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Our Contract Marriage

Chapter Text

Two men in their mid fifties sit in a private room of a five star hotel restaurant. The first man pours the second man another drink. Both of their faces are flushed from the wine, and the atmosphere is tense with forced camaraderie. A lawyer is summoned when they finish their meal.

The lawyer presents two copies of a contract and reviews the terms with both men.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" the lawyer asks. The question is directed towards the second man.

"Don't cross the line," the first man scolds, although it sounds like a threat, and the lawyer pales.

"I'm sure," the second man says, although it seems as if he's reassuring himself.

The lawyer clears his throat and steps forward. His hand shakes slightly, but only the second man notices as he's shaking slightly too.

"Sign here, here, and here," the lawyer instructs one of the men, pointing with his pen. "Sign here," he instructs the other.

The two men sign, exchange the papers and sign once more.

"Good," says the first man as he hands the lawyer his copy of the contract. He stands up and re-buttons his jacket.

"V-very good," agrees the second, clutching tightly to the papers in his hand. He stands up to shake the other's hand. "It's been a pleasure."

"A pleasure," the first man repeats coldly. He steps back and gestures for the other man to go first.

The two walk out of the private room. At the elevator, the first man says, "Then, I'll leave first." The elevator doors open and he steps in with his lawyer. "Until next month," he says as the doors close and the second man is left alone in the corridor.

The second man lets out a shaky breath and looks down at the contract in his hands.

"This will be okay," he tells himself. His hand trembles as he runs his fingers through his thinning hair. "Everything will be just fine."

Chapter Text

Duen sits on a very large heart shaped bed, toweling his hair dry as he waits for his new husband to finish showering. His heart pounds wildly in his chest and he hopes his husband stays in the shower just a little bit longer so he can figure out how to approach their wedding night.

Newly-wedded couples are expected to spend their first night... together. Even in arranged marriages. It's very likely that his husband will want to engage in such things once he comes out of the shower.

Duen shudders at the thought. He hasn't even had his first kiss yet! He's definitely not ready to do anything else.

He startles when he hears the bathroom door open and instinctively stands up.

"You're still up?" his husband asks him.

"I was just…" he looks down and notices the towel in his hands. "I was just waiting for you to finish so I can hang up my towel," he offers weakly and dashes into the bathroom.

His husband is sitting in bed underneath the blankets when Duen comes back out of the bathroom. He approaches him cautiously.

"Don't worry." His husband's voice is low and gruff. He refuses to look at Duen. "I won't do anything to you."

Duen breathes out a sigh of relief and slowly climbs into bed next to him.

"Thank you," he says quietly. He clears his throat. "Then… should we talk? Try to get to know each other?" he offers. "Your name is... Bohn? Right?"

"Yes. And there's no need for us to get to know each other," Bohn says coldly. He shifts so he's lying down and turns away from Duen.

"O-oh." Duen's heart falls. "Um… I'll get the lights, then."

There's no response from Bohn. Duen turns out the light and crawls into bed. There's so much space in between them. He closes his eyes and sighs. He's grateful that his husband doesn’t want anything sexual to happen yet, but Bohn's lack of interest leaves Duen feeling cold and heavy-hearted. Their marriage is far from a love match.

Maybe Bohn has a lover that he was forced to leave for the sake of their families' marriage alliance.

But that… isn't likely, Duen decides. Bohn is notoriously dedicated to his work and has never been involved in any sort of sex or romance scandal. If there was something of that nature, the media would surely catch wind of it.

Maybe he was disappointed when he saw Duen.

That'd be even worse than having a lover! Duen thinks. If Bohn is disappointed with Duen, then there really is no hope!

But… no.

Duen remembers the way Bohn looked at him when they first met, only a few hours ago at their wedding. He looked at Duen the way the male lead looks at the female lead in a Korean drama, and he kept looking at Duen that way for the entire ceremony and reception.

Maybe he's disappointed in Duen's personality.

That must be it! he decides.

This is acceptable. They've only known each other for a couple of hours and Duen has the rest of their lives to make an impression on his husband. He definitely can change Bohn's impression of him!

Feeling reassured, Duen shifts into a more comfortable position and falls asleep.


As he lies in bed next to his new husband, Bohn thinks back to the moment that he learned that his father arranged a marriage for him with another man. He thought that finally, after nearly a decade since he first came out to him, his father had finally accepted his sexuality.

He remembers the first time he saw Duen. He looked him up as soon as he learned his fiance's name. He remembers how beautiful he thought Duen was when he first saw him. His soft cheeks, his kind, sparkling eyes, and his sweet smile softened Bohn’s heart. There’s no way he was this lucky, that his father had arranged for him to marry such a gorgeous man. It was too good to be true.

Then he realized that it likely was too good to be true and there had to be something else going on.

He had gotten his answer earlier that night, while his new husband was showering.

Earlier that night...

Bohn sits on the bed of their honeymoon suite. His leg bounces in anticipation. His gorgeous new husband is wet and naked in the next room over, and he's so hopeful that Duen will allow him to explore every inch of his body tonight.

His phone rings and startles him out of his thoughts. He checks the caller ID.

Boss.

Boss wouldn't call him on his wedding night if it wasn't important, so he picks up.

"Hello Bohn!" Boss greets enthusiastically.

"I really hope that you're calling to tell me that my marriage is nothing more than a business alliance between our two families and there's nothing else going on here."

There's a long moment of silence before Boss speaks up, sounding more serious now.

"Uh... hm... Well, my hubby managed to get a hold of something that you should see before you start to engage in your wedding night. I'm sending the PDF to you now."

"Fuck," Bohn curses. He knew it was too good to be true. He spent years begging his father to accept him before he realized that he would never be able to change his mind. Of course his father wouldn't arrange for him to marry another man without some twisted ulterior motive.

He thanks Boss and hangs up. His fingers tremble as he opens his personal email.

The PDF takes a moment to download, and he holds his breath while it does. When the PDF finally loads, he quickly skims it, then reads it again twice more.

He knew it was too good to be true, but this is worse than he expected.

Bohn turns off his phone and plugs it in. He hears the shower stop and feels a wave of nausea come over him. He curls forward and rests his head between his legs as he tries to sort out everything he just read and how it shapes the reality of his marriage.

Duen comes out of the bathroom wearing soft, striped, cotton pajama pants and a thin white shirt that exposes his chest. His cheeks are still flushed a soft pink from the hot shower he just took and he smiles shyly at Bohn.

Bohn blushes, leans back on his hands, and watches as Duen comes to sit next to him on the bed and begin to dry his hair with a towel. Bohn glances at him from the side. He wonders if Duen tastes as sweet as he smells. He longs to press his lips to Duen’s soft cheeks, stroke his silky hair, and whisper sweet nothings into his neck.

His heart pounds loudly in his chest as he realizes the intensity of his attraction towards his husband. But in the next moment the attraction is replaced with a crushing wave of guilt. He stands up suddenly and Duen looks up at him.

His eyelashes are so long... Snap out of it!

“Um… I’ll go take a shower,” he says after an awkward moment. He fumbles to grab his clothes from his duffel bag and rushes into the bathroom, accidentally slamming the door behind him.

He turns on the shower, undresses, and steps under the hot water.

How am I supposed to go forward in this marriage? he thinks. He considers the clauses outlined in the contract he just read.

Their marriage was arranged under several startling conditions.

First, his father, as the leader of the Sirikarnkul Group, now owns half of Rattananumchok Enterprises, and is the largest stockholder of their main company. This gives his father massive influence in the business decisions of the Rattananumchok Group. Bohn knows his father, he knows how tightly he’ll grasp to this influence and power. He’ll turn Duen’s father into his puppet before he eventually coerces him to turn all of Rattananumchok Enterprises over to the Sirikarnkul Group.

Second, Bohn’s father turned over 75 million Baht to Duen’s father in order to pay off the gambling debt that he seems to have accumulated over the past decade. Mr. Rattananumchok’s gambling addiction is no secret to the public, but the outrageous total he owes leaves Bohn feeling startled and deeply unsettled.

Finally, if either Bohn or Duen file for divorce within the first three years of their marriage, everything must be returned to its original family. Which means that while the Rattananumchok group will regain full control of their Enterprises, they will also be 75 million Baht in debt to the Sirikarnkukl Group, and left to clean up whatever mess Bohn's father created for them.

Bohn’s father had taken advantage of Mr. Rattananumchok’s gambling debt not only to insert himself into their Enterprises, but also to buy Bohn a husband.

He bought Bohn a husband.

Suddenly Bohn can’t breathe. How is this legal? There’s no way that Duen is aware of this, no one would consent to such conditions.

Except…

Has Bohn been blinded by Duen’s beauty? He doesn’t know what type of person he married since they didn’t meet until the ceremony. Even during the ceremony they were so busy entertaining their guests and relatives that they didn’t have a chance to talk.

Bohn shuts off the shower. He shouldn’t assume the worst of Duen yet. There’s no proof that Duen is aware of the reality of their marriage. He’ll have plenty of time to learn about his husband and figure out if he knows about the contract, or even played a role in creating the contract. Until then, he’ll have to tread carefully.

Present…

He hears his husband sigh next to him. He feels bad for treating Duen so coldly, but he isn’t ready to get close to him without knowing what role he played in arranging their marriage.

Chapter Text

Bohn is alone when he wakes up.

For a moment, he doesn't think anything of it. After all, he usually wakes up alone. However, the new weight on his left ring finger reminds him that he shouldn't be alone. He's married now, to a man he only met yesterday.

Bohn stretches, sits up, and looks around the room. His husband isn't in bed, isn't in the bathroom, and doesn't seem to be hiding anywhere else in the room.

So where did Duen go? Did he run away?

Bohn gets out of bed and turns on the light. He notices that Duen’s phone and bag are still in the room, which means that Duen probably hasn't run away. Not that he would blame Duen if he did. After all, Bohn was pretty cold to him last night.

He finds his own phone and calls Boss.

“Do you know what time it is, why are you calling?” Boss grumbles when he picks up.

“I need a favor.”

“I know you do, you never call me for any other reason.”

“That's not entirely true. I called you last month to invite you and Mek to my wedding, which you didn’t even show up to!”

“We’re not in the country right now!”

Bohn pouts for a moment. He really did miss having Boss and Mek at his wedding, and as soon as they return to Thailand he’ll have to have them over.

“Anyways, I need a favor.”

“A favor hm? What will you give me in return?” Boss's voice is teasing, but Bohn's asked a favor of him enough times to know he's serious.

“I’ll buy you a house.”

“You’ve already bought me a house, a condo in the city, and a summer home abroad. I don’t need anymore real estate.”

“What do you want.”

“Hmm…”

Bohn rolls his eyes. Why can’t Boss accept money, why does it always have to be some sort of gift?

“I need your help buying something,” Boss finally says. “There’s an auction in two weeks, I’ll send you the details later. They’re auctioning off a painting that was done by Mek’s grandfather, and I want to give it to him for our anniversary in a couple of months.”

“Deal,” Bohn agrees quickly.

“Glad to hear it!” Boss says cheerfully. “What do you need from me?”

“I need you to investigate Duen. I want a full profile on him and his immediate family. I also need you to investigate the contract you sent me the other day, I want to know the history behind it, who drafted it, who was present when it was signed, and all that. Can you do it?”

“I can’t, but my hubby can. You know, I’m surprised that you didn’t ask me to investigate Duen earlier, I actually already have a profile mostly formed. It shouldn’t take too long to put together profiles for the rest of his family."

"And the contract?"

"Well, that might take longer. It was hard enough to get a copy of it, but I’ll see what I can find.”

“Thank you, Boss.”

“Thank you, Bohn, my hubby is going to be so excited about that painting.”

“Talk to you later.”

“Bye bye.”

Two seconds after he hangs up he receives an email from Boss containing the details of the auction. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. Boss has probably been sitting on that auction for a while. While it’s easier to pay with money, he’s glad that he’s able to give his friends something more meaningful. Everything that Boss and Mek have done for him over the years is worth far more than all of the money of the Sirikarnkul Group.

He puts down his phone and thinks for a bit.

Bohn doesn't know how to act around his husband. On one hand, he so desperately wants to get to know him, to open up to him, and foster a good relationship, maybe even a romantic one. On the other hand, there's the matter of the contract. He doesn't want to open up to his husband only to find out that his husband was involved with their marriage contract. He doesn't want to be a fool who falls in love with his husband and then finds out that Duen only appeased him for the money in the contract.

Still, Duen could be innocent to all of this. After all, Bohn didn't know about the contract. If Duen doesn't know about the contract, then there's no reason for Bohn to act so cold to him. If he does know, then Bohn has every reason to guard his heart. He could bring up the contract with Duen, but Duen could very easily lie to him about it. After all, he doesn't know his husband's character.

Bohn groans and massages his temples. Hopefully, Boss will be able to get back to him soon, and then Bohn can figure out how to approach his husband and their marriage. Until then, he can observe Duen's character for himself and keep his distance.


Duen has a hard time sleeping, and so he decides to get out of bed early to go down to the beach and watch the sunrise.

He steps out of bed carefully, but Bohn doesn't stir. He finds his jacket and sandals and pulls them both on. While he’s at it, he cuffs his pajama pants to keep them from getting sandy. He tucks the card key into his jacket pocket and quietly leaves the room.

He stands where the water covers his feet with each crashing wave as he watches the sunrise. It isn't too hot outside yet and there's a pleasant breeze. Duen smiles and wiggles his toes.

The sun begins to peek over the horizon and paints the sky a lovely orange and pink. It would be nice if he could watch the sunrise with Bohn, but it seems that his husband isn’t interested in getting to know him.

Duen sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. He should try to be more optimistic. They haven’t even known each other for 24 hours yet and they have the rest of their lives to form a good relationship.

Still, it seems as though Duen will have to be the one doing all of the work. He's a little upset by this because he thought that Bohn was, well, willing to marry him, to get to know him, and to maybe even like him.

Suddenly all of his doubts from last night come rushing back to him. Was he that off putting that Bohn doesn't even want to try? Will it really only be Duen putting effort into this marriage?

Well, he doesn't want to be lonely for the rest of his life. If Duen's the only one who wants to put in effort, then so be it. Bohn is just going to have to suck it up and learn to like him.

Feeling reassured and newly determined, Duen leaves the beach to go back to their hotel room. On his way back, he stops by the cafe in the hotel lobby to buy some pastries and coffee for himself and for his husband.

“Where were you,” Bohn demands as soon as he opens the door, although his tone is flat.

“I just went down to the beach,” Duen responds.

“The beach?”

“I wanted to see the sunrise over the ocean. I also, um, got us breakfast."

Bohn rolls his eyes. "Whatever." His mouth twists and he doesn't look at Duen. "Go get ready, and, um, thank you for the breakfast." He crosses his arms and suddenly glares at Duen. "But next time, don't just leave like that. I didn't know where you were," he snaps.

"It's not like I would have run away," Duen mumbles under his breath as he takes off his sandals. He finds his clothes for the day and goes into the bathroom to change.

Bohn goes into the bathroom once he’s done. While his husband gets dressed, Duen eats his breakfast. He's happy to see that Bohn took one of the coffees and pastries for himself. Despite Bohn's cold tone, he did say thank you, he did eat the breakfast Duen bought for him, and he was worried about him. This ignites a small spark of hope in Duen. Rather than being put off and angry towards him, Bohn just seems to be cold and closed off. However, this is only marginally better. While Bohn might not be angry and harsh towards him, it doesn't seem like Duen will have an easy time connecting with him.

Whatever. Duen already decided to be patient and determined. He'll find a way for his husband to open up to him.

Duen is packing up when his husband leaves the bathroom.

“We have to leave in about half an hour,” Bohn tells him.

Duen nods. “I’m almost done packing,” he says as he walks into the bathroom to retrieve his toiletries.

Duen finishes packing before Bohn, and he flops onto the bed and closes his eyes for a moment.

“Don’t fall asleep,” Bohn says gruffly.

“I’m just resting my eyes,” Duen replies softly, but he feels himself getting drowsy. He sits up so he doesn’t fall asleep. “Are you almost done?”

“I’m done,” Bohn says as he zips his bag. He checks his phone. “There’s a car waiting for us in the front. Make sure you have everything and let’s go.”

He’s about to open the door to leave, but Bohn stops him and takes a moment to look through the peephole.

“What is it?” Duen asks, confused.

“The paparazzi’s outside.”

“The paparazzi? Why?”

“They want to see the newly wedded couple." Bohn sighs and scratches the back of his head. He side eyes Duen and bites his lip.

"What is it?"

"Give me your hand and don’t give them any reason to talk,” Bohn tells him as he grabs Duen’s wrist. He goes to open the door, but Duen yanks him back.

“Don’t hold my wrist, hold my hand,” he scolds. “It’s so unromantic when the male lead grabs the female lead by the wrist and drags her off.”

“What?” Bohn is baffled and he lets go of Duen's wrist.

“Just hold my hand properly,” Duen grumbles as he reaches out and takes Bohn’s hand. “It’s much nicer.”

Bohn stares at him for a moment. Duen blushes and looks down. He clears his throat. “Let’s go,” he says quietly and opens the door.

They walk through the paparazzi, the flashing lights, and ignore the reporters who try to ask them questions. Duen holds Bohn’s hand tightly as Bohn returns their key-cards at the reception desk. He doesn’t like the media’s attention and their crowding makes him nervous.

Bohn doesn’t pay them any attention and confidently leads Duen out of the hotel to the large black van that’s waiting for them out front. Bohn lets go of his hand and helps him into the car before he gets in himself.

They drive for a while. Duen wishes that he had his earbuds or that the driver would turn on the radio. Anything to break the awkward silence between him and Bohn.

Well, I guess it's up to me, he decides.

“Bohn,” he says tentatively.

“Hm?” his husband responds, but he doesn’t give Duen his whole attention.

“Um… may I have your phone number and Line please?” Duen feels so awkward asking this question, but Bohn hands him his phone wordlessly.

“Would you mind unlocking it?” Duen's voice is overly polite. Despite his confidence in the hotel room earlier when he took Bohn's hand, he's still shy to approach his husband.

Bohn wordlessly takes his phone back, unlocks it, and gives it back to Duen.

The silence is even more unbearable once Duen finishes putting in his contact information and gives the phone back to Bohn.

“How much longer?” he asks after several minutes.

Bohn looks out the window and crosses his arms. “Dunno,” he says gruffly.

“About thirty more minutes, Master Duen,” the driver says.

“Just Duen is fine. Thank you…”

“You can call me Bank, Duen.”

“Thank you, Bank.”

Bank smiles at him through the rear view mirror and Duen smiles back, happy that someone will talk to him. He glances over at his husband, who's staring blankly out of the window, and sighs.

Patient and determined, Duen reminds himself. Patient and determined.

Chapter Text

Duen’s mouth falls open when they pull up to Bohn Sirikarnkul’s manor. He’s seen the manors of many rich families before, and even his own family’s manor is something to be marveled at, but Bohn Sirikarnkul’s Manor is something on a whole other level.

It isn’t even the main residence of the Sirikarnkul Group. From what he’s been told, Bohn moved in shortly after their engagement was announced in order to set up the formerly empty manor for them. It had been a commercial property for about seven years before and now it is to become their family home.

An elderly woman stands in front of the large double doors. She has kind eyes and deep smile lines. Her thick grey hair is pulled back in a long braid. As they pull up, she rushes down to greet them.

“Bohn!” she exclaims with a large smile, and pulls him into a tight hug.

“Nanny Fang!” Bohn responds with equal enthusiasm.

Duen stares. This is the first time he’s seen his husband smile so genuinely and openly. His heart aches. He wishes Bohn's smile would be directed towards him.

The two separate and Nanny Fang turns her attention to Duen. “This is your husband?”

“Yes, Nanny Fang, this is my husband Duen. Duen, this is Nanny Fang. She practically raised me. She'll be living us and helping us take care of the house.”

Duen beams. “It’s nice to meet you, Nanny Fang.”

She pulls him into a hug. “I’m very happy to meet you, too. Come inside and I’ll help you get settled in.”

The first room inside the house is a long, empty hall with several paintings hanging on the walls. At the end of the hall are two half circle staircases that converge at the top. There are two other sets of double doors besides the front entrance, one on each wall. When the entrance doors close behind them, Duen feels rather closed in despite the great hall’s size.

“I’ll be working the rest of the day in my office,” Bohn says stiffly. “Nanny Fang, I’ll ask you to take care of my husband.”

“Of course.”

Bohn strides quickly across the long hall, up the stairs, and disappears around the corner.

Nanny Fang turns to Duen and grabs both of his hands in hers. “Duen,” she says and squeezes his hands. “There’s so much for me to tell you. I’ll show you to your room first, then I’ll show you the rest of the house, the grounds, and then we can have a cup of tea and a chat.”

Duen nods. “Thank you, Nanny Fang.”

She leads him across the floor and up the staircase. They turn off to the right, the opposite direction from which Bohn went.

Despite the lack of windows, the long hallway feels open and bright. Nanny Fang stops at the first door on the left. “This is Bohn’s room,” she says. “We should go in.”

“Huh?” Duen is reluctant to go into his husband’s bedroom, it feels like an invasion of privacy.

“It’s okay,” Nanny Fang reassures him and opens the door.

Somehow Duen is disappointed with Bohn’s room. It has as much personality as a hotel room. The walls are dull and dingy off white, a large carpet of the same color covers the tiled floors. Nanny Fang walks over to pull back the curtains and light floods into the room. Bohn’s bed is neatly made with bedding that matches the one from the hotel they stayed at last night-- it’s high in quality, but lacking in character. The dresser and wardrobe on the wall opposite from the bed are the only redeeming furniture. They are a matching antique set, with intricate designs carved into the wood and brass handles. There’s a full length mirror in the corner that looks rather cheap and strikingly out of place.

“The bathroom is over there, we won’t go in there, and this door here,” Nanny Fang walks over to a door hidden from where Duen stands by the wardrobe, “leads into your room.” She notices the worry on Duen’s face. “It’s okay, you can lock the door if you need to.”

She leads him through the door into what is to become his bedroom. The room essentially matches Bohn’s in decoration, it only lacks the cheap full length mirror.

He wanders over to the bathroom. It’s surprisingly well decorated and modern- it looks as thought it was redone recently. His regular brand of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are already in the shower. A new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste sit on the sink, along with several skin care products. There’s a shelf on the wall that holds some of the fluffiest white towels that Duen has ever felt. Overall, he’s very satisfied with the bathroom.

He goes back into the bedroom and frowns. This will just not do.

“Shall we go see the rest of the house?” Nanny Fang asks him.

“Yes, let's go.”

He follows her outside of the room and into the hallway.

“There are four more bedrooms on this floor in this wing of the house.”

“Do they all look like…?”

“Yes,” Nanny Fang says curtly. Duen is glad to know that she’s also not satisfied with the bedroom decor.

They reach the end of the hallway after passing one of the other bedrooms and take a left.

“The other three are down this hallway,” Nanny Fang points to the left as they walk past another hallway.

“Do you sleep in this part of the house?” Duen asks.

“I do, my bedroom is one of the ones down the second hallway.”

Duen bites his lip. “The other three aren’t being used?”

“No.”

“Then may I use one of them for my bodyguard? He’s on vacation right now, but he’ll be back next week and I’d like him to move in.”

“Of course!”

Duen smiles. “Thank you Nanny Fang.”

“Oh, don’t thank me. You’re one of the masters of the house.” She looks at him seriously. “Bohn shouldn’t give you any trouble about it either, but if he does just let me know and I’ll scold him for you.”

Duen smiles sweetly and nods. They round the corner and come into a room that bumps out slightly from the rest of the building. The walls of the bump out are entirely made out of glass and the room is filled with various potted plants. The only furniture in the room is a light yellow couch with a soft cream colored throw blanket folded neatly over the back and a round glass coffee table.

“This is one of my favorite rooms,” Nanny Fang tells Duen. “It’s very nice to sit here in the afternoon with a nice cup of tea and a book. If you’re up early enough, you’ll be able to watch the sunrise from here, too.”

“Do you take care of all of the plants?” Duen asks.

“All of the ones in this room. They were gifts from our gardener, I’ll introduce you to him later when we tour the grounds.”

Duen nods and follows her back down the hallway from which they came. The next room they go into is the one in the middle of the house, just above the grand entrance hall.

“I don’t know what this room was originally used for, but it was turned into a home theater a couple of years ago.”

Duen looks around and nods. There’s a giant flatscreen TV on the wall across from them and nine recliners that look like they’ll engulf Duen if he sat down in one.

“I thought no one had lived here for the past seven years,” he mutters.

“No one has,” Nanny Fang responds.

“Then why did they renovate it?”

“Oh, well, for a long time this property was rented out to large parties for events and weddings and the whatnot. The Sirikarnkul Group added this feature to make the property more valuable and more ‘appealing to the modern family.’” She scoffs. “It’s lost a lot of its original charm.”

They step out of the room and close the doors.

“The left wing of the house is pretty much the same as the one we just saw, except Bohn’s converted one of the bedrooms into his home office.”

“Which one?” Duen asks.

“I’ll show you. Come with me.”

Duen follows Nanny Fang down the hallway. They take the first right and stop at the third door on the left.

“This is Bohn’s office,” Nanny Fang whispers to him. “Do you want to pop in and say hello?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Duen admits bashfully.

“No?”

“I, well, he must be busy. I don’t want to interrupt him.”

Nanny Fang nods in understanding. “Alright, then, let’s continue on.”

They arrive back at the stairwell to the ground floor. On the wall opposite from the stairs is a wooden door.

“This is how we get to the third floor,” Nanny Fang says as she opens it. “I’d like to have the door removed at some point, the only reason it’s still there is because they wanted to keep renters away from the third floor.” She gestures for Duen to go first, “After you.”

Duen begins to climb up the narrow staircase.

“The third floor used to be where the staff stayed, back when this manor had a full set of staff,” Nanny Fang says from behind him, huffing slightly. “Now, it’s mostly used for storage, but there are a couple of useful rooms up here.”

They emerge from the top of the staircase. Unlike the second floor, the third floor is much more open. There’s a wall off to the right with two doors evenly spaced apart. The space in front of them is filled with various workout equipment.

“The rooms over there,” Nanny Fang gestures off to the right, “are being used for storage. The doors to those rooms are locked, and honestly, I don’t know who has the key. As you can see, the rest of the space has been turned into a home gym. Do you exercise?”

“Some. Well, mostly yoga, swimming, um, running sometimes.” Duen scratches the back of his head. “Does Bohn exercise a lot?”

Nanny Fang considers his question for a moment before she answers. “Maybe three or four times a week. I’ll tell you a secret though.” She lowers her voice, “He asked his father’s secretary to help him buy some equipment for a home gym, but he didn't expect all of this. Truthfully, I don’t think he knows how to use half of these machines.”

“Oh,” Duen breathes out and laughs. “I’m a little relieved,” he admits.

“You are?”

“I just, well,” he scratches the back of his head and looks down. “I just didn’t think he seemed like the gym rat type, and I’m glad I didn’t read him wrong.”

Nanny Fang considers him carefully. “How well do you know Bohn,” she asks him tentatively.

Duen’s cheeks burn. “Not that well,” he admits quietly. “We only met yesterday.”

“Yesterday? You didn’t have any contact with him until yesterday?” Nanny Fang is flabbergasted and Duen can’t help but shrink in on himself. He crosses his arms over his stomach and looks down.

“Nanny Fang,” he says quietly but firmly. “Surely you know that this is an arranged marriage.”

“But still,” she insists, “Shouldn’t you have met beforehand? To make sure that you were compatible?”

“That is typical,” Duen admits. He frowns. He also thinks it's unusual that he didn't met Bohn before their wedding day.

“Why did you marry him?” Nanny Fang asks suddenly.

“I’m sorry?”

“If you had never met him before, why did you agree to marry him?” she snaps.

Duen takes a deep breath and looks her squarely in the eye. “Nanny Fang,” he begins. He isn’t sure how to answer her, and he’s unwilling to bare his heart to a woman he only just met that day. “I know that you’re asking because you’re concerned for Bohn. I will admit, I mostly agreed at my father’s insistence on the marriage. I could have gotten out of it if I really wanted to, but I also have my own reasons for agreeing to it, and I’m sure Bohn does as well.” He takes one of her hands with both of his. “I don’t know what I can say to reassure you, and I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I am committed to ensuring that neither of us regret agreeing to this arrangement.”

She purses her lips and stares at him for a moment. Duen fights the urge to break eye contact, he wants her to know that he’s genuine.

Nanny Fang sighs and puts her free hand on his shoulder. “I suppose you’re rather filial.” She offers him a small, kind smile. “If you’re truly committed to making this marriage work, then I’m on your side.”

“Thank you, Nanny Fang,” Duen breathes. He’s relieved. It'd be very hard to continue forward in his marriage without Nanny Fang’s approval.

“Should we go see the rest of the house?”

“Yes, let’s.” Duen drops her hands and follows her down the narrow staircase and then again down the grand staircase into the receiving hall.

They go through the doorway to the right, technically entering the left wing of the house. Through the grand double doors is an elegantly decorated ballroom.

Duen turns around slowly to take in the entire room. A crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. The walls are covered with frescos and embellished with gold accents, which match the floor length drapes covering the windows.

“You and Bohn will be expected to host events and families on behalf of the Sirikarnkul Group. The left wing of the house will be used for such occasions. Not just the ballrooms, but the guest bedrooms on the second floor.”

Duen nods.

“There’s a kitchen off of the ballroom that’s accessible from the outside. We won’t go see it, it will only be used by caterers. Other than that, the other rooms in the house are for your and Bohn’s private use.”

Nanny Fang leads him out of the ballroom and through the other set of double doors across the reception hall.

“I’m not very fond of the closed off nature of this manor,” she admits as she sets the double doors to stay open.

They enter a garishly decorated sitting room and Duen recoils slightly at the tacky furniture and excessive display of wealth. Nanny Fang grimaces as well.

“Through there is the library,” she points to a door in the corner on the wall opposite them. “You can explore it later, if you’d like. It’s rather dusty.”

The elderly woman leads him out of the sitting room and into a part of the house that’s much more open.

“While I don’t like the closed off manor of the house, it does allow for privacy. No outsiders will ever enter this part of the house,” she promises.

Duen sits down on the large, plush, grey couch and looks around. In front of him is a round glass coffee table. On the wall across from him is a fireplace, and on the wall above the mantle is a flat screen TV whose size rivals the one on the second floor. There are a few chairs that match the couch in style and, he imagines, in comfort. Behind him is the kitchen and a large dining table. He stands up and goes over to explore.

The kitchen is like a dream. Duen runs his fingers across the cool marble countertop as he admires the stainless steel appliances.

“The kitchen is fully equipped,” the nanny tells him. “It has every appliance that you could ask for.”

“Can I use it?”

“Do you like to cook?”

“Very much.”

Nanny Fang beams at him. It’s the first time she’s fully smiled at him since their conversation on the third floor. “Feel free to use the kitchen at any time,” she encourages him cheerfully. “I always hoped that Bohn would find a partner who could cook since he’s absolutely miserable at it.”

Duen smiles back at her. He’s very grateful that she is willing to tell him small tidbits of information about his husband, otherwise he’d know very little.

“There’s only one other thing to show you inside of the house,” the elderly woman tells him after a few minutes. She’s standing by a door that Duen hadn’t noticed when they first came in.

“Oh?”

“It’s nothing special, it’s just another staircase that leads to the second floor, as well as to the basement.” She opens the door and Duen peers inside to see a stairwell similar to the one that leads to the third floor. “It’s just more convenient for you to use.”

Duen nods and steps back out of the doorway. Nanny Fang closes the door behind him.

“Before we tour the grounds, we should take a moment to talk about your role in the house,” Nanny Fang says to him seriously.

Duen gulps and nods. He suddenly feels very nervous, but Nanny Fang smiles reassuringly at him and guides him to sit down at the dining table. She leaves for a few minutes and comes back carrying an iPad.

“Alright,” she says as she sits down next to him. “Let’s talk finance.”

Chapter Text

Nanny Fang unlocks the iPad and has Duen add his fingerprint and change the password.

“You’ll be responsible for managing the house and finances,” she explains and side eyes him. “Essentially, you’ll be taking on the role of the wife.” She waits for him to react.

Duen nods slowly. “Okay,” he says finally.

The nanny raises her eyebrows and turns to look at him in surprise.

“Okay?” she repeats, incredulous.

Duen leans back in his chair and glances at her. "I know it's surprising for a man of my upbringing..." he trails off and twiddles his thumbs. His father always berated him for being too soft, for not being like the other sons of wealthy CEOs.

"Yes, I- well, forgive me if I've been rude, but you're not what I expected." The elderly woman graces him with a soft smile. "When I found out that Bohn’s father arranged for him to marry another man, I thought that his husband would be someone similar to him. Someone who has… well, you know, been raised to take over a large, powerful business and become the 'man of the family.'" She looks at him with new appreciation. "I'm very glad that you're not what I expected. I hope..." Nanny Fang trails off before she shakes her head. "Well, never mind what I hope." She clears her throat. "Let's get back to business.”

Nanny Fang walks Duen through several apps on the iPad and explains how they’re used to monitor the budget, delegate funds, and review financial reports. Duen follows along easily, after all he’s seen his mother do the same since he was young.

“As you’ve noticed, the manor is rather large and requires a lot of maintenance,” Nanny Fang tells him after she’s through explaining how to manage the finances. “And we only have so many staff members-- me, Bank, and the gardener, whom you haven’t met yet.”

“So I should hire more staff?”

“We can afford to do so, if you’re so inclined.”

Duen considers this carefully. “I’ll think about it for a little bit,” he decides.

Nanny Fang nods. “That’s fine,” she responds. “Now, before we tour the grounds, there’s one more thing…” she trails off and squints at him.

Duen raises an eyebrow. “I also have one more thing to ask you about.” He’s almost certain they’re thinking the same thing.

The elderly woman purses her lips. “Is it about…” she looks towards the doorway to the sitting room.

“It’s about the decoration.”

Nanny Fang breathes a sigh of relief and rests her hand on Duen’s shoulder. “We are on the same page! I don’t know who decorated this house but they clearly have no taste. I couldn’t convince Bohn to do anything about it other than set aside funds for you to redecorate.”

“I’ll start on it right away,” Duen assures her.

“I’m glad that’s settled. Shall we tour the grounds?”

“Let’s go.”

Duen follows Nanny Fang outside onto a stone patio. The pergola overhead is decorated with white and pink climbing roses and a wind chime. To the left is the gate to a massive swimming pool. The rattan furniture on the pool deck matches the table, chairs, and swinging bench under the pergola.

Nanny Fang leads Duen away from the house, down a stone path, and into the garden. The garden is lush with many different flowers and bushes and several pathways that Nanny Fang walks past. On the outer edge of the garden is a small koi pond decorated with lotus flowers and lily pads. A large willow tree grows next to the pond and partially hides a gazebo from view.

Duen helps Nanny Fang across the wooden bridge and then continues to follow her down the stone path. At the end of the path is a greenhouse, a cottage, and a long gated fence. Along the fence is a line of trees, but Duen can still see the large field that lies behind it.

“This property has been used for commercial purposes for a long time,” Nanny Fang tells him when she notices Duen’s line of sight. “Bohn was only allowed to have it if he continued to rent out the back field for events.” She shakes her head. “Businessmen are really something,” she mutters under her breath.

“Anyway, to the left is the greenhouse. The gardener is still cleaning it out, but soon we’ll be able to grow all sorts of vegetables in there! I’m really looking forward to it, there’s nothing better than fresh, home grown vegetables.”

“Does the gardener live in the cottage?” Duen asks.

“He does! Let’s go see if he’s in.”

Nanny Fang and Duen go up to knock on the cottage door, and a handsome man with beautiful hair answers.

“Nanny Fang!” he exclaims.

“Gardener King!” she answers with the same enthusiasm.

“What a lovely surprise!” He turns to look at Duen. “Who is this?” He looks at Duen closely for a minute before he steps back. His eyes widen as the realization dawns on him and his mouth turns up in a smile. “You’re Bohn’s new husband!”

Duen smiles politely at him. “It’s nice to meet you Gardener King,” he greets.

“I’m the same age as Bohn, so you can just call me Phi.”

“P’King,” Duen greets again.

“I’ve been showing Duen around the house,” Nanny Fang tells the gardener. “You’re our last stop.”

“In that case, please come in for a cup of tea.” King glances over at Duen and grins once more. “So we can get to know each other.”

He steps back to allow for Duen and Nanny Fang to come in. King leads them to sit around a wooden table and he pours three cups of tea into mismatching china.

Duen looks around the cottage. It’s rather cozy and much of the space is taken up by luscious, green plants.

“P’King must be a really good gardener,” Duen remarks.

“I’m nothing special,” King brushes aside the compliment.

“Nonsense,” Nanny Fang waves her hand. “Duen, let me tell you, when we first moved in, the garden was an absolute wreck! There were so many weeds, dead plants, overgrown shrubbery, it was a nightmare! And you saw how it looked today, all of that was Gardener King’s hard work.”

“Really? P’King, you must’ve been at the top of your class!”

“Actually, Gardener King studied engineering,” Nanny Fang says.

“Engineering? Not botany?” Duen looks at King, who shrugs.

“I like both,” he says simply. “And you’re right, I was the top of my class. Actually…” King stands up and runs from the table. He comes back carrying a framed photo. “Bohn and I attended the same university.” He hands Duen the photo.

There are four men in the photo. Bohn stands out to Duen immediately because he’s the only one who isn’t wearing the blue engineering shirt.

It's weird that Bohn had so many friends outside of his department... Duen thinks.

King peers over his shoulder. “The other two in the photo are Mek and Boss. You’ll probably meet them at some point.”

“Huh?” Duen turns back to look at the gardener.

“They travel. A lot. I don’t even know what country they’re in right now, but they haven’t been back to Thailand since we all graduated.”

“It’s nice that you’re all still close,” Duen murmurs as he looks at the photo once more before he hands it back to King.

King beams. "I think so, too."

The three spend the rest of the afternoon drinking tea and getting to know each other, and Duen feels like he's made a new friend by the time he and Nanny Fang return to the main house.

Chapter Text

Bohn spends the afternoon hiding in his office. He isn't working today—originally he planned to help Duen become acquainted with the house, but, well, a certain contract has changed his plans for their marriage.

In the early evening, Nanny Fang calls him down for dinner. She and Duen are setting the table when he walks into the kitchen and dining area.

Nanny Fang smiles when she sees him, as she always does, and he rejoices that he’s able to have her as a member of his household once more. She was his closest confidant growing up, and he really missed her when she suddenly had to leave.

Bohn sits down at the head of the table. “Please join us, Nanny Fang,” he asks the elderly woman.

“Oh no,” she waves her hand in a faux bashful manner, “I shouldn’t.”

“Please Nanny Fang,” Duen repeats his husband’s sentiment and gestures to the seat across from him.

“Well,” she sits down readily. “If you insist.”

He's glad that she joined them, because Bohn doesn't want to talk to his husband and Nanny Fang is always happy to fill the silence. She tells Bohn what she and Duen did that day and Bohn hums occasionally around mouthfuls of food to show that he’s listening. Out of the corner of his eye, not that he's looking, he sees Duen nodding along politely and pushing his food around on his plate before taking a bite every now and then.

“...and I told him about the budget to redecorate-”

“That’s right,” Bohn interrupts her. He finally turns his attention to his husband, purses his lips, and squints his eyes. “Don’t touch my room,” he says firmly.

Duen drops his fork. “Really?” he asks. “You want to keep your bedroom decorated the way that it is?”

“Yes. Don’t touch it,” Bohn grits.

Duen purses his lips. “Alright,” he says and mutters something under his breath. Bohn ignores him and turns his attention back to his dinner.

Nanny Fang continues to ramble on as she eats. “Oh, and your wedding presents have all been placed in the reception hall. Take the time tonight to open them, and be sure to write down who sent what. Duen, I'll help you write and send the thank you cards.”

So after dinner that’s exactly what they do. Nanny Fang helps the newlyweds move all of the gifts into the sitting room before she returns to the kitchen to clean up dinner.

Bohn looks around the sitting room as he sits down on a very uncomfortable couch. There are many, gorgeous, expensive, antique paintings, knick-knacks, and furniture. The room is an excessive, careless, and tacky display of wealth. Bohn has to admit that he’s glad Duen is willing to redecorate.

Duen sits down next to him on the couch holding a pad of paper and a ballpoint pen.

Bohn thinks for a moment before he says,“Give those to me. I’ll keep a record, and you can open everything.”

Duen hands him the notepad with a pleased smile. Bohn starts to smile back before he remembers himself and he clears his throat.

“Let’s get started,” he says gruffly and clicks the pen thrice.

As he expected, many of the gifts are valuable knick-knacks that could easily be placed in the already crowded sitting room and blend right in.

Although, Bohn reluctantly admits to himself, some of them are nice, and he catches Duen admiring several antique vases as well. However, the rest will likely either end up in storage or be sent back to decorate the main manor with wealth and prestige.

“Oh!” Duen exclaims when he comes across a small package. “This one is from my cousin! He wasn’t able to attend the wedding because he’s studying abroad, but he told me that his gift will make up for it.”

Duen opens the box eagerly and gasps when he sees what’s inside. He gingerly lifts out a knife set and Bohn’s mouth goes dry.

“K-knives?” he stutters and clenches the pen.

“This is a professional set of knives,” Duen muses as he examines the different knives in the set. “This is a high quality set of knives, many renowned professional chefs use this brand of kitchenware and knives.”

“Oh, kitchen knives,” Bohn breathes out, relieved.

Duen glances at him from the side, a small smile graces his lips. “Did you think that I would use them on you?”

Bohn recoils for a moment before he sits up, flustered. “No, that’s not-”

Duen interrupts him with a fit of giggles and Bohn finds himself entranced. He thought he understood the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ but as he listens to his husband’s laugh he thinks that maybe he never truly understood it until that moment.

Bohn blushes as Duen continues to laugh. “I’m sorry,” the other man says as he catches his breath. There are tears in his eyes from laughing so hard. “But you looked so scared and I just-”

“Let’s move on,” Bohn interrupts him. He's flustered and he knows that his cheeks are slightly pink from blushing.

“Let’s!” Duen agrees cheerfully. His wide smile sends a whirl of butterflies through Bohn’s stomach, and the smile that he previously held back finds its way onto his face. Maybe it’s his imagination, but Duen’s smile seems to grow when he sees Bohn’s.

They continue to unwrap gifts. They’ve finished opening most of the gifts from business and family acquaintances and are now opening the gifts from close family and friends. These gifts are more personal and more exciting to open.

Bohn watches as his husband grows more delighted with every new gift he opens from a different family member.

“Look at this china!” he gushes as he holds up a stack of plates for Bohn to see.

“Careful,” Bohn admonishes. He looks at the pattern on the plates. There’s a simple rose pattern around the border, done in the same blue and white style as Ming vases. “It’s pretty,” he remarks, his pleasure with the pattern evident in his voice.

“Very pretty!” Duen agrees enthusiastically as he puts the plates away. “What should we do with all of our wedding gifts?”

Bohn freezes at his husband’s words. The gifts from their wedding which was arranged by their fathers. For a moment, he had forgotten the circumstances of their relationship and allowed himself to enjoy Duen’s company and get carried away by his husband’s smile and joy.

He stands up abruptly. “I’ll leave that up to you,” he says in a flat voice. He quickly retreats from the sitting room and rushes up the stairs.

How could he have let himself get so carried away? Bohn breathes in a deep breath and slowly exhales as he paces around his bedroom.

Boss should have Duen’s profile soon, and eventually the history behind their marriage contract. Until then he needs to be closely guarded around his husband.


After Duen showers, changes into his pajamas, and brushes his teeth, he sits in his bed with the iPad and thinks.

The set up of the manor, Bohn’s closed off nature, and the fact that the only two full time staff are people Bohn’s known and trusted for a long time tell Duen that his husband is a very private person. This helps Duen decide a couple of things.

First, he shouldn’t hire any full time staff. There are many professional companies he can hire to clean the manor on a scheduled basis, and many landscaping companies that can provide King help when he needs it. He can work around Bohn's work schedule, if need be, so his husband doesn't have to acknowledge that there are other people in the house.

Second, his husband… well, it may take a lot of patience and persistence to get his husband to open up to him, but Duen is sure that he can do it. When they opened their wedding presents together, Bohn smiled at him and was warm to him. Even though the evening had ended on a colder note, Duen is certain that he can grow their relationship.

Finally, he’s going to be rather busy in the next few weeks with redecorating, organizing their wedding gifts, and sending out thank you letters. He’s not entirely unhappy with this arrangement, but he also hopes that he can find the time to get a job. Even though Duen agreed to act as the 'wife' in the marriage, he thinks that he'll be able to balance a job and managing the house once he gets settled into married life. He hopes that he'll be able to put his college degree to work.

He sighs and turns his attention back to the tablet. Duen researches several cleaning and landscaping companies before he turns off the tablet and goes to sleep.

Chapter Text

Bohn seems to avoid Duen for the next few days, but Duen doesn't mind since he is busy reaching out to cleaning and landscaping companies and reviewing the finances. Nanny Fang also keeps him company. They'll walk around the garden together, or enjoy a cup of tea with King, cook a meal together, or go to the market. Duen's grateful that Nanny Fang and King are so friendly and kind to him, but he still feels lonely. After all, Nanny Fang and King are new acquaintances and they aren't at the point in their relationship with each other where Duen can fully open up to them. He doesn't want to tell them that he's worried about his marriage, especially since the two are close to Bohn.

It's awkward at meals, too. Bohn hasn't joined them since the first night, King doesn't join them either, so it's only Duen and Nanny Fang. It's better than eating alone, but after spending so much of the day together, they don't have a lot to talk about.

Luckily, Ram, his bodyguard and childhood friend, returns from his trip abroad. Duen surprises him at the airport and greets him with an enthusiastic hug. Ram pulls back and regards him with a raised eyebrow and a slight frown.

"I've missed you," Duen tells him.

Ram smirks at him and starts to walk away, but Duen quickly catches his arm. "Ram," he pouts, "I'm sorry I was upset with you before you left. I know it's not your fault that you weren't able to come to my wedding. You had to visit your grandparents and this trip was planned before my marriage was even arranged."

Ram looks towards him with wide eyes and raised eyebrows.

"I'm sorry," Duen says again. He puts his head on Ram's shoulder and looks up at him with wide eyes. "Forgive me, please? Please, please, please?"

Ram smiles, rolls his eyes, and pushes Duen's head off his shoulder. He looks at Duen and nods. "I'm sorry, too, that I had to miss your wedding. Has everything been going okay? Is your husband treating you right?"

Duen glances at Bank, who drove him, before he looks back to the bodyguard. "I'll tell you later," he says softly. At a louder volume he says, "Everything's been wonderful! Everyone has been so nice to me, and I think you'll really like the house."

When they arrive at the manor, Duen quickly shows Ram around and introduces him to Nanny Fang before he brings his friend to his bedroom and sits him down on the bed. Ram sits back on his hands and looks up at him expectantly. Duen bites the inside of his cheek as he sits down next to him.

"So how are you grandparents?" Duen asks Ram.

Ram tilts his head and looks at him. "They're fine," he says slowly. "How is your husband?" he asks pointedly.

“Well... He's alright, I guess. I just..." Duen sighs. "I may need your help with my husband"

Ram sits up straight, alert. “Is he treating you poorly?"

“No, no, it’s not that,” Duen waves his hands, dismissing the idea immediately. “Well…” he thinks for a moment. “It’s not that he’s treating me poorly, but I can’t say that he’s treating me well… I just haven’t seen him a lot. I know he’s busy but…” Duen sighs. “I don’t want us to be strangers, but he’s not giving me the chance to get to know him. He also doesn't seem interested in getting to know me.” He looks at Ram and pouts. “Tell me, what should I do?”

Ram tilts his head and considers his question. “I don’t have much experience in this area either,” he eventually says.

Duen sighs and flops back on his bed. Ram slowly lies down next to him.

“How do I get closer to him?” Duen mutters as he exhales. He turns his head and looks at his friend. "Should I try to pursue him? How can I get his attention when he doesn't want to talk to me?"

“Flowers,” Ram says after several minutes of silence.

“Flowers?” Duen sits up and looks down at Ram, who nods. “I can give him flowers…” Duen muses. He perks up. “Maybe I can get his attention by giving him flowers. It doesn't require us to talk, but I'll still be able to interact with him. It's a classic way of pursuing someone!” He thinks for a moment, "Should I ask P'King for help?"

"P'King?"

"He's the gardener. He's really nice, and close with Bohn, too. Let's go ask him if he thinks that this is a good idea and ask him if he's willing to help."

“Now?” Ram sits up slightly.

“Yes!” Duen pulls him up from the bed. “You have to meet P’King anyway, let’s go now!”

Duen brings Ram out to the garden to look for the gardener, and they find him moving boxes out of the greenhouse.

"Hello, P'King!" Duen greets.

"Hello, Nong Duen!" King greets as he puts down a box. He glances between the two friends. "Who is this?"

"Oh! P'King, this is Ram, my bodyguard and best friend. Ram, this is P'King, the gardener."

"Hello, Nong Ram," King greets the bodyguard politely, and Ram silently returns the greeting.

King's eyes linger on Ram before he turns his attention to Duen. “Do you need me for something? Should we go to my cottage?”

“We don't need to go to your cottage, P'King. I don't want to take up a lot of your time. I just wanted to ask you about a few things..." Duen scratches the back of his head. "Well, I want to give Bohn flowers."

King raises an eyebrow. “You want to give Bohn flowers?”

Duen nods eagerly. “I do! I want to find a way to open his heart to me, and I was wondering if you think that giving him flowers would help me do that.”

King considers this. “I don’t know if Bohn will be won over with one bouquet of flowers, but I like your intention. I think that if you’re genuine, you should show him your persistence rather than your sentiment.”

“Persistence?” Duen frowns. “So what should I do instead?” He looks to Ram for an answer.

“Give him a flower everyday,” Ram suggests softly, turning his head towards Duen.

King snaps his fingers, "That's a good idea!" he exclaims. His eyes catch hold of the dream catcher tattoo on the bodyguard's neck, and they linger there for a moment before he clears his throat and looks down.

"P'King, can I ask you to help me give Bohn a flower everyday?" Duen asks, oblivious to the gardener's fascination with his friend.

“Huh? Oh, of course! Bohn likes roses, so I'll swing by the main house everyday with a freshly cut one for you to give to him.”

"Oh, I don't want to trouble you any more than I already am, P'King. I can come retrieve the rose myself."

The gardener bites his lip and glances at Ram. "Or you could send Ram."

Duen raises his eyebrows. "Ram?" He glances between his bodyguard and the gardener before turning his full attention to his friend. “Are you willing, Ram?” he asks. Ram pats his shoulder and nods, and Duen beams in response.

“If you smile at your husband like that, and you’ll surely win his heart,” King remarks.

Duen turns his attention back to the gardener. “Thank you so much, P’King. Oh, and I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’ll start joining us for dinner.”

King glances at Ram briefly. “Uh… I guess I’ll join you all every now and then.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes, I’ll join you all tonight.”

“Wonderful! We’ll see you later, P’King,” Duen says cheerfully. He waves goodbye and grabs Ram’s hand as they walk back to the main house.

“That was the gardener?” Ram asks Duen quietly as they walk back across the pond and through the garden.

“Yes, you can just call him P’King.”

“I expected him to be older,” Ram admits.

“I did too. He’s actually very close with Bohn, they attended university together.”

Ram nods and Duen looks at him with bright eyes.

“You don’t usually say this much about people you’ve just met,” Duen teases. “Could it be…?”

Ram glares at him, but Duen only giggles. “And since you’re willing to help me you’ll see him everyday!” he sing-songs.

The bodyguard only shakes his head and rolls his eyes.


Bohn is at his office in S.G’s main building when his phone rings.

“Boss?” he answers the phone.

“Hey, Bohn! I’ve just sent you the profiles on Duen and his family. Ah… as for the contract…”

“Have you found anything?”

“I couldn't find a lot. I was able to get the security footage from the hotel where it was signed.”

“Oh?”

Bohn hears Boss sigh. “Duen wasn’t there, but that doesn’t confirm anything that you want to know.”

“Will you send it to me anyway?”

“Of course. And I’ll keep looking.”

“Thank you, Boss.”

“Of course! And thank you for helping me buy that painting.”

Bohn holds back a groan. He nearly forgot about the auction. “Yes, of course,” he says after a beat. “Will you be back to pick it up in person?”

Boss hums. “Can’t say. We’re considering a trip to Austria.”

“Austria!” Bohn exclaims. He massages his temple. “I’ll just send it to the usual place, then.”

“That works for me. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay, give Mek my regards.”

“Will do. Bye bye.”

“Bye bye.”

Bohn hangs up the phone and sighs. The auction is an annual high profile fundraiser put on by one of the Sirikarkul's elite business acquaintances, and the media is always there to cover the pieces that are sold and give good press to the family. Since it's so soon after their wedding, Bohn will have to bring Duen with him and put on a show for the media. He groans and runs his hand down his face—he hates dealing with the press.

He sighs, sits back down at his desk, and opens his email. Boss sent him an email containing a PDF for each member of Duen’s immediate family, and a follow up email containing the security footage from the hotel.

Bohn watches the security footage first. It's just as Boss said—Duen wasn’t there that night, but Bohn still has no idea if Duen is aware of their marriage contract, or even played a role in creating it.

He sighs, downloads the PDFs and begins to scan through them. He only learns a few new things. First, his husband is a medical doctor, recently graduated and only one year younger than him. Second, Duen’s younger sister, Daonua, is entering her last year of high school. She’s planning to enroll in the same university Bohn attended to study business and inherit Rattananumchok Enterprises. Finally, Duen’s family is in deeper trouble than Bohn realized. The money from the marriage contract only covers the gambling debt. R.E is slowly losing money, and Bohn’s sure his father was well aware of this when he negotiated the contract and used it to his advantage.

Bohn leans back in his chair and crosses his arms. He wants to believe that Duen is unaware of the contract, but he can’t be too sure. Some people go to extraordinary lengths to protect their family.

Still, who would give themselves over to marriage with such a massive power imbalance?

He closes the document and turns his attention back to work. He’ll take it upon himself to figure out his husband.

Chapter Text

Bohn doesn’t expect Duen to be so excited about the auction, but his husband cheerfully agrees to accompany him, dresses up, and sits forward, with his leg bouncing, for the entire car ride there.

When they arrive, Bohn has him hold onto his arm as they enter the building. Almost immediately the media swarms around them, the lights from their camera flash, and a thousand questions are thrown in the couple’s direction. Duen’s bodyguard, Ram, helps them make their way through the crowd. Bohn doesn’t get along with Ram—the bodyguard seems to dislike him a great deal and Bohn is a little intimidated by him—but at this moment he’s grateful for the man’s presence.

As they sit down in their reserved seats, Duen whispers to him, “I didn’t know that the auction would be such a big deal.”

“It normally isn’t,” Bohn whispers back bitterly. “There’s always press coverage, but never this much.”

“Oh?” Duen looks around. “I wonder what’s causing all of the commotion. There must be some really valuable pieces being auctioned off today.”

“There are.” Bohn admits and bites the inside of his cheek before he can say anything else. Duen doesn’t seem to realize that the excessive media presence is likely due to their presence.

The auction begins and there are several items sold before the painting that Bohn is after is up for bid. The starting price is five million baht. He ends up in a fierce competition with an elderly gentleman and pays nearly triple the starting price for the painting, but at least he got it and Boss will be happy.

“Do you really like that painting?” Duen asks him after he settles back into his seat.

“Not especially. It’s for a friend.”

Duen blinks. “A friend?” he asks hesitantly.

“He’s abroad right now, and I owe him a favor,” Bohn explains.

“Oh! Mek and Boss?” Duen asks, surprising Bohn.

He turns to look at Duen. “How did you know?”

“P’King showed me a photo of the four of you from college and said that they are abroad right now,” Duen explains.

“Oh I see.” Bohn blushes. He feels a little embarrassed that Duen saw a photo of him from his college days, but he quickly shakes himself out of it. He shouldn’t care what Duen thinks.

The rest of the auction passes by slowly now that he’s done what he came to do. Duen seems to maintain interest throughout the whole event and awes and applauds with the crowd every time a new piece is revealed. He shows particular interest in a golden brooch in the shape of three small roses, each holding a small ruby in its center.

Bohn doesn’t let himself think until after he’s raised his sign to bid on the item. Luckily, after witnessing the bidding battle he was previously engaged in, no one seems willing to offer a second bid. He buys the brooch for seven thousand Baht.

At the end of the auction, Bohn goes up to retrieve the items he bought. He asks two of the auction’s staff to transport the painting to his car. As for the brooch, he pulls Duen aside and pins it to the lapel of his jacket.

“For me?” Duen asks in wonder as he stares down at the shiny new adornment. His fingers come up to gently touch it, as if he can’t believe it’s real.

“For you,” Bohn says softly.

Duen’s responding smile is blindingly sweet, and Bohn allows himself to bask in it for a moment before he takes Duen’s hand and leads them out of the auction room.

Duen’s bodyguard meets them outside and escorts them to the car. Bohn helps Duen in, closes the door, and then gets in himself on the other side. Once they’re away from the site of the auction, and the media, Bohn closes his eyes and ignores his husband’s attempts at conversation—their sweet moment is over. Eventually, Duen gives up and talks quietly with Ram for the rest of the car ride home.

When they get back to the manor, Bohn lets Ram help Duen out of the car and immediately retreats into his office.

They shouldn’t make too many public appearances, he decides. It’s hard to be sweet with Duen and then return to being cold with him once they’ve gone home.


Duen wakes up the morning after the auction to find that his husband has already left for work. He sighs and examines the brooch, which is still pinned to his jacket. He can’t understand the hot and cold nature of his husband.

At breakfast, he scrolls through his phone. His eyes catch sight of an article about yesterday's auction and he clicks on it.

Rather than the items sold at the auction, or the charity the auction was held for, the article is about him and Bohn.

Duen skims through the article. The story focuses on the brooch Bohn gifted him, and there’s a picture of him pinning it to his jacket. The article exaggerates the relationship between the husbands and identifies them as, 'The Couple of the Year.' It stings a little to read about their made up love, but Duen can understand how the story was created after examining the picture once more.

The way they look at each other in the photo is like something from an idol drama. Something like when the female lead falls and the male lead catches her, and they spin around in slow motion for several different shots gazing into each other’s eyes. There's clear affection in Bohn's eyes, and explicit surprise and joy on Duen's face. If only their relationship could be like that at home.

Duen sighs, saves the photo, and closes out of the article. It’s only been so long since they’ve met and become husbands—he should be patient and eventually Bohn will open up to him.

In the afternoon, Ram approaches him, carrying a rose.

“This is for me to give to Bohn?” Duen asks as he accepts the flower.

“Yes.”

Duen smells it and basks in its sweet scent.

“P’King apologizes for taking so long,” Ram says formally. "It took a while for the roses to blossom."

“That’s no problem,” Duen says mindlessly. He smiles mischievously at Ram. “How is P’King?”

“He’s fine,” Ram says stiffly, though his cheeks are slightly pink.

“Just fine? Wasn’t he happy to see you?”

Ram glares at him.

“Oh that’s right,” Duen continues, “You’re the one who’s happy to see him.”

Ram’s eyes widen and he swats at Duen’s arm, which causes him to giggle. “I’ll stop teasing,” he promises. He looks down at the flower in his hand and sighs.

“When should I give Bohn the rose?” Duen asks Ram, but he only shrugs.

“I don’t know either,” Duen admits sadly. “I’ve never given another person flowers before, well besides Daonua.”

“When he gets home?” Ram suggests.

Duen nods. “I’ll do it then,” he says confidently, but his stomach churns at the thought.

That evening, he stands by the door, holding the rose behind his back and waiting for Bohn to come home. When Bohn finally does walk through the grand double doors, he doesn’t even look Duen's way as he changes his shoes and starts to walk across the reception hall.

Biting his lip, Duen decides to follow him and catches him just before they reach the staircase.

“This is for you,” he says and presents the flower to his husband.

Bohn glances at the flower briefly. “No, thank you.”

“I want to give it to you,” Duen tries again.

“There’s no need,” Bohn brushes him aside and begins to climb up the staircase on the left. Duen rushes up the staircase on the right and meets him at the top.

“I insist,” he says firmly and pushes the rose into Bohn’s hand. His husband’s icy stare causes him to retreat slightly. “Please don’t refuse,” he says softly and looks down.

He hears his husband sigh and walk away. When his husband rounds the corner to disappear into his office, Duen’s knees give out and he grasps at the railing to steady himself.

Will it be this hard everyday? he wonders. He shakes his head. Even if it’s hard, he’ll still give Bohn the rose. He’s determined to win over his husband.

Chapter Text

Bohn slowly becomes more receptive to the flowers. At least, he no longer attempts to refuse them or ignore Duen, but instead he quickly accepts the rose before he rushes away from him. Duen considers this to be progress and finds that he wants to try another method to get his husband to open up to him—he wants to cook a meal for him.

One day, while he and Nanny Fang are eating lunch together, he asks her if he can.

“Really? You want to cook dinner tonight?” she asks, surprised.

“I really do,” Duen enthuses. “I’ll make whatever you already had planned and you can take the night off.”

“Well that’s certainly fine by me,” she smiles. “I was planning to make stir fried pork and basil tonight, are you still up for it?”

“I am!”

She chuckles. “I’ll tell you something, too," her voice drops to a stage whisper, "don’t make Bohn’s too spicy. He always insists that he doesn’t mind, but truthfully he can’t handle anything too intense.”

“Really?”

The elderly woman shrugs. “You can either put less chili in, or set a portion aside for him before you add it,” she advises.

“Thank you, Nanny Fang.”

“Thank you for the night off. I look forward to trying your cooking.”

After lunch, Duen takes the time to go through the pantry in the kitchen and in the basement. He has a pretty good idea of what they have in stock, but he wants to double check. They have the ingredients for the pork and basil stir fry, but they’re missing a few ingredients for what he’d like to make for dessert, so he decides to drive to the local market to buy them.

It’s been awhile since he’s left the house, and even longer since he’s driven his car. The small red hatchback had been sitting in the garage for a long time. He hasn't had to use it since he always goes out with Nanny Fang, and she always asked Bank to drive them.

He checks the mirrors, queues up his music, and he's just about to leave when Ram knocks on his window.

Duen rolls down the window and pouts at the pointed look Ram gives him.

“I can go by myself,” he whines petulantly, but Ram only shakes his head. “Fine, but I’m driving.”

Ram accepts this and gets into the passenger seat.

While they're at the market, he realizes that he forgot to grab something, so he turns around to go back to get it and bumps into a petite woman who's holding an empty basket.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the woman says, placing her arm on his shoulder.

Ram removes her hand from his shoulder and steps forward to put himself between Duen and the woman.

“Is he your partner?” she asks Duen.

“My friend,” Duen corrects.

“Friend?” she tilts her head.

“Friend and bodyguard,” Duen admits awkwardly after a beat.

“Oh, I see…” she trails off and thinks for a moment. She looks him over. “Oh! You’re the one who just married Bohn Sirikarnkul! Congratulations on your marriage,” she says earnestly.

Duen blushes. “Um… thank you.”

“What are you out at the market for?” she asks. “Don’t you have people to do your shopping for you?”

“I just… needed to buy some things.” Duen shifts on his feet. He feels a little uncomfortable that the woman is asking so many questions.

“Are you making something for your husband? That’s very sweet.”

“I am, so if you don’t mind, um, I’ll get back to my shopping,” Duen excuses himself politely. He takes Ram’s arm and rushes away from the woman.

“Nosy,” Ram mutters under his breath.

“She certainly was,” Duen whispers back.

They finish buying what they need, go back to the manor, and forget about the nosy woman.

Duen prepares the pork and basil stir fry and also takes the time to make sticky black rice with mango for dessert using the ingredients he bought at the market.

Nanny Fang helps him set the table and calls Bohn down for dinner. They eat in silence until Nanny Fang asks, “How do you like the food, Bohn?”

Bohn hums around his fork. “It’s really good,” he says through a full mouth.

Duen smiles slightly, happy to know that Bohn enjoys his food.

“Then you have to know that Duen cooked tonight!” Nanny Fang exclaims.

Bohn drops his fork and looks over at Duen, who’s blushing. He clears his throat and picks up his fork. A frown adorns his face.

“There’s no need for you to cook,” he mumbles.

“It’s no bother,” Duen reassures him.

“You don’t have to cook,” Bohn says a bit louder.

“I enjoy doing it.”

Nanny Fang tilts her head and looks at Bohn confused. “Don’t you like the food?”

Bohn sighs and places his fork down loudly onto the table. “That’s not important.” He stands up, pushes in his chair, and leaves the table.

Nanny Fang and Duen exchange glances.

“He must have had a bad day,” Nanny Fang mumbles as she pushes around the rice with her fork. She stares down at her plate. “Don’t mind him.”

“A bad day,” Duen echoes numbly. He lets out a long breath. Why would Bohn be upset that he cooked dinner? He can’t think of any reason. Maybe it's like Nanny Fang said—maybe Bohn really did have a bad day.

Duen decides that he’ll bring him dessert and carries a bowl of black sticky rice and mango up to Bohn’s office. He knocks gently and opens the door when he hears a gruff, “Come in.”

His husband doesn’t look at him as he asks, “Do you need something?”

“I also made dessert and, um, I want you to try it.” Duen offers the bowl to him with a hesitant smile.

Bohn slams the pen he’s holding down on the desk and Duen flinches.

“Why do you insist on cooking?” he asks angrily.

“I like to cook! And I just wanted to do something nice for you!”

“You know what would be nice?” Bohn snarls at him. He turns his computer monitor so Duen can see the screen. “If you didn’t have random interviews with reporters in the grocery store!”

“What?” Duen puts the bowls down on Bohn’s desk and looks closely at the monitor. “Thailand’s cutest new couple,” he reads the headline aloud. There’s a picture of him examining the condensed milk. “I don’t understand,” he says. “I didn’t interview with anyone.”

“They quoted you!”

Duen skims through the article then scrolls back to the top. He notices the profile picture of the author. “Oh!” he exclaims as he realizes what happened. “I didn’t know she was a reporter, I thought she was just… nosy.”

Bohn scoffs. “You just thought she was nosy?” he repeats in disbelief.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Duen protests. “It’s not like the article says anything bad!”

“That’s not the point!” Bohn yells. “I don’t want my private life in the tabloids!”

Duen scowls at him, suddenly very pissed off. “How am I a part of your private life? You hardly talk to me!” He forces the spoon he brought up for the rice into Bohn's hand. "Enjoy your dessert," he says sweetly, although his tone is forced. He turns on his heel and leaves the room calmly with his head held high.

“Close the door behind you!” he hears Bohn call after him.

“No!”

When he's outside of Bohn's office, he lets go of his composure and storms down the hallway towards his room. He feels very satisfied when he hears Bohn curse and the door to his office slam shut behind him.

The nerve of him! Duen thinks. He knows that his husband is a private person, but it’s not like the article said anything bad about him. It hardly even mentioned his name! And Duen honestly didn’t know that the woman from the grocery store was a reporter!

He flops back onto his bed and groans. He’s determined to make this marriage work, but it seems like he’ll have to learn about his husband through trial and error.

Duen hears a soft knock at the door and hope climbs in his chest—maybe Bohn has come to apologize. He opens the door and his face falls when he sees Ram on the other side.

Ram tilts his head and raises his eyebrow. “He didn’t like the dessert?”

Duen sighs and pulls Ram into his bedroom to sit down on the bed.

“Did you know that woman we talked to today in the grocery store was a reporter? There’s a whole article now about how I cook dinner for Bohn!”

Ram shakes his head. “That’s what he was upset about?”

Duen nods miserably. “He’s such a weird person!” he complains. “Sometimes..." he trails off and he sighs. "Not often, but sometimes, he can be very sweet to me... though, most of the time he's a complete asshole!”

Ram startles at Duen’s language since he doesn’t curse often. “So what will you do now?”

Duen shrugs helplessly. “What can I do? We’ve committed our lives to each other and I want this marriage to work. I’ll just have to be more careful next time I go out.”

Ram nods and winces. “I’ll do better, too.”

“It’s not your fault,” Duen pats his shoulder consolingly. “Neither of us are used to receiving a lot of media attention." He sighs and pushes his hand through his hair. "You know, it's not like I don't understand where he's coming from—I also don't like the media attention." He thinks for a minute before he continues to speak, "And I didn't think that my face would be so easily recognized, but that reporter know exactly who I was."

"It is a little weird," Ram agrees.

"Whatever," Duen shrugs it off.

"Maybe we should start wearing a mask," Ram suggests.

"Sure! We live in the city, plenty of people wear masks because they are sensitive to the pollution or they have a cold. It shouldn't cause us to stand out a lot and hopefully then people won't recognize us as easily."

Duen smiles at Ram, grateful for his help and his friendship. He really wants to make an effort to adjust to Bohn, and he's thankful to have Ram's support. He just hopes that Bohn will also make an effort to adjust to him.

Chapter Text

About a month into their marriage, Bohn and Duen are invited to the main Sirikarunkul manor to have dinner with their in-laws. Really, they should have each gone to visit them each separately and much earlier, but both families are busy, so Bohn's father found a date when everyone was available and arranged for one large gathering.

Just the two of them go, dressed in formal outfits, and Duen awkwardly holds onto Bohn's arm as they enter the mansion. They're not greeted by Bohn's parents, but instead one of the staff members escorts them to the dining room where they find everyone else waiting for them.

The atmosphere is stiff and awkward. Bohn hadn’t realized how comfortable he felt eating with Duen, Nanny Fang, Ram, and King, when he joined them. Eating with his parents and in-laws, the people who are considered his family, is such a formal and uncomfortable occasion. Still, the food is enjoyable and Duen’s sunny attitude as he catches up with his sister helps Bohn to relax slightly.

Towards the end of the meal, his father stands up.

“Let’s toast to the newly weds, and to the coming together of our two families.” He raises his glass and takes a drink, prompting everyone to do the same. “I also have an announcement to make,” his father continues. “I will soon be announcing my candidacy for House Representative.”

“Dad!” Bohn drops his fork and it clatters onto his plate. “You’re running for House Representative?”

“There’s no need to act so shocked,” his father scolds. “It’s been a long time coming. Which reminds me, Bohn, I’ll need to speak with you after dinner in my office.”

Bohn agrees numbly and turns his attention back to the food, though his plate is nearly empty. His father’s never shown much interest in politics before, has this really been a long time coming?

After dinner, Duen and the rest of their family retire to the parlor while Bohn follows his father to his office.

“Bohn,” his father says as he sits down at his desk. “Now that I’m running for House Representative, I’ll need some help from you.”

Bohn exhales and clasps his hands. “I’m prepared to take on more work for the company while you’re campaigning.”

His father dismisses him with a wave of his hand. “That’s not where I’m going with this.”

“It’s not? Then what do you need from me? I… I don’t know the first thing about politics, I can’t help you with your campaign.”

“It’s not that either.” His father clasps his hands together, places them on the desk, and leans forward. “I need you and Duen to increase your publicity.”

“Huh?”

“You and your husband need to go out more, engage with the media, don’t cause any scandals.”

“What for?”

His father leans back in his chair. “Part of the reason I accepted this marriage alliance with the Rattananumchok’s oldest son is because I was planning to run for office,” he admits. “More and more ‘boys love’ series are being produced by mainstream companies, there is clearly a growing market for that sort of show,” he grimaces. “It shows that the LGBTQ+ community has become more prominent in recent years, both worldwide and in Thailand. Furthermore, there is an increase in political participation from voters aged 18 to 29, and our polls show that voters in that age range are generally in favor of candidates who support the community.”

Bohn finds himself growing more and more outraged with every word his father speaks and he clenches his fists. So many angry words rest on the tip of his tongue, but he can’t find the right way to say them without losing his temper.

“The articles about your wedding benefited the Sirikarnkul Group, as well as the ones about the auction,” his father continues, “I thought that I had to test my theory once more, so I had a reporter tail your husband and ‘bump into him’ at the grocery store. Sure enough I was right—people loved that article about Duen cooking for you!” He smiles stiffly at him. “Keep doing things like that and we won’t have a problem.”

A moment of silence passes before Bohn bursts out, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Bohn!”

“No, shut the fuck up!” Bohn slams his fists down onto his father’s desk before he lets out a long exhale and he begins to pace around the room. “After all these years I thought that you had finally accepted me. I was overjoyed when you arranged this marriage for me because I thought that you finally understood me. And now I find out that you’re just using me for political gain?”

“Your marriage was my decision to make,” his father states calmly. “Who you marry should benefit the Sirikarnkul Group. If I have to marry you off to a man to increase my chances at winning the election, then I will.”

Bohn’s hollow laughter echoes through the room. It’s an ugly sound that matches the feeling inside his heart. “I guess I’m being irrational then. Forgive me,” he says sarcastically.

He leaves the room, tempted to slam the door behind him. Then he remembers the way Duen stormed off the other night, angrily leaving without closing the door, and he does the same, knowing how much it will frustrate his father.

He takes a deep breath to calm down and makes his way to the parlor. He comes up behind his husband and rests his hands on Duen’s shoulders, causing him to jump.

“Aunty, Uncle,” he addresses his in-laws formally with a forced smile. “Duen and I will be leaving now. We’ll come visit you at your home soon.”

Duen looks up at Bohn, curious as to why they have to leave so soon. Bohn only shakes his head, dismissing the question in his eyes.

While his husband hugs his family goodbye, he stiffly offers his parting words to his step-mother.

“Until next time,” he says with an awkward touch to her shoulder. She smiles at him, leaving him cold. Her smile never reaches her eyes, is never genuine. He looks over at his husband and catches his eye. A flood of warmth rushes through him from the smile his husband gives him when their eyes connect.

In the car, Duen asks him, “Is everything alright?”

“Everything’s alright.”

“Are you sure?” his husband presses.

Bohn nods. “Just an argument with my father. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh.”

They arrive back home, and Bohn immediately goes up to his office. He paces around the room, holding his phone, and calms his temper before he calls Boss.

“Do you need another favor?” Boss whines as a greeting.

“I just… want to talk.”

“To talk?”

“Yes… I need to talk and you’re the only person I know who’s in a healthy romantic relationship.”

“Oh, so you need my relationship expertise!” Boss sounds pleased and Bohn rolls his eyes. “Let me get my hubby.”

Bohn pulls his phone away from his ear as Boss shouts for Mek. He smiles. He really misses Boss and Mek.

“Okay, you’re on speaker,” Boss informs him. “Tell your idol couple about your problems.”

Bohn explains the conversation he had that evening with his father.

“That’s great!” Boss exclaims when he finishes.

“What?” Bohn didn't expect this reaction.

“You’re father’s using you for his own gain. Now you and Duen are in a similar situation! Your father is exploiting the both of you for his own greedy gains.”

“I don’t think it’s the same, Wifey,” Mek says.

“No?”

“This marriage advantages Bohn’s father way more than it does anyone else involved. Sure, now Duen and Bohn are both being used by him for his own gain, but they’re still in a relationship with a massive power imbalance. If they stay married, Bohn’s father keeps his influence in Rattananumchok Enterprises and potentially gains political office. If they divorce, Duen’s family owns the Sirikarnkul Group 75 million Baht,” Mek explains. “Regardless of whether or not he knows about the contract, Duen and his family are the ones being exploited the most. If he doesn’t know about the contract, then he’ll be really hurt when he finds out. If he does know… well then it’s up to Bohn to decide how he feels.”

Bohn sighs. “I’ll admit, I was put off at first by the idea that he knows about the contract and still consented to the marriage. Now… I don’t know. Duen has… he’s put in so much effort to make this marriage work, and I’ve only been pushing him away. He’s stubborn, and cute, and he leaves me with a warm feeling, and so regardless of whether or not he knows about the contract… I think… I still would like him.” Bohn knows his face is flushed red and he scowls when he hears Mek and Boss cooing at him through the phone.

“You should definitely talk to him about the contract,” Mek encourages.

“No way,” Bohn rejects the idea immediately.

“No, my hubby is right,” Boss says, and Bohn’s never heard him sound so serious. “Communication is important. Mek and I suffered so many years in silence because we thought our feelings were unrequited. We never bothered to tell the other how we felt and almost missed our chance to be together.”

“This is different,” Bohn pushes his hand back through his hair. “I’m not confessing to him... The contract is outrageous! How could I possibly talk to him about it?”

“Communication isn’t easy, Bohn,” Mek reprimands. “But if you talk to him about the contract, and he doesn’t already know about it, then he can figure how he feels, decide what he wants to do about it, and the two of you can work out how to go forward together. You both are victims of your fathers’ arrangements. You can’t decide what’s good for him, and you can’t make the best of your marriage without talking to him about the contract.”

Bohn’s silent. He knows what the couple is saying is right but the idea of talking to Duen about the contract makes him feel sick.

“I’ll think about it,” he lies.

“Take your time,” Boss says cheerfully. “You have the rest of your lives.”

Bohn sighs and covers his eyes. “So what have you guys been up to?” he changes the subject. “Are you still in Austria?”

“Well…” Boss begins.

“Did you go to Austria?”

“We...took a detour to Egypt.”

“And then you will stop by Austria on your way back to Thailand?” Bohn asks hopefully.

“Well…”

“We might go to Puerto Rico,” Mek answers.

Bohn huffs out a laugh. “I’m not going to see you again in this lifetime, am I?”

“We’ll come back soon,” Boss promises.

“You better,” Bohn grumbles.

They talk for a little while longer, catching up, before they say goodnight and hang up the phone.

Bohn sits down, leans back in his chair, and contemplates Boss and Mek’s advice. He can’t fathom telling Duen about the contract or his father’s plan to use them for political gain. Duen would be the one most hurt by knowing the nature of their marriage arrangement—not only is his family being taken advantage of, but his own father sold him into the marriage to absolve his gambling debt, and now he is being used for political gain.

No. He absolutely cannot tell Duen about the contract. He’ll figure out something else.

Chapter Text

Bohn is very busy at work this week. He leaves early and comes back late. He eats every meal out and only walks from his bedroom, down the main staircase, across the reception hall, and out the door. While Duen is slightly concerned that his husband might be avoiding him, he's also excited because he's able to redecorate without Bohn noticing.

“Do you think he’ll like it?” he asks Ram.

They’re on the third floor. Ram is taking advantage of the punching bag in the home gym and Duen is arranging boxes of things against the wall to be moved into storage. He asked Nanny Fang to help him get the key so he can do it himself, but she told him that one of the staff from the main manor will come over to handle it.

“It’s not like you could make the house look worse,” Ram huffs out between punches.

“That’s true…” he thinks for a moment. “But I want him to like the redecorations, not just… I don’t know, think that they’re acceptable.”

“Huh.” Ram grunts as he continues to work out.

“But really,” Duen continues on, “I feel like if he likes the redecorations then it means he likes me.”

“Uh-huh.”

“But if he doesn’t care for them, then does that mean he doesn’t care for me?”

“Uh-huh.”

Duen frowns and glances over at Ram. The bodyguard is not paying attention and is very focused on the punching bag in front of him.

“Hmmm…” Duen continues to look at Ram out of the side of his eye. He smiles, feeling mischevious. “I think P’King might like the redecorations though.”

Ram swings his fist and misses the bag when Duen drops the gardener's name. “P’King?” he asks and turns his attention to Duen. “P’King?” he repeats.

“What about him?” Duen asks, innocently blinking his eyes.

Ram glares at him. “You’re playing dirty.”

“You weren’t paying attention!” Duen whines.

Ram rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to the punching bag.

“Don’t worry so much,” he says as he begins punching. “See what his reaction is first, and if you’re unhappy with it then you can always redecorate.”

“Redecorate!” Duen is scandalized. He huffs and glares at Ram, but his bodyguard is so engaged with his work out that he’s not paying attention to him.

He sighs and turns his attention back to the boxes. Ram’s right, he shouldn’t worry so much. Besides, Duen’s the one who’s home for most of the day, he should be the one happiest with the way the house is decorated. Who cares what Bohn thinks?

Except he finds that he does care. He really cares about what Bohn thinks of him, and the redecorations to the house are almost like a reflection of his personality. What if Bohn thinks they're boring? Does that mean that he thinks Duen is boring? Or even worse, what if he prefers the manor to how it was before Duen decorated it—no that's impossible. He shakes himself out of it and turns his attention back to the boxes.

The house is finished within a week thanks to the help of Ram, Nanny Fang, and King when he has the time. Duen, eager to show Bohn, decides that he'll ask his husband if he can show him the house that weekend.

Saturday morning, Bohn stumbles down the stairway into the kitchen around noon in his bathrobe and pajama pants while Duen is sitting on the couch in the living room.

He hasn’t done much to this space besides add a few homey touches. There's a new large white shag carpet that covers the cold tile floor in the living room, the formerly grey pillows on the couch have been replaced with muted red ones to add more color, he's placed a few framed photos on the mantle, and draped two soft knitted blankets over the back of the couch. In the kitchen, he’s replaced the plain white china with the set they were gifted for their wedding and he's put a cushioned mat on the floor in front of the sink for Nanny Fang’s comfort.

He looks over the back of the couch to his husband. Bohn’s at the table drinking a cup of coffee. Even after sleeping in, he has dark circles under his eyes and looks exhausted.

“Bohn,” Duen calls softly. His husband looks up at him. “When you have the time, may I show you the house? I’ve, um, finished redecorating.”

“Uh-huh,” Bohn agrees. “Let me shower first.”

“Mhm. Take your time.” Duen turns back around. He can hardly contain his excitement. The thrill sends a tingle down his spine and he shivers. He restrains from clapping his hands and grips the edge of the couch instead.

After all the effort he’s made, Bohn has to like his redecorations, he decides in an attempt to dismiss his nerves. It partially works, but he can’t fully ignore the part of his brain going what if.


Bohn takes his time in the shower. He’s trying to decide how he’ll react to Duen’s decorations.

He knows that his husband’s been working hard to redecorate the house, and he has to admit that he’s grateful. Their manor, besides serving as a commercial property for the past seven years, has also served as a storage facility for every expensive knick knack and painting his family received but had no desire to display in their main manor. He hasn’t helped either since he renovated the living room and shoved several expensive yet tacky items into the sitting room. Therefore, he doesn’t want to hurt Duen’s feelings... but he also can’t let himself be too pleased lest he opens up to Duen. He can be kind and compliment his husband’s hard work but still keep his distance, he decides.

Bohn dresses in sweatpants and a t-shirt. He has reservations about dressing so casually in front of his husband, but after such a long, draining work week, he so desperately needs to dress down and take it easy for a day or two.

Duen’s still sitting on the couch when Bohn comes downstairs. He rests his arms on the back of the couch and leans forward so he can see the side of Duen’s face from the side. His husband is smiling to himself, lost in his own world.

Bohn allows himself to stare for a moment before he breaks the silence. “So?” he says, startling Duen.

“Oh! You scared me!” he scolds and playfully swats at Bohn’s arm.

Bohn smiles for a moment before he remembers himself. He can’t let his guard down. He stands up straight and clears his throat. “You wanted to show me the house?”

“Are you sure you’re up for it today. Don’t you want to rest?”

Duen looks so genuine in his concern and Bohn finds it harder to keep his composure. “Let’s do it now,” he says. “I have the whole weekend to rest, and I won’t be working as much next week.”

“Well,” Duen stands up. “I haven’t done much here.”

Bohn looks around. “No, but what you’ve done is… nice,” he admits. It’s a lot more than nice. The subtle changes have brightened up the room and created a pleasant atmosphere. Duen’s taken the space and added his warmth and it gives Bohn a strange feeling of comfort.

He walks over to the mantle to look at the pictures. There’s a picture of him, King, Mek and Boss from college, several pictures of him and Duen from their wedding with various family members, a picture of Duen and his younger sister, and a picture of Bohn, his aunt, and his cousin.

“Where did you get this?” he asks, his voice tight as he picks up the picture and looks at it closely.

“Nanny Fang,” Duen answers. “She told me that your aunt and your cousin are your favorite people, so I thought-”

“They are,” Bohn interrupts him and places the picture back on the mantle. “I like it.”

He looks back at his husband, who’s staring at him. Bohn can’t read his expression. Duen’s smiling, but it’s not his usual heart melting beam. Instead, only half of his mouth is quirked up slightly and his eyes have a strange but soft glint. He looks… hopeful? Relieved?

Bohn shakes his head when he realizes he’s staring. “Um… should we move on?” he suggests.

“Let’s!” Duen agrees. He take’s Bohn’s arm and leads him towards the sitting room. They step through the doorway and Bohn stops in his tracks.

“This is the sitting room?”

Duen nods. “It looks completely different, right?”

“I didn’t realize it was so big. Or that it had windows?” He doesn’t know why he’s surprised. It’s not as if he doesn’t know the size of his house or how many windows it has, but the sitting room had always been a very dark and very crowded room.

“I didn’t realize either,” Duen admits. “But there were so many paintings that they covered the windows!”

There are now only three paintings hanging up, all of them of landscapes and Bohn’s grateful that he doesn't have generations of ancestors covering the walls anymore. The walls are painted a forest green, and Bohn doesn’t know if Duen kept them their original color or repainted them. Golden drapes cover the windows, and Duen ties them up to let the light in.

Bohn walks around the room and takes in the changes. Duen kept the antique wooden couch, but replaced the mismatching arm chairs and loveseats with a set of matching furniture that compliments the couch. There are a few tables scattered throughout the room that hold several valuable pieces. Some pieces had already been in the room, and some were wedding gifts. A large, leafy houseplant sits in the corner of the room in a direct stream of sunlight.

“What do you think?” Duen asks him, tilting his head to the side.

“I like it. You completely transformed the room,” Bohn tells him earnestly.

“Do you want to see the library?”

“The library?”

Duen opens the door to the library and gestures to him to come over.

“I didn’t do much,” he says as Bohn looks around. “I mostly changed the drapes to match the ones in the sitting room, removed a few paintings, changed the lighting, and organized and archived all of the books.”

“You did what to the books?”

“Organized and archived them.”

“That must have taken a long time.”

Duen shrugs. “Ram, Nanny Fang, and P’King all helped when they had the time,” he says like it’s no big deal. Bohn stares at him, which causes him to shrink back. “Let’s move on,” Duen says quickly.

Bohn lets himself be pulled out of the library, through the sitting room, and into the reception hall.

“You redecorated here too?”

"Only a little bit.”

“When did you do this?”

“This morning... I wanted it to be a surprise. It looks nice, doesn’t it?”

“It does.”

Bohn looks around. There's a new cupboard for their shoes, new hooks on the wall for their coats—it's very homey yet still very elegant. There are a few paintings on the wall, a few tables that hold vases, small sculptures, and fresh flowers, and a couple of large potted plants. The reception hall feels a lot more welcoming.

“Come on, I’ll show you the bedrooms.”

“How many did you redecorate?” Bohn asks.

“I redecorated most of them, and repurposed some of the other ones. Well, besides yours and your office.” He leads Bohn to the first bedroom past his office and opens the door. “All of the ones in the left wing of the house have been redecorated.”

Bohn looks around the room. “Why is everything… blue?”

Not everything is blue, but the walls are blue, the bedding is blue, the carpet is blue, the lampshade is blue, and if Bohn goes into the bathroom he’s pretty sure that he’ll find the towels are blue too. There’s even a little blue stuffed bear sitting on the bed.

“I think monochromatic bedrooms are cute. Every bedroom in this wing is a different color—yellow, pink, maroon, green, and blue!”

“Is your bedroom one color?”

Duen side eyes him. “Of course not, and neither are Ram’s or Nanny Fang’s. Well, I let them decorate their rooms themselves, so maybe they are.”

“And the other two?”

“Well, I kept one in its original state. I know King has a cottage, but if he ever wanted a room here, then he’ll have one. The other I turned into a laundry room and linen closet. It’s a really big laundry room and linen closet, but it makes it easier for Nanny Fang. Now she doesn’t have to drag the laundry down into the basement.”

“I appreciate the effort you went to, the house looks really nice.” Bohn tries to remain aloof, but as Duen smiles brightly at him, he finds himself smiling back.

He clears his throat and forces a neutral expression over his face. “If that’s all…”

Duen nods. “That’s all.”

“Then,” he excuses himself, refusing to meet Duen’s eyes, and quickly retreats to his bedroom.

His bedroom, which he hadn’t minded before, suddenly seems extraordinarily dull compared to the rest of the house. Frustrated with his surroundings and himself, he slips into work out clothes and makes his way up to the third floor.

There are stacks of boxes lining the wall. So this is what Duen did with all of the stuff.

Why didn’t his family give him the key so he could put them in storage? Why are they treating Duen as an outsider when he’s married into the family?

He also treats Duen as an outsider, Bohn realizes. Now he’s really upset with himself.

He starts walking on the treadmill and gradually works his way up into a run.

Duen put all of his energy into making their manor into a home and Bohn couldn’t even let himself react naturally. He can’t keep doing this. One or both of them are going to end up hurt.

But he can’t let himself grow closer to Duen in good conscience without talking about his father's political scheme or their marriage contract first, and he doesn’t even know if Duen knows about the contract.

Maybe he really should take Mek and Boss’s advice to sit down and have a conversation with him.

Or maybe he’ll talk to King about it first. After all, King’s the only one of his friends who has met Duen. He may be more helpful than Mek and Boss.

Sure, that's what he'll do, he decides. He’ll talk to King first, get his advice, and then he’ll figure out a way to tell Duen about the marriage contract.

Chapter Text

Bohn goes to King’s cottage the next day. It’s been awhile since they’ve spent time together and he’s grateful that King occasionally joins them for dinner, otherwise, he wouldn’t have seen King at all since his wedding.

He knocks on the door to King's cottage.

“You’re not Ram,” King says when he answers the door.

“And neither are you.” Bohn gives him a strange look as he pushes his way inside.

“It’s been a while since you’ve come here,” King remarks as Bohn makes himself comfortable on the couch.

Bohn scratches the back of his head. “I know. I’m sorry. Work has been so hectic… but still, I should make more time for my friends.”

King pats his shoulder as he sits down next to him. “It’s okay, you’re also a newlywed. I understand.”

Bohn sighs and rubs his hands down his face. “We really need to catch up. I could really use your advice.”

“Oh? What’s wrong?”

Bohn sighs again. “I don’t even know where to begin.”

He explains his marriage situation as best as he can to King and King, for some unfathomable reason, accepts everything he says as if he’s not surprised.

“I see,” he says calmly, as if he knows everything that Bohn’s been through. As if the situation itself isn’t outrageous and absurd.

“What’s up with your reaction?” Bohn can’t help but ask.

“I knew there had to be some reason you’re holding back! Duen is exactly your type—cute, snarky, and genuine…stubborn, too. I was wondering why you hadn’t given in yet, but now I understand!”

Bohn stares at him curiously. “He has been persistent… how did you know…?” His eyes widen and he gasps, the palm of his hand smacks his against forehead. “You’re helping him! I can’t believe I’m so stupid! I never thought about where he’s getting the roses from, he’s getting them from you! Is that... is that why you thought I was Ram when you answered the door?”

“Haha,” King laughs awkwardly. He scratches the back of his head. “Yes.”

Bohn narrows his eyes. “Why is Ram involved…?” He gasps again and slowly looks towards King with a knowing expression. “Unless…”

“What are you thinking,” King wags his finger, “Stop it.”

“You like him.”

“I-”

“You like him!”

“Hah. Shut up,” King blushes and looks down. “I just think…”

“That he’s neat? I know you, King. You saw his tattoos and immediately gave him your heart.”

“I will admit I was intrigued by his tattoos, but I didn’t give him my heart so easily!” King defends. He sits up and holds Bohn’s gaze for a moment before he looks away. “I got to know him first,” he mumbles. “Then I gave him my heart.”

“This is very good.” Bohn smiles and spreads his arms out along the back of the couch as he leans back.

“You think so?”

“Of course! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you really like someone. Usually when you find someone interesting and get to know them you end up finding out that you actually don’t like them at all.”

“He’s quiet, and loyal, and he looks intimidating, but he’s so kind and he can be so soft,” King gushes.

Bohn raises his eyebrows and suppresses a smile. “You’re really gone on him,” he remarks.

King glances over at him. “Is that… is that okay?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Bohn frowns.

“Me, your best friend and gardener, and Ram, Duen’s best friend and bodyguard. With everything going on between you two... you’re not against me and Ram?”

“No! Don’t let my weird marriage interfere with your love life.” He huffs. “It would be nice if my marriage produces one happy couple,” he mumbles and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together.

“Yeah, shit. What are you going to do?”

Bohn shrugs. “Got any ideas?” he asks and then sighs. “Mek and Boss think I should talk to him about the contract. See if he knows about it and if he doesn’t, run him through the details so he can decide how he feels.”

King leans forwards and rests his chin in his hands. He drums his fingers against his cheeks as he considers Mek and Boss’s advice to Bohn.

“I think,” he says carefully, “that they have a good point.” He turns and looks at Bohn. “You clearly can’t make the decision on your own.”

“But talking Duen will… What if he really doesn’t know? If he doesn’t know… and I tell him...”

“It will break his heart,” King says frankly. “But he deserves to know. He’s a strong person and he’s determined to make this marriage work. I think if you talk to him, everything will eventually be okay.”

“You really think so?”

“I do. Both of you are so stubborn, as long as one of you decides to make it work then surely it will work.”

Bohn huffs out a shaky laugh. “I really hope so.”

They chat for a while longer. As he avoided his husband, he also avoided his best friend, and now as he talks to King he realizes what a mistake that was.

After talking to all of his close friends, and after having received similar advice and encouragement from each of them, Bohn decides that tonight, after dinner, he’ll sit down with Duen, show him the contract, and talk about it. Then they can decide from there how to move forward together.

When he steps back inside the manor, he sees Duen sitting on the couch watching television. Holding onto the small hope that things will work out after tonight, he allows himself to approach Duen and sit down next to him.

Duen doesn't register his presence—his eyes are glued to the lakorn on screen and he’s tightly hugging a pillow to his chest.

“What are you watching?” Bohn asks, which causes Duen to yelp and jump in his seat. The pillow he’s clutching tumbles to the floor.

“Oh, my!” Duen holds a hand to his chest. “You startled me!” He grabs the remote and pauses the TV.

“Ah. Sorry.”

“Did you need something?”

“I was, uh, just wondering what you were watching.”

“Oh! Leh Ratree. You haven’t heard of it?”

Bohn shakes his head.

“It’s a couple of years old... actually, this is the remake. It’s one of my favorites!”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a woman, Kate, whose father, well, basically sells her to the family of the company he works for in order to pay off his debt because he knows that the male lead, Sake, needs to produce an heir for the family and his current wife has been unable to produce a child.”

Bohn’s blood runs cold. “Huh?” he gasps out.

“Huh?”

“Sorry, just, uh… well, the concept’s a bit…” familiar.

“Weird? Yeah!” Duen scratches the back of his head. “The way it plays out is kind of unrealistic, but that’s how it is for an ‘enemies to lovers arranged marriage’ trope.” He shrugs. “At least, she finds out about the arrangement before going into it and decides for herself to agree to it.”

Bohn’s heart stops. Fuck. Shit. Oh dear god. If Duen doesn’t already know about the marriage contract...

He shudders and works up the nerve to blurt out, “Would you ever agree to such an arrangement?”

Duen puffs out his cheeks as he considers for a moment. “I wouldn’t,” he says slowly. “I admire her because she’s doing it for the sake of her family, but as for me, I don’t want to be used to solve my parents’ problems.”

Bohn bites the inside of his cheek. He really doesn’t want to ask more, but at the same time he knows he needs to take this opportunity to talk to Duen. He summons his courage once more and says, “I guess… I guess I’m just curious to know why you agreed to our arrangement. Isn’t every arranged marriage for the benefit of the families?”

Duen shrugs. “That may be so. Truthfully, I don’t know the business arrangements between our fathers. I agreed to this marriage because…” he trails off and looks down.

“You don’t have to tell me.”

“No...hm... I think I should. After all, we met the day we married. Even for arranged marriages it’s unusual…I don’t want you to misunderstand the type of person I am, so I’ll tell you clearly why I accepted this marriage.

“My younger sister, Daonua, we have a large age difference. A lot of people assume that it’s because she was an accident,” Duen scratches his head. “Ha, well, that might be better than the truth. Really, my parents had her in an attempt to save their marriage.” He laughs bitterly. “Before she was even a person, she was a solution to my parents’ marital problems. I don’t want them to have any chance to use her like that again—her birth didn’t fix their problems, not really. My parents… they know how to put on a good show for the public, and sometimes they even convince themselves… but they still fight like it’s the end of the world, and they’ve been fighting over the same things since before I can remember and they're miserable for it.

“I know that our fathers have some sort of business arrangement going on… that’s why we got married and that’s fine. I accepted that I would be in such a marriage a long time ago.” Duen rubs his hands together and exhales. “But I don’t want them to ever use Daonua for their own purposes ever again, even if it is just to form a business alliance. So when my father told me that I would be marrying you, I resisted until I could get him to promise to let Daonua marry whomever she chooses.”

A heavy silence lingers between them as Bohn processes everything that Duen just told him. Eventually he utters out one syllable: “Oh.”

Bohn finds himself with mixed feelings. He doesn’t know why he’s disappointed—it’s not like either of them entered the marriage for any romantic reasons. He admires Duen for being such a caring older brother and he’s happy to learn about the caring nature of his husband.

More than that, he’s very scared because there’s no way Duen knows about the contract and there’s no way that he would be okay with it. He wouldn’t let himself be used in such a manner by his parents—the money Bohn’s father paid to Duen’s father doesn’t solve his gambling addiction. Furthermore, what’s going on is a lot more complicated than a business alliance—there’s no way Duen would agree to marry him under such conditions, even to protect his younger sister.

Bohn’s lost in his own head until he hears Duen ask, “What about you? Why did you agree to our marriage?”

Bohn opens and shuts his mouth several times before his face turns bright red. “Well, I, um… My father told me that he had arranged a marriage for me… and you know, like you, I knew that this sort of arrangement," he gestures between them, "was my fate. He showed me your picture…I thought that you were very beautiful.” He clears his throat. “You are very beautiful... Um... but, well, I also thought that if I said no, the next marriage my father arranged for me would be with a woman.”

Duen sits back and nods. “I didn’t realize that you are…”

“Gay? Yeah, Dad paid a lot of money to keep that from getting out. He has a lot of… uh, close ‘friends’ in the media.” Bohn huffs and rubs his hands together. “Are you also…?”

“Gay? Maybe?” Duen flushes and admits bashfully, “I don’t know… I’ve never really liked someone before.” An awkward moment passes before Duen clears his throat. “Um. I’m glad we talked about this, though.”

“Me too,” Bohn replies softly.

He really is, although he’s not too sure what to do now. Every intention he had of talking to Duen about the marriage contract is gone.

What should he do?

Maybe he doesn’t need to tell Duen about the contract to foster a relationship with him.

The thought persists in the back of his head for the rest of the afternoon and through dinner, but he doesn’t allow himself to dwell on it until the evening when he’s retired to his office.

If he tells Duen about the contract... what will Duen do? It will definitely change the relationship between them—Duen's already putting in so much effort on his own volition. If he learns about the contract, about the power that Bohn's family holds over his own, what will he do? What will he do to stay in his husband's good graces?

Bohn doesn't want to find out. He wants Duen to be able to act freely around him without 75 million Baht hanging over his conscious.

Communication is important, sure, but he’s not even supposed to know about the contract. Furthermore, King’s belief that the two can overcome the matter, well, he’s not sure if that was ever true. Duen insisted that neither he nor his sister should become the solution to their parents' problems and Bohn understands that sentiment perfectly. After all, he’s played nearly every role his father has asked him to and has suffered greatly because of it.

They’re married. Bohn should focus on their relationship and ignore the business of their fathers. After all, he didn’t create the contract. Why should he suffer—why should he cause Duen to suffer because of it? Why should they take responsibility for their fathers' actions? They should focus on living their lives happily, together.

Duen’s never experienced romantic attraction either. Bohn hopes that he can be Duen’s first love, but he doesn’t know if that’s possible for the two of them. He certainly has the beginnings of a crush on his husband, but as for Duen, he’s not sure if his husband wants to foster a good marriage or a romantic one.

Considering their marriage is arranged, considering that his husband has never felt romantic attraction for someone, and considering the contract, Bohn supposes that maybe they’ll only be able to have a good relationship, a harmonious marriage without love.

But he wants to let himself fall in love with Duen and he wants Duen to fall back. He yearns for a loving relationship and no matter how hard he tries to quell the feeling, there's still hope in his heart that Duen will grow to love him.

Chapter Text

Bohn slowly starts to relax around Duen, starts to eat with him, starts to talk with him, starts to tease him, starts to smile with him.

In the time that he's known him, he's learned that Duen is a very sweet and gentle person. As he starts to spend time with his husband he learns that Duen is also very shy and will lash back whenever Bohn teases him. His husband can be quite savage and it only makes Bohn want to tease him more.

Nanny Fang comments about it to him one morning.

“I’m glad,” she whispers to him. She’s standing with him at the entrance, helping him put on his jacket as he prepares to leave for work.

“You are?” Bohn asks as he struggles to find one of the sleeves. “About what?”

“That you’re finally giving in,” she says in the same hushed tone. She takes hold of his wrist and guides it into the sleeve.

Bohn shrugs the jacket over his shoulders. "What?”

“To Duen! It’s nice to see you opening up to him!” She hands him his lunchbox. “I’ll tell you a secret, too.” Her eyes glint as she gestures for Bohn to lean down so she can whisper into his ear. “These days, he’s been making your lunches.”

“What?” Bohn straightens up and looks at her with wide eyes. “Why is that a secret?”

“He wants to cook for you, but you had such a weird reaction when he made dinner last time! So I told him that if he really wants to then he can prepare your lunch box. He’s done it every morning since!” She gives him a teasing glance. “I thought you would have noticed, too, from the increase in foreign meals.”

“I thought that you had expanded your repertoire.”

“I have, but only because he’s been teaching me.” The nanny takes his hand and looks at him earnestly. “But this is my point, Bohn. I’m so glad that you’re finally opening up to him. He’s such a good person. You two might be really happy together if you give him a chance.”

Bohn sucks in a breath and bites his lip. “I think so too,” he admits as he exhales.

Nanny Fang smiles, very satisfied, and sends him off.


Duen doesn’t know what’s come over his husband recently. He thought he finally understood the hot and cold—well mostly cold—nature of him, but Bohn has only been warm to him ever since their conversation on the couch.

It was only a few days ago that he first heard Bohn laugh.

Flashback

Duen emerges from the staircase and into the kitchen. He’s still in his pajamas—his pants are slightly twisted around his waist and his oversized shirt hangs off of his shoulder, exposing his collar bone. His hair is a mess and he hasn't washed his face or brushed his teeth yet, but it’s okay because he’s up earlier than usual. No one else is up yet, no one will see him like this.

He sets a pan on the stove and pours a bit of oil into it before he walks over to the fridge to grab an egg. As he walks back to the stove, he slips on a patch of spilled oil, falls to the floor, and lands on his bum. The egg in his hand goes flying into the air and ends up landing on his head. The yolk breaks and runs down his face. Runny egg and eggshell fall into his lap.

Duen’s so startled that it takes a moment for him to register that Bohn is sitting at the table and laughing quietly into his mug of coffee.

“I’m sorry,” Bohn’s laughter calms down when he sees Duen’s dumbfounded expression and red face. “It’s only a little funny.”

Bohn stands up from the table and walks over to his dumbfounded husband. He helps him up and picks the eggshell out of his hair.

“You want an egg for breakfast?” he asks.

Duen nods. He’s not sure if this is real or if it’s a dream. When did Bohn get here? Why is he taking care of him? Why is there fondness in his voice?

“Go clean up, I’ll make you one.”

Duen nods again and goes to leave before he suddenly remembers. “Don’t you have to go to work?”

“I have time. Go clean up.”

“Thank you,” Duen mumbles before he runs away, flustered and very embarrassed.

When he comes back down stairs, the egg out of his hair, his clothes straightened up, and his face washed, he finds that his husband has left for work. Waiting for him on the table is a fried egg and a mug of coffee, both made to Duen’s taste.

“Oh,” he mutters, surprised. He sits down and enjoys the breakfast that Bohn made for him, the whole time wondering if he's been transported into another reality.

End flashback

At the moment, Duen is making congee for Bohn, who is up in bed with a nasty cold. It took both Duen and Nanny Fang, and even a call from King, to convince Bohn to call in sick when he first came downstairs and insisted that he was fine.

Duen carries the steaming bowl and a cup of juice upstairs. Since his hands are full he can’t knock on the door. Instead he calls out, “Bohn? I’m coming in.”

He waits a moment and hears a thud as he pushes the door open with his elbow. Bohn’s lying on the floor, tangled in his blanket, hastily trying to find somewhere to hide his laptop.

“Are you okay?” Duen asks as he sets the meal down on the table next to the bed and helps Bohn up and back into bed.

“Yes! ...Yes. I am okay,” Bohn refuses to meet Duen’s eyes. He relaxes back into bed and Duen pulls the blanket over him.

“What were you doing anyway?” Duen asks as he picks up Bohn’s laptop.

“Don’t-!” Bohn tries to interfere, but Duen’s already seen the screen.

“Bohn!” Duen scolds. “Were you doing work? You need to rest!”

“I am resting! I’m working from bed. I wasn’t going to do a lot, there are only a few things I need to get done.”

“You don’t need to get anything done, you took the day off! No one expects you to do any work today.”

“But-”

“I admire your dedication to your job, but you need to rest. Take care of yourself first.”

“But-” Bohn tries to protest again.

“You need to set a good example for your employees, too. What happens when they’re sick? Do you still want them to work? Or do you want them to stay at home and rest.”

Bohn sighs, purses his lips, and shakes his head. “‘I’ll rest,” he grumbles reluctantly.

Duen narrows his eyes. “I’ll hold onto your laptop for now.”

“But-!” Bohn sits up and reaches for his laptop.

“And your work phone.” Duen snatches it off of the bedside table and pockets it. “I’ll let you have them back tomorrow, but only if you spend today resting.”

Bohn pouts and lies back in his bed, so Duen takes it that he’s conceded. He places the laptop and phone off to the side and grabs the bowl of congee off of the night stand.

“Are you hungry?”

“No,” Bohn grumbles. His arms are crossed, he's looking off to the side, his lips are pursed, brow furrowed.

He’s sulking, Duen realizes. It’s cute.

“Too bad,” he says cheerfully. He holds a spoonful of congee up to his lips and blows gently to cool it before he pushes it towards Bohn’s mouth.

“Mm-mm,” Bohn refuses petulantly.

“Eat,” Duen insists and wedges the spoon between Bohn’s lips.

His husband still tries to resist and congee smears all over his mouth.

“You’re such a messy eater,” Duen tsks. When Bohn opens his mouth to protest, Duen takes the opportunity to gently shove the spoon into his mouth.

“Duen!” Bohn exclaims around the spoon.

“Doesn’t it taste good?” Duen asks, purposefully ignoring Bohn’s displeasure. He pulls out the spoon. “Eat a lot,” he tells him sternly.

Bohn rolls his eyes, but he opens his mouth to accept Duen’s next spoonful.

“Good,” Duen praises him and wipes his mouth clean.

Bohn finishes the dish under a reluctant pretense and drinks all of the juice in one go.

“Get some rest, okay?” Duen brushes his fingers over Bohn’s forehead and presses the back of his hand to his cheek. Bohn's face is hot and slightly damp with sweat. “You’re burning up.” He bites his lip. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

He goes downstairs with the dishes and comes back up to his husband’s room with a bowl of water, a wash cloth, and another glass of juice.

He doesn’t bother to announce himself and lets himself into Bohn’s room. Bohn’s lying in bed with his eyes closed.

Duen sits down on the edge of the bed and places the bowl and the glass on the nightstand. He wets the cloth, wrings the excess water out, and biting his lip, he dabs the damp cloth across Bohn’s forehead.

Bohn’s brow furrows, but his eyes stay closed. “What are you doing?” he mumbles.

“You’ve seen dramas, haven’t you?”

“Huh?”

“Whenever one of the leads gets sick, the other takes care of them by washing them with a damp cloth.”

Bohn huffs out a weak laugh. “Are we the leads of a series?”

“Hm… I hope not.”

“No?”

“They always have to go through so many hardships to have a happy ending. I’d rather lead a simple life—there’s happiness in that too.”

Bohn opens his eyes slowly. “Do you think we’ll be able to have that?” he can’t help but ask, a slight tremor in his voice. He feels strangely vulnerable.

“Do you want to?” Duen asks him gently and Bohn nods once. “Then I think so, since it’s something that both you and I want.”

Bohn nods once more and closes his eyes. Duen finishes cleaning him off with the cloth.

“Get some sleep,” he says softly as he stands up. “There’s another glass of juice on your nightstand in case you get thirsty, and let me know if you need anything.”

He hears the faintest hum from Bohn and he smiles. It’s good that his husband is resting.

As he goes to leave the room, he accidentally drops the cloth that he used to clean Bohn. He crouches down to get it and happens to glance under his husband’s bed as he picks it up.

It seems that the laptop wasn’t the only thing his husband was trying to hide when Duen first came in. Under Bohn’s bed is one of the throw pillows and soft knitted blankets that Duen used to decorate the living room downstairs.

Does this mean…? I think it does!

Duen stands up and leaves the room beaming. It seems that Bohn really likes the way he decorated the manner! Otherwise, why would he bring a couple pieces from the living room into his space?

This is great! Duen enthuses. He clasps his hands together and rocks onto his toes. Maybe Bohn is open to having his room redecorated—of course, he'd probably never agree if Duen asks him.

I'll have to find an opportunity to do it without him knowing.

Chapter Text

Duen finds a chance to redecorate Bohn's room not long after Bohn gets better.

One evening, after dinner, Bohn announces, “I have to go away on a business trip for ten days."

“Ten days? Where are you going?” Nanny Fang asks.

“China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore,” Bohn lists, counting on his fingers. “And then to our branch in Chiang Mai for a day.”

“When do you leave?” Duen asks.

“This Wednesday.”

“But today is Monday! That’s so soon!” Duen protests.

“I just learned about it today,” Bohn says grimly. He stabs his fork at the food on his plate and purses his lips.

Or no wait, he’s pouting, Duen realizes. Cute

“So suddenly?” Duen asks in a softer tone.

“Yeah. It seems like my father’s known about it for a while, though, so I don’t know why he only told me today.”

Bohn is clearly frustrated and Duen doesn’t know how to respond. He lifts a few pieces of pork off of his plate and gingerly places them onto Bohn’s.

Bohn looks down at the plate and then up at Duen, his brow furrowed. “What are you…?”

“You should eat more since you’re leaving soon,” Duen responds. He doesn’t meet Bohn’s eye, instead he looks at the food on his plate and pushes it around with his fork. Bohn doesn't respond and Duen glances over at him from the corner of his eye. “Eat,” he urges, gesturing with his fork.

Bohn blinks, his cheeks faintly pink, and he eats one of the pieces of pork that Duen set on his plate. “Thank you,” he mumbles through a full mouth.


Duen sets to work on Bohn's room immediately after seeing him off at the airport. He’s still waiting on a few more things to come in the mail, but everything else he’s bought or taken from storage is hidden in his room, ready to go.

Duen has learned several things about his husband since he started living with him. He’s known for a while that Bohn is a private person who prefers to keep his home life and his work life separate, even if he works from home several days of the week. He’s also learned that Bohn has a boyish side to him—one that likes cars, action movies, and teasing others. It’s a striking difference from the cold, hard worker that Duen first met.

And yet there’s another side to his husband. A softer, caring side. The side that called him beautiful, gave him the rose brooch, and made him breakfast after he made a mess. This side of Bohn always leaves Duen with a funny feeling in his chest and he’s not sure what it is.

He does know, however, that he wants his husband to have a room that suits him. One that’s comfortable and homey, not like something from a hotel. A place where Bohn can relax after a long day of work.

The re-decorations take a few days and the only reason it takes so long is because he has to move everything out and cover the furniture so the room can be repainted.


One night, while Duen’s getting into bed, Bohn surprises him by video calling him.

“Bohn!” Duen greets him when he picks up. “Is something the matter?”

“I- um, no, I just… wanted to check in,” Bohn stammers, his cheeks faintly pink. “Were you just about to sleep? We don’t have to talk if you want to sleep.”

“I just got into bed, I’m not that tired. We can talk for a bit,” Duen says shyly.

“Ah, okay.”

There’s an awkward silence for a moment before Duen asks, “So where are you now?”

“Huh? Oh, I’m in Seoul right now.” Bohn perks up for a moment as he remembers something. “When I was in the store earlier, I heard a song from one of the k-dramas you watch.”

“Really?” Duen perks up too. “Which one?”

“I don’t know.”

“How did it go?”

“Well… I don’t remember.”

“Booohnn,” Duen whines slightly.

“Well I- I can’t sing Korean!”

“You can hum!”

“What? No- I…”

“Please?” Duen pleads.

“Well… it went something like…” Bohn hums a few notes before he stops, his face flushed red. “Um.”

“Do it again?”

“What? No, I already did it. I’m not even sure that’s how it went.”

Duen pouts.

“Anyway, what have you been doing?” Bohn changes the subject.

“Uh… not much,” Duen glances away from the camera and winces.

“No?” Bohn asks.

“Um…” Duen tries to think quickly. He doesn’t want to tell Bohn about the redecorations, especially because he’s not sure what his reaction will be.

“I actually have been looking into getting a job,” he makes up. Well, he has been meaning to find a job, he just hasn't started to look yet.

“Huh?”

“Is that... is that okay?”

“Yes!” Bohn answers quickly. “Don’t feel like you have to stay in the role of a wife, I want you to be able to pursue your dreams!”

“Oh,” Duen is taken aback by his husband’s passionate response.

“Um…” Bohn blushes, also taken aback by his strong response. “What… what were you thinking of doing?”

“I…” Duen searches his mind, trying to find something to say. “I want to put my medical degree to work. Although, doctors have long hours and crazy burnout, so I’m a little reluctant to get a full time job at a hospital.”

“Hmm…” Bohn thinks for a moment. “You could be a doctor at a school or a university,” he suggests.

Duen blinks, surprised, because that actually sounds like a good idea. The hours wouldn’t be long and he’d still be able to help people in the way that he wants to. “That’s a really good idea,” he says. “I’ll start looking around.”

Bohn nods. “Let me know if you need any help.”

Duen hums and shifts down in his bed. At the beginning of the call he was sitting up against his pillows, but now he’s practically laying down.

“Do you want to go to sleep?” Bohn asks him.

“Huh? Oh, no I’m not tired, I’m just getting comfortable.” Duen turns on his side, holding his phone so he can see Bohn. “Tell me about what you’ve been up to. How are you eating?”

“The food is so good!” Bohn enthuses. “Although, I miss the lunches you make for me.”

“You know that I make them?”

“Mhm.”

“Are you okay with that?”

“Yes. Duen…" Bohn trails off. He breathes deeply before he continues, "I’m sorry for reacting the way I did when you made dinner. I was upset about the article and I ended up taking everything out on you. That wasn’t fair of me.”

“It’s my fault for not knowing the lady was a reporter.”

No Duen, it’s not. I’m sorry I made you feel that way. These things happen, it’s okay.”

“Still, I’ll try to be more considerate next time. I know you like to stay out of the public eye.”

Bohn’s eyes soften. “Thank you.”

They stay up and talk for a long time. Eventually, Duen’s eyes start to grow heavy and he finds it hard to keep them open.

When he wakes up in the morning his phone is very warm... He’s still on call with Bohn!

“Bohn,” Duen calls out, his voice is rough and raspy from just waking up.

He hears a groan from Bohn as Bohn’s face comes into view.

“Duen?” Bohn asks groggily as he looks at his phone. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you on the line for so long. Oh fuck!”

A loud ringing sound suddenly comes through Duen’s phone and he hears Bohn frantically tapping.

“Sorry, my alarm went off.”

“I guess that means you need to start getting ready for the day?” Duen asks.

“Yeah. I’ll, um, talk to you later?”

“We’ll talk later,” Duen promises.

They wish each other a nice day and hang up. Duen stretches, checks the time, and decides to go back to bed.


It’s been a long ten days. Bohn is exhausted and when he steps off the plane all he wants is a bath and a meal from Duen.

He grabs his luggage and is leaving the airport when he spots his husband and his husband’s bodyguard.

For a second he thinks that he’s hallucinating—Duen didn’t tell him that he’d come to pick him up—but as he walks towards them he becomes more convinced that his husband is really there.

“Duen?”

Duen turns towards him. “Bohn!” He rushes over to greet him. “I’m glad you’re back!”

Suddenly, Bohn’s overcome by a strong urge to hug his husband. He’s too aware that they’re in public, that they’ve never hugged before, that their relationship is still… complicated, so he holds back.

“You didn’t have to come pick me up,” he tells Duen fondly.

“Your parents asked me to.”

Bohn frowns.

“I also wanted to,” Duen reassures him, although he’s confused as to why Bohn’s upset.

Bohn grimaces and then sighs. There’s probably several members of the media nearby.

Still, he doesn’t want to take his anger at his parents out on Duen, so he smiles. “Either way, I’m glad you came,” he tells Duen truthfully.

They leave the airport together and Bohn is overly conscious of every person. He can’t tell if there’s anyone paying close attention to them, or even taking pictures of them, but he’s sure that he’ll see some article about them within the next 24 hours.

Bohn isn’t sure why, but as they get closer to home, Duen’s knee begins to bounce. He isn’t sure why, but as he leaves the car, enters the manor, and goes up to his bedroom, Duen follows him close behind. He isn’t sure why… until he opens the door to his bedroom.

His room is completely different from how he left it.

So this is what Duen’s been up to…

The walls are painted a muted blue, the carpet’s been replaced for a smaller, shaggier rug that compliments the thinly striped navy and grey blanket that’s spread across his bed. There are new shelves that are decorated with books, model cars, and family photos. In the corner near the window is a plush armchair and a soft, knitted blanket folded over the back of it. His cheap mirror has been replaced with a nicer antique one that matches the other furniture. The room looks more lively, too, from the house plants and the new lampshade. Even the lighting is different.

The room smells faintly of Duen, too, and Bohn can’t help but breathe it in. Sweet, spicy, citrus. Rose, ginger, and orange—he’s seen Duen make his fragrance before. He didn’t realize how much he likes the scent… how much he missed it while he was away.

Bohn suddenly feels very overwhelmed and emotional. The room… is very clearly Duen’s style and yet... the room is also very clearly designed for Bohn. He feels seen in an unfamiliar way, and it leaves him breathless.

He turns around to look at his husband. Duen is wringing his hands and looks apprehensive.

“Do you like it?” Duen asks.

“I like it a lot. Thank you, Duen. No one has ever done something like this for me before.”

How sad and true that statement is. After over twenty years of living with his parents they never understood him the way that Duen did. It wasn’t that the things they did for him were bad, but they never quite fit right with who Bohn is. So he got used to being the only person who knew what he wanted and understood what he liked. But Duen, after only knowing Bohn for a few months, was able to pick up the small things that Bohn likes and create a space that reflects Bohn’s heart and soul.

For the first time, Bohn feels like he’s come home. Duen’s transformed the formerly cold, commercial property into a home—their home. And when he thinks about it, Bohn hasn’t really done much other than talk with his husband sometimes.

Gosh.

Now, Bohn’s made up his mind. Contract or no contract, he’s going to start putting in the same effort into their marriage as Duen is. Maybe someday he’ll find the courage to sit down with Duen and talk about their marriage arrangement, but until that day, he’s going to do what he’s been holding back from this entire time.

He’s going to pursue his husband.

Chapter Text

There are a few things that Bohn knows he can do to pursue his husband.

First, he helps him apply to various school and university clinics. Well, he probably would have done that anyway if Duen asked for help. But Bohn makes a point to offer to help Duen create his resume and submit his applications. Then, when Duen hears back that he got a job at a local university’s health clinic, Bohn buys a cake to celebrate.

He makes a point to spend more time with Duen before and after dinner and on the weekends. Sometimes they take walks together, enjoy a glass of wine out back with Ram and King, or go for a night swim. He’s even started watching some of Duen’s shows with him—although some of them are a bit ridiculous and he doesn’t totally understand the appeal. Still, it's fun to enjoy the show with his husband.

Bohn also feeds Duen more sweets. He noticed early on that his husband has a sweet tooth, so he makes sure that there’s always ice cream or cake for him to eat. He places a few bowls of hard candy around the house for Duen to enjoy and pays attention to which candies go first so he can buy them in bulk.

When Duen starts his job, Bohn makes a point to get up early and help him pack lunches for the both of them and then they eat breakfast together.

Somehow, all of these little things make the biggest difference. Duen’s smile is brighter and suddenly he’s more shy after Bohn does something nice or sweet. He pushes back and he can be pretty savage. Bohn loves it. He's elated that Duen no longer makes such an effort to remain polite towards him.

He learns that Duen is a lightweight. The wine they drink has a small alcohol percentage, so Duen usually only gets slightly tipsy. One night, they open a stronger bottle and Duen has two glasses.

That night it's just the two of them and they chat as the watch the sunset from the back patio. There are a few hanging lanterns lit to keep away the mosquitos. The climbing roses on the pergola are in full bloom and fill the air with a faintly sweet scent. The romantic atmosphere leaves Bohn with a giddy feeling that's enhanced by the wine.

When Duen finishes his second glass, his cheeks are flushed pink and his eyes are squinting from the lazy smile that adorns his face. He has trouble getting out of his chair, so Bohn helps his husband stand upright and takes him upstairs to brush his teeth, change and go to bed. Of course, Duen doesn't actually want to go to bed and whines and pouts while Bohn racks his brain for different means to convince him.

Eventually, Duen settles down after Bohn promises to enjoy another bottle of wine with him tomorrow, although he'll choose one with a weaker alcohol percentage.

Even though it was a bit of trouble to get Duen into bed, he's endearing and cute when he's drunk and Bohn is happy that he gets to see his husband let loose a little, happy to see the less composed side of him.


One afternoon, Bohn is sitting in his home office reviewing important but boring documents when his phone rings.

Nanny Fang

“Bohn!” she exclaims when he picks up the phone.

“Nanny Fang?”

“I just got a call from Ram.”

“From Ram?" Bohn sits up. Why is Ram calling? "Is everything okay?”

“No! Duen’s been sent to the hospital!”

“What?” Bohn jumps up, scattering several documents across his desk and onto the floor. “Why? Which hospital?”

“I don’t know why, yet. Come downstairs, Bank is getting the car and we’ll go together.”

“I’m on my way.”

He scrambles to find his shoes and wallet and rushes downstairs to meet the nanny.

Ram is at the hospital when they arrive.

“What happened?” Bohn asks him.

Ram shrugs. “Appendicitis.”

“Appendicitis! Is he okay? Is he in surgery?”

Ram just shrugs again and Bohn scowls. He knows that the bodyguard is a quiet person and fiercely protective of Duen and for that reason he’s not too fond of Bohn. Still, Bohn feels like he should be updated on Duen's condition since they're married and everything. So he finds a nurse and asks her about Duen and she tells him that he is currently in surgery, but he will be okay and that there’s nothing to worry about.

That doesn’t stop Bohn from pacing up and down the hallway.

“Won’t you sit down, Bohn?” Nanny Fang urges him. “I’m getting dizzy from watching you walk back and forth.”

He sits down next to her. “I’m sorry, Nanny Fang. I’m just… worried I guess.”

She consoles him by taking his hand. “I’m sure he’ll be okay.”

Finally, after what feels like hours of waiting, although it was really only about half an hour, a nurse comes out to tell them that the surgery was performed successfully and that Duen is resting in the room down the hall.

Bohn rushes to see him, Ram following close behind him, while Nanny Fang continues to talk with the nurse.

Duen is starting to wake up when Bohn sits down in the chair next to his bed. Ram hovers behind him.

Bohn watches as his husband continues to blink and look around the room. He’s confused and absent minded as he wakes up from the sedation. Finally, his gaze lands on Bohn, and his eyes squint to focus.

“Bohn?” His gaze shifts. “Ram?”

“Duen,” Bohn says quickly before Ram can speak up.

“What happened?”

“You just came out of surgery,” Bohn tells him softly. “You’re okay.”

“Surgery?” Duen’s eyes start to well up.

“What? Hey, no, don’t cry.” Bohn leans forward and tentatively brushes the fat teardrops that are rolling down Duen’s cheeks away with his thumb. “The nurse says you’re okay, you don’t need to cry.”

Ram pulls him back sharply. Bohn looks up to see the bodyguard glaring down at him.

“What?” he snaps quietly.

“You made him cry,” the bodyguard responds angrily.

“I didn’t mean to,” Bohn protests but Ram continues to glare. Bohn doesn’t give in and continues to stare for a couple of minutes before Duen speaks up.

“What did I have surgery for?” he asks, his lower lip trembles. The two turn their attention back to him.

“Appendicitis-” Ram says.

“Appendicitis!” Duen sobs.

“Look, you also made him cry,” Bohn mutters as he glances back at Ram.

Duen continues to blubber and sob for quite some time, and Bohn does his best to console him. Ram continues to stand behind him and Bohn can feel the heat of his gaze on the back of his neck, but he ignores him and focuses on his husband.

“It’s, okay, Duen,” he says softly. He takes Duen’s hand and rubs the back of it with his thumb and murmurs soft consolations to him. After a minute, he feels Ram step away from him, and out of the corner of his eye he sees the bodyguard sit down in a chair against the wall.

Duen finally starts to calm down by the time the nurse enters the room with Nanny Fang.

Bohn looks up at the nurse helplessly. “Is this normal?” he asks her, “That he’s so upset?”

She looks at Duen, whose face is wet with tears. “Yes, he’s just coming out from the anesthesia. He’ll calm down soon.”

As she checks a few things, she tells Bohn, “He’ll have to stay overnight. We’ll check on him in the morning, but he’ll probably be able to leave tomorrow. You can pick up his prescription anytime before then, but make sure you get it before you go. He’ll need to take his medication twice a day and rest at home for about two weeks.”

“Okay. Thank you, Nurse.”

Bohn turns his attention back to his husband, who still has tears silently falling down his face.

“Duen,” he tries to say gently and brushes Duen’s wet cheeks with his thumbs. “Calm down.”

Duen stares up at him through wet eyes.

“Why don’t you close your eyes and try to get a little sleep?” Bohn suggests.

Duen sniffs and obediently closes his eyes. Nanny Fang walks over to Bohn’s side and whispers to him, “What was he crying about?”

“I’m not even sure I know,” Bohn whispers back. “Um… Nanny Fang? And, Ram?”

“Hm?”

“Will you two stay here and keep an eye on Duen? I’m going to go back and grab a few things for the night.”

“Oh, you can stay here and one of us can go.”

“No, it’s okay. I know what I want to grab. I’ll get some food for us too on the way back.”

Both the nanny and the bodyguard nod. Nanny Fang pats him on the shoulder to send him off.

When Bohn arrives back at the hospital, he has a change of clothes for himself, Nanny Fang, Ram, and Duen, his work laptop, and takeout from a nearby restaurant. Duen is awake, groggy, but sitting up in his hospital bed.

“Are you feeling better?” Bohn asks him as he arranges his stuff and sits down in the chair next to the bed.

Duen looks down at his clasped hands. “I am, thank you. And, um, I’m sorry, for earlier, for… all of the crying.”

He’s sucking the inside of his cheek slightly and gripping tightly at the blanket.

He’s embarrassed, Bohn realizes.

He bites his lip. Duen is kind of cute when he’s embarrassed. “It’s okay,” he says. “Although, at one point, I think you even started to cry about the painting on the wall,” he teases.

Duen’s head snaps up and he glares at Bohn, still embarrassed, but not apologetic about it anymore. It makes him happy to see his husband react in such a way—Duen’s sharing emotions that he would normally hide from everyone else and it makes Bohn feel special.

Before Bohn can say anything, Nanny Fang speaks up. “One time, when Bohn was about nine or ten years old, he had to have surgery and was put under anesthesia. When he woke up, he was ready to fight everything that he saw.” She chuckles. “He even punched the nurse that came to check up on him.”

Her story causes Ram to snort and Duen to giggle.

Now Bohn’s embarrassed. “Nanny Fang,” he whines like a petulant child. He pouts and looks at Duen, who is trying to hide his laughter behind his hand. “What,” he snaps.

“What,” Duen repeats back to him.

Bohn makes a face at him, which Duen returns.

“Honestly, you two are acting like children,” Nanny Fang remarks and tosses her long braid over her shoulder.

Both Bohn and Duen turn to face her. “What,” they say to her at the same time.

Her eyes widen and her mouth drops open slightly before she rolls her eyes and scoffs. “Children,” she mutters to herself as she fans herself with her hand.

The husbands both laugh lightly together.

It’s a wonderful feeling, Bohn decides, to be able to laugh with his husband. He hopes that they’ll be able to laugh together for a long time.

Chapter Text

Bohn sends Nanny Fang home with Bank before he and Ram played a game of rock, paper, scissors for the other hospital bed. Ram wins with a smug look on his face and Bohn just rolls his eyes. He doesn’t mind sleeping in the chair next to Duen’s bed.

His back hurts when he wakes up the next morning. The other two are still asleep and only wake up when the nurse comes in to check on Duen.

“Everything seems fine,” she says. “You’ll be able to check out once you’ve passed gas. It might help to walk up and down the hallway.”

Bohn thanks the nurse, then asks Ram to go out to buy breakfast and pick up Duen’s prescription. The bodyguard reluctantly agrees and gives him a warning glare before he steps out the door.

Duen sits up with his feet dangling off the side of the bed when Bohn turns his attention back to him.

“Will you help me walk up and down the hallway?” he asks Bohn, looking down at his feet as he slides on the hospital slippers.

“Huh?”

“The nurse said that it will help me pass gas if we walk up and down the hallway.”

“Don’t you want to do that… on your own?”

Duen side eyes him. “I don’t think I should walk up and down the hallways on my own since I’ve just had surgery.”

Bohn sputters, flustered. “But don’t you want to do… that in… private?”

“What, pass gas?” Duen smirks slightly. “It’s a natural thing, there’s nothing to be shy about. Besides, you’re not the one who has to do it.”

Bohn flushes, taken aback by his husband’s nonchalance. “Well, I- I just-”

“Will you help me or should I call a nurse,” Duen interrupts him in a firm tone.

“I’ll help you.”

Bohn helps Duen stand up and walk over to the door. Duen holds onto Bohn’s arm for support.

“As you should,” he hears Duen mutter under his breath. “If I can’t fart in front of my husband, then who can I fart in front of?”

Yourself, in private, Bohn thinks, but he bites his cheek. If Duen isn’t going to be shy about it, then he won’t be either.

They walk a few laps up and down the hallway before Duen stops.

“You’ve… um, I mean, you’re… good?”

Duen smiles at him. “I actually passed gas a while ago, but I waited to say something in case you got embarrassed,” he teases.

“Oh, well, thank you for your consideration,” Bohn replies sarcastically.

They go back to the room. Ram is waiting inside for them with breakfast and Duen’s prescription, and Bohn thanks him with a smile. They may not get along, but they’ll be civil for each other for the sake of Duen. They eat, check out of the hospital, and Bohn calls Bank to come pick them up.


When they arrive back at the manor, it takes Bohn and Ram a while to help Duen move up to his bedroom.

Nanny Fang is already in Duen’s room and she’s gathered anything that he might need while he’s on bedrest—a bed tray, an extra long charger for his phone and laptop, juice and water, a few books, and extra pillows and blankets.

“Don’t worry about anything,” she tells him, “I’ve already called into work for you and explained the situation—you have two weeks of sick leave.”

“And I’ll take over managing the house while you get better,” Bohn speaks up.

“I can still do that,” Duen protests, but Bohn only shakes his head.

“You should focus on resting right now. Don’t work while you’re recovering.”

Duen pouts at the familiar words and looks towards Ram, who shakes his head. “Rest.”

Duen huffs out a long sigh. “Fine. I’ll rest, I’ll rest.” He knows he should, but still, two weeks on bedrest does not sound fun, especially after he’s just started his job at the university.

Bohn and Nanny Fang eventually leave, after making him promise each of them that he’ll call one of them if he needs anything.

Ram sits down on his bed and looks at him.

“You also have the next two weeks off,” Duen tells him. Ram frowns. “What? I’m not going anywhere, you can take some time off of bodyguarding. Two weeks paid vacation.”

Ram continues to frown.

“Why? Would you rather it be two weeks unpaid vacation?” Duen teases. Ram rolls his eyes and Duen sighs. “If you really want something to do, I think you should help P’King out in the garden. He’s still clearing out and cleaning up the greenhouse, he could probably use some muscle to help him.”

Ram side eyes him, pouting slightly, and Duen giggles. “It sounds like a nice way to spend two weeks, right?”

The bodyguard looks up at the ceiling as he considers for a moment before he nods.

“As expected,” Duen breaks out into a grin. “You already spend all of your free time in the garden anyway,” he teases.

Ram gently smacks his thigh.

“Alright, I’ll stop teasing, for today,” Duen promises.

Ram smiles at him, and a moment of silence passes before he asks, “What about you?”

“Me?” Duen smiles at him. “Come and visit me, okay? Nanny Fang and Bohn will take care of me, so come see me as Ram, my best friend.”

Ram nods. “Then… do you think Bohn will really take care of you?”

Duen looks down at his hands. “I think so,” he says softly. He glances up at Ram. “I know you don’t trust him, but I really think he’s starting to open up to me and starting to care for me.” Duen blushes. Bohn keeps talking with him, sharing with him, spending time with him, acting nearly as sweet as the candy he buys for Duen. He's pretty confident that his husband will come check up on him every now and then.

“Well,” Ram twists his lips, “I hope you won’t be upset if I continue to not trust him.”

Duen reaches out and takes his friend’s hand. “It’s okay. I know you’re only looking out for me.”

He’s grateful for Ram’s care. They grew up together and have been through a lot together. Ram has always been there to help him, to look out for him, to take care of him. He owes a lot to the bodyguard and he’s thankful that his friend is always by his side.

“Now really,” Duen says, squeezing the bodyguard’s hand tightly, a mischievous glint in his eye. “I hope that you can spend a lot of time together with P’King these next two weeks.”

Ram glares at him, exasperated.

“It will be just the two of you, out there amoung the flowers,” Duen continues, ignoring his friend’s look. “Take advantage of the romantic environment and wear a shirt that shows off your muscles.” He pumps his fist, “I’m cheering for you!”

Ram just rolls his eyes and playfully ruffles Duen’s hair before he leaves the room.


Later in the evening, Duen hears a knock on his door.

“Come in!” he calls out.

His husband walks in the room carrying a steaming bowl. “I brought you congee.”

“Oh! Thank you, Bohn.”

Bohn helps him set up the bed tray and places the bowl in front of him, along with a glass of water.

“Do you need help eating?” Bohn asks.

“I can feed myself.”

Duen stirs the congee with the spoon to help it cool down. He frowns slightly at the texture of it and glances at his husband out of the corner of his eye. Bohn looks nervous and pays close attention as Duen lifts a spoonful of congee to his mouth.

It’s salty and underdone, but it’s obvious that Bohn made it for him, so Duen takes a sip of water to swallow it down before he says, “It’s very good. Thank you, Bohn.”

“It’s good?”

“Mhm,” Duen affirms. He continues to look down at the bowl and stirs the congee with his spoon.

His husband reaches forward, gently lifts his chin, and turns Duen’s head towards his, forcing him to look into his eyes.

“Is it really good?” he asks once more, his brow raised and tone serious. Duen blinks several times before he responds.

“Yes!” he says too forcefully. “It’s really good! I like it so much, thank you, Bohn.”

Maybe he’s overdoing it.

Bohn furrows his brow and grabs the spoon from Duen’s hand. He takes a bite of the congee and grimaces.

“It’s not good,” he decides.

While Duen agrees with him, this is also the first time Bohn has made something for him. He knows that Bohn doesn’t normally cook and he doesn’t want to discourage his husband, so he quickly grabs the spoon back from Bohn and pulls the bowl towards himself.

“No, no! It’s good,” he says as he takes another bite. “Really,” he says through a full mouth as he reaches for the water to wash it down.

“No, it’s not!” Bohn pulls the bowl away from him. “Don’t eat it, you just got out of surgery.”

“But-”

“No buts!” Bohn glares at him as he stands up. “I’ll go out and buy you some, just wait for me to come back.”

“Bohn!” Duen tries to call out to his husband, but he’s already out the door.

He scratches the back of his head. “I don’t have to eat congee,” he mumbles to himself. “I can eat other food, too. He doesn’t have to buy it for me.”

Still, he’s smiling. Although the congee was bad, his husband’s care leaves him feeling warm and sated.


The morning after Duen comes home from the hospital, Ram is in his room, putting on a simple t-shirt and jeans instead of his normal black suit. He glances at the venus fly trap that the gardener gave to him a few weeks ago and smiles slightly. He’s happy that Duen suggested that he spend the next two weeks helping out P’King, and he’s even more happy that Duen seems to approve of, even encourage, his relationship with the man.

He stops by Duen’s room to say good morning, then eats breakfast with Nanny Fang before he walks over to the gardener’s cottage. He brings a glass of soy milk and a Chinese donut with him to give to the gardener for breakfast.

He knocks on the cottage door.

“Cool Boy?” King answers the door. His hair is messy and it’s clear that he just woke up. “You’re early today,” the gardener says as he lets Ram in. Ram hands him the soy milk and donut and the two sit down at the table.

Ram stares at King while he eats.

“I don’t have the rose ready yet,” King remarks when he’s done. “But thank you for the breakfast.”

Ram shakes his head.

“You’re not here for the rose?”

“I’ve been sent to help you.”

“Huh? Why?” King looks at him in surprise. It seems that he doesn’t know that Duen is on bed rest.

Ram purses his lips. “Duen is recovering from a surgery. He said to help you out in the garden.”

“Surgery? Is he okay?”

Ram nods and King sighs. “That’s good. And, you know I always appreciate the help, but are you sure this is what you want to spend your time doing while Duen is... out of commission?”

Ram nods again. “Yes, I’m sure,” he says firmly.

King smiles at him. “Then, I’ll thank you in advance for your hard work.”

The two go to the greenhouse and King asks Ram to help him move some of the heavier things out to the shed around the back.

Ram lifts up the heavy boxes and notices King staring at him out of the corner of his eye. He tries not to preen under the other’s gaze. He’s glad that Duen suggested this but also put out that Duen put the idea of showing off his muscles into his mind.

He’s just impressed, Ram tells himself. It doesn’t mean he’s interested.

Still, over the next two weeks, Ram notices that King’s eyes tend to linger on him every now and then. On one of the days, when he’s feeling confident and stupid, he makes a point to wear a shirt that’s slightly too small, and he smiles when he notices that King starts to look at his chest too. He knows he shouldn’t show off, but still he can’t help but want to impress the other man.

The two weeks fly by quickly. By the end of it the greenhouse is completely cleared out, cleaned up, and there are several plants just beginning to germinate.

To thank him for his hard work King takes him out and treats him to a meal.

“Oh, ho,” he says when he sees what Ram ordered. “That looks good!”

He snatches the piece of chicken from Ram’s chopsticks and takes it for himself.

“What?” he responds to Ram’s look. “This is what you’re supposed to do when you have a meal with a friend—you snatch each other’s food. Here, here, here.” The gardener places a piece of ginger from his own plate onto Ram’s.

Ram twists his mouth as he picks up the ginger King put on his plate and eats it. He grimaces and washes it down with a sip of water.

“I don’t like ginger,” he tells the man, who gazes at him with wide eyes. “But I’ll eat it because you gave it to me.”

King stares at him for another moment, dazed and slightly in awe, before he shakes himself out of it.

“Then… don’t eat it next time,” he responds cheerfully, but he’s blushing.

The two continue to enjoy their meal together before they return to the Sirikarnkul manor. Although Ram is happy to go back to work, he’s sad that he won’t be able to spend as much time with P’King. But these past two weeks have been revealing. While he's not sure if King is interested, he's pretty sure that King is not not interested. Ram thinks he might actually have a chance at a relationship with the gardener.

Chapter Text

Not too long after Duen recovers from his surgery, Bohn's father calls him and tells him that he and his husband are expected to attend a press conference this coming weekend where he'll announce his candidacy.

"We have to be there too?" Bohn asks, barely concealing his reluctance.

"You two especially need to be there," his father responds and Bohn scowls. So it's like that then.

He sighs and promises his father that they'll be there.

Saturday morning, a staff from the main manor comes over to deliver the outfits that Bohn's step mother picked out for them.

Bohn's trying to tie his necktie, but he can't get it just right. He's starting to grow frustrated when he hears a knock on the door.

"Come in!" he calls as he tries again.

Duen appears in the mirror behind him. "Are you almost ready to go? The staff member from your parent's manor is getting anxious."

"Yeah, I'm almost ready, I just can't get this damn tie right," Bohn grumbles as he undoes the tie again.

"Here," Duen grabs his shoulders, turns him around, and picks up the two pieces of the necktie.

Bohn's face softens as he watches his husband concentrate. "Are you doing it for me?" he wonders aloud.

"Well, you can't do it yourself," Duen mutters back as he tightens the tie. He smiles and smooths down the lapels of Bohn's jacket. "There."

Bohn turns around to look in the mirror. The tie still doesn't seem right but he's not about to undo it. He smiles and his hand comes up to rub the fabric between his fingers. "Thank you, Duen."

Duen hums absentmindedly. "Then... are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, let's go."

They leave the room and on their way downstairs, Bohn notices that Duen is wearing the rose brooch that he gave him. It makes his heart flutter to see his husband wearing it. He's glad that Duen likes it so much—the way that he treasures it makes Bohn feel like he's the one being treasured, like he's the one resting over Duen's heart for everyone to see.

They didn't pick out their wedding rings. The matching silver bands hold no significance, they only represent their legal status to each other. In a way, the brooch is like Bohn's proclamation to everyone that Duen is his husband. A heartfelt gift that shows the world that they are together. And now... maybe they can actually be together for real.

They arrive at the press conference. It's being held at the main manor and they enter through the back since the media are already waiting out front. Of course, every journalist is from a media outlet that's owned by or 'friends' with Bohn's dad. No matter how today goes, they won't face any harsh criticism from the press.

Bohn feels uncomfortable standing up on the platform as dozens of cameras flash. He already doesn't like being in the tabloids, but luckily he's not the focus of the event. Still, he feels like something's wrong. There’s something nagging at him in the back of his head, but he doesn’t want to acknowledge it. Instead, he pulls his husband close and continues to smile for the camera while his father talks.

It isn’t until the press starts to ask questions that he’s forced to acknowledge what's bothering him.

The reporters start out with generic questions about various policy and hot topics. It's really boring, especially because all of the answers are very clearly rehearsed and vague. Then, one reporter pipes up, “Mr. Sirikarnkul, you're clearly a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. If you win office, what will you do to help the community?"

"As a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community..." Bohn's father begins and Bohn immediately stops breathing, stops processing what's going on around him.

As a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community? Bohn thinks bitterly, his hands trembling at his side. He’s not.

He feels dizzy, his stomach is unsettled, and he just wants to run away.

As a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community... This is why Bohn is able to stand next to Duen as his husband. This is why he met Duen in the first place—to be wed for political clout.

And to take advantage of one of our business rivals under the claim of a ‘marriage alliance.’

He's immediately overwhelmed with guilt—towards Duen as his husband and towards his in-laws as a member of the Sirikarnkul family. Intense self loathing bubble up in his chest if he's not careful he'll vomit out the ugly emotion that no amount of money could keep out of the media.

He glances towards Duen, who is oblivious to Bohn’s inner turmoil. He feels like he should speak up, feels like he should confront his father, yet he can't find the courage. Bohn's stuck on this stage, smiling next to his beautiful husband, all the while feeling absolutely disgusted with himself and his family.

Duen deserves better, Bohn thinks. He doesn’t deserve this fucked up marriage. He deserves someone better than me.

The press conference ends and everyone's invited inside for a meal. Bohn is stuck fulfilling his role as his father's filial son. He smiles with the guests, participates in polite small talk, and engages in several slightly offensive conversations with well meaning but still very ignorant people.

He fools nearly everyone, his father, the press, the guests, everyone except his husband.

Duen holds onto his arm throughout the evening, smiles politely and entertains the guests, but every now and then he'll throw Bohn a worried glance or squeeze his arm. For once Bohn has mixed feelings about his husband being able to see him so clearly—he doesn't want his husband to ask what's wrong, he doesn't know how to explain without hurting Duen, without risking pushing him away, completely ruining their chance at a happy life together when they've just barely begun.


When they arrive back home, Bohn turns to his husband and says, "I'm sorry, I'm going to bed, I don't feel well."

He pushes Duen off of his arm and quickly escapes to his room where he immediately crawls into his bed and hides under the covers. He kicks off his trousers, takes off his shirt and throws the garments out onto the floor. He doesn’t want to think, he doesn’t want to feel, he doesn’t want to exist.

He shouldn’t have opened his heart to Duen, yet he can’t bring himself to regret it and he hates himself for that.

He’s selfish, cowardly, he perpetuates his father’s greed.

He knows Duen would hate their arrangement and yet he pushed forward anyway without any thoughts for his husband.

He doesn’t know what to do.

He doesn’t know what to do... except go back to how it was in the beginning.

He must find the strength to close his heart to Duen. Wouldn’t it be better to break both of their hearts than expose the horrible reality of their marriage to Duen?

You can’t decide what’s good for him, and you can’t make the best of your marriage without talking to him about the contract.

Mek’s words echo through his head. But he’s too cowardly to bear the burden of telling Duen the truth about their marriage arrangement, to take responsibility for his father.

Hating himself, he decides to close his eyes and sleep.


Duen isn’t sure why, but suddenly Bohn starts to treat him coldly again. He hardly sees him, and when he does his husband hardly acknowledges him. He no longer spends time with him, teases him, or takes care of him.

He wakes up the morning after the press conference feeling refreshed but slightly worried about his husband—did he eat something bad? Is he getting sick again?

He waits in the kitchen for Bohn to come down and help him pack lunch and have breakfast together, but his husband never shows up.

He must be really sick, thinks Duen and he prepares a tray to bring up to his husband. If Bohn can't even get out of bed... he hopes that they don't have to go to the hospital.

There's no response when Duen knocks on Bohn's bedroom door, so he opens it slowly and peeks his head in.

"Bohn?" he calls out and slowly begins to walk over to the bed. It's unmade, and it's hard to tell if his husband is in there or not, so Duen places the tray down and pulls back the cover.

He's not here.

"Maybe he had to go into work early," Duen mutters to himself. He pats his cheeks a few times and pushes a smile onto his face. Bohn probably has to spend more time working since Bohn's father has officially announced his campaign. There must be a lot for him to take care of in his father's absence. That's why he went in early.

Still, Duen's heart aches slightly, but he refuses to acknowledge it, refuses to think about why it hurts.

Bohn comes back late in the evening, after dinner, close to sunset. Duen doesn't even realize that he's come home until he goes up to bed and sees the light shine from under the door of Bohn's bedroom.

He knocks on the door. "Bohn!" he calls out when his husband doesn't respond, but there's still no response, so he tries again.

"Bohn, are you feeling okay?"

His husband doesn't answer him and Duen's heart falls into his stomach.

"Maybe he's in the shower," Duen consoles himself and pretends to not hear the footsteps pacing around the other side of the door.

The next few days are the same. Duen hardly sees his husband and Bohn barely acknowledges his existence when they are together. Bohn's sudden reversion to coldness is a shock and Duen doesn't allow himself to accept it for several days. Instead he wonders why he always feels like he’s going to cry, why he feels so lonely, why everything hurts.

One early morning, he's alone in the kitchen, still dutifully making lunch for his husband. Except Bohn doesn't take Duen's lunches to work anymore, but Duen refuses to stop making them. Every morning he hopes that Bohn will come into the kitchen, apologize for sleeping in, and then they'll eat breakfast together and Duen will send him off to work. Every morning, after he's finished eating his breakfast alone, he'll go over to the sitting room, press his back against the door and listen to his husband rush across the hall and leave for work. Every morning he forces himself to smile and quell the growing disappointment and hurt so he can move on with the rest of the day. Every morning, he reassures himself by saying, "You'll see him after work," only to be doubly hurt when Bohn ignores him in the evening too.

Distracted by the ache in his heart, he doesn’t notice that he’s nicked his finger with the knife until he looks down and sees blood on the carrot he’s cutting.

“Oh,” he mutters, and the tears he’s been holding back for so long well up in his eyes and spill down his cheeks.

Duen sets down the knife and laughs bitterly. He can’t seem to stop the tears from falling down his cheeks as he searches for the first aid kit.

Nanny Fang happens to wander into the kitchen and catches him trying to apply the antibacterial ointment.

“Duen?” she asks. “Did you cut yourself?”

She comes up to his side and looks down at his finger first. “Oh, that’s not so bad-” she falters as she looks up at his face and sees him crying. “Does it hurt a lot?”

“It hurts!” Duen sobs. “It hurts, Nanny Fang, it hurts a lot.”

Her mild concern immediately develops into intense worry and she takes over treating his cut. After his finger is bandaged, she pulls him into a tight hug. Duen melts into her arms and continues to sob, letting out all of the pain and grief that he’s kept bottled up since he married into the Sirikarnkul family. Bohn's coldness, the way he fooled Duen into thinking that they were starting to grow closer, the way he suddenly stopped and left Duen all alone and confused.

He cries and cries, and soaks the nanny's apron with his tears. Eventually, he calms down and pulls away from her. “Thank you,” he whispers hoarsely and refuses to meet her eyes.

“Duen?” she asks, still worried, still concerned. “Let’s sit down on the couch and talk, okay?”

“But, Bohn’s lunch-”

“I’ll tell him to order out and send him on his way,” she tells him and Duen resigns himself to acknowledging that that's what Bohn was going to do anyway. He sniffles and lets the elderly woman lead him over to the couch. She wraps a blanket around him and pats him consolingly before she rushes off to send his husband to work.

He waits for her on the couch, suddenly feeling numb after his emotional break down.

When Nanny Fang returns, she sits down next to him and takes his hand. “Now,” she begins, “I know you weren’t just crying because you cut your finger... and I know that it’s been hard for you since you’ve come here,” she continues. “Bohn certainly has made it hard for you.”

Duen hesitates, but he nods. “He’s been so cold to me these past few days. We don't talk anymore, we don't see each other anymore...” His voice trembles as he speaks. He pulls a cushion into his lap to hold for comfort. “I thought that he had started to open up to me, but suddenly… suddenly,” his voice cracks and tears begin to well up in his eyes again. He squeezes his eyes shut, on the verge of breaking down once more. "He's ignoring me again."

Nanny Fang squeezes his hand. “I don’t know what happened," she admits, "or why he's doing this to you, but—"

“I don’t know what happened either,” Duen interrupts her and tears begin to fall down his cheeks. “I don’t know what I did wrong.”

“But it’s not your fault!" Nanny Fang finishes fiercely. "I don’t know what’s going on with him, but he shouldn’t treat you like this.”

"But I can't be what he wants," Duen pushes back weakly. "I don't even know what he wants—"

"He shouldn't want you for anything other than what you are! You're a strong person, Duen, and kind and caring, and so patient. I'm grateful that Bohn is married to someone like you. I only hope that he can pull his head out of his ass and see how wonderful you are."

"But—"

"No buts about it! Whatever is going on, I know you two can work it out, okay?"

"Okay." Duen rubs his face with his hand and blinks several times to stop crying.

Maybe Nanny Fang is right. He shouldn't try to change himself for Bohn, especially since he doesn't actually know what's wrong. He takes several deep breaths, sits up, and composes himself.

“I think I’ll be okay,” he says to Nanny Fang, both to reassure her and himself.

She tilts her head and considers him. "See? You're a strong person, Duen. I'm rooting for you."

Duen grants her a small smile. “Thank you, Nanny Fang. I appreciate all the care and support you’ve given me since I married into the Sirikarnkul family.” He looks down at his hands, suddenly shy. “And thank you for listening to me today and comforting me.”

"Of course, Duen," the nanny returns his smile. "Any time."

Duen feels better after talking with Nanny Fang and finally acknowledging everything that he's been trying to push down. Still, he's not really sure what to do next. He wants to talk with Bohn and work things about, but he doesn't know how to get Bohn to sit down and have a serious conversation with him. It'd be easier if he knows what he did wrong so he can start out by apologizing to his husband.

Whatever I did... or failed to do, I'll make it up to him, Duen promises himself. I want us to work out.

Chapter Text

Bohn can tell that Duen wants to talk to him. After a little over a week of ignoring him, Duen starts to become more persistent. He's quick to learns Bohn's schedule and will wait for him—he even catches him coming out of the bathroom a few times. Every few days, Bohn has to change his routine in order to avoid his husband.

When Duen does manage to wrangle him into a conversation, Bohn keeps the interaction curt, but polite.

"Is there anything you want to have for dinner?"

"I'll eat at work."

"It's raining, do you have an umbrella?"

"I do, thank you." He's lying.

"Is there anything you want me to buy you from the market?"

"No need, I can buy for myself."

"Why don't you talk to me anymore?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Bohn!" he hears his aggrieved husband cry out as he walks away from him. He grits his teeth—he can't turn around, he can't talk to Duen, he can't spend time with him.

It's easier to avoid him during the week. There's a lot to take care of at the office and he goes in early and comes back late every day. On the weekends, he hides in King’s cottage. While King is happy to hang out and catch up, Bohn’s pretty sure that he's has caught on to his plan to avoid his husband from his concerned glances.

He ignores those glances, he ignores Nanny Fang’s blatant glare, he ignores his own heart that’s screaming at him to stop and run to Duen, he ignores the guilt that lives in his stomach and his head, and he forces himself to be numb.

Emotionless, heartless—free of guilt but unable to be happy.

He’s not happy.

He hates his life, he hates his father, he hates himself.

It goes on for so long and he knows that he’s hurting Duen, but he can’t find the courage to change paths.

"Will you be home for dinner tonight?"

"No."

"Do you want to share a bottle of wine tonight?"

"No."

"Do you want to try this new sweet that I bought?"

"No."

The roses in his room have withered. Duen always finds a way to leave him a new one, but Bohn can't bear to look at them. At the same time, he can't bear to throw them away. He piles them on his windowsill where they can hide behind the curtains.

He starts to sleep in his office—it's one of the only parts of the house that Duen didn't touch. When he's in his bedroom the numbness starts to fade and the wretched pain and guilt start to creep in on his heart.

The couch in his office is only comfortable for a few nights. The room is drab—there are no windows and he's constantly surrounded by work.

There's no way for him to be happy so he chooses to be numb.


One day, the dam breaks.

Late on a Saturday evening he's in his office, lying on the couch, trying not to think about anything when everything is on his mind. His phone rings.

Father

Sighing, he picks up.

"Bohn?" His father's typical tone is slightly softer and he sits up.

"Dad?"

"There's some unfortunate news."

Bohn swings his legs over the side of the couch to stand and begins to pace around the room. Whatever it is, it can't be good.

"What is it?"

"My younger sister, your auntie, has passed away."

Time stops. Bohn stops.

"What?"

"We found out a few days ago, I thought I should tell you since you were close to her."

"She's dead?" Bohn's voice trembles. This can't be real.

"Yes."

"How did she die?"

"I don't know."

"Can you find out?" Bohn asks desperately.

"It won't change anything, she's already dead."

"Dad! Don't you care?"

"Of course I care. Her funeral is next Thursday. Be sure to bring your husband."

"Dad!" Bohn tries to protest but his father's already hung up the phone.

Bohn falls to his knees sobbing. Everything—the guilt, the hatred, the exhaustion, the confusion—hits him at once in addition to the grief that he feels from his aunt’s passing.

His aunt is the only person who ever understood Bohn. She was compassionate, she cared for him, she stood up to his father for him. Bohn felt closer to her than he did to any other relative. To learn that she’s passed… he doesn’t know how to process it.

Eventually, he passes out. After overworking himself, after suppressing all of his emotions only for all of them to flood his heart at once, after sobbing horribly for nearly an hour, he’s exhausted.

At some point in the middle of the night, he wakes up slightly to feel himself being picked up and carried out of the office. He doesn’t open his eyes. He’s only vaguely aware that he’s being moved, but he’s conscious enough to recognize the scent of the person carrying him—rose, ginger, and orange.

Duen.

Surely, this must be a dream. After how he’s treated his husband, why would he carry him out of his office and tuck him into his bed? Is Duen even strong enough to carry Bohn like this?

But when he wakes up the next morning in his bed he realizes that it wasn’t a dream. Duen really must have carried him to bed and tucked him in.

His heart is no longer numb, only heavy with guilt and sorrow. He doesn’t know how to face his husband and he’d be content to spend the rest of the day in bed, except he didn’t eat yesterday and his stomach is yelling at him for it.

Bohn pulls himself out of bed and trudges down to the kitchen. He isn’t sure if he wants to see Duen or not. When he steps out of the staircase, he’s both relieved and disappointed to only see Nanny Fang sitting at the kitchen table. No one else is around.

“Nanny Fang,” he greets, his voice hoarse.

She turns towards him, her brows pinched together.

“Bohn,” her strong voice rings through the kitchen. The nanny looks him up and down, then sighs. “You’re not okay,” she says and it’s not a question. She gazes at him fiercely, “You and I should have a talk,” and Bohn knows that there’s no room for him to push back.

He nods and sits down next to her at the kitchen table after grabbing a clementine and a glass of water.

Nanny Fang begins the conversation for him by asking, “What happened that Duen had to find you passed out on the floor of your office last night?”

Bohn picks at the peel of the clementine and doesn’t look up as he answers, “Father called. Auntie is…” his voice catches. “She died,” he says brokenly. Tears start to fall down his face, and he brushes them away with the back of his wrist.

Nanny Fang stands up and bends over to hug him from behind.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, and Bohn knows that even though she’s not happy with him at the moment, she’s genuine in her sympathy.

Her hand lingers on his shoulder as she sits back down next to him, and he glances at her through teary eyes. “I know that this isn’t what you want to talk about,” he admits through sniffles.

“It’s not,” she agrees, but her voice is softer than it was before.

“I know how I’ve been treating Duen,” he admits, his voice cracks. He can’t meet her eye out of shame, so he continues to look down and pick at his clementine. “I just… I just don’t know what to do.”

She sighs, and Bohn can see her slight frown from the corner of his eye. “You need to talk to him,” she finally says, “and tell him what he’s done wrong.”

“He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Bohn says fervently, slamming his fist onto the table and crushing the clementine in the process. He finally faces her. “It’s me, it’s my fault, it isn’t his fault at all.”

“Then you really need to talk to him,” the nanny says firmly. “He deserves to know what’s in your head, what’s in your heart.”

“I don’t know how to face him,” he says honestly.

“But you can’t keep doing this, Bohn!" she yells and Bohn flinches. He's never seen her so enraged before. She notices his shock and calms her voice, "You can’t keep treating him this way, he doesn’t deserve it. You have to talk to him. I know it’s hard and it’s scary to be vulnerable, but he’s your husband. I know that you two can work it out, whatever it is.”

Bohn nods, and sniffles. “Where is he, anyway?”

“I sent him and Ram to go help Gardener King this afternoon so you and I could talk.”

“Ah, well…thank you, Nanny Fang, for talking to me. And… um, I’ll talk to Duen, I promise.”

The nanny smiles at him and Bohn smiles back. It’s the first time she’s smiled at him in a while and the first time that Bohn’s smiled since the press conference.

He will talk to Duen, and he can tell that Nanny Fang is waiting for him to say something throughout dinner, but he doesn’t bring it up. He puts it off until after dinner, until after dessert, until after the dishes are done and put away, until after he changes out of his clothes, brushes his teeth, and crawls into bed…

He’s put it off for too long. He can just talk to Duen about it in the morning. Bohn closes his eyes and tries to go to sleep.

Except.

Except he knows that he needs to talk to Duen. He also just can’t seem to fall asleep despite his exhaustion—his aunt’s death lingers in the back of his mind and weighs down on his heart. He either needs to seek out his husband or go the night without sleeping.

Reluctantly, he gets out of bed and walks over to the door that connects their rooms, raises his fist… and hesitates.

He turns around, suddenly unwilling to knock on Duen’s door. But he regrets it as soon as he does and so he finds himself turning around to face the door once more.

He clutches at his heart with one hand and raises the other to knock… only to press his palm against the door and rest his forehead against the door frame, breathing heavily.

Why is this so hard?

Bohn stands up straight, pats his cheeks a few times, and then goes for it. He knocks on Duen’s door twice and waits.

There’s no response from Duen and Bohn feels his heart sink in his chest. He takes a few deep breathes and checks the time—it’s nearly past 1:00 am.

There’s no way that Duen’s awake, he tells himself, to console himself.

Just as he’s about to turn away and walk back to bed, the door opens, and he finds himself facing his sleepy husband.


Duen wakes up in the middle of the night to two firm knocks against the door connecting his and Bohn’s room.

He isn’t sure if he really heard it and he falls out of bed to approach the door, dragging his blanket with him.

He gets close enough to the door to hear Bohn shuffling around on the other side.

Feeling incredulous, he opens the door to see his husband staring at him, like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Bohn?” he asks, his voice raspy.

“Duen?” Bohn whispers softly, and something breaks inside of Duen. It’s been so long since he’s heard his husband call his name. To hear it called so softly at this intimate hour of the night leaves Duen feeling as if he’s entered a dream.

“Is everything okay?”

Bohn looks everywhere except him as he says, “I… I need to talk to you.”

“Now?” It's so late.

“Please,” Bohn pleads, looking at his feet. “I can’t sleep. There’s a lot that I need to tell you… that I want to tell you.”

Duen stares at him in disbelief for just long enough that it becomes awkward and Bohn clears his throat.

“We, um, we can talk tomorrow,” his husband resigns.

“No,” Duen says, surprising the both of them. “Come in, let’s talk.”

He steps out of the doorway and walks back to the bed. Bohn follows him into the room and hesitates when Duen climbs into bed.

“Come on,” Duen says, patting the space next to him.

“Can I?” Bohn asks, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.

“Come on,” Duen emphasizes and pats the bed again.

Bohn sits next to him and Duen pulls the blanket to cover both of them. He looks at Bohn expectantly and waits for his husband to begin talking.

The silence festers between them as Duen waits, but finally Bohn speaks up.

“I’m sorry, Duen.”

Duen doesn’t say anything—he isn’t sure how he feels and he doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m really sorry, Duen,” Bohn says again. His voice sounds watery. “I know I haven’t been good to you these past weeks. I’ve been cold, I’ve ignored you, I’ve avoided you, I’ve…” his voice breaks, “I’ve hurt you.” He swallows. “I’ve taken you for granted and I… I don’t know how to face you.”

The anguish in Bohn’s voice and the pain in his own heart cause Duen’s lower lip to tremble and tears to well up in his eyes.

“Why?” he gasps. “Why did you treat me this way? What-” his voice cracks, “What did I do?” The tears begin to trickle silently down his cheeks.

“You’ve done nothing,” Bohn insists, his heart in this throat. “You have done nothing to deserve the way I’ve been treating you.”

“Then why?” Duen snaps. “Why did you do this to me?”

Bohn sniffles and rubs his nose. “I’ve, um,” he swallows and clears his throat. “I’ve been so angry at myself, and at my father, and I’ve been taking that out on you.”

The guilt is clear in his voice and he stiffens—Duen can tell that Bohn's expecting him to be angry.

And Duen is angry, he’s very angry that Bohn has been taking his anger out on him unfairly. But more than that, what he wants to know is, “Why?”

“Huh?”

“Why are you angry?” Bohn’s breath hitches—he’s surprised by Duen’s question.

Bohn is silent for several moments, breathing heavily as he tries to find the words to explain. After a deep inhale and long exhale, Bohn finally speaks up.

“My father… um… do you remember the press conference when he announced his candidacy? Um, one of the reporters called him a ‘supporter of the LGBTQ+ community’ and… he’s not,” Bohn whispers. “I’ve been out to him for so long, and he’s never accepted me, or supported me for who I am. He’s yelled at me, thrown things at me, threatened me over my identity.” He huffs out a bitter laugh. “He kicked me out for a while, too. But now… now that society has evolved to be more accepting, more supportive, he’s using me… he’s using us for political clout.”

Bohn frowns and shakes his head. “Duen… do you know that this is one of the reasons he arranged our marriage? So he can win votes? All of the media attention we’ve received… he loves it! He encourages it! That reporter you met in the grocery store all those weeks ago, she works for a media outlet owned by my dad. He had her follow you so she could bump into you and trick you into an interview.

"Then, at the press conference, when the reporter called him a ‘supporter of the LGBTQ+ community,’ I remembered that the only reason that I’m married to you is because he can use us for his own gain. And so I hate him, I hate him so much for putting us in this position, I hate myself for knowing and being powerless to do anything, and I hate the way I reacted, the way I treated you."

Bohn inhales deeply and exhales through his nose. Still, his voice wavers as he apologizes. "Duen, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that you married into my fucked up family. I’m so sorry that my father is using you like this. And most of all, I’m so sorry for the way I’ve been treating you.”

Duen's silent as he takes a moment to process everything that his husband told him. It all seems so surreal. He’s angry that their marriage is being used for such a purpose, especially since Bohn’s father actually isn’t supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and has abused his son for his sexuality. He’s upset that Bohn kept this from him for so long and treated him so coldly because of it. But he can tell from the pain and guilt in Bohn’s voice that this is something that’s been hurting him for a long time.

Finally, he speaks up. “Bohn?” He hesitates, but he decides to give into his heart. He can understand Bohn, and while he's still hurt, he knows that Bohn's genuinely sorry. He doesn't want these bad feelings to linger between them anymore.

“I forgive you, Bohn.”

“Duen,” Bohn half gasps, half sobs. He clutches at the blanket with his hands and brings it to his chest as he gazes at his husband through teary eyes.

“But,” Duen continues, his voice wavering. “Please, don’t-” his voice breaks, “Don’t shut me out like that again.” He breaks down into tears. “I don’t know if I could take it if you shut me out again,” he cries.

“I won’t, I promise, Duen,” Bohn blubbers. He sways forward and falls onto his husband's body in something that's meant to be a hug. His head rests on Duen's shoulder and he let's go of the blanket to grab onto Duen's arm.

Duen’s hand comes up to gently caress Bohn’s hair. They stay in that position for a while until start to calm down. After a while, Duen is pretty sure that his husband has fallen asleep. He slides them down the bed so they’re lying on their backs, pulls down his shirt—which had ridden up—pulls up the blanket, closes his eyes, and falls asleep.


The next morning, he wakes up to see his husband lying on his side next to him, gazing up at him through tired eyes.

He blinks, rubs his eyes, and whispers, “You’re up?”

“Mhm… Good morning,” his husband’s gravelly voice responds.

“Hmm… Good morning.” Duen stretches his arms out above his head before he settles back under the covers and turns on his side to look at Bohn.

Duen feels incredibly vulnerable, lying in bed, gazing into his husband’s eyes first thing in the morning. His hair is a mess, he has morning breath, and he wants to get up and shower. At the same time, he doesn’t want to move—he feels safe.

“Duen,” Bohn whispers.

“Hmm?”

“Um…” Bohn breaks eye contact and looks down. “My um, my aunt… died. Recently.” His voice drops to a whisper, “That’s why you found me passed out in my office. And… thank you, for bringing me to my bed.” His eyes flit back up to meet Duen’s.

“Oh, Bohn,” Duen reaches under the covers to find his husband’s hand. “I’m so sorry.” He squeezes Bohn’s hand.

Bohn looks down again and holds onto Duen’s hand tightly. “Will you come to the funeral with me? I, um, I understand if you don’t want to… make any public appearances with me… considering…”

“Is a funeral a public appearance?”

Bohn looks back up at him and smiles bitterly. “In my family?” He exhales through his nose and nods. “It definitely is. My father will use it to gain sympathy from the public. He has several close friends in the media that I’m sure he’ll invite to the funeral.”

“That’s horrible… Are you still going to go, then? Knowing… all of that?”

“I have to say goodbye.” Bohn looks as if he’s going to start to cry. “My aunt… she’s the only person in my family who really knew me… she stood up for me to my father when I first came out and I lived with her for about five months until my father let me come back home. She’s known me, loved me, and been on my side more than any other member of my family. Regardless of the media’s presence, I have to go and say goodbye.”

Duen nods—he understands where Bohn is speaking from. “Since it’s like that, I will go with you.”

“Really?” Bohn blinks and a teardrop falls down his cheek. Duen swipes it away with his thumb.

“Mhm. Besides, we should face everything together as husbands.”

Bohn sniffles. “Thank you, Duen.”

“When is the funeral?”

“It’s next Thursday, in the late afternoon… will you be able to go?”

“Mhm, I can leave work early if I need to.”

“You just took two weeks off, I don’t want to pull you away from it again.”

“It’s okay. I can ask the doctor who comes in after me to come in a little early.”

“Thank you, Duen. Really. For everything.”

They stay in bed for a little while longer. It’s Sunday, they’re both exhausted, and neither of them want to leave—neither are sure when they’ll have the excuse to share a bed again. Eventually, after Nanny Fang calls out to them through the door, they get up and begin their day.


For the next few days, Bohn spends the nights in his own room, curled up in his bed, desperately trying to sleep. However, in the large, dark, room all by himself, he feels overwhelmingly lonely and sad. The few times he manages to fall asleep, he wakes up soon after because of his dreams.

By Friday, he’s dead on his feet. He feels dizzy, delirious, as if he’s about to collapse at any minute—he’s exhausted. But every time he tries to lie down and go to sleep he suddenly finds himself alert and wide awake.

After tossing in his bed for a few hours, he sits up.

I can’t continue like this…

He crawls out of bed and goes over to the door that connects his and Duen’s room. The trepidation from the last time he did this bubbles up into his chest and he feels apprehensive as he raises his fist to knock.

Duen answers after a moment, looking confused.

“Duen…”

“Bohn?” Duen rubs his tired eyes.

“I can’t sleep… Can I sleep with you?”

Duen nods and steps back to allow Bohn into his room.

They climb into bed and Bohn barely murmurs, “thank you,” before he passes out.

This becomes their routine every night and soon Duen just leaves the connecting door open for Bohn.

As for Bohn, he’s grateful that Duen is willing to share his bed. The other man’s presence puts him at ease and he can sleep without nightmares.

Chapter Text

The next few days pass quickly now that Bohn is able to sleep peacefully through the night. Work keeps him busy and Duen's presence keeps him at ease. He's able to keep it together until the day of the funeral.

On Thursday morning he wakes up with a heavy sadness weighing down on his chest and he's dreading the afternoon. He doesn't want to get out of bed, but Duen coaxes him downstairs with the promise of freshly brewed coffee and a homemade breakfast.

Duen treats him with extra care and gentleness throughout the morning. Bohn is grateful for his concern, but he's unable to push aside his feelings. A few tears escape from his eyes as he pushes around the omelette and rice on his plate.

Bohn doesn't go to work. He sees Duen off and then spends the day on the couch with Nanny Fang for company. King drops in for lunch, and while Bohn's grateful for their support, their care is a little overbearing. Their gentleness towards him reminds him of why he's sad, why he's especially sad today.

Nanny Fang sends him off with a tight hug when it's time to leave for the funeral. They pick up Duen from work on their way and he spends the rest of the car ride holding his hand.

The entire Sirikarnkul family shows their face at the funeral. Not for his aunt, for whom none of them ever cared for, but for their own sake. There are a few photographers who shamelessly take pictures of the fake tears his distant relatives shed.

Bohn also cries. Fat tear drops silently roll down his face until they're brushed away gently by Duen. He leans into his husband's side for support.

Duen's eyes are also watery, he notices, slightly surprised. Duen's never met his aunt, he doesn't know why Duen is crying too, but he knows that he'd never fake his tears like the rest of his family.

When the service is over, he goes with Duen up to lay a flower on his aunt’s coffin.

Thank you, Auntie, he prays. For everything… I miss you and I promise I’ll take care of myself.

As they prepare to leave the service, they’re approached by his father, who brings with him another man and Bohn’s younger cousin, Ben.

“Bohn, Duen,” his father greets them solemly.

“Father.”

His father's eyes are clear and his face expressionless. Bohn doesn't know how he can be so composed at his younger sister's funeral.

“This man is your aunt’s lawyer," his father says. "She’s left you…well, I’ll let him explain.”

The lawyer clears his throat and speaks politely, “I'm sorry for you loss." Bohn's not sure where this is going. "Your aunt has left her son, Ben, in your custody," the lawyer begins to explain, "As well as the appropriate funding to care for him. So long as you have nothing against it, you and your husband will become his legal guardians.”

Bohn is slightly taken aback. He did wonder what would happen to Ben, but he supposed that he'd be staying with Bohn's parents, or with relatives in England. He glances over at his husband, who is definitely shocked, but still smiling cautiously.

He bites the inside of his cheek and looks back to the lawyer and his father. “Where has he been staying?”

“With us,” Bohn’s father speaks up. “And we can continue to take care of him,” he offers, although it’s clear that’s the last thing that he wants.

Bohn purses his lips and considers. He'd love to take in Ben. It's been a while since he's spent time with his younger cousin, but they always have fun when they're together. He's just not sure if Duen is willing...

He looks back at his husband, a hopeful question in his eyes. Duen squeezes his hand, glances at Ben, then back to him and gives him the slightest nod. Relief floods through Bohn and he turns back to the other two adults with a smile.

“We’ll take him home with us,” Bohn firmly tells his father and the lawyer. “Whatever paperwork you need us to do, that’s fine, we’ll do it later.” He turns his attention to his cousin, “Ben, you’ll come home with me and Duen, if that’s alright with you.”

Ben looks up at him through wide eyes and looks back and forth between him and his husband before his face crumples and he rushes forward to hug Bohn.

Bohn sinks down in his cousin’s embrace in order to hug him better and whispers in his ear, “It’s okay, Ben, we’ll take care of you.”

Ben nods into his neck and Bohn can feel the dampness from his tears on his shoulder.

“Very good,” his father says in a neutral tone. “We’ll have someone send over his belongings.” He glances between his son and his son-in-law. “Take care of the paperwork quickly."

“I’ll make the necessary arrangements,” Bohn agrees. He picks Ben up and holds him tightly to his chest. The lawyer presents him a business card, which Duen accepts on his behalf.

The new family of three leave the funeral. They don't attend the reception at Bohn's family manor—none of them are eager to interact with his relatives and their faux grief.

When they arrive back at their manor, there’s already a large black van parked out front and staff from the main manor unloading boxes and bringing them inside.

Nanny Fang rushes to greet them. “Bohn, Duen, what’s going on?” she asks them as they get out of the car. She catches sight of Ben, “Oh, my!”

“Nanny Fang, this is my cousin, Ben.” In a softer voice, Bohn turns to his cousin and says, “Ben, this is the nanny who raised me. You can call her Nanny Fang.”

“Nanny Fang,” Ben greets politely, clutching tightly to Bohn's hand.

“Well, hello, Ben,” she greets kindly.

“Auntie left him in our care,” Bohn informs the nanny.

“Then, let’s help get him settled in.”

The staff from the main manor only moved Ben’s belongings into the reception hall, so Bohn and Duen enlist Ram to help them move the boxes up to the second floor and into the bedroom just down the hall from Duen’s.

While they’re doing that, Nanny Fang shows Ben around the house, and it gives Bohn and Duen a chance to talk.

“How old is Ben?” Duen asks as he begins to unpack the boxes.

“He just turned seven,” Bohn replies as he does the same.

“He’s so young,” Duen whispers, his voice tinged with sorrow.

Bohn nods. “He only had his mom. His father…” he grimaces. “His father impregnated my aunt—he tricked her, told her that they were being safe when really he wanted to get her pregnant so he could tie her down to him and extort money from her.” His face falls. “She was nearly estranged from the family, but they only kept her around because they found out the sex of the baby. Still, they treated her horribly, so she raised Ben abroad in England. She only moved back at the end of last year when she heard about our engagement.”

“That’s horrible!”

“It is,” Bohn agrees miserably. He looks at his husband firmly. “I know this was brought upon us suddenly and neither of us are prepared for it, so if…” he catches his breath before he exhales slowly. “If you’re not okay with this, with taking Ben in, we can work-”

“No,” Duen interrupts him. He stops unpacking for the moment to face Bohn and take both of his hands in his own. “No, we’re going to keep him here and take care of him. Your aunt left him in your care for a reason. She trusts you and, she, gosh, Bohn,” he fumbles with his words before he shakes his head and squeezes his eyes shut. “I wouldn’t want him to be stuck under the care of someone who tried to push her out of the family when she was taken advantage of!” He exhales loudly, opens his eyes, and looks directly at Bohn. “We’re not letting your parents take care of him,” he shakes his head, “Not when we can.”

“Duen,” Bohn’s voice cracks on the single syllable and his face crumbles. He’s crying again, this time out of relief.

He let's go of Duen's hands to wipe his cheeks and composes himself. “I’m glad you feel that way,” his voice is thick.

A knock on the door interrupts them and turn to see Nanny Fang peek her head into the room.

“I thought you might want to show Ben his room and let him help you unpack,” she explains.

Ben appears in the doorway, and Bohn opens his arms for him to come over.

“Alright, Ben,” Bohn picks him up and sits on the bed with him in his lap. “This will be your bedroom. You can ask Uncle Duen to help you decorate it the way you like.”

“Uncle Duen…?”

Bohn looks up at husband and Ben follows his gaze. “Do you remember coming to my wedding a few months ago? This is the person I married, so now he’s your Uncle Duen.”

“Uncle Duen,” Ben greets shyly.

“Hello, Ben,” Duen greets kindly as he sits down on the bed next to the cousins. “Do you want to go shopping this weekend? I’ll help you pick out some new bedding and things to decorate your room with.”

Ben glances around the room before he agrees. “Can we change the color too?” he asks.

“Sure!” He delights in the way that Ben’s eyes light up when he agrees. “What color room would you like to have?”

“Um… red.”

“Red? Is that your favorite color?”

“Yeah!”

“Then I’ll help you pick out a nice shade of red to paint your room.”

“What do you say, Ben?” Bohn asks his cousin, jostling him on his lap.

“Thank you, Uncle Duen.”

“We’re family now, Ben. You can come to me about anything,” Duen assures.

“Me too,” Bohn speaks up.

“Me too,” Nanny Fang pipes up from the doorway and the three look up at her, startled because they forgot she was there. She chuckles at their expressions. “Why do you act as if you all saw a ghost?”

Her tone is light-hearted and the three relax. “You can go to Nanny Fang, too,” Bohn says, laughter hidden in his voice. “And if you really need, you can go to P’King or P’Ram too—although, I suppose you can also call them uncle.”

Ben frowns, his eyes wide. “Uncle Ram is scary,” he whispers loudly into Bohn’s ear, causing Bohn to laugh and glance at his husband before he whispers back,

“I’m scared of him too.”

Duen glances between the two of them, indignant. “Ram isn’t scary,” he protests, “Don’t let his demeanor fool you.”

Both Ben and Bohn glance at each other and shake their heads, which causes Duen to roll his eyes and Nanny Fang to laugh.

“Ben,” she speaks up, “Don’t worry. I’ll be in charge of taking care of you while these two are at work.”

“Oh,” Duen utters suddenly. His brow furrows. “Should I take some time off of work?”

Bohn quickly shakes his head. “Don’t worry about that, I’ll take some time off. You just started and already missed so much because of your surgery. I can take some time off and work from home.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. The company can survive without me for a few weeks. I’ll also look into enrolling him in school.”

“Oh! Do you think we’ll be able to enroll him before the school year begins?”

“I think so… it’s only April and the semester begins in May. It’s a little last minute, but I can throw my last name around if I really need to.”

“Do I have to go to school?” Ben pipes up.

“Yes,” all three adults say at once.

“Oh,” Ben pouts, causing Nanny Fang to laugh and Bohn to ruffle his hair fondly.


During the weekend, Bohn, Duen, and Ben go out to buy new bedding and furniture for Ben’s room. They also pick out several paint samples to try out on the walls.

Both Duen and Bohn are certain that Ben is happy with his newly decorated room, but each night Ben is reluctant to go up to bed. They know he’s exhausted because of the tantrums he throws each time they try to get him to go to sleep. He’ll scream and throw a fit until he eventually passes out on the couch, and either Bohn or Duen will carry him up to his bed before they retire for the night.

“He probably is just not used to it yet,” Bohn tries to convince himself and his husband. “It’s a new environment and it is a rather large room for a seven year old.”

They’re in Duen’s bed after Bohn carried Ben up to bed and Duen tucked him in. It’s late in the evening and Bohn no longer pretends that he’s going to sleep in his own room. Instead, he gets ready for bed in his bathroom before he goes over to Duen’s room and crawls into his bed.

“Oh,” Duen realizes. He sits up and looks down at his husband, intense worry in his eyes. “Do you think… do you think he’s having trouble sleeping because his mother has passed?”

“Oh,” Bohn’s breath catches. He can’t believe he never thought of it. They look at each other for a moment longer before they scramble out of bed and rush down the hallway to stand outside of Ben’s bedroom.

Bohn holds a finger up to his lips as both he and Duen press their ear to the door.

“Let’s go in,” Duen mouths and Bohn quietly opens the door.

The light from the hallway shines onto Ben’s bed and they try to walk quietly over to his bed. He seems to still be asleep, but there are tear stains on his cheeks and he’s letting out quiet whimpers and sobs.

Duen and Bohn exchange heartbroken looks before Duen scoops him up.

“Let’s bring him to sleep with us,” he whispers. Bohn takes one of the pillows off of the bed and leads him out of Ben’s room.

Bohn pulls back the covers of Duen’s bed and places his pillow down in the middle of the bed. Duen sets Ben down gently and the husbands each lie down next to him.

Ben immediately reaches out for Bohn and calms down when he’s pulled into his embrace. Duen pulls the blankets up to cover all three of them as he settles down onto his own pillow. Ben is more restful lying between his uncles, and Bohn and Duen quickly fall back asleep.


Duen wakes up in the morning because he feels the bed shift and he opens his eyes to see Ben trying to climb out.

“Ben?” he whispers and his cousin in law stops moving. “Ben,” he repeats. “Come back down here,” he gestures with his hand.

Ben lies back down stiffly and looks up at him with wide eyes as Duen checks the time.

“It’s early,” he whispers, “Go back to sleep.”

“I can go sleep in my own bed,” Ben whispers back.

“You’re already here, just go back to sleep.”

“I can sleep on my own,” Ben insists. “I’m old enough to sleep on my own.”

“Hmmm,” Duen hums. “You are old enough to sleep on your own. But you’ve been having a hard time sleeping, haven’t you?”

“No,” Ben denies.

“It’s okay,” Duen reassures. “Bohn also has a hard time sleeping these days, that’s why he sleeps in my bed.”

“Really?”

“That’s right,” Bohn’s gruff voice speaks up.

“Did we wake you up?” Duen asks softly.

“It’s okay.” He pulls Ben into his side and props up on one elbow to look down at him. “I’m having a hard time sleeping, so I share a bed with Duen. If you’re also having a hard time sleeping, then you can come and share his bed too.”

“Am I allowed to do that?” Ben's eyes are wide as he asks them. He seems so surprised that Duen has to wonder how he was treated while he was staying with Bohn's parents.

“Of course,” Bohn dismisses his cousin’s concern. “Duen doesn’t mind, otherwise he would have kicked me out long ago.”

They both turn to look at Duen, who agrees quickly, “I don’t mind.”

“See? Now, it’s still early, so let’s all go back to sleep for a little bit.”

The three settle back into their pillows, close their eyes, and fall back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Bohn and Duen slowly adjust to having a seven year old in the house. There are more snacks in the kitchen, more toys in the living room, and several expensive vases that they have to relocate after Ben accidentally knocks one over and it shatters.

About a week after the funeral, Bohn and Duen go to file the paperwork to legally adopt Ben as their own. Bohn also starts to look for a school to enroll Ben in.

Bohn spends a couple of weeks after the funeral working from home and doing everything he can to lighten his work load. He and Ben are able to spend a lot of time together playing video games, going out to the mall, playing soccer in the park, and going to the library. Nanny Fang always accompanies them and luckily she and Ben get along really well. She teaches him arts and crafts, fun songs and dances, and, to Duen's delight, how to bake a cake. She helps Bohn keep a routine, teach manners, and establish a bedtime. Bohn is very grateful to have her around, otherwise he'd be helpless raising Ben.

“He reminds me of when you were young,” Nanny Fang tells him with a twinkle in her eye.

“Does he really?”

“Oh yes, he’s definitely a handful.”

Bohn frowns. Ben does have a lot of energy and Nanny Fang already has to take care of the house all by herself. He’s going to be returning to work soon—luckily it’s close to when Ben starts school, but still he feels a little guilty.

“I’m sorry that you have to take on more responsibility, Nanny Fang,” he apologizes.

She waves her hand to dismiss his concerns quickly. “Oh, please, I’m not so old that I can’t handle it. I only have to do so much as your housekeeper, and Ben is a good kid, he’s easy to watch.” She side eyes him playfully. “I was busier when I had to take care of you,” she teases.

“Hmph,” Bohn huffs, pretending to be more displeased than he actually is.

One evening, Bohn’s father calls him and tells him that he’s going to have to host an event to welcome Ben into their family.

“An event?” Bohn asks cautiously.

“Yes. I’ve already invited several families to come over to your house and celebrate on the first Saturday in May. Your step mother found caterers and a small orchestra to play the event. Just make sure that your house is ready to host.”

“The first Saturday in May? And you want us to host?” He sighs and begins to pace around his office. “No, that’s too soon. It’s too soon after Auntie’s funeral, it’s too soon after Ben starts school. It’s not a good idea.”

“What? Not a good idea? That’s preposterous, it’s a great idea! Ben is young, he’ll be fine. He’ll be having too much fun at the party to be sad!”

Bohn bites the inside of his cheek. Ben still sleeps with him and Duen every night, he still cries silently in his sleep, he still is recovering from losing his mother. He’s just about to start a new school, in a new country, speaking a language that he’s only marginally familiar with. A party… it’d be too overwhelming.

“I can’t… This can’t happen,” Bohn protests, trying to be firm. “At least not when you want it to.”

“It’s happening the first Saturday of May,” his father insists coldly. “Everything is already taken care of, you just have to make sure that your manor and your family are presentable for the public.”

“...the public?” Bohn’s heart drops into his stomach—there were already several articles after the funeral. Wasn’t that enough? “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m very serious,” Bohn’s father says and Bohn knows that there’s no room for negotiation.

Dad. This isn’t okay!”

“It is happening, regardless of what you think or want! You can either prepare for it or you can humiliate yourself and our entire family. It’s up to you.”

His father hangs up and Bohn has to hold himself back from throwing his phone across the room. Instead he groans and rubs his hand down his face. He needs to find Duen and talk to him. Maybe they can figure out a way to make this easier for Ben.

Duen is outraged when he tells him.

“You can’t be serious! Is your father really…?” He throws his hands up in the air and paces around the room. “He’s using this for publicity, isn’t he? For his campaign, right?”

Bohn nods miserably and leans forward to rest his forehead in his hand.

“There’s nothing I can do about it. Families are coming to our house on the first Saturday of May whether we want them to or not. Dad still has access to the manor, there’s no keeping them out. We just have to play host and look good for the camera.”

“What about Ben? He’s still having a hard time about his mother’s passing, about everything! This isn’t good timing.”

“I know,” Bohn agrees. “I know! That’s why I need your help. We need to find a way to make this easier for him.” He reaches out to catch Duen’s arm and pulls him to sit down next to him.

“I don’t know what we can do,” Duen shakes his head as he sits down. He takes Bohn’s hands with both of his. “I don’t know what we can do… except keep him close to us throughout the evening… Do our best to keep the press away from him—they can’t print his photo without our consent…. We’ll find an excuse to send him to bed early… We’ll check on him throughout the evening and prepare him the best we can for the event.”

Bohn sighs. “That might be all we can do. The press is going to want at least one photo of us together… maybe we can keep his face out of it. He’s only seven, he doesn’t need to be in the tabloids. Especially since his classmates might see it—he doesn’t need that sort of attention from them.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Duen agrees solemnly. “He doesn’t need or deserve any of this.”

That evening, the husbands sit Ben down on the couch between them and tell him about the event.

“A party?”

“Mhm, to welcome you into our family.”

“Oh.”

“Oh?” Bohn and Duen exchange glances.

“I thought I was already part of your family.”

“You are,” Bohn takes Ben’s hand. “My father just wants to have an official celebration to commemorate it.”

“Do we have to?”

Bohn nods grimly. “We have to. My father has already organized everything.”

“Okay,” Ben agrees. He suddenly perks up, “Will I be able to stay up past my bedtime.”

“Hah. We’ll see,” Bohn teases, but it’s clear that the answer is ‘yes.’

At least Ben is able to look forward to the party, but both Bohn and Duen are uncertain if he’ll be as excited on the night of.


Ben’s first day of school happens the Monday before the party. Bohn and Duen take the morning off so they can bring him to his classroom.

They introduce themselves to the teacher while Ben goes off to play with the other students.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” the teacher greets warmly. “I’m very excited to have Ben in my classroom. And don’t worry,” she reassures them, “I’m familiar with the situation. I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure that he’s okay and able to keep up in class. We have a couple of other students who are also learning Thai and my class is designed to meet their needs.”

“That’s a relief to hear,” Duen responds. He pulls a card from his pocket. “But, please take my number, just in case.”

The teacher accepts the card. “I’m sure he’ll be fine, but I’ll keep it just in case.”

Ben's school is close to the university where Duen works so he's is the first person they’ll call if there’s something wrong. All day, he sits at his desk in the university clinic and wills his phone to not ring. By the time he clocks out, the only calls he’s received are from his worried husband.

He picks Ben up on his way home.

“Uncle Duen!” Ben rushes out to greet him enthusiastically.

“Hello, Ben! Did you have a good day at school?”

“No! We had to practice our writing! It sucked!”

“Oh?” Duen laughs, startled, “Then why do you seem so excited?”

“Because we got to eat our lunch outside! And I made a new friend! And Teacher gave me a sticker, look!” Ben holds up his shirt to show off the shiny star before he resumes his rambling, “And Teacher said we’re going to learn math tomorrow, and I like math because I already know how to do addition and subtraction!”

“Well that seems like it was a pretty good day to me!” Duen ruffles Ben’s hair. “But I guess you’re ready to go home, huh?”

“Uh-huh!”

Duen helps Ben into the car and Ben continues to tell him about his new friend on the drive home.

“Jordi is from Australia, so I have to speak English to him ‘cause he doesn’t know anything in Thai!”

“Oh wow, then you can help him learn Thai, right? Since you already know so many words?”

“Yeah! I kept trying to teach him today, but he kept saying everything wrong!”

“Well, it’s hard to learn a new language. I had a hard time learning to speak English.”

“Really?” Ben switches over to English. “Uncle Duen, you can speak English?”

“I can speak it okay,” Duen responds in a heavy accent, which causes Ben to giggle. He laughs along. “I’m not so bad, am I? I studied abroad in America for a semester and I was able to get by!”

They continue to chatter back and forth, switching between Thai and English until they get home. Duen is surprised to see that Bohn is already home as well.

“Uncle Bohn!” Ben yells in excitement as he runs out of the car to greet his cousin.

“Ben!” Bohn picks him up and swings him around.

“You’re home early,” Duen remarks. He gives his husband a knowing look. “Were you worried?”

“No,” Bohn denies, but they both know that he’s lying. He turns his attention back to Ben. “How was your first day of school?”

“Bad!”

Bohn looks at Duen with concern and Duen shakes his head. No, he mouths to dismiss Bohn’s worry.

“It was bad?” Bohn asks his nephew, uncertain of what he’s about to hear.

“Yeah!” Ben begins to explain everything that he told Duen on the way home.

It’s fun to hear him repeat everything and watch as the worry melts off of Bohn’s face.

“It sounds like it was pretty okay to me,” Bohn remarks when Ben pauses to take a breath.

“Maybe, but I don’t think so,” Ben disagrees and Duen covers his mouth to hide his laugh.

The three go inside to meet Nanny Fang, who asks Ben the same question of, “How was your first day of school?”

The husbands conceal their laughter as they watch Nanny Fang live through the same ordeal they both endured.

“Hmm, well it’s good that you’ll be doing math tomorrow,” the nanny says. “Maybe then you’ll have a good second day of school. Now, why don’t you go and get changed out of your uniform.”

“Okay!” Ben rushes off, not bothering to take off his shoes, and Duen sighs.

“He’s certainly something.”

“He certainly is. I’m glad that he had a good first day of school, regardless of what he said,” Bohn responds.

The week goes by quickly and the small family finds a routine easily. Duen’s shift at work aligns with Ben’s school day so he’s able to drop him off and pick him up. Bohn doesn’t come home early from work anymore and both Duen and Ben start to wait by the door to greet him after he texts Duen that he’s on his way home.

Then Saturday comes, and as the husbands expected, Ben is exhausted after his first week of school. He’s reluctant to get out of bed and more reluctant to clean up and put on a suit.

Luckily, Nanny Fang is able to convince him and she helps keep him entertained as Duen and Bohn run around their manor to help the staff set up the ballroom.

Bohn’s parents arrive at six and the rest of the guests begin to arrive around seven. His father has Ben, Bohn, and Duen wait at the top of the staircase while the guests wait in the reception hall.

Bohn’s father quiets the crowd. “I’d like to present to you all my son and his family.” He turns around and gestures for the three to come down the stairs.

Bohn and Duen exchange glances before they begin their descent—they weren’t expecting this. As they walk down the stairs together, each holding onto one of Ben’s hands, the cameras flash, and they know they’re going to have to fight an uphill battle to keep Ben’s face out of the tabloids.

“As you may have heard,” his father continues, “My younger sister passed away last month. We were all heartbroken, her son most of all. He’s now been adopted by my son and his husband. I’m proud of my son for taking him in, and I’m proud that he’s able to show all of us that this type of modern family is just the same as any other family.”

Bohn glances over at his husband and is slightly relieved to see that his husband is maintaining his composure. It’s obvious what his father is doing, but he knows that they can’t speak up or lose their temper. He glances down at Ben, who luckily doesn’t seem to know what is going on.

His father finishes his speech and then invites the guests to dine in the ballroom. He stops them as they walk past him and has them pose for a picture with him.

Duen brings Ben to a table in the front while Bohn goes to make plates for all of them. The food, the music, the atmosphere—all of it is wonderful and he’s sure that the guests are having a grand time. All of them are here to network, to make an appearance, none of them care about Ben.

They eat, and Bohn and Duen take turns socializing while the other person sticks close to Ben. They have to mediate between the guests and the young boy. As the evening goes on, the guests become more drunk and their questions become more invasive. One guest even asks him how it feels to go from having one mother to having two fathers.

Eventually, Ben tugs on the sleeve of Duen and tells him that he wants to go to bed.

This has to be a big deal. Bohn quiets the room to inform the guests that Ben will be going to bed now and that they’re welcome to stay but please be conscious of the volume since Ben will be trying to sleep.

Duen brings Ben up to his bedroom and asks Ram to stand guard outside of his door.

“There probably will be a few drunk guests who spend the night here,” he tells his friend. “I’m worried that they’ll come over here and bother Ben. Please keep an eye on him and take care of him if he needs anything.”

Ram nods and reassures Duen by squeezing his shoulder.

Duen tucks Ben into his bed and tells him, “If you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask P’Ram. Okay?”

“He’s scary,” Ben protests.

“He’s Uncle Duen’s best friend, I promise he isn’t scary.” Duen purses his lips and thinks for a moment. He leans in close to Ben and whispers to him, “He only acts scary to keep me safe. He’s actually very sweet and shy. He’ll take care of you if you need anything. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Goodnight, Ben.”

“Goodnight, Uncle Duen.”

Duen smiles at him as he closes the door behind him.

“Thank you, Ram,” he thanks his bodyguard again in a soft voice.

Ram nods and sends him on his way. Duen reluctantly goes back down to the party and finds a drink. After throwing back the first glass of wine, he pours himself another and then searches for his husband

This whole thing is crazy. He shouldn’t have to ask Ram to guard Ben so closely in his own home. Their home shouldn’t be invaded on the whim of a power hungry wannabe politician. All of these people… he doesn’t want them here.

He finds Bohn and finishes his second glass of wine. It’s enough to make him drunk, dizzy, and brave. He leans on his husband for support.

“Duen?” Bohn whispers to him as Duen rests his head on Bohn’s shoulder. He lifts Duen’s head up gently and examines his face.

“Bohn,” Duen breathes and Bohn grimaces.

“You’re drunk!”

“I am!”

Bohn groans but he’s smiling. “I can’t believe you!” he scolds playfully. “I’m also so, so jealous, but one of us has to stay sober to keep my father from completely taking over this party.”

“Hmm… I’ll sober up and then you can get drunk,” Duen declares.

“Hah, I don’t think so. It’s already pretty late in the evening. I’ll just take care of you for the rest of the night.”

“Really? Thank you, Bohn,” Duen smiles and leans his forehead back onto Bohn’s shoulder. Bohn wraps his hand around his waist and keeps him close to his side for the rest of the evening.

Many of the guests begin to clear out around eleven, but there are still a few families who linger.

“If anyone needs, they can stay the night in the left wing of our house. I’ll have our housekeeper help you find an empty room and you may leave in the morning.”

A few families take Bohn up on his offer—he and Duen thought this might happen, so every guest room is clean and fully stocked with toiletries, pain killers, and water bottles. They also ordered a selection of pastries and fruit to give the guests in the morning for breakfast and closed off access to the right wing of the house.

Bohn’s father takes notice of Duen’s drunken state and approaches them.

“How could you let your husband get drunk?” he scolds. “He’s embarrassing our family!”

Bohn bites the inside of his cheek and is about to snap back, but his husband surprises him by speaking up first.

“How could you!” he declares loudly, jabbing his finger into his father-in-law’s chest. “You used your sister’s passing for publicity, and now you’re using her son and your son for political clout! Aren’t you embarrassed? Aren’t you ashamed?”

Bohn’s father looks around angrily and Bohn notices that they have attracted the attention of a few of the lingering guests.

“Shut up,” Bohn’s father hisses at his son-in-law.

“Why? Are you upset because you know that I’m right?”

Bohn’s father goes to smack him until he realizes that people are watching and he composes himself.

“Why don’t you take your husband to bed,” he grits through his teeth.

“I will once everyone else has either gone to bed or left,” Bohn responds with forced politeness. “You could help me with that, if you care so much.”

Bohn’s father slowly exhales and glares at the pair before he schools his face and leaves them. They both watch him go, and when he’s not looking at them anymore, Duen straightens up.

“Well,” he huffs indignantly.

“Duen!”

“What? Oh! I sobered up a little bit ago, I just wanted an excuse to call your father out.”

“Oh my—I can’t believe you! He would have beaten you if there weren't other people watching!”

“I know! But look, I wasn’t saying anything that people didn’t already know, and this definitely won’t be covered by the press since every person here is deep in your father’s pocket.”

Bohn shakes his head in amazement. “You’re incredible.”

Duen blushes. He looks down for a moment before he looks back at Bohn with shining eyes. “I know I am,” he says brightly. “Come on, the party’s over. Let’s go to bed.”

The couple thanks Ram, wishes him a goodnight, and send him off to bed. Then they change and get ready for bed in Bohn’s room to keep from disturbing Ben before they quietly make their way into Duen’s room, crawl into bed, and fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Bohn’s forced to spend the week after the party reaching out to every media company his father has ever come in contact with in order to appease, convince, or threaten them into not publishing Ben’s photo. He finds a compromise early on—they can publish a picture of him, Duen, and his father as long as Ben is cropped out and they only refer to him by his first initial.

It’s exhausting, but he manages to keep Ben out of the papers.

His father seems to take a step back, or perhaps there isn’t anything for him to take advantage of at the moment. He’s certainly running a strong game in the media, but Bohn and his family don’t seem to be mentioned nearly as often any more.

He doesn't know if it's because Duen called him out in front of a few people or if he's milked his sister's death and Ben's adoption for all it's worth. Either way, it’s refreshing.

Bohn also starts to spend less time at work for the sake of spending time with his family. He helps Ben with his homework after school and spends the evening with the people he cares about instead of working in his home office.

One hot evening, after an early dinner, Bohn sits out by the pool with a book and a glass of white wine. Ben and Duen play in the pool, Nanny Fang rests inside, and Ram and King are off together, probably flirting with each other.

Ben swims around the pool, showing off to Duen. It’s impressive how much energy the seven year old always has.

Bohn really intends to read his book, but it’s fun to watch his husband and younger cousin play around. Eventually, they rope him into judging a jumping in the pool contest where Ben will come up with a category, and whoever jumps in the pool the best to match that category wins. It starts out pretty generic—cannonballs, smallest splash, biggest splash, etc. The next thing Bohn knows, Ben and Duen are jumping into the pool like frogs, ballet dances, even aliens.

It's funny to watch Duen, a full grown man in his twenties, play around like he's also seven years old. Ben certainly enjoys it. He shrieks and giggles whenever Duen jumps into the pool—he does look pretty ridiculous, although Bohn's pretty sure that he's putting on a show just to make Ben laugh.

Duen also introduces Ben to a new game. One of them will call out the initials to a movie or TV show from one side of the pool and the other will have to swim across, touch his hand, and then give his guess. If he’s wrong, he has to swim back before he can try again.

“It’d be more fun if we had another person,” Duen whispers to Ben and glances pointedly at Bohn, who pretends not to notice them looking. “It’s really supposed to be a competition to see who can think of the movie and swim to the caller first.”

Ben takes the hint. “Uncle Bohn!”

“What is it, Ben?”

“Will you come in the pool and play a game with us?”

Bohn pretends to consider. “Hmm… no.”

“Please!”

“Mm-mm,” he shakes his head.

“Uncle Bohn,” Ben whines.

“Uncle Bohn,” Duen repeats in the same tone.

Bohn sighs and looks up from his book. Ben and Duen are at the edge of the pool, looking up at him with matching pouts and puppy dog eyes. “Alright, alright, just give me a moment to get changed.”

He takes the book inside with him and changes into his swimsuit. He can’t believe how easily the two convinced him to get in and swim.

The water feels nice as he steps in. Ben rushes to tackle him and koala himself around Bohn’s waist.

“Uncle Bohn!” he shouts joyously into Bohn’s ear.

“Oh, Ben!” Bohn rubs his ear and winces.

Ben doesn’t pay him any mind and springs off of his body to latch onto Duen’s.

“Uncle Duen!” he yells just as loudly, “Let’s play now!”

So they continue to play. Duen and Bohn try their best to remember English children’s movies and television shows and Ben surprises them by knowing a few Thai shows. Eventually, the game derails into a splash fight that only ends when Nanny Fang walks onto the pool deck and clears her throat.

“Boys,” she scolds, although there’s laughter in her voice.

“Nanny Fang!” Ben exclaims. “Do you want to come in and play games too?”

She taps her chin and thinks for a moment before she shakes her head no. “Maybe another day, Ben. Right now the sun is setting, so why don’t you get out and I’ll take you to have a bath.”

“Oh, I don’t need a bath, I’ve been in the pool! I’m clean!”

Bohn and Duen glance at each other before Duen helps Nanny Fang out. “It is getting late, Ben. We all need to get out soon and have a bath before bed.”

“Oh. Okay,” Ben pouts.

Nanny Fang pulls him out of the pool and wraps him in his towel before she takes him inside. Bohn and Duen continue to linger in the pool.

Bohn leans his back against the edge of the pool and watches as his husband puffs out his chest to float on his back. Duen closes his eyes and relaxes his face for the first time in a while. He seems tired and Bohn is content to watch him relax for the time being.

“Okay,” Duen breathes when he finally stands up. He treads over to the wall next to Bohn. “We should get out.”

“We should,” Bohn agrees, but neither of them move. He turns slightly so his body faces Duen’s.

“It’s such a nice night,” Duen sighs wistfully and his eyes flutter close again. “And I am so tired.” He rests his head on his arms, using the side of the pool to support himself.

“Ben certainly has a way of wearing a person out… I don’t know where he gets all of his energy from.”

“Hmm,” Duen smiles. “He certainly does… but it’s fun to play with him. It makes me miss when Daonua was younger.” He pushes himself off the wall slightly so he can turn around and settle his back against it.

“You’re really good with him,” Bohn mutters softly—he’s been thinking it for a while now, but he never said it out loud before.

Duen’s flustered. “I like kids… I spent a lot of time looking out for Daonua and our younger cousins when we were growing up.”

“Still,” Bohn finds himself moving forward slightly towards Duen. “I’m very grateful that you are willing to take him in, look out for him, and care for him. You’ve done so much and really I’m just… very truly grateful to you.”

They’re standing close together now, there’s only a little bit of room separating Bohn’s chest from Duen’s arm. Duen’s cheeks are slightly pink, and it could very well be from the heat of the sun, but Bohn wants to believe that his words are causing Duen to blush.

Bohn’s heart beats wildly in his chest, but he feels breathless. Their proximity leaves him feeling dizzy, drunk, as if he had the whole bottle of wine instead of half a glass. He feels like a teenager—excited, terrified, and desperate to make a move.

His eyes wander over Duen’s face. He’s never noticed before, but Duen has a small brown mole just off center of the tip of his nose. He wants to lean forward and press his lips to that mole. He wants to reach up and caress Duen’s soft cheeks. He wants to pull Duen into his embrace and never let him go.

Bohn’s eyes get stuck on Duen’s lips. Suddenly, he can’t think of anything other than closing the distance between them. Caught up in his own heart, he doesn’t notice that he’s starting to lean in, very obviously moving to kiss Duen.

He doesn’t notice until he sees panic in Duen’s eyes, feels pressure on his shoulders, and finds himself underwater.

Bohn resurfaces and uses both hands to clear the water from his eyes and push his hair back.

“Duen!”

“What?” Duen snaps back, although his eyes are dancing.

Bohn scrunches his face and lunges at his husband. Duen shrieks and pushes himself off the wall to get away, but Bohn catches him and sinks them both under water.

His husband’s eyes are shut tight and Bohn takes a moment to admire him. Bubbles escape from Duen’s mouth and nose and he taps Bohn on the shoulder several times. Still holding onto his husband, Bohn resurfaces them and uses one hand to push Duen’s hair out of his eyes and help him clear his eyes from the water.

“Bohn!” Duen sputters and blinks.

“What? You did it first.”

Duen pouts. Bohn smirks and leans forward once more—not actually intending to kiss his husband, just to tease him. He holds back a laugh as Duen leans back in his arms and tilts his head back to get away from him.

They’ve never been physically affectionate before. Their relationship is good, but it’s not romantic—there’s no reason for them to hug or kiss. However, Bohn can’t ignore his growing feelings for Duen any longer.

His husband’s admitted that he’s never kissed anyone before, never been in a romantic relationship before and it thrills him to know that he could be Duen’s first and only. He doesn’t want to push Duen’s boundaries, he only wants to tease him a bit.

He doesn’t try to force a kiss on Duen. Instead, he asks, "Duen, can I hug you?"

Duen blinks several times and tilts his head down as he considers. "Um... Okay," he agrees shyly.

Bohn moves his head to rest on Duen’s shoulder and holds him in a tight hug. Duen seems to hold his breath as his arms hesitantly come up to hold him back. This isn’t an unfamiliar position to them—sometimes, before Ben slept in their bed, Duen would hold him like this after a nightmare.

Bohn knows his heart is pounding wildly in his chest and he knows that Duen can feel it against his own. Although they’ve held each other like this before, right now is different. This isn’t for comfort, it’s a purposeful display of affection.

Duen holds him for a second before he takes Bohn’s shoulders and gently pushes him away.

“We should go inside and get cleaned up.”

Bohn nods, gazing into Duen’s eyes even though the other refuses to look at him. He helps Duen out of the pool and gives him his towel before he wraps his own around his waist.

Duen rushes inside before him and Bohn chuckles to himself. He knows his husband is shy but it seems that Duen is more shy than he realized.


Ram finds himself slowing spending more time with King and it's completely Duen's fault. His best friend quickly picked up on his interest in the gardener and has been giving him more opportunities to spend time with him and help him out. Of course, he doesn’t make Ram go to King, he usually says something like, "Oh, I think P'King could use some help in the garden today," or, "I'm pretty sure P'King is taking it easy today, why don't you go keep him company," or sometimes he straight up says, "I don't need your services today, go and flirt with the gardener."

Especially since Duen relies on campus security rather than Ram for protection, Ram has unofficially taken on the role of 'Assistant to the Head Gardener' while Duen's at work.

He's happy that he's able to do a lot of the grunt work for King. It gives him the opportunity to flex and show off his muscles. Plus, King always rewards him with something cool to drink or a meal.

In the evenings, when he's not helping King but still together with him, they'll walk through the garden together. It’s really nice because King is always so eager to talk about the different plants and Ram is content to just listen. He doesn’t like to talk, but he enjoys King’s company. What’s even more special is that the gardener seems to understand him even when he doesn’t speak up.

There’s a gazebo hidden underneath one of the willow trees that they like to sit in. Sometimes they’ll bring out tea and snacks and enjoy their evening there. Usually, after they walk through the garden, they’ll sit there until the sun goes down, and Ram will walk King back to his cottage before he returns to his room.

Ram is pretty sure that the gardener likes him back. He’s always happy to see him and always seems sad when they have to part. Sometimes he stares at Ram in a way that makes Ram’s heart skip a beat. Sometimes, King teases him and tries to get him to talk, and Ram will tease him right back and say something that flusters him. It's fun when he's able to catch him off guard—King will look at him, dazed and caught up in the moment before he shakes himself out of it and changes the subject.

One evening, they’re sitting together in the gazebo and King tucks a purple flower behind his ear and expresses that he hopes Ram can find someone who understands him.

Ram takes the flower from behind his ear and twirls it between his fingers before he looks King in the eyes and says, “The person who understands me… it’s you.”

King catches his breath, his ears turn red, and he blinks a few times before he clears his throat. “Um… that’s good.” He awkwardly pats Ram’s shoulder before he turns away slightly and continues the conversation.

So yeah, Ram is nearly certain that the gardener likes him back, but he's also pretty sure that neither of them are ready to act on them yet, so he continues to slowly grow closer to King.

These days, Ram is also responsible for watching and protecting the newest member of the family. He's not good with kids—they're always so talkative and like to climb over him and poke at his tattoos. King knows that Ram has a hard time around children. They once had a conversation where they admitted their fears to each other—for Ram it's kids, for King it's dogs—so he always helps him watch over Ben. Usually in the afternoons, on days when Bohn is still at work and Duen and Nanny Fang are working together in the kitchen, Ben becomes their responsibility. It happens frequently enough that Ben starts to associate them with afternoon play time, and whenever he sees one of them he'll ask where the other is.

It makes Ram secretly happy that Ben associates the two of them together. He likes being 'Ram and King' rather than Ram and also King. For that reason, he starts to look forward to afternoons with Ben.

The three like to play hide and seek in the garden. It’s not hard to find Ben since he has a tendency to hide behind the same few bushes. Every time Ben finds one of them, he attacks them with an enthusiastic hug and shrieks with laughter as they pretend to attempt to escape his grasp.

So Ram still doesn’t like children, but his heart has softened to Ben. He knows it, Ben knows it, King knows it, and yet they continue the charade that Ram is uncomfortable around the seven year old so King still has an excuse to watch Ben together with him.

From this, Ram learns that when he’s next to King, he can overcome anything, face anything. The man has a strange way of calming his anxieties and gives him the courage to take on new challenges.

Chapter Text

Ben starts to sleep in his own bed a few weeks after he starts school. Some nights he still crawls into bed with Duen and Bohn, but more and more he begins to sleep on his own.

Bohn isn’t sure if he should go back to his own bed or not. He’s pretty sure he can sleep fine on his own now, but he wants to keep sharing a bed with his husband.

The first night when Ben goes to bed on his own, Bohn and Duen don’t know what to do with themselves. Usually, at least one of them would go to sleep with Ben, but more often than not, all three of them would adhere to the 8:30 bedtime.

So, after tucking Ben in and making him promise to come and get them if he needs anything, the husbands go downstairs and sit at the dining table, both feeling a little lost.

“Ice cream?” Duen suggests after a while.

“Ice cream,” Bohn agrees.

Duen goes into the kitchen and retrieves a pint from the freezer and two spoons. He hands a spoon to Bohn as he sits down. They share the pint between them, taking turns to eat the ice cream and passing the carton back and forth.

Duen is cute when he eats sweets. He has a sweet tooth and especially loves to eat ice cream. He savors every bite with a quiet hum.

He’s so cute that Bohn only pretends to mind when he starts to keep the ice cream for longer and longer.

“Duen!” he half laughs half whines as his husband takes a third large spoonful for himself before he passes the ice cream to Bohn.

“Hmm?” Duen hums around the spoon and blinks innocently.

“Hmm?” Bohn presses back as he takes a spoonful for himself only to have the carton immediately snatched back by Duen. “Hey! I wasn’t done.”

“You shouldn’t eat too much sugar before bed,” Duen reprimands, holding the carton close to his chest and turning away from Bohn.

Bohn lunges forward and tries to get another spoonful. “What are you talking about, you’re eating more than me!” he laughs.

“I’m just concerned about your health, Phi!” He emphasizes the honorific—they don’t use them in the first place, so it’s an obvious jab at Bohn’s age.

“What? You make me sound like I’m a lot older than you when we’re only a year apart!”

Bohn manages to snatch the carton back and quickly runs into the kitchen, but Duen catches him from behind and takes it back. Bohn turns around in his arms and encircles his own around Duen’s waist. The momentum from their short chase leaves them near the countertop and he leans back against it, pulling Duen with him.

“Fine, fine, fine, I’ll share,” Duen says graciously. He scoops a little bit out of the carton with his spoon and holds it up to Bohn’s mouth.

“There’s barely any on it,” Bohn laughs as the spoon is pushed into his mouth.

“There’s barely any left,” Duen explains with a cheeky smile.

“Well who ate most of it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Duen takes another large bite for himself and then scrapes the rest onto the spoon for Bohn.

Holding Duen like this, late in the evening, teasing each other, being fed by his husband—it’s a simple happiness that Bohn's never experienced before. He never though he'd experience it in this lifetime.

Duen begins to pull back to put away the empty carton and the spoon, but Bohn catches him, takes the items from him and places them on the countertop behind him. He encourages Duen’s arms to come back around his waist in a loose embrace.

“Duen,” he begins, his voice tight. He trails off. There’s so much he wants to say…

I want to be with you, I don’t want to just have a good relationship…

I love you.

His heart soars and then it sinks. He’s known for a while that if he let himself, he could really fall for his husband. He’s had a growing crush on him since the beginning, but it was easy to ignore. Now, Bohn realizes that he’s fallen completely head over heels for his husband. He’s in love.

As for how Duen feels…

Bohn looks into his husband’s eyes. Duen stares back at him, his eyes wide and slightly panicked. He sighs and shakes his head, giving up easily for the moment.

“Let’s go to bed,” he whispers and drops his arms.

“Mhm,” Duen agrees and steps away. He quickly runs upstairs.

Bohn sighs again and cleans the empty carton and the spoon before he goes upstairs himself.

He follows his normal nightly routine and crawls into bed with Duen. As he gets under the covers, he begins to grow nervous—will Duen kick him out now that there’s no reason for them to share a bed?

Luckily, Duen says nothing as Bohn settles down next to him, so Bohn ignores his worries and his beating heart and goes to sleep.


Duen’s heart pounds in his chest as his husband crawls into bed next to him.

Now that Ben’s sleeping on his own and Bohn has stopped having nightmares, there’s really no reason for them to share a bed. Yet, Duen finds himself glad that Bohn is in his bed—he’s grown used to the other man’s presence and even finds it comforting.

Still, he can’t seem to calm himself down.

Bohn’s started looking at him and treating him… differently. His gaze is soft and his eyes shine with some unspoken code that Duen cannot decipher. He touches him more, embraces him more. It gives Duen a weird fluttery feeling in his stomach and causes his heart to swoop and his palms to sweat and…

And maybe he’s sick.

He's not sick, he knows he's healthy. But he doesn't understand his feelings.

He’s glad that their relationship has progressed to this point—they’re a harmonious couple who can support and get along with each other. And yet…these new feelings leave him anxious. Bohn seems to cause such a strange reaction in him and he does not know what it means. He only knows that he’s never felt this way before.

It’s a little awkward the next morning. Bohn keeps glancing at him out of the corner of his eye but will quickly turn away whenever Duen looks back.

They’re not not getting along, but there’s been a slow shift in the chemistry between them. Duen isn’t sure who’s responsible for it and he’s not sure what Bohn wants. There’s no more cold war between them, but neither of them are willing to be clear and upfront about how they feel. He’s pretty sure that Bohn is holding something back, but he doesn’t have the capacity to find out what since he is so unsure of his own emotions.

They go about their routine as usual. They eat breakfast together as a family, and while Nanny Fang helps Ben get ready for school, Bohn and Duen pack lunches for the day. There’s a tense undertone in the atmosphere as they work together to make the meals, even though they interact as they normally do.

Bohn leaves for work and Duen drops off Ben at school before he goes into his job. At the end of his shift, he picks Ben up and they go home. They always arrive home before Bohn, and this is when Duen gets the rose from Ram to give to him.

In the beginning, Bohn barely gave Duen a passing glance when presented with the rose and tried to refuse it. Then he started to accept it without any argument, but still ran away from him. While he was ignoring him, Duen had to find a way to give him the flower on his own. Recently, Bohn’s been thanking him, smiling at him, sniffing the flower, and holding onto it like it’s something precious.

Today, he presents Bohn with the rose, smiling at him like he usually does. Instead of accepting the rose, Bohn just stares at him, his mouth slightly agape, and he nearly drops his briefcase. Luckily, Duen is able to reach out and catch his hand before it falls. When he tries to pull back his hand, Bohn latches onto his finger for a moment before he lets go.

“Are you feeling alright?” Duen asks, taking a closer look at his husband’s face—Bohn’s face is flushed bright red. Maybe he has a fever.

“Huh?” Bohn blinks up at him, “Oh! Yes! I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?” Duen steps forward and presses the back of his hand to Bohn’s forehead, then cheek. “You don’t feel warm…” he mutters as he checks his own cheek with his other hand.

Bohn stares at him with wide eyes before he abruptly steps back. “I’m okay,” he promises hurriedly and rushes across the reception hall. His hand comes up to touch the cheek that Duen just checked.

Duen watches him go and wonders what’s wrong with him. Maybe someone offended him today or maybe something really embarrassing happened. Whatever it is, Bohn seems to return to semi-normal when he comes down after changing out of his work clothes to help Ben with his homework.

After dinner, the family goes outside to enjoy the nice weather and play together. Duen, Bohn, Ram, and King take turns chasing Ben around the garden and playing games with him.

Duen finds himself feeling very content. He never expected that he’d be able to have so much from an arranged marriage. He lives with one of his closest friends in a gorgeous house, whose staff have become family. Ben is an unexpected blessing who stole his heart as soon as they brought him home. And Bohn…

His relationship with his husband started out rough. Bohn closed himself off from Duen in the beginning. Duen barely saw him, barely interacted with him, he had no idea what type of person his husband was. Now…

Now, Bohn treats him kindly, talks to him about his day, his worries, his problems. He takes care of him, listens to him, supports him… they even share a bed.

They act like husbands are supposed to… except something feels off.

If we weren’t husbands, would we be friends? he suddenly wonders.

For some reason, Duen has a hard time imagining them becoming friends and he isn’t sure why. After all they get along and enjoy each other’s company—why wouldn’t they be friends?

Except his heart hurts as he tries to imagine it. He doesn’t want to be friends with Bohn, he realizes. Which is absurd! Bohn is a wonderful person, he’d be a lot more sad if he didn’t have him in his life at all.

“Uncle Duen!” Ben’s loud voice startles him out of his thoughts.

“What’s up?” he asks as he sits up and pulls Ben into his lap.

His hand comes up to stroke the back of Ben’s head as the boy says, “Uncle Bohn says I have to go to bed now, but I’m not tired yet! Can I stay up?”

It’s hard to say no to Ben’s pout, and Duen’s heart twinges as he ruffles Ben’s hair and says, “Uncle Bohn is right, you have school tomorrow. It’s time to go to bed.”

“Oh, Uncle Duen!” Ben protests.

Duen stands up, picking up Ben with him. “Come on,” he says, “I’ll help you take your bath and get ready for bed.”

“I don’t want to take a bath either!” Ben whines.

Bohn approaches them with his hands on his hips. “Bath then bed,” he insists sternly.

“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?”

“Of course,” Duen agrees.

“And can I take a bath in your bathroom?”

“In my bathroom?” Duen’s puzzled—their bathrooms are identical. Actually, Ben’s is more fun since it has toys and a matching shark bath mat and shower curtain.

“I want to smell like you!”

Duen laughs lightly. “Smell like me? Do I smell that nice?”

“Yeah!” Ben peers back at Bohn, who’s relaxed his stance. “Don’t you think Uncle Duen smells nice, Uncle Bohn?”

Duen turns to look at his husband—Bohn’s face is more red than he thought it was. They’ve been sitting down playing ‘Mafia’ for the past hour, so Bohn shouldn’t be physically tired from that. There’s no reason for his face to be red and Duen becomes slightly worried—he really doesn’t want Bohn to get sick again.

“Yes, he does smell nice,” Bohn’s soft voice shakes Duen out of his thoughts.

Now Duen’s face is flushed—why is it so hot when the sun has already started to go down? Maybe that's why Bohn's face is also red.

“Come on then,” he says. “I’ll get him cleaned up.” He stands up and brushes the dirt and grass off of his behind. Ben quickly grabs onto the hem of his shirt and leans into him.

“Ben, what do you say to Uncle King and Uncle Ram?” Duen asks him as his arm comes down around Ben's shoulder.

“Thank you for playing with me!”

“And?”

“Goodnight!”

“Goodnight, Ben,” King holds his arms open and Ben quickly lets go of Duen to run and give him a hug.

Ram also crouches down to wish Ben a silent goodnight and pat his head affectionately.

The adults wish each other a goodnight and Bohn, Duen, and Ben go inside while Ram walks King back to his cottage.

Ben, still rowdy and against the idea of going to bed, takes a long bath. At the end of it, Duen’s shirt is soaked through and he’s about to lose his patience.

“Ben,” his voice is stern and tired. “It’s time to get out and go to bed.”

“I don’t want to!” Ben kicks and brings both hands down hard to splash the water, spilling water over the side of the tub for the third time that evening.

“Oyy!” Duen snaps. “I’m going to have to clean up after you, you know! You’ve already stayed up past your bedtime and you have to go to school tomorrow. It’s time to go to bed.”

“Uncle Duen,” Ben whines.

“Bed.”

“Hmph.” Ben crosses his arms. “I can help you clean up,” he offers.

Duen tsks and ruffles his hair. “I’d think you’re so sweet if I didn’t know that you’re trying to put off going to bed!”

“Oh, Uncle Duen, is it that obvious?”

“Yes, I have years of experience, it’s not so easy to fool me,” he wags his finger. “Come on, out of the tub.”

Ben steps out of the tub onto the soaked bathmat and Duen wraps him in his towel.

Duen looks at his cousin in law, looks at the wet bathroom floor, and then looks at the door.

“Bohn!” he calls out.

“Duen?” Bohn’s head appears in the doorway. He’s changed into his pajamas and his hair is still slightly damp.

Duen sighs, still frustrated but mostly relieved that his husband has already showered and changed. “Please help your cousin dry off and get dressed in his pajamas. I need to go to the laundry room to get some towels to clean up.”

Bohn looks at the wet floor. “Oh, naughty boy,” he scolds Ben lightly. “Come on, let’s get you dressed.”

“Should I help clean up?” Ben asks as he carefully walks over to Bohn.

“Should he help clean up?” Bohn redirects the question to Duen.

“Uh-uh, don’t let him fool you. He just doesn’t want to go to bed.”

“Oh, it’s like that?” Bohn looks down at Ben.

“It’s only kind of like that,” Ben admits and Bohn laughs.

Duen retrieves a few towels from the laundry room. When he comes back, Bohn takes the towels from him in exchange for his pajamas.

“Go shower in my bathroom,” he says. “I’ll get Ben in bed and then clean up.”

“Thank you,” Duen sighs, relieved. He’s exhausted. All he wants to do is take a hot shower and sleep.

He doesn’t think about it until he’s under the hot water, but it’s a little weird showering in Bohn’s bathroom. It’s the same as his own, the only difference is that he’s using Bohn’s soap and shampoo.

He pours a small amount of shampoo onto his palm and sniffs. He’s never given it much thought before, but Bohn always smells nice, too. Although, the smell of the shampoo isn’t the entirety of Bohn’s scent and as he washes his hair Duen is overcome with a strong urge to run to his husband so he can experience the full thing.

He cleans off the rest of his body and tries not to think about it. Using Bohn’s shower and shampoo feels very… intimate. It makes him feel nervous and giddy all at once.

It’s dark and Ben and Bohn are already in bed when Duen enters his room. He has to brush his teeth in his bathroom, so he opens the door quietly in order to avoid disturbing the sleeping pair.

The bathroom is clean thanks to his husband. He’s relieved. Ben has so much energy, it’s good that there are five adults in the house to look out for him.

He jumps when the door opens behind him. Through the mirror, he sees Bohn slip into the bathroom and close the door quietly behind him.

“Bohn?” Duen says, or tries to say, around his toothbrush. There’s foamy toothpaste on his mouth and he feels shy that Bohn's seeing him like this.

His husband comes to stand just behind him and rests his hands on Duen’s shoulders. He makes eye contact with him through the mirror and smiles sleepily at him.

Duen can see his face turn pink in the mirror. He quickly looks away and resumes brushing his teeth.

“You’re not asleep?” he asks quietly after he spits and rinses.

“Mm-mm,” Bohn responds groggily. He wraps his arms around Duen’s waist and rests his forehead on Duen’s shoulder.

Duen’s breath catches in his throat. Bohn’s been touching him like this more often and it always causes such a strange reaction in him.

Why is he breathless? Why does his heart beat so loudly? Why does his face feel warm?

Why does he feel so safe?

He relaxes slightly and feels Bohn’s arms tighten around him. He’s very conscious of where Bohn’s palms lie flat on his stomach, of Bohn’s firm chest against his back, of Bohn’s warm breath on his neck.

Bohn lifts his head slightly and replaces his forehead with his chin. “Ben is really something, huh?” he mutters.

The combination of Bohn’s gravelly voice and his breath against Duen’s ear leaves goosebumps running up his arm and sends tingles down his spine.

“Mhm,” he hums. “But why are you still awake?” he asks as he turns around in Bohn’s arms. He hopes that Bohn will let go of him, but at the same time he doesn’t want to step away from his embrace.

Bohn’s grip on him loosens, but his hands stay on Duen’s waist. He shrugs. “You and I have been staying up later recently.”

“So you came to watch me brush my teeth?”

“I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You could have gone downstairs.”

“Without you? That’d be a little lonely.”

“Oh? Should we go downstairs together and eat ice cream?” Duen suggests, a teasing glint in his eyes.

“No, no,” Bohn laughs. “I don’t know if you’d let me eat it anyway. Besides, I know you’re tired. Let’s just go to bed.”

“Mhm.”

The pair crawl into bed. Ben reaches out, grabs both of their hands and holds them to his chest. Bohn and Duen glance up at each other and hold eye contact for a second before they look back down at the boy. He's still asleep, but something in his subconscious made him reach out for the comforting presence of his uncles.

As Duen settles into sleep, he holds tightly onto Ben's hand and realizes somewhere in the back of his mind that he's also comforted by the presence of the other two people in his bed.

Chapter Text

Ben is spending the night at his friend's house. He's able to sleep on his own, he's old enough to spend the night at a friend's, plus Bohn and Duen have met Jordi and his parents, but as Duen drops him off at school on the morning of, he can't help but feel anxious.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Duen asks Ben as he unbuckles and grabs his backpack.

“Yeah! I’ll be okay, Uncle Duen,” Ben reassures.

“Okay, but if you wake up in the middle of the night or if you need anything at all, don’t be afraid to call me or Bohn and we’ll come and get you.”

“I know, you’ve told me so many times already!”

“I know you know… but, uh, just for fun, what’s my phone number?”

Ben sighs and recites Duen’s phone number, then recites Bohn’s, Nanny Fang’s, and even Ram’s without Duen asking.

Duen glimpses back at the seven year old through his rear view mirror. “I guess I’m worrying a little too much, huh?”

“Yeah! It’s okay, though.”

Duen smiles and rolls his eyes. He thinks it’s so funny how straight forward but understanding Ben can be.

They pull up to the school and Ben hops out of the car.

“Bye, Uncle Duen!”

“Bye, Ben! Oh, don’t forget to call home when you get to your Jordi’s house, and-”

“And before bed, I know!” Ben calls back.

Duen watches as his cousin in law rushes to meet his friends and smiles when both Ben and his Jordi wave to him. He waves back before he pulls away and goes to work.


It’s very quiet at home without Ben around. Luckily, Ram and King join them for dinner and the rest of the evening. They decide to watch a horror movie together after they eat and break open a bottle of wine.

“Are you sure you want to drink and watch a horror movie?” Bohn whispers to his husband.

“Mhm, I’ll be fine.”

The four friends sit down on the couch together. Bohn and Duen sit next to each other and share a blanket, and Ram and King end up in a similar position. With all of the lights off and the sun setting outside, the room is rather dark—perfect for a horror movie.

Somehow, it’s Bohn who’s the most scared as they watch the movie. Since Duen is sweet and gentle, he thought that he’d be the one to protect his husband. Instead, it seems to be the other way around.

He ends up inching closer to Duen as the movie progresses. Their thighs are touching by the time the first real big jump scare happens and he flinches towards his husband.

Duen doesn’t seem to notice, he’s too engrossed in the film, so Bohn straightens himself up, crosses his arms, and settles back into the couch.

Another jump scare happens not too long after the first one and this time Duen does notice when he flinches. Duen pretends not to smile and Bohn pretends not to blush when Duen pulls him into his side.

Pressed up against Duen, he can feel his own heart beat, he can hear it pounding in his chest. Except…

Except, it’s not just his heart that seems to be beating hard. He can feel his husband’s heart racing where his cheek presses against his chest.

Bohn’s mind starts to reel. Is this because of Bohn? Because of the position they’re in? Is he able to make his husband’s heart beat like this?

Or is it because of the movie?

Even though Duen doesn’t seem too scared of it, the movie is still thrilling enough to explain away his rapidly beating heart.

But Bohn has been lonely his whole life, craving for someone to know him, to love him wholeheartedly without any ulterior motive. He’s already given his heart to Duen and so in this moment, in the dark, pressed against the person he loves, he lets himself believe that Duen’s heart beats for him.

His mushy thoughts are suddenly interrupted by another jump scare—the climax of the movie—and Duen’s arm tightens around him as he buries his face into his husband’s collarbone.

The movie ends soon after the final jump scare. Bohn quickly removes himself from Duen's side to turn the lights on. He pretends to not notice how Ram and King scramble to sit up and put some distance between themselves.

They turn off the TV and clean up before Ram leaves to walk King back to his cottage and Bohn and Duen retire to Duen’s bedroom.

After enduring a horror movie in the darkness, Bohn makes sure that they have a well lit path by turning on all of the lights in the stairwell, hallway, and bedroom. However, as they finish brushing their teeth and changing, a clash of thunder shakes the mansion and the power flickers.

Duen looks at his husband with vague concern in his eyes. “You don’t think that we have to worry about-”

Another clap of thunder sounds and everything becomes dark.

“...losing power,” Duen finishes and shrieks when Bohn crashes into his side and holds onto him tightly.

“What? Bohn!”

“Hmm?”

“Are you scared?”

Bohn tightens his grip. "I... am not.”

Duen holds back a laugh and rubs his hand up Bohn’s arm. “Then why are you like this?”

“...In case you’re scared?” It's a weak excuse.

“I’m not scared.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Oh…" Bohn pauses and doesn't let go of Duen. "Well, I’m scared,” he admits.

“I know.”

Bohn pouts. “What do you mean you know? You don’t know,” he sulks.

“Fine, fine, fine, fine, I don’t know,” Duen appeases him and pats his shoulder.

“Hmmph.”

There’s a moment of silence between them where Duen doesn't push Bohn away and Bohn doesn't let go of Duen.

“Husband?” Bohn speaks up. His voice comes out softer than it ever has. He feels timid and vulnerable, relying on his husband for protection.

“Hmm?”

“Let’s go to bed.”

“Okay.”


King is usually scared during horror movies, but with the silent bodyguard beside him he does his best to hold in his fear. The movie they watch is rather... terrifying. Eventually, he finds himself pressed into Ram’s side.

Miraculously, the bodyguard doesn’t mind and only gives him a passing glance. Still, King doesn’t let himself relax all the way.

His affections for the other man… he knows he has good feelings and he knows the bodyguard doesn’t mind his company. But as for anything beyond that… he doesn’t want to get his hopes up.

Still, there are butterflies in his stomach when Ram walks him back to his cottage after the movie. He'd definitely be scared walking back alone in the dark. With Ram by his side, he doesn't mind and the warm summer breeze makes the journey almost pleasant. He pushes his hair back out of his face and smiles up at the bodyguard as they cross the bridge. Ram is so strong, King doesn't have any worries when he's next to him.

They’re almost at his cottage when a large clap of thunder sounds and it begins to pour.

“Let’s run!” King exclaims, but Ram has already taken his wrist and started to run.

When they’re inside his cottage, King digs around for two towels and gives one to Ram to dry off.

“It looks like you’re stuck here for a while, Cool Boy.”

This causes Ram to frown slightly.

“Even if it wasn’t thundering I wouldn’t let you walk back in the dark and the rain. Just stay here for the night.” Ram nods and King beams. “Great! I’ll take the couch, you can take the bed.”

Ram shakes his head.

“No? Do you want the couch?” Ram nods and this time King shakes his head. “No, no, no, I’m not going to let you sleep on the couch. Here, we’ll both take the bed, it’s big enough for the two of us anyway. Okay?”

Ram shrugs and nods.

King lends him a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to change into and tries not to blush when Ram comes back out. Why does seeing the other man in his clothes make him so shy?

They climb into bed together, and King swears that the bed is usually bigger than this, but at the moment all he can notice is Ram’s proximity.

Ram lies on his side and gazes at him with soft eyes. King gazes back for a moment, but he shakes himself out of it before he lets himself get drawn in.

“Um…” he rises up on one elbow. “I’ll get the lights.”

He turns to get out of the bed, but another clap of thunder sounds and the lights go out.

“Oh…”

He settles back into bed. Even in the dark he can see Ram looking at him.

“Um… goodnight, Cool Boy. Hopefully the power will be back on in the morning.”

The bodyguard is silent next to him, so King closes his eyes and starts to fall asleep.

Just as he’s losing consciousness, he hears a soft, “Goodnight, P’King,” and he’s close enough to sleep that he isn’t sure if it’s real or a figment of his imagination.


They still don't have power in the morning. Bohn and Duen send Nanny Fang away, giving her the day off so she can find a cool place to stay. She decides to go visit a tea house and the library, so they call the driver to escort her there.

"As for us... what should we do?" Bohn asks his husband.

"Well... we have to pick up Ben in about an hour." Duen thinks for a moment before he sits up. "We can take him to the street market!"

"The street market?"

"Yeah! It'd be fun to look at the stands and shop around a little. I want to buy some things for my mother and sister anyway."

"Okay," Bohn agrees easily.

Duen beams and jumps up from his seat. "Let's go get Ram!"

"Ram?" Bohn mutters to himself before he holds back a groan. Of course it won't be just the three of them. Duen won't go anywhere without Ram, and that probably means that King will want to come along.

Duen runs upstairs to Ram's room, but quickly returns. "He isn't here. I can't get his phone, either."

Bohn tilts his head and thinks. "King probably knows where he is, let me call him."

The gardener doesn't pick up his phone. "Their phones are probably dead," Bohn mutters. His own is almost out of battery, too.

"Let's go out to King's cottage, then."

Bohn nods and follows him out the door.

“It must have been a pretty bad storm,” Duen remarks as they walk through the garden. There are leaves, branches, and flowers scattered everywhere, blown around by the harsh winds.

They knock on the door to the cottage, but there’s no response.

After several minutes and two other attempts, Bohn calls out, “King!”

Still no response.

Slightly worried, but mostly impatient, Bohn retrieves the spare key from a hanging plant and opens the door on his own. He peeks in, Duen close behind him.

“King?” he calls, but still no response. “What is this?” he mutters, “Is he even here?”

“Maybe he’s still asleep,” Duen suggests.

So the pair go into King’s bedroom and both are surprised by what they see.

Their best friends are sharing a bed, sound asleep. King’s head is on Ram’s chest and Ram’s hand is on King’s waist. They look sweet, curled up against each other and sleeping peacefully.

“What are you doing?” Bohn whispers to his husband.

Duen, who has taken out his phone and taken a few pictures of the sleeping pair, whispers back, “What? They’re cute like that. Plus, it’s fun to tease Ram about his crush on King.”

“Wait,” Bohn grabs his husband’s wrist. “Ram likes King?”

“Yeah.”

“King likes Ram!”

“No way!” Duen gasps. He turns his attention back to his phone. “Now I really have to take pictures.”

Duen tries to get closer but ends up tripping over a stray shoe on the floor.

“Oh!” he cries out as he starts to fall.

Bohn rushes to catch him, but they both end up crashing to the floor, Duen on top of him.

“Oww,” Bohn groans.

“Bohn! I’m sorry, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine. It only hurts a little”

Duen tsks and looks him up and down. "Who told you to get under me, anyway?" he mutters to himself as he rolls off of his husband.

“What the hell are you two doing?” demands a sleepy King who looks down at them from the bed.

“We are…” Bohn trails off and squints his eyes. Suddenly defensive he asks, “What are you doing sleeping so late?”

“Huh? What time is it?” King turns to Ram, who is awake but still lying down next to him. “Hey, Cool Boy, what time is it?”

Ram just shrugs and King bites his lip. He turns back to the couple sprawled on the floor. “So what if we’re sleeping late!” he asks, playing defensive too.

“Alright, alright,” Duen clumsily stands up and helps Bohn rise, too. “Look, we don't know when the power is going to come back and it's hot in the house. Bohn and I are going to go pick up Ben and then take him to the street market for the day.”

Ram immediately sits up and begins to get out of bed.

“Oh,” King startles and turns to look at the bodyguard. “Are you going, too?”

Ram nods and King bites his lip. “Then…” he turns back to Bohn and Duen.

Bohn rolls his eyes and asks the gardener, “Do you want to come along?”

King’s eyes light up. “Can I?”

“Yeah. Just hurry up and get dressed. We’ll meet you at the car in about thirty minutes.”

Ram walks back with Bohn and Duen to the house. Duen and Ram trail behind Bohn and he knows that his husband is showing his friend the pictures he just took.


Duen drives them all to get Ben. The boy is surprised to see that the four of them came to pick them up and Duen is jealous to see that his friend’s house has power.

“Why is everyone here?” Ben asks as he climbs into the car.

“We’re going to go to the street market today,” Bohn turns around in his seat to tell his younger cousin.

"The street market?"

"Yeah, do you want to go?

"Yeah! Let's go!"

King helps Ben buckle his seat in the back and they take off.

At the street market, Ben asks Duen to help him choose a shirt to wear and Duen blanches. He doesn’t have good fashion sense—most of his clothes were bought for him by his family members. His mother and sister actually prohibit him from buying clothes on his own since he always manages to pick out the one shirt that looks a little too weird or doesn’t fit right.

He picks out a shirt for Ben that looks quite nice, he thinks. It’s colorful and bright—perfect for a rambunctious seven year old.

Ben makes a face when he shows him.

“No good?” he asks with a pout.

“You don’t dress yourself, do you, Uncle Duen?” Ben asks him genuinely.

Bohn throws his head back with laughter. “I think he’s been spending too much time with you,” he teases Duen.

Duen glares at him for a moment before he turns and smiles sweetly at Ben.

“Then, you’ll have to help me choose one,” he says.

Ben nods, smiling up at him. He takes Duen’s hand and leads him over to the t-shirt rack. They choose matching t-shirts together and suddenly Bohn feels left out. He rushes over to their side.

“Choose one for me, too,” he demands.

“No,” says Duen and he sticks his tongue out at him.

“No,” repeats Ben, also sticking his tongue out at him.

“Please,” he whines—he can’t believe he’s resigned himself to begging his husband and seven year old cousin to pick out a shirt for him.

Duen rolls his eyes, “Alright, alright. Ben, help me choose a shirt for your uncle.”

“Can it match yours?”

“No,” Ben and Duen say at the same time.

Bohn pouts and sulks, but he brightens up again when Ben hands him the shirt they picked out for him.

“This one’s for me?” he asks, a bright smile blossoming on his face.

“Uh-huh!”

He holds up the shirt to look at it. It has similar colors to the ones that Duen and Ben picked out for themselves—not a complete match but similar enough that if they were to wear them all on the same day, people would be able to clearly see that they’re a family. It's also ugly as hell, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that his cute husband and little cousin chose it for him.

Bohn goes to pay for the shirts while Duen takes Ben to find Ram and King. They’re all at a food stand by the time Bohn joins them. It’s lunch time, so they all buy food and sit together at a picnic table.

They continue to shop when they’re done eating. Duen buys a bracelet for his sister and browses various hand creams and lotions to buy for his mother.

There are sample hand creams for them to try and Duen catches his husband glancing at them several times.

“Do you want to try it?” He approaches his husband from behind. “Here.” He takes some on his finger, takes Bohn’s hand, and starts to rub the cream in.

“Your hands are pretty rough and dry,” Duen notices. “Maybe you should start using this.” He looks up from Bohn’s hands to meet his eyes. Bohn is staring at him, his mouth slightly agape, his face red. Duen frowns. “Are you hot? Let’s go buy you some water.”

“No!” Bohn yanks his hand back from Duen’s. “I’m fine, um, I have some water to drink already.”

Duen frowns but lets his husband be. Why is Bohn acting like this? Why does he get hot so easily?

Why are his hands so rough?

When his husband isn’t looking, Duen picks out two hand creams—one for his mother and one for Bohn. He puts them in the same bag before he rejoins the group.

They wander the street market for a few more hours. There are many vendors and they end up buying a lot of street food.

“I can’t imagine eating dinner tonight,” King remarks.

“Me neither,” Bohn agrees and both Duen and Ram nod along.

“I can!” Ben exclaims.

“You can?” Bohn asks the boy as he scoops him up, causing him to shriek with joy.

“Uncle Bohn!” Ben laughs.

Bohn plants a sniff kiss on his cheek. “Okay, my growing boy, what do you want for dinner tonight?”

“I want hot pot!”

“Hot pot? You’re hungry enough to eat hot pot?” He hopes Ben will change his mind... who eats hot pot in the summer?

“Yeah!”

Bohn looks at the other three. “Is that okay with all of you?”

The other three agree and Bohn feels slightly apprehensive about it, but they go for hot pot anyway.

Sitting close together around a pot of simmering broth after a long day of being outside in the hot sun... Bohn doesn't even know if they'll have power when they'll get back. It's hot. Yet, he's sitting with his family, watching Ben eat most of the food, watching Ram, King, and Duen all take turns cooking the different meat and vegetables for him. Somehow, he doesn't mind the heat. Although, it helps that he has a tall glass of ice water in front of him.

When they get back home, the power has returned and Bohn breathes a sigh of relief.

“Oh, I’m so glad,” Duen exhales, clearly also relieved, and he fans himself. “Come on, Ben, let’s get you cleaned up.”

“Can I wear the new shirt we bought?” Ben asks. He bounces alongside Duen as they go upstairs.

“Let’s get into our pajamas tonight. We can wear our new shirts tomorrow.”

“Okay!”


Bohn is already in bed when Duen joins him. His husband is just about to climb under the covers when suddenly he jumps up, “Oh!”

“Duen?”

Bohn watches his husband flit around the room and dig through his bag. He isn’t sure what Duen is up to and he’s surprised when Duen approaches the bed slowly, holding his hands behind his back.

Bohn raises one eyebrow and looks his husband up and down. “What is it?” he asks cautiously.

Duen smiles shyly as he brings his hands around to his front and presents Bohn with a small jar.

“What’s this?”

“Hand cream.”

“Huh?”

“I bought some for you,” Duen bites his lips and looks down. “I thought you’d like it.”

“I do!” Bohn exclaims quickly and takes the jar from Duen’s hand. “I just… I didn’t see you buy this.” He opens the jar and holds it to his nose. “Thank you, Duen,” he glances up at his husband.

Duen’s lips part slightly. He stares at his husband through his eyelashes and watches Bohn try the cream.

“I like it a lot,” Bohn says as he rubs it in.

Duen lifts his head and grins. “I’m glad.”

They stare at each other for... well Bohn's not sure how long they look at each other. He gets lost in Duen's smiley eyes.

Duen suddenly straightens up, quickly ending the moment. “Um, goodnight!” he exclaims and quickly curls up under the covers, his back to Bohn. He doesn’t respond when Bohn also wishes him a goodnight.

Bohn, amused by his flustered husband, carefully climbs out of bed to put the hand cream away and turn out the lights.


Duen stiffens when he feels Bohn climb back into bed.

He’s not sure why, but his heart is racing and suddenly he doesn’t know how to face his husband without feeling as if he’s going to explode. The thrill in his heart is impossible to calm.

What’s worse is that it’s not an unfamiliar feeling. He’s felt a similar rush in his heart before and strangely enough it only ever seems to happen around his husband.

Bohn’s gratitude for the hand cream, his gaze as he thanked Duen… Why did a mere thank you and smile send Duen’s heart on a rollercoaster ride?

He clutches the blanket closer to his chest. This funny feeling… What does it mean? He can’t put off thinking about it any longer. The warmth on his face, the thrill in his pounding heart, the butterflies in his stomach… all of this sounds familiar.

Oh.

Is it really like that?

In dramas, it always happens in a moment. One of the leads does something cute or sweet and suddenly the other lead has fallen.

As for Duen… he isn’t sure when it started or how it came to be that he’s only realizing now, but he’s certain of it.

He has feelings for his husband.

He never knew that it could happen to him, that he could experience romantic love. In his whole life, there have been a few people who have caught his attention briefly, but the feeling never lasted. While he isn’t sure when it started, he knows that his feelings for Bohn have been in his heart for a long time.

Duen slowly turns onto his back and glances over at his sleeping husband.

Bohn is always handsome, but there’s something precious about seeing his face relaxed in sleep. Duen’s never taken a good look before.

Without being fully aware of his actions, his hand comes up to trace Bohn’s face—across his brow, down his nose, brush his cheek, and linger at the corner of his mouth.

He inhales and quickly pulls back.

Realizing his feelings is enough for tonight, he decides. He's never been in love before. He should turn his thoughts to something else and try to sleep.

What to do with his newly discovered feelings… he can decide that later.

Chapter Text

Bohn wants to confess to his husband.

He actually hasn’t put a lot of thought into it, but he knows that he needs to do something to take the next step in their relationship. He's pined long enough, Duen seems to be warming to his affections, so he thinks that his confession will be successful. If not...

He doesn't want to think about what happens if not.

Bohn is not brave enough to confess directly. The chances of a failed confession keeps him from doing so. Instead, he buys heart shaped candies for Duen, cuts his food into hearts and makes his lunch box cute, puts his arm around him when they’re watching stuff together, and does basically anything and everything to make his feelings obvious without stating them directly.

He can tell that Nanny Fang enjoys watching him make a fool of himself while Duen remains oblivious.

He's pretty sure that Duen feels something. His blush, his sweet smile and snarky comebacks, his slow acceptance of the smallest of touches between them…

Surely, surely Bohn is in Duen’s heart. At least a little bit. Hopefully that means that Duen will be open to a romantic relationship with him.

As time passes, his flirtations grow more and more obvious. He even becomes bold enough to flirt with his husband in front of Ram, who glares at him every time he does.

At a certain point, he’s just about ready to lose his mind. Even Ben has picked up on his flirting! Duen can’t be so oblivious, he must be ignoring Bohn’s attempts on purpose.

Bohn’s tempted to run away, but he can’t bring himself to leave Duen’s side, especially after Duen asked him to never treat him coldly again. So he continues to put himself out there, knowing that Duen will probably never respond to him.

One evening, Duen is giving Ben a bath before bed and Bohn is about to check in on them, but he overhears their conversation as he approaches the bathroom. He lingers outside the door, hidden from their view, and listens.

“Do you think my mom misses me?” he hears Ben ask.

“Of course she misses you, Ben,” he hears Duen reply softly.

“I miss her too,” his cousin starts to cry. “When can I see her again?”

Upon hearing this, tears begin to well up in Bohn’s eyes. He knows Ben misses his mother, and his own heart aches that he won’t see his aunt again, but Ben hasn’t brought her up since the funeral. He didn’t know that he was still hurting this much.

“Mmm… not in this lifetime, I’m afraid.”

“That’s not fair… Can’t I skip ahead to my next lifetime so I can be with her?”

“No, Ben, she wouldn’t want that.”

“Why? Doesn’t she miss me?”

“She does! Of course she does. But I know that she would rather you grow up happy and healthy, and live your life to the fullest before you go and meet her.”

“Oh… How do you know that?”

“Because that’s what every mother wants for her son.”

“Oh… Uncle Duen?”

“Hm?”

“Is it okay if I still cry and miss her?”

“It is. Hm… you know, my grandmother passed away when I was a little older than you. I still cry sometimes because I miss her.”

“What was she like?”

“We were very close. She lived with us and took care of me a lot. She always explained things to me… I never knew what was going on and none of my other relatives had the patience to answer my questions or explain something that they thought was obvious.”

“Were you stupid, Uncle Duen?”

“What? Ben!”

“I’m sorry.”

“What am I going to do with you,” Duen mutters. “Maybe I was stupid, or still am stupid. I’m pretty slow sometimes and there are a lot of things I don’t pick up on right away.”

Ohhh.

Bohn can tell from Ben’s tone that he just realized the same thing that he did—Duen really is that oblivious.

“Oh?”

“Nothing!”

“Hmm… I may be slow, but I’m smart enough to know that you’re hiding something from me!”

“I’m not!”

“Are you sure?”

“Well… it’s just that Uncle Bohn—”

Upon hearing his name Bohn jumps to knock on the door and peek his head in, cutting off whatever Ben was about to reveal.

“Oh, Bohn!” Duen exclaims, startled.

“Hah, um… almost done?” Bohn asks, trying to remain cool and aloof, as if he didn’t just hear their conversation.

“I’ve lost track of time. How long have we been here?” Duen tilts his head. “Ben, show me your hands.” Ben obediently gives Duen one of his hands to examine. “Hm… you are a little pruney.”

“I don’t want to get out! I like being a prune!”

Duen puffs his cheeks and shakes his head. “Okay, five more minutes and then it’s bedtime.”

“How about ten?”

“How about two?” Bohn interjects.

“Five is fine,” Ben concedes.

Bohn sits down on the toilet seat lid and watches as Ben finishes up his bath. He laughs along with the two, but the back of his mind is racing.

Is Duen really so oblivious that he really hasn’t been picking up on Bohn’s flirting? If he’s never been in a relationship before and has a hard time picking up on social cues… it’s possible that Bohn’s advances have gone completely over his head.

He’s left with no choice. Bohn is going to have to confess directly otherwise they’ll be stuck in this limbo forever.


Bohn decides that if he's going to confess to Duen then he needs to find a way out of the contract. That way, if it does fail, Bohn can make sure that Duen has the option to leave with little to no repercussions.

The most obvious way seems to have 75 million Baht handy in case they divorce—then Bohn can give the money to Duen’s family as compensation and they won’t suffer such a devastating financial loss.

The only problem is that he doesn’t have 75 million Baht of his own money. He never bothered to save his earnings since he could rely on his family’s money. The house renovations, Nanny Fang and King’s salary already come out of his own earnings. It will be a while before he has enough to give to Duen.

So he scrolls through the contract, reads it carefully, and asks Boss and Mek to help him find a loophole.

Although he hasn’t found a way to get out of the contract yet, he still plans to confess to Duen

He enlists King’s help to decorate the gazebo. If he’s going to confess, he’s going to do it properly and make it special.

Bohn prepares a bouquet of roses, a bottle of champagne and two glasses, dresses up, and sends a handwritten letter to Duen asking him to meet him in the gazebo under the willow tree at sunset. He'll give Duen the roses, confess his feelings, and when Duen accepts, they can enjoy champagne together and watch the sunset.

He doesn’t know if he’s nervous or excited from the anticipation. He only knows that their relationship will change after tonight, hopefully for the better.


Duen receives a letter from Bohn that asks him to meet him at the gazebo at sunset.

He doesn’t know what his husband wants and the glances that Nanny Fang keeps shooting him make him nervous.

Why do they have to meet at the gazebo? Why at sunset?

Let’s just talk now, Duen decides and knocks on the door to Bohn’s office.

He peeks his head in the room, even though no one responds. Bohn is nowhere to be seen, so Duen almost steps back to leave when he catches sight of Bohn’s desk.

Why is it so messy?

He goes over to straighten it up and catches sight of the computer monitor, which is still on.

Marriage Contract.

“Marriage Contract?”

His heart in his throat, he sits down in Bohn’s chair and scrolls through the document.

When he’s done reading, he feels like he’s going to throw up. He’s already crying. He doesn’t know what to think, he doesn’t know what to do.

Duen rereads the contract, reads it again and again, wanting the words to change each time.

Is this really real? Does this really happen in real life? Why is it happening to him?

All he’s ever wanted was a simple life and this contract is like a slap in the face.

What’s worse is that Bohn knows about it.

He knows about it.

Duen has to leave.

He rushes out of the office, out of the manor, gets into his car and starts to drive. He has no destination in mind, he just needs to get as far as he can from the Sirikarnkul manor, from his husband.

Duen finds himself outside of his family home.

How did he get here?

He doesn’t remember, he doesn’t care, but he is going to use the chance to confront his father. After all, it was his father who arranged this marriage, who signed the contract.

“Duen?” His sister peeks her head out the door and Duen rushes to greet her, to hug her, to take comfort in her arms.

He’s missed Daonua and he’s glad to learn that she missed him too. She brings him inside.

“Where’s Dad?”

“In his office. Why?”

“I need to talk to him.”

“Oh,” she startles at his serious tone—this isn’t the attitude her brother usually has. She goes to find their father and decides to leave them alone to talk.

“Duen.”

“Dad. The contract… is it real?”

“You found out?” Duen’s father takes a seat on the chair across from where Duen is sitting.

“Yeah. I found out,” Duen’s face turns sour. “Why didn’t you tell me? No... How could you agree to something like this?”

“What else was I supposed to do?”

Duen grips the arm of the chair, his nails dig into the fabric. “Um… not sell me into a marriage?”

“I had to, Duen!” Duen’s father slams his fist on the arm of the chair, causing Duen to jump in his seat. “Our company is already struggling, if it wasn’t for the Sirikarnkul Group we would have lost everything! Our house, our company—”

“The money we don’t have?” Duen adds bitterly.

“That’s not my fault,” his father defends, puffing out his chest to make himself more intimidating. Duen usually doesn't push back when his father becomes like this, but outrage courses through his veins and he has to say something.

“It literally is! You gamble away every penny you earn and you’ve never even tried to get help! After decades of living like this, after decades of making your wife and children suffer, you decided to use me as your quick and easy fix?”

“I had to do what was best for the company and our family.”

“If you really wanted what was best for us and the company, then you would have sought help! You would have worked to overcome your gambling addiction long ago! You didn’t do shit for us, everything was for yourself!”

“You don’t know anything!” his father tries to speak up.

“Yes I do! I know more than you think! I know I’m slow, but don’t think that leaves me completely oblivious to everything!”

“Well, whatever you think you know, there’s nothing you can do about it,” his father sneers. “What’s done is done and whether you like it or not you’re now a member of the Sirikarnkul family. If you dare leave, you’ll be condemning our family to a life of poverty.”

“Is money the only thing in your heart?” Duen asks, nearly pleading with his father to take back his words. To show some sign of love, of guilt.

“If you dare leave," his father grits, the vein in his neck popping, "Then you’ll have no home to return to.”

Time stops. Duen stops. He swallows, trying to push the discomfort in his throat away but it lingers, and he tries to process what’s happening. He feels numb. He doesn’t want to argue about this with his father anymore. He doesn’t have the power to change anything about his situation.

He's powerless.

“... I see.” He stands up from his chair. “I won’t bother you anymore, then,” he says politely. It’s the same tone he uses with strangers, the same tone he used at the beginning of his marriage with Bohn. It’s sweet and friendly, but keeps the other person out of his heart. To have to use it with his father… To have to push him out of his heart...

He doesn’t like the turn his life has taken.

Duen leaves his family home and doesn’t look back. As he walks to his car, two arms circle around his waist, stopping him in his tracks.

“Can’t you stay for a little while?” Daonua asks from behind him.

“I don’t think Dad wants me here right now,” Duen tries to say kindly, but his voice is tight from the tears he’s trying to hold back.

“Can’t you stay?” Daonua asks, begs, and her voice breaks.

Duen breaks free from her grasp, turns around, and takes her hands.

“I can’t stay here. I’ll come and see you, but I can’t stay here.”

There’s no place for me here. Not really.

He lets go of his sister’s hands and gets into his car. His heart breaks when he hears Daonua calling after him. But it’s clear that his father doesn’t see him as a family member anymore. Now he’s just a commodity, a tool for his father to use to support the company.

He doesn’t want to drive back to the manor.

He doesn’t know where to go.

He pulls over and checks his phone. There are several missed calls from Bohn, a few from Ram, and several frantic text messages from Nanny Fang. He sighs and turns off his phone.

What to do…

He purses his lips and gets back on the road. He’ll find somewhere to spend the night.

Chapter Text

Bohn paces around the gazebo tightly grasping a bouquet of flowers. Luckily, the stems of the roses are wrapped in paper so the thorns don't prick his hands. The sun is just about to set and it’s a beautiful night.

Duen isn’t here yet.

Sunset is a vague time, he tells himself. He’ll be here soon.

So Bohn continues to wait.

He waits, and he waits, and he waits. Bohn's not sure how he feels. He wants to confess, but at the same time the thought of it makes his stomach churn. Of course, the idea of not confessing also makes him upset. Anxious or excited, he doesn't know.

He begins to alternate between sitting down, pacing, and staring out into the garden. Every time he looks out, he hopes to catch sight of his husband, but each time he’s disappointed.

As time goes by, his heart starts to beat harder and harder and his hands start to tremble. He's starting to overthink and he’s worried that Duen won’t show up, won’t even give him the chance to confess.

What to do then?

He’s still waiting in the gazebo when King shows up. The sun has been down for over an hour now and Duen never showed up.

“Bohn? Where’s Duen?” the gardener asks.

Bohn shrugs helplessly. He doesn't know where Duen is and he doesn't want to get up to find out.

“He didn’t show up?”

Bohn shakes his head.

“Then what are you doing here? Let’s go look for him,” King suggests, grabbing his friend's hand and trying to pull him up.

Bohn pouts and finally speaks up. “I don’t think he wants to see me.” He yanks his hand back and scowls.

“What? Why not?” King sits down next to him and tries to make eye contact with him.

Bohn doesn’t respond, doesn't look at him, and stares off into the distance.

“You think that he doesn’t want to see you because he didn’t show up?” King guesses. He looks up and thinks for a moment. “Maybe he just didn’t get your letter.”

Bohn frowns, but glances over at him. “Do you think so?”

“Why else wouldn’t he show up?”

“Well—”

“Come on!” King interrupts him and pulls a reluctant Bohn up to his feet. “Let’s go find him.”

They go back to the main manor together. King tries to lighten Bohn’s mood, but Bohn is intent on brooding.

“How did it go?” Nanny Fang asks them when they step into the house.

“He didn’t show up,” Bohn mutters and crosses his arms over his chest. He's not angry, he's insecure. Even though King thinks that Duen never got his letter and therefore didn't know to show up, in the back of Bohn's mind, he' wondering if Duen actually picked up on everything and didn't want to give him a chance.

“He didn’t show up?” Nanny Fang places her hand on her chest and takes a step back. “Where is he then?”

“We’re here to look for him,” King says brightly.

“Let me help, then,” the nanny offers.

The three begin to search the manor. He's not in his bedroom, he's not in Ben's room, he's not in the sitting room the library, the ballroom, the reception hall, the third floor... he doesn't seem to be in the house. As they keep searching with no success, they begin to grow more and more desperate.

“Did you check the guest rooms?” Nanny Fang asks frantically.

“Why would he be in the guest rooms?”

“Well, he isn’t anywhere else!”

“He’s not in the guest rooms,” King says, “I already checked.”

“Did you check your office?” Nanny Fang asks Bohn. She peers down the hallway. “The door is open, maybe he’s in there.”

“The door is open?” Bohn repeats to himself. He's pretty sure he closed it this morning when he left after looking at...

His eyes widen and he rushes to his office.

The door is wide open, the papers on his desk are straightened out, and the chair is in a different spot than how he left it—if no one else came in then Duen must have been in here at some point.

With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he sits down at his desk and wiggles the mouse. The monitor turns on to reveal the PDF of the contract.

King comes to stand behind him.

“Oh,” the gardener mutters when he sees what’s on the computer screen. He's quick to figure out what happened.

“What is it?” Nanny Fang asks. She leans forward and squints at the monitor. “Marriage Contract,” she reads aloud. “Marriage contract? What is this?”

King fills her in quickly and when he’s done talking, the nanny smacks Bohn on the back of his head.

“Are you crazy?” she yells.

“Ow,” Bohn rubs the back of his head. “I didn’t come up with it!” He tries to defend himself.

“But you knew about it!”

“... But I knew about it,” he admits quietly.

The nanny runs her hands down her face. “This explains so much!” she gripes. “I should have known something was up as soon as you two came home together!”

Her agonizing is interrupted by a soft knock on the door and Ram walks in with Ben.

“Uncle Bohn?” Ben asks. “Where’s Uncle Duen?”

The bodyguard stares Bohn down as he flounders for a response. “He’s out at the moment. Um… Nanny Fang, will you give Ben his bath and tuck him into bed?”

“I want to wait for Uncle Duen!” Ben stamps his foot and whines.

“It’s already past your bedtime, you can see Uncle Duen in the morning,” Bohn insists, hoping that he’s not lying and that Duen will show up before then.

“Come on, Ben,” Nanny Fang takes Ben’s hand and leads him out of the room. “Let’s get you cleaned up and ready for bed.”

“But—!”

Nanny Fang leads the seven year old out of the room and Ram comes over to stand next to King. It’s clear that he knows something is up, and he definitely wants to know what.

Of course, as he takes his place next to King, he sees the contract. He looks between the computer, King, and Bohn for an answer. Bohn doesn’t want to say anything and he prays that King also won’t say anything, but the gardener gives into Ram’s pleading eyes and explains everything.

Ram is, of course, outraged, and manages to punch Bohn square in the face before King pulls him away.

Bohn doesn’t really feel the pain and doesn’t register that he’s been punched until he feels something wet trickle down from his nostrils. He brings a finger up to his lip and sees blood when he pulls it away.

“Oh,” he mutters numbly.

He hears King sigh and say, “Go get cleaned up. Ram and I will continue to look for Duen, okay?”

“Okay.”


King watches his best friend leave before he turns back to the angry bodyguard.

“I know you’re angry, but let’s focus on finding Duen first, okay?”

Ram nods and King grins.

“Okay. He's not in the house, so I’m going to call Boss and Mek and see if they can find anything. Will you call Duen’s family? Maybe they know where he is.”

Ram nods again. He steps away from King, pulls out his phone, and makes a call.

“Daonua?”

King only hears one side of the conversation, but it’s clear that Daonua doesn’t know where Duen is.

“She says that he left hours ago,” Ram tells him after he hangs up.

“Okay, let me call Mek and Boss.”

King dials the phone and is grateful that Boss picks up after the first ring.

“King!”

“Boss—”

“You need something, don’t you?” Boss sighs.

“I do… I’m sorry to bother you, but Duen’s gone missing.”

“Duen? Bohn’s husband?”

“Yeah. We think that he found the contract and ran off… Can you see if you can find anything that would help us?”

“I’ll do my best!” Boss promises.

King hears the clattering of the keyboard over his phone as Boss gets to work.

“It seems that he’s turned off his phone, so I can’t find his location.”

“Oh.”

“Hang on, I’m going to get Mek to check the CCTV footage near his house.” King quickly pulls the phone away from his ear before Boss hollers out, “Hubby! I need your help with something!”

“Mek can do that?” he asks, after putting the phone back to his ear.

“Yeah, easy.”

King’s eyes widen. He’s not sure how Mek can so easily get a hold of the CCTV footage, and frankly he doesn’t want to find out.

“Oh, Mek found him! See, I told you, easy!”

“You guys found him?” King turns to look at Ram, who’s suddenly brightened up.

“Yeah!”

“Well where is he?”


King and Ram rush back to King’s cottage, but instead of going in, they go up to the gate that leads to the back field. They can somewhat make out Duen’s car in the distance, slightly hidden by some trees.

Ram hops over the gate before King even thinks about opening it and rushes towards the car. King shrugs and does the same, following close behind the bodyguard.

Luckily Duen is in the car. The windows are cracked and he’s asleep. He looks uncomfortable and it's clear that he's been crying.

King breathes a sigh of relief. “Bring him to my cottage,” he instructs Ram. “I’m going to go check on Bohn.”


Bohn is sitting on the edge of his bed staring off into nothing, blood dried on his lip when King finds him.

“Oh, Bohn,” he sighs. His heart breaks for his friend. While he’s frustrated that Bohn didn’t tell Duen about the contract earlier, his heart can’t help but cry for his friend.

He’s not sure if Bohn knows he’s there, but he starts to get him cleaned up.

Eventually it seems that Bohn’s mind returns and his eyes focus on King.

“Did you find him?”

King bites his lip and hesitates. He knows that Bohn is worried, but he also knows that Duen doesn’t want to be found at the moment. “He’s safe.”

“Where is he?”

“Um… I’ll tell you in the morning.”

“Can’t you tell me now?”

King sighs. “Give him some time and space, Bohn. You’re both exhausted. But I promise you that he’s safe, and when he’s ready... when you’re both ready, then I’ll help you two meet so you can talk.”

Bohn’s face starts to crumple and King immediately panics. “Oh, don’t cry! It’s okay!” he tries to sooth.

“Will he ever want to talk to me?” Bohn asks through tears.

King sucks his cheeks. “He will,” he promises despite being uncertain. “Just give him some time to process everything.”

Bohn nods and sniffs.

“Come on, let’s go to bed,” King tries to encourage him along.

“Will you stay with me?”

“Huh?”

“Please? I don’t want to be alone right now.”

King has to hold back tears at the sight of his distressed friend.

“I’ll stay,” he promises in a soft voice.

They get under the covers together, still in their day clothes. They haven’t shared a bed since university. King hasn’t had to be there for Bohn like this since then.

His best friend has had a hard life. He hasn’t been able to make a lot of his own choices—where he went to school, what he studied, his job, his husband, where he lives, what he can do in his free time. So many parts of Bohn’s life are his father’s choices for him.

The situation he’s in now… it’s not his fault. Maybe he could have handled it differently, but King knows Bohn’s emotionally burnt out by all the shit he has to put up with from his family. Bohn just wants to be happy.

King remembers when Bohn told him he was getting married. He showed him a picture and gushed over Duen’s beauty. King was excited with Bohn, excited that they’d be able to live together, excited that his friend would finally get to start his own life and take a step away from his parents.

In hindsight, they were a little foolish. If they had given it more thought, they would have realized that something was up. Maybe then they could have done something before everything began.

He sighs and glances at his best friend, who has already passed out. Everything is so complicated, but there’s still hope in his heart that things will work out for the best.

Chapter Text

King refuses to tell Bohn where Duen is in the morning and through breakfast.

“I’ll tell you when I know for certain that he wants to talk,” he promises on his way out. “Until then, I think that you should give Duen some space.”

“But he’s okay, right?”

“He’s okay.”

Ben comes down into the kitchen shortly after King leaves.

“Where’s Uncle Duen?” he asks right away, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“He had to leave early,” Bohn says. He doesn’t want to tell Ben that he doesn’t know where Duen is. He’s certain that it would distress the seven year old.

“But you promised I could see him in the morning!” Ben whines. He starts to cry and Bohn jumps up, frantic with worry. It seems that Ben is already distressed.

“Oh, Ben,” he pulls his cousin into a hug.

“You don’t know where he is, do you?” Ben wails.

“... I don’t,” Bohn admits. He pulls back and looks into his cousin’s eyes. “But I know that he’s okay, that he misses you, and he’ll come back to see you soon.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he loves you very much. He can’t stay away from you for too long.”

“But how do you know that he’s okay?”

Bohn hesitates, but he decides to be honest. “King told me.”

“Does Uncle King know where he is?”

“Yes.”

“Then can Uncle King bring me to see him?”

Bohn looks down and swallows. “You’ll have to ask him after school.”

“I can’t go to school!”

“Why?”

“Because Uncle Duen’s the one who takes me and he’s not here.”

Bohn sighs and ruffles Ben’s hair. “I’ll take you,” he says. “And I’ll make sure that Uncle King brings you to Uncle Duen when you get home.”

Bohn takes the day off of work. When he gets back from dropping Ben off at school, he finds Ram waiting for him at the kitchen table, his arms crossed.

Bohn puffs out his cheeks and sighs. “Are you going to punch me again?” he mutters and goes into the kitchen.

Ram stands up and follows him, lurking close behind him as he pours himself a glass of water.

Bohn sighs and turns to stare the bodyguard down. He’s tired. He knows that he’s in the wrong. He knows that Ram and Duen have every reason to be upset with him. He’d just rather that the bodyguard take his anger out on him now rather than later.

He takes a long sip from his glass before he clears his throat and speaks up. “I know you know where Duen is.” He twists his lips. “I won’t ask you where he is… but when Ben gets home from school… can you please take him to see Duen?”

Ram continues to glare at him, but nods.

They maintain eye contact until it becomes awkward. Bohn coughs and steps away, intending to go up to his office.

“How long did you know?” he hears Ram’s voice from behind him.

“I found out after we were married…” Bohn trails off. He wants to explain everything, to say it out loud in hopes of receiving some sort of validation from the bodyguard, but, “I’d like to explain myself to Duen first, when he’ll let me.”

He glances back to see Ram nod before he turns forward, squares his shoulders, and goes upstairs.

When Duen’s ready, he’ll tell him everything. He’ll accept whatever Duen wants. In the meantime, he’s going to keep trying to find a way out of the contract.


Duen is confused when he wakes up in King’s bedroom. He’s even more confused that Ram is in bed next to him.

Did I switch bodies with P’King?

He sits up and realizes pretty quickly that that’s not the case.

Ram begins to stir as Duen tries to get out of the bed. The bodyguard opens one eye before he bolts up and grabs onto Duen’s wrist.

“Ram!”

Ram rubs his eyes and then glares at Duen.

“Oh, what’s this?” Duen whines.

“Where are you going?”

“I have to go to work!”

“I already called in.”

“Huh?”

“I called in sick for you last night… Do you know how worried everyone was?”

Duen looks down. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t disappear like that again.”

“I won’t.”

Ram seems to soften a bit and it rubs Duen’s arm. “But… are you okay?”

Duen glances up at his best friend and sighs. “So… do you know too?” he asks bitterly.

Ram nods. “I just found out.” He looks at Duen expectantly.

Duen is silent… he doesn’t really want to talk about it yet. He doesn’t want to do anything about it yet. His heart feels heavy.

“Um, Ram?” he eventually says. “Do you think…”

Ram twists his mouth. “Do you need to be alone for a bit?” he asks softly.

Duen nods and looks down. “Is that okay?”

“Mhm…”

They hear the door open and King pops his head in the room. Ram pats Duen’s shoulder before he stands up and pulls the gardener out into the hallway.

“Is it okay if he stays here for a bit? He wants to be alone,” Duen hears Ram ask King.

“Of course!” King pops his head back into the bedroom. “Duen, stay here for as long as you need. I’ll be out in the garden if you need anything. Ram…?” King turns back to look at the bodyguard.

Ram appears in the doorway. “I’ll be at the main manor,” he says grimly.

“Oh,” King frowns.

“I want to talk to Bohn,” Ram explains.

“Hm… okay, just don’t punch him again.”

“You punched him?” Duen exclaims and Ram looks away.

“I won’t do it again,” he promises.

“Well…” King sighs. “After you’re done talking to Bohn, come and help me in the garden. Duen, feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen.”

“Thank you, P’King… for everything.”

“No worries, Nong,” King smiles brightly.

The pair leave and Duen gets back under the covers. Now that he doesn’t have to go to work, all he wants to do is hide.

He falls back asleep and is in and out of consciousness for a while, he’s not sure how long. Eventually he feels someone sit down on the bed next to him and run their fingers through his hair.

His heart aches… he wants it to be Bohn, but he’s not ready to face him yet.

He peeks an eye open and is both disappointed and relieved to see that it’s Ram.

“Ram,” his voice comes out in a hoarse whisper.

Ram helps him sit up.

“Is it okay if Ben visits you?” Ram asks him softly.

“Ben?” Duen’s heart falls. In his grief he had forgotten about the young boy. “Of course!” He straightens up, suddenly feeling anxious. “Where is he now?”

“He’s still at school. He’ll be home soon and I’ll bring him to see you.”

Duen slouches back down. “Thank you, Ram… Really, thank you for everything.”

He suddenly feels like he’s going to cry. These past twenty four hours have been hard and emotionally exhausting.

Ram pulls him into a hug just before the tears start to fall and Duen sobs into his friend’s shoulder.

He's so hurt he almost doesn't feel the pain. He's hurt by Bohn's betrayal. He thought that there weren't any secrets between them, that they had a good relationship. Now he feels foolish. He tried so hard to win his husband's favor and the whole time Bohn must have only seen him as a person desperate for money. He feels cheap, he feels used. He has no dignity, no power in his life anymore.

Even worse, it's his own father who made him out to be this person. Used for the sake of the family in such a degrading way. He never knew his father would stoop to such low means. Despite his father's flaws, he thought that there was a bottom line. His father had always put family first, but now Duen sees that it was only a way for him to disregard his flaws. Every time he said he was doing something for their sake it was so they would leave him alone over his bad decisions. For the sake of the family, really he meant for the sake of himself.

Duen can't believe he didn't see it until now. He never always agreed with his father's decisions, but he thought that his father really believed that they were for the best of everyone. He thought that they just had different perspectives on things, different ideas on how to achieve the same goal. Now he knows that his goal was to keep their family together and happy, and his father's goal was only ever prosperity for himself.

Eventually, Duen calms down. “I should go get dressed…” he mutters, “If Ben’s coming over, I don’t want him to see me like this and worry.”

“I’ll go get him, he should be home any minute.”


Ram takes Ben in his car and drives around to the back field to keep Bohn from knowing that Duen is literally a stone's throw away, hidden in King’s cottage.

“He’s here?” Ben asks Ram, wide eyed when they approach King’s porch.

“Mhm,” Ram guides the seven year old inside.

Ben immediately runs to Duen and crashes into him with a fierce hug.

“Oh, Ben,” Duen picks the boy up and twirls around with him in his arms. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”

Ben refuses to let go and koalas himself around Duen. “Alright, my sweet boy,” Duen laughs and sits down with him on the couch.

“I missed you, Uncle Duen,” Ben mumbles into his shoulder.

“I missed you too.”

Ben pulls his head away to look at his uncle. “When will you come back?”

Duen sighs. “Soon,” he promises.

“How soon is soon?”

“Mmm… I don’t know. But until then, you can come see me every day.”

Ben stays late into the evening. Duen’s missed him so much that he lets him stay past his bedtime. He falls asleep and Ram has to carry him to the car to go back.

Duen stays at King’s cottage, King stays at the main manor, and Ram shares the bed with Duen. Ram gives him space, which he's grateful for. He's not sure if he's ready to think about everything yet.

Where else can he go from here? He can't leave this marriage without condemning his mother and sister along with his father. He doesn't have the power to make the choices he wants to. Whatever Bohn wants from him... he has to give it to him for the sake of his family.

In the back of his mind, he wonders why Bohn didn't bring this up earlier. He could really make the most out of this marriage with the contract. Anything he wanted from Duen he could have gotten it with the threat of divorce. Was he waiting for the right moment?

Or is there another reason?

Again, he doesn't want to think about it. He doesn't want to overthink, he doesn't want to know. Still, when he has a moment to himself, his mind can't help but drift to the contract and his family and his marriage.

So he goes back into work. It provides a good distraction for him.

When he gets home, he’ll sit on the bed, swaddled in a blanket, and eat a pint of ice cream while watching a series. Ram forces him to eat other foods, too, and Duen’s grateful that his friend is willing to take care of him and look out for his health.

His favorite part of the day is when Ben visits. Ben is like a firecracker, always ready to burst and show the world his colors. He brings so much joy into Duen’s life and it makes him want to go back to how things were before, but he can’t bring himself to return to the main manor. He’s always sad when Ram has to take Ben back to the main manor for bed.

Duen's mind will still drift to Bohn every now and then. He’ll see something that reminds him of his husband and start to miss him. But every sweet thought is cut short by his husband’s betrayal, and then he’s reminded of his father and how he doesn’t seem to have a family anymore.

Daonua keeps calling him, too, but he doesn’t have the guts to pick up the phone. He feels guilty—he knows he should talk to her more. They’ve become distant since he married into the Sirikarnkul family and he doesn’t want to lose his sister. But he doesn’t want to tell her about the reality of his marriage.

One day, there’s a knock on the door. It’s too early to be Ben and Ram or King would just come in…

Curious, he answers the door and immediately regrets it.

On the other side is his husband.

Chapter Text

Bohn tries to wait patiently for Duen to come back, to be ready to talk, but as the days go past he grows more and more anxious that he’ll never see his husband again.

He tries to see if he can get King to slip up and reveal Duen’s location, and he asks Ben, too. Both of them refuse to tell him and he starts to grow more desparate.

“King, please,” he begs. “We haven’t had a chance to talk at all. I’ve called him so many times, he won’t pick up. I’m worried that we’re going to stay in this stalemate forever and that I’ll never get a chance!”

King sighs and pushes his hair back.

“Please, King,” Bohn begs again, ready to fall to his knees. King senses what he’s about to do and immediately reaches out to grab his arms to keep him standing.

Unable to kneel, Bohn pouts, hard. He is an expert at sulking and pouting and he knows from his university days that King has a hard time saying ‘no’ when he gets like this.

King groans. “You know, if you had just told him about it earlier we wouldn’t be in this mess!”

“I know! It’s my fault… I just… I want a chance to explain myself to Duen, ask for his forgiveness, and figure out where to go from here. Even if he doesn’t want to see me again… I just don’t want to be stuck in this limbo any longer. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I try to distract myself with work but I can’t focus.”

King’s mouth twists and he pushes his hair back again. “What happened to waiting until he’s ready to talk?”

“Will he ever come to me?” Bohn sighs miserably and shakes his head. “If he’s going to run away, then I’m going to chase after him… One of us has to start the conversation. I’m the one with the most to explain.” He looks up at his best friend with teary eyes and a furrowed brow. “Do I have to wait for him to come to me? Can’t I go to him first?”

King’s face falls and he stares at Bohn for a long moment before he tilts his head back and groans again. “It’s hard to say no to you…” Bohn perks up and King rolls his eyes. “Alright, fine. He’s been staying at my cottage.”

Bohn’s mouth falls open. “He’s been here the whole time?” he exclaims. He shakes his head. “Never mind, never mind… I’m going to see him now!”

He runs out of the house without bothering to put on his shoes and King sighs. He hopes that Duen doesn’t blame him for revealing his location, but he hates to see his best friend so miserable. On some level he agrees with Bohn—those two need to talk and maybe Bohn should be the one to start the conversation.


Bohn pounds on the door of King’s cottage until it opens and a startled Duen appears in his line of sight.

“Duen!” he exclaims and falls into his husband’s arms, squeezing him tight. Relief from seeing the other man fills his body and even though they haven’t talked yet, everything starts to feel better.

“Get off of me!” Duen shoves him away. “I don’t want to talk to you!” He tries to close the door but Bohn wedges his way inside.

“Please, Duen, please let’s talk,” he begs. He’s never been so desperate before in his life. Now that Duen is in his sights, he’s not going to let this chance go.

Duen shoves him aside and runs out the door. “Go away!”

Bohn continues to follow his husband into the garden, begging him for a chance to explain.

“Duen, please! I know I was wrong for keeping the contract from you… but can’t we talk about it?”

Duen rounds on him. “What is there to talk about? Huh?” He steps forward and crowds Bohn. “The terms are pretty clear, Bohn! No matter how I feel about it, I’m stuck with you!” He jabs his finger into Bohn’s chest, continuing to push forward. Bohn inches back.

“That’s not true! Your feelings about it are important!”

“Then why didn’t you tell me about it? Huh?”

Angry tears fall down Duen’s cheeks and Bohn wants more than anything to brush them away. He reaches forward slowly to do so, but Duen shoves him back.

“Don’t touch me!”

Bohn loses his footing and falls backwards into the shallow pond on the edge of the garden.

“Shit!” he swears. His backside hurts and he slips as he tries to stand up.

“Bohn!” Duen cries out. He steps into the pond and helps Bohn rise to his feet.

“You still care about me,” Bohn breathes as he gazes up at his husband in wonder.

Duen glares at him. “Why? Am I not allowed to?”

Bohn gives him a watery smile. “I’m just glad… I thought you’d hate me forever.”

“Hmph, well, maybe I will.”

Bohn’s face falls. “Duen, please. Please, can we go inside and talk? I’ll tell you everything, I promise.”

“And then what?” Duen pushes back. “Even if you don’t explain, I’m still stuck with you. Why does it matter if you explain?”

“It matters to me… Everything about you matters to me.” Bohn sighs and pushes his hair out of his face. “I know the contract leaves us… Well, it leaves you in a shitty situation. But I don’t want to take advantage of it, or of you for my own selfishness.” Bohn bites his lip. “It’s true,” he admits, “that there are things that I want… but I don’t want to ignore your feelings, I don’t want you to feel like you have no say.”

He stares at Duen, but he can’t read his expression. At least Duen isn’t trying to push him away anymore.

“Can we go inside and decide how to move forward together?” Bohn asks, his voice tight. “I want to make that decision together.”

Duen sighs and gives in. “I guess.”


Inside, Bohn changes into dry clothes before he sits next to Duen on the edge of his bed.

Several awkward moments of silence pass before Duen speaks up. “Well…?”

Bohn puffs out his cheeks and slowly exhales. “I don’t know where to begin…” he admits. He glances at Duen, who’s frowning.

“Um… I guess I’ll start from the beginning,” he decides.

“So… our first night together… I got a call from Boss and he sent me the PDF of the contract. I was a little suspicious that my homophobic father arranged for my marriage to be with another man, so I asked Boss to investigate it, and well, something was up.”

He looks over at Duen, who’s nodding with his arms crossed tight across his chest.

“And so instead of telling me, you decided to keep it to yourself and ignore me,” Duen fills in and Bohn winces.

“I… didn’t know what type of person you were. I didn’t know if you knew or were involved… I didn’t want to open my heart if you knew or were involved. But um, eventually I realized that you didn’t know.”

“Why didn’t you tell me when you realized that?”

“I knew you’d be really hurt by it… and there was nothing we could do about it. I didn’t want you to have it hanging over your head. I thought it might change the way you act towards me.”

Duen scoffs and leans back on his hands. “Those are shitty excuses.”

Bohn grimaces and looks down at his lap. “I just… really didn’t know how to tell you. I was really scared to tell you.”

Duen tilts his head back and swallows thickly. “Do you know how I feel?” he asks, his voice trembling. “I feel like an oblivious fool… All this time, I was trying so hard… you must have been laughing at me.”

“I’ve never laughed at you… I’ve never thought of you as a fool… This whole time, everything you’ve done for me, for us, I’ve had to hold myself back… I wanted to get close to you, but I couldn’t without feeling guilty.”

Duen huffs out a wet, bitter laugh and Bohn looks over at him. “But you did get close to me.” Duen’s lower lip trembles. “Because you felt sorry for me? Because I’m worth 75 million Baht?”

“No!”

“No? Then why else would you play with my heart like this?”

Bohn smacks the mattress with both hands and turns his torso to face his husband. “I like you!” he exclaims, looking his husband straight in the eye. “I tried to hold back, but I’ve fallen for you! And I don’t want you to feel like you have to return my feelings just because of this goddamn contract!”

Duen studies him and thinks. It's hard to blame Bohn for this situation. He's still upset that Bohn kept this from him, but he understands his reasons now. He's willing to forgive Bohn, he's willing to try to make the best of their situation. But at the same time, he wants to know that he has options, that Bohn truly does take his feelings into consideration.

So he asks, “And if I don’t return your feelings? What will you do?”

Bohn’s heart falls in his chest but he soldiers on. “Whatever you want, whatever you’re comfortable with… I’ll stop sleeping in your bed, um… I’ll keep my distance and try to get over you. And… if you want a divorce…” He squeezes his eyes shut and turns away. “If you want a divorce… I’m sorry, but give me some time. I’ll save up the 75 million Baht to give to you. You can leave me without having to worry about your family.”

He doesn’t dare look at Duen. He should have expected this… still, the pain in his chest continues to grow with each passing second of silence.

Finally, he hears Duen say, “And if I return your feelings?”

“Huh?”

“What will you do if I return your feelings?”

Bohn peeks over at Duen from the corner of his eye and slowly sits up. “Then…” he begins slowly. Why can’t he think? “Then… I’ll tell you to relax and let me start making the effort. You don’t have to bring me roses or do anything else to make me open up. I’ll come to you first and do my best to be a good husband and make you happy.”

“Hm… Okay.”

“Okay?” Bohn looks at his husband, confused.

“Let’s do that.”

“That…?”

Duen rolls his eyes. “I’ll give you a chance, okay? We can start over and find a way to be together.”

“Really?” Bohn’s eyes widen and he sits up.

“Yeah, really.”

Bohn beams and throws his arms around his husband.

“Okay,” he smiles into Duen’s shoulder.

“Ohh, get off,” Duen shoves him lightly.

Bohn pouts. “But we’re together now… can’t we hug like this?”

“We’re starting over now, we’re not at that point yet.”

“Oh, please?” Bohn pleads.

“Mmmm…” Duen tilts his head and considers.

“For a little bit?”

“Okay. I’ll let you hold me for five seconds.”

“How about ten?”

“Five.”

“Seven?”

Duen sighs, but he’s grinning. “Alright, seven.”

Bohn beams once more and hugs his husband, who, to his surprise and gratitude, hugs him back for exactly seven seconds.

“A little longer?” Bohn pleads when Duen pulls back.

“No.”

“Oh,” Bohn pouts.

“Even though we’re together, we’ve just started over… I can’t just let you touch me so casually.”

“But we’ve cuddled in bed before!”

Duen purses his lips and hums. “But now that our relationship has changed, we’ll have to work back up to that.”

“Can I still sleep in your bed?”

Duen shrugs. “Ask me again tonight.”

“Oh,” Bohn sits up and continues to pout. Duen offers him a small smile as he stands up and walks away.

Bohn flops back onto the bed. A grin grows into a beam on his face. He brings his hands up to cover his face, curls onto his side, and squeals.

Somehow things have turned out for the best and Bohn feels like he’s on cloud nine. He pulls a hand away to pinch himself, hard—this feels like it should be a dream.

“Ow!” he yelps, but he’s still smiling as he rubs the spot. Not a dream, then.

Now, what the hell to do to pursue his husband?

He’s never pursued someone before, usually people approach him. In general, he doesn’t have a lot of relationship experience… Well, he has more than Duen at least.

Duen likes sweets and wine, he’s a romantic and gushes over cliche love stories.

Does Bohn need to become a cliche male lead from a drama? They’re either soft boys or cold assholes with a heart of gold and he doesn’t fully fall into either of those categories. Well, hm… maybe he’s a bit of an asshole… but he doesn’t want to be that type of lead for Duen.

He goes into his office and pulls down his notebook from the bookshelf. With his favorite pen in hand, he sits down at his desk and begins to plan.

“How to Properly Pursue my Husband”
1. Star gazing?
2. Picnic… Picnic under the stars?
3. Buy him more sweets? Go out for ice cream?
4. Give him roses every day.
5. Take him on a trip?
6. Wear couple outfits
7. Binge a series together

Bohn sighs and bonks his head onto the desk.

Why is this so hard?

Still, he’s going to do this. He wants to take the time to properly show Duen his affections, to win his heart the way he deserves, to give him a magical first—and hopefully only—romantic relationship.

Chapter Text

Bohn enlists Nanny Fang to help him set up a picnic in the back field. He prepares finger sandwiches, cut fruit, a bottle of wine, and a cooler full of Duen’s favorite ice cream. Nanny Fang helps him find an old blanket and battery powered lanterns and promises to take good care of Ben for the evening.

He feels a little weird and very nervous to lead Duen to the back gate. He feels like a fool when he can’t get the gate open and has to climb over to open it from the other side.

But Duen laughs and smiles and happily sits down next to him on the spread out blanket.

“Um… this is more of a lunch time activity,” Bohn scratches the back of his head bashfully, “but it’s clear tonight… I thought it might be nice to look at the stars.

“Hm…” Duen hums as he looks through the basket. “This is a very lunch-like meal. But I haven’t had such cute sandwiches in a while!” He smiles and holds up a small triangle of sandwich. “Did you do all of this yourself?”

“Nanny Fang helped a little…” Bohn admits. “Mostly with the fruit… I can’t cut them into cubes like she can.”

Duen stuffs the sandwich into his mouth so he can grab a container of fruit. He stabs a cubed melon and examines it. “This is Nanny Fang’s work,” he proclaims through a full mouth.

Bohn snorts. “Finish your food first before you talk.”

“Why? Is it gross?” Duen speaks around both melon and sandwich.

Bohn reaches over and covers Duen's mouth with his hand. “A little… but you could choke! And I’m not confident enough to give you the heimlich.”

Duen rolls his eyes but makes a point to chew and swallow his food before he opens his mouth for Bohn’s inspection.

“Okay?”

“Clear,” Bohn laughs.

“Then,” Duen clears his throat, “I would just like to say…” he tilts his head and thinks. “Let’s open the wine.”

“How did you know there’s wine?” Bohn wonders as he pulls out the bottle. It's in a separate cooler, Duen wouldn't have seen it when he was looking through the basket. Really, how did he know?

When Duen doesn’t answer, he turns to see his husband with his cheeks puffed out from food shaking his head.

“Oh!” he laughs, shaking his own head. “Of course you know if there’s wine,” he jokes, mostly to himself.

Duen glares at him and shoves him lightly. Bohn giggles as his husband tries to swallow his food quickly.

“Slow down, I’ll stop teasing and pour you a glass,” he grins.

“Hmph.” Duen rolls his eyes and makes a show of slowly chewing his food before he swallows. “Wine, please,” he demands with an outstretched hand.

“Tell me when,” Bohn starts to pour into the glass. When the glass is over half full he stops.

“I didn’t say when yet!”

“You can have more when you’ve finished this.”

“Oh,” Duen grumbles as he accepts the glass. “Why ask if you won’t follow through?”

“I didn’t think you’d take so much!”

“Hmm…” Duen squints at him before he takes a sip. “Oh!” his eyes go wide. “This is good!”

Bohn laughs and pours himself a glass to try. “Oh, it is!” he exclaims after he tries it.

“You haven’t had it before?” Duen asks.

Bohn looks over at his husband, who’s nearly done with his glass. “Nope. It was recommended to me.”

“It’s nice,” Duen smiles as he pours himself a little more.

Bohn takes the bottle from him when he’s done and examines the label—he probably should have checked earlier but in the excitement of preparing everything, he forgot.

His eyes widen—11% alcohol?

They usually have something that’s around 5% alcohol and Duen gets drunk off of two glasses. This is pretty strong by Duen’s standards.

“Duen, are you sure you want to drink so much?”

“...Yes,” Duen nods, eyes wide, as if it’s obvious.

“Hmm… even though our relationship has changed? Are you sure you want to drink so much around me?” Bohn teases, leaning into Duen’s side.

Duen shoves him away. “Yeah. You couldn’t do anything to me if you tried. Besides… I know you won’t take advantage of me like that.”

Duen says it so simply that it sends Bohn reeling—what on earth has he done to earn such trust from his husband? He wouldn’t do anything while Duen’s drunk, but he didn’t expect his husband to believe it so wholeheartedly.

“Oh, Duen,” he groans to himself when he takes back the wine bottle—Duen ended up taking the amount that he wanted in the first place. “Who’s carrying you back tonight?”

“You are!” Duen exclaims, causing Bohn to jump slightly in his seat. He didn’t realize that his husband had heard him. Duen’s already a little drunk—his words slur together and his cheeks are flushed bright red. His eyes squint from his constant smile.

He’s cute.

“I am?” Bohn acts indignant. “Says who?”

“Oh you won’t?” Duen pouts. “Okay…”

“I will, I will,” Bohn assures and pats his shoulder. Duen immediately brightens up and continues to sip from his glass.

When Duen’s done with his wine, his head falls onto Bohn’s shoulder.

“Oh!” Bohn’s arm immediately comes up around him and he pulls Duen into his side.

“Hmm,” Duen hums and nudges his head into Bohn’s collar bone.

“Hmm,” Bohn hums too and looks around. He does the best he can to clear the area around them. He places one of the cushions under their head as he lies them back on the blanket.

He stares up at the stars. Puffs of warm hair hit his neck and Duen squirms slightly in his arms.

“Duen?”

“Hm?”

Bohn twists his lips and hesitates. “Why do you like to drink so much?”

“It’s fun!”

“That’s it?”

Duen sighs and clumsily tosses his arm across Bohn’s torso. He snuggles into Bohn’s side and says, “Hm… well… If you really want to know…” he trails off and waits for Bohn’s answer.

“I do.”

Duen nods and continues, “My parents have put a lot of effort into raising me right. There are a lot of things that I never got to do as a child." He starts to count on his fingers. "I never went on any school trips, never stayed the night at a friend’s house, I had to be home by 8:00 pm every night, even in university, so I never got to stay out late with my friends." He sighs and curls his fist into Bohn's shirt. "They blame me for being soft but they never gave me a chance to experience anything difficult. Everything I did, I did in secret. The things I like, the things I want, so many parts of my personality… they don’t know any of it.”

Duen says it so simply, his tone slightly inflicted by the alcohol, yet Bohn’s heart breaks. He knows what that’s like. The pain of not being known by your family, by the people who should be closest to you. They should be the people to know you best and yet you cannot trust them with your whole self. Yes, he's very familiar with what that's like.

“And it makes me feel bad,” Duen continues on, “that I can’t share myself with them. Sometimes when I do something in secret… I feel guilty. I want to share myself with my family, but when I do…”

“You still feel bad… because they look down on you,” Bohn finishes.

“Mhm.”

“And so…?”

“And so… drinking lets me act freely without feeling bad. I know I get drunk easily… it’s a bit burdensome…”

“It is a little burdensome,” Bohn says frankly. Duen starts to squirm, so he tightens his arms around him to prevent him from escaping. “But I like looking after you. And you’re really adorable when you’re drunk. Although… hm… maybe you should start cutting back. Drinking this much, it isn’t healthy.”

Duen pushes himself up onto his side, resting his weight on his elbow, and looks down at Bohn. “Actually… I can be myself around you.” He purses his lips and glances off to the side, then looks back to him. Maintaining eye contact, he says very clearly, “I don’t feel like I don't have to hide from you, I don't need to drink to be free anymore.”

Bohn gazes into his husband's eyes, wondering how Duen can say something that sends his heart racing without realizing it. “I’m honored that you feel that way.”

Duen grins before he drops his head back down onto Bohn’s chest. He wiggles around so he’s lying on his back and grabs the arm that’s around him with both of his hands to hug it tightly to his chest.

The pair fall into a silence and watch the sky above them. A soft breeze blows, rustling the grass. The night air feels cool and refreshing. At this moment, it feels as if they are the only two to exist in this world.

“The stars are beautiful,” Duen breathes. “It’s such a clear night.”

Bohn turns his head to look at his husband. From this angle, he can mostly see the top of Duen’s head and the tip of his nose. If he could, he’d say something romantic. Something like… The stars are beautiful, but not as beautiful as your smile, or, The stars that shine the brightest are the ones in your eyes.

But he can’t think of anything romantic to say. His mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of Duen, but he doesn’t have the coherency to articulate them. All he can do is press a gentle kiss onto the top of Duen’s head and hold onto him tightly, savoring the intimacy and sweetness of the moment.

Time passes, either slowly or quickly. Bohn’s mind floats timelessly as it settles into the peace of the night. It feels like they're stuck in time. It feels like an endless eternity. Nothing has meaning anymore. The only thing of importance is the person in his arms.

Eventually, it’s time to go inside and he has to nudge Duen awake.

“Hmm?” Duen’s nose twitches and he snuggles into Bohn’s chest.

“Come on, let’s go back and go to bed.”

“Can’t we sleep here?”

“Under the stars?”

“Mhm.”

“With all of the bugs?”

“Bugs?” Duen sits up. “Let’s go in.”

Bohn sits up too and smooths down his husband’s hair. They pack up everything and begin to walk back to the manor.

“Do you want me to carry you?” Bohn brings up his offer from earlier in the night.

“No need,” Duen smiles, “I’ve sobered up enough, I can walk on my own.”

Of course, as he says that he stumbles and nearly trips, but Bohn catches him.

“Are you sure?” he gently teases his husband.

“Yes,” Duen insists. He straightens up and pushes Bohn’s arms off of him.

Duen shies away from physical affection more now that they’re together. The alcohol makes him more willing to hold hands or cuddle. Maybe Bohn should try to be more considerate when Duen’s been drinking, but it hurts that his husband seems so off put by Bohn’s touch. He's desperate for physical affection, for a sign of Duen's feelings.

He yearns to reach out and take Duen's hand, to pull him into his embrace and not let him go until sunrise.

More than that, he doesn’t want to push his husband’s boundaries. He doesn't want to scare him away or make him uncomfortable. So he continues to walk beside him, ready to act in case Duen falls again.

Bohn brings Duen up to the door to his room. It feels like he’s walked his date home and while he wants to follow Duen to bed, he’s going to savor this new beginning.

“Goodnight,” he wishes his husband and sends him off to bed with a longing grin.

“Goodnight,” Duen repeats with a smile before he disappears into his room.

Chapter Text

Duen clicks his pen and swivels in his desk chair. He has to fill out a few forms before he can clock out. The doctor who comes in after him is always late, so he takes his time.

He doesn’t realize how hard it’s raining or that he’s forgotten his umbrella until he’s standing in the doorway of the building, cursing himself and wondering what he should do.

The parking lot isn’t close to the building he’s in, he has to walk about ten minutes before he can reach his car. If he runs, maybe he can cut the time in half. Duen doesn’t want to run, though, he’s already tired. Either way he’ll get wet. Duen sighs and resigns himself to walking.

Just as he’s about to step out a group of girls behind him squeal.

“Who’s that handsome guy with the umbrella?” one of them exclaims, pointing in the distance.

Duen squints to see who they’re talking about. There are a few random students with umbrellas walking around in front of them.

“He’s coming over here!” another girl squeals. “Who is he looking for?”

Duen finally sees who they’re talking about. It’s not a student, he can tell by the way the person is dressed. But the rain is too heavy, he can’t tell who it is until the person is just in front of him.

“Bohn?” he gasps.

“Duen,” his husband greets him. Duen looks him up and down—his hair is styled, his suit is clean and pressed, he’s wearing one of his more expensive watches and pairs of shoes, and,

“Are you wearing concealer?” Duen asks, leaning in closer to look at Bohn’s face.

“Shh!” Bohn shushes him. “You’ll ruin the scene.”

He straightens up and clears his throat. “Duen, I’ve come to pick you up. You forgot your umbrella at home. I don’t want you to get stuck in the rain and catch a cold,” Bohn says clearly and loudly.

The group of girls squeal and Duen hears several camera phones go off. Why does he feel like he’s in a series right now?

His mouth drops open and his eyes widen. Is Bohn doing this on purpose? Is he giving him an umbrella scene?

“Stay close to me,” Bohn tells him as he pulls Duen into his side. He keeps a firm hand around Duen’s waist as they step back out into the rain under the safety of the umbrella.

Duen feels bashful and elated all at once. This sort of scene only happens in dramas, but it’s happening here, to him, right now.

He feels like they’re walking in slow motion as they travel through campus. The umbrella is barely big enough for the two of them, and Bohn’s shoulder gets a little wet, but he keeps Duen dry.

Bohn opens the passenger door for Duen and shields his head with his hand as he gets in.

“Thank you for picking me up,” Duen says when Bohn’s in the driver’s seat.

Bohn starts the engine. “No problem.”

They drive over to Ben’s school to pick him up, also giving him an umbrella scene.

“You’re both here?” he asks, jumping up and down.

“How was school today?” Duen asks, ruffling his hair and helping him into the car.

“I don’t remember.”

“What?” Bohn laughs. “But you just came from school!”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to think about it, I just want to go home and play!”

“What should we do tonight, Ben?” Duen asks.

“Everything!”

Bohn and Duen exchange glances. “Everything?” Duen repeats.

“I want to go swimming, I want to go to the park and get ice cream, I want to watch a movie, I want to beat Nanny Fang at Taiko no Tatsujin, I want to play hide and seek with Uncle Ram and Uncle King—”

“All of that?” Duen laughs. “I don’t know if we can do all of that in one night, especially since it’s raining so hard.”

“Why don’t we stop by the mall on the way home and get ice cream,” Bohn suggests and switches lanes.

“Ice cream before dinner!” Ben exclaims.

“Ice cream before dinner?” Duen repeats. He’s also excited by the idea, but he isn’t sure why Bohn is suggesting it.

The mall is crowded, typical for a Friday afternoon. Ben walks between Bohn and Duen and holds their hands.

There’s a small booth still available, which Duen and Ben take while Bohn goes up to order for them. He brings back a kid cone of banana ice cream for Ben and a large cup of strawberry ice cream for Duen.

“You didn’t get any?” Duen asks as he sits down.

“I’m sharing with you,” Bohn holds up two spoons.

“This isn't all for me?” Duen pouts and Bohn hides his smile behind his hand.

“You can act cute all you want, you still have to share with me,” Bohn teases and takes a bite.

“Hmph, alright,” Duen gives in. That doesn’t stop him from trying to eat most of the ice cream on his own.

“Can I try some of yours, Uncle Duen?” Ben asks.

Of course, Duen is sweet to Ben. “Sure,” he smiles and feeds him a spoonful.

“Why can’t you feed me like that?” Bohn pouts.

“You know how to feed yourself.”

“Please?” Bohn tries to act cute—he’s not successful, but Duen gives in anyway.

“Alright, alright, here,” Duen none too gently feeds him a spoonful, and even though his husband is exasperated, Bohn finds him to be the sweetest thing.

Duen leans forward and swipes Bohn’s bottom lip with his thumb. “Messy,” he mutters and holds his thumb to his own lips to clean the ice cream off.

Time stops for a moment as Bohn processes what just happened. Duen doesn’t seem too concerned by it and turns his attention back to the ice cream in front of him. Bohn only wanted to give his husband some cute and cliche moments to make his heart flutter, but somehow Duen caused him to be flustered. He took Bohn’s sweet scene and gave it a little bit of tension, although Bohn seems to be the only one to feel it.

Cheeks flushed, Bohn turns his attention back to the ice cream. Ben starts to talk about his day at school, and Bohn tunes into that conversation to get his mind off of what just happened.

When they get home, Nanny Fang takes Ben upstairs to change into play clothes, and Bohn and Duen go through his backpack to take out his lunch box and his Friday take home folder.

Duen cleans out the lunchbox while Bohn begins to look through the folder. Ben does well in math and rarely gets points off on his assignments. He has a harder time in reading and writing, but his teacher notes that he’s improving a lot.

Bohn pulls out a drawing from the folder. ‘My Family’ is labeled at the top in Ben’s messy handwriting. In the middle is Ben, easy to tell since he drew himself half the height of everyone else. He drew his mother next to him and Bohn and Duen on the other side of him, holding his hand. Nanny Fang is in the picture, depicted with a large smile and a long gray braid. Ram and King are also in the picture, and Ram is the only one who isn’t a stick figure because Ben tried to draw his tattoos.

“What’s this?” Duen comes up behind him.

“Family portrait.” Bohn hands the paper to Duen, who smiles as he examines the picture. He flips it over and begins to read what’s written on the back:

“‘I have a large family. My mom is waiting for me in my next life, so I live with my Uncle Duen and Uncle Bohn. Uncle Ram and Uncle King also take care of me. Uncle Ram is scary, but he’s fun to play with. Nanny Fang also takes care of me. She likes to read me stories and lets me win at video games. I love my big family.’”

Duen hands the paper back to Bohn. "He's really improved," he remarks proudly. He sits down next to Bohn and starts to look through the rest of Ben’s work from that week. “I guess ice cream before dinner was a well deserved treat,” he says, mostly to himself, as he shuffles the papers into a neat stack.

Bohn bites his lip. He wanted to bring Duen out for ice cream, so he jumped on the chance when Ben brought it up in the car. As much as it was a treat for Ben, he also did it to make Duen happy. He just doesn’t know how to tell Duen that without being awkward.

As he finds the courage to speak up, Ben comes bounding into the kitchen with Nanny Fang behind him.

“Can I play Taiko no Tatsujin with Nanny Fang?” Ben asks eagerly.

“Did you ask Nanny Fang if she wants to play?” Bohn asks the seven year old.

“Yeah, she said that we have to ask you guys, though.”

“I need to start on dinner soon,” Nanny Fang explains.

“I can take care of dinner tonight,” Duen offers, “If you don’t mind playing with Ben.”

“I’d be happy to play with Ben!” she smiles. “Just let me know if you need any help.”

Duen smiles back. “I’ll have Bohn as my helper tonight.”

“I’ll help?”

“Won’t you?”

Bohn purses his lips for a moment. “Yeah,” he agrees and stands up from his chair.

The husbands go into the kitchen while Ben pulls Nanny Fang into the living room.

Bohn makes the sauce for the sweet and sour pork while Duen prepares the pork. He dips it in batter and fries it for the first time. When he’s done, he helps Bohn cut the rest of the vegetables.

“Pass me the onion,” he requests.

Bohn knows that he means the round white vegetable on the countertop, but he impulsively rushes in to try to give Duen a quick kiss. Somehow, Duen is quicker to block him.

“Bohn!” he scolds, his voice jumping an octave as he leaps away from his husband. “Don’t help if you’re going to be naughty,” he glares as he grabs the onion for himself.

“Okay, okay, I’ll be good,” Bohn promises.

As promised, he doesn’t cause Duen anymore trouble as they finish cooking dinner. The pork is extra crispy since it’s fried twice, and Bohn’s mouth waters as he pours the sauce and the vegetables over top of it.

Cooking with Duen is fun, but the best part is being able to sit down and eat.

King and Ram join them for dinner. As Bohn sits at the head of the table and serves himself before he passes the bowl around, his mind flashes back to Ben’s drawing.

These people are his family, he realizes and warmth blossoms in his chest. His husband, his younger cousin, his best friend, the nanny who’s raised him since he was young, even Ram—they’re all irreplaceable in his heart. These are the people who he cares for most, the people who understand him best, the people he wants to stay next to for a long time. The warm feelings make the food taste even more delicious.

After dinner, Nanny Fang does the dishes before she retires for the evening. Ram and King stay behind for a little bit—long enough to be roped into a trip to the aquarium tomorrow afternoon—before they go off to do their own thing. Duen, Bohn, and Ben browse various streaming platforms for a movie to watch.

They decide to watch Luca, a very sweet, coming of age animated movie that makes Ben want to go to Italy to see the sea monsters.

It’s late when the movie ends and they still have to give Ben a bath. Of course, he’s happy to stay up past his bedtime, but Bohn and Duen are exhausted. Luckily, Ben passes out in his bed right after they tuck him in.

Bohn stops outside of Duen’s door and catches his arm before he goes in. He’s asked every night since they’ve officially started their relationship. “Can I stay in your room tonight?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No.”

Bohn pouts but wishes him a moody, “Goodnight,” before he turns to walk to his own room.

Before he can leave, Duen catches his arm and Bohn turns his head slowly to look at him.

Duen looks apprehensive—his brow is furrowed, he won’t look at Bohn, and he doesn’t speak up for several minutes.

“Duen?” Bohn asks cautiously. He’s nervous now, too. Was his moodiness overbearing? Did he go too far earlier trying to kiss Duen? He has a tendency to be pushy—maybe he’s overstepped and made Duen feel uncomfortable.

Duen tugs him closer. “Thank you, for today,” he whispers softly, “and, goodnight!” He presses a gentle sniff kiss to Bohn’s cheek before he lets go of his arm and quickly disappears into his room.

Bohn’s stuck in the hallway for a moment, trying to catch his breath until a sudden wave of giddiness courses through his body and he has to hold himself back from squealing. Instead, he presses his hands to his mouth and twirls around on his toes. He practically dances back to his own room and leans back against the door when he’s inside.

He holds his hand to his chest and feels it beat against his palm. He plays the moment over and over again in his head, unable to wipe the smile off of his face as he recalls the gentle pressure against his cheek.

Duen took the initiative to give him a sniff kiss! Duen took the initiative to be physically affectionate! Every insecurity about his relationship with his husband flew out the window the moment Duen pressed his nose against his cheek.

He really can’t help it—he dances around the room as he changes, brushes his teeth, and goes to bed. As he closes his eyes, all he can see is Duen’s sweet smile.

Chapter Text

Everyone sleeps in on Saturday morning. Duen is the first one up and he slips downstairs in his pajamas to prepare breakfast.

Nanny Fang comes down second. Saturdays are her unofficial days off, but she helps Duen for a little bit before she leaves to meet her friends at a tea house.

Ram comes down next and finalizes their plans for the aquarium before Duen sends him off with two breakfasts—one for him and one to bring to King.

Bohn comes down last, carrying a very sleepy Ben with him. Duen blushes when he sees his husband. He feels shy after giving him the sniff kiss last night.

Bohn pours himself and Duen a cup of coffee and gets Ben a cup of juice.

“Good morning,” he wishes his husband as he hands him the mug. He hesitates, but presses his nose against Duen’s cheek, returning the sniff kiss from last night.

“Oh!” Duen jumps, nearly spilling his coffee. “Bohn!” he whines, glaring at his cheeky husband.

Bohn's smirk turns into a cheesy smile. “Thank you for breakfast.” He takes the plate of omurice from Duen and ignores his scowl as he sits down at the table.

Ben tugs on Duen’s shirt, motioning him to bend down. Duen complies and Ben stands on his tiptoes to press a sniff cheek on Duen’s other cheek, copying the actions of his uncle. “Good morning,” he wishes, wearing the same cheeky smile that Bohn did.

Duen sighs and shakes his head fondly. “Good morning, Ben.”

He hands him a plate, takes his own, and sits down next to the boy at the table.

“Duen,” Bohn whines, “Why can you be sweet with him but not me?”

“He’s cuter than you,” Duen snipes back and Ben sticks his tongue out at him.

Bohn clutches his heart as if he had been shot, causing Duen to roll his eyes and Ben to giggle.

“In that case,” he pauses dramatically and looks at Ben. “Ben?” He raises an eyebrow and taps his cheek.

Ben slips out of his chair and runs around the table to press a sniff kiss into Bohn’s cheek. Bohn grabs him before he can run away, pulls him into his lap, and presses several sniff kisses onto his cheek and the top of his head.

“Uncle Bohn!” he giggles and squirms.

“My cute cousin,” Bohn calls him with a satisfied grin. “Alright, I’ll let you go.”

Ben jumps out of his arms and rushes back to his own seat. “Does this mean that I’m the cutest?” he asks as he climbs back in his chair.

“It seems that way,” Bohn sighs and rests his chin in his hand. “Although, your Uncle Duen is a close second,” he turns his gaze to his husband, who stares down at his plate with red cheeks.

The family finishes eating and Duen takes his and Ben’s plate to the sink. Bohn stands up, ready to take his own plate over when Duen comes up to his side and takes it from him. While doing so, he presses a brief kiss to Bohn’s cheek.

“Take Ben and get dressed. We’re going to leave a little afternoon for the aquarium,” Duen dismisses him from the kitchen.

In a daze, Bohn takes Ben upstairs to get ready for the day. He didn’t think his teasing would win him a kiss from his husband.

“Why is your face so red, Uncle Bohn?” Ben asks him.

“Huh? Oh, no reason.”

“It’s because Uncle Duen kissed your cheek, isn’t it?” Ben declares triumphantly.

“If you’re so smart, then why did you ask?” Bohn ruffles his hair. “Come on, let’s get dressed.”

“Are we really going to the aquarium today?”

“Mhm.”

“And Uncle Ram and Uncle King are coming with us?”

“Yes.”

“Are they also together?”

“What?”

“Are they also together? Like you and Uncle Duen?”

Bohn pokes his tongue in his cheek—Ben is really observant. “Not yet,” he cautiously answers his curious cousin. He crouches down next to him and whispers, “But they both like each other.”

“Then…” Ben looks up with a mischievous glint in his eye. “Should we match-make today?”

Bohn laughs. “Where did you learn such a concept?”

“From Uncle Duen!”

“From one of his shows?”

“Uh-huh!”

“Hm…” Bohn considers. “I suppose we can meddle, as long as we’re discreet.”

“What does discreet mean?”

“It means that we can try to help them, but we have to do it without them noticing.”

“Oh. Why do we have to be discreet? Can’t we just tell them that they like each other?”

“Hmm…” Bohn twists his lips. “Because they might be embarrassed if they realize what we’re doing and… it’s more meaningful for them to tell each other how they feel.”

“Nanny Fang said the same thing.”

“She did? When?”

“When you were flirting with Uncle Duen! I wanted to tell him what you were doing, but she said that it’s better for you to do it yourself!”

Bohn throws his head back and laughs. “Yes, Ben, it definitely was better for me to do it myself. Thank you for wanting to help me out, though. Now, come on, let’s go get dressed.”

Ben decides to wear the shirt that he and Duen picked out at the street market—Duen wears the same shirt, and Bohn decides to wear the one that Duen picked out for him, too. They look like they have no fashion taste, but they also look like a family. Weirdly enough, Ram and King also look like they’re wearing a couple outfit, which makes the outing feel like a double date.

Surprisingly, the aquarium isn’t crowded. Ben holds onto Duen’s hand as the group of five begin to wander around the building.

There’s a tunnel that they walk through that makes it seem like they’re in the water themselves. The fish swim all around them, and Ben cranes his neck back the entire time to see the ones swimming above them.

There are several rooms dedicated to various sea creatures—turtles, jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, and even a small tank that they can reach in and pet the rays and skates.

Ben’s held up by Ram so he can lean in and try to touch the ray, but each time they come close, he squeals and pulls his hand out of the water.

“Do you want help?” King offers.

“I’m scared!” Ben explains with wide eyes.

“It’s okay, Ben, they won’t hurt you. Here, watch,” King places his hand in the water and lets one of the rays run under his fingers. “They feel a little rubbery, that’s all.”

“Can you help me, Uncle King?”

King melts slightly at Ben’s request. “Sure, Ben.” He steps closer to Ram and Ben so he can hold onto one of Ben’s hands and guides it into the water. He holds it there while the rays swim around again. This time, when Ben squeals, it isn’t because he’s pulled his hand away, but because he finally pet one of the fish.

“So cool!” he exclaims. “Thank you, Uncle King! Uncle Ram, do you want to pet them too?”

Ram shakes his head no, but Ben pushes on. “Uncle King can help you if you’re scared! Uncle King, help him pet the ray!”

Ram smirks and glances at King. He holds out his hand and a flustered King helps him pet the ray the same way he helped Ben.

Ben takes the opportunity to wriggle out of Ram’s arms and go over to Bohn. “That was discreet, right, Uncle Bohn?”

“Is that what you were doing?” Bohn laughs. “Yeah, Ben, it was discreet.”

“Discreet?” Duen asks.

“Yeah! Uncle Bohn said that we can match-make as long as we’re discreet!” Ben explains.

Duen looks at his husband in astonishment and Bohn shrugs. “He picks up on these things surprisingly well,” he offers weakly.

King and Ram eventually rejoin them. There's a fierce blush on both of their faces and King acts especially shy.

“Come on, let’s go see the sharks!” Ben enthuses. He grabs Ram and King’s hands and pulls them into the next room.

Bohn and Duen linger behind for a moment. “He’s trying to match-make Ram and King?” he asks his husband.

“...Yes.”

Duen purses his lips and thinks for a moment. “You know, he’s actually doing a pretty good job,” he remarks. “Alright, let’s make sure he doesn’t get too carried away.”

Bohn and Duen walk behind Ram, King, and Ben for the rest of their trip to the aquarium. It’s nice because they’re able to enjoy the aquarium together and they have fun watching Ben playing with Ram and King.

“Ram never was a fan of kids,” Duen comments to Bohn. “It’s nice to see him get along with Ben.”

“Ben’s a pretty special kid,” Bohn agrees. “It seems that he can charm anybody.”

The group of five spend the entire afternoon at the aquarium. A good chunk of time is spent watching a staff member train, play with, and feed the otters—they’re just so cute and so cool to watch that they don’t realize how much time has passed until they’ve moved onto the next room.

They stop by the gift shop on the way out and Ben gets a large stuffed shark that he hugs to his chest for the entire car ride home.

That evening, after tucking Ben into bed, Bohn asks Duen, “Can I stay in your room tonight?”

He’s prepared for the usual no, but to his surprise, Duen says, “Yeah.”

“Really?”

“Really. As long as you promise to be good.”

“I’ll be good,” Bohn quickly promises and hugs his husband.

“Bohn!” Duen scolds lightly. “You said you’d be good!”

“Oh,” Bohn pulls back. His husband’s cheeks are a little pink, and he decides to try to push his luck. “Just one more time.”

He pulls his husband back into his embrace and is overjoyed when Duen’s arms slowly come up around him to hug him back.

Their hug lasts only a brief moment before Duen pushes him back again. “Alright, alright. Go get ready for bed.”

“Okay!”

When he’s changed and gotten ready for bed, he goes into Duen’s room. Duen is sitting up in bed holding the ipad, frowning slightly as he scrolls.

“What’s up?” he asks as he slides into bed next to him.

“Our pictures are on the university’s student page. It’s not just from when you picked me up, it’s also from when we got ice cream, and even from the aquarium today.”

“What?” Bohn takes the ipad from him and skims through the page.

“Luckily Ben isn’t in any of them,” Duen commiserates, “but I’m sorry that our pictures are online.”

“It’s not your fault.” Bohn hands the tablet back to his husband and sits back against the head of the bed. “Though, it is a little weird that the students are posting pictures of us.”

“They do this with other campus couples—anyone who they think is cute together, whether they’re an actual couple or not. I didn’t think we’d be one of them.”

Bohn’s silent.

“Are you upset?” Duen asks cautiously.

“Only a little,” Bohn admits. “But not at you,” he quickly clarifies. “I just can’t help but wonder if my father’s involved in this. Even if he’s not, I’m sure he’ll be happy from all of this.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t go out for a while.”

Bohn is quick to dismiss him with a wave of his hand. “Nonsense. It sucks that our pictures are online without our consent, but the memories we made are more important than these tiny grievances. As long as they leave Ben alone then I’m okay continuing as we have been.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I liked going out to the aquarium and for ice cream. I really liked picking you up from work. I don’t want to stop doing that.”

“But your father-”

“It’s okay. Whether he benefits from it or not, I don’t care. I just don’t want him to influence the decisions I make—I like being out with you and Ben, so I’m going to keep going out with you and Ben.”

“Oh,” Duen blushes, “Okay.”

They settle into bed and go to sleep.


King can’t sleep. He’s exhausted after a long day at the aquarium. All day long he was flustered by Ram and for some reason it was Ben’s fault.

The kid is cute, but he’s perceptive as hell. Somehow, he picked up on King’s crush on Ram, and while he appreciates that Ben tried to help him out, he’s pretty sure that nothing will ever happen between himself and Ram.

Which is completely okay.

Or at least, he tells himself that. It’s hard to ignore how it hurts every time Ram is close to him. He wants to close the gap between them, both figuratively and literally, but it took so long to get Ram to open up to him and he doesn’t want to mistake the bodyguard’s careful friendship for something more. He doesn’t want to risk losing his friend.

His feelings don’t keep him up at night anymore. Sometimes he still agonizes over them, but he doesn’t lose sleep over it.

The reason he can’t sleep tonight is because the backfield has been rented out to a wedding party, and they’re very drunk and very noisy. Every time he thinks that they’ve quieted down or left he’ll hear another drunken holler and groan.

Sometime close to midnight he gives up and leaves his cottage for the main manor. It should be quieter there and there are many rooms for him to sleep in.

He carefully opens the glass sliding door and begins to quietly walk over to the staircase.

All of a sudden, a strong arm pushes him back and pins him against the wall.

Everything is still for a moment as his soul flees his body. He takes a deep breath and comes back to himself, begins to process what's happened.

“Ram?” he gasps. His heart pounds wildly. The bodyguard is pressed close against him, holding him to the wall with one arm across his chest. His other hand hits the wall, trapping King in his spot.

King blinks up at the bodyguard in surprise.

“P’King?” The bodyguard’s voice is gravely and low, causing King to shiver.

His arm falls from King’s chest, but he doesn’t step away. He still has the gardener pinned to the wall.

I hope this doesn’t awaken anything in me.

King stares up at the strong bodyguard through his lashes. He wants to place his hands on Ram’s chest, run his hand over his muscles. He wants to press their bodies together and hold Ram close. Instead, he’s stuck breathing heavily, clutching at the wall behind him, trying to find something to hold onto to keep himself up right.

“P’King,” Ram repeats softly, and King’s not sure if he’s imagining it, but it seems like the bodyguard is closer. He feels his knees go weak and he brings his hands up to hold onto Ram’s shoulders.

Ram wraps his free arm around King’s lower back and pulls him in, causing King to arch his back slightly so he can still look into Ram’s eyes.

King surges forward and kisses Ram.

He really can’t help it. Being held like this, pressed between the wall and the strong bodyguard, his heart takes over before his brain can tell him what a terrible idea this is.

He pulls away quickly. Ashamed by his impulsiveness, he turns his head and tries to take a step back.

Ram doesn't let him go. HIs arm tightens around King's waist while his other hand comes up to cup his face and gently tilt him back into another kiss.

King melts into the kiss and relies on Ram’s strength to keep himself upright. What begins as slow and sensual quickly turns into something fiercely desperate. King cards his fingers through the hair at the nape of Ram’s neck. Ram lets go of King’s face so he can brace them against the wall as he pulls King’s body closer towards him.

Ram’s lips are soft and persistent against his own. He can taste the toothpaste on Ram’s breath and he briefly feels self conscious about his retainer as Ram’s tongue pushes into his mouth. His toes curl and he tries to push himself closer to the bodyguard. They’re already pressed against each other, but Ram tips him back slightly, nearly sweeping him off his feet.

They kiss and kiss and kiss until King feels dizzy and he can’t remember how he got there or if it’s even real. When he pulls away, the look in Ram’s eyes assure him that something real is about to begin.

They straighten up so King is balanced on his own two feet and so Ram can rest both of his hands on King's waist. King licks his lower lip as he stares at the bodyguard. Ram’s lips are dark and swollen, his eyes are lidded, and he’s panting slightly. His shine in the dark with adoration—adoration for King.

Feeling breathless, King places one of his hands over Ram’s heart. He can feel it beating just as hard as his own against the palm of his hand and it gives him courage.

“Is this… is this mine?”

“Yes,” Ram breathes.

“And mine is yours,” King promises back.

The bodyguard smiles and presses his forehead against King’s. “I know.”

“You know?”

“You were the only one who didn’t know that we belong to each other.”

King blushes but he doesn’t shy away. “I know now.”

They stay in that position, staring into each other’s eyes for several moments. It’s dark in the house, but King can see Ram’s eyes clearly. Ram looks at him the same way, but now King can recognize the love in his eyes.

“Can I sleep in your room tonight?” King asks boldly. Ram’s eyes widen and he draws in a quick breath of air. “Nothing has to happen,” King quickly reassures. “There’s just a loud wedding going on in the back field… I can’t sleep. That’s why I came here.”

Ram nods, takes King’s hands, and leads him upstairs to go to bed.

Chapter Text

Later in the summer, Bohn’s father holds a fundraiser for his campaign. It’s during the afternoon while Ben is at school, so only Duen and Bohn have to attend.

They both take the day off of work and coordinate with Nanny Fang so they can sleep in. Of course, Duen wakes up at his usual time and slips out of bed for a minute to see Ben off to school. He wakes up Bohn as he does so and Bohn finds himself following after his husband.

After wishing Ben a good day at school and giving him a hug goodbye, Bohn and Duen are quick to return to bed.

At night, it's dark and they're tired, so they both fall asleep pretty quickly. Some nights, Ben sleeps between them. Early in their days of sharing a bed, Duen would comfort Bohn through a nightmare by holding him, rubbing his back, and singing a pop song as if it was a lullaby.

Now, the sun is up, they're both tired, but could still stay awake, and there's no chance of Ben crawling into bed with them. So it's a little startling for both of them to get into bed, curl onto their side, and see the other staring back at them.

Bohn can tell that Duen is a little apprehensive from the way that he pulls the blanket up to cover his nose, but keeps his eyes uncovered so he can watch Bohn warily.

And Bohn...

Bohn wants to kiss him. He really wants to kiss him. Just for being so endearing, just for being next to him, just for giving him a chance.

He also pulls up the blanket to cover his nose, mimicking Duen so he can keep himself in line.

It's hot, though, so he kicks the blanket around until it rests between his thighs, his bottom leg still covered, but his top leg and backside are out. He reaches out with his uncovered leg and nudges at Duen with his big toe, poking him somewhere around his knees.

"Hmm?" Duen hums, wondering what Bohn wants.

Bohn just wants attention.

Well, actually...

"Will you hold me?"

Duen pulls the blanket down from his face and nods. Bohn shuffles across the bed awkwardly and curls into Duen's side. His head rests on Duen's chest and Duen's arms come up around him in a hug. He feels warm and content as he's lulled to sleep by his husband's steady heart beat.

They're still in the same position when they wake up again and Bohn finds it harder to get up than he normally does. He feels cherished and protected in his husband's arms and he is unwilling to let go of those feelings for his father's event.

He stubbornly pretends that he's still asleep when Duen tries to get him up. When Duen catches on, he whines and complains that he's still tired and they should stay in bed longer. When Duen doesn't give in, he clings tightly to him and puts on his best pout.

Eventually, Duen coaxes him out of bed with the promise of coffee.

Well, actually, it's more like Duen wiggles his way out of Bohn's grasp and gets out of bed. He leans down next to him, getting Bohn's hopes up that Duen will kiss his cheek, only to be betrayed and disappointed when Duen sternly says, "Get up or I'll finish off the coffee all by myself."

So he gets up and reluctantly follows Duen into the kitchen.

From there, they go about as if it was a normal day. Except instead of going their separate ways, they're driven to a venue in the city wearing their best suits.

There are many elites present at the event and many who don’t bother to even pretend to hide their disdain for the pair of husbands. Bohn and Duen continue to smile, continue to be polite, all for the sake of Bohn’s father. They can’t speak up, they’re forced to keep peace in order to avoid a larger conflict.

Bohn’s father loves the attention he receives during the event. Everyone is there to support him and give monetary contributions to his campaign. He makes several speeches, a few planned and several impromptu. Later in the afternoon, he takes the microphone once more and gets everyone’s attention.

“Now, thanks to all of your support, I am leading in the polls!”

He’s said this several times already, but still he pauses for everyone to applaud.

“Thank you, thank you. Now, because of that, I would like to announce that when I’m elected into office, my son, Bohn Sirikarnkul, will officially take over the company!”

Bohn nearly drops his glass of Prosecco—for a moment he thinks he did because he hears glass shatter, but he looks down to see his drink still secure in his hands.

This announcement comes out of nowhere!

Well, it’s not totally surprising, but he thought that his father would have at least talked to him about it before announcing it to every elite in Bangkok.

He groans internally. Does this mean he has to work more? He likes coming home early and spending time with his family, he really doesn’t want to take on more responsibility. Still, he knew it would happen one day. Maybe he can spend more time working from home now that he’ll be the CEO.

Probably not though, he grimaces.

He doesn’t want to be a CEO, he doesn’t want to take over his father’s legacy, he barely likes the position he already holds in the company. He didn’t expect that his father would run for office and cause his takeover of Sirikarnkul Group to happen so much earlier in his life than he planned for. He thought that maybe he could find the chance to escape his father’s grasp and pursue what he really wants to do.

Duen’s grip on his arm tightens and Bohn knows that he can tell that he’s upset. He’s grateful for Duen’s presence, it keeps him grounded.

“So,” his father continues, “I hope that you will all support me and Sirikarnkul Group throughout the election.”

His father finishes his speech with a grand flourish of his hands and something akin to a bow, but not outright so. People begin to go up to both him and Bohn to congratulate them on their next step in life.

Bohn’s stuck smiling and thanking people who have known him since he was a baby but still know absolutely nothing about him. The elite only appear when there’s something for them to take advantage of. Since his father is going to hold political office, of course they’re going to suck up to him. Now that Bohn’s on the road to take over Sirikarnkul Group, they’re going to try to get on his good side so he’ll take care of them in the future.

Only a few acknowledge Duen, who is by his side for the entire afternoon. If they do acknowledge him it’s usually with a look of disdain followed by faux acceptance and friendliness.

The whole thing sickens him.

They’re able to leave the event soon after the announcement with the excuse of picking Ben up from school. The guests don’t need to know that Nanny Fang already picked him up. It gives Bohn’s father the chance to go on another spiel about how special Bohn’s 'modern family' is.

Ram, who’s been lurking the entire time, comes forward to help the couple move back to the car and leave. Bohn’s not certain, but he’s pretty sure that the bodyguard shoots him a look of sympathy as they leave.

Duen grumbles the entire car ride back and both Ram and Bohn compete to sooth him in their own ways.

Ram rubs his back and offers him a bottle of water and a sympathetic ear. Not to be out done, Bohn takes Duen’s hand and shares his anger with him.

“That one lady, too! She kept showing you those pictures of her daughter,” Duen grumbles. “Like you aren’t already married to me.”

“Half of them were happy to pretend that I’m still an eligible bachelor for their unmarried daughters,” Bohn grumbles along and squeezes Duen’s hand. “I already have you, I don’t want anyone else.”

Ram pats Duen’s shoulder and looks at him with sorrowful eyes. Duen, oblivious to the competition going on between his best friend and husband, squeezes Bohn’s hand back and leans his head on Ram’s shoulder for a moment.

“Some of them even came to our wedding!” Duen exclaims and sits up. He tosses his hands up in the air, letting go of Bohn’s, but Bohn is quick to grab it again.

Bohn sits up. “That’s true, and it’s the only gay wedding any of them have ever been to so why don’t they remember?”

Ram rolls his eyes and smirks at the two of them getting worked up. Luckily, their frustrations quell when they get home.

Ben is by the door to greet them with Nanny Fang and King. He rushes over to Duen and crashes into him with a hug before he hugs Bohn, then Ram.

“Are you that happy to see us?” Bohn laughs.

“Yeah! Nanny Fang said we had to wait to eat dinner until you got home!”

Duen holds back his laugh. “So you’re just hungry, is that it?”

Ben puffs out his cheeks and runs away. “You were only gone for an afternoon!” he calls out as he disappears into the sitting room.

“So he didn’t miss us?” Bohn whispers to his husband.

“I think he did, he just doesn't want to say,” Duen smiles back. Suddenly he squeals and swats Bohn’s arm.

“What, what?” Bohn pulls back, annoyed.

“Look!” Duen whisper shouts.

Bohn looks to where Duen’s pointing and catches Ram and King disappearing into the sitting room, holding hands.

“No way!”

“They’re finally together!” Duen squeals and clasps his hands together.

Bohn takes a moment to step back and look his husband up and down. “I don’t know if you were this happy when we got together.”

Duen glares at him, annoyed. “What are you saying?” he asks.

“You didn’t squeal and clap when we got together.”

“We got together at the end of an argument, of course I wouldn’t squeal and clap. And I wouldn’t do it in front of you, either.”

“Oh,” Bohn mutters and watches his husband disappear in the sitting room.

He never did give Duen a confession—Duen’s never received a proper confession before in his life. Now suddenly he’s in a committed marriage. He’ll never have the chance to receive a proper confession again.

Bohn frowns and pushes these thoughts to the back of his head so he can follow his husband and join his family at the dinner table.

In the evening, when they’re getting ready for bed and Ben is already asleep, he decides to bring it up again.

“Hey, Duen.”

“What is it?”

“If I give you a proper confession… would you squeal and clap and act happy?”

Duen scrunches his face, confused and weirded out by his husband. “Why is this a transaction? If you confess to me again then I’ll react how I react.”

Bohn sucks his cheeks, a little put out, but not put off. He decides to take it as a challenge.

“One day,” he tells Duen, “when you least expect it, I’m going to give you the most romantic confession that anyone has ever received.” He squints his eyes. “It’ll be so romantic that every confession you receive in your next three lifetimes will feel disappointing.”

Duen’s mouth drops open as he stares at his husband incredulously. “Why does it feel like you’re threatening me?” he mutters. “Come on, let's go to bed.”


Bohn has no intention to confess anytime soon. He’s going to let his husband forget about it so he can surprise him.

He also has no idea how to give a confession so romantic that Duen will keep in his heart for three lifetimes.

So he pushes thoughts of confessing to the back of his head. There’s something else that he wants to do today.


Duen has no idea what’s gotten into his husband or why he’s so determined to make Duen squeal and clap with his confession. They’re already together, there’s no need to confess.

Although, Duen’s never received a serious confession before. He’ll never receive a marriage proposal either, he realizes with a frown. Bohn really doesn’t have to confess, but Duen’s quietly looking forward to it.

Even though he doesn’t give him roses anymore, he still greets Bohn by the door when he comes home from work. He likes doing it.

Bohn’s a little weird when he walks through the door today. He seems to be eager for something and has a strange look on his face—like he’s smiling but also trying to hold back.

“Bohn?” Duen greets him with a tilted head.

“Duen,” Bohn’s eyebrows raise and his eyes contain dance with glee.

“What are you up to?”

Bohn breaks out into a full grin. “Do you notice anything different?”

“Huh?”

“Do you notice anything different about me?”

Duen frowns and examines his husband from head to toe. “No,” he shakes his head.

Bohn’s smile immediately turns into a pout. “Duen,” he whines. “You really don’t notice anything different? Look closely.”

Duen furrows his brow and looks again. “Can you give me a hint?”

Bohn rolls his eyes. “Up here,” he says, gesturing to his face with his hand.

Duen bites his tongue and leans in closer to his husband. “You’re not trying to play any trick on me, right?” he mutters as he looks.

No, there really is something different.”

“Can’t you just tell me?” Duen sighs, giving up.

“Oh,” Bohn pouts and hangs his head.

“Oh!” Duen exclaims, finally seeing what Bohn wanted him to. “Your ears!”

“Yeah!” Bohn immediately perks up.

“You got your ears pierced?” Duen’s finger comes up to gently touch Bohn’s earlobe.

“Ow!” Bohn hisses and jerks back.

“Does it still hurt? Sorry, sorry.”

“Of course it still hurts, I just got them pierced today,” Bohn mutters. He glances at his husband. “How is it? Do I look nice?”

“Very handsome, they suit you.”

“Really?” Bohn jumps, startling his husband. “You think I’m handsome?” he asks eagerly. His husband’s never given him this type of compliment before.

Duen’s slightly taken aback by his husband’s sudden energy. “Yeah,” he answers slowly and gives Bohn a look. “But why did you decide to get your ears pierced?”

“Teenage rebellion?” Bohn offers.

“You’re an adult.”

“Yeah, and I’m rebelling. Like a teenager.”

Duen purses his lips and slowly nods. “So this is something that your father never let you do?” he pieces together.

“Yeah.”

“And now that you’re going to take over the company you want to push back against him?”

“Yeah!”

“And getting your ears pierced was the first thing you thought of?”

“...Yeah.”

Duen holds back a smile. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah. I support your teenage rebellion.”

“Really?” Bohn perks up.

“Really.”

As weird as it is, Duen really does support Bohn’s ‘teenage rebellion.’ As insignificant as getting his ears pierced may seem, Duen knows that it’s a big deal for Bohn and he’s proud of him for doing something that he wants despite his father’s wishes. Plus, he really looks handsome with the earrings—they suit his boyish nature and make him look cool.

He wants to show Bohn his genuine support. Later in the evening he gets on his tablet and starts looking online for earrings. He’s not sure of Bohn’s style. The ones he has now are pretty standard silver studs, but there are a few pairs he thinks his husband will like.

He purchases them secretly, drawing on money from his own bank account. This will be a cute surprise for his husband.

Chapter Text

The earrings are one of a few birthday gifts that Duen prepares for Bohn.

Bohn’s at work on his birthday and Duen takes the day off so he can set everything up. He wraps the gifts he has hidden in his room in shiny paper. He and Ben work together to make the card and he sticks it underneath a shiny blue bow.

There’s a lot to do in the kitchen. He’s making a feast of all of Bohn’s favorites as well as a three tiered lemon cake. Nanny Fang helps him to the best of her ability, but they find themselves stressed and overwhelmed as the afternoon progesses.

A little late into the afternoon, someone’s at the door, and Nanny Fang leaves to answer it. She comes back with Duen’s mother-in-law trailing behind her.

Duen hasn’t interacted a lot with his in-laws. They’ve visited their house a few times, and of course, there are always public events to attend for Bohn’s father, but Duen’s only had a few passing polite conversations with his mother-in-law.

She’s a petite woman in her early thirties who carries herself with a quiet grace. At the moment, she’s holding a large gift bag, and the staff behind her carries a platter of pastries.

Duen quickly wipes his hands on his apron to go over and greet her. She hands him the gift bag and he sets it aside so he can also take the platter of pastries.

“Are you here for Bohn’s birthday?” he asks hesitantly as he brings the pastries into the kitchen.

“Yes. His father’s not in town, so I thought I would visit. I came early to see if you need help with anything.” She peers at him from where she stands, scanning the messy kitchen with a small frown.

Duen’s a little startled by her presence, but he’s not going to turn down offered help. He waves his hand to beckon her into the kitchen and explains everything that he's making. Luckily, she understands everything easily and is able to help without a lot of instruction.

As they work together, Duen sneaks glances at her and exchanges looks with Nanny Fang. While they're both a little perturbed by his mother-in-law in the kitchen, casually sifting flower for the cake, they're both relieved that the workload has lightened.

Ben is also taken aback by her presence when Nanny Fang brings him home from school. He barely greets her before he runs upstairs.

“I’ll go help him change and bring him back down stairs for a snack,” Nanny Fang announces awkwardly before she follows after him.

“What time does Bohn come home from work?” Duen’s mother-in-law asks him.

“Usually just before dinner.” Duen glances at the clock. “He said he might try to come home early, though.” He smiles bashfully. “Although, he doesn’t know about all of this,” he gestures to the dishes they’ve prepared.

“You’re very sweet,” his mother-in-law comments. “When his father turned fifty, I arranged for the top five chefs in the city to cook his favorite dishes and then we took a private jet to Taipei for a weekend trip.”

Duen’s soul leaves his body for a brief moment. Is that what he’s supposed to do? Suddenly his home made feast feels inadequate. Should they go to Tokyo or something? No, no, it’s too late to plan a trip abroad.

“That must have been lovely,” he comments politely and the woman turns her lips up in a fake responding smile. “Um… let’s decorate the cake and then we can sit down for some tea,” he changes the subject.

He hopes that Nanny Fang can get Ben to come down, or that Bohn will come home from work soon. It’s very awkward working alongside his mother-in-law. She’s very polite, but very stiff and Duen struggles to relax.

Thankfully, Bohn comes home from work a little early and Duen greets him by the door with a brilliant smile and a hug.

“You should give me a birthday kiss,” Bohn jokes, although Duen knows his request is genuine.

They haven’t kissed yet. He’s never kissed anyone before and he’s still slowly learning how to be in a relationship with his husband. He wants them to take their time because once they start kissing… he’s worried that things will progress very quickly from there and he’s definitely not ready for that yet.

So he quickly presses a sniff kiss to Bohn’s cheek and pulls away with a satisfied grin.

“Oh!” He hears the startled voice of his mother-in-law from the doorway to the sitting room and he tries to step out of Bohn’s arms, but his husband has a tight hold on him.

“Step-Mother?” Bohn questions.

“Hello Bohn,” she greets him sweetly. “Your father’s not in the country at the moment, so I came to celebrate your birthday with you for him.”

“He’s not in the country?” Bohn mutters and Duen frowns—shouldn't Bohn know that? “Thank you for coming over, Step-Mother,” Bohn thanks her in a louder tone and finally lets go of Duen.

“Of course. Duen and I were just having tea and he showed me some of Ben’s school work. It seems like he’s adjusting well to your… family.”

Bohn cringes at the tone she uses when she calls them a family. Like his father, she struggles to see them as a valid family, but she’s putting on airs for the sake of the campaign.

At least she’s willing to do it in private, too, Bohn thinks, trying to find a way to think of her nicely. They’re not close. She’s one of many wives that his father’s had since his mother died. She’s sweeter than some of the other ones, very poised and polite, so Bohn doesn’t mind her.

“Ben’s still upstairs. Why don’t you get changed out of your work clothes, I’ll coax him downstairs, and then we can start celebrating,” Duen suggests.

“I can start setting up,” Bohn’s step-mother offers.

“That would be wonderful, I’ll have Nanny Fang come down and help you.”

They part ways. Nanny Fang is grateful to go do something else and Duen takes on the challenge of getting Ben out of his room.

“I don’t want to go downstairs,” he whines and kicks his feet.

“Oh, Ben,” Duen tries to coax. “Don’t you want to celebrate Uncle Bohn’s birthday? I know he wants you to celebrate with him.”

“I want to celebrate it with him too.”

“Then, let’s go downstairs.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Well you can’t have it both ways,” Duen sighs and puts his hands on his hips. “Why don’t you want to go downstairs?”

“Auntie’s weird. She pinches my cheeks and pats my head.”

Duen frowns. “We do that to you, too.”

“Yeah but she’s weird when she does it.”

“What do you mean?”

“She does those things when she’s scolding me.”

“Did she scold you a lot when you were living at her house?”

“Yeah!”

Duen purses his lips. “Well, you’re living here now. You know our rules, so as long as you follow them then she has no reason to scold you,” he reasons.

Ben looks around the room as he considers. “Can I bring my shark?” he asks after a while, referencing the stuffed animal he got from the aquarium.

“I suppose you can.”

“Then, okay.”

Ben holds his stuffed shark close to him as he follows Duen downstairs.

“Hello, Ben,” the mother-in-law greets as she finishes setting the table.

“Hello, Auntie,” Ben greets shyly. He buries his face in his shark and hides behind Duen.

“He’s had a long day at school,” Duen tries to explain away lightly. “Thank you for all of your help today.”

“Of course,” she responds and sits down at the head of the table—Bohn’s usual spot.

Duen just smiles and pokes Ben when he tries to speak up. He doesn’t want to make waves on Bohn’s birthday.

He lets Bohn take his seat and sits down in Ben’s usual seat, so Ben sits where Nanny Fang sits and Nanny Fang…

Nanny Fang looks at the four of them with uncertainty. With Bohn’s step-mother here, she’s probably not sure if she’s allowed to sit with them.

“Nanny Fang, come and sit next to Ben,” Bohn invites her and doesn’t even look at his step-mother, who’s making a face as if she just bit into a lemon.

She does speak up when Ram and King join.

“There are certainly a lot of people here for a family celebration,” she comments tightly. She pats her mouth with her napkin and looks at Bohn expectantly.

“These people are my family,” Bohn shrugs.

She merely raises her eyebrow and continues to eat. Bohn knows she’s judging him, but he’s not about to let this woman who’s only been in his life for a few years, who’s only a few years his elder, shame him into dismissing people he’s known and loved his whole life on his birthday.

After dinner, they decide to do presents after they clean up but before cake. They’re all too full from the meal Duen prepared and need a moment to digest before they eat something else.

Bohn’s step-mother goes first. She places the gift bag on the table with a large thud and Bohn glances at her warily. After removing the tissue paper, he has to take a moment to hold back his smile as he lifts out a figurine.

It’s one of the figurines he and Duen were given as a wedding gift, one that they sent back to the main manor because Duen didn’t want to use it when he redecorated. He glances at Duen and can tell that he recognizes it by the glint in his eye.

“How thoughtful,” he remarks with a large fake grin. “Thank you, Step-Mother.”

“I just thought it might fit in with the sitting room,” she sniffs. “I didn’t know you had changed it so much.”

“Oh,” Bohn realizes that neither of his parents have been in this part of the house since he’s moved in. “Duen redecorated—it looks great, doesn’t it?”

“It looks lovely,” she grits out. “You changed so much. You know, I was the one to originally decorate the house.”

Bohn and Duen exchange glances. “Oh, well it was very nice when I first moved in, Mother-in-Law,” Duen lies.

“Not nice enough to keep,” she mutters under her breath. “Well,” she brightens, “Duen, why don’t you give Bohn his gift?”

Duen licks his lower lip and presents his husband with the presents. Bohn’s step-mother hasn’t commented on the earrings yet… he wonders if she’ll say something when she sees the earrings he got him.

Bohn opens the first package, the one holding the earrings.

“Woah!” He smiles gleefully as he opens the jewelry box.

“Cuff links?” Bohn’s stepmother asks.

“Earrings,” Bohn answers, turning the box to show her.

She covers her mouth with her hand and squints. “You got your ears pierced,” she observes, disdain clear in her voice.

“Yeah, handsome, right?”

She blinks and sighs. “Well, I suppose.”

“Open the other ones,” Duen prompts.

Bohn gets to the next package, the one that has Ben’s card taped to it.

“Did you make this, Ben?” he asks his younger cousin as he opens the card.

“Yeah!”

“Happy Birthday, Uncle Bohn! I hope all of your birthday wishes come true. Love, Ben and Duen,” he reads aloud. “Thank you, Ben.”

“I made the gift too!”

“Oh?” Bohn opens the box and pulls out a colorful painted mug. Printed on it is the picture Ben drew of their family. “Wow, Ben, I can’t believe you made this! Thank you!” He holds open his arms for Ben and squeezes him tight into his embrace.

“There’s one more gift, from all of us, but it’s coming later,” Duen speaks up as he checks his phone. He taps out a message before he puts it down.

“Here’s one from Ram and I,” King says, placing a gift bag onto the table.

“You two are just together and you’re already giving gifts as a couple,” Bohn teases, flustering King.

“Oh, hush,” King waves his hand. “Hurry up and open it.”

Bohn pulls out a potted plant. “Yeah?” he asks the pair with a raised eyebrow.

King sucks his teeth and puts his hands on his hips. “You’re hard to shop for! You’re rich, you already have everything you want. We raised this plant from a seed, it’s like we’re giving you our child!”

“We also painted the pot ourselves,” Ram points out and Bohn rolls his eyes fondly.

“Thank you, you two. I’ll take good care of it,” he promises.

“There’s also a card,” King points out with an eager smile, but Ram grabs his wrist and shakes his head. “Oh, why not?”

Bohn’s already pulled out the envelope and has begun to take out the card.

“It’s just a picture of Duen,” King continues when Ram shakes his head again.

Duen’s eyes widen and he slowly turns to glare at Ram. “It better not be the picture I’m thinking of.”

Ram answers him with a guilty look.

“Picture of Duen?” Bohn mutters to himself as he opens the card, but Duen catches his hand and forces the card closed.

“Look at it later,” he hisses. Bohn raises an eyebrow, but he complies and tucks the card away.

“I have a gift, too,” Nanny Fang says, saving them from an awkward moment. She hands Bohn a small package which he eagerly opens.

“Oh,” he utters when he sees what’s inside.

It’s a framed photograph of his mother at the hospital after she’d just given birth to him. She’s cradling him in her arms, smiling down at even though she looks exhausted. Nanny Fang is also in the picture, smiling down at him too. They're both crying in the photo—happy tears, Bohn assumes.

“I know you don’t have many pictures of her,” Nanny Fang smiles wistfully, “So I dug around my old things until I found this one.”

“Thank you, Nanny Fang.” Bohn stands up to hug her. He can’t help the tears in his eyes. It’s been so long since he’s seen his mother’s face. He’s grateful beyond words for the photograph.

Of course, Bohn’s step-mother has to scoff at the photo, but at least she doesn’t say anything.

They set the gifts aside in the living room. Duen the cake over to the table and lights the candles as King turns off the lights.

“There’s one more surprise,” he smiles eagerly at Bohn. “So close your eyes and don’t open them until we’re done singing, okay?”

Bohn gives Duen an uncertain look, but complies with his request.

His family starts to sing to him, and he’s not sure, but it seems like two more voices join the chorus.

When he opens his eyes to blow out the candles, two more people have joined the party.

He jumps up, knocking over his chair as he does.

“Mek? Boss?”

“Surprise!” Boss cheers and the pair strike a cheesy pose with jazz hands that Mek copies.

“I can’t believe this!” Bohn exclaims. Tears begin to well up in his eyes and he wants to go over and hug his friends.

“Blow out your candles, first!” Boss laughs and Bohn is quick to do so.

When he’s done, Boss holds his arms open and Bohn rushes over into them. Mek and King also join in. Finally the four of them are reunited.

“You guys are really here?” Bohn asks, sniffling as he pulls away.

“For one night, and one night only, Mek and Boss are in your house,” Boss grins. “Happy birthday.” He leans to the side and looks at Duen. “Duen, it’s nice to finally meet you in person.”

“Did you organize this?” Bohn asks his husband.

“King helped me, but yes, this is your final present for the evening.”

Bohn’s lower lip trembles. “Thank you.” He goes over to Duen and gives him a wet kiss on the cheek.

“Jeez,” Duen blushes, holding his hand to his cheek when Bohn pulls away.

“Can we have cake now?” Ben asks, interrupting the moment and making everyone laugh

“Yeah, let’s have cake.”

Duen cuts and serves the cake while Bohn and King catch up with Mek and Boss. Bohn’s step-mother has lost her assumed authority in the household. When she finishes the cake, she finds an excuse to leave.

“Thank you for coming,” Duen smiles at her.

“Yes, thank you,” Bohn repeats.

They're all wearing a fake smile as Nanny Fang leads her out of the house. Once she's gone, everyone relaxes. Now Bohn can really catch up and celebrate with his friends.

“Is this Ben?” Boss asks, coming over to the shy seven year old with frosting on his face.

“This is Ben,” Bohn confirms.

“Woah. Hey, Ben. I’m your Uncle Boss and this is your Uncle Mek—he doesn’t talk a lot, but I do!”

“Hi,” Ben waves shyly.

“You’ve grown so much since we last saw you.”

Ben tilts his head. No longer feeling shy, he asks, “We’ve met before?”

“Yeah,” Boss smiles. “Back when you were a baby we helped Bohn watch over you once or twice.”

“I remember that,” Bohn laughs. “We really didn’t know what we were doing.”

“It took all four of us to change your diaper,” Boss recalls fondly. “Those were good times.”

The group continues to catch up and Duen’s pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to integrate into their group. Even Ram, who’s shy with strangers, is relaxed and will occasionally smile or speak up.

Ben has to go to bed soon, and Nanny Fang takes him upstairs to his room. This is when the party turns into something more… party like.

Boss and Mek brought back many gifts and souvenirs for everyone, including several bottles of wine from Italy. Duen holds back from drinking for a little bit, but when everyone else becomes tipsy, he lets himself enjoy his first glass.

At some point in the night, the group ends up in the pool. They don’t actually change into swimsuits, they just strip down to their underpants and jump in.

The water feels refreshing in the warm summer air and the night is filled with drunken giggles and splash fights.

They don’t go to bed when they get out of the pool. Everyone starts to sober up, so they all shower and change into their pajamas.

They meet in the movie theater room on the second floor. Luckily, it’s well sound proofed, so they don’t have to worry too much about being noisy and waking up Ben.

It’s like being back in college. They stay up late playing video games and eating junk food. Bohn doesn’t ever want the night to end.

Eventually, they do pass out. When Bohn wakes up, he’s in his bed with Mek, Boss, and King. He can’t really get up since both Mek and King are somewhat on top of him, so he lies still and loses himself in nostalgia.

They’d fall asleep in the same bed together back in college after staying up late watching a movie, drinking, or playing video games together. Those were simpler times and it was easier to hang out with his friends. He’s so happy that he was able to relive that for one night.

He hears the door creak open and he lifts his head to see Duen peaking in.

Duen takes in the four of them on the bed and hides his laugh behind his hand.

“I’ll go make breakfast,” he mouths.

“Do you want help?” Bohn mouths back, although he’s not sure how he’ll get up to go help him.

“I’ve got Ram,” Duen answers and disappears behind the door.

Bohn has to kick at King’s shins a little bit to get him to wake up. Boss wakes up with a start on his own and gently coaxes his husband awake. Bohn blushes as he does so—he’s never heard some of the pet names that Boss uses for Mek before. Mek grabs the back of Boss’s hand and kisses it, failing to become shy when he realizes that Bohn and King are also in the room.

Boss and Mek have always been sweet, even before they got together. Bohn’s glad to see that they haven’t changed a lot since they’ve been gone. He’s sad to learn that they have to leave shortly after breakfast.

“Where are you guys going now?”

“We’re going to China first to visit Mek’s grandparents and then…”

“And then who knows,” Mek finishes. “But we’ll be back to visit you again,” he promises.

“I’m going to hold you to that. Stay in contact.”

“We will.”

Bohn hugs them goodbye, King too, then they all embrace each other in one last group hug before Mek and Boss leave.

He starts to move his gifts, which had been forgotten in the living room, and as he sets them down in his bedroom, he remembers the card that Ram and King gave him.

Holding his breath he opens the card, and his eyes widen when he sees the printed picture tucked inside.

Duen is younger in the picture, maybe early in his college days. He’s lounging on a couch in a white tank top and boxers. The tank top has fallen far off his shoulder, exposing his collarbone and upper chest. The boxers are ridden up and show his bare thigh thrown over a pillow. It’s innocent but sensual, and it makes Bohn’s mouth run dry and his face flush.

I’ll never let anyone else see this picture, he thinks as he holds it to his chest. He fans himself with his hand. Gosh.

He looks at it one more time before he finds a place to keep it. There’s a tin in the drawer of his nightstand where he keeps everything important and he hides the photo in there.

Chapter Text

Duen drops Ben off at school. As he watches him walk towards the entrance, his phone starts to ring and he answers it.

It’s just Nanny Fang calling to ask him to help her run an errand and by the time he looks back up, Ben’s already gone inside.

About an hour into his shift, he receives a phone call from Ben’s school saying that he never showed up.

“What?”

"He didn't show up for school,” the teacher repeats.

Duen stands up and begins to gather his belongings. “How can that be? I dropped him off, I saw him go in.”

“He’s not here and he doesn't seem to be anywhere else in the school.”

“Well then where is he!” Duen exclaims, growing frustrated. “I’ll be there in a little bit, just, please look for him.”

He hangs up and frantically scrambles to gather his belongings, dashing out the door in his doctor's gown.

As he gets into his car, he calls Bohn and explains the situation.

He hears Bohn take a shaky breath before he says, “I’m on my way,” and hangs up the phone.

Duen meets the principal and the security officer at the school. They’re both apologetic, but none too concerned.

“He probably just skipped school, went to play hookey, you know how young boys are.”

Duen shakes his head. He wants to lose his temper but he needs to keep his composure until he knows Ben is okay. “He’s not the type of boy to do that. Plus, all of his friends are in class today. Who would he skip school with?”

The principal shrugs. “We’ll keep an eye out for him, but don’t be surprised if he shows up at the end of the day.”

Duen takes in a deep breath and slowly exhales. “A student in your care has gone missing. Why aren’t you willing to take responsibility and look for him? Why aren’t you showing any concern?”

“If he doesn’t show up after the last bell rings, then we’ll follow the proper procedures,” the security officer informs him gruffly, “Right now we’re looking to see if he’s still on school grounds.”

“Why don’t you check the CCTV footage?”

The security guard glances away, looking somewhat ashamed for the first time the whole day. “Several of them... need to be replaced.”

“Jeez,” Duen spits and runs his hand through his hair. Why is the security guard so useless?

He checks his watch and grumbles to himself. It will be a while until the school day ends. Will the security guard really do nothing else to find Ben?

While he’s thinking, Bohn rushes into the office, opening the door violently with a loud bang.

“Did you find him?” he asks breathlessly.

“They’re only looking for him on the school grounds right now. If he doesn’t show up by the end of the day then they’ll ‘follow the proper procedures,’” Duen informs him, a bitter taste in his mouth.

Bohn clutches at his heart and immediately rounds on the security guard. “If you can’t find him on school grounds then why aren’t you trying to look elsewhere?” he demands. “A child is missing, this isn’t a light matter.”

The head of security looks up at him with unamused eyes. “Sir, this isn’t the first time this has happened. The kid usually shows up by the end of the school day. If you’re really worried, why don’t you call your relatives. Maybe one of them came and picked him up. I can’t tell you how many times a parent has dropped a kid off at school only for a grandparent or aunt to come and take them out of it.”

Bohn grits his teeth but pulls out his phone. He calls his father, his step mother, and King while Duen calls Nanny Fang and Ram.

No one has seen Ben.

Bohn’s father makes a point to tell him that if Ben doesn’t show up by the end of the day, they cannot go to the police.

“Why?” Bohn asks.

“Because I don't want the media to catch wind of this. You better find him, and if you don’t, call me first.”

No one’s seen Ben. Bohn and Duen don’t know what to do with themselves.

“There’s nothing we can do just waiting around here. Let’s go look outside of the school,” Duen suggests.

They search the surrounding area, growing more and more frantic as they get further away from the school with no luck. There are only so many places a seven year old boy can go by himself. If they really can’t find him by the end of the day… Duen doesn’t know what they’ll do.

Unsuccessful, they go back to the school at the time which Duen usually picks Ben up. When they step into the front office, the security guard looks at them with mild concern.

“He’s not with any of your relatives?” he presses.

“We already called them, none of them have seen Ben!” Duen bites back, frustrated because they went over this earlier. Where was this concern when Ben first went missing?

“Alright, we’ll call the authorities.”

“No need,” Bohn says. He hates that he has to say it. They should contact the proper authorities, but then his father will receive bad press.

He dials his phone. “Father?”

“You didn’t find him?”

“No, we can’t find him.”

He hears his father sigh. “I have a team ready to go. If you had done a better job taking care of him then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Is that all you can say to me right now?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Can you at least show some concern? Ben is missing! He’s been missing for hours!”

“And we’ll find him.”

Jeez.

“Just… stay in touch, okay?” Bohn pleads. “If you find anything, call me right away.”

“I don’t want to be involved with this.”

“Then—”

“I’ll have my men keep in contact. Don’t bother me with this again.”

“But—”

His father hangs up.

Between the security guard, his father, and the emotional distress of Ben missing, Bohn just wants to collapse. He’s barely holding it together.

Bohn massages his temples. “If you find anything… just… contact me here.” He hands the security guard his business card then pulls Duen out of the office.

When they’re outside of the school, Duen collapses into his arms, sobbing.

He’s a little surprised—not that Duen is upset, mostly because of the sudden onslaught of emotions from his husband. Duen had been worried, but composed throughout the day. To have him in his arms, sobbing, and supporting most of his weight…

“Duen,” he tries to say, but his voice is too watery to say it clearly. He’s crying now, too. It’s hard not to when his husband is distraught and his kid is missing.

“It’s my fault,” Duen blubbers incomprehensibly.

“It’s not—”

“It is! It’s all my fault!”

Bohn holds him tightly. He’s never seen his husband this hysterical before. He tries to sooth him. Luckily, Bank is waiting for them and quickly escorts them into the car.

Nanny Fang takes care of them as soon as they step into their home. She brings them to the couch in the living room, wraps them in blankets, brings them tea, food, tissues. She can’t stay still, she frantically dashes around the room as she tries to find ways to make them feel better.

Duen still has tears falling from his eyes and Bohn puts all of his attention onto wiping them away and giving Duen water to drink.

“I thought I saw him go in,” Duen hiccups, “I didn’t. He went missing because I looked away.”

“Hey,” Bohn cups Duen’s face in his hands and looks him in the eyes. “It’s not your fault. He didn’t go missing because you looked away.”

“But I should have made sure he went inside—”

“You did. You always do. Just because something went awry this time doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. Don’t blame yourself. I’m sure he’ll be okay. We’ll find him soon. Despite my father being an asshole, he does have access to some of the best resources in the country. If he can’t find him then no one can.”

Duen’s lower lip trembles. “I hope he’s okay. He has to be okay. I don’t know what I’ll do if he’s not.”

Bohn pulls Duen into his arms and strokes his hair. “He’ll be fine. He’s resilient.” He sighs and wishes that he weren’t also trying to convince himself. “I’ll call Mek and Boss and see if they’ll help.”

Duen’s limp in his arms and it makes it a little difficult to fish out his phone, but he’s not about to let go of his husband when he’s distressed.

Mek and Boss agree right away to help them find Ben. They don’t even ask for a favor, but Bohn plans to do something in return for them. He’ll figure out what later, when he isn’t drained.

After he hangs up, there’s nothing that Bohn and Duen can do except wait to hear back and pray that Ben is okay.


It’s hard to sleep that night. Duen tosses and turns and Bohn is stuck staring at the ceiling. It’s late in the night, or early in the morning, he’s not sure. Time has lost all meaning since they’ve turned out the lights.

Eventually, Bohn dozes off, but he wakes up in the middle of the night when Duen starts to thrash about.

Duen’s sweaty and distressed and Bohn can’t get him to wake up. He shakes his shoulder and pleads, “Duen, Duen, wake up, wake up please.”

Eventually, Duen wakes up with a deep gasp and starts to call for Ben.

“Ben! Ben! Where is he?”

Bohn’s heart breaks when Duen begins to break down, tears and snot running down his face. He can’t even say anything to reassure him, he can only hold him close and try to soothe him back to sleep.

In the morning, they wake up to a surprise visit from Bohn’s step-mother.

“I heard about Ben,” she says, “I wanted to check in and see how you two are holding up.” She inhales and twists her lips. “Not well, I can see,” she says, looking them up and down.

They’re both still in their pajamas, rumpled with messy hair, and Duen has dark bags under his eyes.

“I understand,” she offers sympathy. “I have the best people on the case.”

“Dad put you on it?” Bohn asks, confused. He's pretty sure that his father said he'd take care of it. He didn't know that meant delegating the case to his thirty some year old wife.

“My family has useful connections… They’ll be able to find him.”

That doesn’t really answer Bohn’s question. He and Duen exchange glances.

“Thank you for your help, Step-Mother.”

“It’s no problem. Ben is family, after all.”

She sits down at the dining table and looks around expectantly.

“Oh, just give me a moment and I’ll have breakfast ready,” Duen mutters, scratching the back of his head.

“Don’t you have someone else to make it for you?”

Duen bristles but he decides to play the filial card. “Please, Mother-in-Law, I’d like to make breakfast for you.”

She raises an eyebrow but waves him off. Bohn sits down at the table across from her and watches Duen from the corner of his eye.

“So,” she leans forward and clasps her hands together on the table. “How did Ben go missing?”

“He was dropped off at school, but then the school called and said that Ben didn’t show up for class. We couldn't find him in or around the school”

“So…” she thinks for a minute. “No one watched him go inside?”

Bohn can see Duen tense from the corner of his eye. “Someone always watches him go inside. But even if they look away for a minute, no one would expect a seven year old to just go missing in the span of seconds in front of a school.”

She sees him look at Duen and asks in a hushed voice, “Does Duen usually drop him off?”

Bohn nods.

"Then... he dropped him off this time?

Bohn makes a displeased face at the question, but nods again.

“Then,” she continues, “don’t you blame him?”

“No!” Bohn insists firmly. He was pretty sure this was where she was going and he hates that he was right. “It’s not his fault, I’m not going to blame him.”

She frowns. "But if Duen had paid closer attention then—"

Bohn doesn't let her finish the thought. "It's not his fault," he insists firmly.

Her frown deepens, but she lets it go. “Well, no matter what or whose fault, what’s important is that we get Ben back.”

Bohn sighs and nods. He hopes that Duen wasn't paying close attention to his step-mother's words. It's not Duen's fault, he refuses to let anyone cast the blame on him.

After breakfast, Bohn helps Duen clean up when his step-mother receives a call.

“They’ve found him,” she informs them.

“They found him?” Duen asks, dropping the pan he was holding with a large thud and splash into the sink.

“They found him?” Bohn repeats incredulously.

“They found him. Some thugs from Kankun Corporation wanted to use him as leverage for business negotiations. He’s safe, unharmed, and on his way here.”

“Kankun Corporations?” Bohn repeats quietly to himself. A rival company of Sirikarnkul group… he didn’t think they’d do such a despicable thing.

No matter, no matter. What matters is that Ben is safe.

Duen abandons the dishes and Bohn follows to wait by the front door.

When the car finally shows up and Ben steps out, they all rush to meet each other. Bohn scoops him up and holds him close, letting Ben tuck his head into his shoulder shoulder. Duen sandwiches Ben between them by wrapping his arms around the both of them. They're all clinging tightly to each other, unable to speak for the moment

It’s more than a relief to have their family reunited. Bohn feels like he can breathe. He doesn’t ever want to be separated from Ben ever again.

“Ben,” he gasps out. “Ben, Ben, Ben.”

“Uncle Bohn!” Ben sobs. “I was so scared!”

“Ben,” Duen cries out, pain and relief ringing clear in his voice, “Ben I’m so sorry.”

“Uncle Duen, I missed you!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Duen repeats.

“It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault,” Bohn mutters, trying to sooth his distressed husband.

Ben is also crying and Bohn alternates between rubbing his back and stroking his hair.

“Ben’s home, Ben’s safe, we’re all together, everything is okay,” Bohn repeats over and over, soothing his husband, his kid, and himself. “We’re all okay.”


Bohn calls Boss and Mek that evening to let them know that Ben’s home, safe and sound.

“You say Kankun Corporation is responsible?” Boss asks.

“Yes, that’s what my mother’s investigation team found out.”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why did they kidnap him?”

“Um… for business negotiations, I think.”

Boss is silent for a beat. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“So you received contact from them?”

“Huh?”

“If they were holding him ransom for business negotiations… wouldn’t they contact you? To let you know their conditions for Ben’s safe return.”

“I guess they didn’t get to it before Ben was found.”

Boss is silent for a moment again. “Okay.”

“What is it?”

“I just… don’t have any evidence that Kankun Corporations did kidnap Ben.”

Bohn bites the inside of his cheek. He’s not sure if Boss feels slighted for not being the person to find Ben or if this is something he should worry about. He shrugs to himself. Even though Boss makes some good points, Ben has been found and brought home and that’s what’s really important.

“I really appreciate all of your help, Boss, but honestly I’m just glad that he’s back. Even if it wasn't Kankun Corporations that kidnapped him.”

“I understand… but I hope you don’t mind if I investigate this a little more?”

Bohn shrugs. “If you want to.”

They stay on the line for a little while longer. Boss distracts Bohn from the worries of that day by telling him about meeting Mek’s grandmother—apparently Mek gets his quiet demeanor and expressions from her and it's fun to watch them both.

The conversation is nice. It gives Bohn the chance to heal a little before he returns to his family.

Duen and Ben are talking quietly on the couch when Bohn walks into the living room. He plops down next to them and snuggles into Ben’s side.

They talk late into the night, about everything except what just happened. They’re coming back together as a family, trying to heal and move forward together.

Chapter Text

Bohn and Duen sleep in Ben’s bed that night.

Or rather, Bohn and Ben sleep and Duen struggles to do the same. Everytime he begins to doze off, his imagination will start to run wild. He’ll wake up with a jolt and frantically look to see if Ben is still next to him.

He barely sleeps and it’s obvious the next morning with the way his face is swollen and the dark circles under his eyes.

Duen splashes water on his face and tries to put on his best smile. The person smiling back at him in the mirror looks like a depressed panda. It’s obvious that he’s not doing well. Still, he wants to put his best foot forward and move on from it all.

Bohn’s worried about him. That’s also obvious by the way he tries to do things for Duen, the way he hugs him more, the way he speaks in a softer voice to him.

On one hand, Duen appreciates it. His husband is considerate of his feelings and tries to care for him. On the other hand, he feels burdensome. He doesn’t want Bohn to worry about him like this, but he knows that he has to give him a reason not to worry.

Ben also has a hard time. He has a fuzzy memory of what happened, he just knows that a man in a mask pulled him away from school and kept him in a dark room until a group of men in suits came in and brought him out. Duen doesn’t want to force him to remember, but he knows that this isn’t something they can so easily brush behind them. If they want to move past it, they have to acknowledge the situation.

They start to attend therapy. Sometimes it’s all three of them, sometimes it’s just Ben, sometimes it’s Ben and Duen. This helps them a lot. They're able to talk about what happened in a safe environment and work with a professional who helps reconcile their emotions. Duen starts to let go of his guilt and Ben starts to feel safe again. Bohn learns to acknowledge his own fears and bad feelings.

Still, Duen has a hard time sleeping. He’s plagued by nightmares of losing Ben, of losing his family. Bohn holds him, soothes him, reassures him. They’ll go together to check on Ben in the middle of the night and many times they’ll crawl into bed next to him.

Even though Duen’s exhausted, even though he’s not sleeping well, even though he still feels guilty, he still tries to take an optimistic approach to each day.

He makes a lemon cake for Bohn’s step mother to thank her for helping bring Ben home. When he brings it over to the main Sirikarnkukl manor, his mother-in-law invites him in for tea and he finds himself unable to decline.

Tea and cake. It’s pleasant. His mother-in-law… Well, Duen’s not comfortable around her yet. They hardly know each other and he has a hard time reading her. But she helped him find Ben, she turned up for Bohn’s birthday, so he’s willing to try to create a bond with her.

“You seem exhausted,” she comments lightly as she sips her tea.

“I’ve been having a hard time sleeping,” Duen admits quietly.

She purses her lips and sets down her cup. “There’s a tea that I drink each night before bed, it really makes a difference. If you’d like, I can send some over to your manor. You can give it a try, maybe it will help you too.”

“That would be wonderful, Mother-in-Law,” Duen smiles. He’s grateful for her kindness and he’s ready to try anything to help him sleep.

True to her word, she stops by the next day with a tin full of tea sachets.

“It’s a little bitter, so I always add honey or sugar,” she tells him as she hands him the tin.

“Thank you so much, Mother-in-Law.”

“Of course.” Her brightly painted lips curl up, revealing small dimples. She has a kind face. “Let me know if it works.”

“Of course.”

He tries the tea that evening, and while he doesn’t sleep perfectly, it does make a difference. The sleep he does get is more restful than before and he's able to stay asleep for longer periods of time.

Slowly, they are able to resume their lives before Ben’s kidnapping. They still need the help of a therapist, Duen still needs the tea, but they are able to finally start to truly heal and move on.


Bohn decides to pursue another route of wooing his husband. Even though he crossed it off, he buys them a couple’s outfit. More specifically, he buys them a matching set of pajamas. He even buys Ben a matching set, just to make it extra cute and to keep Duen from being too embarrassed about having matching pajamas.

The next step in his current plan is to find a weekend where they can stay up late without too many repercussions. King and Ram are willing to help out and agree to take Ben on a ‘camping trip’ in their backyard. Nanny Fang is happy to take the night off—Bohn even gives her the whole weekend off so she can travel to visit old friends, and he pays for her tickets.

Which means that Bohn needs to invest in tents, a fire pit, and other camping gear, but he has the money to spend and he doesn’t mind since it means that everyone will have a fun weekend.

Then, he snoops through Duen’s ‘Watch Later’ list—which is a lot longer than he thought it would be—and tries to find something that sounds interesting, has high ratings and good reviews, and is something that they can binge in one or two sittings.

On the planned Friday, Bohn leaves work early and buys all of Duen’s favorite snacks and drinks, as well as plenty of food for Ram, King, and Ben to cook over the fire. He helps Ram and King set up the tents and their ‘camp site’ in the back field.

When he finally goes back to the main house, he sets out the pajamas for Duen to change into, spreads out several blankets across the back of the couch, brings down their pillows, and pulls up the menu of several restaurants.

When Duen comes home from work with Ben, Ben immediately rushes upstairs to change out of his uniform. Quickly afterwards, he rushes out the backdoor with an overnight bag.

Duen, who’s in the kitchen drinking a glass of water and wondering where Bohn is, watches Ben go and wonders what he's getting up to. If it wasn’t for Ram meeting him at the back door, he’d be more concerned.

He goes upstairs to finally change out of his work clothes. There’s a new set of pajamas folded neatly at the foot of his bed.

“Are these for me?” he mutters to himself. Either way, he’s not ready to get into his pajamas yet, so he looks into his dresser for other clothes.

Except his dresser is empty. So is his closet and even his dirty clothes hamper.

He has no choice but to change into the pajamas or stay in his work clothes.

“What is this?” he mutters to himself and shakes his head. There’s only one person who would do something this childish. “Bohn!” he calls out.

“Duen?”

He turns and sees Bohn peeking into his bedroom through the door that conjoins their rooms.

“Where are my clothes?”

Bohn doesn’t step through the door and Duen can only see part of his face. “I totally did not hide them so that you only have those pajamas to wear,” Bohn lies sweetly.

Duen rolls his eyes. “So I have to wear these?” he double checks.

“Yes please. They’re really comfortable, I promise.”

“How do you know?” Duen mutters to himself. “Alright, alright,” he says to Bohn. “Go away so I can change.”

“Meet me downstairs?” Bohn asks.

Duen squints his eyes. Just what is his husband up to? But he agrees and Bohn quickly disappears so Duen can change.

The pajamas are really comfortable. The fabric is light and soft and the dark blue is pleasing to look at. He likes the way the fabric swishes around his legs as he bounces down the stairs into the kitchen.

Bohn sits at the kitchen table, eagerly clutching a tablet and watching the doorway. Duen falters as he steps into the kitchen. He really really does not know what Bohn is up to, but he knows that it’s something.

Especially because Bohn is wearing the same pajamas as him.

At this point he just has to ask.

“What are you up to?” Feeling suspicious and slightly insecure, he crosses his arms over his chest and hesitantly sits down across from his husband at the table.

Bohn just gives him a shit eating grin and slides the tablet towards him.

“What do you want to eat tonight?”

Duen glances at the tabs Bohn has open. “Are we ordering food?”

They don’t usually order food since Duen and Nanny Fang are always ready to prepare meals. They rarely eat out and it’s even more rare for them to order food.

“You choose,” Bohn smiles and rests his chin in his hand. He watches Duen scroll through the various menus. He happily watches him and concentrate—Bohn wants to learn every expression of Duen's.

“Here,” Duen finally hands the tablet back and Bohn adds his own order to the basket before he places the order.

The food arrives quickly and Bohn is totally not embarrassed to greet the delivery man in his pajamas. After paying, he brings the food back inside to meet an un-amused Duen.

“Seriously, Bohn, what are you up to?”

Bohn leads him back into the living room and sits him down on the couch.

“Movie night?” Duen guesses, taking in the pillows and blankets on the couch, the snacks and drinks on the table, the comfortable clothes they’re both wearing.

“Kind of.” Bohn turns on the TV and Duen gasps.

“Are we going to binge a series?” Duen clasps his hands together and turns towards Bohn with an eager smile adorning his face.

Bohn can’t help but to return his husband’s giddiness. “Yes! I chose this one from your watch list, but we can find a different one if you want.”

“No! Let’s watch this one!”

Seeing Duen’s excitement reminds him of why he’s doing this. There’s a reason Bohn chose to binge a drama with his husband, a reason other than winning his heart.

Ever since Ben was kidnapped, his husband’s been having a hard time. He’s getting better, he’s sleeping better, and he’s able to relax now. Still, Bohn can see how much it still hangs over him. In addition to growing closer to Duen, he also wants to give him this bit of comfort, to help him continue to move on and heal.

Duen’s spoken before about how staying up all night to marathon a series had been a source of comfort for him throughout college and high school. It was how he comforted himself, it was how he rewarded himself, it was how he had fun. So Bohn chose to binge a series with his husband not only to pursue him and spend time with him, but to help lift some of the grief off of his shoulders, at least for the evening.

They start the drama and Duen sits forward eagerly. He’s seen so many, he’s familiar with the tropes and can easily identify the leads, the second lead and what type of characters they will be.

The food that they ordered is delicious and they finish it quickly. It’s not long before Duen starts to dig into the snacks that Bohn bought and mindlessly eats them, engrossed in the drama.

After episode three, they take a quick break and Duen asks, “So where did Ben go? I saw him leave out back with Ram…”

“He’s having a camping trip in the back field with Ram and King. So we can stay up as late as we want.”

“Oh,” Duen seems slightly taken aback.

“What is it?” Bohn asks.

Duen looks down and shakes his head before he smiles and glances back up at Bohn. “You did so much to prepare this for me.” His voice is soft and quiet, a small blush spreads across his cheeks, and Bohn feels that everything he did was worth it for Duen to look at him like that—bashfully happy.

“Oh, you know,” Bohn tries to dismiss casually, but there’s still an undertone of pride in his voice. “It’s nothing much.” He scratches the back of his head. “As long as it makes you happy.”

Duen’s smile widens as he watches his husband try to play it cool. Bohn grows more flustered under his adoring gaze and eventually takes a step back.

“Should we… continue watching?” he suggests.

Duen nods and they resume their spots on the couch.

They make it through eight episodes before they turn off the TV. It’s nearly 3:00 am. Too tired to move, they forgo showering and brushing their teeth, and fall asleep on the couch.


Ram wasn’t sure what to expect when he agreed to a camping trip in the back field with Ben and King. He certainly didn’t expect Bohn to buy so much camping equipment.

A six person tent, a water cooler, a fire pit, sleeping bags, lanterns, skewers to roast marshmallows over the fire, many different foods for them to prepare over the fire—Bohn truly went all out for a one night backyard camping trip.

Still, it’s fun to roast food over the fire and play flashlight tag with Ben late into the night.

They end the night sitting around the fire pit, roasting marshmallows. King is beautiful in the firelight. It accents his sharp nose and his cheekbones. His skin glows a golden hue from the flickering flames. His smile is brilliant as he helps Ben roast marshmallows.

When they go to sleep, after staying up late telling ghost stories that aren’t scary—at least, according to Ben, King waits until Ben is fast asleep, then tries to force his way into Ram’s sleeping bag.

In the dark, Ram knows that King can’t see his face, but he’s pretty sure that King can tell that he is alarmed as the gardener tries to squeeze into his space.

“This is just for one person,” Ram whispers, trying to be quiet and firm.

“We can both fit.”

“We cannot.”

Even though it’s dark and Ram can’t see him clearly, he knows that King’s pouting.

“I’m used to sleeping next to you now.”

Ram remains silent, unwavering in his position. He’s also used to sleeping next to King, but there’s really no way that the both of them can fit, at least not without breaking the sleeping bag.

“I’m not going to do anything to you if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Ram blanches. “It’s not, I wasn’t thinking that. This sleeping bag is for one person, go back to yours.”

Even though it’s what he asked, he’s still surprised when King wiggles his way out of the sleeping bag and goes back over to his own. He’s a little disappointed, too, but that quickly disappears when King comes back carrying his sleeping bag.

He expects King to set it down next to him so they can still sleep next to each other, and King does drop the sleeping bag next to him, but he doesn’t get in it. Instead, he kneels and reaches across Ram, finds the zipper of Ram’s sleeping bag, and unzips it completely.

“What are you doing?” Ram tries to ask but King covers his mouth with his hand and shushes him.

Ram can only wait to see what King is up to. He hears the sound of King’s sleeping bag being unzipped, and then suddenly King pulls Ram’s sleeping bag off of him. He lies down next to Ram on top of it and then spreads his unzipped sleeping bag on top of them.

Oh.

Ram feigns indifference as King curls into his side and rests his head on his chest, but the corner of his mouth turns up slightly and he puts his arm around King properly, resting his hand on his waist.

This is a lot nicer.

He drifts off to sleep.

Later in the night, he’s shaken awake by Ben.

“Uncle Ram,” the seven year old whispers urgently. “I have to pee!”

Ram gently lays King down to rest on the pillow and stands up. He helps Ben put on his shoes, finds a flashlight, then leads him out of the tent.

There’s no bathroom in the backfield, so they have to trek across it to use the one in King’s cottage. The night air is cool and Ben’s not wearing a sweater.

Somewhat reluctantly, he picks Ben up and lets him koala around his torso to share body heat and carries him the rest of the way.

Ram checks the time while Ben’s in the bathroom. It’s nearly sunrise. When they get back to the tent, Ben goes back to sleep and Ram does not.

Instead, he starts the fire and he tries to figure out how to make breakfast. He could go back to King’s cottage, or even the main house and do it, but they’re on a camping trip so he wants to try to make it over the fire.

Last night, they stuck food on sticks, or wrapped in tinfoil and stuck in the fire to cook. There’s a rack that he can set over the fire to cook food on, so he sets that up and places a pot of water to boil over it.

King comes out of the tent after Ram makes himself a cup of coffee in one of the hard plastic, reusable mugs that Bohn bought.

“Good morning,” King wishes as he stretches.

“Good morning,” Ram greets back and makes King a cup of coffee before he starts cooking the sausage and eggs.

“Do you want help?” King offers. He crouches down next to Ram, cradling the cup of coffee in his hands like it’s sacred.

“That’s okay.”

King grins and presses a noisy, quick kiss to Ram’s head before he sits down in one of the chairs around the fire.

Ben wakes up after King and Ram have finished eating. King pours him a cup of juice and Ram gives him the plate of food he saved for him.

It’s still pretty early in the morning when they clean and pack up everything. Luckily, King’s car is parked close to them, so they load up everything in that before they take Ben back to the main manor.

They find Bohn and Duen passed out on the couch, sharing a blanket. Duen’s resting his head on Bohn’s shoulder, and Bohn’s resting his head on Duen’s. For the sake of retribution, Ram takes a picture of them.

Chapter Text

As the weeks continue to pass, Duen sleeps better. Healing is a long, arduous, non-linear process. Some days are better, some days are worse. Since he’s sleeping better, his better days are more and more frequent. Still, Bohn will catch him in a moment of sadness every now and then, will still find him having nightmares or guilty thoughts during a quiet moment.

What worries Bohn most, though, is that Duen has lost a lot of weight. His shirts hang baggy on his torso, his pants are held up by a belt, and his face has lost its roundness.

Bohn misses the weight that Duen gained after their marriage. It was a sign that he was well cared for, doted on, and happy.

Duen often wakes up in the middle of the night with an upset stomach. He slips out of bed and spends half an hour at least in the bathroom. The whole time, Bohn sits up in bed and waits for him to come back, biting his nails and wondering what could be the cause.

He’s not the only one who notices this. Ram is always concerned about Duen, but now he pays extra attention to what Duen eats. Ben starts to put more food on Duen’s plate during meal times. King makes a point to set aside the best homegrown vegetables for Duen to eat.

Nanny Fang is the person who makes Bohn take action. She finds a time when it’s just the two of them and sits him down for a serious talk.

“Duen is not doing well,” she states to open the conversation. Bohn nods, ready to speak the thoughts that have been building in his mind for the past few weeks.

“I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what to do,” he says simply because these are the thoughts he always comes back to.

Duen is shy to speak about it. Bohn tries to ask if he’s drinking any weird diet drinks, has any food allergies that would make his stomach so upset, but Duen always gets shy and steps away from the conversation.

“My best guess is that he’s still upset over Ben’s kidnapping. Stress can have horrible effects on the body.”

Bohn bites his cheek and tilts his head. Is that it?

“He does still have nightmares,” he says slowly, jutting out his jaw and rolling his tongue in his mouth. Maybe Duen is not recovering like Bohn thought he was. He licks his lips and leans forward. “What should I do?”

“I’ve thought about this,” Nanny Fang sets both hands on the table and leans towards him, as if she’s about to tell him the secrets of the universe. “Take some time off of work, take him out to the countryside. You two can relax in the fresh air. Nature is healing and a change of environment might be very beneficial.”

Bohn rolls his eyes up as he thinks slowly about Nanny Fang’s proposition. “Shouldn’t I take him to a doctor first?”

She waves her hand. “Sure, sure, do that too. I’m telling you, though, the countryside will be perfect. I know exactly where we can go, I can set it up.”

Bohn rolls his eyes. “Do you just want to go on a vacation?” he teases flatly. He wants to keep this conversation light, pretend that he’s only planning a fun family trip.

“It’s your plan to bring him on a trip… that’s something you haven’t done yet!” she teases back.

“What… Nanny Fang! Did you go through my journal?”

“I didn’t go through it, it was just open on your desk when I went in to clean. And of course I read it, it was right there.”

“Jeez,” Bohn huffs. “Alright, I’ll take him to the doctor, take time off of work, and then we can go on a family vacation to the countryside.” He sighs as he thinks about it. “Duen will want to bring Ben and Ram, you’re coming of course, and if Ram’s coming then King will come too…” He shakes his head and sighs. “Okay, Nanny Fang. If you want to plan this, then you can.”

She grins eagerly and reaches across the table to squeeze his hand. “This trip will be good for everyone,” she promises.


Duen is reluctant to go to the doctors, insisting that since he’s a doctor there’s no need for anyone else to look at him.

“Yeah?” Bohn asks shortly, crossing his arms and doing his best to stare down his stubborn husband. “Then why have you lost so much weight? Why do you have to spend half an hour every night in the bathroom, then?”

Duen glares at him, gives no response, but doesn’t budge from his position.

“I’m serious, Duen,” Bohn says. He tries to be stern, but he knows that he’s pleading more than anything.

Duen turns away from him, his nose high in the air, but he gets into the car and Bohn breathes a sigh of relief.

The doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him. They suggest cutting gluten out of his diet to see if it makes a difference, but they already don’t eat a lot of gluten. At least, not enough for Duen to be in the condition that he is.

Still, they make the switch.

After two weeks of living a gluten free life with no difference, it’s time to go on the trip that Nanny Fang planned for them. Bohn really hopes it will be as healing as she thinks it will be.

The house they rented is in a small town at the base of a mountain. There are several waterfalls nearby with places to swim. It’s a slightly touristy area, but they don't mind. They’re used to seeing foreigners in the city.

What they didn’t know until they arrived there is that this is the small town where Nanny Fang grew up. So of course, she has a few friends from her childhood that she goes to visit while the rest of the group engage in more arduous activities.

Ben loves to play at the waterfall. It’s a drive and a hike, but it’s worth it to see him have so much fun. He likes to climb up and slide down the sloped rock into the water below the most. There are other rocks that he can jump off of. Luckily, the water is deep. Duen checked before Ben was allowed to do any of this.

Ram and King must have spoken to Nanny Fang at some point because they take over watching Ben. Between them and Nanny Fang, Bohn and Duen have a lot of time to spend by themselves.

When they get back from whatever activity they did that day, and everyone’s showered, Bohn and Duen are left up to their own devices. There are a few nights where they sit around the table and play games together with everyone, one night they watch a movie together, and when they’re on their own they usually go out for a walk and enjoy the night air.

There’s no purpose to their walk. Sure, it’s exercise, they’re taking in the fresh air and enjoying nature, but they mostly dawdle and enjoy each other’s company. Duen is gorgeous in the moonlight. He holds onto Bohn's hand tightly and will glance over at him with a pleased smile every now and then.

On one of the last nights of their stay, Bohn has Ram take Duen and Ben out into town and then enlists King and Nanny Fang to set a surprise up for Duen. Ram and Ben are also in on the plan and they keep Duen away from the rental house as long as possible.

When they finally reconvene, they eat a meal together first, and then Bohn subtly drags Duen away from everyone else for a walk.

Since they’ve been taking walks on their own for the past few nights, it isn’t strange, but usually someone else would push them into going off on their own. This is the first night where one of them takes the initiative.

Of course, there’s a reason for that.

As they usually do, they leave out of the front of the house and wander through the grass amongst the trees. They circle around to the back of the house.

The second story of the back of the house extends out and is supported by two beams to make a room underneath. There’s a screen door and the area is covered by wire mesh to keep out the mosquitoes.

As they step through the screen door, Bohn finds Nanny Fang peeking through the window and gives two long blinks—a signal they agreed on earlier.

As Duen lets the screen door swing shut behind them, the screened in room lights up with pink and yellow fairy lights, illuminating all that Bohn, Nanny Fang, and King had worked on that day.

There’s a large bouquet of roses in a vase on one of the tables. It fills the room with a sweet scent that will forever remind Bohn of the beginning of their relationship. There’s a large stuffed bear sitting in one of the chairs, soft and plush. There's a confession letter that Bohn's carried with him for the whole trip and now is the time to give it to Duen.

He pulls out the letter and turns to face his husband, who’s looking around the room in awe.

“Duen,” he begins and suddenly his knees are weak and his heart is in his throat. He’s fulfilling a promise and he told Duen to have high expectations, and for that reason he’s worried that all of this isn’t enough, isn’t just right.

He clears his throat and repeats his husband’s name, this time to ground himself. Duen’s name is love, comfort, happiness, and saying it helps to quell his anxieties.

“Duen… I like you!”

He says it as he practiced it—as he saw it in a few of the dramas Duen has watched. He presents his letter to Duen with both hands and his head slightly bowed, as if he’s a nervous school girl. Maybe he feels a bit foolish, but right now it’s just the two of them—well, Nanny Fang and the rest might be watching from the doorway, but this moment is just for the two of them. If he can’t be a little foolish in front of his husband, then who can he be foolish in front of?

Duen is stunned when Bohn presents the letter, unable to process the moment. Bohn grins slightly to himself, proud that this embarrassing moment was at least able to be a surprise for Duen—it seems that Duen did forget what Bohn promised him, or at least it wasn’t on his mind so this is truly a proper surprise. He’s blushing, slightly teary, and he accepts Bohn’s letter and opens the envelope with trembling hands.

Bohn drafted so many letters, first on his laptop to find the words, then on paper to make it beautiful. By now, he knows what he wrote by heart.

Dear Duen,
I know I already said it, but I like you. I really like you. I like you in a way I never knew someone could like another person.
You have shown me so many new and beautiful things. You have helped me find the courage to embrace myself and pursue my own happiness. Just having you by my side makes me feel like I can conquer anything.
I don’t know how to tell you how much you mean to me. You are my happiness, my motivation, my comfort. You are the person I always want to come back home to. I want to stay by your side for a long time. I want to take care of you for a long time.
I like you so much, Duen. Can we stay together for the rest of our lives?
Love,
Bohn

While Duen reads the letter, Bohn pulls out a jewelry box that holds a necklace with a single charm of the moon. This isn’t a proposal, but as he hands Duen the box he feels the same trepidation he imagines that he would if it were.

Duen gasps when he opens the box, going to cover his mouth with his hands but unable to since he still holds Bohn’s letter. There’s a little card in the box with a date printed in large font that Duen recognizes.

“Is this…?” he breathes. He places the letter down and tenderly removes the necklace from the box to look closely at it.

“It's the phase of the moon that it was on our wedding day.”

Duen’s lower lip trembles. “Will you put it on for me?”

Bohn nods and reaches for the necklace. He’s seen this scene before. If Duen had longer hair, he’d be able to brush it off of his neck to put the necklace on. Instead, he steps into Duen’s space so they’re chest to chest. Holding his breath, he brings his arms up around Duen, as if he were to embrace him. Their bodies don’t make contact and Bohn is very aware of the distance between them as he secures the necklace.

He barely takes a step back, unable to fully step out of Duen’s space. Duen fingers the necklace, looking down at it before he looks back up at Bohn.

There’s tension hanging heavy in the air between them. An unanswered question from Bohn’s letter that persists in the back of his mind and he asks, “So… we’ll stay together?”

Duen closes his eyes, a brilliant smile blossoms across his face as he nods enthusiastically. He opens his eyes and somehow his smile grows even into an even bigger beam that’s brightness rivals the sun, the moon, and the stars.

He throws his arms around Bohn and falls into him, embracing him like he’s the most precious thing he’s ever held.

“For the rest of our lives,” Duen promises softly into Bohn’s neck.

Bohn returns the hug, holding Duen tightly and burying his nose into Duen’s shoulder. Tears begin to well up, and he squeezes his eyes shut tightly so they fall out, down onto his cheeks and onto the fabric of Duen’s shirt.

They hold each other for a long time, swaying back and forth slightly as they find serenity in each other’s arms. Bohn’s coming down from the rush of confessing and finds himself exhilarated to hold and be held by Duen. The way he can feel Duen’s heart beat and the movement of his chest against his own as he breathes, the sweet and spicy scent of his perfume that lingers on his collarbone, Duen’s happy little hums that show he’s truly content… it’s overwhelming in the best way.

Eventually, Duen pulls back, but he doesn’t let go. His hands rest on top of Bohn’s shoulders, and Bohn keeps his hands clasped together on the small of Duen’s back.

They’re smiling like fools, gazing into each other’s eyes like they can’t look away, both giddy from the sheer joy, the elation of being loved by the person that they love most.

Bohn rests his forehead against Duen’s and rubs his nose lightly against his. Duen returns the action, twice, before he takes it a step further and presses his soft lips against Bohn’s in a barely there kiss.

Bohn knew that they would kiss one day, but he thought he’d take Duen’s first kiss instead of having it given to him. This is the most precious gift he’ll ever receive in his life.

He’s barely able to return the kiss before Duen pulls away. He opens his eyes to see his husband gazing back at him. Duen’s looking at him with love and adoration, but there’s still a slight wild and nervous look to his face, an emotion that comes with first loves and first kisses.

Bohn’s eyes look down to Duen’s lips, which are slightly parted. Now that he knows what they feel like pressed against his own, he’s desperate to feel it once more.

He looks back up to Duen’s eyes. A quiet, “Again?” escapes his lips, and Duen grants him his wish.

Duen hands slide up from Bohn’s shoulders, his fingers twine in Bohn’s hair, his thumbs caress Bohn’s jaw, cradling his face as they trade kisses. Bohn keeps his lips slightly parted as they caress Duen’s lips slowly. He can tell that Duen has no experience from the way that he purses his lips in the same fashion for each kiss. As they continue to kiss, Duen picks up on Bohn’s methods. He begins to part his lips a little more, suck slightly on Bohn’s bottom lip before he trades to kiss the upper one.

There’s only passionate love and adoration to fuel their kisses, neither of them are ready to turn it into something more heated. Light, tender, and loving, cherishing each other in this special moment.

When they finally pull away from each other, Duen buries his face back into Bohn’s shoulder.

“Duen?” Bohn calls his name fondly, slightly worried.

“Hmm?”

“Are you okay?”

Duen tightens his arms around Bohn and nods, “Mhm.”

“Then… Can you look at me?” Bohn lifts a hand to Duen’s chin to gently tilt it up and out of his shoulder. Duen follows his guidance and looks up at his husband through shining eyes.

“You did all of this... for me?” Duen breathes in wonderment.

“All for you.”

Duen exhales through his nose and blinks slowly. He steps away from Bohn and turns slightly, his hands come up to cover his face as he begins to smile.

“Bohn,” he whines and breathes a high pitched laugh into his hands. He pulls his hands down his face slightly so he can look over at Bohn with his happy eyes, crinkled up from his hidden smile.

“What is it?” Bohn asks, a little worried but more amused. He’s seen Duen like this when he’s watching dramas.

He steps forward and Duen turns so that his back is to Bohn. Bohn shakes his head and steps forward again so he can wrap his arms around Duen in a back hug.

“Jeez,” Duen breathes, leaning back slightly into Bohn’s embrace. “You really set out to spoil me.” He’s complaining, but his tone is full of wonder and joy.

Bohn presses a kiss to the soft skin just behind Duen’s ear. “I promised you, didn’t I?” he murmurs. “There’s one more thing, too.”

“One more thing?” Duen turns slightly so he can see Bohn out of the corner of his eye.

Bohn lets go of him and takes his hand. “Mhm, follow me.”

He guides Duen through the house and out front. The rest of their family cheers for them when they walk through the door, each holding onto two sparklers and waving them around excitedly.

“Oh! This is…”

“Cute, right?”

“Mhm!”

“Come on, let’s go play.”

Bohn leads Duen to meet everyone else and King helps them light up their own sparklers. Ram has taught Ben how to make shapes in the air with his sparkler, and Ben excitedly shows Duen a crooked heart.

Of course, Bohn and Duen take a cheesy picture where they stand with their arms around each other and make a half of a heart each. Of course, it takes a couple of tries, but they eventually get a few good ones, and even take some with Ben standing between them.

It’s a beautiful end to their trip. A promise fulfilled, a first step taken, and irreplaceable memories made together as a family.

Chapter Text

It seems that being away from the city helps Duen. He doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night with an upset stomach anymore and some color has returned to his skin. He hasn’t gained back the weight that he lost, but Bohn knows that will take more time.

The only problem is that he isn’t sleeping well again. Bohn has woken up to him crying in his sleep and had to cradle him back to peace. Sometimes he even has to sing softly in order to coax Duen back into a gentle rest.

He learns why a little after they return when Nanny Fang pulls him aside when Duen’s busy and leads him to the sun room on the second floor.

“Sit down and make yourself comfortable,” she says and helps him settle on the couch by wrapping him in a blanket and bringing him a cup of tea. “I have something important to tell you.”

Bohn sticks out his lower lip and watches her pace back and forth, waiting for her to begin the conversation.

“Nanny Fang,” he says after several minutes of silence. He just watched Nanny Fang go on several face journeys as she tried to find the words and he realizes that he needs to guide her into this. “Why don’t you sit down next to me and tell me what’s up.”

She exhales and sits down next to him. She’s tense and massaging her hand, a sign that she’s serious and anxious.

Bohn shares his blanket with her and angles himself so he’s facing her slightly. “Nanny Fang,” he says firmly. “Whatever it is, it’s okay. I just need you to tell me.”

She nods, sucks her lower lip, and exhales heavily once more before she begins.

“Duen has been having a hard time… ever since, well, you know.”

Bohn nods.

“I also thought it was weird that he suddenly lost so much weight and started to have stomach problems. While I’m glad you took him to the doctor… Well, there was a reason I tried to insist on taking him to the countryside, and I was so relieved when you let me plan the trip.

“There’s a tea that he started to drink a while ago, that your step-mother gave him, to help him sleep. It worked, right?”

Bohn nods again, “He was able to sleep through the night. At least, until his stomach started to act up. Still, he slept better than before.”

She nods and bites her lip before she continues. “Well… when we were in the countryside… I didn’t tell you, but I took Duen’s tea from his suitcase.”

“So that's why he wasn’t sleeping well,” Bohn mutters to himself.

“Uh-huh, but you noticed that he started to look better, right?”

Bohn blinks. “Yeah. He’s doing a lot better ever since we went away.”

“Well, while we were there, I brought his tea to an old friend. One of my… close friends, I suppose, from my childhood grew up to study traditional medicine, so I brought the tea for her to look at.”

There’s a knot that begins to grow in Bohn’s stomach as he starts to realize where this is going. Nanny Fang continues and confirms the thoughts that are forming in his head.

“That tea… yes, it helps Duen sleep. But there’s another plant in the mix, one that’s slowly poisoning him. One more month of drinking that tea and we’d…” her voice drops to a horrified whisper, “We’d lose him.”

Tears well up in Bohn’s eyes and he covers his mouth with his hand. Poisoning? He thought it was just making Duen sick. To know that it was that serious... he's horrified.

“But why,” he gasps, unable to believe what Nanny Fang is telling him. “My step-mother gave him the tea! Why would she give him something like that? Do you think she didn't know?”

Nanny Fang winces. “I don’t know if she knew or not.” She massages her temples and thinks deeply, glancing at Bohn before she speaks up again. “Bohn… your family… you need to be cautious of them. I know you’re not on the best terms with your father… but there’s more to the picture than you know.”

“What do you mean?”

She looks away and doesn’t respond.

“Nanny Fang, please tell me,” Bohn begs, shaking her arm. “What do you mean there’s more to the picture? What is it that I don’t know?”

She looks back at him and he’s surprised to see tears in her eyes. “A lot,” she admits, “Will you be okay if I tell you?”

He’s not sure if she’s asking him or wondering out loud to herself, but he nods and asks, “Please tell me, Nanny Fang, please.”

She purses her lips. “Okay. Okay. I suppose… I suppose I should start from the beginning.” She takes his hand and squeezes. “There’s a lot to tell… it’s not easy to tell… so please, unless you need me to stop, please let me tell you everything before you say anything, okay?”

“Okay,” Bohn agrees easily, curious and anxious to understand everything that he doesn’t know.

Nanny Fang leans back, settling into the couch, and clasps her hands in her lap. She doesn’t look at him when she begins her story.

“When I was eighteen, my parents sent me into the city to work. We were poor, we needed to earn money, and there were many opportunities in the city. There was a wealthy family who took me in on their staff. I did a lot of the cleaning and helped in the kitchen. They treated me kindly and paid me well. I liked working for them.

“There was an older staff member… he paid a lot of attention to me… I didn’t know why… I didn’t know what was happening until it already happened.” She exhales slowly. “Then six weeks later, I discovered that I was pregnant.

“The day I discovered that I was pregnant, the lady of the house found me crying in the pantry.” Nanny Fang looks down at her lap. “This is how I knew she was a kind person. She listened to me, comforted me, believed me. She fired that staff member and she proposed a solution.

“She and her husband had tried for many years, but they were never able to conceive their own child. I wasn’t ready to take care of a baby. I didn’t have the money, nor would my parents support me if they found out I was pregnant out of wedlock. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine giving up my child.

“The lady of the house… she understood my feelings. She said that she’d take care of me throughout the pregnancy if I would give the baby to her and her husband to raise as their own, and she’d let me stay next to my child as their nanny. They were rich, they were kind, they were willing to let me stay by my child’s side… of course I agreed.”

“I gave birth to a baby girl.” For the first time since she began her story, Nanny Fang smiles. “She was so beautiful and so strong. I can still remember the first time she grabbed my finger. I can still remember the first time I held her. I can still remember the way she smelled as a baby…” Nanny Fang trails off and her smile turns sad.

She shakes her head and continues. “I watched her grow up, I stayed by her side as her caretaker. Her parents raised her well… maybe they spoiled her a little, but still, my baby grew up into a beautiful, kind woman.

“When she was nineteen, she brought home her boyfriend. It took a while for her parents to warm up to him, but he became almost like a member of their family as their relationship grew more steady over the years.

“Even though they liked him, they still wanted to marry her off to someone different. Her boyfriend came from a poorer family and they wanted to make sure that she married someone who could support her financially. She had a weird and strained relationship with them for a while. They both accepted her lover but still tried to set her up on blind dates with the sons of elite families.

“I became something like her confidant… I was…. I was the first person that she told when she found out she was pregnant. She was barely into her pregnancy, happier than she ever had been in her whole life… her parents were finally starting to come around, starting to accept the idea of her marrying her boyfriend.”

Tears well up in Nanny Fang’s eyes and spill down onto her cheeks as she moves onto the next part of her story. “Then… it all fell apart.” She sighs. “Her boyfriend died suddenly in a car accident. If it wasn’t for their baby… she might have followed him.”

Nanny Fang is quiet for several moments before she continues. “She finally agreed to be wed to one of the men her parents were trying to set her up with. They were happy… They didn’t know that she was pregnant. They just thought that if she can’t have the person she loves to take care of her for the rest of her life, at least she can settle down with someone who can financially support her.

“She married quickly and announced her pregnancy not long after, pretending that it was from her husband.” She glances at Bohn. “Maybe you can understand… Your aunt was a single mother. It isn’t easy. She didn’t have the strength to face society as a single mother, especially not after she lost the love of her life. She already received so much pity and not many people were able to fully understand her feelings. She didn’t want her child to face the same things. So she pretended that she was okay and that her son was the child of her new husband.”

Nanny Fang finally turns to look at Bohn fully. “I don’t know if you realized yet… but this story is about your mother. Your father isn’t related to you by blood. He didn’t know until you were about nine or ten years old and you had to have that surgery. He was suspicious when the paperwork came back and your blood type didn’t match what he thought it to be. It didn’t match his, it didn’t match your mother’s.

“I don’t know if you remember, but it was a few months after you recovered that he sent me away. He forced the full story out of me and began to monitor me when I was with you. He didn’t want you to know. Finally, he sent me away. I didn’t want to go… he had already started to treat you coldly.

“Sirikarnkul Group… it isn’t his family’s company. His family’s company flopped when you were about two years old and your family started to rely on your mother’s family company. She was in charge of it for about a year or two before she died and then he took over. He renamed it after his own family, but your grandparents wanted to keep the company in their family. Before they died, they agreed to let him be in charge of it until you are ready to take over. Since he’s not your birth father, you could very easily beat him in a legal battle and remove him from power completely. That’s why he doesn’t want you to know that you’re not blood related. He wants you to think that you’re inheriting his company so that he can keep a hold of his power. That’s why…” she looks down. “That’s why you can’t trust him fully.”

She looks back up. “As for your step-mother… I don’t know what her game is, but I don’t trust her either.” She shakes her head. “I can’t read her at all. Is she after power, is she after money, I don’t know. But this incident with Duen… it leads me to think that she considers you and your husband a threat to her goals."

Nanny Fang sighs deeply and looks down at her lap. “I have nothing left to tell. I know this is a lot to process, and I hope that you can forgive me for keeping this from you for so long. I didn’t know how to tell you… but after this tea incident, I thought that you had to know, for your safety and for Duen’s.”

She glances up at him and watches him behind cautious eyes, unsure of how he’ll react.

It is a lot to process, there’s a lot to work through regarding his family, but all Bohn can focus on is, “Does this mean… you’re my grandmother?”

She huffs a strangled laugh. “I am.”

There are tears in Bohn’s eyes as he lunges forwards to hug her. She’s surprised by his sudden embrace, but her arms come up to hug him back.

“Did Mom know?” he asks.

Nanny Fang pulls away. “I never told her… but I think she figured it out. She looked a lot like my mother…” Nanny Fang studies him. “And you look so much like your father.”

“What was he like?”

“Him? He was a little goofy… He liked to make people smile. He’d cheer your mother up by acting ridiculous until she laughed. Very cheerful, very kind. He took good care of your mother up until the day he passed. I might have a picture of them somewhere.” She stands up, stretches a little, and extends her hand. “Come with me.”

Bohn takes her hand and lets her lead him into her bedroom. He hadn’t been in there yet, but he’s glad to see that she was able to redecorate it to suit her. Light pink floral wallpaper decorate the walls. A large basket of her embroidery rests on the window sill by a plush armchair. The bedding is a buttercup yellow that matches the rug and there’s a small, worn stuffed brown bunny resting against the pillows.

She crouches down by her bed and pulls out several shoe boxes. “I meant to organize these,” she huffs as she sets a few of them on the bed. “Come and help me.”

They dig through the shoe boxes. All of them are filled with old photos. Many of them are of Nanny Fang from her travels with her friends. There’s a whole box of photos of Bohn from his childhood. She smiles as she flips through them, “I’ve been meaning to show these to Duen.”

After a little more searching, she pulls out a photograph with a triumphant, “Ah hah! Here.”

Gently, Bohn takes the photo, careful not to smudge it with his fingerprints. He recognizes his mother. He’s never seen a picture of her so young and he’s never seen her smile in such a way. The man she’s smiling at… Bohn has to go over to the mirror so he can look at himself before he looks back down at the photo.

He does look like his father. He has the same mouth, the same brow, the same eyes, but his features are a little sharper.

“You can keep it,” Nanny Fang says softly. “Let me find a frame for it.”

Going to the other side of her bed, she pulls out a bigger box, one that holds many picture frames of all different styles and sizes. She selects a few for Bohn to choose from.

There’s a silver picture frame with a simple design that catches his attention and she helps him enclose the picture.

“There,” she smiles.

He helps her put everything away, and then he climbs up on the bed with her and snuggles into her side like he did when he was young. She plays with his hair and hums the lullaby she used to sing him to sleep.

“Can you tell me more about my parents?” he asks her, looking at the photograph in its new frame.

“Of course,” she agrees easily and tells him stories until he falls asleep.

Later, Duen comes into the room, wondering where the both of them disappeared to. At this point, they’ve both fallen asleep leaning against each other.

He smiles and takes a picture. He loves to see that his husband is so close with his caretaker. Then, he gently wakes them up for dinner.

On their way downstairs, Bohn stops him briefly to say that he needs to tell him some things that evening. He reassures Duen that everything is okay, but Duen is left wondering what’s up throughout the meal.

Chapter Text

Bohn and Duen don’t talk until late in the evening, after dinner, after cleaning up, after bathing Ben and putting him to bed, after taking their own showers and crawling into bed.

They sit up with their legs tucked under the blankets. Bohn takes Duen’s hand and says, “Duen… the tea that my step-mother gave to you..." He catches his breathe. How is he supposed to explain this to his husband? At the very least he can say, "You can’t drink it anymore.”

Duen tilts his head and frowns. “I haven’t been for a while now… I guess I ran out because the tin was empty when I went to look.”

It's good that he hasn't been drinking it.

“No, Duen, it’s not that. The tea… yes, it helped you fall asleep..." Oh, he should just be straight forwards about. Bohn musters up a big breath and blurts out, "But it was also killing you!”

“What?” Duen laughs, baffled. Bohn must be joking. Why would that tea be killing him when it’s meant to help him sleep?

Bohn looks at Duen earnestly and squeezes his hand. “I’m serious, Duen. Nanny Fang took it to a specialist while we were away. There’s a plant mixed in with the tea that was slowly killing you. That’s why you’ve lost so much weight, it’s why you have to spend so much time in the bathroom in the middle of the night.”

Duen blushes and considers. “I guess… my stomach has been feeling better since I stopped drinking it.”

“And you look better, too!” Bohn presses.

“But your step-mother gave it to me… why would she give me something that was going to hurt me?”

Bohn heaves a heavy breath and squeezes Duen’s hand tightly. “There’s a lot that Nanny Fang told me this afternoon. I’m still processing it… can I tell you?”

Duen nods and listens closely as Bohn goes over everything that he learned. Of course, he doesn’t tell it as prettily as Nanny Fang did. This is a new story to him and Nanny Fang has had years to practice the words in her head.

Still, the main points come across clearly to Duen. Nanny Fang is Bohn’s blood relative, his adoptive father is more horribly power hungry than they imagined, and there’s a chance that his step-mother is trying to harm both of them for her own purposes.

“Jeez,” Duen breathes. “I guess I never questioned why she suddenly wanted to get close to us.” He thinks back. “She came over pretty soon after your father announced that you were to take over the company… I didn’t think anything of it since it was your birthday…” He tsks and shakes his head. “But she hasn’t done anything else besides the tea.”

“Well… she might not have known that the tea was poisonous.”

“She said that it was the same tea she drinks each night.”

Bohn purses his lips. “She got you a new tin of it… maybe she did so in order to poison you… maybe the person she bought it from messed up and confused one of the plants with another? I’m not a specialist, I don’t know what plant it was or if it’s easy to find, easy to mistake with another one…” He trails off and ponders. “I’ll have to ask Nanny Fang for more details,” he decides. “For now, we both need to be a little cautious towards my family.”

Duen agrees and thinks the conversation is over until Bohn speaks up again.

“My father really… I don’t know anymore.”

“Hm?”

“I’m starting to understand him better… the way he’s treated me, his motivations, his actions. I think… he stopped seeing me as his son once he found out we weren’t biologically related. I think… I’m only a means to power for him.”

“I’m sorry,” Duen sympathizes and squeezes his hand. “That must be hard for you to realize.”

Bohn shakes his head. “I’m okay I think. He stopped seeing me as his son a long time ago. Now that I know that there are no biological ties between us… I think I can stop seeing him as my father. Of course, we still have a very public father-son relationship, but now I can let go and stop trying to make it real.” His smile falters. “This means that Ben and I aren’t blood related.”

“But he’s still your family.”

“Huh?”

“He’s still your cousin that you love. Your auntie is still your auntie. Even though there aren’t any biological ties… they’re still family.” Duen rests his head on Bohn’s shoulder. “We can choose who we call family. I realized this after I confronted my father about the contract. He is my family, but he isn’t my family, not like how my mother and Daonua are. Not like you and Ben, Nanny Fang, Ram and King are. You all are my family because I decided that you are, I chose you as my family, and I’ll continue to choose this family for the rest of my life.”

Bohn sighs and lets his head come to rest gently on top of Duen’s. He rubs his cheek slightly against Duen’s hair, savoring the silky softness of it.

“I never asked you… Your father, the contract, I never asked you about that,” he realizes in a regretful tone.

Duen begins to play with the comforter with his free hand as he says offhandedly, “I went to ask him about it the night I learned about it.”

“And?”

“And?” Duen repeats as if he doesn’t know what Bohn’s asking.

“What happened? Do you want to talk about it?”

“Hm… He… He admitted to it. He said that this marriage contract was necessary for the good of the family. He…” Duen sighs. “He didn’t acknowledge the real problem, as usual.” He twists his lips. “He said that… that, if I dare leave then I can’t come home.”

Bohn stiffens upon hearing that. He didn’t know that.

Duen glances up at him and can guess what he’s thinking. “That has nothing to do with why I chose to stay,” he reassures. “I had realized that I liked you, that I wanted something real with you for a while beforehand.” He sits up so he can look directly at Bohn, to show him that he’s serious. “The contract left me powerless, but you found a way to give me a choice. That’s why I chose to stay, that made it easier to forgive you.”

Bohn catches his breath. He didn’t realize how much he needed to hear Duen acknowledge his forgiveness out loud. He guessed that Duen forgave him since he was willing to try at a relationship with him, but hearing him say it wipes out the last bit of doubt lingering in his heart.

He smiles briefly. Even though he’s grateful to hear these words, he really wants to make sure that his husband is okay. He pulls him down back into his side. “With all of that, though… Are you okay? You always hear me talk about my father and we’ve only talked a little about yours.”

Duen shrugs. “I’m closer to him than you are with your father. We argue a lot, but eventually we make up. He apologizes for his words and promises to try to be better. He is genuine in his apology, but his promise to solve his problems…” Duen sighs. “Sometimes he’ll try to follow through, but he always ends up taking the easy way out. He has a hard enough time acknowledging his faults, once the progress of recovering from his addiction gets difficult, he finds a way to back out.”

“With this though…”

Duen sighs. “I’ll visit soon. I’ve been messaging Daonua. I miss her and she wants to see me. So I will visit, and it will be awkward until my father apologizes, I’ll forgive him, my mother will send me back with leftovers, and then we’ll all move on.”

“You can forgive him so easily?”

“Well…” Duen shrugs. “Somehow this worked out.” He gestures between himself and Bohn.

Bohn puffs out his cheeks. “Yeah, but aren’t you angry? Don’t you feel bad at how he used you?”

“I am and it’s not like I’ll forget the feeling anytime soon. Just as he will apologize and not change, I will forgive him and not forget.”

Bohn furrows his brow. “I don’t know if I fully understand… but I support you and your choice. I know…” he huffs a bitter laugh, “I know what it’s like to forgive a family member for the sake of moving forward.”

Duen hums and snuggles into Bohn’s side. “We both have daddy issues,” he remarks casually.

“Jeez,” Bohn laughs, grateful for a lighter mood. “Don’t say it like that.”

“It’s true though.”

“Hmm,” Bohn pouts. “Maybe so.”

He brings Duen further into his embrace, using the arm around him to curl him onto his side so that his head rests on Bohn’s chest. He brings his other hand up to stroke Duen’s hair.

They stay like that for a few moments until Bohn feels Duen yawn.

“Sleepy?” he mutters.

“Mhm.”

Bohn helps him settle under the covers, hovering over him as he tucks him under the blanket.

“Bohn?” Duen murmurs sleepily, his eyes still closed.

“Hm?”

“Goodnight kiss?” Duen requests.

Bohn lights up and quickly complies. He presses his lips against Duen’s and smiles as he feels his husband lazily kiss back.

He pulls back and brushes Duen’s hair across his forehead. “Goodnight,” he wishes, pressing another kiss to Duen’s forehead before he lies down next to him and drifts off to sleep.


It’s weird the next time Bohn talks to his father over the phone. He’s at the office, actually, he doesn’t know why his father is calling him since they’re in the same building, but still he’s grateful. He’s not sure if he’s ready to see his father face to face after everything that he’s learned.

“One of our business partners is coming to visit the city and needs a place to stay, so I offered them your place. They’ll only be staying for two nights. On the second night, we will be holding an event to promote our business collaboration as well as search for investors. Your step-mother has taken care of most of it, you just need to have the space prepared and find caterers.”

Bohn isn’t even surprised anymore. “How many bedrooms should I prepare?” he asks instead of pushing back.

“Three, they’re bringing their daughter and the CEO doesn’t share a room with his wife.”

Bohn nods and begins to take notes. “For food... are there any dietary restrictions?” He feels like his father's secretary at the moment.

“The CEO’s wife is vegetarian, but be sure to prepare dishes for every diet for the event.”

“Mhm, I’ll keep you updated with the preparations.”

His father hangs up and Bohn sighs. Now that he’s changed his expectations of their relationship, it’s easier to do what his father wants. It’s like he’s an employee of S.G. rather than the heir, rather than the son of the CEO.

When he arrives home from work, Duen greets him by the door with a shy kiss that leaves Bohn flustered and frozen in his spot.

After their first kiss, Duen’s been giving him a good morning kiss, a goodnight kiss, and now Bohn’s also getting a welcome home kiss.

It’s magical.

Every kiss, no matter how brief or light, sends Bohn’s heart racing and leaves him blushing and shy like a teenager. He loves it.

After he changes, he goes downstairs. Duen’s on the couch, reading a book, and Bohn sneaks up behind him to surprise him by pressing a kiss to his cheek.

Ben, who’s sitting on the floor and doing his homework at the coffee table, sees the kiss and goes, “Ew… Uncle Bohn, Uncle Duen, do you guys kiss now?”

“Yes,” Bohn sighs happily, unable to take his eyes off of his husband, who’s blushing from the seven year old’s words.

Duen scowls to hide his shyness and shoves Bohn’s face away. Bohn moves away easily and goes around the back of the couch to sit next to his husband. He sits down sideways on the couch so he’s facing his husband and watches him read. He rests his chin in his hand, resting his elbow on the back of the couch for support.

Duen glares at him before he ignores him for his book.

A few minutes go by and Duen still hasn’t turned the page. He sighs and closes his book, keeping his finger in between the pages to mark his place.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” he snaps. Bohn beams. He knows Duen’s attitude is because he’s shy, and the reason he’s shy is because Bohn’s making him shy.

“No,” Bohn shakes his head wearing a stupid, smitten smile.

“Hmph,” Duen grunts and goes back to his book.

Ben comes up to Bohn and climbs into his lap. “Is Uncle Duen that interesting to look at?” he asks, looking up at Bohn innocently.

“Yes,” Bohn answers instantly. “Your Uncle Duen is really beautiful.”

Ben looks closely at Duen and nods. “I guess.”

“You guess? Look closely. See how smooth his skin is? See how soft it looks? See how long his eyelashes are? See the bridge of his nose? See his smile? See how pretty he is when he blushes?”

Duen is pretending not to hear Bohn’s words, but the blush on his cheeks show otherwise. As Bohn acknowledges the blush, he brings his book up to his face to hide in the pages.

“Uncle Duen,” Ben whines, “let me look!” He pulls the book away from Duen’s face so he can look closely. He leans forward so he can poke Duen’s cheek and nods very seriously. “Uncle Duen is pretty.”

“Jeez, Bohn,” Duen’s flustered. “What are you teaching him?”

“How to appreciate beauty.”

“Is that why you kiss him, Uncle Bohn? Because he’s beautiful?”

“That’s part of the reason, Ben,” Bohn pulls Ben back into his lap and wraps his arms around his stomach. He kisses Ben’s cheek. “I kiss him because we love each other… because he’s my husband… because when I ask if I can, he says yes.”

“You never ask if you can kiss me,” Ben points out and Bohn frowns. Consent is an important lesson to teach children, it’s better to start when they’re young. He’s always kissed Ben since he was a baby, but now that he’s older, Bohn should teach him about consent and boundaries.

“Okay,” Bohn says simply. “From now on I won’t kiss you unless you ask me to, or unless I ask first and you say it’s okay. If you don’t want a kiss, you just have to say no and then I won’t kiss you.”

“Can I have a kiss now?”

“Mhm,” Bohn hums and presses a kiss to Ben’s cheek.

“Can I give you a kiss?”

“Yes,” Bohn says and turns his face so Ben can press an eager kiss to his cheek.

“Can I give Uncle Duen a kiss?”

“You have to ask him.”

Ben tugs on Duen’s shirt sleeve. “Uncle Duen, can I give you a kiss?”

By now, Duen’s put down his book, no longer pretending to read it, and has been watching Bohn and Ben for the past few minutes. He nods, “Sure, Ben.”

Ben pushes himself up onto his knees so he can lean over and give Duen a kiss on the cheek. Then he taps his own cheek, asking for one in return, which Duen happily gives him.

Bohn repeats Ben’s action, tapping his cheek and looking at Duen meaningfully.

Duen shakes his head, and Bohn sighs. Normally he’d push it, but if he’s trying to teach Ben about consent and boundaries then he should let it go. He still pouts and mouths, “Later?” to which Duen rolls his eyes and Bohn knows that means ‘probably.’

Later does happen and Duen gives him several sweet and shy kisses when Ben’s not around.

Bohn is thriving. He’s waited a long time for their relationship to become like this and he’s over the moon that they’re finally in a phase where he can kiss his husband, hug his husband, hold his husband’s hand, and receive the same affections back from Duen.

Sometimes Duen is shy—he’ll push Bohn away and say no to his advances. Although Bohn still feels strong rejection whenever Duen does, it’s easier to push past that now. He’s starting to understand his husband’s relationship with physical affection a little better and he knows that Duen isn’t rejecting him, he’s just not comfortable with physical affection at that moment.

So Bohn finds other ways to show Duen how he feels. When he’s overwhelmed with his feelings, his first step is to show them physically. When Duen isn’t willing, Bohn blows him a kiss, gives him finger hearts, or he’ll call him thirak. Something to show his affection that Duen is comfortable with.

Duen seems to respond especially well to being called thirak and Bohn learns that saying his feelings directly will definitely cause his husband to become a flustered and blushing, but happy mess. So he makes a point to speak up more often whenever Duen does something that he thinks is cute and starts to compliment him more.

This helps Duen become more comfortable in their relationship. He’ll reach out and take Bohn’s hand to squeeze it for a moment before he lets it go. He starts to lean into Bohn’s side whenever they sit next to each other, so the sides of their bodies are pressed against each other. He starts to let his kisses linger.

These lingering kisses are Bohn’s favorites. They pulled away between each press of their lips in their first kiss and the kisses following. Now, Duen’s lips stay on Bohn’s as they kiss. As this starts to become a habit, as they start finding more time to kiss, their kisses start to become deeper.

Bohn knows himself and he knows his husband. He knows what he wants and he has a pretty good idea of what Duen is comfortable with right now… their interests do not align at the moment.

They share a bed every night now. Naturally some things come up. After some careful persuasion and a pint of ice cream, Bohn is able to sit down and have a conversation about sex with his husband.

“Huh?” Duen asks, bright pink.

“Sex. I just want to know your feelings on it… if that’s something you want someday in the future or not.”

Duen takes a large spoonful of ice cream, then another, then another, and he’s about to take one more, but Bohn catches his hand and moves his head so he can meet Duen’s eyes.

He decides to make it simple.

“Is it something you want? Yes or no.”

Duen ducks his head, avoiding Bohn’s gaze once more. He puts the spoon in his mouth without any ice cream on it and his hand tightens around the carton.

He glances over at Bohn.

“Yes,” he answers firmly.

“But not now?” Bohn asks, although he says it more like a statement.

“But not now,” Duen repeats, still pink and flustered, but relieved that Bohn isn’t asking for now.

Bohn reaches out and wipes a smudge of ice cream off of the corner of Duen’s mouth. Right now he doesn’t want Duen to feel any pressure, he only wants to reassure him of his care and devotion.

“We can take our time,” he promises. “It doesn’t have to be anytime soon. You can change your mind, too, if you decide that you’re ready and then realize that you’re not. I want to go at your pace. I only ask now because…” he blushes and pushes forward, “I just wanted to know if it was on the table for us. Because I am… definitely interested. I just wanted to make sure that it was something you want too.”

“It is,” Duen mumbles around the spoon. He pulls it out of his mouth and eats more ice cream.

Bohn watches him eat. He didn’t think that a pint of ice cream would be so integral to their conversation, but it provided Duen a bit of comfort during something he’s shy talking about.

After this conversation, he makes sure to let Duen set the pace and take the lead. He doesn’t want Duen to think that he’s expecting things to move forward quickly now that they’ve talked about it. He said that he’s willing to follow Duen’s lead and he’s going to show Duen that he really means it.

Chapter Text

These favors and big events that Bohn does for his father never happen at a convenient time. The Song family comes to stay with them after Duen runs out of melatonin gummies. After the tea incident, they decided to try something else to help him sleep. The fruit flavored melatonin gummies made a big difference, but Duen ran out of them about a week before the Song family came to stay and for some reason no one had found the time to go out and buy more.

Part of the reason that no one's able to go out and get more is because Ben has a stressful week at school. Not only is he upset and cranky, but he ends up taking his feelings out on the rest of the family. They have a hard time trying to figure out what they can do to make things better for him while also teaching him how to better respond to his emotions. Ben is usually a good kid, so it's shocking that he started to act out.

The Song family is supposed to arrive Friday afternoon. Bohn and Duen both take the day off to finish preparing everything. They also end up pulling Ben out of school for a day after he throws a temper tantrum at breakfast and breaks both his bowl and juice glass.

Nanny Fang cleans up the kitchen quietly as Bohn and Duen send him to his room.

“What should we do?” Bohn asks his exhausted husband after Ben stomps noisily up the stairs.

Duen just groans and drops his forehead to Bohn’s shoulder. “Let’s go talk to him,” he sighs heavily, “and see what’s up.”

Ben has crawled under his bed, but they don’t realize that when they first enter his room.

Duen, upon not seeing Ben, begins to look for him, growing more frantic when he can’t find him. He pulls the blankets off the bed and onto the floor, looks in the bathroom twice, and checks behind the sheer curtains before Bohn grabs onto his arms.

“Bohn!” Duen cries, on the verge of breaking down. “Where is he? Where is he?”

Duen begins to sob, letting out ugly choked sounds as he struggles to inhale. Bohn helps him to sit down, takes his hand and squeezes it tightly.

Duen is panicking, not for the first time since Ben’s kidnapping. Bohn’s only seen it happen in the middle of the night, so the curl of Duen’s lip, his splotchy red face, and his hopeless expression are new. He had wanted to see and know every expression of Duen, but now he thinks that he’d never like to see Duen this upset again.

Those thoughts aside, he speaks to Duen in a soft voice and helps him to breathe.

Ben crawls out from underneath the bed, scared and ashamed, but Duen can’t process his presence at the moment. Bohn meets his eyes and silently directs him to sit down next to Duen. Ben does and takes Duen’s hand, squeezing like Bohn is.

Bohn can tell when Duen starts to feel better because his husband wriggles his hand free of his grasp so he can take Bohn’s pulse. This time, he also does it to Ben too. He’s not sure why it’s so reassuring for Duen to take their pulses, perhaps the steady thumping against his fingers is grounding because it’s a sign of their life, of their presence.

Ben doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, but he knows that his uncle is upset. Although he hasn’t wanted any affection from his uncles all week, he lets Duen pull him into his lap and stroke his hair.

“You’re here, you’re here, you’re here,” Duen mutters into Ben’s hair as he presses kisses. “My sweet Ben, you’re here.”

They’re all crying at this point and Bohn texts Nanny Fang to call the school and let them know that Ben’s staying home today.

It’s complicated, but they’re able to work out through many tears that Ben has been upset because he’s been receiving less attention. Since his kidnapping, he’s been feeling more insecure about his place in the family. Duen’s lack of sleep plus planning for the Song family has kept him busy and short of patience. The rest of the family has also been busy preparing for the Songs as well, so Ben hadn't been receiving the attention he needed.

They still have to plan for the Song family, but it’s chores that Ben can help with. One of them stays next to him all day. Cleaning, food prep, setting out linens, so many last minute details that leave Bohn feeling like he and his family run a bed and breakfast.

He always endures because of his father. At first, he didn’t mind. Well, at first he did as his father wished because he was looking for his approval. When his father didn't give him the approval he was looking for, his begrudging obedience was to avoid a larger argument, and on some level he still wanted to prove himself. After learning more about his family, he thought that he could just endure and take on the burden of being his father’s son, but now he's starting to realize that it’s causing the rest of his family to suffer in extreme ways.

He’s always being considerate of his father. His father’s never considerate of him. Bohn has people he’s looking out for, people who also have to bear the burden of his father’s greed.

When will this stop? Will it ever stop? He relies on his father for a lot, their lives are entangled together financially and socially. There are a lot of benefits that he receives from being his father’s son. Yet, it’s starting to become unbearable. He’s been enduring for too long.

Bohn’s not able to dwell on these thoughts, he can’t start thinking about what to do, how to make it better, because he has to go and greet the Song family.

The language difference leaves them all speaking in English to each other. Luckily, Bohn and Duen are in practice because it’s Ben’s native language. Although, the vocabulary of a seven year old does not prepare them for some more business specific terms.

Still, they’re able to successfully give the Song family a tour of their manor, they help them choose their rooms, and they exchange polite conversation over dinner.

Bohn lets them see the sitting room, but he keeps them from that part of the house. He doesn’t want an overlap between business and family. For that reason, they have their meal in the ballroom.

The daughter of CEO Song is a nineteen year old girl named Xiao Mi, but asks to be called Mi Mi. She and Duen get along really well. Somehow, they bonded over dramas and Mi Mi has started to call him ‘Oppa’ and ‘Shuai Ge-ge.’

He feels uneasy by the burning in his chest every time he catches her calling Duen by those names. It makes him feel itchy and he has to quell the urge to throw or hit something, but his fist clenches and his fingernails leave marks in his palm.

Duen is oblivious to his turmoil and Bohn can only hope that he’s oblivious to the way Mi Mi’s eyes shine whenever she looks at him.

He recognizes the way she looks at him—she’s smitten just as Bohn was when he first saw Duen.

Rationally, he knows that Duen isn’t interested in her. Still, jealousy roars through his chest every time Duen speaks kindly to her or smiles at her.

Maybe he kisses Duen a little more aggressively that evening when they’re getting ready for bed.

His hands curl possessively around Duen’s waist and he holds him tightly, presses their bodies together, and kisses him angrily.

Duen smacks his shoulder several times and pushes him away entirely when he pulls back.

“What are you doing?” he snaps flatly and Bohn immediately feels horrible.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes. “I… I was upset and… I’m sorry, Duen.”

He can’t look Duen in the eye. He feels ashamed that this gesture of love between them was tainted by his ugly emotions.

“What were you upset about?” Duen asks, a little haughty.

Bohn puffs out his cheeks and continues not to look at Duen. No matter what he was feeling, he shouldn’t have done that. He doesn’t want to explain because that feels like he’s making an excuse. He also doesn’t want Duen to know that he was jealous. Such an ugly feeling… he’s ashamed to acknowledge it.

“Hey,” Duen snaps and suddenly Bohn’s face is forced to look up at him. “Hey,” Duen repeats, softer. “Tell me what’s going on, okay? We have to tell each other everything, even the stuff we don’t want to.”

Bohn’s shoulders sag when he rolls his eyes. “It’s nothing, okay?” He really doesn’t want Duen to see this side of him.

“Bohn,” Duen’s stern voice rings through the room and Bohn pouts because he knows that he’s going to tell Duen.

“I was jealous, okay? Mi Mi was calling you ‘Oppa’ and ‘Shuai Ge-ge,’” he fumbles with the pronunciation, “and…”

“And?”

“I want to be the only person who calls you sweet names,” Bohn mutters bitterly. It’s stupid to say it out loud. He feels like a fool admitting this to Duen.

“You’re jealous of a nineteen year old girl?” Duen wonders. He isn't teasing, which makes Bohn feel a little more comfortable, but he's still embarrassed.

He glares at Duen. “She likes you, okay?”

“She does not,” Duen dismisses. He steps back into Bohn’s space. “Even if she does… I only like you, remember?”

Bohn pouts and looks up at him through wide eyes. “I know. I don’t know why…”

Duen kisses him gently. “We can’t help the way we feel, right? But let me know the next time you feel this way, okay?”

Bohn nods. “I won’t kiss you like that again,” he promises.

Duen huffs a little before he surprises Bohn by kissing him fiercely. Duen’s kiss makes Bohn’s toes curl. There are similar feelings of aggressive possessiveness that leave him weak in the knees and he clings to Duen’s shoulders as he returns the kiss.

Duen pulls away to say. “You can kiss me like that again if we’re on the same page,” he tells him, now with a teasing glint in his eyes. “I’m possessive of you, too.”

“Oh,” Bohn mutters dumbly and he pushes back up so he can kiss Duen again.

Their kisses are passionate now with an unfamiliar heat that courses through Bohn’s body as Duen cradles his head and presses himself against him. Open mouthed and serious, the movement of Duen’s lips against his is addicting.

He’s not sure how, but they end up on the foot of the bed, with Duen falling back and Bohn holding himself up over him.

The heat, the tension between them. It’s new, but it’s been there all along, suppressed and hidden. Now, Bohn has to acknowledge its presence when Duen licks his lips, shiny and red, when Duen looks up at him through lidded eyes, eager and trusting, when Duen pushes up off the bed slightly to kiss him again with unfettered passion.

He’s breathless and his body tingles when he pulls away slightly to ask his husband, “Duen, can I show you my possessiveness?”

Duen’s trust in him always leaves him in awe and he finds his heart stuttering once more when Duen holds his eye and breathes out an excited gasp of, “Yes.”

Bohn trembles as he slowly leans down again to kiss Duen’s forehead, the small mole on his nose, his soft cheeks, and his lips once more before he moves onto his jaw. He kisses up Duen’s jawline from his chin to his ear, reveling in the way Duen’s hands clench the back of his shirt.

He kisses the soft skin behind Duen’s earlobe twice and gently turns Duen’s head to the side and back so he can press kisses into his neck.

They haven’t kissed with tongue before, but there’s been accidental, light and quick presses of tongue against each other’s lips before they pull away and slow down. Bohn feels nervous that he’s now pressing open mouth kisses to Duen’s neck, letting his tongue press down too to taste the skin under his lips.

Duen’s wearing the couple’s pajamas so the fabric and buttons feel familiar under Bohn’s fingers as he undoes the top two. Still, his fingers tremble and are clumsy as he pulls the shirt aside and finds a hidden spot on Duen’s collarbone to suck a deep purple bruise onto.

Duen gasps and squirms under him as Bohn continues to kiss at the bruise on Duen’s collar bone. His hand comes up into Bohn’s hair and pulls tightly at it.

Bohn isn’t sure what that means, so he pulls away from Duen’s collarbone to whisper gruffly into his ear, “Okay, Thirak?”

Duen whines and shudders. The hand in Bohn’s hair moves slightly so Duen can guide him into a searing kiss.

Bohn falls when he does. He’s no longer holding himself up over Duen and in order to prevent himself from completely pressing up against his husband, he rolls over slightly, pulling Duen with him. They’re lying on their side, their arms around each other, acting as a pillow for each other, still kissing.

They have to stop soon, Bohn knows, but he’s unable to pull away. Instead, he finds the will power to slow the kisses down, grateful that Duen’s willing to follow the change of pace.

Their languid kissing stops, their foreheads and noses pressed against each other, and Bohn opens his eyes to see Duen’s closed ones.

He gives Duen one last kiss, on par with their normal goodnight kiss, before he pulls away slightly and clears his throat.

“Um,” he begins, unsure of what to say.

Duen’s eyes open and he flushes a pretty pink upon making eye contact with Bohn.

“We should go to bed,” Duen says softly, his voice a little wobbly and shy.

“Mhm,” Bohn agrees and pulls himself away from his husband.

They get under the covers and Bohn isn’t sure if cuddling is something they should do right now. He’s not sure if Duen feels the same way because his husband’s head still ends up on his pillow and he hugs Bohn’s arm. Bohn lets himself turn slightly towards Duen, shifting slightly so he can hold his hand as they fall asleep.


The next morning, Bohn wakes up by himself. He goes into the bathroom to find Duen leaning forward towards the mirror and examining the hickey low on his neck.

His cheeks turn pink when he spots Bohn in the mirror behind him.

Bohn is still sleepy and he walks up behind Duen to rest his chin on his shoulder and hold him in a back hug.

Duen quickly clasps his hand over the purple spot on his collarbone, but Bohn pulls his hand away and turns him around so he can press a kiss to the bruise.

“Bohn!” Duen squeaks.

“Are you shy?” Bohn teases, enjoying the way his flustered husband quickly covers the spot again with his hand.

I am not!” Duen lies and Bohn giggles. He steps around Duen to quickly brush his teeth and then gives his husband a proper good morning kiss.

“I am,” he smiles when he pulls back. “It makes me shy to think about the bruise I kissed into your skin.”

Duen’s eyes widen and he swats at Bohn. “You’re not shy,” he grumbles. “You just like to tease me.”

“Maybe it’s a little bit of both,” Bohn shrugs and kisses Duen again. “Good morning, Thirak.”

Duen softens. “Good morning, Bohn.”

They go down to breakfast, except they eat in the ballroom with the Song family. They exchange pleasantries over breakfast and Bohn’s not sure if he’s happy or unhappy that the hickey on Duen’s neck is covered by the collar of his shirt.

Bohn’s father and step mother come by in the late morning to take CEO Song and his wife out around the city. Mi Mi stays back under the promise that she’ll help Bohn and Duen set up for that evening.

Bohn is unhappy that she tries to stick next to his husband, but luckily Ben is also looking for Duen’s attention and after this past week, Duen is much more inclined to pay attention to his kid.

At the event that evening, Mi Mi enters the ballroom late in a black cocktail dress with a low back. She looks elegant and stunning and catches the attention of many of the men in the room, including Bohn’s father. She, of course, is after Duen’s attention and Bohn’s father somehow helps her stay next to him.

“Look at how well you two get along,” he laughs jovially and nudges Bohn. “What do you think of Mi Mi?”

“She’s a lovely girl,” Bohn smiles back, uncomfortable.

“Girl? She’s a young woman!” his father remarks and Bohn’s worry intensifies.

“She’s only nineteen,” he grits out through a smile. “She’s still a girl.”

“What’s a few years' age difference? A younger woman is healthy, too, and has more time,” his father remarks and Bohn now understands what’s happening.

His father is trying to see if she gets along with Duen and if Bohn is interested in her. If both are true, then his father will push Mi Mi into their marriage, have her stay next to Bohn with the purpose of bearing a child.

His father’s comments are also heard by Duen and Bohn knows that he’s having the same realization.

They exchange glances and look at Mi Mi, who should be oblivious but is wearing a coy smile that’s hidden by her sweet attitude. Sure, Mi Mi likes Duen, but she’s not actively trying to flirt with him. Instead, she’s trying to get into his good graces and then what… serve him tea? Ask if she can serve Bohn alongside him? Bohn's seen this scene before. She'd find a chance to talk to Duen, say that since they get along and since she admires Bohn, she'd like to stay next to him and would he be okay with that? It'd be a lot of pressure on Duen, especially with her family's connections and what seems to be Bohn's father's approval.

Bohn isn’t even sure if he fully believes that this is what’s actually happening. But now that everything is clear between them, Mi Mi sidles up to Bohn and repeats sweetly, “What’s a few years' age difference? You're very handsome and I'm very pretty... we'd look good together.”

She plays with his tie and presses her hand up against his chest and Bohn feels like he’s going to be sick.

He says as much, politely, so he can excuse himself and pulls Duen away with him.

“What the fuck?” he mutters to himself, outraged and confused.

“I wasn’t just imagining things, right?” Duen asks him quietly. “Your father was really trying to find you a mistress?”

Bohn nods, dumbly. He feels Duen tense next to him and looks over, suddenly worried. “You know that I’d never, right? It’s only you, Duen, you’re the only one for me.”

Duen exhales a shaky breath. “I know that I am the only one in your heart… but she can give you children while I can not. She has better business connections, too, and can help you in that regard more than I can. I don’t want her next to you, and I know you don’t either, but I still can’t help but feel a little insecure because she is more beneficial to have as a partner than I am.”

Bohn shakes his head and takes Duen’s hands. “I don’t need you to bear me a child, I don’t need your business connections. I only need you. I don’t want anyone else next to me, despite what they could give me. You are the only one that I love and your love gives me so much more than what anyone else ever could offer.”

Duen exhales and offers a weak smile. “I know… I just…”

“We can’t help the way that we feel, right?” He repeats the words Duen said to him last night. “I’m glad that you told me, though.”

Duen smiles, genuinely this time, and holds his arms open, asking for a hug. Bohn happily embraces him and holds him tightly.

“I love you,” he promises.

“I love you, too,” Duen promises back.

They’ve never said it so directly before and even though they already know, it’s still special. Bohn kisses Duen’s cheek before the return to the event.

They stay away from Mi Mi and her family. Bohn’s father is clearly disappointed, but he doesn’t seem surprised with how it played out.

They’re happy to see the Songs off the next morning.

CEO Song is cheerful and polite, but Mi Mi and her mother are sulking. It’s not hard to guess that it was their plan to insert Mi Mi into Bohn and Duen’s marriage.

Both Bohn and Duen breathe a sigh of relief when the car finally pulls away. Now it seems like they can go back to their normal lives.

Chapter Text

They settle back into their normal life after hosting the Song family. Duen feels like it's a little easier to breathe now that they're gone. Things are still hard for them, but going back into their normal routine helps him and Ben feel better.

Of course, that all changes when Bohn sits him down one day and tells him that he’s going abroad on a two month long business trip. Without Duen.

So Duen does what he always does when he’s upset: he runs away.

He doesn’t go far and Bohn follows close after him. He rushes up to the second floor with Bohn on his heels, then runs up to the third floor. He begins to walk on the treadmill and turns on loud music so he can drown out Bohn's attempts to talk to him.

He doesn't want Bohn to go. He doesn't want to talk about the fact that Bohn is going. He doesn't want to acknowledge the longing ache for his husband that's already forming in his heart.

Eventually, Bohn stops the machine and catches Duen as he stumbles off of it.

“What!” Duen snaps at him and shoves him away. “What do you want?”

“Can we please talk?” Bohn pleads, his voice tired and tight.

“No! You’re leaving and I’m upset! I don’t want to talk!” He can feel tears brimming in his eyes and he sniffles loudly. This is so embarrassing. He shouldn’t be this upset, but he can’t help it. “I don’t want you to go. I don’t want you to leave! Why do you have to leave me?”

“I don’t want to leave you either, Duen,” Bohn breathes, grabbing Duen’s arm and tugging him closer. Duen lets him, even though he attempts to push Bohn’s hand off of his wrist. “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to leave you and Ben for so long.” Bohn starts to cry and Duen feels even worse. He knew on some level that Bohn was also upset about his trip, but he was so caught up in his own emotions that he didn't think for a minute.

“I don’t want to leave you, Duen,” Bohn repeats with a shaky voice.

“Bohn,” Duen sobs and hugs him, letting Bohn catch most of his weight and support him. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” he whispers and takes comfort in the way Bohn’s arms tighten around him.

Thirak,” Bohn mutters and Duen buries his nose into Bohn’s shoulder. “Thirak,” Bohn calls again, wanting Duen to look at him, and Duen does. He reluctantly pulls his face out of Bohn’s shoulder and meets his eyes, leans into Bohn’s hand when it comes up to brush the tears off of his cheeks.

“You’ll be okay,” Bohn promises him. “You’re so strong. I’ll miss you so much, but I know that you will be okay.”

“Will you call me?”

“I will.”

“Every day?”

“Every day.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Bohn repeats and seals it with a kiss. “I promise,” he murmurs again against Duen’s lips.

Bohn has about ten days before he leaves and Duen clings to him more with each passing day. They’re both anxious and sad, but they give strength to each other and to Ben through reassuring hugs and promises to call and text.

At night, when they’re in bed together, their goodnight kisses start to turn into something more. There’s no jealousy or possessive feelings to fuel these heated kisses, instead Bohn and Duen act on a very pure and deep desire to be close to each other.

Of course, they’re still not at the stage to take things to the next step. Bohn is very aware of when they start to reach a turning point in their kissing, and each night he starts to take it further and further before they stop.

Duen’s neck and collarbone are littered with hickeys after the first few nights. Bohn doesn’t dare to undo more than the top three buttons of his shirt and starts to mark higher on Duen’s neck.

The night that Duen first gives Bohn a hickey, he also lets Bohn lick into his mouth and suck on his tongue after Bohn accidentally touches Duen’s lower lip with his tongue. Instead of pulling away, Bohn lingers, silently asking a question, and Duen very hesitantly lets his own tongue slip out to meet Bohn’s.

Their kisses that evening are sloppy as they both learn. Duen has no experience, and while Bohn has some, it’s been so long and what he has done is nothing compared to what he’s doing now. This is with a person whom he loves and cherishes. This is so much more meaningful than those hasty, shame filled exchanges from high school. This is when he realizes just how grateful he is that they took it slow so they can comfortably learn and explore together, knowing that there is love and trust between them.

Duen finds himself pushing Bohn onto his back so he can lick and kiss up his jaw and down his neck, just as Bohn does to him. He sucks at Bohn’s pulse point, encouraged by Bohn’s low grunts and gasps. It makes him feel powerful to have Bohn underneath him like this, knowing that he can make Bohn feel that way.

The morning of Bohn’s departure comes too soon. Duen helps him pack the night before, helps bring his suitcases down next to the door, helps find his passport and print his airplane tickets.

That morning, Duen wakes up with Bohn curled around him, his chest against Duen’s back. They’re spooning, which they don’t usually do, but it feels nice. Duen feels safe and comfortable with Bohn’s arms around him like this.

He snuggles back into Bohn and closes his eyes. He wants to savor this moment for as long as he can. After all, it will be another two months before he can wake up like this again.

He knows when Bohn starts to wake up because he begins to feel small kisses pressed to the back of his neck.

“Bohn?” he whispers and opens his eyes.

Bohn grunts and continues to kiss the back of his neck, working his way up to his ear.

“Good morning, Duen,” his husband whispers gruffly against his neck, just behind his ear.

Duen shudders and exhales. He loves Bohn’s voice in the morning, gravely and low. He loves to hear Bohn say his name in that voice. He loves when he feels Bohn’s warm breath against that spot where his neck meets his ear.

“Bohn,” he exhales, his eyes fluttering close. His breathing grows heavier as Bohn continues to lick, kiss, and suck at his neck.

Bohn’s hand on his stomach shifts so it rests on his hip, his fingers pressing against the knobby bone that juts out there. Duen isn’t fully aware of it until he feels Bohn’s hand begin to slide down his thigh, then up again.

Bohn’s touches are light and slow and leave Duen’s skin tingling. Duen catches Bohn’s hand with his own and notices the way Bohn stills when he does.

Holding his breath, he encourages Bohn’s hand to press more firmly into his thigh and guides it up his leg, reveling in the pleasure of Bohn’s fingers curling into the inner part of his thigh.

Duen gasps and sighs as Bohn continues to kiss his neck and caress his thigh. Bohn grows more brave and his hand travels up Duen’s thigh once more, but it doesn’t stop at his hip bone. Instead, it very slowly it travels up and under Duen’s shirt.

Duen lets out a shaky exhale as Bohn’s fingers press into the soft skin of his stomach, coming up to his rib cage before they trail down to Duen’s belly button and curl in at the soft skin just below.

Bohn’s hand has not gone this low on Duen’s stomach before and Duen likes it so much that he’s not sure if he wants Bohn’s hand to continue or to come back up.

He lets himself fall completely onto his back. Bohn props up onto his elbow and looks down at him, desire clear in his eyes.

It makes Duen so shy to see Bohn look at him like that because he can see how much his husband wants him. It makes him feel reckless.

Bohn holds eye contact with Duen and brings his hand out from under his shirt. The top three buttons of Duen’s pajama shirt are still undone from last night, and Bohn slowly undoes the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, the final one, and pushes Duen’s shirt back.

Duen can feel his face flush. They have a pool. Bohn has seen his chest before, but he’s never looked, he’s never admired and Duen squirms as his eyes travel up his torso before he looks into Duen’s eyes again.

There’s a question in Bohn’s eyes, wondering if he can kiss, wondering if he can touch, wondering if he can continue.

Duen isn’t conflicted. He tilts his chin up, asking for Bohn to kiss him, giving him permission to continue.

He closes his eyes when Bohn gets closer, feels Bohn’s breath against his lip before the distance is closed and they’re kissing passionately.

Bohn swings a leg over Duen, straddling him, as his hands travel up and down Duen’s torso. Duen arches into him, caressing Bohn’s face as they kiss.

There’s a fierce desperation between them. They both know that it will be a long time before they can kiss again. It makes Duen feel bold and he brings his hands down from Bohn’s face to his shirt so he can clumsily begin to unbutton it.

He’s not sure what’s going to happen between them and he’ll never know because a sharp knock at their bedroom door has them quickly pulling away from each other.

“Bohn? Duen?” Nanny Fang’s voice calls from the other side.

Duen quickly begins to button up his shirt as Bohn calls out, “Nanny Fang?”

“Are you two up? Bohn, your parents are here.” There’s tension in her voice and they glance at her, wondering what’s up.

“We’ll be down in a minute,” Bohn calls back.

The two scramble out of bed, get dressed, brush their teeth, and try to fix their hair. Luckily, there are no visible hickeys on their neck when they come down stairs.

“Father, Step-Mother,” Bohn greets his parents hesitantly. Duen repeats his greeting and they all sit around the breakfast table.

“We thought it’s be fun to come and see you off to the airport,” his father says cheerfully, as if he thinks Bohn wants to leave.

“We also brought a gift,” Bohn’s step-mother says and she gestures with her hand. “Since Bohn won’t be around, we brought someone over from the main manor to help take care of the house.”

Bohn and Duen look at the young woman who walked forward. She’s clearly been trained by Bohn’s step-mother based on the unassuming and humble manner with which she approaches them.

“This is Nang. She’s a good girl, she’ll be really helpful when Bohn’s away,” Bohn’s step-mother tells Duen.

Duen doesn’t know what to say. They don’t need another staff member. His reluctance must appear on his face because his mother-in-law says, “We’ll pay her salary, so don’t worry about that.”

Duen has to force a smile. “I wasn’t worried, Mother-in-Law,” he replies. At least he wasn’t worried about that. He isn’t sure if he should accept her ‘good intentions’ but it’s hard to refuse them.

They end up accepting Nang into their household and she takes the room that would be King’s if he didn’t spend every night in Ram’s. It’s un-decorated, so she’s able to do with it what she pleases.

It’s bad timing, they can’t help her get settled in, so Nanny Fang stays behind to help her while Duen, Ben, and Bohn’s parents all go with Bohn to see him off at the airport.

They’re in public. Their farewell is not just for them. Yet Bohn and Duen find a moment away from the crowd and the public eye to say goodbye, hug each other, and offer a parting kiss.

Duen feels empty as he takes Ben back home.

Nang is by the door to greet them. She wears long blue pants and a pressed white shirt—a uniform that must be mandatory at the main manor.

Duen sighs and sends Ben off to find Nanny Fang so he can help Nang settle in.

He isn’t sure what to think of her. She seems sweet, very willing to do the work she’s supposed to and Duen can respect that. Except, he’s left wondering why she’s here—to spy? To cause trouble?

He purses his lips and decides to give her the benefit of the doubt. Although, he’s still going to watch her closely.


Ram starts to stick next to him more. He’s not sure if this is at Ram’s initiative or Bohn’s. Perhaps they both agreed. He’s pretty sure that Bohn gave Ram some details about the tea incident because Ram starts to very thoroughly check everything Duen does or consumes.

It’s annoying.

It’s also a little annoying when Bohn takes the first ten minutes of their nightly video call to check and double check that nothing went wrong and everything is okay.

If there was something wrong then Duen would tell Bohn.

Although, it is sweet that his husband is so concerned.

Still, he finds himself less patient as the days go by and Bohn always asks, “Did anything happen today? Are you sure? Nothing suspicious?”

“No, nothing suspicious happened, everything was fine, I’m okay, yes I’m sure, Ram did a good job keeping me safe, we’re all okay here, no one in this house means me any harm.”

His voice takes on a snappish tone towards the end. He sighs. Even though Bohn’s being a little overbearing, he has good intentions and a reason to worry. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“No, I just, I was being pushy. I just… worry a lot.”

“I know you worry. But, if something happens, I’ll tell you, okay?”

Bohn twists his lips and nods his head. “Okay,” he mumbles. “So then what did you get up to today?”

They take turns sharing their day with each other, and then Ben pops in to talk to Bohn too. It’s not the same as having Bohn with them, but Duen’s glad that they’re able to talk every night.

Sometimes, they’ll even call twice, if the timing works out. Duen will be in bed, late in the evening, and Bohn is either getting up or having a meal, but he’ll sing Duen to sleep and give him soft, sweet words as a wish goodnight.

It’s bittersweet. Duen loves talking with his husband, but he misses having him next to him. These two months are going to be long.


One morning, Duen gets Ben in the car to drop him off at school and then go to work. Ram goes with him now and his students are always a little startled to see the stoic, tattooed man standing behind him at his desk, but they’ve gotten used to him and even warmed up to him once they realized that he is a quiet and kind person.

They’re just leaving, slowly driving out of the driveway when Ben exclaims, “I’ve forgotten my lunch box!”

“Okay, I’ll just run in and get it,” Duen says and presses on the brake.

The car does not slow down.

His chest tightens as he presses down again and again with no success.

Ram sees him freaking out and reaches over to turn the steering wheel so the car collides with one of the large shrubs at the end of the property.

Luckily, the car was going slow and the bush stopped their movement somewhat gently.

Still, Duen feels panicked and turns around to frantically ask Ben, “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay, Uncle Duen! What happened?”

“The brake didn’t work…” His breathing is shaky and Ram reaches over to squeeze his hand and guides his breathing until he calms down.

They have Bank drive them instead and show up late and Nanny Fang calls a mechanic to look at the car.

The whole day, Duen feels on edge and uncomfortable. His car is a little old and hasn’t been checked in a while… but it’s never given him any problems before. There shouldn’t be anything wrong. So why did the brake fail?

He finds out that afternoon.

The mechanic explains to him that there was no brake fluid in the car, that’s why the brakes didn’t work.

Which is a little suspicious.

He tells Bohn as much over their call that evening.

Of course, Bohn starts looking for plane tickets to come back home and Duen has to spend a whole forty five minutes convincing him that he doesn’t need to.

“We’re all okay, you don’t need to come home,” he pushes, trying to be firm. Not that he wouldn’t love for Bohn to come home. He just knows that there’s a lot of pressure on Bohn while he’s away and Duen doesn’t want to be the reason he gets in trouble with his father.

“I’ll stay,” Bohn eventually gives in. “I just… I hate that I’m not there with you and Ben right now.”

“It’s not been easy with you gone,” Duen admits. “I miss you a lot. But… I promise I’ll be okay and I’ll wait for you to come home… in a little over a month now! We’re almost halfway through!” He tries to end on a positive note with a smile and blushes slightly when he sees Bohn soften.

“I miss you too. This trip goes by so slowly. I’m in meetings all day. Luckily living with Ben has let me brush up on my English, but I can’t even come home to my handsome husband.”

Bohn’s pout leaves Duen feeling annoyed and flustered. “Who’s handsome?” he mutters petulantly.

They chat for a little while longer, Duen shyly blows Bohn a kiss before he tucks himself under the covers and let’s Bohn’s soft lullaby wash over him as he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

A few weeks go by without any other incidents. There are ten days until Bohn comes home and Duen has a count down tacked up to the wall next to their bed.

The days seem to get longer. He starts to stay on call with Bohn longer. The time he is talking to Bohn passes so quickly, when he's not talking, the minutes go by as if they were hours. There’s a constant ache in his heart from missing his husband, but he pushes through with a smile. The phone calls and Ben, Nanny Fang, Ram and King’s company help him feel better.

One afternoon, he and Ram are out running errands. Ben’s at home playing with Nanny Fang and King, and thank goodness he is.

They stop by the bank to deposit a check and are trapped there for a good four hours as two masked men hold them and everyone else there hostage in an armed robbery.

It’s terrifying.

It's more than terrifying. It's a horrifying nightmare that Duen struggles to process as his current reality.

He and Ram sit on the floor, their hands on their head next to a teary mother and her young child who doesn’t know what’s going on. The child is restless, scared because everyone else is scared, and the mother grows harsher as she tries to keep the little girl. She shushes her, holds her, protecting her with her body, shaking as she tries to keep her baby safe.

Duen is grateful that Ben isn't here. He's just old enough that he'd know to be scared, but confused about the situation. More than that, Duen is so relieved that Ben is safe with Nanny Fang. He's not sure he'd be able to keep it together if he had to worry about his child in this situation.

There’s nothing that they can do except wait for the law enforcement to take care of this. They don’t know what might set the robbers off, two warning shots have already been fired, the bullets enlodged in the front desk.

The first bullet had caused everyone to scream and drop to the floor. The second bullet was a warning to keep still and quiet on the floor. Both times the gun had been fired, Duen felt his heart stop for a minute before it began to beat in his chest, hard in a constricting way that made it a little more difficult to breath.

The hours pass so slowly. Duen’s promise with Bohn that he’ll be okay loops in his head. He’s not sure if he can keep that promise right now.

He thinks of Ben, of Nanny Fang, of King, of Daonua, of his parents… even his father, who he hasn’t spoken to since the night he found out about the contract.

He regrets not reaching out to his family earlier.

He wishes he could see Ben, King, and Nanny Fang.

He wishes that Ram wasn’t stuck in this situation next to him.

Most of all, he wishes that he could see Bohn and tell him that he loves him.

He can’t use his cellphone. He’s not sure if he’ll leave here safely. He wishes desperately that he could reach out to his loved ones at least one more time.

The robbers randomly choose him as a hostage while they make negotiations with the police.

One of the robbers presses him against the window with a gun pointed to his temple while the other talks to the police on the phone. The one on the phone casually points his gun at Ram, who had protested loudly and violently when they first tried to use Duen as their hostage.

They were quick to get Ram under control, forcing him to kneel with his hands placed on the back of his head. Duen knows that Ram is trembling, seething, with fear and rage. He knows that Ram hates himself right now for being unable to fulfill his duty and protect Duen. He wishes he could tell Ram that it isn't his fault. That over the past few hours, he's come to terms with the situation.

He's strangely calm at the moment, even though the cold metal of the gun is pressing harshly into his forehead. He doesn't know if he's going to die, but he's accepted that he has no control over that at the moment. Somehow it helps him come to peace with the whole situation.

Negotiations with the police end and the robbers are allowed a five minute head start before the police will go after them in exchange for Duen and everyone else's safety.

He’s continued to be held at gunpoint while the robbers walk away with their money. He’s shoved into their car and then left at a gas station a few miles away before the robbers speed away.

The police find him and bring him back to the station where he’s finally able to reunite with Ram and the rest of his family. He has to give the police his account of the incident before he’s able to go over and properly greet them.

When he’s finally released, the numbness starts to fade and every emotion he ignored for the past few hours slowly begins to blossom in him as he hurries over to his family.

Fear is the strongest among them, but at the moment it's overshadowed by the relief he feels as he embraces his family in a tight, tearful hug.

“I have to call Bohn.” His voice and hands shake as he pulls out his cellphone. He needs to talk to his husband, he needs to hear his voice again, grateful that he is actually able to hear it again. He wants reassurance from his husband that things are okay, that they're going to be okay.

There are already several texts and calls from him and Bohn picks up right away when Duen calls him back.

“Duen! Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Duen sniffs. “We’re all okay, luckily no one got hurt. We’re just a little… shaken up.” That's an understatement. He exhales and squeezes the hand that grabs his. He looks down and sees Ben looking up at him, his large brown eyes very scared and worried.

He crouches down and with a surge of strength, picks Ben up with one arm so he can hold his kid and continue to talk to his husband.

Neither he nor Bohn want to hang up the phone. By the time they get home and his phone is at 15%, he switches it out for the tablet and turns it into a video call.

Bohn sits through some meetings while he’s on call, stays on call while Duen’s in the shower, while Duen reads Ben a book and tucks him into bed, and continues to stay on until Duen falls asleep.

He's still there when Duen wakes up from a nightmare in the middle of the night, in tears and struggling to breathe. His whole body feels tight as he grabs Bohn's pillow and holds it tight to his body. Bohn turns his camera back on and helps Duen breathe again and sings him to sleep.

They actually have a conversation about the robbery the next day.

“It couldn’t have been planned,” Duen insists. “How would that even happen? It was just bad luck.”

“But it seems a little suspicious,” Bohn pushes back. “The bank you went to was robbed at gunpoint, you were the person who was held at gunpoint… I have a hard time believing that it's just a coincidence.”

“I don’t know…” Duen shakes his head. “We’re both looking for these types of things, we’re both trying to be cautious of people trying to harm us that this sort of thing just naturally seems suspicious to us. But... I don’t know how someone could organize this. They’d have to know I’d be at that exact location at that exact time and then find two people willing to rob a bank just to… hold me at gunpoint and put me in danger? I think it was just random bad luck.”

Bohn shakes his head and sighs. They’ve been talking in circles for a good twenty minutes now and they're both frustrated. “I don’t know… I just… I will feel so much better when I’m back home.”

“Me too…”

In a little over a week, Duen will finally be reunited with his husband. This comforts him immensely. Bohn's image and voice on his tablet comforts him a lot already, but his actual presence goes miles beyond what a video call can offer. Bohn's arms are a safe space for Duen, his heart beat against Duen's cheek is reassuring, his breath against Duen's cheek gives him warmth. Duen feels his absence the most at night when he's trying to sleep. The lullabies help, and sometimes he’ll crawl into Ben’s bed, but there’s nothing quite the same as having his husband next to him, an arms reach away.

During the day, Duen's constantly on edge. After Ben’s kidnapping, the school’s security had been upgraded thanks to a generous donation from Bohn’s family. He knows that Ben is safe there. Still, there's a small presence in the back of his mind that continues to question Ben's safety.

He also starts to feel like he can’t go anywhere without Ram. Even inside their house, he feels anxious if Ram’s not nearby. He's overly cautious anytime he goes anywhere and becomes reluctant to leave the house.

Duen starts to see a therapist. One at the same office that Ben goes to, but a different person.

She has a hard time processing the trauma that he’s been through in the past year, writes him a prescription for anxiety medication, and promises that she’ll research ways for him to process and deal with his trauma. Duen feels like he's taking a step in the right direction.


One morning, four days before Bohn comes home, Duen is upstairs on the third floor with Ram, who’s working out. Ben is at school and Duen has the day off of work.

He doesn’t want to exercise, so he sits on a yoga ball in the front of the room to keep Ram company. Every now and then he glances out the window to examine their front lawn.

The shrub that they crashed his car into is a little lopsided and it’s easier to see from the top floor window. Duen wonders if he should do something about that. From Ben’s kidnapping, to the tea, to Song Mi Mi, to his car’s brakes failing, to the armed robbery… the shrub is a horrid visual that reminds him of every bad thing that has happened.

Have these all been accidents or is there something else going on?

There’s a familiar black car coming up the road that pulls him out of his thoughts.

It can’t be…

He stands up when the car pulls into the driveway and parks. Bank steps out and goes around to open the passenger door and Duen sees a familiar head pop up.

Oh!

Duen runs towards the stairwell, startling Ram, and scurries down to the first floor. He holds his breath and flings the front door open, unsure of if he’ll actually see Bohn on the other side.

But there is his husband, helping Bank unload the back of the car. When Duen runs out, he turns towards him, a soft, cheeky smile spreads over his face.

“Bohn!” Duen cries out and flings himself into Bohn’s arms without holding back. It’s been so long since they’ve seen each other and Duen is eager to feel Bohn’s arms around him again.

Bohn staggers back, but catches his husband in his arms. He looks down when he feels Duen accidentally step on one of his feet—it doesn’t feel like it should.

“Where are your shoes?” he mutters.

“Bohn,” Duen whines. “My shoes?” Why is the first thing that Bohn says to him upon their reunion? So unromantic.

“Ah,” Bohn realizes his mistake with a sharp twinge in his heart. He rectifies it by leaning forward and giving Duen a warm kiss hello.

“I’ve missed you,” he mutters when he pulls away, happy to see Duen smiling.

He glances down at Duen’s bare feet, his toes curled in against the rocky pavement. This won’t do.

Bohn crouches down so he can pick Duen up and carry him inside over his shoulder.

“Bohn!” Duen cries out in shock. He flails a little, but finds the coordination to reach down and smack Bohn’s backside a few times in protest. “What are you doing?”

“Taking you inside so your feet don’t get hurt.”

“My feet?”

“Your feet.”

Bohn can see that Duen scraped at least one of his toes and it’s bleeding a little. He brings him inside and sets him down on the couch in the living room. The whole time he carries him in there and Duen continues to protest.

“My feet are okay, you don’t have to carry me. Put me down! Bohn!”

When Duen is on the couch, Bohn points out the blood on his foot, and Duen’s face falls a little. “Oh.”

“Oh,” Bohn repeats, teasing him and ruffling his hair, happy that he is able to actually reach out and touch his husband’s hair.

He gives Duen another forehead kiss before he leaves him on the couch to retrieve the first aid kit from under the kitchen sink. Duen’s cleaned up a few of his wounds before after he accidentally cut himself with a knife. Now it’s his turn to disinfect the bleeding area and wrap a band aid around the hurt toe.

Duen’s quiet the entire time he does this. He watches him with his hands clenched in the couch cushions. The disinfectant stings a little, Bohn knows this well, but Duen shouldn't be this tense.

When he’s done, he sits on the couch next to his husband, who continues to look at him through wide eyes. He notices a few tears welling up in the corner of Duen’s eyes.

Bohn leans forward, concerned, and brings his hand to cup Duen’s cheek. “What’s wrong?” he asked, wondering if Duen’s toe really hurts a lot.

“Ha,” Duen huffs out a wet, breathy laugh. “I just missed you more than I realized,” he admits shyly, closing his eyes and leaning into Bohn’s hand on his cheek.

Bohn pulls Duen into a hug and cards his fingers through Duen’s hair as it rests on his shoulder.

“I missed you so much,” he mumbles.

“So much that you came home early?” Duen asks, his voice soft and genuinely curious.

Bohn blushes and buries his head into Duen’s collar bone. “So much that I came home early,” he repeats.


Duen helps Bohn unpack. He scrunches his nose as he pulls out a wrinkled pile of laundry—obviously dirty from the smell.

Bohn doesn’t let him do a lot. He takes the laundry from Duen and encourages him to sit on the bed while he runs around the room, returning his belongings to their rightful place.

“I’m not completely helpless because one toe is hurt,” Duen rolls his eyes, but he’s happy to sit down and watch Bohn unpack. He felt Bohn’s absence in every empty space. The half empty wardrobe, the mess of wires and electronics on his night stand, his toothbrush and toiletries at the sink in the bathroom—each missing thing was another reminder that his husband was away.

Bohn collapses on the bed next to him when he’s done, star fishing out into Duen’s space.

Duen takes this as an opportunity to curl up into Bohn’s side. His husband is a little smelly and clearly tired from his plane ride back home. He feels Bohn press a kiss into the top of his head, then hears him groan.

“I definitely need to shower,” Bohn grumbles. “I need to get the airplane feeling off of me.”

Duen reluctantly lets Bohn out of bed. He can’t believe that Bohn really came home early. Part of him knows that it’s because his husband is concerned about him. After all of those incidents it makes sense, so he can’t fault him for it, even if he does feel a little guilty. Did Bohn leave something important unfinished in order to return to him? Did he worry him that much?

Still, he selfishly finds that he doesn’t care if Bohn left some unfinished behind abroad. He’s overjoyed that his husband is finally back. It was hard without him.

They go together to pick up Ben from school, surprising the seven year old. Like Duen, once he saw Bohn he ran towards him and collided into him without holding back.

He doesn’t pull his head out of Bohn’s stomach, probably embarrassed about his emotional reaction in front of his classmates. Bohn scoops him up, carries him into Duen’s car, and sits in the back with him for the ride home.

Everything feels wonderfully right again to have their whole family eating dinner together. Ram and King join them for the whole evening and the night is filled with laughter as they catch up.

Chapter Text

Duen is shy about physical intimacy again. He lets Bohn kiss up and down his neck one of the first nights after his return. When Bohn pulls away to check in on him, Duen’s face is bright red and he has a hard time looking Bohn in the eyes.

They stop for that evening and exchange a few light kisses before they go to bed.

Bohn finds Duen’s shyness endearing, but he has to admit that he hoped they would keep moving forward after they came back. Perhaps he even fantasized a few times about a passionate reunion.

It’s okay that his fantasy didn’t come to fruition. Really. He can take care of these pent up feelings himself.

Duen’s not making it easy, though.

One of the gifts he brought back from his trip was a red silk robe that Duen really likes to wear. The color and fabric look good on him, just as Bohn imagined, and he wants more than anything to untie the ribbon around Duen’s waist and push the robe off his shoulders, to kiss and touch the parts of Duen that the robe covers.

That’s not something he can do right now.

Duen let his hair grow out while Bohn was away. The length is gorgeous, it curls at his neck and frames his face so prettily. Bohn wants to wind his fingers into the strands at the nape of his neck and pull his head back so he can worship Duen’s neck with his mouth. He swoons every time Duen pushes the fringe out of his eyes, enjoying the way it displays Duen’s arm, the way he tilts his chin up, the way it almost appears as if he’s doing it in slow motion just to be handsome. Just to tease Bohn, to fluster him in revenge for all those times Bohn teased and flustered Duen.

What’s worse is that Duen doesn’t even seem to know the devastating effect he has on Bohn.

When they kiss, Duen pulls back and gazes into Bohn’s eyes with want and desire. He lets Bohn gingerly push his hair off his forehead and kiss around his face, up and down his neck. He returns Bohn’s kisses with equal passion… up until a certain point where he tenses and Bohn finds the strength to slow down and pull away.


One evening, he comes home from work, exhausted. It’s been a difficult week at work, finally it’s the weekend, finally he can enjoy quality time with his family.

He trudges upstairs, his feet sore from running around all day, his back aching from his desk chair, and his mind mushy from all of the bullshit his coworkers make him deal with.

This isn’t his dream job.

He leaves his briefcase in his office, along with his work phone and work computer. He’s not going to touch any of it until Monday morning.

The house seems oddly quiet. He’s not sure where anyone is, but he doesn’t hear Ben’s laughter, or Nanny Fang reprimanding him fondly, or King rambling on about something to Ram.

He slips into their bedroom, unsure of how he feels about the quietness of the house.

He loosens his tie and sits down on the bed. It feels nice to get the pressure off of his feet and he leans back on the palms of his hands.

Bohn exhales and closes his eyes. He almost doesn’t hear the bathroom door open, but he peeks an eye open and turns his head to see Duen slipping out.

“Duen,” he smiles and takes in his husband. Duen’s wearing the red silk robe again. His black hair falls softly against his cheekbone and the robe rides up a little as he lifts a hand to push it back.

Bohn makes a point not to look at Duen’s thigh as he does so.

Duen walks over to him and carefully sits down on Bohn’s lap, looping his arms around Bohn’s neck and crossing his ankles together. Bohn sits up so he can rest his hands on Duen’s waist and thumb at his hip bones.

He readily meets Duen’s kiss, forgetting all of the stress from the past week so he can focus on the feeling of his husband’s lips against his own.

As he kisses his husband and presses his hands more firmly into Duen’s hips, he realizes something that causes him to pull away.

“Are you wearing underwear?” he asks breathlessly. He can’t feel the waistband of Duen’s underpants underneath the silk. It’s entirely smooth, which means that Duen isn’t wearing underwear, but Bohn has to check just to be sure

Duen tilts his head and kisses Bohn’s nose.

“I was about to take a bath,” he whispers, his eyes sparkling as if he’s sharing a secret he isn’t supposed to.

So Duen isn’t wearing underwear then. He is only wearing the red silk robe that Bohn bought for him, sitting on Bohn’s lap, and kissing him.

“Do you want to join me?” Duen asks him in the same tone as before.

“Huh?” Bohn gasps, the air rushing from his body as he processes Duen’s question.

“Do you want to join me?” Duen repeats. He stands up from Bohn’s lap and leans down so he can mutter into Bohn’s ear, “I’d like it if you did.”

Bohn watches him stand up and walk towards the bathroom, feeling dumbfounded and thoroughly seduced. Because that’s what’s happening here, right?

Oh it definitely is.

As Duen approaches the door, his hands come up to the tie around his waist. Bohn watches, mouth watering, as Duen undoes the tie and slip the robe off his body as he steps through the door frame, letting Bohn catch a glimpse of skin before he disappears.

Bohn exhales and stands up from the bed.

He sees a few lit scented candles, two wine glasses and a bottle, and his husband sitting in a bubble filled bath when he enters the bathroom. Even though Duen’s eyes are closed, he feels shy as he undresses in front of him and slips into the tub across from him.

The bubbles obscure him and Duen from the waist down and they’re not touching, but Bohn is still flushed and shy. Oh how the tables have turned that he is the shy bashful one and Duen is confidently naked in the tub with his husband.

Duen opens his eyes and sits up so he can pour a glass of wine for himself and for Bohn. It’s nothing strong—thankfully—but it takes the edge off.

The glasses of wine set aside, Duen gestures for Bohn to turn around.

“So I can wash your hair,” he explains at Bohn’s confused look.

“Oh,” Bohn breathes and complies. He doesn’t know why he’s so nervous to have Duen wash his hair. They’re certainly close enough to touch each other’s hair, and both he and Duen have run their fingers through each other’s hair before. But as Duen begins to run the warm water over his head and comb his hair back with his fingers, he finds his heart beating loudly in his chest and he swallows to try and quell the excited tingles that rush through his body.

He melts when Duen starts to massage the shampoo into his hair. Duen is thorough and gentle and takes care to keep the soap out of Bohn’s eye. Bohn struggles to process a wave of several emotions.

He’s still excited to be in the tub, naked with his husband. He feels cared for in a new, overwhelming way that makes him want to cry. He feels the tenderness and strength of Duen’s love for him as Duen washes the soap out of his hair, brushing his hair back from his forehead.

No one has ever been so gentle and devoted in their care for him before. No one has touched him so lovingly before. No one has caused him to feel so many lovely things at once.

With the soap out of his hair, Duen’s hands move down to massage Bohn’s shoulders. He shudders and relaxes, reveling in the magic of Duen’s fingers as they work out the stress from his back.

It feels so good and every emotion he felt before is washed away by a want for skin to skin contact with his husband.

He lulls his head back and is surprised when it comes into contact with Duen’s shoulder. Somehow, they shifted close together and Duen guides Bohn back so his back is flush with Duen’s chest.

Bohn closes his eyes and melts into Duen, pleased that Duen’s hands have come to rest on his stomach, just above his belly button.

“Is this okay?” Duen asks, his voice just above the whisper.

“Uh-huh,” Bohn hums in affirmation. “This is wonderful.”

Duen squeezes him around the middle and sighs. “I could see you becoming more and more stressed and frustrated each day you came home from work this week. I thought this might help you relax.”

Bohn opens his eyes and gazes up at Duen. “It did,” he mutters, losing himself in Duen’s gaze when he looks back down at him.

Bohn’s lips part slightly as Duen’s hand comes up from his stomach to gently tilt Bohn’s head up and to the side. If he was standing right now, he’d swoon. Since he’s relaxed against Duen, his husband easily guides him into a kiss.

It’s similar to the kiss they shared earlier this evening. Sweet and loving, seemingly innocent but there’s a small undercurrent of heat between them.

Bohn wants more. He craves Duen’s touch, yearns for it as if he’s damned and Duen is his salvation. He breaks the kiss for a moment so he can sit up and turn to face Duen and kisses him again at a better angle.

The water is colder now, but Bohn’s body burns. He shifts so he’s kneeling and braces himself against the side of the tub as he changes the angle of their kiss.

Duen opens his mouth and lets Bohn lick into it. Duen whimpers and gasps, fueling the heat that courses through Bohn’s body.

Bohn is desperate to take it a step further, to press himself against Duen and worship his body with his hands and mouth.

He thinks that Duen might feel the same way.

There’s still a lingering doubt in the back of his head, though, and he pulls away, panting. Duen looks back at him through lidded eyes, his chest heaving and flushed. His lips are slightly parted, shiny and red, tempting Bohn to close the distance again.

Duen sits up as Bohn sits back, a question in his eye.

Bohn bites his lip. “I don’t know what you want… but I wouldn’t want to go any further in the bathtub.”

He’d rather their first time doing anything happen in their bed. Luckily Duen seems to understand what he means because he nods, although he smirks slightly.


Dressed and down in the kitchen, Bohn’s not sure if the past hour was some sort of hallucination or if that really just happened.

Dinner with the family—who have returned from wherever they disappeared to—cleaning up after dinner, putting Ben to bed… all of that happens normally. As if they didn’t just unexpectedly take a big step forward in their relationship. As if that time in the tub together really was a hallucination.

When they step into their bedroom, Bohn thinks that they’ll just go to bed, like they normally do, just as the rest of the night post-bath has been normal.

It’s a pleasant surprise when, as soon as the door closes, Duen presses himself up against Bohn and kisses him.

Kissing in their bedroom at night before they go to sleep… that’s normal.

The kiss Duen gives him… that’s something akin to the kisses they shared earlier in the bath. Desperate desire builds between them as Duen brushes his lips over Bohn’s again and again. His hands clench in the fabric of Bohn’s pajamas, keeping their bodies pressed up against each other.

Bohn has thought about it, when they finally take the next step in their physical relationship. He figured it’d be something passionate, but slow. He figured he’d be the one taking charge since his husband is so shy. They’d kiss gently and Duen would blush as he watches Bohn take off his shirt, and Bohn would lace their fingers together and… maybe he’s watched too many Korean dramas with Duen.

He doesn’t expect to be the one pressed up against the door as his husband eagerly unbuttons his shirt and shoves it off his shoulders. He doesn’t expect Duen to yank off his own shirt before he pushes Bohn down on the bed and climbs on top of him. He doesn’t expect Duen’s hands to wander so bravely, to take Bohn’s hands and press them to where he wants to be touched.

Duen breaks away for a moment. They stare at each other, breathing heavily. Bohn’s enraptured by the way Duen’s chest heaves, the slight sheen of sweat that covers his whole torso, the way his arms look as they hold him up over Bohn, the way that Duen stares at him.

Duen’s gaze is full of adoration and trust and want. Desire shines strongly through his eyes as he takes in Bohn, and Bohn knows that his eyes reflect the same.

“Bohn,” Duen whispers his name. He leans down to kiss Bohn and murmurs, “I want you tonight,” against his lips as he pulls away.

Bohn inhales through his nose. “I want you, too,” he whispers back. “I want you so much I’m crazy with it.” He hesitates, remembering Duen's shyness. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure... I missed you so much when you were gone. When you came back, I was overwhelmed with how much I want you, but..." Duen exhales and bites his lip. "I'm ready now."

"Duen," Bohn breathes. His heart skips a beat then begins to beat rapidly. He's so ready to take this next step together.

“I don’t know much…” Duen trails off and tucks his chin slightly, finally shy. Fondness pierces through Bohn’s heart. As much as he loves that Duen took charge, he loves his husband’s shyness too.

Bohn pushes himself up slightly. Duen moves back, too, which gives Bohn the room to sit up fully. Duen is straddling his lap, still pressed against him, still eager, still shy.

“I know some,” Bohn mutters and presses kisses to Duen’s jaw. “I know enough to keep us safe… and to keep you from getting hurt.” He tilts his head back slightly and meets Duen’s gaze. He knows the answer, but he asks anyway, “Do you trust me?”

“I trust you,” Duen breathes out, certainty ringing through his voice.

“I trust you,” Bohn repeats back to him. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

They come back together for a kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss, drunk on each other’s lips. They have to break their kiss to find a comfortable position on the bed. It’s awkward and uncoordinated as they undress themselves, their faces flush red as they laugh and reassure each other through loving touches.

Bohn finds himself overwhelmed with love and desire for his husband and Duen’s in a similar state. As they lose their last layer of clothing and embrace each other, neither hold back anymore and succumb to passion and lust.


Bohn wakes when dawn breaks and the golden sun shines through the window. Duen is still asleep next to him, gorgeous and naked. The blanket slipped down in the middle of the night, leaving his whole chest and stomach out for Bohn to admire.

Duen’s skin glows in the morning sun, tempting Bohn to press his mouth to it, and so he does. He revisits marks from last night and leaves new one. Duen begins to stir as Bohn’s hands start to wander down his stomach to his thighs, fingers pressing into the soft skin, finding the bruises on his hips from where Bohn held him too tightly.

Duen groans as Bohn brings his hands up again, running them over his torso and his arms before he envelops him in a loose embrace.

Bohn kisses Duen’s eyelids, then his nose as it scrunches, his cheeks when he turns his head to the side, his lips when Duen whines, “Bohn!”

“Duen,” Bohn responds, kissing his mouth once more.

Duen peaks an eye open. “Wasn’t last night enough?” he teases.

“I think I’m addicted to you,” Bohn teases back, although there’s some honesty in his words. He’s had Duen once, he wants him every day for the rest of their lives.

“Hm,” Duen shakes his head disbelievingly. “I think you’re just insatiable.”

“That too,” Bohn admits readily, causing Duen to snort and push him aside.

“Let’s get up… Ben will be up soon.”

Bohn pushes himself onto his elbow and watches his husband step out of bed. They didn’t bother to get dressed last night and Bohn still hasn’t taken the time to fully look at Duen in all of his glory. So when Duen stands up and stretches, Bohn looks him up and down and lets out a low whistle.

Duen turns back to glare at him, too shy for Bohn’s antics first thing in the morning. “Bohn,” he whines and tries to pull the blanket off the bed so he can cover himself up.

“You’re so beautiful,” Bohn tells him frankly, tightly holding onto the blanket, and Duen turns pink from the apple of his cheeks all the way down his chest.

Bohn lets go of the blanket. This leaves him naked and on display for his husband to admire. Duen does look him up and down for a second before he turns his eyes to the ceiling.

“Am I beautiful too?” Bohn asks, teasing, but also curious.

Duen purses his lips and looks back over at him. He’s still pink, and takes a deep breath before he answers, “Very.”

Bohn’s heart leaps—Duen teases him with honesty, something he learned from Bohn. He gets out of bed and walks around to his husband, who watches him cautiously as he approaches.

“My beautiful husband whom I love so dearly,” Bohn proclaims, taking Duen’s face into his hands. He plants a chaste kiss on Duen’s lips, lingering for a second. “Good morning.”

Duen tilts his head and softens. He returns the kiss with a shy, “Good morning,” of his own.

They get ready together like any other day, just with a little more teasing and shyness. Bohn is on cloud nine, awed that he is allowed so much happiness.

Chapter Text

Bohn and Duen become gross. Gross, as in they’re fully into the honey-moon stage of their marriage, of their relationship. They’re always touching each other—hugs, hand squeezes, rubbing a hand up an arm or a thigh, playing with each other’s hair, etc. They're always saying sweet nonsense to each other, calling each other pet names in honey sweet voices.

Bohn acts as if he can’t stand to be apart from Duen at all, which Duen pretends to be annoyed by even though his husband’s dramatic affections delight him.

Many couples will save this type of sweetness for when they're alone, but not Bohn and Duen. They're almost shameless with how openly affectionate they are in front of their family and in public.

So, “gross,” has become a more frequently used term in Ben’s vocabulary, as taught to him by King.

Everyone is out in the yard—Nanny Fang, Ram and King, Bohn and Duen, and Ben. Even Nang, the new girl who Duen has not found a way to bond with yet, is lurking outside, sweeping the back patio and pretending she doesn’t want to be involved.

“Gross,” King says, and Ben repeats it delightfully.

Bohn, who is back hugging Duen, glares at his best friend. “You taught him that?”

“It was an important thing for him to learn,” King retorts, scooping up Ben and giving him a kiss on his forehead. “Ben, aren’t your Uncles a little gross with their blatant affection?”

“Yeah!”

Ram walks over and gives King a kiss on the cheek.

“Gross!” Ben cheers again, causing Duen to laugh.

“Don’t think you’re safe just because you taught it to him.”

“Hmph,” King grumbles. “We’re not as shameless as you two, though!”

“Shameless!” Ben cheers.

“Oh gosh,” Bohn groans. “Where did he pick that one up?”

Duen blushes. “That might be from me and my dramas,” he mutters.

“He’s lucky to have two pairs of uncles who love each other dearly,” Nanny Fang joins in the conversation. “Not every child is so lucky.”

That sobers them all up and ends the discussion.

The reason they’re all outside today is because they’re going to tie-dye t-shirts. Over Ben’s next break from school, they plan to travel to the beach and Duen wants to take a cheesy family photo of them in matching shirts. Except, to make it fun, they’re each going to tie-dye their own.

Even though Ben’s next break from school is a few weeks away, he was eager to dye the shirts when he heard Duen’s idea, so they’re doing it early.

It’s a nice day with a sunny sky and a light breeze. The garden is colorfully filled with early fall flowers that King carefully cultivated. Bright bottles of liquid dye are neatly lined up on the table along with several white cotton t-shirts and rubber bands.

“I’ve never tie-dyed anything before,” Duen admits, standing back and looking at all of the supplies with his hands on his hips.

“Neither have I.”

“I haven’t either.”

Ram just silently shakes his head.

“Okay… so no one is sure of what they’re doing.”

“It’s tie-dye,” King remarks. “Unless you do something really crazy to mess it up, everything should look cool when it’s done.”

Duen twists his lips. “I hope so.”

They begin to twist and tie their shirts. Bohn helps Ben do his first, but it takes several tries to get it curled into a spiral and banded together. Ram and King find videos on youtube to follow along as they tie their shirts. Duen randomly ties his rubber bands and does the same with Bohn’s shirt. Nanny Fang ties her shirt expertly, but shakes her head no when they ask if she’s done this before.

It becomes messy when they start to use the dye. By the end of it, Duen has bright pink and green hands, Bohn’s left leg has streams of blue running down it. Ben also wants to have colorful hands, so he squeezes a little orange into his palm before anyone can stop him. Ram and King have somehow stayed clean, they were the only ones to bother wearing gloves. Even Nanny Fang has a little bit of dye staining the tips of her fingers.

Nang has gone back in the house. Duen isn’t sure if she’s going to come along on their vacation. While everyone is invited, it is a family vacation and she just has not become part of their family yet.

Duen doesn’t know if it’s because of him or her. He tries to get her involved in their family activities and invites her to have meals with them, but she generally refuses. When she does accept, she sits there stiffly and seldom contributes to the conversation.

He’s not bothered that she doesn’t want to engage with them. It is, after all, a job. She receives her wage from Bohn’s parents, she has scheduled hours and days off. Even though she lives with them and has her own space, it’s not as if she has to feel at home in their house.

Perhaps Duen should help her find a place to live if she’s more comfortable commuting to work and having a physically separate work and private life.

Whatever, he thinks as he puts each dyed shirt into a plastic bag. He doesn't want to concern himself about her affairs.

Although he notices her watching them clean up and wonders if he should have pushed more for her to join them.


In the dead of night, while everyone is fast asleep, they’re suddenly woken up by Nanny Fang’s loud and frantic shouts.

“Everyone out of the house! Get out, get out of the house!” She’s yelling as she dashes through the hallway, banging on their doors as she passes them.

Bohn and Duen wake up suddenly, confused, but they know they should do as she says.

“I’ve got Ben,” she yells, carrying the boy. “We need to get out!”

The husbands rush down the stairs in their pajamas without their slippers. Nanny Fang’s urgency causes them to move quickly, causes their hearts to beat with fear, causes their movements to become a little clumsy and Duen slips down the bottom three stairs.

“Careful,” Bohn breathes, his voice shaking, as he helps Duen up. They continue to move out of the manor, confused and scared.

They don’t understand why they have to leave so quickly in the dead of night until they meet everyone else in the driveway and see their horrified faces watching their house behind them.

Slowly, Bohn and Duen turn around to see the nightmare that caused them to flee.

Smoke billows out of the windows, the whole right wing of the house is engulfed in flames. Their living room, the library, the kitchen… all on fire, all burning in a hot orange flame.

“Ben is okay?” Duen gasps as he processes what he is seeing.

“Ben is here,” Nanny Fang reassures. “King and Ram are here, too. I’m out, you two are out… I just…”

“What is it?” Bohn asks her, turning away for a moment to glance back at her puzzled face.

“I couldn’t find Nang.”

“Nang?”

“I don’t know if she’s still in there. I checked her room as I was rousing everyone, but she wasn’t there. I’ve called the fire department, they should be here soon… hopefully they can find her.”

“Oh,” Bohn nods and turns his attention back to their burning home.

He’s used to the initial numbness of a tragedy. After this past year, after what his family has been through, his house catching fire does not affect him as it should. There are many precious memories that were made in that house. Many things that hold those memories. Many valuable items that have been in his family for generations.

He feels nothing as he watches them burn.

In some aspects, it has to do with his family. They’re all safe, out of the house, no one got hurt. He can’t be too caught up in the tragedy of the destruction of their material belongings.

On the other hand, he knows that sooner or later this loss will hit him and he’ll mourn their family home. It was the first place he ever could truly call home. Now, he’s watching it being consumed in hot, unyielding flames.

The fire trucks arrive, and the firemen deploy into the house with their hoses. Nanny Fang tells them that there might still be someone inside and they promise to look for her.

Eventually the fire is put out. The firemen couldn’t find any signs of Nang inside the building, which means that she got out and is safe somewhere.

By the time the fire is completely extinguished, Bohn’s parents have arrived at the scene to take them over to the main Sirikarnkul manor.

Ben is tired, he was asleep in Nanny Fang’s arms for most of the night. He wakes up when they arrive at the main manor and begins to cry. He’s not where he should be and the last time he stayed here he was unhappy.

Bohn and Duen do all that they can to soothe him. Now that they’ve stepped away from the tragedy, reality is beginning to sink in and they’re both feeling a little shaky.

They put him in bed between them and sing him to sleep together. Once he’s passed out, Bohn encourages Duen to go to sleep while he goes and checks in with the others.

Ram and King have been given their own room across the hall from them, and he checks in on them. Luckily, they have each other and were in the middle of ‘comforting’ each other when Bohn knocked.

Nanny Fang has also been given her own room, one that connects to Bohn and Duen’s. They chat for a little bit.

“I’m so glad you were able to get everyone up and out,” Bohn says to her. “I can’t thank you enough.”

She nods with a forced smile, but worry is still written across her face. “We have fire alarms,” she remarks. “Several that are checked regularly. I checked them last month. None of them went off tonight. I only realized that the manor was burning when I smelled smoke and saw it coming up through the second staircase. I’m glad that I was able to get everyone out… I just… I don’t understand why I had to be the one to realize that there was a fire, why I had to be the one to alert everyone when we have fire alarms set in every room of the house.”

A dreadful feeling builds in Bohn’s stomach because she’s right. They have so many fire alarms in their house. None of them went off when the fire started. By the time they had gotten out it had already engulfed the right wing. If it had been any later, there’s a good chance they’d be dead.

“Nanny Fang,” he mutters. “You know it, I know it… I think even Ben suspects it at this point… there’s something up. Someone…” he cringes because it sounds cheesy, but, “Someone is out for us. After everything, there’s no way all of these incidents are coincidences. I’m ashamed that I’ve let it go on for so long.”

“It’s not your responsibility to stop other people from hurting you, they shouldn’t be doing that in the first place. Besides, what could you do?”

“I don’t know… all of these circumstances, whether they happened by accident or on purpose I don’t know. The line is so blurry. This is the final straw, though. With the fire alarms working… This was no accident. I’m going to call Mek and Boss and see if they’ll help me investigate. I’ll talk with the firemen who put out the house tomorrow morning and see what they found.”

Nanny Fang nods. “I hope you can figure out something,” she purses her lips. “Otherwise… I don’t know what to do.” She shakes her head and smiles softly at him. “Don’t worry about it for now. Get some rest.”

Bohn sighs and nods. “Goodnight, Nanny Fang.”

“Goodnight.”


The firemen are able to salvage some things from their manor. Some clothes, the shirts they tie-dyed earlier that day, a few of Ben’s toys and stuffed animals, and several other miscellaneous things. Everything smells like smoke and it makes Bohn nauseous.

He learns that the fire started in the kitchen—they don’t know how, yet. Every single fire alarm was dead, despite having been checked only weeks ago. There’s no way that’s a coincidence and because of that he suspects that the fire was started on purpose.

When he calls Boss and Mek, they’re shocked to learn about the fire. He feels bad to bother them again, but they insist that they want to help investigate.

“Do you know where that girl is?” Boss asks him.

“That girl?”

“The new one.”

“Nang?” Bohn is surprised that Boss knows about her. Then he's surprised at his own surprise since Boss and Mek always know everything.

“Yeah, her. It’s weird that she’s disappeared and hasn’t tried to contact you yet.”

Bohn tilts his head and thinks. It is a little weird. “You don’t think…”

“I’m not sure.”

“She was sent over by my parents. But they wouldn’t go so far as to set the manor on fire and dismantle the fire alarms. Why would they want to kill me and my family?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she had ulterior motives, but was working under someone else’s orders. I’ll see if I can locate her and anything else.”

“Thanks, Boss.”

“No problem, Bohn. Give your family my love.”

“Mm. Tell Mek I say hello.”

“Will do. Bye bye.”

“Bye bye.”

Bohn feels better that Boss and Mek are on the case, but he worries about what they’ll find. He wants this all to end, but he’s worried about who might be after him and his family.

Even with that relief, he's still worried, but he’s still determined to solve this mystery and protect the people he cares about most.

Chapter Text

Bohn’s father holds an event the night of the election. Many government officials and wealthy businessmen attend. Bohn, Duen, and Ben are present, dressed to the nines in tuxedos Bohn’s step-mother bought for them.

The event takes place outside in the gardens. The count and the results are being projected onto a large white screen hanging off of the side of the balcony. The image grows clearer as the sun goes down.

Bohn and Duen with Ben at a table in the side front corner of the lawn. Normally, they would try harder to keep up appearances for the sake of Bohn’s father, but they’re both tired, stressed, and frankly just do not care in the slightest. Besides, Bohn’s father is the main event, so no one seeks them out.

The night is beautiful, the food is delicious, the clothes they wear are only mildly uncomfortable. Overall, it’s an okay evening.

Except the election results are announced.

That’s when things turn to shit.

Bohn’s father loses.

By a large margin.

Granted, he was up against a popular incumbent. Even though he had made waves during the campaign season, the people still voted to keep the person currently in power.

Bohn’s step-mother handles the situation with grace. She invites the guests to enjoy the desserts set out on the table before they leave. The elite are quick to flee the scene, after they enjoy various pastries. There’s nothing to keep them there since Bohn’s father doesn’t hold political power. They can’t use him to their advantage any more than they already are.

Bohn is… relieved? At least, this means that he won’t have to take over the company so soon. The inevitable transition of power is put off for now.

Later that evening, after everyone has left and Bohn and Duen are in their wing of the house, they hear loud cursing and glass smashing from down the hall.

Bohn and Duen sneak out of the room to investigate. From the balcony, they can see Bohn’s father stomping, kicking, and breaking every vase, glass or ceramic knick knack he comes across.

The room is a mess.

What’s truly frightening is the expression on Bohn’s father’s face. Bohn’s never seen his father that angry and it contorts his face into something ugly. Even when Bohn came out, his father was never that angry.

They lock their bedroom door that evening. Not that Bohn’s father would try to hurt them. Still, it… feels safer.

Bohn’s father is calm the next morning. It’s almost alarming how normal he seems after the tantrum he threw last night.

Bohn and Duen don’t think anything of it. In fact, they almost forget about it as the days slowly pass and they step further and further away from election night.

The press seems to be reporting on them again. There’s an article circulating online of Duen and Ram out in public, saying that Duen’s taken a lover. There’s a follow up article defending Duen, but slandering Bohn. There’s a follow up to that article slandering both of them.

Ben comes home from school one day, crying and distressed because his classmates were repeating what was said in the articles. He thinks that Bohn and Duen are going to separate and abandon him.

“That’s not happening,” Duen sniffs, holding back tears. Ben’s distress upsets him most of all and Bohn is quick to sit next to them and envelop them both into a large hug.

“We’re a family,” he says firmly, though his voice cracks slightly at the end. “We’re staying together. Forever.”

“But-”

“The media isn’t always accurate,” Bohn interrupts. “Neither the media nor your classmates know what they’re talking about. Duen and I love each other and we love you. We’re staying together.”

They let him eat a cookie before dinner to get him to fully calm down. Of course, the sugar sends him running around the house, but it’s better than having him upset.

Thank goodness Boss and Mek reach out to Bohn to schedule a meeting where they can share their findings. Bohn feels like he’s going crazy being in the dark. He just wants to know what’s happening so he can respond accordingly.

Thursday night, after Ben’s in bed, he and Duen set up his laptop and video call Boss and Mek.

“We actually have a whole slideshow prepared,” Boss greets them cheerfully, “So let me just share my screen…”

Bohn rolls his eyes and Duen claps when they see Boss and Mek’s slides. They clearly put a lot of effort into it—it’s colorful and complete with pictures, graphics, and cute animations.

“So,” Boss clears his throat. “Please save your questions until the end because there’s a lot to get through and Mek and I practiced.”

He clicks and the slide changes.

“We'll start with Ben’s kidnapping,” Boss begins brightly and Bohn cringes. He appreciates the organization, but this is a sensitive issue. Luckily, Duen seems engaged and none too troubled by Boss’s attitude.

“After Ben was safely, you were told that he was kidnapped by Kankun Corporations for leverage in business negotiations. We could not, however, find any evidence confirming this. Instead, what we found was that the people who did kidnap him were former members of a notorious violent and dangerous gang. They were seeking a way to safely flee the country. After being promised money and a ticket out, they kidnapped Ben on behalf of Bohn’s step-mother.”

Bohn’s heart stops, alarmed, he tries to speak up. Boss holds up a hand, “Please, keep all comments and questions until the end. We have a lot to go over.” He clicks onto the next slide.

“The tea incident,” Mek begins. “After investigating, we found the company that Bohn’s step-mother buys her tea from. She buys in bulk from the manufacturer every three to four months. Just before she gave Duen the tea, she made an additional purchase about five weeks after her regular purchase. After contacting and bribing one of the workers, we found that she deliberately put in an order for tea to slowly but inconspicuously kill a person. The person in charge of that specific order went missing shortly after it was filled and delivered.”

Boss reads the next slide. “Duen’s car accident. After contacting the mechanic and reviewing some CCTV footage, we can confidently conclude that someone sabotaged Duen’s car by draining the brake fluid.

“The armed robbery was also not a coincidence. After acquiring some of the police investigations after they caught the robbers, we further investigated and deduced that they knew Duen’s schedule, knew his face, and the event was orchestrated to put him in harm's way.

“Who did this, you ask,” Mek takes over. “The same person who dismantled all of the fire alarms in your house and then set your house on fire. Nang. Who fled to Paris, France and is now living under a new identity. Of course, she was acting on behalf of Bohn’s step-mother.”

“Now,” Boss holds up a finger and wags it excitedly. “You may think that we’re done, but there are still a few things left for us to go over. I can see that you have a lot to say about what we’ve said so far, so, we’ll take a break for you to process and answer any questions.”

“I have one,” Duen says. “Why is Bohn’s step-mother trying to kill me? Why did she kidnap Ben?”

“Good question!” Boss enthuses. “We’re not one hundred percent sure, but we have a guess. She has a brother who used to run an up and coming business before it got screwed in an economic recession. It was forced to shut down and her brother’s been a dead beat ever since. We think that she seduced Bohn’s father for the money and is trying to get him to name her brother as heir to the company. We found several emails and voice messages that confirm our suspicions.”

“Why does that put a target on me?” Duen asks.

“Well, Bohn is a threat to that plan. The person who we interrogated about the tea said a few things to suggest that she’s trying to break Bohn’s spirit by killing Duen. We think that originally she was trying to drive you two apart—that’s why she kidnapped Ben, to cause a rift between you two. But you two grew closer after that incident so she decided to take on more extreme tactics.”

“Why not just target me, though?” Bohn asks.

“Good question! We were stumped by that too until we learned that if you died, Duen would become the next heir to the company. As your husband, he has more rights to it than your father does since the company does belong to your mother’s family.”

“Fuck,” Duen mutters. He’s now hugging a pillow and looks ghostly pale. He stands up to go dig a bottle of wine out of their closet.

Bohn, looking for something to distract him from the extraordinary fucked up presentation that he just sat through, asked him, “Where the hell did you get that?”

“I stole it from your parent’s wine cellar on election day. I figured we’d want to drink either way after the results were announced, but your father scared the hell out of me so I thought we should stay sober. I’m breaking it out now because this is…” he sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. He shakes his head, opens the bottle, and takes a long swig from it.

Bohn takes a long drink from it too and sighs. He turns to look at his friends, who look very composed on the video feed. “I appreciate you guys for finding all of this, the slideshow makes it easier to follow, but I’m still having a hard time processing and accepting all of this.”

Boss nods knowingly. “We went through several bottles of heavy liquor ourselves as we put this together. It’s horribly fucked up! But we are here to help you work through this!”

Bohn bites his lip and eyes them hesitantly. “You said you had more?”

They exchange looks with each other and nod. “It doesn’t get much better,” Boss says grimly. “Which is why we’re giving you a break now. Some of the stuff we found… it’s going to be hard to process. Especially for you, Bohn.”

His voice takes on a softer tone and Bohn knows they’re about to get into some deep shit. He sighs and takes another long drink before handing the bottle back to Duen.

“Alright, let’s get this over with,” he sighs and wraps his arms around Duen, who snuggles into him and rests his head on Bohn’s shoulder.

Boss pats his cheeks a few times, requests a kiss on the cheek from Mek, and shakes himself out before he clicks to the next slide.

“So your father lost the election!” he says brightly. His cheeriness is annoying and fake, but Bohn finds relief in it. Boss hasn’t changed at all since college. “You may have noticed all of the horrible press you’ve been getting since. This is no coincidence. Bohn’s father is directly responsible for all of it. He has also reached out to several business partners with young daughters, trying to foster a relationship with them. Mek and I suspect that he’s trying to break you two apart and set Bohn up with a lovely young wife. We just can’t figure out why.”

Bohn ponders for a moment, then raises his hand.

“Yes, Bohn?”

“Well… one of the reasons that he arranged my marriage to Duen was for political clout. Now that that hasn’t worked out, he is probably looking for a way to keep his power. Since SG is supposed to stay in my mother’s bloodline, if I were to have a kid, it’d be another chance for him to groom an heir that he approves of to take over the company. He’d probably find a way to keep himself and his ideals in power.”

Mek’s eyes widen. “So he’s trying to drive you two apart.” He nods sagely. “He’s exploiting anything he can out of your marriage… Actually, we suspect that he knows what your step-mother was up to, but we thought that was unlikely since he arranged the marriage himself. Why would he want Duen dead if he’s the person that he chose for Bohn to marry? But if he doesn’t care about whether you two are together or not, he’d be more willing to turn a blind eye to Bohn’s step-mother’s actions. In fact…” Mek grimaces. “If Duen really did die…”

Bohn finishes Mek’s thought. “He’d probably find a way to make that work for himself. He would have found a way to use the tragedy for his own benefit, just as he did for my aunt.” He swallows. “I feel sick.”

Boss purses his lips. “We have one more thing…”

Bohn raises an eyebrow. “Do we want to know?”

Boss looks off to the side and licks his bottom lip anxiously. “I don’t think you do… but you deserve to know.”

Bohn holds Duen tighter. “What is it?”

“We don’t have a slide for this one because we didn’t know if we should tell you… Bohn… it’s a well known secret amongst the highest members of the elite that…” He exhales and turns pale. “That your father killed your mother.”

Duen gasps and freezes in Bohn’s arms. He falls onto the bed, stiff with shock, as Bohn gets up and runs into the bathroom to throw up.

Duen shakes and unfreezes, rushing after Bohn to rub his back as his husband hurls into the toilet.

There’s tears in Duen’s eyes and he doesn’t let go of Bohn’s hand as they go back to the bed and return to the call.

Bohn rinses his mouth with the wine and grimaces. “As horrendous as it is… I’m not surprised. My father is a horrible person. My step-mother is also a horrible person.” Tears well up in his eyes and he begins to tremble. “My father… he’s only after power, isn’t he? He doesn’t care about anyone else. If he killed my mother,” Bohn hiccups and squeezes his eyes shut. “It must have been to grab power in her company.” He exhales. “Fuck!” He buries his head into Duen’s shoulder and squeezes his hand tight.

“So!” Boss says. “We will give you some time to process this. Um… Feel free to reach out if you need our help with anything. Mek and I are ready to step in and help you however you decide to respond to this situation. We’ll check in with you in the morning.”

Duen sighs heavily and rubs at his eyes. “That sounds good. Thank you guys for everything, um, we’ll call you in the morning.”

They end the call, leaving Bohn and Duen alone, distraught, and helplessly wondering what they should do next.

Chapter Text

They sit in silence for the next hour, passing the bottle of wine back and forth, tears falling in their eyes, as they ponder what to do next.

Bohn breaks the silence first. “Um,” he begins brokenly. He’s trembling and his voice is horribly unsteady. “Let’s… let’s divorce.”

Duen shoots away from him, standing up on his wobbly feet. He’s angry now. “What the fuck are you saying?” he demands. “Divorce? Why? Why should we?” His voice breaks and his tears grow heavier.

“For your own safety! My step-mother is trying to kill you! She’s tried multiple times to kill you!” Bohn tears his fingers through his hair. He rolls out of bed and begins to pace, tugging at his hair, rubbing his hands over his head.

“Now that my father doesn’t have any use for our marriage, he’s probably going to try to kill you too! He fucking killed my mother, of course he’ll try to kill my husband.” Bohn’s voice cracks sharply. He squats down on the floor and hovers for a moment before he falls down on his butt. His hands have come to cover his face, but Duen knows that he’s crying from the way his voice sounds, “I can’t expect you to stay married to a man whose in-laws are trying to kill you! I don’t know if I can stay married to you in good conscience… it’s feels selfish.”

His hands still hide his face, but his sobs ring through his voice, “I can’t… I can’t live with myself if you die because you’re married to me… I don’t know how to keep you safe from my family. I don’t want you to leave, but I don’t know what else I can do to keep you safe.”

“We’re not getting a divorce,” Duen says firmly, still angry, still tightly gripping the bottle of wine.

“But-”

“No, Bohn!” he yells. He clenches his hands around the bottle several times, tempted to throw it, but he holds on. “That’s not happening! You can’t expect me to leave you! Not after everything we’ve been through! We can make it through this!”

“I don’t know if we can!”

“So you’re just going to give up!”

“I don’t know how to fight back! Not without risking you! Duen, I can’t lose you!”

Duen freezes. “You want a divorce,” he grits out flatly.

“I don’t!” Bohn weeps. “I just don’t know what else to do to keep you safe! I don’t know how to give up!”

“So you choose to give in?” Duen snaps. He throws his hands up in the air, spilling a little wine, as he walks over to the window. He takes a long drink from the nearly empty bottle and broods, looking out at the lawn. He takes a deep breath.

“We’re not getting a divorce.” His voice is calmer now, still firm. He won’t leave any room for push back. He can’t just leave Bohn after everything. He’d rather die by Bohn’s side than live a long time apart from him. Besides, he’s confident that they can figure out something together.

“...Okay.”

Duen turns around and looks at Bohn. “We’re not getting a divorce,” he repeats.

“We’re not,” Bohn looks up at him.

“We’ll figure something else out.” They will. They have to. They can do it, Duen’s certain. He won’t let Bohn’s parents get their way.

“We will?”

“Yes.”

Bohn looks down again. “I’m sorry, Duen.”

“For what?”

“For even suggesting it. For giving up.”

Bohn truly sounds regretful and Duen softens.

“I forgive you.”

He really does, too. He knows that Bohn was only thinking for his own safety. He understands why Bohn would want to give him an out from this situation. Still, it hurt to hear Bohn ask him for a divorce. But he won’t hold it against Bohn for considering it, especially because he knows that Bohn also doesn’t want to separate.

Duen walks over to Bohn and sits down next to him. Bohn leans into him and heaves a wet, tired sigh.

“We’re really staying together?” Bohn whispers. He sounds uncertain and Duen wraps an arm around him.

“Yes,” Duen responds fiercely and tugs him closer.

“Thank you,” Bohn whispers. “Thank you for staying next to me.”

Duen presses a kiss to his hair. “Silly. Where would I go? I belong to you.”

Bohn turns so he can wrap his arms around Duen. Duen also turns, shifts so that they can hug each other.

“We’re stronger together,” Duen whispers. “I don’t know how I could face this if I didn’t have you next to me. You give me strength. You’re my motivation to try harder, to be better, to be happy.”

Bohn presses a kiss into his neck and sighs. “I love you, Duen,” he declares. “Always and forever.”

“I love you, too.”

They move back to the bed and cuddle up with each other. Bohn rests his head on Duen’s chest and Duen hugs him tightly, pressing kisses into his head every now and then.

Duen’s grateful that it wasn’t hard to convince Bohn to stay by his side. He knows that even if they did have to separate, they’d still belong to each other. Even if they separated, they’d come back together. He’s sure of his heart, he knows that he’ll love Bohn for the rest of his life, and he trusts that Bohn feels the same. A long period of time apart would be hard, but they’d come back to each other.

But Duen desperately wants to do everything that he can to stay next to his husband. He doesn’t want to separate for any length of time. Perhaps that makes it harder for them to move forward safely, but at least they’ll be together.

He racks his brain, trying to figure out what they could possibly do to address the situation they’ve found themselves in. They’re powerless… Duen’s family is unable to help them, and Duen doesn’t even know if his father would be willing to try. They rely so heavily on Bohn’s inherited wealth and status that it’d be impossible to fight back or separate using their own resources.

“Let’s flee the country,” he suggests. His voice softly intrudes on the silent and calm environment they’ve finally found themselves in after an arduous emotional evening. He tries to keep his voice light, gentle, and reasonable, but still, Bohn startles and jolts up at his suggestion.

“What?” Bohn exclaims, turning back to look at him. “Flee? The country?”

Duen pushes himself up on his elbows. “Mek and Boss will help us. We wouldn’t have to deal with your parents anymore and we’d be able to start over somewhere on our own.”

Bohn blinks and furrows his eyebrows. “So we should run away?”

“Yes…” Duen sighs and flops back down. “Neither of us are capable of fighting back. Your father and step-mother are powerful people, I don’t know if we’d be able to successfully fight back. Besides, we’re both exhausted from dealing with them. Our family has taken several blows from the hand they’ve dealt. So yes, I think we should flee the country, start over somewhere new. There’s no shame in it, not if it keeps us safe and together.”

Bohn nods and scratches his head. “So… we’ll just take Ben and… flee the country?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

Duen beams. “This is so much better than separating.”

“It certainly is. A little unconventional… I have no idea how we’re going to pull it off… but if we’re together and safe, then that’s all that matters.”

Duen nods. “We’ll figure out a plan in the morning.”

“No.”

“No?”

“We can’t stay here, we have to go now.”

“Now?”

“Yes. My father and step-mother… I don’t know what they’ll do next. I can’t trust that they won’t try something tonight. We have to act now.”

Duen shakes his head. “No, we need to have a cohesive plan if we’re going to pull this off. We need to be careful, thorough, and we need help. We need to prepare Ben. We can’t do this tonight.”

“But…”

“If we’re not careful, then we'll be caught. We’ll call Mek and Boss tomorrow morning, set up a date to meet, and then plan accordingly. For now, we’ll just have to be cautious.”

Bohn exhales. “Okay. Okay. We won’t do this carelessly. Then… I guess we’ll go to bed…”

Duen grimaces. They both crawl into bed, but they can’t just go to sleep, so they stay up talking, planning, and holding each other.


They tell Boss and Mek their plan in the morning, and the two are immediately in. Boss promises to take care of everything so that there’s no digital trace of their plans.

Nanny Fang takes a month off to visit her friends.

A short time after she leaves, Ram asks for emergency time off. His grandfather has been hospitalized and he wants to travel, with King, to visit. King is going along because Ram doesn’t know if his grandfather will survive and he wants him to meet his partner.

All of these conversations happen ‘privately,’ where a staff member of the main manor can hear them. This way, it doesn’t look suspicious that their staff is gone when they flee.

They tell their family that they’re going to take Ben on a trip for the weekend since their staff members are on leave.

They drive out towards the mountains. They left after Ben got home from school, late in the evening. It’s dark. It’s conveniently raining. The narrow roads twist and turn along the cliffs.

The car goes over the cliff and into the water below.


Sirikarnkul Group Car Found at the Bottom of a Lake

The family car of Bohn Sirikarnkul, the heir to Sirikarnkul Group, was found at the bottom of a lake. Bohn Sirikarnkul married Duen Rattananumchok and adopted their seven year old son in the past year. Their family states that they were going to take their son on a trip and were driving out to a cabin in the mountains. Police have found that their car went off of the cliff sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 pm on Friday night. The rain caused the roads to be slippery and dangerous. Investigators concluded that the car flew off the cliffside due to the dangerous conditions and fell to the bottom of the lake below. No bodies have been recovered, but all of their personal belongings were still in the car. Police are still searching for the bodies.

Ongoing Investigation Into the Disappearance of Sirikarnkul Group Heir and Family

Bohn Sirikarnkul and his family are still missing after their car was found at the bottom of a lake, two weeks ago. Teams have searched the lake. So far, only their wedding rings, a pair of shoes, and their personal identification have been found in the area around the car. No bodies have been recovered. Investigations into the night are still ongoing.
CEO Sirikarnkul and his wife have not heard from their son and his family. They comment, “We only want our son and his family to come back to us safely. We still hope that he’s out there, alive and well. We’re just waiting for them to come back to us.”
CEO Rattananumchock and his family have made no comments.

CEO Sirikarnkul and CEO Rattananumchock Hold Ceremonies to Celebrate the Lives of Their Sons and Grandson

A joint celebration between Sirikarnkul Group and Rattananumchock enterprises was held to commemorate the lives of their sons, Bohn and Duen Sirikarnkul. Bohn and Duen Sirikarnkul, along with their son Ben, have not been found since their car was found at the bottom of a lake, three months ago.
Investigations into that night have stopped. “It is hard for us to continue to have hope that our son and his family will come back to us,” comments CEO Sirikarnkul. “We have to accept that they’re gone so we can move on. We still hope to find out one day what happened to them.”
CEO Rattananumchock and his wife have made no official comments. Their daughter, the sister of Duen Sirikarnkul, comments that, “We are grieving. There is nothing else for us to say.”

Chapter Text

“So this is your new home!” King exclaims eagerly as Ram pushes open the door to a small house.

Bohn, Duen, and Ben hesitantly follow them inside. It’s incredibly small compared to their former home. There’s a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a small attic. From the front porch, they can see the main house of the property, which belongs to Ram’s grandparents. Out back, they can see several other buildings, all holding farm animals, farm equipment, and other farm things that Bohn and Duen aren’t familiar with.

“This is really nice,” Duen comments brightly while looking around. He has bags under his eyes and he’s holding onto a tired and cranky Ben.

It is actually very nice. Rustic, homey, not at all their style, but comfortable and a place where they can see themselves being happy. A place that will eventually become their home.

“What’s all this?” Bohn gestures to the piles of… things that cover the couch and chairs.

“Ah, well, we went out and bought the things that you asked for with the money you gave us. We just weren’t sure who was sleeping where so we…” King scratches the back of his head, now shy, “We just put it out on the couch… so you could decide.”

Bohn sighs and nods. “Um…” He’s tired. They’re all tired. He doesn’t want to think about who is going to sleep where and he certainly doesn’t want to put all of these things away. At least, they’ll be able to see what Ram and King bought for them.

“Um…” King repeats. “We’ll let you get settled in. Dinner is at seven at the main house, Ram and I will come by and get you before. You guys can rest and… do whatever else you need to.”

Ram and King wave goodbye and leave Bohn, Duen, and Ben alone in their new house.

They haven’t stopped moving since they drove their car over the cliff. Mek helped them get to the airport while Boss made sure to erase any traces they left behind, physically or digitally. They wore masks and hats, not unusual, and left from a small airport in a faraway town where not many people would recognize them.

Ben slept a little on the plane ride over. Bohn and Duen were too anxious and barely got any rest.

Now they’re here, they’re safe at Ram’s grandparent’s ranch, in a little rural town in Australia. Boss and Mek took care of the paperwork while Ram and King left for Australia to help prepare for their arrival under the pretense of visiting Ram’s sick grandfather.

Ram’s grandfather, who’s actually very healthy for a man his age, and his grandmother are more than happy to take Bohn, Duen, and Ben in. The small cottage gives them their own space on the property. They also enrolled Ben in school, helped Duen get a job at the local clinic, which was desperate for doctors, and will have Bohn become a farm hand on their ranch.

In many aspects, it’s a lot better than the life they had back in Thailand. On the other hand, they had to leave behind everything they knew and many people who they care about think that they’ve died.

Only Boss, Mek, Ram, King, and Nanny Fang know the truth. It actually wouldn’t be hard for other people to figure out the truth, if they did some serious digging. However, Bohn and Duen are relying on the fact that Bohn’s parents want them gone and that Bohn’s father controls a majority of the media. This is Bohn and Duen’s parting gift. Bohn’s father will milk everything he can from their disappearance, and will probably convince the public that they’re dead, even though their bodies were never recovered.

So now they finally have space and freedom from their old life and obligations. They can truly pursue the life that they want. Well, as much as a small town in a foreign country will allow them to.

Thank goodness they’re all proficient in English. It is nice, though, that Ram’s grandparents speak Thai, so they’re able to speak their native language at home.

They settle into the house. Bohn and Duen let Ben choose his room first. They’re similar to each other—in size, in furniture, in decoration. Ben chooses the light blue room with the colorful patchwork quilt, leaving Bohn and Duen to the buttercup yellow room with the floral quilt.

They all nap first. Well, Duen and Ben nap first. Bohn sets up his and Duen’s new phones, saves a few phone numbers, and sets an alarm before he naps. Even though he’s exhausted, he and Duen want to get up a little bit before dinner so they can start looking through their new belongings.

That’s another thing that they had to deal with in their plan to flee the country. They left just about everything behind. They were able to salvage a few things—identification and their passports, the tie-dye t-shirts they made, the rose brooch that Bohn gifted Duen all those months ago, the picture of Bohn with his mother, a few pictures of Ben with his mother, and Bohn secretly brought along the picture of Duen that Ram and King gave him for his birthday. It was necessary to bring that one, he doesn’t want anyone else to see that picture.

This leaves them without their phones, computers, clothes, shoes, Ben’s toys and school supplies, bedding, cookware, and so many other things.

So when Ram asked for emergency leave to visit his grandfather, they sent him and King with a list and money, and asked them to shop for them.

After a long and restful nap, Bohn and Duen get up and begin to take on the heavy task of sorting through all of their new belongings.

Bohn lets Duen play around with his new phone first. Duen has him stop so he can take a picture of Bohn and he sets it as his lock screen.

Bohn peers over Duen’s shoulder as he does so. “I look like shit,” he comments.

“We both do,” Duen smiles up at him. “Because we just went through shit.”

“You should take a new one later when I don’t look like crap.”

Duen shrugs. “Maybe I will, but maybe I’ll keep this one. After all, this is the first day of our new life.”

Bohn rolls his eyes and turns his attention to the couch.

“Let’s get started.”

Luckily, everything is somewhat sorted into piles. Bohn goes through the pile of clothes that are now his and blushes when he comes across the underwear. It is embarrassing that Ram and King now know all of their underwear preferences and even picked it out for them. He glances over at Duen and catches him blushing fiercely as he goes through his own pile.

Ram and King did a good job picking out clothes. Bohn and Duen were really specific with their preferred styles and what size they wear, so everything fits and matches their personal taste. Of course, Bohn has far fewer suits now and many more clothes that are suited to farm work.

They put their clothes away into their room, dividing up the dresser and the closet. It’s certainly less space than they’re used to, but they also have less clothes.

Bohn sorts through and folds Ben’s new clothes as Duen snoops around the kitchen. Luckily, it’s stocked with the basics and a few other ingredients. They have a much more basic and used set of cookware, but Duen is satisfied with it. The dishes and silverware are old and mismatched, but it’s charming and suits the nature of their new house.

“I think we’re going to be happy here,” Duen sighs. He hugs Bohn from behind and presses a kiss into his cheek.

Bohn settles back a little into his embrace and turns his head so he can give Duen a kiss. “I think so, too.”

Bohn continues to sort through their new things while Duen goes to shower and change for dinner.

After Duen is done, Bohn takes a shower. The bathroom is big, thankfully, since they all have to share one. The shower can be used as a tub, although it’s smaller than the one they used to have. Still, they have hot water and good water pressure, so Bohn is satisfied.

Ram and King were thorough in buying supplies for the bathroom. Bohn smiles at the soft, fluffy light blue towel set that they bought for them. The soap and shampoo are brands that Bohn doesn’t recognize, along with the moisturizer, toothpaste, and deodorant that are neatly displayed on the sink. There are toothbrushes for each of them, two are still in their packaging. Duen chose the orange one, and Bohn takes the green one knowing that Ben will want the blue one.

He showers, cleans himself, and is thankful that the water pressure is good. His new clothes have a stiffness to them that all new clothes have, but they fit and look nice.

Bohn smiles at himself in the mirror. “This is going to be okay,” he tells himself. He’s only so certain in his statement. He thinks that things are going to work out for him, but there will be a long period of adjustment. These next few months are going to be hard for all of them.

Ben is up now and he and Duen are putting his clothes away.

“Can I shower too?” Ben asks.

“Yes, there’s plenty of time before dinner,” Duen replies and sends him into the bathroom with a bundle of clothes.

Ben helps them sort through their things when he’s done showering. Ram and King bought him a few toys, to his delight, and he ends up sitting at the table with a coloring book and new box of crayons while Bohn and Duen figure out the TV.

It’s an old TV that gets cable. They can hook up their computers with the HDMI cord, to Duen’s relief.

“We’re going to have to go through and make new accounts for everything,” Bohn realizes with wide eyes.

Duen freezes before he throws back his head and groans. “Starting over is so much work,” he pouts.

Bohn and Duen sit down next to Ben at the table. They only have one computer for their family. Luckily, neither of their jobs require them to have a personal laptop, and Ben will be issued one from his school to use for his school work. This bodes well for Duen since he’ll be able to hook the computer up to the TV and binge dramas without impeding anyone’s work.

They create a few accounts on platforms that they’re certain they’ll use. A few require Bohn to pull out the new card that Ram’s grandparents set up for them. Their money is going to be held in a checking account linked to Ram’s grandparent’s bank account. Currently, the money in it is what’s left from what Bohn gave Ram and King for their shopping trip. It’s a decent amount of money, but they’ll certainly be relying on their income in the future.


Dinner is a lively affair. Ram’s grandparents are friendly and kind, talkative, unlike their grandson. They get along well with King after knowing him for only a few weeks, and Ben warms up to them quickly.

They give them a tour of the ranch afterwards and introduce Bohn to his job at the same time. It’s a lot of physical labor and Bohn rubs at his arms, wondering if he has the strength and endurance for this work.

Even though it will be arduous, he’s going to do his best. After all, they opened up their home and helped their family move. Bohn and Duen would not be able to follow through with their plan to flee if it wasn’t for them.

He’s introduced to Billy, the farm hand who he’ll shadow for the first few weeks. Billy is sunburned, kind, and a little older. He has a thick accent and Bohn struggles a little to follow what he’s saying. Luckily, they’re able to communicate with hand gestures, repetition, and rephrasing their sentences.

Bohn starts work the next morning. Duen and Ben will start work and school next week. It’s a similar situation to the one they had in Thailand where Duen will drop Ben off and pick him up as he goes to and from work.


That night, Ben crawls into their bed, teary and homesick.

Duen’s heart aches immediately as he realizes that this is the third time Ben has had to move to a new country, attend a new school, and make new friends in his short seven years of life.

He holds Ben close, Bohn wraps his arms around the both of them, and they both sing him to sleep.

“What do we do?” Duen whispers to Bohn when Ben is sound asleep.

“What?”

“Ben is going to have a hard time adjusting… how do we make this easier for him?”

Bohn purses his lips. “I don’t know,” he sounds dejected. “We’re just going to have to encourage him, support him, be there for him…”

“Yeah…” Duen sighs. “We’ll definitely have to look out for him…” He furrows his brow and asks, “Did we make the right decision?”

“Yes,” Bohn whispers back immediately. “This is a lot easier for him to deal with than one or both of us dying, or us separating. It isn’t easy, certainly, but it still was the best option.”

Duen sighs, shaky, and tightens his hold on Ben. “Yes… at least we still have each other.”

Bohn blinks slowly, showing his agreement. “You were right, Duen. It is most important for us to stick together.”


Ram and King’s flight over to Australia
King clenches Ram’s hand tightly as the plane lands.

“This is crazy,” he mutters for the hundredth time. He bites his lip and shakes his head. “Hey, do you think your grandparents will like me?”

Ram nods assuredly, smiling softly.

“They know about us.”

Ram nods again. “They know. They’re excited to meet you.”

King’s eyes widen and he smiles. “I’m excited to meet them too,” he breathes. “And so very nervous!”

Ram smirks and turns to look out the window.

They meet Ram’s grandparents at the bag check. Ram’s grandmother is a petite woman with short cropped hair and a bright smile. His grandfather is tall, with a slight belly and broad shoulders. He has a stoic face, similar to Ram’s, although it changes into a wide smile when he sees them.

They hug them both, to King’s surprise and delight.

“So you are King?” Ram’s grandmother greets him in Thai, a twinkle in her eye.

“Yes, hello, it’s nice to meet you,” King breathes back in English, repeating what he and Ram practiced on the plane.

She laughs kindly, “It’s nice to meet you, too,” she repeats back to him in English before she switches back to Thai, “We’re very excited to meet Ram’s boyfriend.”

King beams and glances at Ram, who’s bright red. “I’m happy to meet his grandparents, he’s told me a lot of stories from when he was young and visited you during the summer.”

Ram’s grandfather’s smile turns mischievous. “I’m sure he told you plenty of stories, but I’m also certain that there are many stories he did not tell you. One summer when he was eight, he-”

“Grandpa,” Ram blurts, wide eyed. “Um… let’s head back.”

“You don’t want him to know about that time you-”

“No!”

“I’ll tell you later,” Ram’s grandfather winks at King.

Ram’s grandparents take them out for a meal and help them get settled into a hotel, leaving them with a car. Ram and King will drive out to their house later, but they’re going to spend two nights in the city first.

They spend their first night in the hotel together, being romantic and lazy.

They shower together. Ram washes King’s hair. King loves the feeling of Ram’s fingers massaging his head, loves the way that Ram is gentle and careful not to get soap in his eyes. They started showering together after one time when they were running late. King had a head injury at the time, after a flower pot fell on his head, so Ram washed his hair for him in order to help him wash around the stitched wound.

Now they take showers together just because, and King was very transparent about how much he enjoyed Ram washing his hair, so Ram started doing it without being asked.

After getting clean, they cuddle in bed and talk. Well, King talks. Ram listens and replies when he feels it’s necessary. But King knows what he means from his small hums and the different ways he squeezes King closer.

“Hey, Ram?”

“Hm?”

“What would you do if we were in Bohn and Duen’s position?”

Ram sighs and tilts his head so it rests against the top of King’s head. He rubs his cheek against King’s hair as he considers.

“I don’t know if I would flee the country…” he says slowly, “But I would do everything I could to keep you safe and next to me.”

King smiles and buries his head into Ram’s chest, and what a lovely, firm chest it is.

“Me too,” he mutters. He inhales and smiles. He feels very content in Ram’s arms like this, happy in love.

They fall asleep like that, exhausted from their travels.

The next morning, they eat breakfast and go shopping.

“They really need everything,” King comments as he scrolls through the list on his phone. “It’s insane that they have to start over like this.” He twists his lips and sighs. He’s going to miss Bohn, Duen, and Ben. Of course, after learning everything that’s been happening, their fleeing to Australia makes sense. And at least they can visit them when they visit Ram’s grandparents.

He pushes a smile onto his face. He wants to have fun shopping with Ram! It’s going to be a long day, but it will be fun!

Ram is the type of person to shop with purpose, only looking for what’s on the list. King can’t relate. He wants to try on everything that catches his eye. He wants Ram to try on the clothes he picks out for him too.

Ram looks cute in the bucket hat and oversized button down that King picks out for him—it’s definitely not his style, and frankly King would find him cute in anything.

They can easily pick out clothes for their friends. They’ve known each other for years, King knows exactly what Bohn's style is, and Ram has a pretty good sense of the clothes that people buy for Duen, since he’s not allowed to buy his own.

They buy Ben plenty of play clothes. It tugs something fierce in King’s heart to be picking out kid’s clothes with Ram. Ram is shy with kids, but he warmed up to Ben, and if it was their own child…

King shakes himself out of it. Now’s not the time to be fantasizing about his future with Ram.

They spend the rest of the day shopping, another night at the hotel, then drive out to Ram’s grandparent’s ranch.

Bohn and Duen are going to have a hard time adjusting to everything. Especially Ben, he realizes.

Regret stings King’s heart. He wishes that they had done something earlier. He wishes that he and Ram could stay and help them adjust. It’d look suspicious for them to stay too much longer after Bohn and Duen go missing back in Thailand. They’ll have to return and take on the role of worried friends, maybe even help with the investigation.

Ram senses his worry and takes his hand, squeezing it tight. He smiles at King, reassuring him, and King smiles back.

At least through all of this he has Ram next to him.

Chapter Text

Four years later

Duen groans and stretches, rolling over in bed so he can starfish into Bohn’s warm and now empty space.

They both have the day off, thank goodness. They still have to get up so they can help Ben get to school. Bohn slipped out of bed first, but Duen will soon follow behind him. He just wants five more minutes…

Of course, Bohn did not turn off their second alarm, nor their third alarm. Duen begrudgingly gets out of bed and slips on his red cotton bathrobe. It’s longer than his old one, stained with countless tired coffee spills, and frayed slightly here and there.

He always puts it on first thing in the morning, to stay warm, cozy, and covered.

He trudges out of their bedroom, closing the door behind him and leaning up against it, his arms crossed over his tummy so he can retain some of the warmth from bed.

Through tired eyes, Duen watches his husband help Ben tuck his folders, notebooks, and lunch into his backpack.

Ben runs over to give him a hug goodbye and Duen pulls him tight into his embrace.

“Have a good day at school,” he wishes Ben before he presses a kiss to his temple. Ben’s grown a lot these past four years and soon he’ll be taller than Duen.

“Bye, Dad!” Ben waves before he goes to hug Bohn, receiving the same tight hug, wish, and kiss. “Bye, Pa!”

Bohn and Duen step out onto the porch to watch him run up the drive. The school bus pulls up a few minutes later and they watch him jump up the stairs and disappear as the doors close.

They’re quick to get back into bed once Ben’s bus pulls away. Work has been exhausting for both of them. Flu season has just begun, so the clinic is swarmed with patients, so Duen’s been taking a few extra shifts. The ranch recently lost a farmhand who moved to the city for a better job, so Bohn’s been helping to pick up the work while Ram’s grandparents look for his replacement.

As they fall back into bed, they curl up into each other. Bohn pulls Duen into his arms and lets his head rest on his chest. Duen throws one of his legs over Bohn’s and squirms and wiggles so that he’s more on top of him. He feels Bohn sigh and shift so that he’s able to hold onto Duen better. Duen smiles, hums, and drifts back to sleep.

When he wakes back up, the sun is much higher in the sky. He nuzzles into Bohn’s chest, presses a kiss to the firm muscle over his husband’s heart, then pushes himself up so he can see his husband’s face.

Bohn’s brow furrows and he snuffles as he blinks his eyes open.

“Mmm Duen…” his husband grumbles out, low, rumbly, and fond.

It sends tingles down Duen’s spine.

It’s wonderful that even after all of these years Bohn still makes him feel the same… his love, adoration, and want for his husband has only grown each time he feels that familiar rush of warmth course through his body as Bohn calls his name.

“Bohn,” he sighs, then repeats it gleefully. “Bohn, Bohn, Bohn.” As he calls his husband’s name, he presses kisses to Bohn’s cheeks, forehead, and hair.

Bohn squirms and laughs as Duen continues his loving wake up attack.

Suddenly, he flips them, and Duen’s breathless as he gazes up at his husband hovering over him.

“You’re too silly first thing in the morning,” Bohn grumbles, pretending to be annoyed, before he gives Duen a good morning attack of his own.

Bohn shifts down onto his elbow so he can cradle Duen’s head and shoulders and presses a sweet, intense good morning kiss to his lips.

Duen’s already breathless when Bohn kisses him and he melts in his husband’s arms, returning the kiss with equal passion.

Duen isn’t shy as they continue to kiss. Bohn’s arms and chest have become more muscular over the years and Duen loves to run his hand over the firmness of his chest and the bulge of his bicep. Gorgeous, muscly, and tan. Duen… he really likes it.

Duen opens his legs slightly, pulls Bohn down so that he rests his weight on him, and revels in the feeling of his husband pressed up against him. He arches into Bohn, wanting to be closer. It’s been so long since they’ve last been able to do this, he’s desperate for his husband to take care of him.

Bohn obviously feels the same way as he’s quick to push Duen’s robe off of his shoulders and kiss his neck, shoulders, chest, and continue down his torso.

After, they continue to lie next to each other and kiss, lazily, languidly. Every time they part, they’re drawn back to each other.

Eventually, Bohn finds himself with his lips pressing sweet nothings and kisses into the small spot behind Duen’s ear. Duen clings tightly to him, sighing and rubbing his hands up and down Bohn’s back.

They stay like that for a long time, until Duen’s stomach rumbles, breaking Bohn’s worship and mantra.

Bohn pulls back and gazes fondly at Duen’s flushed face—it’s so cute that he still gets embarrassed in moments like these.

He presses one last kiss to Duen’s mouth before he reluctantly pulls away.

“Breakfast?” he murmurs, caressing Duen’s cheek, feeling his husband’s flushed face against the palm of his hand.

“Mhm,” Duen nods and blinks.

Duen makes eggs and toast for them, moving around the kitchen with Bohn back hugging him the entire time.

It’s too cute and sweet for him to be annoyed, even though it causes him to take longer to prepare breakfast. But their kitchen is filled with laughter and happiness.

When Bohn briefly lets go to start the coffee, Duen is quick to retaliate, pressing his forehead into Bohn’s back as he squeezes around his middle.

“Silly,” Bohn chides as he bats at Duen’s hands firmly clasped just above his belly button. He turns around in Duen’s arms.

“You started it,” Duen laughs.

“I don’t recall,” Bohn pretends, mischievous and teasing.

“Bohn!”

“Let’s eat!”

They eat, and clean, and take care of a few chores together. They spend the rest of the afternoon together, talking about everything and nothing, making up for the quality time they’ve been missing due to the influx of work these past few weeks.


Later in the evening, after Ben’s gone to bed, they sit out on the front porch. They hold hands, drink wine, and gaze up at the stars.

It reminds Duen of their first date, when he was first giving Bohn a chance to prove that he was genuine.

He’s always grateful that he gave Bohn a chance whenever he thinks back to the beginning of their relationship. He never knew that love could be like this until he met Bohn. Even with all of the hardships, from the time they were in Thailand to the demands of their new life, every hardship has been worth it to have Bohn by his side, to keep this love for the rest of his life.

Bohn must notice his contemplation because he asks, “What are you thinking about?”

“You and I… and how we came to be…”

Bohn sits up a little and turns so he can see Duen better. “What about it?” he asks cautiously, curiously.

“I’m glad that we found each other… even with… everything.”

Bohn purses his lips.

They don’t often talk about their life back in Thailand. Once they arrived in Australia and started to settle in, it was easier to keep moving forward rather than acknowledge the reality they escaped from.

Sometimes they’ll talk about it, after Ram and King come to visit. They’ll talk about how nice it would be to see Mek and Boss, and Nanny Fang, and how nice it’d be to order takeout from that one place, and they wonder if it’s still there.

“Do you ever want to go back?” Bohn asks softly.

Duen thinks carefully before he answers. There’s a soft ache that’s lived in his heart ever since they first left, longing to go home and return to the life they once had. But more than that, “I don’t… I miss home, I do, but I don’t want to go back. We’re happy here, together and safe. Besides, the sky is clearer here, and the stars are so beautiful.”

Bohn is quiet as he squeezes Duen’s hand and turns his attention back to the sky.

They’ve gotten used to the sounds of Australia, the wildlife at night. They’ve gotten used to the food, switching between languages, their jobs, their house. It’s almost become home.

Almost.

The same ache in Duen’s heart exists in Bohn and Ben’s heart. They’re all able to live well here, but there will always be a part of them that misses Thailand.


One Sunday morning, months after that conversation under the stars, Bohn, Duen, and Ben are outside. They’re washing the cars, although Ben and Bohn have teamed up to target Duen and chase him around with the bucket of water meant for rinsing the suds off of the truck.

An unfamiliar sedan pulls into the drive, causing all of them to pause. They watch as it drives closer, and parks, confused when two men step out.

Duen freezes as one of them closes the door and begins to walk closer.

“Thara?”

Chapter Text

Bohn tenses as the two men approach them. He thinks he might recognize one of them… is it really the heir to Kankun Corporation?

The name is on the tip of his tongue when suddenly his husband blurts out, “Thara?”

That’s not it, that must be the other man.

Kankun’s heir… his name was… Frong?

But… Why is the heir to Kankun Corporations here? Why is he with someone that Duen recognizes?

“Duen!” the man—Thara, it seems—exclaims and hugs his husband.

“Thara, what on earth are you doing here?” Duen asks as he steps out of the other man’s embrace.

“And who are you to hug my husband?” Bohn growls.

“Oh! Bohn, this is my cousin, Thara. He was out of the country when we got married, he sent me the knife set, remember?” Duen explains, taking Bohn’s hand in hopes to get him to calm down.

“Hmph,” Bohn grunts. He turns his attention to the other man. “And why are you here?”

“This is my partner, Frong,” Thara explains. “He helped me find you.”

“Frong from Kankun Corporations, that Frong?” Bohn eyed him up and down.

“Ah, yes—”

“You kidnapped my son,” Bohn spits.

“They did not,” Duen reminds him.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Frong asks.

“A few years ago, our son was kidnapped. We were told that Kankun Corporations was responsible, but we later found out that wasn’t the case,” Duen grits out that last part pointedly at his grumpy husband.

“Whatever,” Bohn mumbles.

“Is he your son?” Thara asks, pointing at Ben, who’s hiding behind Duen.

“Yes, this is Ben. Ben, this is my cousin Thara.”

“Hello,” Ben greets politely, but quietly, still hiding behind his parents.

Anyway,” Bohn interrupts. “What are you guys doing here? Why together?

“It’s a long story,” Frong says, “Can we go somewhere to talk?”

They’re going to have to talk… There's so much to explain, so much to process. Bohn and Duen turn to look down at Ben. Is this something he should hear about?

In the end, they have Ben go over to Ram’s grandparent’s house to do homework and have dinner while Frong and Thara follow them back to their cottage.

“Where should we begin?” Thara asks when they’re all settled around the kitchen table.

“Uh… from the beginning?” Duen suggests.

“Oh, well, I heard that your car—”

“Even further back,” Bohn interrupts. “How on earth did you two end up together?”

“Oh!” Frong begins, “Well, originally I was supposed to get married to Duen—”

“How is that relevant?” Bohn growls.

“Well,” Frong continues, “At the time, I didn’t want to get married… so I compromised with my parents and went to study abroad instead. That’s where I met Thara.”

A few years ago…

Frong is drunk.

Horribly, miserably, can’t see straight drunk.

He should probably go, but there are too many people between him and the door.

Still, he tries to stumble in as straight of a line as he can towards the door.

He makes it there, miraculously.

The cool night air hits his face. Usually, it would be refreshing.

Tonight it only makes him more miserable.

It doesn’t smell quite right, it doesn’t feel quite right. Even through his drunken, hazy vision, it doesn’t look right.

It doesn’t sound right.

He doesn’t mind speaking English… but… it’d be nice to have a conversation with someone in Thai.

It’d be nice if girls didn’t come up to him and try to practice their broken Korean with him. They call him, ‘Oppa,’ and swoon, say that he looks like an idol.

Then he tells them that he’s from Thailand, and they find a way to leave the conversation.

He’s lonely.

Frong stumbles through the foreign city, back to campus.

His legs feel like overcooked noodles, his head is spinning, and he feels like he took his feet off then put them back on the wrong legs.

He runs into a side, hits his head hard with a loud CLANG! and falls flat on his back.

He blinks and groans and can’t find the will power to stand up. His head already hurt, now it hurts more.

“Are you okay?”

A handsome, concerned face appears in his blurry, blurry vision.

“I am okay!” Frong shouts in English and sighs. “I am not okay,” he sighs in Thai. “No, no, no… not okay.”

“Let me help you up,” the stranger says and it isn’t until Frong’s back on his feet that it registers…

“You are Thai?” he asks, jabbing the man in the chest, hard, with his pointer finger.

He hears the man’s affirming response and then blacks out.

Frong wakes up, sandwiched between two blankets on a bare university bed. There’s another bed just across from him, made up and empty.

He sits up and groans.

Gosh his head hurts, how much did he have last night?

He brings his hand up to his forehead and is surprised when his fingers come into contact with a bandage.

“Oh!” he mutters aloud, cringing at the hoarse sound of his voice. He remembers hitting his head now.

He sits in bed for a minute, rubbing gently at his forehead, and dissociates for who knows how long.

“Huh…” he grumbles after a while and forces himself out of bed.

He’s still in his clothes from last night, he reeks of alcohol, and he has no clue where he is or what happened after he blacked out.

There’s a post-it note next to a glass of water, a bottle of pain killer, and a shiny silver packaged pastry.

Hello! it says in Thai, and despite everything, Frong has to smile. How wonderful it is to read his native language. You had a pretty rough night last night. The water, pain killer, and pop-tart are for you. Sorry I couldn’t stick around, I had to go to class. It was nice to meet another person from Thailand! PS. Nothing happened last night, in case you were worried. I only bandaged your head.

Frong sighs. He wasn’t worried. Well… maybe he was a little.

He doesn’t remember last night well, but he remembers a face. A handsome face, with kind eyes and a warm smile. Someone he’d definitely be interested in.

Yeah okay, so he’s more than a little relieved and feels in higher spirits as he leaves the dorm room than he did since he went abroad.

Frong keeps an eye out for the man who helped him out, listens to see if he can hear anyone speaking Thai, even retraces his steps one night to the sign he hit his head on.

He gives up after the fall semester finishes. Then, over winter break when most students have gone home, he spots the man coming out of the science building with the other medical students.

After Frong sees him once, he begins to see him everywhere. He learns what days the man has class in the medical building, when he goes to the library, who a few of his friends are… he even learns that the man’s name is Thara.

He’s not a stalker, really. It’s just that… he can’t help but notice him, remember the things that he sees and hears.

Thara is just a person that he notices. A lot. Right now, campus is empty, so they cross paths frequently, but they never interact.

Frong wonders if Thara even remembers him in all his drunken glory.

Probably not.

Then the spring semester starts and Frong has to take some gen ed literature class. He gets to the lecture hall early and zones out as the other students begin to file in.

“Is this seat taken?” He hears a voice and startles.

He looks up to see the handsome man, Thara, smiling back down at him.

“Huh?”

“Is this seat taken?” Thara repeats, gesturing to the chair that holds Frong’s bag.

“Oh. Oh! No, it’s not! Let me move that.”

Frong fumbles to move his bag, blushing and clumsy and wondering if he really is this lucky to have the handsome man who helped him once sitting next to him in a class he otherwise assumed would be very, very dull.

So they sit next to each other for a few weeks without interacting much and the whole time Frong feels like he can’t breathe.

Then, midterms come up and they have an exam… well… they’ll have to write a paper in class, they have several possible prompts that their exam could be, all of them related to the content from the first few weeks of class.

Those first few weeks when Frong had especially not been paying attention.

Well… Hm… it will be a lot of long hours in the library it seems.

He sighs and resigns himself to his fate.

At least in the library, he’ll be free of distracting, handsome medical students.

Or so he thought.

Thara sits down at his table about twenty minutes after Frong sat down, says, “Hello,” and, “Do you want to study for our midterm together?”

“Huh?”

“Do you want to study for our midterm together? For our literature class?” Thara trails off. “I sit next to you,” he adds after Frong doesn’t respond.

“Yes! I mean, yes, let’s study together! Um. Gosh, I’m Frong.”

“Hello, Frong, I’m Thara.”

Just like that, Frong is now speaking to Thara. He even has his number now. They spend a few hours twice a week in the library together, even get a meal together afterwards sometimes.

Frong originally thought that since he’d be interacting with Thara, getting to know him, this… obsession, this crush would go away.

Oh ho ho, how he was wrong. He laughs at himself for being so naive.

He really likes Thara. Thara, who is handsome, kind, always ready to help, obsessed with his lizard, and a little weird.

Thara who makes his heart beat like crazy.

He’s never liked someone this much before.

Frong keeps his cool, maintains his grades, grows his friendship with Thara for the rest of the semester.

Then, two weeks before finals, the both of them realize that they need to ramp up their studying for their final literature exam.

So they begin to spend more time together, at the library, at a cafe just off of campus, outside picnicking when the weather is nice with a few of the books that they read during the past semester and sometimes they’ll read to each other and sometimes Frong will think, Wow, this is almost like a date, it would be so nice if I could put my head in his lap, maybe he’d put his book down and then play with my hair….

Then he remembers to breathe, to chill, to actually focus on the review materials… and that Thara probably just thinks of him as a study buddy.

Well… at this point, Thara probably thinks that they’re friends. There’s been a few times they get together to study, but hang out instead, a few times that they get together with the intent of hanging out and Frong likes to pretend that he doesn’t think of those as dates.

“Do you want to do something fun, to celebrate that exams are over?” Frong asks Thara one day at the end of their study session.

“Yeah! I’d love to,” Thara beams at him.

So after they’ve both finished their final exams, they go out to eat at one of the local hotspots in town.

The food is good, greasy, and cheap.

Thara animatedly tells him stories about his lizard, Cupcake. Frong loves watching him talk, loves his expressions, loves the sound of his voice, loves hearing about Cupcake, even.

Gosh he has it bad.

They go back to Thara’s dorm to watch a movie, the same dorm that Frong woke up in all those months ago.

“I don’t know if you remember,” Thara tells him, “But I helped you out once, when you were drunk.”

“I remember…” Frong smiles, feeling shy but happy that Thara remembers him. “Uh… thank you for taking care of me. You bandaged me up really well.”

Thara shrugs. “What are medical students for?”

They get into the bed Frong stayed in last time, the unoccupied one covered with blankets and pillows so it almost resembles a couch.

“What do you want to watch?”

“Something in Thai, please, please, I would not like to hear English again for a while,” Frong begs.

“What about Korean?”

“Ah… well…”

“Are you homesick?”

“Very. I have been for a long time.”

“It takes a while to get used to, being in a foreign country.”

“I didn’t even want to come,” Frong mutters petulantly.

Thara tilts his head. “Then why did you?”

“My parents… it was either I study abroad or get married… and the person they chose for me… he’s nice, sweet, I used to like him a little, sure, but not to the point of being married. I wasn’t ready for that… so I came here.”

Thara nods sagely. “Arranged marriages can be tricky…”

“Do you also…?”

“My parents don’t believe in that… my cousins will have to, perhaps. I was lucky to escape that.”

“What does your family…” Frong trails off. He feels rude asking, but he is curious.

“Rattananumchok Enterprises.”

Frong’s eyes widen. “I almost married into that family!” he exclaims sitting up, jostling Thara. “Duen, do you know Duen?”

“Duen is my cousin!” Thara exclaims.

Frong catches his breath and feels his heart climb into his throat. Oh crap, he told Thara that he used to like his cousin!

“Uh,” he looks to change the subject… “My family is Kankun… Kankun Corporation.”

“It’s funny that we never met before…” Thara smiles at him. “Although, my parents were never ones for the family business. I didn’t attend nearly as many events growing up.”

Frong sighs. “Well, you’re lucky. They weren’t fun.”

“Hm… It would have been nice to meet you, though,” Thara smiles at him, holding eye contact.

Frong’s eyes grow wider, he can’t look away.

“Um…” he’s grasping for something to say. “Should we choose a movie?”

He forces himself to refocus on the laptop screen and misses Thara’s affirming him, the pounding of his heart is too loud in his ears.

They end up watching Pee Mak, a Thai horror rom com that ends up being really sweet, and Frong says as much when the movie ends.

“That was really sweet.”

“Mhm,” Thara agrees.

They fall into a comfortable silence. Frong doesn’t want to move, he’s pressed up against Thara, warm and cozy. He wonders if Thara feels the same way or if he’s just too tired from finals to move.

A small ache fills his heart.

Now that the semester is over, will they still see each other?

They’re both staying for another year, but Thara will be a grad student. He’ll be so busy, will they be able to spend as much time together?

Will Thara want to spend time with him without their mutual class?

It’s now or never, Frong decides.

“Hey, Thara?”

“Hm?”

“I like you,” Frong confesses, boldly at first, but then repeats it again softer, “I really like you.”

“I like you, too,” Thara says simply and Frong’s not sure if he got it.

“Like… I want to be your boyfriend, like you, I mean.”

“Then be my boyfriend,” Thara smiles.

“... Okay.”

“Okay.”

They stare at each other for a moment, and Frong’s not sure if this is real because it feels rather underwhelming for a confession.

Is he Thara’s boyfriend now?

Thara said he should be, they both said okay.

So Thara feels the same way?

Lost in his own thoughts, he doesn’t notice the other boy moving closer until their noses touch.

Frong gasps, his eyes widen as Thara presses their lips together.

It takes him a moment, but then he closes his eyes and kisses back, hard. He’s wanted to kiss Thara for so long, he presses himself closer.

They part, kiss again, then part once more.

“So… boyfriends,” Frong breathes.

“Yes,” Thara smiles, resting his forehead against Frong’s.

So they’re boyfriends. They go on dates at least once a week, spend time together as often as they can, and kiss… a lot.

One day, almost a year into their relationship, Thara tells him that his cousin, Duen is getting married.

“Will you help me pick out something for him? I can’t go back home for the wedding, so I want to send him something nice.”

“Sure.”

So they spend the day at the mall and eventually pick out a really fancy set of knives.

Then they finish their last year abroad and return home together, eager to introduce each other to their families.

Except an ugly surprise awaits them.

Duen and his husband disappeared months ago and no one bothered to tell them until they got home.

End flashback

“So then,” Thara continues to tell the story. “We started to search, do research, ask around… Eventually we found your Nanny Fang, who put us in contact with Mek and Boss, who put us in contact with Ram and King… and then we came here.”

“To find us?” Duen breathes.

“Mhm,” Frong hums. “Thara refused to believe that you had died… there wasn’t any evidence that you had. So we looked and… it took a lot of time to figure everything out, and even more time to convince your friends to tell us where you were, but well, here we are.”

“Here you are…” Duen mutters.

There’s a moment of solemn silence that passes between them before Frong speaks up.

“And… there’s one more thing.”

“What is it?” Duen asks.

Frong and Thara exchange glances.

“We… need your help.”

“With what?”

Frong makes eye contact with Bohn.

“It has to do with your father.”

Chapter Text

“My father,” Bohn repeats deadpan. He heaves a sigh and slowly turns statue still. Duen can’t tell what he’s thinking about.

“Um… Bohn and his father…” he trails off wondering what he should explain and how.

“They haven’t been talking because he’s homophobic, power hungry, and tried to harm your family multiple times,” Frong filled in bluntly.

Duen slowly nods, a little shocked. “Uh-huh.”

“I understand why you may not want to interact with him again. The reason I came to find you is because I don’t want to interact with him, with that type of businessman.”

Frong says it so bitterly, so spitefully that Duen can’t help but wonder,

“What’s happened since we’ve been gone?”

“Hah,” Frong scoffs. “So much bullshit.”

Thara puts his hand on Frong’s arm, Frong visibly relaxes and sighs.

“After your death,” Thara begins to explain for Frong.

“‘Death’” Frong interjects forming air quotes with his fingers, less worked up but still bitter.

“After your alleged death, Bohn’s father tried to run again. He used your deaths to gain sympathy votes and…”

“And my father called him out on his bullshit,” Frong took over. “So it’s been pretty bad between our families. Our companies have been rivals for a long time, but it’s pretty bad now. They’re both seeking out higher profits and their methods of achieving such profits are…” Frong grimaces.

“Bad?” Duen fills in with a guess.

“Really bad,” Frong enthuses. “Low wages, shit benefits, long hours, little to no worker’s compensation, frequent layoffs without replacing the workers… Then they go and use the media to propagate themselves as the better company to work for.”

“That sounds about right,” Bohn mutters, speaking up for the first time. “But so what?”

Frong goggles at him. “So what?” he exclaims. “So it’s- it’s fucking important, that’s what!”

Bohn rolls his eyes.

“Look… I’m set to take over Kankun Corporations within the next year, my father is finally going to retire. The rivalry between our two companies… It's so fake. It’s so fake. My father and your father have a plan to create several contracts together, ally ourselves together, all this other bullshit over the next few years, except I’m the one who is supposed to do it now and I don’t particularly feel like dealing with your father.”

“Huh?”

“I want you to come back and take over your family’s company. I’d rather deal with you than your father in our future business negotiations. I also think you’re more likely to reverse some of the company policies your father has implemented, just like I plan to. We could make our companies extraordinarily prosperous by collaborating and providing proper compensation and benefits to our workers.”

Bohn furrows his brow and sits up straight. “You could do this all on your own, you don’t need me to help.”

“I could,” Frong admits and he sighs. “There’s more to the picture. There’s- hah,” Frong sighs and clenches his fist.

“Fake rivalry between our companies, right? It gives our fathers an excuse to implement horrible shitty business decisions at the expense of the workers. You and I could change that. But there’s more. More… illegal type things that our fathers are getting up to, together. It’s the type of situation where… I don’t know if we could put a stop to it without taking both parties down and… I think it would benefit our fight if you and Duen were also involved in this.”

“What… what type of illegal things?”

“Embezzlement, human trafficking, organ harvesting… We have proof, I'm not just saying this. We've been gathering proof for the past few years now.”

“What the fuck,” Bohn mutters. “But why do you need me? I haven’t touched any business type things in years! I’ve been working as a farm hand… we’ve been living… We've been living a simple life.”

“Because. Because.” Frong shakes his head. “Because it has to be you to take over the company. Otherwise it’d be your father’s choice! I don’t want to work with someone under your father’s thumb! If it’s you… then we can work together, properly. You’re the person who has the most legitimate claim as heir to the company, you’re the person who would actually work to make a difference for the workers! Don’t you get it? You and I have the chance to make a big difference, but we have to work together!”

Bohn is silent for a long time. Duen can feel the conflict radiating off of him. He himself is conflicted. On one hand, they should go back and try to make a difference. They’d be able to help so many people if they did. On the other hand, they’ve settled into their life here. They know peace and happiness now. Going back… they’d have to revisit so many things that they’ve tucked away in their heart.

“I need to think about it,” Bohn eventually mutters. “Um…”

“There’s no rush! Thara and I are here for a couple of days.”

“Speaking of which,” Thara speaks up, “Is there a hotel or motel or something in town?”

“No,” Duen says, “There isn’t. We wouldn’t have you stay there if there was one anyway. You can take Ben’s room, he can bunk with us… Or you can stay with Ram’s grandparents, they have a few extra rooms.”

“We don’t want to be an inconvenience.”

“It’s no inconvenience!” Duen promises. “Here, I’ll help you get settled in.”

While Frong and Thara gather their things, Duen checks in with Bohn.

“What are you thinking?” he mutters to his husband.

“I don’t know… I’m… I don’t know what I want to do.”

“Let’s talk about it tonight.”

Bohn blinks up at him and nods. Duen leans down and presses a kiss to his forehead, then turns his attention back to Thara and Frong.

“Follow me!” he says brightly.

He introduces the pair to Ram’s grandparents and explains their relationship. Ram’s grandparents are familiar with his and Bohn’s story and are shocked that someone found them, but are grateful that they have some family who care enough to seek them out.

“We’ll take good care of them,” Ram’s grandmother promises with a twinkle in her eye.

He leaves them to her and returns to his husband, who’s grown less distraught since he left him.

“What are you thinking?” he asks as he plops down next to Bohn on the couch.

“I don’t know.”

“No? Well… I guess… Do you want to return to Thailand?”

“I… I do miss it, and seeing everyone often. It’d be nice to return… but…”

“It’d be hard. It’d be so difficult and hard, we’d have to push, and fight, and claw our way back to live safely and comfortably.”

Bohn nods sagely and side eyes Duen.

“What do you think?” he asks.

“I think… I think we should go back,” Duen admits.

“Really?”

“I think the fight is worth it. I think we can do it, with Ram and King, Boss and Mek, now Thara and Frong… I don’t know what their plan is, or if they have a plan, but I think it’s worth taking this chance. Of course… if you don’t want to, Bohn, then we don’t have to. I’ll follow you anywhere, we could happily live the rest of our days in Australia.”

“We could. I want to. But… I also… I think I owe it to myself, to you and to Ben, and well, to all of the workers that my father is mistreating, to go back and try.” Bohn grows solem and takes Duen’s hand. “With your support, I can do anything. With you by my side, I can do this.”

Duen rests his head on Bohn’s shoulder to hide his smile. Bohn’s words fill him with warmth and admiration. He loves his husband, he’s proud of his husband. He knows that they can do this, they have each other, they can do anything.


“We’re in,” Bohn confirms with Thara and Frong that evening. “What’s the plan?”

Frong and Thara glance at each other. Thara’s smiling and Frong is almost smiling.

“Well the plan,” Frong says. “Um…”

“So there is no plan?” Duen guesses.

“There is one… kind of.”

“Kind of is good enough,” Bohn says firmly. “We’d try even if there wasn’t a plan.”

Frong heaves a sigh of relief. “That’s wonderful to hear. I’m so glad you’re willing to try.”

“Try what?” Ben speaks up.

“Ben, buddy, we’re going to move back to Thailand.”

“Huh?”

“We’re going to go back.”

“...Oh.”

Ben’s face crumples and he’s crying and immediately, Duen is by his side to comfort him.

“I know,” he tries to sooth. “It will be hard, but we have to go back, Ben.”

“Will I get to see Nanny Fang again?”

“Mhm.”

“And Ram and King?”

“Mhm.”

“Then it’s okay I guess,” Ben cries even harder.

Duen brings him into the living room and sits down with him on the couch, holding him until he calms down.

“Why do we have to go back?” Ben asks after a little bit, after the tears have slowed down. His face is flushed pink and Duen wipes the tear stains away, caressing his cheeks with his thumbs.

“You remember Bohn’s father,” he begins quietly.

“I do…” Ben whispers.

He does, Duen knows he does. They talk about him at therapy sometimes, unpack some of the trauma he’s left them with. But those conversations are always hard, tear filled, and usually they get ice cream afterwards.

“I guess… you could say that we’re going back to put a stop to his wrong doings.”

“What is he doing?”

“Being mean. Um. Not treating people fairly, as well as some illegal stuff.”

“So he treats everyone badly, not just his family,” Ben mutters bitterly.

“It seems that way,” Duen agrees quietly. “But your Pa and I… if we go back with Uncle Frong and Uncle Thara we can change all of that and make life better for many, many people.”

Ben sighs and rests his forehead against Duen’s shoulder. “Okay,” he mutters. “I guess that’s okay then.”

Duen hugs him tight and kisses his head. “My sweet son,” he mutters. “I love you.”

“Love you too, Dad.”


Bohn holds Duen close to him, caressing his hair gently so he doesn’t wake him up. They went to bed a few hours ago. Duen fell asleep easily. Bohn’s having a harder time.

Ben seems to be okay with going back, Duen is also happy to go back. Bohn… he’s not sure how he feels.

He misses Thailand, he misses his friends and his family. The ache is always there, hiding in his heart. He’d love to go back.

He’s scared to go back.

He’s finally known some peace and happiness since they fled. Their family has grown closer. He knows what it means to take pride in his work. He understands how to appreciate the simple things in life.

But… he can’t just stay here in this bliss knowing that his father is causing harm to so many people. He has to do something about it. Has to put a stop to his father’s selfish ways.

Growing up, he’d only ever known how his father’s power hungry ways harm him. He’s experienced that suffering his whole life, well, until Duen. Duen showed him brightness, happiness, and love, and together they left Bohn’s childhood woes behind.

Now, he can see that his father’s power hungry ways have harmed more than just him. They harmed his family and thank goodness they were able to escape. Yet, his father hasn’t stopped. He’s harming the lives of so many people and Bohn can see it so clearly now.

He has to go back, he has to fix it. He and his family deserve it, all of those people deserve it, and his father deserves to be brought to justice for his evils and crimes.

Chapter Text

“What on earth are we doing?” Bohn mutters under his breath.

They’re finally back in Thailand, after a long flight, a train ride, and then a car ride to one of Boss and Mek's many off the grid places. He and Duen sit around a table with Ram and King, Mek and Boss, and Thara and Frong. They reunited with Nanny Fang earlier, she and Ben are catching up and spending time together.

It was a special moment when Ben and Nanny Fang first reunited. Since discovering more about his family lineage, Bohn has started to refer to her as ‘Grandma.’ So when Ben saw her again for the first time in four years, he called out, “Grandma Fang!” and threw himself into her welcoming arms.

Grandma Fang gasped and squeezed her great grandson tight.

“I’m glad you boys are safe.”

It was a teary reunion for all of them.

Now, though, they’re trying to figure out what the heck to do next.

“This is very messy,” Boss says, “Very, very messy. Ultimately, the goal is to get Bohn as the official next legal heir to S.G… That’s not going to be an easy battle. So! We must first announce to the public that Bohn is back! Who is going to inherit S.G. is already a hot topic in the media, so we can count on reporters to help raise the question, who on earth is going to inherit S.G.? Then, it will be a legal battle!”

“What about the rest of it?” Bohn asks.

“What rest of it?” Boss asks.

“Embezzlement, organ harvesting, human trafficking…”

“Huh?” Boss asks, genuinely confused.

Bohn glares at Frong, looking for him to speak up. Frong refuses to look at anyone and takes a sip from his water.

“Frong!”

“Huh?”

“Did you lie?”

Frong blinks innocently. “About?”

Bohn smacks the table and Frong sighs. “Oh well, no, I didn’t lie. Mostly. I am 85% sure that our fathers are getting up to something illegal. At least the embezzlement part. Um. I am still compiling evidence. To. Prosecute them. Hah.”

“What’s important!” Thara speaks up to defend his partner, “is that you guys are safely back, we have the chance to rectify so many wrongs.”

Bohn crosses his arms over his chest and grumbles to himself as he leans back in his seat. “I guess,” he sighs, although he knows that whatever they’re about to embark on will probably give him closure.

“So what’s our plan with the media?” Duen pipes up.

“There’s this influencer-” Boss begins animatedly and Mek sighs.

“Influencer?” Bohn asks.

“Yeah! Ting Ting! She has a following of fifty five thousand people! Now, some are foreigners, but her base in Thailand is pretty strong. She’s independent, too, and she’s willing to do an interview with you guys for her YouTube channel!”

“She has a good sense of humor, her fan base are likely to care about your story since many of her posts are video essays about the latest BL show,” Mek explains. “The problem is that… her fan base is young, they might not know you guys. Her videos are silly, too, and we want to be taken seriously. So, there’s a chance that this might not get the traction we need it to get.”

Boss waves his hand in dismissal. “She’s our best bet!”

Mek nods reluctantly, “She is.”

“How did you guys get her to agree to this?” Duen asks.

“It’s Ting Ting from college,” Ram explains quietly.

“Ting Ting from college!” Duen breaks out into a wide grin.

“Ting Ting from college?” Bohn asks.

“She was one of our best friends!” Duen explains, clasping his hands together. “We fell out of contact a while ago, but if it’s the same Ting Ting, then we’re in good hands.”

“She hasn’t changed,” Ram smiles slightly, fondly.

“Should we be jealous?” King whispers to Bohn, jokingly.

“That remains to be seen,” Bohn jokes back.


Ting Ting is just as bubbly, sweet, and ridiculous as Ram and Duen remember her. She rushes towards them to hug them, squealing and jumping all the while.

“Duen, I’m so glad that you’re alive!” she beams. Her voice drops slightly. “Your husband is handsome. Yours too, Ram…” she pouts and sighs. “Everyone has a handsome hubby except for me,” she gripes.

Duen softens and grins. Ting Ting really hasn’t changed. Her vibrant bouncy nature is refreshing, but nostalgic at the same time. Being together with her and Ram makes him feel like he’s back in college, back at a simpler time in his life.

They film, Mek and Boss help her edit it, and then with bated breath they pull it up on the flat screen TV to watch the final product.

Interview with my college bestie and his husband!

“Hi guys!” Ting Ting’s usually bubbly greeting starts the video. “I’m so excited, today I finally got to catch up with one of my besties from college!” She drops her voice to a stage whisper, “He has a really handsome husband~!” She pouts, “When will I have a handsome hubby?” She beams again, “That’s okay! We will get a chance to look into their happy love life today, it will be exciting~!”

The video cuts to their interview.

Duen’s cheeks are a little pink, obviously camera shy, and Bohn sits very stiffly, reminiscent of his many years being a prop for his father’s media appearances.

“So! Introduce yourselves!”

“Oh! Um, I’m Duen and this is my husband Bohn. We got married almost five years ago and we have an eleven year old son. We’ve just moved back to Thailand! It’s so nice to be back.”

“Oh! Where did you live before?”

“Australia, on a ranch,” Bohn answers stiffly.

“Oh a ranch, I’m sure it was a lot of fun! Now that you’re back, what do you hope to do?”

“Well,” Bohn smirks slightly. “We plan to reunite with our family. We moved suddenly, you see, and it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to talk.” He chuckles. “They probably think we’re dead,” he says lightly, joking.

“I do recall seeing something like that…” Ting Ting plays along.

“Well, we had fun in Australia. We learned a lot, we grew closer as a family, but now it’s time to get down to business,” Bohn says formally. This part right here is the whole part of the clip. “I’ve come back a better person, I’m ready to inherit S.G., to take it to the next level.”

“S.G., that’s your family company?”

“Yes, it’s my mother’s family company.”

“So your mother runs it? We love a girlboss!”

“No, she passed away when I was young.”

Duen takes Bohn’s hand and squeezes it. Bohn turns and gives him a soft, adoring look before he continues to talk. “My father runs it, right now, but it’s supposed to stay in the family line. Since I’m her only son, it’s my duty to step up.”

“And you’re ready to do that now?”

“Mhm.”

Ting Ting smiles softly. “We’ll all be cheering for your success.”

They’re playing a game in the rest of the video, the one where they have to guess the thing written on the card as they hold it to their forehead by asking yes or no questions. The editing makes it more funny, more entertaining, and they laugh out loud a few times as they watch it.

They upload the video and with bated breath refresh the page. Several times.

“It usually takes about an hour or two for the first couple thousand views to come in,” Ting Ting exhales, then laughs.

“I don’t know why I expected a million views within the first two seconds of uploading it,” Duen mutters.

“Let’s step away from it for now,” Boss suggests.

They end up playing a board game for the next few hours and when they come back to check the video…

“Holy shit!” King mutters.

“One point two million views?” Boss exclaims gleefully.

“Check out the comment section,” Mek murmurs as he scrolls down.

OMG~ Bohn Duen! I can’t believe they’re alive!

Thank you, Ting Ting, for interviewing Bohn and Duen!

Did they really fake their death? I don’t understand what happened, we need more answers!

Of course this fucker came back to seek the family fortune. Greedy bastard

How do we know that they’re really Bohn and Duen? This could easily be fake

My first OTP! Is Still! Together~~~!!!

I'm rooting for you, Bohn and Duen!

“There’s also a commotion in the media, look at all of these articles.”

Bohn takes the phone from Boss and scrolls. There’s so many articles speculating why they disappeared, rehashing what happened four years ago, what the implications are for S.G.

There’s another video consistently being mentioned throughout all of the articles and they pull it up.

It’s an interview with Bohn’s father.

“That was quick,” Bohn mutters.

His father is crying—’crying’—in the video.

“I’m so happy to know that my son and his family are alive and well,” his father sniffles.

“Mister Sirikarnkul, what does this mean for the future of S.G. company?” the interviewer asks.

“Well, he’s been out of the business for so long. I don’t know if he’s the best candidate to take over S.G.”

“Even though it’s his mother’s company?”

“We have to think about the workers… They need someone experienced, someone who knows how the company works.”

“So you’re saying that your son isn’t qualified for the job, even though he’s worked at your company for several years?”

Bohn’s father laughs dryly, no longer teary. “No, not at all. He just might not be right for the position now.”

“Fucker!” Bohn spits, interrupting the video just before it finishes. “He has no plans to let me take over the company.”

Boss bounces on his toes. “Looks like we’ll have to go to court!”

“Looks like we’ll have to go to court,” Bohn repeats dully. He sighs.

This won’t be easy.

Chapter Text

Many people reach out to them looking for an interview, which of course, choosing which ones to accept is a whole ordeal. Bohn finds that he doesn’t want to accept any, and he doesn’t, much to the disappointment of the public.

Obviously the people want to see Bohn and his father confront each other. They want more info from both sides, not because they particularly care about the issue. Rather, the drama of it all is passing entertainment.

Workers are also using this as an opportunity to speak up about their working conditions, of course, they are getting less attention.

Bohn’s father takes another interview on his own.

“So you’re taking a step back?” the interviewer asks him in genuine surprise.

“I am,” Bohn’s father nods solemnly. “My brother in law is the other candidate set to take over the company. We’ve been training him for the past few years, ever since my son disappeared. I can’t decide this on my own, obviously I have my own biases. So it will be up to the stockholders of the company, they’ll take a vote and decide.”

“Uncle?” Bohn sputters, clicking off the TV. His mind races a million miles a minute. “I didn’t know he- I didn’t realize that- what the fuck?”

“Hey you don’t think-” Boss begins.

“What?” Bohn spins around and cuts him off quickly. He stares at Boss intently, eyes piercing into Boss’s as if he’s trying to see Boss’s thoughts.

“Do you think your step-mother was playing the long game?”

Bohn catches his breath. It had crossed his mind the moment his father mentioned his brother-in-law.

“But why would she try to kill Duen about it?” Boss speculates and Bohn glowers at him.

“She was trying to get to Bohn,” Mek speaks up.

“Huh? How?” Boss asks.

“I’ve seen this in dramas!” comes a voice and Bohn spins around to see his husband standing in the doorway.

“Huh?” Bohn asks.

“She saw that we love each other, she tried to kill me to destroy your spirit, because she probably couldn’t kill you and get away with it. Then, she could position her brother in place to take over your family’s company!” Duen explains triumphantly.

Bohn exhales hard and places his hands on his hips.

“This changes the game, doesn’t it,” King pipes up, and Bohn spins once more, surprised because he forgot his friend was sitting there with Ram.

“Huh?”

“Well… doesn’t it make it a lot simpler?” King tries to explain. “From what I understand, the company is supposed to stay in your family. Like… your bloodline, that sort of thing. Your step uncle or whatever doesn’t have a legitimate claim to it, according to the will of your grandparents and mother and the company’s contract.”

“Do you think?”

“Yeah, before we were fighting your father. He might have had a better claim to it, and maybe he can make some headway with the ‘best candidate for the company’ thing, but it’s a lot easier to enter a legal battle with your step-mom and uncle.”

“Yeah, but they’re going to have his father’s support,” Ram says, serious and soft.

“That’s okay,” Boss dismisses. “We also have a fair amount of resources.”

From that point on, whatever plan they had been forming becomes more cohesive.

It’s weird. Bohn and Duen have so many people working to help them that they almost don’t have to do anything. They enjoy being back in Thailand, and spend quality time with Nanny Fang and their friends, and with each other.

“It feels like a break,” Duen whispers into his husband’s chest.

They’re lying in bed together, having slept in a little. The court date is rapidly approaching and somehow Bohn feels both calm and anxious about it.

“After these past few years… for sure,” Bohn agrees.

“What do we do if we lose?” Duen wonders in a low voice.

Bohn sighs. “What do we do if we win?” he entones. He presses a kiss to Duen’s forehead. “Whatever happens will happen. Whether we take down my father or not… he can’t touch us anymore. We put ourselves back into the story, we can take ourselves out again easily.”

“And go back to Australia?”

Bohn shakes his head. “No. We’re staying here. I want to stay here,” his voice breaks. “And Ben deserves some sort of stability, doesn’t he?”

Duen rubs his hand over Bohn’s chest in a soothing fashion. “He certainly does,” he murmurs, a tinge of sadness ringing through his voice.

Bohn holds Duen closer and nudges his nose along Duen’s hairline.

At least through it all they’ve been together.


The first day of trial approaches quickly. The media draws more attention to the case than necessary. Bohn’s sure the public is sick of hearing about this. Still, there’s a large crowd in the courtroom.

It passes by in a strange blur. Bohn remembers testifying, explaining their story. Mostly, their attorney draws his argument from the legal documentation, and well, that is difficult to argue against.

Bohn’s father’s lawyers put up a good argument, regardless.

Bohn remembers the end the most clearly. He remembers sitting on the edge of his seat, holding tightly onto Duen’s hand, hardly daring to breathe.

They win.

The rest of the evening is a blur. They order food, champagne, all sorts of spirits, and get drunk out of their mind with celebration—after Ben’s in bed of course.

In the following month, Bohn, Duen, and Ben move into a new home. It’s smaller than their manor, bigger than their cottage in Australia, and truly perfect for their family.

Soon Bohn will have to return to S.G. He has to go out and buy new clothes for work. He and Duen are also busy re-enrolling Ben in school, setting up their new home, and Duen searches for a job.

Bohn’s first day of work approaches quickly and the morning of his first day back he has to reconcile with something he has not thought about the whole month.

For the past month, and beforehand too, during the trial and the interviews that he didn’t accept, he hasn’t actually met with his father. He hasn’t spoken with him. They’ve seen each other in the courtroom, but there’s not been a proper reunion.

Now, not only is it his first day back at S.G.

It’s also his first time meeting his father.

Chapter Text

Somehow he doesn’t meet his father until lunch. He waits throughout the morning, heart tight in anticipation of being called to his father’s office. Nothing happens.

Nothing happens until a woman, his father’s secretary, he supposes, informs him that he’s needed on the top floor.

His father sits lazily behind his desk, feet propped up, smirking. The only sign of tension is his arms folded over his chest.

“So,” he smirks when Bohn approaches his desk. “You win, I guess.”

Bohn catches his breath for a moment. It acts as a cork, his heart tightening, and when he finally exhales, the rage that it holds back courses through his veins.

“I win I guess?” he seethes. “After all this time, after all the shit you’ve put me through, that’s all you have to say?”

His father shrugs. “Well, what do you want me to say? You finally have the company fully in your grasp, despite my own wishes.”

Bohn sputters. “Well, you could say, ‘Hello, son. Sorry that I pushed you to the point of faking your death. I’m glad you’re alive and I’ll help you successfully take over the company?’ Among many other things?” he grits out.

“Hah,” Bohn’s father laughs. “Sure, I guess.” He sits up slightly, letting his feet fall with a thunk to the floor. “I didn’t think that it was that bad that you had to fake your death,” he comments.

“You tried to kill my husband! Several times! You orchestrated several attacks against me and my family and you’ve treated me like shit my entire life!”

“But to fake your death? Dramatic,” his father sing-songs, keeping his cool as Bohn trembles and shakes with years of pent up anger.

He can’t respond. His father still holds a strange power over him and he waits for him to break the silence.

“I’m not going to help you take over the company,” his father informs him after a long pause. He smirks slightly. “We’ll see how well you do on your own.”

Now it’s Bohn’s turn to smirk. “I’ll do fine,” he grits through faux pleasantry. “I’m capable, I’m more than capable, okay? You just watch, I’ll bring S.G. into a golden era.” He smacks his fist against the palm of his hand in a decisive manner.

Filled with confidence, and some rage, Bohn strides out of his father’s office. It isn’t until he’s in the elevator going back down that his knees give out and he holds onto the wall for support.

No matter what would have happened, he can’t see a way that he could have met his father and left feeling good, or at least okay. But he feels a little ashamed for his rash childness back in the office. His father kept his composure and he rose to his bait.

He puffs a quick breath of air out the side of his mouth and sighs.

At least he has the determination, the will power, to follow through.

It wasn’t even in the plan for him to rely on his father to help him transition… Frong just needs to follow through on his promise.

He can do this, right?


Frong finishes compiling evidence against their fathers and arranges for it to suddenly and mysteriously surface. Once a few people catch wind of it, it’s all over the place, it’s all people are talking about, and they curse Bohn and Frong’s families’ names.

Big businessmen can sometimes get out of the consequences of their actions, but what Frong and Bohn’s fathers did was big. It didn’t help Bohn’s father’s case that he had just lost the other trial and was already low in the public eye.

Miraculously, justly, they win.

Bohn and Frong’s fathers are imprisoned.

Within the next year the two have completely taken over their family’s company.

It wasn’t easy, especially with stockholders pushing back, but eventually, they disperse their power, give more rights to the workers, increase wages, benefits… it’s a radical change, but they still accrue money.

S.G. truly does enter a golden era, and Bohn feels satisfaction every time he thinks about his father, watching bitterly from jail.

He doesn’t visit him.

He cuts off ties with his wealth hungry step mother and her family.

He knows who his family is. Duen and Ben, Nanny Fang, Ram and King, Mek and Boss, even Thara and Frong now.

Now he can finally breathe. Now he can live the rest of his days happily.

The End