive laughter. 

"Who's jealous, and what? Over you? Aren't we a bit overconfident, Ai'Koon Chai?"

"Or are you scared I might snatch your beloved P'Arthit away once he sees me?"

"In your dreams, Medthanan. P'Arthit isn't shallow and he's not one to be swayed easily."

The traffic light turned red when they reached the first intersection, and Tin took this chance to turn to his passenger with a haughty look.

"You're lucky I'm busy winning Ai'Pete over, Suthilakk, or I might just take you on that wager."

"Hah! As if you stand a chance at N'Pete. He knows you too well to know that a relationship with you is counterproductive."

Kong couldn't help but shake his head at the thought of Pete and Tin in a romantic relationship. The two were simply polar opposites it is a wonder they were even best of friends in the first place. "And besides, you know you both don't see each other that way."

"Still." Tin huffed, fingers tapping on the steering wheel while waiting for the green light. 

"Better me than that Thai Program who might just use him for his money. They're not together yet, and there's this other girl who likes that poor shorty anyway. They should just leave Pete with me. Us rich kids need to stick together."

Kongpob merely shook his head. Tin Medthanan and his trust issues sure is a special case.

***

"Oh my god, they look gorgeous together, don't they?"

"We've been truly blessed with such a sight. I can stare at them all day!"

"P'Kongpob's friend sure is good-looking, isn't he? I heard he's also the current university moon at TMU."

"Aw, really? Oh my god, do you think they have other friends as good-looking as them? I remember his dreamy friend with the super expensive car from last week."

"Imagine those guys telling you they love you..."

"Waah, give me a pillow to pinch and tear up!"

The following week the head hazer walked in on a commotion currently ongoing in the faculty lobby. 

He looked to his friends whose confused expressions mirrored his own, and they marched towards the throng of people crowding over a pair. 

They were mostly first and second years, so Arthit put on his best head hazer expression and demanded to know what's happening.

The sea of juniors slowly parted to reveal Kongpob and another guy his age hunched together on one of the tables, seemingly in the middle of a very important discussion that they were oblivious to the commotion they were causing.

The tanned first year who has been leaving his phone quite the number of missed calls and unread messages was looking at the other in unmasked concern, even reaching out to pat the other's shoulder lightly. The other guy pouted cutely, but smiled when Kongpob raised an eyebrow playfully.

Arthit suddenly felt a tightening in his chest.

"Student ID 0062!" He yelled in a stern voice, breaking through the cozy bubble that seemed to envelope his junior and the unfamiliar guy.

"P'!" Kongpob looked like a cat caught red-handed in the middle of sneaking some food out, which honestly made Arthit's heart swell.

At least I still have a certain amount of power over him.

"What is the meaning of this?" He continued, walking over calmly while downplaying the smile that threatened to escape his lips at the sight of Kongpob's expression. He certainly looked like a husband caught having an affair, and this was a welcome change from the self-satisfied smirk the younger always wore. The expression the boy is wearing now is certainly enough for Arthit to break his I'm-trying-to-avoid-0062-forever-or-much-longer rule.

"Do you know that we have strict rules about bringing guests from other schools over?"

"Aw, kau taut na, P'Arthit." The younger looked really sorry. "I'm sorry, my friend just needs my help—

"P'Arthit?!" Kongpob's friend looked at him like he knew him, eyes wide and staring at him so earnestly like he was taking the sight of the head hazer to memory that it was making Arthit a bit uncomfortable. "So this is him, huh? It's no wonder why Ai'Kong is totally whi—

Kongpob growled at his friend, who merely grinned and turned to face the hazing team again.

"Sawatdee khrap, P'Arthit. My name is Mingkwan Daichapanya, childhood friend of this grumpy here." He elbowed the still glowering Kongpob at his side. "It's nice to meet you, finally."

"Finally?" He asked aloud, disconcerted. The way the new kid phrased that...did Kongpob talk about him to his friends?

"I'm really sorry for barging in unannounced, P'Arthit." The guy continued on, smiling at him. 

Now that he got a good look at this Mingkwan, the head hazer could not deny that the boy was definitely good-looking. He was on a different spectrum of handsome compared to Kongpob and that Tin from last week, with an overwhelming charm that just invites people in. His smiles are a bit different from Kongpob's, they're wider, more open, friendlier, and they seem to reach his eyes that they are reduced to happy upturned slits every single time. If the rumors he heard earlier are true and this guy is TMU's current moon, then he could surely see the appeal. Even Toota is drooling from his peripheral vision.

"I just needed advice from Ai'Kong, is all." The TMU Moon said with another charming grin that made all the girls swoon. "But I'm lucky I got to see P'Arthit too, Yo and the others are so going to be jealous—

"Don't you dare lay your charms on him, Ai'Ming." Kongpob interjected, voice laced with suppresed annoyance. "Do you still need my help getting your KitKat or what?"

Panic grazed Ming's features at the mention of the famous chocolate wafer brand.

"Aw, Kong! Don't be like that! You told me you'd help me! I need my KitKat, Ai'Kong!"

Arthit will never understand why a seemingly rich kid like Mingkwan Daichapanya couldn't just buy himself a box of kitkats and be done with it.

Really, Kongpob and his friends outside SSU will always be a mystery.

***

Lab classes just finished for the day and the head hazer couldn't be any happier. Finally, he could rush to his dorm and just sleep the rest of the day away, student responsibilities be damned.

"Ai'Arthit, somebody's here to meet you."

The head hazer's brows frowned in confusion as he looked up to Knott, who was standing by the door with—

"Good afternoon, P'." The current university moon said politely before taking five long strides to where he was even before he can have a chance to stand up and flee.

Arthit schooled his features into a neutral expression.

"Aw, 0062." Kongpob's crestfallen expression at being called his student ID did not escape his vision but he steeled himself. Arthit has already come to a decision to avoid the junior forever, and he will stick to it (even if it meant constantly ignoring the inexplicable pangs somewhere in his chest). "What brings you here?"

"I'm here to bring the books you left in my fridge." The freshman said, said pile of books in his hand. "You might be needing them already."

"Okay," He said monotonously, reaching for the books being offered and frowned when instead of letting go, Kongpob Suthilakk had the gall to tighten his grip.

"Talk to me, P'Arthit."

"Kongpob!"

"Why are you avoiding me?"

"I'm not—

"I know you are. Why, P'? If you'd just hear me out—

"Let go of the goddamn books, 0062."

"No. I'm not giving them back to you until you give us a chance to talk."

Arthit had to give it to the younger boy: Kongpob Suthilakk knows what he wants and does everything to get it, no holds barred. He had to admit, it was impressive. But he forgot one essential part of the equation.

Arthit Rojnapat can be as stubborn as him, if not ten times more.

"Okay then." The head hazer relented, letting go of his books with a frown. Kongpob's eyes widened for a fraction of a moment, thinking he had succeeded.

"If you don't want to give them to me, Kongpob Suthilakk, I don't need them anymore."

The pangs in his chest when he left the freshman was near impossible to ignore, but Arthit did it. He walked away and never once looked back.

Even if he had so wanted to.

***

His conscience nagged at him once he got to his room, and he decided to call Kongpob with the intent to apologize. But once he finally gotten round to calling the boy, he merely ordered the freshman to return the books on his behalf instead.

Kongpob confessed his feelings in return.

Nobody else knew about the teary confession over the phone, one where he did not even allow the younger to finish and proceeded on avoiding him at all costs. He decided to go out malling for the weekend to somehow get his thoughts recalibrated.

"Ai'Kong?"

Arthit stopped dead in his tracks and looked at the source of the voice. It has been days since Kongpob had also decided to stay away from him after he refused to accept the books the younger was trying to return. These past few days he had been mastering the art of maintaining a poker face when his or Kongpob's friends express their confusions and concerns about the two who are obviously avoiding each other like the plague.

Arthit has never been more thankful that today is the weekend; feigning indifference at the fact that Kongpob is avoiding him is easier without all the nosy people asking him about it, and in effect, reminding him.

The only downside is that his mind must have been attuned to be on the lookout for anything relating to the younger man that he stops and stares whenever he hears or sees anything that reminds him of the cocky freshman.

"Ai'Kong? Hello?"

There's that voice again. Arthit merely hears the name Kong and his heart starts to beat thunderously in his chest. He looked around the busy mall for the source of the voice until his eyes landed on a not-so-tall guy standing near a shoe store, talking to someone on his phone.

Talking to an Ai'Kong.

"Ai'Kong, I can't hear you. I'm at the mall, the one near your university?"

Arthit found himself staring at the guy, his thoughts travelling at the speed of light. Is the Kong he's talking to the same Kong that has been plaguing the head hazer's mind recently?

Stop it, Arthit Rojnapat. There's more than one Kong in the world—wait, near the university? This mall is near SSU. How many SSU students are named Kong, anyway?

"Ai'Ming has asked me to buy something...No, Ai'Kong, it's not for P'Kit this time. I wanted to look for gifts for P'Pha anyway."

Okay, wait. This guy is talking to a Kong, who is a student at SSU and is friends with somebody named Ming. Shiyaa—isn't that guy at the cafeteria last time called Ming?

"Don't call him a teasing jerk, Ai'Kong. You're beginning to sound ridiculously like Ai'Tin...Yeah, don't listen to him, P'Pha is just too kind to me...and I often forget he's like that to everyone. All my fault, really."

Shiyaa...knows a Ming AND a Tin? The guy with the BMW is Tin, isn't he? Is this guy here another friend of Kongpob?

The guy turned to his left, granting Arthit a view of his features that made the head hazer stare in awe.

The guy was a bit on the short side, just as tall as Arthit even, and he had a creamy pale complexion like he's been bathing with milk all his life. He also has wavy brown locks for hair that looks so soft and inviting. He looks adorably cute with his simple white sweatshirt, khaki shorts and white designer sneakers.

Arthit was so transfixed that he did not realized the guy was already off his phone and was walking towards him. It was only until the guy waied at him with a warm smile that reality sunk in.

Good going, Arthit. Now he probably thinks you're a creep.

"Sawatdee khrap, P'. My name is Wayo Panitchayasawad."

"Uh, hello, P'Wayo. I'm Arthit Rojnapat."

The guy named Wayo looked a bit surprised for a fraction of a second, brown eyes widening in (was that...recognition? But he doesn't know anyone named Wayo! Why does this guy look like he knows me from somewhere?).

But before he could voice anything out, Wayo had already schooled his features to a neutral pleasant expression and smiled at him. "You can call me Wayo, Yo, or whatever, I don't mind. I'm sorry for acting familiar with you, P'Arthit, but I noticed you looking at me for a while now so I thought you must have needed my help?"

"Ah, I just—

"Do you study at SSU too?"

"Too?" The head hazer frowned, trying to place if he has seen Wayo around campus before. His brain yielded zero results, but he asked nonetheless. 

"You're studying at SSU?"

"Ah, no, P'Arthit. I'm studying at TMU. But a dear childhood friend of mine does."

"Oh?"

"Chai khrap, P'."

"Which faculty? I'm enrolled in the Engineering faculty, majoring in IE."

Wayo's eyes were twinkling with a hint of mischief when he turned to Arthit. "Then you must know my friend, Kongpob Suthilakk?"

Oh, boy.

***

Arthit found Wayo a very agreeable person as they spent the rest of the day together at the mall like they were old friends. The younger man was polite and kind and most importantly, loves nom yen as much as he does. That alone gave Wayo bonus points in Arthit's book.

Moreover, the boy did not shy away from telling the SSU student childhood tales involving Kongpob, which he unashamedly soaked up like a sponge. It was like seeing the cocky tanned freshman with a fresh pair of eyes through Wayo's narration.

"—so Ming and Tin started bickering over who gets to be Pete's husband, but Ai'Pete had other ideas. You should have seen the look on their faces, P'Arthit. They looked totally betrayed when Pete just walked over to Kong and latched himself by his side. Kong looked smug which only angered Tin and Ming even more." Wayo had tears in his eyes as he laughingly shared the story about how he met Kong and the rest of their little group. It was just like what Em had told the hazing team—their parents knew each other and since they were all the same age, so naturally they stuck together like glue.

"So this N'Pete is...?" Arthit started, curious as a cat. The name had come up in a lot of Wayo's stories and it sounded like everyone doted on him.

"Pitchaya Pecharn Worachoti." Wayo said matter-of-factly, looking at Arthit like he expected him to snap up with some sort of recognition. When the older guy just looked at him blankly, the younger smiled kindly again and said, "The Pecharn Worachotis are well known in the world of business, especially in hote—never mind. Ai'Pete wouldn't like it if I flaunted his socio-economic status. The only things you must know about Ai'Pete are: (1) he's cute; (2) it's impossible not to like him; (3) he's as kind as a saint; and (4) he likes guys who play sports."

"So he likes the athletic type then." Arthit echoed hollowly, mind speeding yet again to overdrive. What if he likes Kongpob?

"Oh my, look at the time!" Wayo exclaimed suddenly, which prompted him to look at his own wristwatch. It read 6:40. He also had to go back to his room, too, if he hopes to make progress with a paper due on Monday.

"It's getting late." He agreed. "We should go back now, you must live far from here if you're attending TMU."

"Aw, no P'. I'm used to long drives. Do you want me to give you a lift? My driver is already bringing the car over."

"No need N'Yo, I can take the bus. It's a very short ride from here: 30 minutes, tops."

The boy turned to him with a kind smile that absolutely won't take a no for an answer.

"Oh, that wasn't a suggestion, P'. I will give you a lift to your apartment building, just tell my driver the directions on the way."

Kongpob's childhood friends are weird, Arthit concludes, following the other to the mall's parking lot. And they don't grasp the idea of a commute.

***

"Here's your stop, P'."

Wayo said as the car came to a stop. The senior blinked at him one, two, three times before looking around to take in his surroundings, looking quite lost before a look of dawning recognition filled his eyes. The first year had to hide an amused smile, thinking about how adorable the older guy looked. No wonder Ai'Kong is simply head over heels with P'Arthit.

"Huh?" Arthit jumped slightly in his place in the passenger seat and looked around. He could he his and Kong's apartment buildings. "Ah, thank you for the ride, Nong."

He gave the older a smile. "Anything for Ai'Kong's—

Okay slow down Yo, Kong will kill you if P'Arthit knew he talks about him.

"Huh?" Arthit said again, one hand at the car door, tilting his head like a little confused puppy.

"I mean, Kong's friend is a friend of mine, too." 

Wayo finished, smiling brightly to hide his almost-blunder. "It was nice to finally meet you, P'Arthit. I had fun. I don't really hang out with strangers like this, but you hardly feel like a stranger at all."

Maybe because Kong talks about the guy so much it feels like he's a part of the group at this point.

"It's nice to finally meet me?" The other guy asked disbelievingly, perfectly arched brows shooting upward.

SHIYAAAAAA! SHUT YOUR MOUTH ALREADY, WAYO!

Wayo was spared from talking his way out of his slip-up by none other than Kongpob Suthilakk, who just ran in front of their parked car to a white Mercedez Benz parked in front of the apartment building next to Arthit's.

"Wait, is that Ai'Kong?" Arthit merely nodded at his surprised statement, watching his junior from his closed window.

"You're neighbors with Ai'Kong?!" Wayo exclaimed again, eyes also trained at the familiar tanned freshman who was now knocking at the driver-side window of the luxury car.

The elder did not even spare him a glance when he answered, "No, he's in the building next to mine."

The knocks ceased and the door opened as the driver came out of the car straight to Kong's arms and the boys in the van let out two different gasps at the same time.

Wayo gasped because he knew who it was, whereas P'Arthit—

The TMU first year believes it was for an entirely different reason.

***

It was way past his usual bedtime but Arthit Rojnapat was in his dorm room pacing, throwing the aligning room of the next building daggers with his eyes. He couldn't even remember if he had at least thanked Wayo for the ride home—he just lost it when Kongpob hugged the crying guy with the white Benz and wiped his tears away almost lovingly, saying what he could only assume was comforting words laced with love.

What's more, 0062 even invited him to his dorm room!

Are you jealous, Arthit? A sinister part of his brain asked maliciously. He halted in his steps as sharply as the thoughts arrived, then looked out the window again.

Him, jealous? Ha! Over 0062? As if, please.

His eyes caught movement from the other building and out came that guy—what was his name again?

Wayo's words echoed in his brain: Pitchaya Pecharn Worachoti.

The guy Ming and Tin wanted back when they were kids.

The guy who chose Kongpob back when they were kids.

Another person came to join him on the balcony not a minute later: Kongpob, who was grinning widely and holding out two glasses of iced coffee. 

Pitchaya mirrored the smile given to him, less bright but no less sweet.

Huh, what do you know? They like the same things.

Kongpob never once looked at the tenant in the building across his who angrily closed the curtains, fuming at the two who were talking intimately on the balcony like lovers.

It wasn't until the head hazer turned off his lights that he finally admitted that he was angry with himself too, particularly the side of him that wanted to be the one in the balcony with Kongpob.

The part that wanted Kong all to himself, even if that meant drinking bitter coffee with him.

***

Sunday morning came with a new resolve in the form of one Arthit Rojnapat.

"I know you're a guy, and I'm a guy, too. I know that this might not be right for a lot of people, but I know how I feel for you. It may not be right, but it is true."

Kongpob had been crying on the phone when he bared his soul out to the head hazer, and Arthit had been stupid to end the call without even letting him finish.

Arthit had been stupid. Still is.

He'd been stupid to run away and avoid the younger. He'd been stupid to swallow his own feelings for the freshman that was threatening to burst out from his throat, stupid to look away every time he feels Kong's intense gaze on him. 

He'd been stupid to know all along and leave things at that, stupid for thinking that if he just tried long enough,  the confusions he's been having over the young lad would go away on its own, like the flu after a full day of rest.

Arthit had been stupid, and still is.

He's stupid for believing that Kongpob would never falter, never waver in his feelings for the head hazer. He's stupid for believing that no matter how many times he'd push him away, he'd make his way back to his side with that cheeky grin on his face almost like the time he had announced to everyone he'd make Arthit his wife.

He's stupid to believe that Kongpob won't be snatched away.

Arthit is stupid, he admits to himself (though not aloud), and believes he still is.

Because really, if he wasn't, then why is he here in front of the freshman's apartment door, one arm raised to knock at the unforgiving white door without even a plan?

Stupid Arthit.

The door opened and he came face to face with the most beautiful person he has ever laid his eyes on.

***

"Is there something on my face, P'?"

He blushed, caught in the act of staring at the person in front of him. He had been in a daze from the moment Kongpob's apartment door had opened. 

One minute he was only marching to 0062's room, the next he was suddenly in a posh restaurant in Bangkok's premier business hotel, about an hour and a half drive from his apartment building.

"Uhm...no, nothing." He said, spared from saying anymore when their food arrived, carried on a gleaming silver tray by a waiter who is dressed better than him. Arthit is never a vain person but right now he wants nothing more than cave in on himself as he critiques his clothes: plain white shirt, faded jeans, and his favorite sneakers. Not exactly what one would wear when eating out at a five-star hotel.

"Is there anything else you want, Khun Pete?" The waiter addressed his companion respectfully, not unlike how one addresses royalty.

"That would be all, P'Benz." Pete told him with a warm smile, using the man's name so familiarly even if the waiter didn't have a name tag of sorts. "Thank you very much."

P'Benz smiled and waied at the two of them before leaving. "Bon appetit, and I hope your friend enjoys our food as much as you do, Khun Pete."

Arthit gave him a tight-lipped smile.

"Please enjoy your breakfast, P'Arthit." N'Pete told him kindly, looking like he belonged to the place even when he's dressed practically like the head hazer, with house slippers in his feet instead of shoes. "I made sure to add every spicy item in the menu I can think of, since P'Kong said you preferred them."

Arthit's brows furrowed into an unintentional frown. "N'Pete, can I ask you something?"

Beautiful brown eyes blinked at him. "Sure, P'. What is it?"

"You and Kongpob, uh...what are— I mean..."

Arthit cursed at himself for fumbling with the question he so wanted to ask since last night, since he saw the two hugging intimately. Pete merely waited patiently, slicing the asparagus stalks beside his grilled salmon.

He huffed out, finally coming up with the string of words.

"Do you like Kongpob?"

N'Pete placed his utensils down and looked at him, head tilted slightly as if contemplating his question.

"Yes, of course I do." The boy said simply, making Arthit squirm uncomfortably in his seat. So this boy, this N'Pete who everybody fawned over, this obviously rich and well-mannered boy, this pretty, pretty face with a long and lean body to match—

This, this was a rival.

Arthit almost faltered in the face of the competition. Can he really go against this for Kongpob? He does not know N'Pete, but he knows that he and him are nowhere near close enough in personalities. Pete is obviously straightforward and honest, and does not hide his feelings in faux-annoyance and bouts of bitter anger. He's cute, and is not afraid to act like it. He's kind-looking enough, and polite. Arthit cannot even tell if he knows how to curse.

Damnit Kongpob, why are you so lovable?! Can't you see what I'm going to go against? Do I even stand a chance?

"I see." Arthit said after a while, making a show of cutting his own chicken while making tremendous effort not to show the tremble in his hands. "You like him."

"P'Kongpob isn't that hard to like, P'Arthit. He's had hoardes of fangirls over the years as proof, that famous moon." N'Pete told him smilingly. 

"But...you know that already, don't you? Seeing that you have...first-hand experience."

"Wh-what?!" He spluttered, almost choking on his chicken. "I-I don't—

The smile on Pete's face grew even wider. "It's just like P'Kong's stories. You're a real tsundere, P'Arthit. So cute."

"What?" Arthit exclaimed again, this time on a completely different tone of voice.

"P'Kong talks about you so much." Pete said softly, eyes kind as he appraised the person sitting across him. "Almost as much as Ming talks about P'Kit, and that's saying something."

So that's why. Arthit's mind tells him. That's why his friends seem to know me all too well.

"He said you're almost always annoyed, but you're never truly angry." Arthit pouted at that, Pete letting out a small chuckle. "He said that you're a strict head hazer, shouting at them all the time. You even made him run laps across the field."

"Well, he totally deserved that—

"But that you're actually very kind and have a big, soft heart that bleeds silently every time you have to dole out punishments."

Arthit's counter argument died in his throat and he blushed.

"P'Kong, he's a very likable character. He's even the reason why our little group became friends, you know?"

Arthit nodded, having heard the story from N'Yo yesterday.

"People always think we have a good life, us kids born into business families. We can have everything at the snap of a finger without working hard for it. We can have all we want: gadgets, cars, designer clothes, vacations to other places...things people have to save up for if they want it."

Pete took a small sip of water from his water goblet before he continued, "Having all of these, people think we're happy. But we're not, P'Arthit, and the very reason that people believe brings us happiness is also the very reason why we're not. Being rich means connections, but not all of those ties are actually true."

"P'Kong, he never saw us like that. He saw us as individuals, separate from the family names that weigh us down."

Arthit looked into Pete's eyes and saw only fondness in them, a quiet adoration.

"He deserves nothing but the best, don't you think, P'Arthit?"

He nodded his assent. Of course Kongpob deserves nothing but the best, that jerk with the hero complex.

His words tremble and shake as they came out of his lips, ending in a choked whisper.

"Th-thats why...0062 deserves you by his side." 

Shiyaa, he's supposed to fight, goddamnit, but it's obvious who the better choice was.

And N'Pete, bless his beautiful soul, blinks rapidly at him and laughed. Really laughed, the sound tinkling with amusement. The other patrons turned to their table and N'Pete raises a pale hand to his mouth to muffle the sound.

"Me? P'Arthit, did you even listen to a word I said?" He exclaimed amusedly, warm brown eyes twinkling. "P'Arthit, for a smart person, at least from what I glean from P'Kong's stories, you sure are slow."

"Oi!"

"P'Kong talks about you." The younger guy told the head hazer. "He called me one time just to talk about you, P'."

Arthit felt his cheeks and ears burn.

"He told me last night, too, P'Arthit." Pete continued. "Told me he confessed, but you refused him."

His entire face now felt like a burning furnace and he was sure he looked exactly like an overripe tomato.

"I've always known I was gay, P'Arthit." Pete broke the silence again, voice soft and low. "But the early acceptance doesn't really mean that I don't know the feelings you must be having now: the uncertainty, the hesitation, the fear. What if he doesn't really love me, and what if this is just a mere experimentation to test his gender preference? What if this was a joke, even?"

Long pale hands reach out to touch equally pale fingers over the table.

"Or, in the slim chance that he does...what will eveyone say? What will they do?"

Arthit gulped and blinked, not knowing what to say.

"Everyone is afraid, P'. Everyone is afraid of loving, afraid of not being loved in return. But, how long are you going to stay afraid?"

Pete's phone buzzed before Arthit can say anything, and he's very grateful for the interruption. His throat felt constricted, his tongue thick with supressed emotions.

He decided to eat the rest of his breakfast even if he could no longer work up an appetite. After all, nobody should waste food, especially when it's free and from a five-star hotel menu.

Pete excused himself, smiling fondly as he took the call. Arthit thinks the younger boy was practically glowing all of a sudden and there was a spring in his step as he walked outside, but that could just be the head hazer's imagination.

His own phone dinged after a minute or so and Arthit had, in a sweeping moment of foolish hope, expected it to come from Kongpob.

It wasn't.

*

From: Knott

Hey, Bright wants us to go see a movie later. Are you coming?

*

To: Knott

Sure. Later, after lunch?

*

From: Knott

We'll pick you up from your room by 2:30.

*

N'Pete came back just as soon as he was placing his phone back down on the table, smiling like he just had his birthday, Christmas, and Songkran all at once.

"I'm going to meet my boyfriend after this. Would you like to see him?"

Arthit couldn't even keep the surprise from coloring his voice. "Boyfriend?"

N'Pete just nodded. "Well, we just got together and only Tin and P'Kong knows yet from my side, and now you. Tin didn't take the news too kindly, though. Even threatened to break us apart, that skeptic introvert."

"That was why you were crying to 0062, then? Yesterday."

"Oh. You saw us? How embarassing." Pete said sheepishly, turning a brilliant shade of pink. "If you're done I can take you with me to see him, then we take you back to your apartment."

"Oh no, I don't want to impose."

"But wasn't I the one imposing, dragging you here? Please, let me take you back. P'Kong's wrath is something Tin and Ming might want to test for themselves, but not for me. Especially when it involves you, P'Arthit."

Arthit huffed and stood up first, the beyond-pleased hotel heir walking beside him with a serene grin of self-satisfaction.

***

Arthit is never judgmental, but he wouldn't deny that he was expecting Pete's boyfriend to be...someone extraordinary?

The tanned, shorter-than-average guy waving from the front of an old student dormitory at the incoming white Mercedes-Benz was not really somebody you'd think someone a Pitchaya Pecharn Worachoti would fall head over heels for, as he obviously does with the wide grin on his face as he honked his car horn in greeting.

Arthit struggled to keep his face neutral, and Pete, looking at him from the rearview, let out a small laugh of amusement. 

"That's Ae. Ae Intouch." Pete said almost reverently with disbelieving awe. Arthit turned to look at the driver seat and saw, for a fleeting moment, the look he sees in Kongpob's face every time he comes over to annoy the head hazer. "He's the best thing ever, P'Arthit. Aside from Mae Putch, he's the most important person to me." 

Pete turned to look at him and winked. "Don't tell Tin or P'Kong, though, they both like to think they're my most important person."

Arthit tried to ask without meaning to be demeaning, but he really has to know. 

"N'Pete," He started, sounding unsure. "Why him?"

"You sounded just like Tin, you know." Pete said sternly, but his eyes were telling a different story. "To be perfectly honest, P'Arthit, this is not the first time I've overheard comments about the way my boyfriend looks. Some of them were even worse than what you're probably thinking right now."

"Sorry."

"Oh no, don't be." Pete said reassuringly. "Ae doesn't care, and neither do I. I don't believe them, anyway. For me, he's the most handsome guy in the world, and that's counting P'Kong."

Arthit's jaw slacked at the bold statement, but well, Pete's words ring true. Beauty is subjective. 

"How did you know he's worth the risk and gamble?" 

He asked, watching Pete maneuver his car towards the dormitory. 

"P'Arthit, there's no way I can ever know that. I don't know if what we have is for the long term, even. But here's one thing I know for sure: being with him felt like home. Being with him felt like finally releasing that breath you hadn't realized you were holding. Being with him is surprisingly easy, when I've always imagined this kind of love to be hard."

The windows rolled, and Ae Intouch came running down to meet the car. 

"Hello, Pete." The boy said, face so lovingly open Arthit could suddenly see what Pete does in him. 

The tanned face of the freshman lit up like he was presented his favorite toy, one that he had been wishing since Christmas. 

With a jolt, Arthit realized the expression looked familiar. It was the same look Kongpob gave him during the knot-tying ceremony. 

"Hello khrap, Ae." Pete said, almost shyly. "Would you mind sitting in the back for a bit?"

Arthit was quick to unsheath his seatbelt from the lock. "Oh no, I can transfer--

"It's okay, P'." Pete stopped him with a gentle hand. "I'm sure Ae doesn't mind." 

The smile on Ae's face was kind, and turned impossibly gentler when it was directed to his boyfriend. "Not at all. Just stay where you are, P'. I get to ride shotgun every single time anyway." 

The ride to Arthit's apartment building was smooth and filled with warm conversation mostly between lovers, but they made sure to include the head hazer, too. 

Ae particularly had taken interest in the senior, seeing as they both come from the same faculty even though they go to different universities. Arthit answered every earnest question as best he could, becoming more comfortable with the young man's presence. 

Pete let him off the car with a gentle smile hinted at subtle teasing. "Be brave, P'Arthit. Good luck!"

"T-thank you." He said, running his fingers through his hair in nervous habit. 

"You're head hazer, you can do anything, P'!" Ae chimed in, eyes twinkling mischievously. "Go win P'Kongpob."

It wasn't after the car had left off and he was already turning the keys in his room that he realized N'Ae knew about the Kongpob issue well enough to cheer him on. 

Crazy in love boyfriends, he huffed. 

***

Bravery, as Arthit came to realize, is not the act of being fearless. It is the act of being the only one to know you're scared to death. 

*

From: N'Pete

He's coming to the wedding. Something about P'Ple persuading him to come with her?

*

To: N'Pete

Thanks, Nong.

*

From: N'Pete

Do you need help?

*

He had been confident, responding he's all good when help has been offered. But now, in the middle of the party and Kongpob has made it perfectly clear he's better off as far away from Arthit as possible, the head hazer has been plagued with second thoughts.

It took him this year's worth of courage just to pluck the elusive junior out from the crowd, only to have that falter when Kongpob merely looked at him with an unreadable question that Arthit's mind nearly blanked out. 

Nearly.

"Would you like to accompany me to grab something to eat?"

Oh okay, he totally blanked out. 

He was only grateful that aside from a fleeting disbelieving look, Kongpob had followed him petulantly until they stopped at the Rama VIII Bridge. 

They passed through this bridge not so long ago, Pete and him. 

"Everyone is afraid, P'. Everyone is afraid of loving, afraid of not being loved in return. But, how long are you going to stay afraid?"

Bravery is shooting the ball, not knowing if it goes in the basket or if it misses. Bravery is doing what you can, and being strong enough to face the consequences of that action. Bravery is coming full-on, straightforward, walking into a space outside your comfort zone, peeking out of the box, to face something you dont want to confront but you have to...or you'll forever wonder. 

Bravery is that one minute of foolish courage.

Arthit took a deep breath to calm his fraying nerves. "Kongpob...are you tired?"

Kongpob, as expected, turned to look at him with a question on his face. He leaned over the rails. "No."

"Honestly, aren't you tired at all? You have to chase after me like this." He played with his fingers nervously to avoid looking at the freshman.

"And you have no clue where I'm heading to...or when I will stop."

Are you here merely for the thrill of the chase, Kongpob?

Kongpob's answering words came in a soft voice, but they never wavered, not even for a bit.

"Even though I dont know what lies ahead of me." The younger cast sad eyes to the sky, a small puff of breath escaping his lips. "Be it far or near...I still want to be there for you, P'Arthit."

The head hazer bowed, trying to hide a silly, giddy grin from breaking out. Kongpob took this as some form of contemplative silence, and bit his lip in quiet anticipation.

"But you know, right?"

Kongpob turned to face Arthit, warm eyes meeting scared ones. He titled his head slightly, an invitation for the head hazer to continue.

"That I'm a guy and you're also a guy."

Kongpob visibly gulped, not knowing where the conversation was headed, but answered all the same. "Yes."

"And you also know right? That I'm your senior...and you are my junior."

The response wasn't swift; in fact it came longer than Arthit would've liked.

"Yes, I know." Kongpob said slowly, softly.

Arthit wasn't done. He was determined to lay down all his cards, to make the most of this moment of foolish courage he's started. Kongpob has to know what he was getting into, what they're getting into.

"And you know, right? That I like pink milk— And you know, right? That I can be incredibly stupid sometimes. I can be really selfish. I whine a lot. I get annoyed easily. I'm just a laid back kind of guy. I can wake up really late at any day."

Kongpob looked at him, wondering why all of these had cropped up in the conversation so suddenly.

"Even if you know all of these...Can you accept who I am?"

One, two, three full heartbeats later and Kongpob laughed, laughed hard at the incredulity of the situation. His P'Arthit never ceases to make him fall for his inherent cuteness, and it was taking all of his willpower not to jump on him right now, especially when they are in a very public place.

"Yes, I can." He said smilingly, turning to his adorable senior. "What about you? Can you accept me?"

True to his conflicting nature, Arthit let out a short snort. "I don't know you well enough, Kongpob."

Kong's crestfallen expression awoken something in his chest, and he made a personal promise not to let the boy do the same expression ever again, especially not because of him.

"But I want to know you more."

The kiss that followed was short, awkward, and hardly a kiss at all, if Arthit were to be honest. But it was the first of hopefully many more to come.

***

Kongpob was fuming, pouting like a spoiled child whose favorite toy was forcefully taken away from.

"P'Arthit...P'Arthit khrap..."

The head hazer was sprawled on his bed like he belonged there, and the sight would've made the junior's heart skip a beat if said head hazer wasn't too engrossed with the phone.

"Hmm...?" Arthit hummed in response, still typing furiously. Kongpob sighed, he knew it was a bad thing to allow Ming to create a chat group with his friends and his boyfriend.

The first time he told the head hazer, Arthit had nonchalantly told him, "Why not? It's not as if the GC would be that active anyway, you know me— I'm hardly sociable. Besides, this could be a good opportunity to know my boyfriend's friends more."

The way he said boyfriend so casually like they were always meant to end up that way made Kongpob melt into a puddle of goo, and given Ming the signal to go ahead and create the chat group.

Thus, the chat group Ask P'Arthit was born.

Kongpob positioned himself behind Arthit, lining his front with the senior's back and wrapping both arms around the hazer's slim waist.

His P'Arthit melted into the back hug but continued to type away. Kongpob placed a soft kiss on the side of Arthit's neck he can reach comfortably.

*

KitKat Lover: but P'Arthit! I've been brave enough!

PinkMilkMonster_2: stupidly brave, even. he's taken to following P'Kit all over campus like a creepy stalker

OriginalPinkMilkMonster: but have you really been brave enough to bare everything to your P'Kit? you just have to show your sincerity

TinMedthanan: ha good luck

Peachaya changed TinMedthanan's nickname to MelonBoy

MelonBoy: OI PETE

MelonBoy changed Peachaya's nickname to ThirstyForSoccerBoy

*

"What?" Kong couldn't help himself, he will always be overprotective of his little Peach. "Tell Tin he'd better—

Arthit laughed as he looked back at him and placed a soft peck on his lips.

"Don't worry, N'Pete knows how to stand his ground." His boyfriend said comfortingly, leaning even more against his chest. "He's been brave ever since he's had N'Ae."

ThirstyForSoccerBoy: doesn't this apply to you too, Tin?( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

PinkMilkMonster_2: ooohhh spill the tea Ai'Pete!

MelonBoy changed ThirstyForSoccerBoy's nickname to Ae'Pete

MelonBoy: not a word, Pitchaya.

Ae'Pete: awww this is clever and sweet at the same time, Tin.

"See? N'Pete is going to be an excellent negotiator in the future." His P'Arthit showed him his phone laughingly, grinning like a proud parent. Kongpob smiled in return; it seemed that his special fondness for the young hotelier is rubbing off on his boyfriend.

PinkMilkMonster_2: no fair!

Ae'Pete: no worries, I can meet you up at your uni after your last class and give you the deets

PinkMilkMonster_2: i am sooo in

KitKat Lover: same

PinkMilkMonster_2: you're paying

MelonBoy: how about i pay, and you dont talk about my love life?

PinkMilkMonster_2: NO

Ae'Pete: no thank you, Tin

KitKat Lover: 'my love life' huh

They both laughed at the way the conversation is carrying out, but Kong was quick to pull the phone away from his boyfriend's hands the moment he tried to join in the conversation and held the device over his head, well away from his boyfriend's reach.

"Hey!" His P'Arthit snarled and he smiled in response, all smug. "Give my phone back!"

"Nuh-uh."

"0062! This is an order from your head hazer!"

Kong merely laughed and switched their positions that he was now hovering on top of his P'Arthit. He even placed a teasing kiss on his boyfriend's nose and cooed when his senior scrunched his face like an adorable puppy.

"Kong..." His P' said, pouting and making his heart flip somersaults in his chest. "Can I have my phone, please?"

His boyfriend was all cute like that, but Kong was stronger.

"Hmmm...no."

P'Arthit hooked both legs around his waist and he gasped in surprise at the thought of their crotches so dangerously close to touching. Little Kong began to stir from its sleep, and his boyfriend wasn't helping.

"No?" His P'Arthit asked, biting his lips at the end as he tangled his legs tighter around him and thrusting.

"No—uhhmmm...yes babe, just like that." He let out a low moan and allowed his P' to switch their positions again, and Kongpob suddenly found himself with his back to the mattress and his sinfully beautiful boyfriend straddling him and slowly humping him with all their clothes on.

"Yes...yes." He moaned again and hungrily chased after P'Arthit's lips when the latter dipped down to grant him a quick peck. The head hazer smiled against his lips and allowed the kiss to deepen, and Kong could not help but let out a satisfied sigh when his boyfriend finally pull back to give both of them time to catch their breaths.

"Thank you, my Moon." His P'Arthit smirked at him before climbing off his lap, playfully waving his phone in his hands.

Kong's eyes widened and his mouth dropped into a surprised 'o'.

"You used me!" He accused in faux indignation, getting up in an attempt to snatch the phone back if he hopes to have all of his boyfriend's attention tonight.

"And you allowed it to happen." The head hazer grinned like the cat that ate the canary. "Enjoyed every moment of it, I bet."

He had no comeback to that, so he simply laid back down again and resigned to the fact that he won't be able to get his much-needed pre-bedtime cuddles from his most favorite person tonight.

***

Chat Group: RichKidsOfBKK

CoffeePrince: I'm buying everyone their favorite drinks if you all promise not to chat P'Arthit this weekend.

 

終わる 「End」