Jealousy isn’t something that Pat is used to feeling. He’s never had much to be jealous of. He’s always been fairly popular, he gets decent grades and he’s never had to worry too much about his looks.
In high school, he never had much trouble asking out the girls he liked, and while he’s been too busy to date seriously in university, the few girls he’s wanted to date casually, wanted to date him too.
He even gets to hang out with his secret childhood friend whenever he wants, even if he has to pretend to hate him sometimes.
So jealousy is not a feeling Pat knows well, until it hits him like a tidal wave and begins to eat him up from inside, a crawling feeling under his skin that taunts him whenever he sees Pran and Wai together, and it’s crazy because it’s never bothered him before. Pran could be friends with whichever idiots from Architecture that he wanted to. But now, now, Pat’s counted the signals that Paa had told him about and he’s added them together and finally made the right number, after years of adding two and two and making five.
Now he knows that he likes Pran (and definitely not just as a friend), he also knows that he’s stupidly jealous.It’s a bitter pill to try to swallow.
Now it’s like Wai is everywhere. He’s got his skinny arms around Pran’s shoulder as they walk through the courtyard between their faculties. He’s slept over in Pran’s room, he makes Pran laugh over the phone and he’s just— he’s too close and he’s kind of handsome, Pat guesses, if you like the stupid, pretty-boy look. Ugh, Pat thinks, as he grinds his teeth, sneaking looks at Pran with his friends as they get ready for the Freshy day music competition. Jealousy is not easy to control, and he doesn’t like it. It makes him feel mean, angry. Makes him feel stupid.
Still, it’s there at the back of his mind all the way through his part in Engineering’s performance and when he hits the symbol he imagines Wai’s face— just for a second, anyway.
It’s all kind of terrible and overwhelming, and Pat wishes he could turn it off. He wishes he could stop the tape, press rewind and go back to a week ago when he was still in denial. When he thought he was in love with Ink.
He is not in love with Ink, no matter how much he tries to make himself be. Not now.
Standing next to her in the crowd as Architecture set up their instruments, he feels nothing but fondness. He is genuinely happy that their friendship has been reignited and he definitely isn’t jealous when she turns to wave at a group of people behind them. He’s just glad she has lots of friends. He even imagines her kissing one of them— a girl with cropped hair and red lipstick and a camera like Ink’s in hand— and all he feels in this made up scenario is genuine happiness for her.
Then, he looks at the stage, where Pran and his friends are being introduced, and he catches Pran’s eyes for a moment, and he feels like he’s been suckerpunched with feelings. Pran says the song they’re going to sing is one he co-wrote in high school, and he plays the first note, and Pat feels light headed, realising that is the song. It’s their song, the one that was inspired by a silly conversation about having a crush on a friend and— oh. Pat’s heart stops beating, just for a second, because the song was about them, wasn’t it? It was about them, but now it might not be.
Now Pran is singing it to Wai, and Wai is grinning and a girl in the crowd screams happily, and Pat can’t be here anymore. He can’t stand it, he’s so jealous, and his face feels flushed and he’s going through years and years of memories in his mind on fast forward and trying to figure out when and who and why— why now, why him, why the hell does he have to be in love with Pran? Is the universe trying to fuck with him? Maybe he’d deserve it if that's the case, because he didn’t argue enough with his father when he talked shit about Pran back in high school. Because he didn’t do anything when Pran got sent away. Because he took too long to make sense of his feelings and now Pran is singing their song to some other guy.
When Ink catches up to him later, he tells her he’s been in love with her since high school and the words come out flat, but not because it’s a lie, because it isn’t. He was in love with her, as much as you can be in love with the idea of the perfect girl, the perfect heterosexual relationship. It would have been nice, he thinks, to have stayed in that bubble of denial for a while longer. But ultimately, it’s for the best that she rebuffs him, that she sees through his words. When he looks into her eyes he feels relieved. Maybe he’s lost his childhood crush but he’s made an amazing friend, and he knows she isn’t going anywhere. Now, he just has to figure out what to do about Pran.
Before he thinks too hard, Korn catches up with him and persuades him that they need a night of partying to get over the, “Clear and obvious rigging of the Freshy music competition,” by the Architecture group.
“I don’t think they cheated,” Pat says. “People just liked their song.”
“Well, I didn’t.” Korn scoffs. “It was just a basic love song.”
Pat doesn’t argue, it’s not worth having to explain himself. He’s too tired to be able to come up with excuses for every single thing he does and says tonight. “Okay. Lets get drunk,” he says, and agrees to meet his friends an hour later to go out.
He stops by Pran’s room on the way back to get changed, and he knocks on the door, wanting to congratulate him on his win, since he couldn’t do it in public before, but there’s no answer. Maybe Pran is at Wai’s place, Pat thinks, before he can stop himself, and the acidic taste on his tongue at the thought of it isn’t pleasant.
Pat vows to stop torturing himself with the idea of Pran with someone else, at least for one night, even though he thinks he probably deserves the torture as much as Pran deserves to be happy, even if that’s with Wai of all the possible fucking people on this campus. Wai, who is right there, of course, making Pran smile, when Pat and his friends rock up to the bar that night.
“Wai‘s a really good friend,” Pran had told him once, when they were discussing the merits of their friendship groups. “He’s always there for me. Your friends just antagonise him.”
“He’s the one who antagonises my friends!” Pat had spluttered. “Didn't you see that video of him giving us the finger or do I have to show you again?”
“And what about the video of your friends trying to embarass him at work?” Pran had given him a look that told Pat he wasn’t going to win this one.
“I got that taken down already,” Pat had given his best pouty face. “Fine. He’s a good friend to you. I can accept that, sort of.”
He had accepted it, then, but only because his brain was still fifty steps behind his heart, and— okay, fine, maybe Wai is a good friend to Pran, but that’s not the point! The point is that Pat is fizzing with jealousy over it and he knows it’s stupid, he knows he’s being a shitty person by imagining Wai dropping out of university and never contacting Pran again, or admitting he’s actually an alien and flying home to another planet. He also knows that drinking about it isn’t going to help, but Pat moves his friends onto another bar and lets them buy him beer after beer, and drinks about it anyway.
Alcohol tells Pat that he needs to do the right thing. It says he needs to make things good. He needs to wait outside their dorm for Pran to get home, and he needs to congratulate him properly on his win. He needs to see Pran and make Pran smile, and he needs to be the good friend, a supportive friend. If he’s too late in his feelings and Pran likes other people, he’ll accept that with grace and maturity. Probably.
But then Wai’s motorcycle rounds the corner, and Pran is riding on the back like—like they’re boyfriends or something, and the fizzing in Pat’s veins starts up again, and his heartbeat quickens, and the jealousy is there, curling in his belly and taking hold of him. He’s on his feet before he can really think about what he’s doing, and Wai doesn’t look happy— of course he doesn’t— and Pat can’t take it anymore.
Maybe the alcohol isn’t his friend after all.
Maybe he just needs to fight, so he tries to, but Pran won’t fucking let him. Pran says he should go, says he should leave, but Pat doesn’t want to leave. He wants to stop feeling like this. He wants someone else to be the jealous one. He wants people to know he’s slept next to Pran too. He wants Wai to know. But Pran is looking at him with such— such worry, like anyone finding out about them not being enemies would be the worst thing that could ever happen to him, and it hurts.
He makes some comment about the song, calls it lousy, and it makes Pran falter for a fraction of a second. Pat almost gives in to the part of him that just wants Pran to be happy, almost falls to his knees and says, “I didn’t mean that, I love that song, I love it like I love you,” but he doesn’t.
“It's not the right time to be silly, Pat,” Pran hisses at him, fists in the front of Pat’s shirt and maybe, deep down, he knows that’s true, but he can’t stop pushing forward. If he pushes, something will happen. Something bad, probably, but at least he’ll feel something from it, at least it’ll distract from the jealousy. So he keeps going, keeps pushing the subject. “Do you want to know?” he calls, and Wai looks confused, and Pran is telling him to shut up again, but he can’t shut up. He can’t even think straight, he’s too drunk and he’s too emotional, and all he wants in that moment is for Pran to be his, and he knows he’s not going the right way about it, but it’s happening now and he can’t stop it.
When Wai punches him, Pat is sure he sees a flicker of the same burning jealousy, which is interesting. He’d like to see it some more, he thinks, in his drunk state, he wants to feel the thwack of a fist against his jaw and see the anger flame in Wai’s eyes, so he returns the favour and throws a punch that lands on Wai’s face, and inside he just wants to cry but on the outside his body is screaming, except Pran is dragging him back now, and then he’s telling Wai to leave, and he seems so angry, so disappointed that Pat just sits there, the cold ground under his hands sobering him up a little.
The look that Pran gives him before walking away sobers him up the rest of the way. He doesn’t look angry, he just looks sad, deflated and exhausted. Pat can’t bear to see it, and when he’s left alone with the buzzing in his ears and the cold air on his face, he knows it’s going to be up to him to fix things, but first, he needs to cool off some more, so he drinks a glass of water, showers and then drinks another, just to be sure that he isn’t relying on alcohol to tell him how to act anymore. That had been a big mistake. He knocks on Pran’s door, but Pran isn’t there— that or he is ignoring him, which Pat wouldn’t blame him for. He’d deserve it. He does deserve it, and he should probably just go to sleep because being awake isn’t really doing him any favours right now, but he decides to clear his head first, so he heads up to the roof.
It turns out Pran has beaten him to it, because he’s there, looking out at the city lights, when Pat steps out onto the roof. He debates turning back, but that would be cowardly, and he’s been cowardly enough lately. Cowardly enough to tell Ink he liked her when his heart wasn’t in it. Cowardly to try to start a fight with Wai. He needs to have a conversation, a proper one, with Pran. It’s the least he can do, even if it’s going to be tough.
So, he does it— he starts a conversation, and maybe he doesn't exactly begin it well, because he starts by bringing up the song, but it’s all he can think to do. So he brings up the song and admits his jealousy, and admitting it feels good. Admitting that he missed Pran when he was sent away feels good, too, because it’s something he’s kept hidden for so long. It’s something he barely even allowed himself to acknowledge for years, but he’s living his truth right now, right here on the roof of his dorm, with a bruise forming on his cheek and a hangover brewing, and Pran is still here in front of him, tears in his eyes as Pat talks.
Fuck, all Pat wants to do is hold him. He wants it so badly, he wants to hold Pran and for Pran to understand that, even though he’s been a stupid dick about things, he gets it. He gets how it feels to be hopelessly in love with someone you’ve been told is bad for you.
Pran asks if he wants to be friends, as if that’s a stupid idea, and it is, it really is, because Pat doesn’t want to be friends. Not with Pran, not anymore.
“No,” he says, and Pran looks relieved and scared and there’s an urgency in his eyes that Pat feels too, because they’re a ticking time bomb, the two of them. They can’t last, there’s nothing about them that would be easy, even being friends wouldn’t be easy, and friends is simple. Friends is boring! Friends is not what Pat wants, and when he leans in to kiss Pran, his heart races and the lights of the city disappear, and he can hardly believe Pran is letting him kiss him, but he’s so glad he is, and when it’s over it isn’t even over, because before he even has a chance to breathe, Pran kisses him again.
Pran’s kiss is desperate, like it could be the first and last kiss they share, which is an unfathomable feeling, an unbearable feeling, and Pat feels the urgency too, presses closer and threads his fingers into Pran’s hair, and deepens the kiss, aching with the need to get closer. He wants to feel like this forever, Pran’s hands on his face and his hands on Pran’s, keeping them locked together, breathing together, desperate, raspy breaths that pull at the tight feeling in Pat’s chest that’s building like a crescendo inside of him.
He’s so euphoric with the headiness of it all, of breathing in Pran, tasting Pran’s mouth under his, that when they break the kiss he can’t understand why Pran is still crying. Don’t cry, he thinks. I’m here for you, I’m with you. But when Pran walks away to catch his breath, it dawns on Pat just how much bigger than them this could become, how insignificant his jealousy has been, how little it matters whether they’re friends or lovers or something in between when there’s so much against them.
Pat follows Pran to the stairwell after a moment, and calls his name softly. Pran looks up from where he’s almost a floor below, and waits for Pat to catch up with him.
“What happens now?” Pran asks him quietly, when Pat gets to his step. His mouth is kissed-pink and it takes every ounce of self restraint Pat has not to kiss him again.
“I don’t know,” he admits, because there’s no point in lying. He’s new to this, overwhelmed and confused and maybe Pran’s mom is never going to invite him over for dinner. Maybe their friends will never like each other. Maybe he’ll always be a little bit jealous of Wai for no reason. “I guess we’ll figure it out.”
He can’t stop looking at Pran’s lips, even when he should be concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and Pran rolls his eyes at him and says, “Stop thinking about kissing me,” and then they’re smiling, and all of tomorrow’s questions can wait.