Chiang Mai, Three Years Ago
Luke wakes to the sound of sirens. Where is he... He squints his eyes open to unfamiliar surroundings, an alleyway somewhere... And then the recollection comes rushing to his mind, like a film on fast forward – the confrontation, Mond’s injury, the Phunsawat family in a fury like they’ve never seen before, a frantic call for help from one of his men, and Mix...
He sits up and his head spins, but he pushes himself to his feet. Mix!
Mix had been ablaze with thoughts of revenge, demanding that they go after the perpetrators before they hurt someone else, recklessly throwing himself into an ambush.
Luke feels sick, and he knows it’s not from the throbbing ache in his forehead.
He casts his gaze around for a familiar face and has never been more grateful to see Nanon in his life. The quiet young man is leaning on a garbage bin, looking at his phone like there isn’t anything important going on around him.
“Nanon,” Luke calls, his voice a rasp, and he reaches up to his throat and remembers hands wrapping around his neck, trying to choke him...
“Hi,” Nanon greets, putting his phone away and sauntering over to Luke. “Rough night, huh?”
“Mix,” Luke manages, and Nanon steps up to slip an arm around him to help him stay upright. “Is he-?”
“He’ll be fine,” Nanon tells him, and Luke feels the panic subside a little. “He lost some blood, and he probably shouldn’t be planning any beach trips for a while…”
“He was shot,” Luke says, both remembering and confirming. I let him get shot.
Nanon nods. “He’s at the hospital... where you should probably be. Your head looks gross.”
“I’m fine,” Luke says. I let the Boss’s brother get shot.
The men who were supposed to be protecting Mond were severely punished for their failure, and Mond is only a high-ranking member of the family.
Mix is the Phunsawat family heir.
Nanon clears his throat.
“Do you want to see Mix first or...”
Or go back to the house, Luke finishes in his mind. He knows that the Boss will have sent for him.
Bangkok, Present Day
Earth downs his third shot of the night and glares at his friends.
Stay home, Podd had advised, let’s just have a night in. But had Earth listened? No.
And now he’s getting drunk with the friends who are the very epitome of bad decision makers.
“I can’t believe I let you drag me into this.”
Joss slings an arm around his shoulder and gives him a conspiratory grin. “What are you talking about?! Our friend gets dumped and we don’t take him out to celebrate?”
“Orrr-,” Tul declares, “Celebrate orr find someone new to hook up with.”
“Or that!” Joss roars in agreement. He raises his glass and Earth finds himself clinking his fourth shot against it. The vodka burns down his throat and he thinks he understands why people drink away their pain.
“Look,” Tul says. “You go up to the next good-looking person you see and just ask them out.”
“How is that supposed to help me?” Earth demands. “We’ll go out and a month later they’ll suddenly realise they want someone else?”
Joss and Tul both groan in frustration at the same time.
“I give up,” Joss says. “Go get us the next round, Earth, if we have to listen to you whine about your ex all night.”
“That is, if you can even call someone you went out with for a month your ex,” Tul sniggers.
Earth pushes back from the table. “I should have stayed with Podd, at least he would’ve been nicer to me.”
Mix Sahaphap is in the middle of an argument he has had at least fifty times this year.
“I told you, everyone’s meeting up, our results are up and it’s our last chance to celebrate. Of course I’ll be fine! Just – ugh, Khao, talk to him!” Mix thrusts his phone in Khaotung’s direction. Khaotung tilts his head and fits it between his ear and shoulder while trying to park his car.
“Hi, Luke, yeah, I’m here… No, I’m not drinking, I drove… I’ll make sure he gets home. No, you don’t need to come -”
Mix starts grabbing for the phone and Khaotung swats him away, switching the engine off with his other hand. “You really don’t! Okay, okay, I’ll do that! Bye!”
Khaotung hangs up and returns the phone. “Aren’t you glad I’m your friend?”
“You sound like my chaperone,” Mix pouts. “You should stop enabling Luke’s paranoia.”
“You know he’s only worried because –”
“I know, I know.” Mix sighs, then shakes his head to clear it. “Anyway, let’s get going!”
Khaotung gives him an amused look. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so excited for a night out.”
“I dunno, Khao,” Mix grins, tilting Khaotung’s mirror to adjust his hair and make sure he looks good enough to hit the bar. “I just have a good feeling about tonight.”
Earth returns to his table to find that it’s suddenly occupied by strangers. He stands there, blinking for a moment until Joss winds an arm around his neck wheels him over to another table, almost manhandling him onto the seat.
“All right, all right, introductions!” Tul appears to have made himself comfortable in the seat opposite them with a couple of young women. “This sad sack sitting across from me is Earth, he’s recently heartbroken and bumming everyone out, please be nice to him. Next to him is Joss and I,” he smirked, “You can call me Tul.”
“Can we call you jackass?” Joss laughed.
“You can call me whatever you want,” Tul bats his eyelids and makes a kissy face at him and Earth shakes his head.
“Sorry if we’re interrupting your night,” he tells the young man next to him.
“It’s fine, we’re celebrating the end of finals,” he says. He holds out a hand. “I’m Pond. Sorry about your breakup, man.”
Earth shakes the offered hand. “I’ll, uh, get over it.”
They go through a quick round of introductions. Besides Pond, Earth is also introduced to the girls, Jane and Aye, and learns that they're all about to be in their final semester of college.
"We're also waiting for - ah there they are!"
“Heyy sorry we’re late – We brought more drinks!” The two newcomers take a moment to look around the table, obviously wondering who Earth, Joss and Tul are, but they recover quickly enough.
“Mix Sahaphap and Khaotung Thanawat! At last!” Aye gets up to help him with the drinks, passing around bottles and glasses. “We were just about to nominate someone to get another round.”
“Why isn’t anyone drunk yet?” The man named Mix asks, peering closely around the table as though looking to see signs of drunkenness and Earth can’t believe that his first thought is damn he’s cute.
“We were waiting for you!” Pond laughs. “Can’t have a party without our ace student!”
“Ha ha, pull the other one,” Mix responds dryly, but he's laughing too, as they shift around until they have room for the two newcomers too.
Mix ends up wedged between Earth and Joss. "Sorry, it's kind of a tight fit," he says with an apologetic, and unfairly gorgeous, smile.
Podd was wrong, Earth thinks. He definitely made the right decision by coming out today.
Time loses all meaning for Earth pretty soon, with the lights and the low, thumping bar music and the sheer amount of alcohol flowing through his system.
“You know what time it is?” Jane slurs, banging a fist against the table for attention. “I said, do you know what time it is??”
“Don’t say drinking -,” Khaotung begins.
Mix cuts him off, all but yelling in response to Jane's suggestion, “It’s time for a drinking game!"
The suggestion is met by cheers and instructions to bring another round of drinks while Jane and Mix explain the rules. The game apparently involves counting and something to do with the number 21 but Earth is too drunk for math at this point, and there seem to be new rules added with every round.
“Okay new rule,” Aye announces, clapping her hands for attention after two rounds have passed without incident. “If someone messes up, we all have to link arms with the person next to us and finish our drinks.”
They start off, and Joss forgets to clap on the number four – one of the new rules added a couple of rounds ago – and they all raise their drinks. Earth turns to Mix, and they cross arms. Earth is very fascinated by the length of Mix’s eyelashes seen so close up, and this is only because he refuses to focus on the way the other man's lips glisten so invitingly in the darkness.
Earth raises his drink to his lips and Mix does the same, the corner of his lips turned up in amusement as they action brings them even closer together.
The next time they have to do the same action, Earth chooses to bend the rules and, instead of drinking out of his own glass, offers it to Mix, who smiles before leaning forward to accept the drink.
Earth isn’t sure how many rounds pass but there are too many rules and they don’t get through a single round without taking a drink, and Earth finds Mix’s hand coming to rest on his own on the seat. Earth turns his hand so that he can entangle their fingers together. Earth's skin tingles with the contact as Mix's thumb traces idle patterns on his palm.
Maybe Joss and Tul are right - there's more than one way to get over a breakup.
He turns his head so that he can speak into Mix's ear, letting his lips brush the delicate shell as he does.
"Wanna get some fresh air?"
Mix wakes to the insistent ringing of his cellphone.
He blinks his eyes open slowly, surprised by the darkness of the room. It’s the first sign that he is not at home: his room is always flooded with light in the mornings. At least, he assumes it’s morning.
His phone is buzzing insistently next to him, the display picture of a smiling Luke taking on a threatening aura.
“What?” he mutters, answering the call.
“Where are you?!” Luke’s voice sounds at least an octave higher than normal. “I’ve been calling you for hours and Khao told me he can’t reach you either.”
“I’m fine, I’m… Where am I?”
“You got drunk and went off with some guy and how the hell do I know where you are?!”
“I haven’t been kidnapped or anything –”
“That’s not funny!”
Luke is angry, and Mix cringes, because Luke has every right to be angry. He’d been irresponsible last night and should have updated him. “Sorry. But I’m fine, I’ll be home soon,” he promises.
“Text me your location and I’ll send a car.”
Mix hangs up and is trying to un-burrow himself from the bedcovers when his foot comes in contact with something solid on the bed, and he scrambles to sit up just as what he imagined to be additional blankets reveals a dishevelled, dark-haired man who gives him a lopsided smile as he sits up.
“Mm, good morning, sunshine.”
The man is shirtless, and from Mix can see has a toned upper body and distracting muscles but Mix reminds himself to try and put a name to the only somewhat familiar, though pleasant enough, face.
The silence stretches long enough for the man’s smile to dim, though it is still genuine enough to make Mix feel more at ease than he’d’ve thought. There is something... comforting... about the man, though right now he looks distinctly put out. “You remember me, right?”
Mix narrows his eyes as he studies the man, still trying to place him in his vague but gradually growing memories of last night. “Wait... was it… Joss?” No, Mix’s brain says, Joss was the really big guy... Which makes this one - he grins his jubilation, putting fist on palm in an ‘aha!’ gesture - “Earth!”
“Oh, thank god,” Earth says, flopping back onto the bed with a sigh of relief.
Mix notices he has a tattoo down his side, and one on his bicep, and stares distractedly again before gathering himself and asking the next important question. “Uh- about last night,” he begins. He doesn’t feel like anything of that sort happened, and he’s still mostly clothed… but he is also very aware of how clingy he can get when he is drunk, or tired… or just feeling clingy.
Earth laughs as though reading his thoughts, raising a hand to wave his concern away. “Don’t worry. We both got a little too drunk and ended up here, and went to bed and nothing else…” He pauses, his smile turning a little embarrassed. “Ok, I’m pretty sure we made out a little too.”
Mix feels the heat rise in his cheeks. Not that Earth isn’t incredibly good looking but Mix is better than this, he has to blame whoever came up with that damn drinking game.
He has a bad feeling he'd come up with it himself.
“Sorry.” Mix ducks his head. He swings his legs over the edge of the bed, wriggling his toes on the carpet. He is starting to remember that Earth is a stranger and Mix is certainly taking advantage of his kindness. He finds that his jeans, which he had lost sometime last night, have been slung neatly on the back of a chair and he gets up, hoping they’re still wearable and no one threw up on them or anything.
“You could use the shower,” Earth says, lounging on the bed and watching him. “It’ll save you having to do the walk-of-shame back home.”
Mix gives him a surprised look. He’s just been thinking that his hair feels gross and how much he’d appreciate a shower before facing Luke’s righteous anger... Earth’s behaviour is almost impossibly civil, and that is definitely weird.
He narrows his eyes again, this time in suspicion. “Listen. If you think you’re gonna get something out of me just by being nice, you’ve got another thing coming! I – I was really drunk last night and –”
Earth sits up, looking surprised. “Get something?” he repeats. He holds up his hands in a placating gesture. “You’ve got me wrong, I swear!”
Mix doesn’t drop his gaze. “Well, okay then, give me some clothes and I’ll take that shower, and,” he adds, pointing a warning finger, “No funny business!”
“None at all,” Earth nods, not lowering his hands as he inches sideways to a dresser and hands Mix a t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. “Those oughta fit you...”
When he hands the clothes over, Earth’s gaze lingers on him for longer than absolutely necessary and Mix points his finger again. “No funny business!”
Earth waits till the door to the bathroom is shut before dropping heavily onto his bed, head in his hand. Mix is still the most attractive man he’s ever seen, and now he is taking a shower in his apartment, and throughout their conversation Earth couldn’t help but stare at the inadvertent mark he’d left on Mix’s neck, right at the juncture of his shoulder.
Earth can’t believe himself. He has been single exactly one day and he’s already waking up in bed with beautiful strangers without a moment's thought. What a disaster you are, Pirapat.
He groans, feeling sorry for himself for a long moment before getting up and deciding to put on coffee and reply to Podd’s texts asking what he had gotten up to last night and whether he had done something he would regret.
Mix appears a while later, smelling like Earth’s soap and wearing his clothes and, well, he’s already kept himself from doing at least ten things he regretted.
“Feel better?” Earth asks. “I’m making coffee. How do you like yours?”
“No milk, no sugar.” Mix’s expression is still a little wary. Perhaps he’s seen the hickey and doesn’t want to bring it up. Earth understands that.
“This is a nice place,” Mix remarks, looking around the spacious apartment as Earth hands him the coffee. “What do you do, Earth?”
Earth smiles. “I run a small business downstairs. I’ll show you… Do you wanna stay for breakfast?”
Mix shakes his head. “I have to get going my… my brother is sending a car.” He waves his phone to indicate that he’s sent his location to this brother of his.
Earth doesn’t miss the ‘sending a car’ which means that Mix is probably very rich or his family is that overprotective. “Well, while we wait, you can come downstairs and see the shop.”
Earth lives on the top floor of the Brewbells Café and Florist, a cosy café with natural lighting at one side of which Earth runs his little flower shop. The café is still closed though the sounds from the kitchen suggest that Podd is already here to get started on the day’s baking. Mix sips his coffee as he looks around.
“You own the café?”
“I own the building,” Earth says. “I’m technically the florist but I’ve been known to make a fantastic cup of coffee.” He gives Mix’s cup a meaningful look, making the younger man laugh.
“It’s not bad,” Mix admits. “This is a nice place too. Very hipster.”
“That was the idea,” Earth laughs. “… We get a lot of students here.” Earth hopes that it’s not too obvious that he’s trying to entice Mix to come back. “It’s a nice place to work.”
Mix nods thoughtfully but doesn’t say anything, sipping his coffee as he watches Earth sets up his shop for opening.
A black car pulls up outside: a Bentley with a vaguely threatening aura, and Mix sets his coffee mug down on one of the café tables. “That’s my ride,” he says, heading towards the door. He pauses, looking back at Earth. “Thank you. For the coffee.”
“Come back anytime.”
Three days later, Earth is cataloguing the day’s inventory when the café door opens to admit a familiar young man, dressed in a comfortable looking sweater, his hair down and unstyled, who orders an iced americano at the counter and finds a corner table to set up his laptop.
Podd gives him an odd look and he busies himself in his work again, but Earth can’t help but think that this was a definite win.