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From a young age, children were taught that everyone had a soulmate. Children were taught in elementary school that when they reached the age of eighteen, they would receive their soulmark. On their wrist, the name of their soulmate tattooed in black ink would appear. When they finally met the one they were meant to be with, the ink would turn a vibrant red. 

Every generation of children had the same worries, "What if I don't have a soulmate?" "What if I never meet my soulmate?" "What if my soulmate doesn't like me?", 

Kongpob knew that soulmates were meant for each other, that every pair of soulmates would meet some day and they would be perfect for each other.

Kongpob believed this for a very long time. Every pair of soulmates in his life were so happy together, his parents, his grandparents, all of his aunties and uncles and even his cousins that were old enough to have received their soulmate mark. He had never seen the system go wrong. He had heard rumours of people without soulmarks, of soulmates that had died before they found each other. He'd even heard of people wearing thick black wristbands over their soulmarks so they would never know their soulmates name, so they could never be burdened with having to meet them. But Kongpob couldn't believe that the system could be wrong when there were so many people that were happy with their soulmates around him.

Kongpob believed in fate. He believed that people were given their soulmarks for a reason and that if they embraced the opportunity with an open mind, that they were guaranteed happiness with their soulmate.

The problem with this is that none of the people Kongpob's age seemed to think like this. Most people his age were so occupied with their own worries and self insecurities that they couldn't believe that there was a person out there in the world that was just for them, that they were worthy of having a soulmate. And so, between the ages of thirteen to seventeen, almost no one Kongpob had met spoke about their soulmates. Everyone seemed so scared of receiving their soulmark and being bound to another person forever that they acted like they didn't exist at all. Girls switched boyfriends every week like it was nothing, and guys dated every girl that would say yes to them.

And yet, the thing that annoyed Kongpob the most is that people were still bullied if they dated someone of the same gender. Despite there being millions of people in the world who had soulmates of the same gender, they were still made to feel like that it was wrong. This drove Kongpob insane. How could something that he found so beautiful be universally hated by everyone else?

So Kongpob did what every teenager tried to do, he tried not to think about soulmates. He didn't talk about how excited he was to get his soulmark, because he knew that others wouldn't care. He knew other people wouldn’t understand his thoughts anyway. He dated a couple girls that were obviously not as much interested in him as they were in his popularity in the school. And although he had caught more than one boy giving him a longing look in the hallway, he kept his head down. Kongpob could be patient, he could wait for the day he was given his soulmark.

And finally that day came, his eighteenth birthday, just a couple months before he graduated. Kongpob had been confident all his life that the soulmate system wouldn't disappoint him like everyone said it would but in the few hours before the clock struck twelve on his birthday, Kongpob began to have the worrying thoughts that he had heard from so many others 

"What if I don't have a soulmate?" "What if I never meet my soulmate?" "What if my soulmate doesn't like me?".

“What if my soulmate’s a boy?”

He wrapped his hand around his own wrist instinctively. Screwing up his eyes tight, willing the soulmark to not completely up-end his life.

His mother knocked on the door of his bedroom. Kongpob sat in the dark staring at his closed hand over his wrist. She had sat with him until it was twelve o'clock and the dark ink started to form on Kongpob's wrist. He didn’t look at it for a few minutes, but he knew it was there. Kongpob only remembered to breathe when his mother gave him a nudge, a small encouragement. Eventually, Kongpob moved his hand and saw the soulmark there. 

'Arthit'.

It was only when his mother gathered him into a hug that he realised that he had started crying. 

“There’s nothing to be scared of, Kongpob. One day, you’ll meet ‘Arthit’. And I promise that I will love and accept him as much as I love you.”

A few months later came the day of his university interview for the department of engineering. He was nervous the entire day, conflicted between studying engineering or economics. He knew he should study engineering if he wanted to help with his family's business in the future, but he knew economics could also be useful and that he might like it more than engineering. 

And just when he was about to give up and turn around, one of the seniors came up to him and made sure he was okay. 

He had told him a story about his interview to make him feel better and Kongpob had asked, "Why did you choose to study here?". He made Kongpob understand that the decision wasn't just about what he wanted to study, but where he wanted to be for the next four years. And Kongpob decided that he wanted to be with people like this senior.

It was only after he had gone in for his interview, when he was fidgeting with his sleeve out of nervousness that he noticed something about his soulmark. 

It was red.

He was so shocked by it that he nearly ruined his interview. He rushed through the next questions clumsily, not giving well thought out answers in an attempt to get out of there as soon as possible. The interviewer gave him a polite nod to signal that he could go and told him that she would call him with the results of his interview. On his way out, Kongpob thought of the many people he had met today, and which one of them could possibly be his soulmate. Logically, Kongpob knew that he had met many seniors and other people applying to the university today, and that anyone of them could be his soulmate. But Kongpob already knew who, out of all the people he had met, he wanted his soulmate to be. He knew with all the confidence of his heart that the senior he had met today, the one that had convinced him to choose engineering, was 'Arthit'.

So when Kongpob got the offer from the university to study in the engineering department, he had accepted without a second thought. Kongpob had all the confidence in the world that he and Arthit would meet, even if Arthit was older than him, and then fate would take its course. 

And his first day of university came with a schedule of orientation activities set up, Kongpob was looking forward to making friends and seeing Aim again. Kongpob was hopeful that the world of secondary school would be long behind him. People were more accepting at university, right? People were more grown up here, they understood the world better, they didn't hate people for things they couldn't control. It would be a new beginning for him, where he could finally be himself.

The first years were all gathered in the hall when the doors slammed shut, and the hazers made their way to the front of the gathering. Kongpob saw the senior he had met that day. 

He was here . And he was a hazer. No, he was the head hazer.

Something in Kongpob's stomach dropped.

"Sawatdee, first years. My name is Arthit. I'm a third year and your senior in the Department of Engineering."

Kongpob's heart swelled after hearing the senior confirm it. This was   'Arthit'. He spoke harshly to them but he stood with authority, hands held behind his back. Kongpob didn't know whether to be afraid of him or attracted to him. 

As Arthit continued to talk, Kongpob got less and less sure that he knew his soulmate at all. This ‘Arthit’ was cruel. He wielded his power over them carelessly. He seemed to enjoy ordering them about when to speak, when to stand. He was nothing like that senior that had comforted him that day.

The next thing Arthit did made Kongpob's stomach drop even further. Arthit reached for something in his pocket and held it in front of them. It was a small gold gear hanging from Arthit's hand with some string.

But Kongpob wasn't looking at the gear. His eyes were focused on the thick black wristband Arthit had around his wrist.

And Kongpob knew what it meant.

Chapter Text

Arthit ordered them to get 1,000 signatures from their seniors by the end of the week. All of the first years knew this was impossible, that they would need at least a month to get that many signatures. The more Arthit ordered them to do things, the more Kongpob wanted to protest, to push back against his relentless stream of commands. 

And so Kongpob stood up, requested to speak and said as politely as he could, "One week is too tight. We don't think it's going to be possible."

"Have you tried yet?" Arthit screamed back at him, "If you can't complete this small task, how will you be able to get anything done in the future?"

Kongpob wondered if Arthit didn't remember him or if he was just being especially cruel to him.

So Kongpob pushed back, "If it were you, would you be able to get 1,000 signatures in one week?"

Kongpob saw Arthit lose his composure for a second but, instead of yielding, Arthit just yelled back, "You are in no position to ask questions back. My orders are absolute. Understood?"

Kongpob flinched at his harsh words, as the rest of the first years repeated "Understood," to appease Arthit's wrath. Arthit glared at him as him and the rest of the hazers made their way out of the room, and the second years came back to talk to them. Kongpob sat down and wondered how in the hell he got himself into this mess. 

Arthit was his soulmate. Arthit didn't know Kongpob was his soulmate, and would never know until he took the wristband off, and now Arthit hated Kongpob.

...

The next time he ran into the senior, P'Arthit had obviously decided that Kongpob had not been humiliated enough by speaking out against him. And now he had found another reason to punish him when he caught Kongpob with his own and Aim's signature books.

"Did you get my signature yet?" Arthit asked him.

"Not yet," answered Kongpob, knowing almost certainly that this was a trap.

"Give me your signature book," Arthit ordered. He sat down and flipped through it, "You seem to have gotten a lot of signatures already. Can you do me a favor?"

"What is it?" Kongpob asked.

"Can you?" Arthit asked, daring him to say yes.

"All right," Kongpob answered, feeling as if he had no other choice.

Arthit thought about it for a moment, "Do you see the last table over there? Go stand on that table and shout three times, 'I like men.'"

Kongpob flinched at Arthit's words. All Kongpob could think was that this was just like secondary school. 

Nothing had changed. Everything that Kongpob had thought about university was a lie, nothing was different. People like him still got picked on, were still humiliated for no reason by people like P'Arthit. 

And this is who the universe thought he should spend his life with? This is what fate lined up for him?

Kongpob had never seen the system fail, but as he looked at his own soulmate, he thought that maybe this was the first time anyone had ever hated their soulmate. 

So Kongpob resigned himself to his fate. Let himself be humiliated by P'Arthit. As he stood on the table, Kongpob didn't care that people thought that he was gay. Instead, he was furious that P'Arthit thought that him shouting 'I like men.' at the top of his voice was something that was funny, something that he should be embarrassed about.

And at the end of it all, P'Arthit didn't even sign the damn book.

...

At the next gathering, P'Arthit had singled him out again for the stupidest reason, so when he was forced to stand in front of the whole gathering and in front of Arthit, he was ready to test his luck, to push P'Arthit until he snapped.

Arthit pulled the gear out of his pocket and dangled it in front of his face, "Do you see this gear badge? It's an honorary symbol for all engineering students and if any of you can't prove to me that you should earn it, feel free to get out, and I won't consider you my juniors anymore."

Arthit focused on Kongpob again, "And you, Kongpob. What if I don't give you this gear badge? What will you do?" Arthit looked at him with such disgust in his eyes that Kongpob almost couldn't take it. Arthit snickered to himself and put the gear back in his pocket and began to walk away from him. He knew he had to do something.

"I will just take it from you," he said.

Arthit turned back around. He looked furious, "What did you just say?"

"If you don't give the gears to us, we can just snatch them from you," said Kongpob, simply. 

The other hazers looked nervously at each other, but Arthit was growing more and more deadly by the second, "How would you do that?"

Kongpob knew he was going to have to go there, "I will make you my wife. They say, what belongs to your lover is also yours. If I make you my wife, your gear is also mine."

Kongpob wasn't proud of using his own sexuality to humiliate P'Arthit, but he knew it was the easiest way to get back at him for what he'd done to Kongpob. He was also not surprised when Arthit grabbed him by the shirt, ready to punch his face in.

He was surprised when one of the other hazers, Knot, pulled Arthit away from him. He had almost expected the other hazers to watch as Arthit beat him. He was only slightly comforted by the thought that he might not have to spend the night at the hospital. That was until he saw the look still on Arthit's face.

"You are brave, Kongpob. That's good. Let's see if you can do as you say."

And 200 sit-and-stands later, Kongpob thinks the beating might have hurt less.

Chapter Text

The weeks that followed went in an unsatisfying yet insightful blur, filled with moments of him and P'Arthit, as Kongpob slowly chipped away at Arthit's cold exterior.

The first time that Kongpob discovered that maybe P'Arthit might not be a horrible person after all is in the infirmary. Even though P'Arthit had tried to hide his acts of kindness with his harsh words about Kongpob's looks and his ability to win the Faculty Contest, he had made sure that they had taken the food with them. It was a small act of kindness, but Kongpob saw a glimmer of something good in P'Arthit and at this moment in Kongpob's life, he needed to believe that his soulmate might not be a complete asshole. 

And then Kongpob ran into him on campus, during the hazers meeting after hours, and Kongpob relished in seeing the flustered look on Arthit's face and couldn't help but say "When you put on your serious face, I think you look kind of cute," and Arthit's cheeks grew even redder as he made his hasty escape.

It was moments like this that Kongpob allowed himself to hope. Hope that the universe hadn't made a huge mistake in pairing the two up. Hope that one day Arthit could allow himself to be a person that Kongpob could love, instead of putting on his 'head hazer' persona.

And slowly, Arthit was revealing his humanity to Kongpob, whether he knew it or not. When Arthit would give reasons for his harsh actions and lessons during hazing sessions, Kongpob could see through the facade that Arthit wore all the time. And in return for Arthit showing him vulnerability, Kongpob would use it to poke Arthit, teasing him just enough so he could see the flustered look on Arthit's face. It was way more satisfying to fluster P'Arthit than it was to piss him off. Though the two weren’t always mutually exclusive.

Kongpob was told as a child that once you met your soulmate, everything would be easy.  But these were turning out to be the most difficult and frustrating weeks of Kongpob's life. Every time he saw his soulmate, it was like navigating a minefield. He tried so hard to impress Arthit rather than disappoint him, but it seemed that Arthit had already made up his mind about his junior. 

And everytime Kongpob saw Arthit, he would steal a glance at his wrist, silently hoping that the wristband he wore was suddenly gone. But what would that solve? Arthit still hated him and he would probably treat him even worse if he knew that they were supposed to be stuck together forever. 

Kongpob decided that he had to make Arthit like him, even tolerate him, before he ever took the wristband off.

Kongpob began to notice Arthit in places he never had before. He discovered that Arthit lived opposite to his apartment and from his window one day when he caught a glimpse of Arthit doing laundry.

He didn't care about winning the star faculty contest as much as he wanted to prove to Arthit that he could do it. He c ouldn't let Arthit have any more reasons to think badly of him. 

Kongpob had tricked Arthit into attending both the basketball game and the Star Contest with the deal that they made, much to Kong's satisfaction.

And yet, Kongpob's heart still fluttered when he saw the hazers walk in to watch him. He had half expected Arthit to not care enough to even show up. 

They were backstage before the performance in the star contest when he finally told someone else about his mark.

Praepaellin was a ball of nervous energy sitting next to him, and he wasn't any better.

"I can't tell if I'm excited or nervous!" Prae squeaked, her hands clasped together in front of her in an effort to stop them from shaking so much.

Kongpob laughed and flashed her one of his brilliant smiles, "You're definitely excited."

She pouted back at him, "Kongpob! I don't know why I'm so nervous! I don't even want to win really."

Kongpob's head turned slightly at this, "Oh? Why not?"

She smiled sheepishly at him, "Well... if we win we have to do all the 'Star' and 'Moon' things," she emphasised with air quotes, "People will expect us to be... like ... a couple and, no offense Kongpob, but you're not exactly ... my type ."

Kongpob frowned childishly at him, "Aww... but Prapaellin we have to win. I have something to prove."

Prae laughed, "Prove that you're the most handsome of all the first years?"

"I mean, yes, but that's not what I'm talking about," Kongpob said, not sure if he should continue.

Prae just stared at him expectantly, so he thought 'Fuck it'.

"Can I show you something, Prae? But you have to promise you'll keep it a secret or I might get in serious trouble," Kongpob said seriously.

Prae tilted her head, confused by the change of tone, "Of course, I'm great at keeping secrets!" Prae smiled cutely at him, but Kong knew that she was telling the truth.

Kongpob pulled up his sleeve to reveal the mark on the inside of his wrist, and turned it to show Prae.

'Arthit'

"Holy fuck!" Prae said, eyes widening. Kongpob was speechless for a moment, not knowing how to explain.

"This is why we have to win," Kongpob said gesturing with his wrist, "I can't make him more disappointed in me."

"Kongpob..." Prae whispered, conscious of the people around them, "Does he know?"

Kongpob shook his head sadly, "He wears a wristband... and I haven't told him."

"Oh Kongpob," Prae said and hugged him close, "It'll be okay."

"He hates me, Prae" Kongpob said pathetically into Prae's shoulder.

She pulled back from the hug and started taking her bracelets off. Once she had them all off, she lifted her wrist to show Kongpob.

'Achara.' 

"Prae... That's..."

"A girl's name. Yeah, I know," Prae said looking at him empathetically, "We have more in common than I thought, it turns out," She said laughing almost sadly.

Suddenly someone came over to them, and they instinctively hid their wrists from view.

"It's almost your turn to perform. Don't be nervous kids," P' whispered to Kongpob and Praepaellin, seeming more nervous herself than either of the performers were. 

They both stood up, getting ready to go on stage.

"Kong," Prae said to him. "I'm nervous, I'm afraid of messing up on stage."

"Come on," he said, taking her hand in his, "We're going to be fine."

...

They had survived the Star Contest and even came out on top, he and Prae were now the Star and Moon of the faculty, but despite all of the congratulations being thrown at them, Kongpob only had one person he wanted to talk to. Kongpob was coming up with elaborate plans on how to track Arthit down, when he suddenly was there backstage, waiting for him. But as the endless tirade of photographers kept coming, Arthit turned to leave. Kongpob caught him before he could escape.

"P'Arthit," Kongpob said, smugly, "I won."

"Yeah, I know," Arthit turned, seemingly annoyed. His voice was softer than normal. With no one else around, Arthit let his 'hazer' persona slip. Kongpob decided he liked it. He would try to get P'Arthit alone more often.

"Just tell me what you want."

And Kongpob thought about it. Thought about asking him to take the wristband off, as his one favour that P'Arthit owed him. Fantasised about the moment when Arthit realised he was his soulmate, that it was always him.

But Arthit still didn't like him yet.

"Then I want to... save it for later."

Arthit was thrown off by this, "What the hell? Why are you putting it off? Just tell me what you want now."

And Kongpob couldn't answer truthfully, and so he asked, "What did you think of the song I sang?"

"The song?" Arthit asked, hesitating before answering, "It was absurd."

But Kongpob just smiled.

Chapter Text

Come Monday morning they were back to doing sit-and-squats while the hazers looked on in disdain. Kongpob might have partially redeemed himself in Arthit's eyes, but as the head hazer, Kongpob was still just a junior to him. And the hazers found reason after reason to punish their juniors.

Until, the fourth years walked into the room. They stood in front of them, obscuring the third year hazers from their view and Kongpob knew that everything was about to get a lot more complicated.

Deer punished the third years in front of them, whilst they sat there and watched. His peers were probably having the time of their lives, watching as there oppressors got given the same treatment that they had been given. But Kongpob saw every time Arthit flinched at one of Deer's words. Arthit bore the brunt of the punishments as the head hazer and looked about to collapse as they did.

It was the moment when Kongpob finally thought it was over that Arthit declared that he would do the 54 laps that he had ordered for the first years to do the week before. Of course, none of the first years actually did the 54 laps, most of them stopping at 4 laps at most. But as Arthit left the room, and they were excused from the hazing meeting, Kongpob worried that the stubborn hazer might actually try.

And after four hours, Aim called him to tell him he was still running. The idiot was still running, in the pouring rain.

Kongpob knew his help wouldn't be appreciated but Arthit was going to kill himself if he didn't stop. And although Arthit wouldn't stop running, and he got yelled at by him and P'Knot, Kongpob felt better knowing that Arthit had gotten a break because of his interruption.

Towards the final laps, Kongpob was worried the third-year would keel over. Kongpob's heart sank as he took the final steps and collapsed into the arms of his friends. He wanted to help him but the third-years wouldn't let him. Arthit wouldn't let him. Arthit told him to mind his own business and he kept wanting to scream out 'You are my business! We're soulmates!'. But that was unfair. Arthit wanted Kongpob to leave him alone, so he would... for now.

...

Arthit felt like shit.

And yeah, maybe it was his idea to have the fourth years punish them in front of their juniors so they would respect them more, so they'd see that they had once gone through the exact same thing. It was Arthit's idea to run 54 laps so everyone would finally stop calling him weak. But he hadn't expected it to go this badly. Arthit would of been able to run the laps no problem if it didn't start raining on his 46th lap. Not only was he not willingly to move his legs for the next month at least , but he also had a cold. And he probably looked so pathetic in front of all the first years that were all there to laugh at him as he ran around and around in the rain miserably. 

He hadn't wanted Kongpob to see him. He told him so many times to go away, to mind his business so he wouldn't look at him. He didn't want to look pathetic in front of his friends and much less in front of a junior, one that already had fun teasing him for every slip up he made.

But Kongpob had looked genuinely upset that he couldn't help. Maybe it was because he felt guilty on behalf of the first years, He was the hero type after all. Maybe he just unnecessarily cared about everyone that much. Either way, Arthit didn't want Kongpob's attention on him at that moment.

Arthit passed out before they got to the hospital, which was a relief for him but very worrying to his friends trying to carry an unconscious Arthit into the emergency room. 

When he woke up, he was scolded by the doctors, and then scolded by his friends, and then his phone rang and he was scolded by his parents. Arthit couldn't catch a break. They informed him that he had a cold, that he had sprained his foot and ankle and that he should try not to move for the next couple of days.

They sent him home with medicine for the cold and a babysitter, Ai'Prem. As soon as Prem had held him onto his bed, he passed out again having no energy left to keep him awake.

...

The next morning, Prem was sitting on his bed, loudly chewing. Arthit would have kicked him if his foot wasn't currently sprained. 

It was only then that Arthit noticed. He wasn't wearing his wristband anymore. Instinctively, he closed his hand around his left wrist, hiding it from sight. Under his hand he felt the bandage and saw that it completely covered any potential mark he had there.

"Prem..." he asked, voice hoarse from being sick.

"Oh, you're awake..." Prem said, turning around to face him.

"Did you look at my wrist?" Arthit said. He was mortified at the thought. Fuck, if they saw...

"Arthit, chill," Prem said, casually, "None of us looked, promise. You were damn near hypothermic when we got you to the hospital. They took everything off, including the wristband. Knot told them that you cover your wrist so they bandaged it before they took the wristband off. No one saw anything."

Arthit let out the biggest sigh of relief since, well, since he stopped running last night.

"We respect you, man. If you say you want your wrist covered, then it's covered. Did you think that we wouldn't give a shit about something so important to you?" Prem asked, and Arthit just looked away guiltily. 

"Look, we don't know why you do it, but if that's how you live your life then we don't really have a say in it do we?" Prem said.

"You don't want to know why? You don't want to find out who?" Arthit asked, scared of the outcomes of even talking about his soulmark.

Prem just scoffed, “Do you?” He sighed, "Look, none of us want to know who your soulmate might be more than we want you to be happy, okay?"

And Arthit didn't know how to respond to even slight affection from his friend, so he just looked down.

...

Prem had conveniently been pulled away from retrieving Arthit’s precious congee so Kongpob jumped on the opportunity to spend time with him. He busied himself with chores in P'Arthit's apartment so as to not give Arthit a reason to kick him out.

They talked, more casually and calmly than they ever had before. Arthit let him know things about himself, like his interest in robots. Kongpob was doting and considerate and kind, but he didn't expect anything. Not when he saw the bandage still wrapped around Arthit's left wrist, covering what he could only assume was his name marked on Arthit's skin.

What bothered him was not knowing why Arthit would cover his wrist. At first he thought maybe it was to hide it from other people, but as the weeks went on, it was clear that Arthit didn't know Kongpob was his soulmate at all, so he had to be hiding it from himself. But why? Kongpob couldn't think of a situation where he wouldn't want to know, he wouldn't be able to stop his curiousity. How could Arthit not look at it?

Kongpob cheered himself up by seeing Arthit's reluctance to know his soulmate as more time for him to make Arthit like him. Arthit was already his, the universe said so. He just had to convince him, soulmark or not.

Chapter Text

"P'Arthit is mad at me again," Kongpob whined.

"Huh? What did you do this time?" Prae asked, the both of them sitting on Kongpob's bed, books open in an attempt at studying, "Kongpob, can't you stay out of trouble?"

Kongpob pouted at Prae, "I didn't do anything! I was talking to the seniors and I told them that I wanted to do Economics and I only study Engineering because my parents wanted me to."

"Kongpob! He probably thinks you are not serious in your studies," Prae said, slapping him lightly.

"Then I told him that we would definitely capture the flag tomorrow and now he's mad at me," Kongpob whined again.

"Ohh, poor Kongpob," Prae cooed sarcastically, patting his head.

"I just want him to like me, Prae. Everyone used to say that having a soulmate was the easiest thing in the world, but I feel like I'm using all of my energy just to make P'Arthit not hate me completely," Kongpob said, a sad lilt to his voice.

He looked at his left wrist in woe, seeing the name delicately written there. He wondered for the millionth time since meeting Arthit if the universe had made the right choice.

"Maybe you are just to good at pissing him off, Ai'Kongpob!" Prae teased, smiling back at him in an effort to cheer him up, "We can start by capturing the Engineering flag tomorrow. Then P'Arthit will see what a great, handsome person you are!"

Kongpob laughed, "Thanks, Prae."

...

Arthit looked over the sea of first years, avoiding looking at one person in particular.

"First years! Attention! Today is a very important day for you. You all must prove yourself to make us accept you as engineering students in this university!"

"Do you see this flag? Your duty is to capture it. I won't tell you how. You must use all I have taught you and your own abilities to figure it out. Your deadline is 7pm tonight. If you fail to capture it, all of you will not be our official engineering juniors. Let's get started. Come and get the flag!"

He turned and moved up to guard the flag, the five hazers in a line in front of the flag, just as they had planned last night. Their previous challenges were way too easy and it would be too simple for Kongpob to capture the flag and humiliate him in front of his hazing team and all the first years.

He observed as one of the first years, Tew, approached Knot and asked if he could take the flag. Like it was that easy . He smirked as Knot turned him away and the first year walked dejectedly back to the field. 

The hazers stood in silence, and Arthit watched as the first years talked among themselves. He wondered how long it would take them to figure it out. 

Arthit watched as the first years solved each stage, slowly getting close to his stage, the last stage. They had gotten P’Deer and P’Cream to pass the first stage. Prem gave them a clue on how to solve the second stage, and they solved it by running around the field for what felt like half an hour. Arthit started to worry that he would be standing here for hours.

With a chant that Arthit would describe as 'nearly touching', they passed Bright's stage and were up to the 'Spirit' stage. The first years made a gear formation and thought that would be enough for him to give up the engineering flag. He refused them, and Tew walked down to the field for what felt like the hundredth time.

Arthit could see Kongpob walking up to the flag, and he didn't know if he should be pissed or nervous. He ended up just being both.

Kongpob walked up to him, not saying anything.

"What are you here for?"

"Come down into the field with me."

Arthit was speechless for a moment, "Why should I go there with you?"

Kongpob looked determined, "So that we can show our spirit to you."

"Fine."

Arthit wouldn't admit that the smile on Kongpob's face when he agreed maybe made him feel some type of way.

He walked down to the field, if only to get away from Kongpob and his doe eyes. He noticed it was getting dark as he walked out onto the field and into the centre of the first years.

"Well?" He asked, all of them looking at him, "What did you want to show me?"

"This spirit we have today, we couldnt have without the spirit of our seniors. We would like to return the favour."

"Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." "Thank you, P'Arthit." 

Arthit watched speechlessly as they all thanked him one by one. These first years... who Arthit could have sworn only a moment ago hated him for everything he'd done, that thought he was a weak head hazer, were now thanking him. 

They didn't all hate him.

But what was he supposed to do? They were all chanting around him and Arthit reacted in the only way he knew how, cruelty.

"Do you think your little effort can get a yes from me? It won't work!"

And he stormed off the field.

...

Kongpob sat in defeat with the rest of the first years on the field in front of the flag. It had gotten dark long ago, but they remained there, not really knowing what else to do.

Eventually Knot and Prem came down and yelled at them, and Kongpob prepared himself for the punishment that they would get for not retrieving the flag.

Kongpob felt his stomach plummet as the lights flickered off and they were plunged into darkness.

...Until he saw the lights lining the steps to the flag, and Knot calling Tew up to claim the flag.

The seniors brought out candles to light the field as the ceremony took place. Kongpob thought it looked beautiful , but there was only one person he wanted to spend this time with, and Kongpob couldn't see him anywhere.

He walked around to where P'Fang was, hoping he could find Arthit there, but she stopped him before he could continue on his search. She asked if he wanted a wrist tie from her and politely, he accepted.

He gave her his right wrist to tie the bracelet around.

"P'Fang, have you seen P'Arthit?" he asked.

"Arthit? I saw him around the back of the grandstand," she said with a smile. He thanked her.

He finally spotted the silhouette of Arthit in the distance, and he made his way towards him. As he got closer, he could hear the quiet sniffling of someone trying to hold back tears.

"P'Arthit..."

The older boy startled at his words and took a moment before turning around to face him, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. The weather is just hot. I'm out here to wash my face. Why? What's the problem? You are supposed to be at the wrist tying ceremony, aren't you?" P'Arthit rambled, a desperate list of excuses to try and make Kongpob go away.

Kongpob saw the tear tracks on his face, heard how much softer his voice was than usual and it made his heart clench at the sight.

Arthit turned to leave. 

"Wait. Before you go, could you give me a wrist tying?"

Arthit nodded and shuffled closer to him, took the bracelet and went to tie it around his right wrist.

"Please tie this hand..."

And Kongpob gave him his left wrist.

Chapter Text

Kongpob felt time slow down as he held his wrist out for Arthit to see. The other boy just stared at it, eyes wide open in shock.

Kongpob's heart was beating so fast he could feel it in his throat. This was it. The moment P'Arthit would finally know his secret.

Arthit's hands were trembling as he slowly reached out to touch the mark of Kongpob's wrist, checking if it's real. The way Arthit cradled his hand in his made his heart stutter.

"P'Arthit..." Kongpob said bravely, "Can you accept me?"

Arthit looked up at him, finally pulling his gaze away from the mark, and Kongpob saw that the tears that had once dissipated we're now back, brimming the corners of Arthit's eyes. Arthit furrowed his eyebrows at him. His face changed from shock now to something Kongpob could only recognise as ... anger.

Arthit looked down, "No. I can't."

Arthit dropped his wrist and left him.

...

Prem stood in the sea of first years, taking pictures of the wrist tying ceremony. Usually he wasn't a sentimental guy, but he knew that this would be a moment the whole hazing team would want to remember. 

He scanned the crowd, looking for the other hazers. A short distance away from him, he could see Bright cornering one of the juniors who stood out from the rest of the crowd. Behind the building, he saw who he guessed was Arthit, walking off at a fast pace, away from the ceremony. Prem was tempted to go after the boy, worried about why he would leave so suddenly.

Then, P'Bright approached him with the junior,

"Nong Wad..."

...

Arthit walked hurriedly in the direction of his room, feet scuffing against the concrete with every step.

This fucking kid.

What was he trying to do by showing him the mark? Did he think that Arthit would just abandon everything and ... he doesn't even dare to think.

He curses the universe for putting his name on that annoying kid. Why him? Why, out of all people in the world, would the universe choose a boy? Arthit wasn't even gay! It made no sense to the troubled head hazer, as he frustratedly kicked the stones where they sat.

As much as Arthit felt scorned by the universe, he also felt vindicated. It seemed that he had correctly sworn to never see his soulmark because clearly the universe didn't know what it was fucking doing. 

Arthit knew as soon as his father and mother had divorced that soulmates were bullshit. The universe doesn't know shit about relationships, about which people are good for each other. He wasn't going to let some name on his wrist ruin his life just because everyone else did.

And still, deep down, Arthit was sad that it had turned out this way. Secretly, Arthit had always hoped that it would be Namtarn's name on his wrist. She was safe, he knew her already and it would be easy. The situation he was in now was so much harder to deal with than that.

Arthit looked down at his wrist, still covered with the wrist band. He felt the sudden urge to rip it off and throw it down on the ground dramatically, but still he was too scared to see the name underneath.

Surely, this was just a big joke, right? There was no way that the first year was his soulmate.

He thought about it. Just because Kongpob had Arthit's name on his wrist, didn't mean that Arthit necessarily had a mark that matched. Maybe, Kongpob was an outlier. Arthit had heard about them before, people who's soulmate did have their name back. Yeah, they were rare but it happened.

Once Arthit finally got to his room, he locked the door behind him.

...

If he was being honest, Kongpob didn't really expect it to go differently than it had.

Yeah, it had completely gone wrong, and now Arthit may now hate him forever, but now he knew. It was now up to Arthit to see what he would make of it. If Arthit needed time then Kongpob would give it to him.

It had seemed like the perfect moment to tell him, but now Kongpob could see that it had been too soon. Arthit didn't even like him yet, let alone have any sort of romantic feelings at all for him. 

When he arrived at university for the day, his friends seemed to recognise that something was off, but Kongpob just flashed his signature smile to disguise the hurt he was feeling and most of his friends seemed to buy it and left him alone.

The only friend he couldn't fool was Prae, who had done her fair share of smiling through the pain, enough to recognise when someone was pretending to be okay.

"Kong. What's wrong?" she asked matter of fact, telling him that she had seen through his facade.

Kong sighed, dropping his smile, "Well, I told P'Arthit last night and it went about as well as I expected."

Prae frowned, "He didn't punch you, did he?"

Kongpob looked back at her affrontedly, "No, of course not," he said. He hadn't even thought that was an option.

"Well, then it went better than I expected," she smiled.

Kongpob smiled back sadly, "Yeah, I guess you're right."

Prae nudged his arm, "Give him time. It's probably a big shock for him. God knows why he hides his soulmark but it's probably just as much about hiding it from himself as it is about hiding it from other people. It's not exactly something he can run away from. Soulmates are kinda forever."

"He can deny it though, if he keeps the stupid wristband on," Kong said, a little more bitterly than he would have liked.

Prae just smiled reassuringly, "Well, when the wristband comes off, you'll know that he's ready."

...

A normal person would probably avoid the person that had viciously rejected them, would commit to staying as far away from that person as possible. 

Kongpob, as Arthit was finding out, was not a normal person.

Not only had he on multiple occasions approached him with a smile, like nothing had happened between them at all, like the junior hadn't ruined Arthit's entire life with his thoughtless confession, the junior also had the gall to start conversations with him.

And after Arthit spent all his time and energy planning the beach trip for the juniors, he knew all his efforts would be ruined by him.

They arrived at the beach and Arthit had managed to avoid Kongpob for at least 3 hours. The juniors were kept busy with the games they had planned and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. His friends on the hazing team were thoroughly enjoying running around and torturing the juniors with game after game, whilst Arthit sat back under the umbrellas, watching the chaos ensue. It was the calmest he had felt in months.

But of course, the junior couldn't go one day without challenging him. And yeah, maybe Arthit was taking his frustration out too harshly on the younger, but this was supposed to be a fun trip, a break from the regular SOTUS activities. But Kongpob had to go and make it about power and his demands of the first years. 

So he told him to go cool off. A bad choice of words, he would later admit.

And though Arthit told himself he didn't care, he didn't one take his eyes off the spot where Kongpob had disappeared into the water.

His head went underwater.

10 seconds later, Arthit was cursing him for taking his order so literally.

30 seconds later, he was watching for the boy to reappear above water

2 minutes later, he was running into the water to save the boy from drowning. 

...

Kongpob was dazed as he came to, lying on the sand with someone yelling things at him from above. It had been just a second ago that he had gone into the water. 

"What's wrong? Did you get a cramp? Did you get stung by a jellyfish?" Kongpob could hear the words from somewhere outside of his own head and he opened his stinging eyes to see P'Arthit crouched over him, looking very concerned.

Kongpob resisted the urge to smile stupidly at the attention from the other boy, "I'm okay."

Arthit looked at him incredulously as he sat up, "How can you be okay?! I saw you were drowning in the water for a long time!" 

"You told me to cool down my head," Kongpob said dumbly.

Arthit screwed up his face in frustration and pinched his temple, "Kongpob! Have you gone crazy? If I told you to die, would you do it? Use your brain!"

Kongpob felt his heart flutter. Was P'Arthit... worried about him?

There was a moment just before the others arrived to check on him that he had a moment just to look at P'Arthit and see the frustration build up in the older boy. Ah, I guess I can only make P'Arthit mad.

Only as he watched P'Arthit walk off from him did Kongpob start to feel the consequences of being underwater for two minutes.

Chapter Text

The gear ceremony came and went. Arthit's hands were shaking all the way through it despite trying to maintain his composure, to keep the image of the head hazer intact. And he got through it, mostly.

This moment was supposed to be the most memorable part of the junior's initiation into the university, the moment that the hazer's had been working towards since the beginning. And here Arthit was, not able to enjoy the day because he was stressed over a boy.

'He's not just a boy.' A traitorous part of his brain said to him. 'He's your soulmate.' 

Kongpob had caught his eye far too many times for his liking, always looking right at Arthit. He felt his heart clench in his chest every time he saw the defeated look on the younger's face, and he swore that a migraine was forming.

No . Just because Kongpob had Arthit's name on his wrist didn't mean that they were soulmates. Arthit could still have someone else's name marked on him. They were one sided soulmate marks that existed. Arthit wanted to believe in the rare, but much less frightening possibility that he still didn't know his soulmate.

Arthit held his face in his hands as he tried to make the voice stop tormenting him with Feelings. Instead, he focused on the soft sound of the waves just audible from his spot on the beach. He felt the sand underneath him, uncomfortably digging into his skin, focusing on anything other than the boy that plagued his thoughts.

But the universe was out to get him, or so Arthit thought when he heard someone walk up next to him.

"P'Arthit..." He looked up and there was the boy himself, "I have something to talk to you about."

...

Kongpob sat down hesistantly next to Arthit, trying to calm his racing heart, "I... I want to apologise."

Arthit looked up at him and it made Kongpob heart stop beating in his chest, "What for?"

"For making you upset," Kongpob said, "I shouldn't have surprised you like that. I know that you're keeping your wristband on and should have respected your choice."

Arthit looked down at his wristband, like he was shocked that anyone other than himself had ever noticed it.

"If you knew I didn't want to know, then why did you tell me?" Arthit said softly.

Kongpob couldn't help but notice that Arthit was really cute when he was like this. 

Kongpob looked down at his hands, "I was being selfish. I... I wanted you to know, but I didn't consider your feelings. I'm sorry."

"Mmm," was all that Arthit said in reply.

"Can I ask why?" Kongpob said. Arthit looked at him strangely.

"Why what?" Arthit said, slightly more agitated than before.

Kongpob's breath caught in his throat as he asked, "Why do you wear the wristband?"

Arthit looked down to it, eyes frosted over with the same rejection Kongpob had seen in them when he'd confessed. As much as Kongpob respected Arthit's decision to not look, in equal parts he wanted to reach over and rip the stupid thing off Arthit's wrist.

"I don't want to spend my life always waiting for someone who might never come," Arthit said, defeatedly. Kongpob's heart sank with the weight of his words.

"I don't know what my soul mark says, who's name it is."

And Kongpob heard the hidden meaning behind his words, ' It might not be you, Kongpob.'

"But P'Arthit..." Kongpob argued.

"Sorry Kongpob, but I'm not going to look at it. The mark. I... I don't want to know," Arthit said seriously, looking at Kongpob.

Kongpob froze as he realised exactly what Arthit was deciding. All he could do was nod dejectedly at his words, "I understand, P'Arthit."

"Do you?" P'Arthit said.

Kongpob sighed, "Not really. But I won't push you anymore about it. It's your choice, I can't change it."

Arthit looked back at the waves in front of them. Kongpob let the sound of gentle waves soothe the growing distance between them.

"Can I ask you a favour?" Kongpob said.

"What is it?"

"Give me your palm."

Arthit hesistantly stretched out his palm and Kongpob carefully dropped the gear into it.

Arthit's face scrunched up, "Why are you giving this back?"

Kongpob laughed quietly to himself, "I'm not. I just want you to take care of it."

"Why do you want me to keep it?" Arthit demanded.

"Oh? You don't know the meaning of it? You should ask P'Deer about it," Kongpob said.

Kongpob watched as Arthit was called away by Bright, and didn't know whether or not to feel happy or very, very sad.

He was so screwed.

...

Arthit asked Deer later that night.

"P'Deer? Can I ask something?"

"What is it about?"

"What is the meaning of the gear?"

"Huh! Are you drunk? It's important because it's like our heart. Your heart is in the gear, and the gear is in your heart. So if you ask someone to take care of your gear, it means you ask that someone to take care of your heart."

Arthit choked on his drink.

...

After a series of cunning maneuvers on his part, Kongpob had finally gotten Arthit to hang out with him. Kongpob liked to think it was less about blackmail and more about Arthit finally warming up to him, even just as a friend.

But Kongpob felt all his hard work go down the drain when Namtan showed up.

Arthit obviously liked her. Kongpob knew Arthit well enough to know the difference between how he acted with him and how he acted with Namtan. She made him smile so easily, like it was second nature for them. 

He watched as they casually touched each other, like they'd know each other their whole lives. Maybe they had. Who was Kongpob, coming to Arthit after only two months of knowing him and demanding that he give him attention. 

Seeing Namtan and Arthit made Kongpob feel like a little kid in love. He felt like an idiot. Like the universe was making a fool out of him. Maybe Arthit was right. Maybe Arthit really didn't have Kongpob's name on his wrist. 

Maybe Namtam and Arthit were soulmates and Kongpob was just the victim of some cruel joke by the universe. They made a cute couple, and that made Kongpob's heart burn with something too painful to think about. 

Seeing them together was the final straw that made Kongpob's heart give up. Only after seeing him with Namtam, seeing him happy, did Kongpob realise he never really stood a chance in the first place.

Chapter Text

"What's wrong with you?" Prae asked. She had noticed Kongpob looking sullen at their desk during a group study session and had waited until the others had run off to get snacks.

Kongpob frowned at her, "I don't know what you mean."

"You've been pouty all day. Why?" Prae asked again.

Kongpob sighed loudly, "I’ve given up on P'Arthit."

"What!" Prae yelled, "But... But he's your soulmate! Kong!" Prae tried to whisper yell at Kongpob, conscious of the people walking past them that really didn't need to know about Kongpob's non-existent love life.

"I know Prae," and her heart broke at just how defeated Kongpob looked, "I just... he's rejected me several times now and just... there's only so much I can do before it's pointless."

"I don't understand," Prae said, "You two are soulmates, isn't this supposed to be the easy part? You found each other!"

Kongpob looked away from her, into the distance, "P'Arthit thinks I am not his soulmate."

"Oh, Kongpob," she said, heart broken for the boy, "He said that to you?"

Kongpob shook his head, "Not in his words, but I could tell he meant it."

"I'm sorry, Kong. That sucks so much."

Kongpob sighed, "I know, Prae. It feels like I am the punchline of some bad joke."

"Well, if the universe is playing a joke on you, I hope it knows that it's not funny."

Kongpob smiled, "Thanks Prae. For always making sure I'm okay."

"That's okay, Kongpob. It's not like I can talk about this stuff with anyone else," Prae said.

"How's your love life going then? Better than mine I hope," Kongpob said, moving the conversation away from his sorry state as soon as possible.

Prae looked sheepish as she hesitated to answer Kongpob's question.

"You met her already? Your soulmate?" Kongpob asked.

Prae continued to look sheepish but a small smile formed on her face. Kongpob looked down to her wrist, to see that the name marked there ' Achara'  had turned a vibrant red from the black ink it had once been and Kongpob had his answer.

"Maybe? Are you mad at me?" Prae asked.

Kongpob laughed, "Why would I be mad at you? Prae, I'm happy for you! What's she like?"

"Ooi!" Prae whined, "I don't want to talk about it if it's going to make you upset, Kong."

"It's not, don't worry about me, Prae," Kongpob said, smiling.

He was genuinely happy for her. To be honest, deep down inside of him, a part of him feared that maybe the universe was punishing him for being gay.

He felt comforted that at least Prae had been able to meet her soulmate, that they would be happy together. Kongpob could tell that Prae already loved her from the way she gushed about her. 

And although Kongpob was happy for Prae, the sick feeling of hurt curled in his stomach as he thought that he would never get to have that. Kongpob wasn't going to get another soulmate. He had met him already, and Arthit didn't want him. Kongpob would never have a story where he met his soulmate and they instantly fell in love and everything was easy. 

He had been given the gift of a soulmate and the curse of his soulmate rejecting him. 

"Kongpob," Prae said.

"Huh?" Kong said, snapping out of his downward spiral.

Concern filled Prae's face, "I'm sorry for bringing it up, Kong."

"It's my fault, Prae. Don't worry. I'll get over it."

"You shouldn't have to," Prae said, indignantly, "This is so unfair to you! P'Arthit is being..."

"Prae. I've accepted it. It's the way that it is. Being upset about it doesn't change anything. So I'm not upset about it," Kong said, finally.

"Kong," Prae said, sad for him, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Prae. I'll be okay. Eventually."

...

Arthit was regretting coming to Bright's house to study already.

When he arrived Bright, Prem, Knot and Tutah were all there, creepily looking at him when he walked in the door.

"What are you all looking at?" He yelled at them. Bright just started smiling at him. 

"Ai' Arthit~, I want to ask you about something?" Bright said cutely, batting his eyelashes, which to Arthit was very frightening.

"Aren't we here to study?" Arthit said, deadpan.

"Can't I ask my friend a question?" Bright asked, keeping the same high pitch drawl that was starting to really freak him out.

"It better be about calculus, cause that's what we're here to study," Arthit said, opening his books on the table and avoiding the other boy's increasingly insistent stare.

"Ai' Arthit~," Bright said, coming right up to stand behind him, "What's going on with you and that junior?" 

Arthit snorted, "What junior?"

"N' Kongpob," Prem answered, "Bright said he saw him give his gear to you."

"Bullshit," Arthit said. He felt like burying his head in the calculus book to avoid the other’s stares.

Bright whined, "I saw it with my own two eyes, Ai' Arthit~. Are you saying I'm lying?"

"Yes!"

"C'mon, Ai' Arthit~. Maybe he's your soulmate!" Bright said.

"Don't joke about that!" Arthit stood up to yell at Prem, more seriously than was appropriate for the joking tone the others had. Bright and Prem went quiet and Knot immediately sensed the tonal shift in the room.

"Bright, apologise for bringing it up," Knot said to Bright, scolding him.

Bright huffed, "No! Why can't I bring it up? Why can I never speak about it? Whenever this topic comes up, everyone acts like someone died! Just cause Arthit doesn't want to hear about it."

"Bright, be quiet! You don't understand," Knot scolded.

"Stop bringing my personal shit into it! I don't need you guys judging my every move!" Arthit yelled back at Bright.

"Arthit!" Knot said, "That's not what we're doing. Bright's just an idiot. Calm down."

Arthit sat back down, still fuming.

"But...!" Bright started.

"Bright, shut up," Prem said.

Arthit glared at the rest of them, "You guys didn't bring me here to study, did you?"

Knot sighed, "No, I called you because Prem wants to tell you something."

Arthit huffed, "Why just me?"

"Because he's already told us and we don't know how you’re going to take it," Bright said, "And judging by your reaction so far, probably not great."

"What?" Arthit asked, confused and looked to Prem for clarification.

Prem looked like he might throw up. He was so nervous.

"Arthit, I met my soulmate."

Arthit head went blank.

"Huh?" Arthit said, "I didn't know... I mean... I've never seen your mark."

"That's because I've never shown it to you," Prem said, like it was a slap in the face.

"You're so secretive about your soulmark," Bright said, "We just assumed that you must hate them... And like, I get why. There are alot of people who disagree with the soulmark so we.. we hide them around you."

"But Arthit, this is really important to me," Prem said softly, "and I don't want to hide it from you."

Then, he pulled up his sleeve revealing a bright red name written neatly on his wrist, ' Wad'.

Arthit was... devastated. He felt so guilty that his friends had hid things from him, but even more shocked at why they had done it. Arthit had spent most of his time trying to not think about his own soulmark, that he'd never even noticed that his friends had never shown him theirs. 

What a shit friend he was, so caught up in his own bullshit that he'd never even noticed, never even cared to the point that his friends thought they had to hide from him.

"I...," Arthit started, "I'm sorry."

"What are you apologising for?" Knot asked, confused at his friend's sudden outburst.

"I... I'm sorry that I haven't told you why I don't look at my soulmark... that I still can't tell you. Sorry that I made you guys feel like you had to hide from me," Arthit said, slightly teary-eyed.

"What are you crying for, Ai'Arthit?" Prem said, as he leapt forward to hug Arthit.

"I'm not crying," Arthit said, obviously crying.

Prem laughed at his friend, "Crybaby."

"Shut up," Arthit said, pulling away from the hug.

Arthit sniffled, "Do the rest of you have soulmarks you want to show me or just Prem?"

Arthit watched as they all raced in front of him to show him their soulmarks and tell him about the person they had each yet to meet.

Chapter Text

Kongpob had managed to avoid Arthit for around 3 weeks before the universe made their paths cross again. He wasn’t even doing anything out of the ordinary. He was simply walking around the engineering campus and accidentally glanced over at Arthit and his friends. As soon as Arthit had spotted him, staring at him from away, he had bolted. Kongpob wasn’t surprised as much as he was disappointed. But in this Kongpob saw an opportunity to talk to Arthit’s friends.

Kongpob couldn’t explain it. One minute he would be dead set on giving up on Arthit, knowing that the older boy would never want to be with him the way that Kongpob wanted. He knew this rationally, but everytime he saw Arthit, he was consumed with something. It was close to jealousy, but how could Kongpob be afraid to lose something he never had in the first place? 

No, this was possessiveness. This was ownership. Just knowing that Arthit was his was enough to reinspire him anytime he thought he had finally moved on. He knew that, for himself at least, he would always feel like this for Arthit because as long as he had a mark on his wrist with Arthit’s name on it, there really was no one else for him.

So when he asked Knot, “Do you know where P’Arthit went?” Kongpob didn’t care if Arthit’s friends started to suspect anything of them. It was none of their business.

To his surprise, Knot only looked back at him softly and said, “Oh, no I don't’. Why? What’s the matter?”

Kongpob tried to keep a look of indifference on his face, but he was pretty sure Knot had already seen through it, “Nothing.. Um, by the way.. Do you have anymore classes today?”

Knot just furrowed his brow, “We have a lab class. It ends around 4 or 5.”

Kongpob smiled politely back, “Thank you, P’.” He bowed to the seniors as he left. Kongpob knew he was screwed but damn him if he wasn’t going to fight for the one thing he had been waiting all his life for. Even if he had to try over and over and over again.

Arthit was grateful that Namtan was still in his life, honestly. He likes to think she’s influenced the person he is today. Even though most of the juniors see him as a temperamental senior, he knows he has a gentler side that really only ever surfaces when he’s with his family or Namtan. As much as he loves his university friends. He knows that he had been closer with his high school friends, at least until everything went south.

So when Namtan called to tell him she had ‘something important to tell him’, something that she couldn’t say over the phone, Arthit was terrified. There was a hundred different things Namtan could be planning to tell him but Arthit’s mind only focused on one.

‘Ah, they must be getting married.’

Arthit knew he would hear the news sooner or later. It was only so long before two soulmates got married. It was part of the reason Arthit convinced himself not to take off the wristband. Who would want to be married at such a young age, soulmate or no? It made sense. Namtan and Jay had been together around 3 years at this point, getting together just after they all graduated high school. Just after they had turned eighteen. 

He dreaded seeing the two of them get married. Not so much because he still resented their relationship as much as he knew that it would be such a big moment for them, and what kind of friend would he be if the whole time he was thinking about the turning of his stomach when he saw them together? But he knew he’d be a worse friend if he didn’t turn up at all, bordering on irredeemable. So Arthit held his tongue, went along with whatever Namtan wanted. He wouldn’t make a fuss about this.

They met at a cafe one day. Namtan ordered a tea. Arthit didn’t bother with anything.

“Oon, how have you been?” Namtan asked, the ever positive smile across her face.

Arthit appreciated that she didn’t get straight into her news. It gave him time to process. “Fine. There’s a lot of work at university but, it’s engineering so I like it.”

Namtan smiled, “That’s good. I’m glad you’re doing good.”

“You, uh, said you had something important to tell me?”

Her smile wilted a little, not enough to notice if you were anyone else but Arthit could tell this was practically Namtan’s version of a frown.

“Mm. I have something to tell you. I don’t know how you’re going to react when you hear it, but I just couldn’t not tell you…”

Here we go. This was it.

“Jay and I broke up.”

Arthit eyes widened and his head shot up to look at her, “Huh? What, why?”

Namtan laughed sadly, “It’s… hard to explain. Really I felt like this was always coming. We… were young when we got together, because that’s what you do when you’re soulmates. We didn’t even think twice about it, didn’t stop to think about if we actually wanted it. And Jay… he’s great and I love him a lot but.. I’m just not what he needs. We’re both not what we need…”

“But you’re soulmates?” Arthit asked.

“Yeah, we are,” Namtan smiled, “Jay will always be important to me and we’re going to be together until we die, just not together romantically.”

“Can… you even do that?” Arthit asked, his brow furrowing in disbelief.

“I don’t know, but we’re going to try it. It’s pretty sad for me… but also exciting. I’ve never really dated before.”

“I don’t understand, Namtan. You’re supposed to be together.”

“And we are. Just not like that,” Namtan explained gently, “Do you want to know what made me think that maybe we weren’t working romantically anymore?”

“What?”

“Jay forgot our anniversary.”

“Oh my god. How could he do that?”

Namtan shook her head, “He was busy. He didn’t have time for me. Which is, like, an extraordinarily shitty reason to not remember an anniversary but… he never really paid attention to that stuff. But I did, and I wanted him to because he was my boyfriend. Not because he was my soulmate. If we’re going to be together presumably forever, it’s better to just accept that he’s not the boyfriend I need and I’m not the girlfriend he needs.”

“I… I don’t really know what to say,” Arthit said honestly.

“That’s okay,” Namtan said, wiping her eyes a little, “I didn’t call you hear to feel sorry for me, and that’s only part of the important thing I needed to tell you,” she looked down to his wrist, “Oon, I wanted to ask why you’re still wearing that wristband.”

Oh god.

This was ten times worse than the ‘We’re getting married’ talk.

Arthit wasn’t expecting this. Truthfully, he had thought that Namtan already knew, that she had figured him out. Now he knew that really, this was a secret that he had kept all to himself.

But now Namtan wanted to know.

What was he supposed to tell her? That he was still upholding the promise that Namtan, Jay and he made all those years ago to hide their soulmarks so they could look at them all together? Could he tell her that when he found out that both of them had caved in and looked at their marks, when they had discovered they were each other's soulmates that he had been absolutely destroyed? Could he tell that there was something so unfair about seeing his only two friends brought together by the universe while he just sat there and watched?

Arthit looked at her blankly, not even knowing where to start.

Namtan sighed and took his hand in her’s, “Oon, I know that it hurt you when you found out about me and Jay, and that we’ve never talked about it. I’m sorry if you felt like we abandoned you but… we never meant to. I’ve always wanted you to be happy. Me and Jay have been caught up in our own shit for so long that we didn’t realise we’d been such crappy friends to you. I want us all to be friends again, just like before. Now that me and Jay are just friends again.”

Arthit nodded slowly, “I… would like that too.”

“Arthit,” Namtan said with welled up eyes, “Why are you still wearing that wristband I gave you?”

“I… I don’t want to see it,” Arthit answered. He wanted to be honest with her, but he was also really bad at articulating his feelings.

“Why?” Namtan asked.

“Because everything changes if I know,” Arthit explained, “When we were in high school, when we decided to… wear the wristbands together, I honestly thought you were going to end up as my soulmate.”

Namtan inhaled, in shock and in relief.

“It made sense to me. You were the only girl I was ever close to, we were already friends. I couldn’t imagine anyone else, didn’t realise there was a whole world of people out there I hadn’t met yet. So when you and Jay… found out, it just felt like a slap in the face. A big slap from the universe. At first, I kept it on because I didn’t want anyone else to be my soulmate, didn’t want to know. SInce then, I’ve always wanted to know, but I’m scared it’s…”

“What?” Namtan encouraged me gently.

Arthit felt the emotion well up in his throat, about to say something he hadn’t dared saying to anyone ever.

“I’m scared that it’s going to be a man’s name there.”

Namtan laughed, “Why would you think that…” Namtan realised what he meant, “Oh, Oon.”

Namtan quickly stood to envelop him in a hug before Arthit had even realised the tears welling up in his eyes.

“I’m sorry you had to keep this a secret for so long, Oon. I wish I’d have let you know you could talk to me,” Namtan said.

“It’s not your fault Namtan. That I’m like this.”

Namtan drew back from the hug, “This is not something to be upset about Arthit, this is a beautiful thing. If your soulmate really is a man, it is because you would be happier with them than apart. Oon, even if you can’t bring yourself to be romantically involved with a man, that’s fine. You can just be friends like me and Jay. But Oon, if you never look, if you never try to find them then you, both of you, will always be miserable. The universe won’t let you be happy if you are kept apart.”

Arthit sniffled, “I know, you’re right Namtan. I just didn’t want to believe it.”

“Are you going to look at it?” she asked carefully.

Arthit took a breath in, “I will.”

“Now?” Namtan replied, hesitantly excited.

“No,” Arthit huffed, “There’s someone else I need to talk to about this.”