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The fluorescent screen in front of him blurs.

He's been staring at the same report for minutes, hours; numbers bleed into each other, characters distorted past legibility. Has the first break passed? Has the second? He doesn't know if it's morning or afternoon. His fingers twitch against the mouse without clicking. He stares at the computer because it's the only thing he can look at that allows an escape. To his left, Earth's fingers clack against the keyboard in quick strokes.

Click, click.

Is it the clock, or her typing? Is time even moving?

He doesn't dare look up. Todd’s on the other side of the cubicle, and the expression on his face – sympathy, gut-wrenching, tongue-numbing – will push him over the edge. He only has to make it through the work day. He only has to finish the report, the numbers, the work order.

Click.

Minutes pass in a single burning breath, and then in an eternity, unhurried, as though they don't care that each moment brings a new wave, a new onslaught. He can't look up. He'll see their sympathy. Their guilt. They feel sorry for him.

Arthit closes his eyes, just to try and clear his vision. A moment passes, or maybe an hour. When he opens them again, nothing has moved, not even his cursor.

Click, click.

He wonders how people do this. How they keep living with the emptiness in their chests, how they keep doing their work as though nothing's happened. As though nothing's changed. Because everything's changed. Everything's different.

Everyone knows.

And everything's gone.

Click.

Arthit draws in one long breath, and it burns the whole way down.

++

Somehow, he makes it through the day. Earth and Som-Oh and Todd head off to the intern goodbye party, and Arthit thanks his lucky stars he's given the opportunity to slip away, to run, to hide in the shadows while everyone else departs for the festivities. It's better that no one sees him leave.

They've all seen far too much already.

He stumbles home to an empty hallway and an even emptier stomach. He hasn't eaten anything all day. The thought of food churns what little bile remains, searing up to the back of his tongue, leaving the aftertaste of acid when he swallows it back down. He collapses on his bed and stares at the ceiling. He wonders what's happening at the goodbye party.

Speeches. Gifts. Glasses clinking against each other in a noxious haze.

Arthit's eyes burn.

In a burst of energy, he jumps up to close the curtains as tightly as he can. Blocking out the lights makes him feel safer. No one can see, no one can touch him; he's alone in the darkness, and finally, finally, he's untouchable. Unknowable. Safe from the looks, the stares, the knowing glances that lead to ducked heads and low whispers.

He slides down the wall, and his head falls into his hands, and it's enough. He can breathe again. One breath, then another, until his lungs hitch and wheeze. He tastes salt at the corners of his mouth. He's safe. No one can see him.

His gear sits at the corner of the table, the physical manifestation of the ache within.

The hallway outside is silent.

He presses his fingers to his temples, his cheeks – he's still Arthit, but he's become something else, someone he doesn't know anymore. Glaring at the gear, he can't find the energy to get up and move it somewhere else. It'd be better in a drawer, out of sight. Out of mind.

What a joke. He'll never be out of mind.

Arthit's chest seizes again. Breathe. In and out, one after another. Breathe.

He stays there for what feels like an eternity, and by the time he moves his legs again, his knees protest. Pangs slide up through his hips, angry at being held in one spot for so long. Wincing, he stands up. He's amazed he can even find stability, fingers pushing at the wall.

The party has to be over by now. Everyone will have left, ready to return to work the next day.

But not everyone, right? Not everyone will return.

Arthit turns away from the gear. He needs to shower. He's nothing but scattered pieces, but Danai won't accept it as a reason not to go in tomorrow. People don't get days off for heartbreak, even when they've done it to themselves.

The shower comes out too hot, stinging his skin. He doesn't bother to adjust the temperature. At least the burn gives him something to focus on.

The party has to be over.

And Kongpob is gone.

Arthit vomits in the shower, and watches the bile dilute into nothing and swirl down the drain.

++

One of the girls from Sales stares at him the next day as he orders a drink from the stall. Her eyes settle on his back, pulling him apart, finding all the bits he hated and exposing them for everyone to see. He wants to crawl out of his skin. He's confined, imprisoned with himself. With all his flaws, his mistakes. His desire.

Arthit wants to dig himself into the ground and bury himself completely. There's no escape.

He leaves before picking up his drink, if only to bypass the elevator and stand in the stairwell sucking in deep lungfuls of air that do nothing to calm the rising panic. He can't breathe. Everyone knows, and he can't breathe.

He presses his fists against his teeth and screams into his knuckles. His shoulders scream, aching, muscles braced for impact at all times. But after the panic resides, he slumps bonelessly against the wall. Drained, he's grateful. At least he can't feel anything anymore.

He goes back to his desk and stares at his computer screen. The numbers blur.

Earth calls his name softly, but Arthit ignores her, and eventually, she gives up.

Click, click.

++

Days pass, though he isn't sure how. The world continues to revolve around him, even though Arthit's life has slowed to nothing. He drags himself to work, and then back home. He eats only because he must without tasting anything. He stares at the ceiling until he sees nothing but black.

The nights without dreams are the best. Sleep takes him away from the pain. But sometimes he dreams, and then he'll wake with tears clinging to his cheeks, his pillow wet and cold. The room is dark.

He pulls out his phone and types, how do you survive a heartbreak?. There are thousands of answers, thousands of search results. One day at a time, they read. Distract yourself. Take up a new hobby. Spend time with good friends.

And the worst: Find someone new.

Arthit's throat burns. He types, how do you survive a heartbreak when it's your own fault? but doesn't have the courage to press the search button. He presses a hand against his sternum and feels the rhythmic thud of his heart.

He hates it. How can his heart be in his chest when he gave it away so long ago?

++

Bright invites the gang to the bar, and Arthit goes only to have something to do. His phone informs him that it's been weeks since the photos leaked, weeks since Kongpob left Ocean Electric. Feels like it was just yesterday.

Prem pushes a drink in front of him as they sit down. He doesn't say anything about what happened, though Arthit assumes they all know. How wouldn't they? The world knows now. Nothing of Arthit's is his own anymore.

They talk about nothing. Arthit downs the first drink, then another. The haze gives him a small measure of relief.

But he's never that lucky. Eventually, Prem turns to him, leans in. Arthit freezes instinctively.

“How are you?” Prem asks.

There's no answer he can put into words, only fragments of misery. Arthit swallows the last bit of ice from his glass. “Fine.”

Prem sits back and makes a tch. “You're such a shit liar.”

Is he? He must be – everyone found out, didn't they? He'd tried so hard to keep it secret, store it away. He'd tried so hard to separate Kongpob from life, from work, from everything else. When it'd been them, locked away from the world, everything was perfect. Arthit could be the two different people he needed to be, wanted to be.

Had to be.

He squeezes his eyes shut. He desperately doesn't want to talk about it.

Prem's hand comes down on his knee, fingers squeezing once. It's the first touch Arthit has had since everything fell apart, and he's embarrassed by how much it chokes him up. His skin has dulled without a familiar mapping of smooth palms.

“Hey,” Prem says, quiet. “You'll be okay. You'll get through it.”

Arthit doesn't dare to open his eyes. “Will I?” he whispers.

“You will.”

Prem likely means it as a promise, but it sounds more like a curse.

++

He's drunk that night, too drunk. When his back hits his mattress, courage burns hot and bittersweet through his veins. He pulls out his phone and LINE calls the familiar name, though by the time the phone is against his ear, he's at a loss as to what he'll say.

I miss you? I think I'm dying? I never meant to hurt you?

None of it matters – Kongpob doesn't pick up. The call rings until the pop-up alerts him that there was no response.

Arthit lets it fall back on the pillow. He hates Kongpob for not picking up. He hates the world for making everything so hard. Mostly, though, he hates himself, and at least that's a familiar sort of bite.

Unspoken words sting the tip of his tongue, catching behind his teeth. I love you, I love you, I love you–

He rolls over to grab the pillow that has long since stopped smelling of Kongpob's shampoo.

++

His mother calls. “It's been forever since we heard from you. How is everything going?”

Horrible. Miserable.

“Everything is fine,” Arthit says. He's glad she can't see him. It's hard enough just to push the words past his lips.

She hums a bit. “And the job?”

Does she know? Has she heard? No, that's ridiculous. His parents are too far removed from Ocean Electric. Surely the whole of the country doesn't know. But still, Arthit pauses. He's afraid. His mother always looks at him with love in her eyes. He was her light, her world, the center of her attention.

He's terrified it will change.

“It's…fine,” he says. His tongue has swollen and stuck to the roof of his mouth. He wants to tell her. He wants her to promise him that everything will be alright, like she did when he was a child. He imagines her smoothing his hair away from his face like she had when he'd fallen from his bicycle and skinned his knee.

“Just fine?” she asks.

“I'm sorry, I'm very busy now,” Arthit says, and bids her goodbye.

He stares at the phone for a very long time after that.

++

Durian is at the drink cart when Arthit arrives the next day. She sees him and shrinks, just a bit, just enough. Arthit's head is pounding, stomach churning, a jittery mess from too much alcohol the night before, and he's done. He's lost the ability to slip behind the mask he's expected to wear. He's furious she has the audacity to fold into herself as though she was the one exposed. As though she was the one stripped raw and vulnerable, offered up as the latest joke. The latest gossip. The latest life to ruin.

“Arthit–” she starts, and he can't. There's nothing left.

“Don't speak to me,” he hisses. It sounds harsh to his own ears and must come out even worse, for her eyes go large and wide as she steps back. “Don't you dare speak to me.”

“I–I didn't–”

“You didn't what? Expect this to happen? Except you did. You had to. You shared that photo and thought, what, it'd be funny? Something to laugh about?”

The lobby has gone very silent, and he can feel the panic rising up hot in his throat as something of an afterthought. Whatever he swallowed down the night before, it's still there in his blood, and he's furious. Rage is something new to cling to, something bold. He likes it. Fuck, he likes it.

“P'Arthit–”

“No.” Channeling pain into righteous ire exhilarates him. “That was my life, do you understand? My life. And you gave it to everyone to laugh over. To speculate on. Tell me, what did you think was going to happen?”

She stares at him, mouth agape. He's crossed every acceptable line without ever looking down. He'll likely be fired by the time he gets to his desk, before he even turns his computer on. So what. He can't find it in himself to care. His fingers tremble at his sides. He knows, logically, somewhere in the dark recesses of his thoughts, that she isn't totally to blame, but she's the easiest target.

The loneliness is a dagger between his empty ribs, propelling him forward.

Arthit's mouth goes dry. He no longer wants anything to drink.

“You took everything from me,” he says, before turning on his heel and going to the elevator. He stares at the closed metal doors until the familiar ding sounds, aware that behind him, the lobby remains quiet, so quiet; all he can hear is the ragged wheeze of his lungs.

No one is waiting in the Procurement Department to fire him. Arthit turns on his computer and absentmindedly clicks into a few reports, types one or two numbers, waiting. No one arrives after ten minutes, nor thirty, nor sixty. Earth and Som-Oh and Todd work around him without sparing him a second glance, and Arthit remains at his desk until it's time to leave.

No one stops him on the way out.

When he gets home, for the first time in a month, Arthit doesn't keep the curtains closed. He rips them open with such force one of the plastic rings snaps in half, bouncing into the corner. He stares out the window, fire on his tongue. He dares someone to look up at his window. He dares someone to judge him.

No one does.

But he's still running on so much anger it chokes him, squeezing his throat shut. He's so angry he can't breathe, can't think; he tears the curtains down entirely and relishes the sound of the fabric ripping. It feels good to do, good to destroy. Rage is tangible and solid, an anchor he can cling to. It lets him feel again.

He's so fucking desperate to feel something again.

After the first curtain comes the second, and when they are in a tangled heap at his feet, the plastic rings scattered in pieces around the floor, he moves to the drawers. Thing is, he knows what's in those drawers, right at the top, because he couldn't bear to look at it for a second more, even if to bury it deeper beneath his memories.

He still can't. He grabs the drawer and tears it free, tossing it to the side. It smacks into the wall and gouges a chunk out of the paint, and he doesn't care. He continues until everything is out and his floor is covered with the remnants of the person he used to be. Still is. Wants to be.

He pauses. Does he?

Staring down at the mess, he can't settle on an answer, and instead of cleaning up, he picks his way around the piles to get to the shower.

++

The next day, he stops at the drink cart just to show them all he can. He isn't afraid. It feels such a small victory in the light of everything, yet at the same time, huge. Life-changing. He's still here. He's still standing.

He's been torn apart by wolves and is still on his feet. It feels significant.

The woman behind the cart hands him his drink with a smile. “No charge.”

“What?” Arthit blinks at her.

She straightens. “No charge – enjoy. You deserve it. Some of us, we're with you. We're behind you.”

Arthit takes it, fighting the lump in his throat. “Thank you.”

He drinks it while he rides on the elevator. One person looks at him, maybe in curiosity, maybe just out of habit. Arthit glares defiantly back until he reaches his floor.

He still doesn't get fired. He waits all day, and no one comes.

Earth gently touches his shoulder on her way out. “Are you leaving?”

“Not yet.” Arthit stares at his computer screen.

“Do you want to come to dinner with us?”

It's the last thing he wants to do, attend a pity dinner. Sorry you were outed through a photograph. Sorry you were mocked on the company message group. It's too raw. He wouldn't be able to sit through a meal without exploding.

“Maybe later,” he says.

Earth accepts the dismissal, and gives him a small, sad smile on the way out. Arthit doesn't smile back.

++

He finds himself at Bright's bar again that weekend. He sits with the group and doesn't say much, doesn't offer anything; they let him be, allowing him the space to exist without requirement. He's grateful for it.

But near the end of the evening, as the customers are filtering out in various states of inebriation, Prem puts his hand on Arthit's shoulder.

“I saw him the other day,” he offers, apropos of nothing. “With the hazing squad.”

Arthit knows what it is: an invitation. An opening. The opportunity to receive without having to summon courage to ask. A million questions form unbidden, tumbling together in their haste to break free. Is he okay? Did you talk to him? Did he say anything about me? How did he look? but in the end, he swallows them all back. He isn't ready to know. It would kill him if Prem relayed that Kongpob wasn't doing well.

But it would ruin him far worse if Kongpob was fine.

He isn't ready for either truth yet. He nods instead. “Okay.”

Prem doesn't push it.

Arthit is grateful for that, too.

++

Two months pass, and Arthit finally accepts an invitation to go to dinner with the Procurement Department. Todd and Som-Oh fill the shabu-shabu restaurant with conversation without much care, and Arthit dips strips of meat into the boiling broth. He watches the foam gather around the edges of the pot as the food simmers, then swirls one chopstick around, letting grease cling to the end.

“Have you seen the new guy in sales?” Som-Oh asks. “He's so handsome, just my type!”

“Every man is your type,” Earth replies, which earns her a swat on the arm.

“Untrue!” Som-Oh says.

Todd laughs. “Right, only the rich ones.”

“You're all horrible to me!” Som-Oh moans, pulling out a strip of meat from the shabu pot. “I haven't had a boyfriend in half a year now, and I'm so lonely.”

Beside Arthit, Earth straightens a bit, and he's paying enough attention to see her eyes flicker in his direction. He braces himself for the inevitable rush of shame-regret-misery, and is surprised when only a dull sort of sigh makes its way through his body. He runs his tongue over his bottom lip.

“Yeah,” he says, and the other three look to him. “It does get lonely, doesn't it?”

A moment passes, and Arthit breathes. In and out.

Som-Oh leans in a bit, munching on a leek. “Where…where did you meet Kongpob?”

“In university,” Arthit says. Somehow, answering releases a bit of the tension in his chest. Maybe all his memories and feelings have been lodged there since Kongpob walked out of the auditorium, pressing against his heart. He sucks in another breath – it comes easier, with less resistance. He taps his index finger against the table. “He was my junior at SSU in the engineering department.”

“Ah, of course,” Som-Oh says, nodding.

“You must have a lot of memories then,” Todd adds.

Earth looks at Arthit beneath lowered eyelashes, as though observing him. “How long were you together?”

He hears the past tense. They know, then; he hasn't been subtle. His misery must have permeated the entire office for the past two months. “Two years.”

“That's a long time,” she tells him. She sounds very gentle. Arthit thought he'd hate it, but it's nice. Like slipping into a hug from a friend. He should tell her he appreciates her friendship, but later, somewhere else, when they aren't huddled around the shabu pot.

“Do you miss him?” Som-Oh asks.

Arthit's eyes prickle. “Every day.”

The table falls quiet, and after a moment, it stings Arthit's skin, brambles in a tangled patch of weeds. He straightens, and forces a smile. “Who needs more sauce?”

++

Three days later, he lays in bed unable to sleep. Opening up LINE, he taps the familiar name, and types out I miss you. Before he can change his mind, he sends it, then immediately closes his phone and wills his heart to settle in his chest. Breathes. In and out. If he sleeps, it isn't much.

The next morning, the message says Read, but Arthit never receives a response.

++

Durian seeks him out at work.

“Can I speak with you?” she asks. She looks contrite, drawn. There are dark circles around her eyes she hasn't completely managed to conceal with foundation. Arthit sits at his desk and thinks. The anger once swelled in his chest has gone. It helped to feel, but truthfully, he didn't like the heat of it.

“Alright,” he tells her.

She leads him to the rooftop.

“P'Arthit, I'm so sorry,” she says. “I didn't think what would happen when I sent those photos. I didn't think about your feelings, or your privacy, at all. I never meant to destroy something.”

Arthit looks out at the buildings sprawling beyond Ocean Electric. From the roof, the world seems a very big place. He's one tiny fish swimming against the tide of society far bigger.

“P'Arthit?” she tries again.

“I understand,” he says. “I…accept your apology. I'm sorry I yelled at you that day at the drink cart.”

She looks a bit lighter. Maybe a weight has lifted off her shoulders. “Thank you. If there's anything I can do...”

“No, there's nothing.”

“Do…do you hate me?”

He's never hated her; not really. The only person Arthit hates is himself. “No, of course not.”

She leaves, and Arthit stays where he stands. In truth, Durian never destroyed anything. Arthit did that all on his own.

It took a long time to come to terms with his own betrayal, but he sinks into it. Lets the guilt and regret fill up his lungs and expels it into the afternoon haze. He pushes it all out until he's listless, boneless, empty.

He pulls his phone out and looks at the screen. His message remains read, but unanswered. His fingers hover over the screen. There's nothing left to say.

He goes back to work.

++

He calls his mother.

“Usually I have to chase you down,” she says, sounding surprised. “I'm so happy to hear from you.”

“I need to tell you something.” Arthit steels himself, sets his shoulders. Perched on the edge of his mattress, he nervously curls his free hand against his thigh. “It's important.”

“Is it something at work?”

“…sort of. But…no, not really.”

“Are you ill?”

“I was dating someone.” The words come out in a rush, a jumbled mess, so close together he's afraid she won't understand. She doesn't say anything, so Arthit barrels further. He's going to lose it if he can't say the words. They've been cutting holes in his stomach for months, years. “We broke up. A few months ago.”

“Darling, I'm so sorry,” she says, infinitely gentle. “I hadn't known. You must be feeling awful. Is that what you wanted to tell me?”

“Mom, I…” Breathe. The world will keep on revolving. Everything will be alright. “His name was Kongpob.”

Silence. There's so little noise Arthit hears her draw a deep breath on the other side of the line.

“Tell me about him,” she says.

Everything loosens all at once: Arthit is coming apart. The seams once holding him together dissolve in the rush of warmth, of relief so strong he nearly tumbles off the bed with the force of it. His cheeks are wet before he registers starting to cry.

Words fall out of his mouth, the surf beating against the beach, until he's exhausted everything he had inside. She listens. She doesn't say anything until he falls quiet, chest shaking with all the things he spent years burying.

“Darling,” she says.

She says it with love. She still says it with love.

“I loved him,” Arthit sobs. “Mom, I loved him so much.”

“Did you tell him?”

“It wasn't enough.”

“Tell him again.” Her voice is firm, offering guidance like she always did. Helping to direct. Giving him courage. “Don't give up until you know there's no hope left.”

“Thank you,” Arthit whispers. His face aches, his lips are dry. There's something warm blossoming in his chest. So foreign of an emotion, it takes him a long time to put a name to it.

It's hope.

++

He doesn't sleep. When morning breaks over the horizon, he knows he should be exhausted, but instead, his legs buzz with energy. The red-streaked sky offers something new. Something better. He's still Arthit, still his mother's child, still himself, but he's more. He's whole.

He opens LINE and looks at the message. His fingers shake as he types another. Will you meet me?

He waits. He goes to work. He checks his phone every hour.

Read.

No response.

++

Prem picks up on the third try, as Arthit jiggles his leg against his bed and redials again and again. “What?”

“I need your help,” Arthit says. “Are you busy?”

“I had plans, but I can cancel. What's going on?”

“I loved him, you know?”

Prem huffs out a laugh. “Duh. We all fucking know that.”

“Does he?” Arthit asks.

Silence. Then, “What do you need from me?”

“A time and a place,” Arthit says. “He won't answer my texts.”

“Okay,” Prem responds.

Exhale. “Thank you.”

“You owe me forever,” comes the tired but fond reply.

Arthit swallows hard. Smiles. “Shut up.”

++

Prem sets up a meeting, ostensibly between the current hazers and their predecessors to talk about the transition to a new team once they graduate. He gives Arthit the information.

“I don't know if this will work,” he warns over the phone, tinny, voice stolen by the wind, “because he might ask the others about it and figure out he's the only one invited.”

“It will work,” Arthit replies. It's a plea to whatever deity might be listening. “I know it will.”

That night, he takes the gear out of his drawer. He runs his fingers across the surface of the metal. It hasn't been his for years and feels foreign in his palm. Then he removes Kongpob's gear and holds them together.

Please let this work.

++

He spends the day at work jittery. Emotion keeps his legs bouncing, fingers tapping. He can't concentrate on his report and keeps switching numbers, until finally, Earth takes pity on him and offers to do it herself.

“I just don't want this to go out wrong and us have to fix it later,” she says, leaning in over his shoulder to fix the form.

Arthit waits a moment, and then says, “I'm meeting him tonight.”

Earth stills. When she turns her face to look at him, she's smiling, back lit by the harsh overhead fluorescent. “Really?”

“I don't think he wants to see me,” Arthit admits, “but I have to try.”

She squeezes his bicep. “Good. I'm glad you are.”

“Wish me luck?”

Her face breaks into a wide grin. “Good luck, Arthit. I believe in you.”

++

Arthit arrives early, but not early enough. He should have known – Kongpob is a sucker for punctuality.

Arthit stops at the side of the square. There are people milling around, sitting at the outdoor tables, walking past the shops; it isn't a quiet area, nor a secluded one. With the sea of faces around him, Kongpob isn't paying much attention to the sidewalks leading in. Arthit is nearly to his location before the other registers what's going on.

Kongpob is up and on his feet immediately, turning away. “I knew it.”

“Wait,” Arthit tries, but Kongpob is already moving away from him. He'll lose him in the crowd. “Wait, Kong, please!”

Kongpob stills, one hand curled around the strap of his bag. It gives Arthit enough time to reach out and grab for the bottom of his shirt.

“Please,” Arthit pleads. “Please let me say what I need to say.”

“Don't you understand?” Kongpob says. His words sound thick. “I can't do this. You broke my heart.”

“I broke mine, too,” Arthit replies.

Kongpob doesn't try to pull away. He regards Arthit steadily, a sheen in his eyes. He's always been so much braver, so much more courageous. So much more ready. Arthit looks at him, and his whole body threatens to give out. It's been so long since he's seen the curve of his jaw, the set of his shoulders. Memory rushes through him. Fuck, he missed him so much.

“Well?” Kongpob asks, and only then does Arthit realize he's been silent far too long. “What is it?”

“I told my mom about you,” Arthit says, and then amends, “about us.”

Kongpob falls back, expression slackening. Arthit rarely surprises him, and seeing the emotion shift across Kongpob's face emboldens him.

“I miss you,” Arthit says. “I miss you so much.”

“You…” Kongpob seems to search for the right words.

“Nothing is the same anymore. Nothing…nothing works without you. I know I'm shit with showing it, but I love you. I love you so much.”

Kongpob's gaze darts to the square, to the people around them. “We're in public.”

Arthit keeps his hand right where it is, fingers wrapped around the hem of Kongpob's shirt. “I know.”

“Someone might hear you.”

“I know.”

Kongpob's shoulders seem to relax. “You really hurt me. You run away when things get hard, you never want to work through them–”

Has he said it too many times? “I know.”

“I can't keep doing this.” Kongpob frowns.

“I know that I…I'm not easy to be with,” Arthit says. “I know you give far more than you get. But you're the only person I've ever loved, and I can't let things end without telling you. I wasn't fair to you before. I understand if you can't forgive me. But I do love you. And I want to be with you.”

Kongpob's tongue darts out to run across his bottom lip. “People will know we're together.”

“Good.” Arthit gives Kongpob's shirt a tiny tug. Kongpob lets himself be pulled closer. “I hope they know.”

“Do you?”

There's nothing left to do but risk it all. Arthit pulls harder this time, and Kongpob stumbles a step forward, so they are painfully close. Arthit allows himself one moment to take it in, one moment to soak in the shine of Kongpob's eyes, the wisps of dark hair against his forehead. Then he wraps his hand around Kongpob's neck and leans in.

Kongpob gasps into Arthit's mouth when they meet. A beat, and then he's kissing Arthit back, moving up closer, crowding in. He tastes the same – a crash of nostalgia, of emotion so strong it stings at Arthit's eyes, but Kongpob is kissing him, moving into him, one arm wrapping around Arthit's shoulders.

When they pull apart, Arthit's heart has clogged his throat.

“We're in public,” Kongpob breathes. He's smiling.

“Let them see,” Arthit says. He slides his thumb across Kongpob's cheek. “I'm not ashamed of you.”

And it's all worth it for the beaming face he receives in return.

++

Later, Arthit pulls his phone out. Kongpob is wrapped around him and snoring softly, hair spread across the pillow. Arthit's never felt so warm, so whole. So complete.

He texts his mother: Are you free this weekend? I want you to meet my boyfriend.

He doesn't expect a response; after all, it's late. But a minute later, his phone lights up.

Kongpob?

Arthit's chest swells. Yes.

Another pause, and then: Name the time. I can't wait.

Arthit lets out the breath he was holding, slow and steady. In and out.

Breathes.