Ladder to Almost Heaven

Warnings: Sexually Explicit Content

Feeling particularly lonely as she watches her best friend fall deeper in love with his senior every day, Prae comes to terms with what she truly wants for herself, but can’t resist one last endeavour in a secret affair that has no promise of fulfilling what her heart truly desires.

Perhaps it’s simply because she’s just not a fan of unnecessary noise, but it’s at Kongpob and Arthit’s joint birthday get-together that Prae is reminded of how parties are really not her scene.

Maprang, ever the enthusiast, had sent out sparkling invitations on their friend’s behalf, insisting that everyone dress to the nines, even though they would just be eating pizza and sipping beer in the living room of Kongpob’s home while his parents are away on business for the weekend. They would return to celebrate with their son on his actual birthday. 

It’s an evening of side-splitting laughter, mostly coming from Arthit’s group of friends, barely intimidating ghost stories from Tew and Oak, and reminiscence of their hazing days, the juniors having hosted the gear ceremony a few months prior. If Prae’s being honest, she doesn’t have quite such a fervent attachment to the hazing process as some of her peers, having merely served as part of the medical team. With Kongpob’s kind but firm leadership, everything had gone ridiculously smoothly that year, leaving Prae and May with little to do other than offer refreshments to the freshmen on particularly hot days. 

Instead, the two of them had spent their afternoons in the clinic doing their homework together, or sitting in the cool shade of the bleachers by the athletics field, speculating when Tew would come to his senses about his fixation on a particularly difficult freshman. After all, they’d witnessed a similar dynamic before, although they’d perhaps been too close to the situation at the time to realise what was happening.

In any case, if not for the fact that she and May (and Maprang, when she didn’t have her nose in her phone or wasn’t fawning over every guy she found remotely good-looking) had gotten to spend that time together, Prae thinks that she would much rather have taken Kongpob up on his offer to be a part of the main hazing team. She hadn’t thought she had much of a authoritative presence, but one can never tell with these things. If Arthit is any example, even the shyest and non-confrontational of people can possess a more aggressive side. 

It’s a little past 11PM now and the majority of them have split off into chunks, chatting among their small groups in different corners of the living room. Prae finds herself isolated in a corner by the patio door as her friends, in various states of tipsy, talk loudly and erupt with random outbursts of laughter every so often.

Both Kong and Arthit, sitting on the steps leading down to the sunken living room area, must be at least a little buzzed, the latter of the two completely ignorant of their blatant display of affection as they exchange sweet, lingering kisses between soft bouts of laughter and whispered flirtations,  intertwining their fingers. They’re completely enraptured in each other’s company. 

Prae smiles softly, abundantly happy for both of them, although she can’t help but envy what they have — not necessarily the joy and relief of seemingly finding true love, but rather the excitement of intimacy with someone who finds you attractive, something that Prae lies awake at night craving, picturing a faceless, wet sex grinding against her own as she rubs her fingers against her folds. 

It’s never quite enough. 

Sweeping the velvet material of her skirt under the back of her legs as she stands up from the arm of the couch, Prae steps strategically over open pizza boxes and half-empty beer cans to head for the bathroom. It’s near the end of the corridor, and following a startled grunt (Prem?) behind the door after she knocks, she takes Kongpob’s next best suggestion of using the guest room en-suite. Because of course, this marble mansion is large enough for a guest room and a study with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. She doesn’t tease her friend about it, though, his utter humility and politeness making it impossible to do so even good-naturedly. Not that it stops Arthit, though, she’s observed.

The closing of the guest room door envelops Prae in relative silence, the only sound the occasional cackling of laughter from Bright and Tutah muffled by the wooden door. Deciding she doesn’t actually need the toilet, she plops herself down on the loveseat at the foot of the queen-sized bed, lying back with her legs hanging off the side as she scrolls through her phone.

She can’t explain why she still has the cluster of dating apps installed in her phone. Every profile she looks through seems cold and empty, and she doesn’t feel it’s worth her time to invest in a person she knows almost nothing about. There’s always something wrong with each girl who happens to be interested in her — too active, too boring, likes the wrong kind of music, or, god forbid, likes dogs. Maprang says she’s being ridiculous, and tells her to just swipe right on everyone and see who she matches with before filtering people out. She’d certainly tried before, only ever managing to get far enough in conversation with one girl, and after attempting to ask her out again, Prae had been met with a sheepish explanation that she’d just been looking for sex. 

After rejecting every last person on each list in every app, she clicks her phone to sleep, chucking it onto the mattress beside her. Perhaps she’d made the wrong move coming out to her friends. Not that they hadn’t been supportive, because they certainly had, but all of a sudden, the boys in their friendship circle had begun acting like they didn’t know how to behave around her. 

To be fair, they’d been clueless about talking to girls even before she’d come out to them, but the fact that she would never be interested in any of them that way had made certain conversations even more awkward, topics usually falling into the realm of either class assignments or the persistently hot weather. Granted, she’s glad they never try to rope her into drooling over other girls together. Gross. 

Still, she wished it were different. The only exception, of course, is Kongpob, but he’s a guy, and she yearns for a connection with someone she can develop warm, tingly feelings for. 

She doesn’t need forever, just something longer than one wild night.

As if her silent plea has been heard, someone else stumbles into the room; a slightly tipsy May, who’s dressed in a beautiful strapless dress with a puffy tulle skirt, much like a modern day princess. May pads her way across the carpet to look at herself in the mirror, running two fingers under her eyes to wipe at slightly smudged makeup that has left her with faint dark patches. Prae sits up, crossing her own legs under her decidedly more understated dress, tugging the hem down to reach mid-thigh. Suddenly, she feels self-conscious in her best friend’s presence, like someone (but who?) is watching the two of them alone in the dimly lit room, silently comparing the two girls and judging their choice of attire. 

Prae looks away, trying not to stare at the girl as she flops down onto the bed, lying down so her hair splays out beneath her like a fan woven of black silk. Maybe this is why she can’t properly put herself out there and find something meaningful, she thinks. A part of her is still occasionally clings onto a drunken comment made over two years ago, and a few moments of quiet exploration of each other’s bodies in the heat of pure lust. 

“Tired?” May turns her head to look at Prae, whose gaze is still fixated coiling a loose thread around her finger. 

“Yeah,” she says, not looking up. “Just needed a little quiet. You?”

“The main bathroom was occupied, so I came in here.”

Prae nods.

“Kong and Arthit looked so happy tonight. It’s really nice that they have each other.”

The comment doesn’t come as a surprise to Prae, although her friend had once had an enormous crush on their charming classmate. It’s hard not to be happy for someone like Kong, who honestly deserves the smile that’s brought to his face at the mere mention of their head hazer. 

“Yeah, I wish I had that,” Prae laughs humourlessly. May just looks at her for an extended pause, then rolls over on her side and then sits up to face her, reaching out to squeeze Prae’s hand on the mattress. 

“You’ll find someone, I’m sure of it,” she says reassuringly. Prae tries to ignore the soft, manicured fingers wrapped around her own, forcing a tight-lipped smile. 

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“How are things with M?” 

It had been over two years since M had suggested to May that he had feelings for her. And yet, especially on days when Prae would have her mouth up May’s skirt, she would hear about how their clueless friend seemed unwilling to just be clear about what he wanted. On those days, Prae wonders if May even really wants something with the boy, with the way should would roll her eyes and shrug whenever the topic came up. 

“If he wants something, then he should speak up. I’m not going to wait around for him.”

Prae nods, as she always does. She chuckles, fluffing the giant poof of May’s dress, the tulle material fanning out on the mattress. 

“I like your dress.”

“Thanks,” May lets out a short laugh. “Although the skirt is a bit much. Maprang insisted on something grand.”

“It’s pretty. I didn’t bother that much,” Prae tilts her head as she lowers her gaze. “Hey, you have a run in your tights.”

“Oh, shit. Is it big? I can’t even see it properly with this giant skirt.”

Prae pokes a finger playfully into a hole at the bottom of the laddered tear, just above the ankle. May giggles at the ticklish sensation, but doesn’t pull her foot back. 

“Well, it starts here…” Prae trails her finger along the run now, up the calf, further up past the knee, and further yet, and it grows quiet until her hand has traced almost the full length of May’s leg, the girl shivering slightly at the touch. 

“Prae,” she says breathlessly, eyes suddenly clouded with a familiar darkness.

“Sorry.”

“No, it’s okay…um, maybe I should take them off.”

“Yeah, okay.”

But May makes no move to remove the torn pantyhose, instead slowing her breaths as she seemingly summons Prae’s deep set eyes to meet hers. 

“Maybe you could help me?”

The question comes out hesitantly, eyebrows slightly raised in anticipation. Prae can’t fully read her expression, but before she can truly parse what’s happening, her hand is gently brought back over the sheer nylon, pulled upwards until her hand reaches the waistband. 

May leans back on her elbows, watching. 

Prae is frozen for a moment, but gulps as she pulls the tights down gradually, marvelling at the smooth skin of May’s thighs as she does so, until the tights are fully removed. When she’s set them aside, abandoned in a thin pile on the carpet, May hooks her heels over Prae’s exposed shoulders, pulling her closer. 

“May…” she sucks in a breath, hovering with her hands on either side of the girl’s knees now. “You’re drunk.”

“I’m not drunk. I’ve only had half a beer all evening, and that was over three hours ago.”

Prae is quiet, still searching for some definitive sign that her friend is messing with her. She must be. They’d not done anything with each other since…well, since hazing had ended a few months ago. 

“Do you not want to?” May sits up again, brows knotted with concern now. “I mean…I just thought because…before…”

“What does this even mean for us? We can’t keep doing this, May.” 

It’s a question that has been misbehaving in the back of Prae’s mind since after the first time they’d been physically intimate. It would be stupid of her to fall for her otherwise straight friend, and yet the writhing and pleasured gasps won’t escape her memory. 

“Does it have to mean something?”

“I don’t know,” Prae admits honestly. 

“You…keep saying you don’t want to do stuff with girls you don’t know,” May looks serious now. “Well, I’m your friend and you trust me, right? It’s not like it’s the first time.”

The first time had been almost two years ago when they were sophomores, and they had shared a room in the resort villa after that year’s gear ceremony. Slightly buzzed and giggly, May had begun showering her friend with compliments, much to Prae’s shyness. After a seemingly friendly hug, May had then pressed hesitant lips to the crook of an exposed neck and the slope of narrow shoulders, and Prae had lost all resolve in trying to resist the purely carnal attraction. To her surprise — or perhaps not — May had been anything but shy about the entire thing, and Prae didn’t know if she’d ever heard more beautiful sounds than the moans of the girl whose legs she’d had her face nestled between. 

And then they’d never spoken of it after that, going about their lives in the most nonchalant of manners, as if nothing had happened, May still linking her arm with hers as she would happily chat with Maprang about the ridiculousness of that day’s horoscope. Every now and then, Prae would still lie awake thinking of the unique and addicting sensation, but then banish the idea from her thoughts, knowing that it had been the first and last time.

Until there was a second time, when May had asked to borrow a shirt after hers had received a considerable fish sauce stain at lunch, and Prae’s dorm had been closer to their next lecture. May had shamelessly unbuttoned her blouse right in front of her, and it might have just been Prae’s imagination, but her stunningly beautiful friend had gone about it almost deliberately slowly, arching her neck and shoulders back ever so slightly. She’d brought her gaze up to meet Prae’s in the mirror of the dressing table, breathing heavily so the swell of her chest would rise and fall like the quiet buildup of an incoming tide. A few tentative, shallow breaths against the girl’s neck and Prae had once again found herself with a hand clasped over her mouth to muffle her pleasured screams. 

From then on, it had become a spontaneous, secretive endeavour for them whenever the situation allowed, until hazing ended, and they no longer spent days together in the empty clinic, nor had much reason for the two to be alone in either of their dorm rooms. 

Prae is still quiet, blinking through her uncertainty in the warm, dim light of the room. 

“We can’t keep doing this, May,” she finally says after a full minute of silence. “Do you actually even like M?“ 

“I’m not going to stop living my life just because he can’t make his mind up. Right now…I want this. It is what it is. Don’t overthink it,” May says this last part almost indignantly, but her expression is still soft.  

“We’re in Kong’s guest room.”

May actually scoffs at this, shaking her head.

“You don’t think those two are at it themselves? I saw them sneak off upstairs earlier when they thought no one was looking.”

Prae wrinkles her nose at this in an awkward grimace. The two girls hold each other’s stares just a moment longer, Prae’s gaze now drifting down towards plump lips, stained a peachy pink from faded lipstick. 

Don’t overthink it. 

And in the midst of her trance-like appreciation, those lips capture her own. 

It’s sweet, and patient, and May’s lips taste vaguely of the spicy crisps she’d been snacking on, with the faint, sharp traces of diet cola. She’s tasted them many times before, but May kisses with an uninhibited enthusiasm that unfailingly sends a sharp, longing ache through Prae’s entire body. It’s an astronomically bad idea, what she’s perpetuating here, but as her tongue melds with May’s, soft locks hanging down like a curtain around their kiss to further block out any light, Prae thinks that she might be done thinking altogether. 

May moves to properly lie down, pulling Prae’s face with her so that she’s hovering above, running fingers through hair that had been ironed into perfect curls earlier but have now loosened into soft, messy waves from the night’s laughter-filled festivities. 

Pulling away from her mouth now, Prae begins to trail feather-light kisses down May’s neck and gently sucking at a spot right below the edge of her jaw. The trail of her mouth’s imprints makes its way down the expanse of sage and bergamot-scented skin and to her collarbone where the chain of a dainty necklace is tugged to one side, the silver leaf pendant hanging at the point of gravity.

Eventually, she comes down to the two soft peaks that are pushed towards the collarbone, gently spilling out of the faintly shimmery sweetheart neckline of May’s dress from lying on her back. She tugs the material down slightly, one small, stiff peak peeking out over the cup of the built-in bra. Prae ducks down to run the tip of her tongue around the entire, pinkish brown areola, earning a drawn out sigh of deep satisfaction from the girl beneath her. The familiar tingle of excitement pools in her centre. 

She tugs at the nipple lightly between her lips, occasionally flicking the bud with her tongue in rogue playfulness. Satisfied with the sufficiently rosy hue of swelling, she moves to work on the other side, but May reaches out and gently turns her face back up towards her.

“Enough of that, just…”

She gestures for Prae to sit back a little, then pulls up the mass of her tulle skirt so that it rests across her middle, exposing her simple, seamless panties. A dark, wet spot is already forming on the lilac material.

Prae takes her time drinking in the view, though, as if knowing she may never get to experience such an erotic sight ever again. Gently, she pushes her doe-eyed friend’s knees slightly apart, sliding her hands slowly up milky inner thighs, grazing her thumbs over the stretch of graciles until she’s gently tugging down the second piece of clothing from under May’s skirt that evening. 

Curling her grasp around to squeeze the flesh around her thighs, Prae’s breath ghosts over the stretch of smooth skin everywhere but where May wants most desperately. 

“You’re such a tease.”

Prae merely shrugs, now bringing her thumbs up to press circles around the mildly puffy labia, already slightly glistening with arousal. May simply closes her eyes and tilts her head back, like she’s at a spa. Her breathing, though, is slightly laboured, and Prae smirks to herself, breaking the girl’s relaxed state as she rubs several fingers across the dark, moistened folds, pushing her clit in clockwise motion with meditative control. Immediately, a breathy whimper escapes May’s plump, kiss-swollen lips, her hips bucking slightly as she ruts into Prae’s torturously slow movements. 

She switches now to teasing the clit with her thumb and choosing sporadically to insert two fingers into the warm, dripping wet cavern, pressing her vacant hand down on May’s navel whenever her back would arch off the mattress. May tries to look down, but her view is obstructed by the ridiculous puff of tulle. Her mouth hangs open in a soft moan, trying not to make too much noise, in case someone should walk by. After all, they hadn’t locked the door. 

And what a sight it would be to walk in on, May with her skirt pushed up to her chest, enthralled in her first orgasm of that evening as Prae works into her with careful, calculated precision. 

“Are you just going to keep doing that?” May whispers between heavy exhales as she comes down from her high, shuddering a little from the tickling ends of Prae’s wavy locks against her thighs. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s great, but — ohhh.”

Her breathless question is cut off as Prae finally bends down to capture the throbbing bud between her lips, sucking lightly and moving her head side to side before she’s pulling back and releasing the soaking wet fold of skin surrounding May’s — and it’s really the only way Prae can think to describe it — perfect pussy. 

May is clearly squirming now, feet lifting off the mattress, toes pointed and curled as Prae licks a careful and deliberate stroke up along the entire labia with the flat of her tongue, then stiffens it to dip into the crevice. Her own mouth is watering from a thirst for May’s familiar taste she’d been straining to hide. And suddenly, she’s done taking it slow, saliva mixing with May’s juices as she draws her lips and tongue hungrily over the neat, slightly darker flesh, feeling her own panties moisten from the delectable cries that her friend is barely succeeding in muffling with the back of her hand. They come out more like repeated, fatigued vocalisations of a particularly difficult high note, the only music in the otherwise deafeningly quiet room aside from the ravenous sounds of Prae continuously tonguing her most sensitive core, occasionally taking a break to suck gently. 

She dares herself to glance up as she drills her own name with wet muscle, marking territory that isn’t hers. Then, she’s slipping two fingers back in to slide them back and forth, and intermittently curling them in search of just the right spot. May has weakly pushed herself up onto her elbows, trying to become an interactive audience to Prae performing her oral magic but instead, her eyes are squeezed shut with delicious anguish, her face tensing to reveal the dimples above her cheekbones. Then, almost unexpectedly, May grabs a pillow from above her head, quietly screaming into the plush material as the second (third? Maybe fourth) wave of pleasure overcomes her. 

Prae finally pulls back with soft, wet noise, and licks the remnants of her work off her lips like a forbidden treat. She watches in fascination through hooded lids as May takes a good minute or so to recover, squeezing her own thighs together as though she physically cannot handle the pleasurable convulsions. Meanwhile, Prae slips a hand into her own lacy briefs, inhaling sharply as fingers skim over a wet bundle of nerves, heightened by the sight of May’s occasional, sudden jerks as her orgasm works its final aftershocks through her. 

Eventually, the pillow falls to the side, a brief smudge of shimmery makeup imprinted on the white linen. Her exposed breast still hangs over the top of her dress, her chest littered with vaguely reddened patches, heaving with fatigue as she catches her breath. It’s the perfect picture of satiated lust, the faint smile on May’s lips likely from the fantasy of being pleasured by someone else. Someone who’s not the girl who has her taste memorised like a complicated password. 

It takes her another moment before she can finally muster the strength to sit up, simply watching. Prae screws her eyes shut and mashes her lips together as she trembles out the faintest release. And as soon as it’s over, she gets up with no trouble, and pads over to the bathroom, where she washes her stained hand under the tap. When she returns into the room, May is still looking at her with wide eyes but her giant skirt is pulled back down now, her panties still discarded somewhere on the floor. 

“I was going to do the same for you.”

Another shrug.

“It’s fine. I know you don’t like it,” she avoids her friend’s gaze altogether, bending down to pick up the fallen garments and placing them on the bed. “Here. Um. We should straighten the bed out.”

“Prae—“

“Can we please not talk about this right now?” Prae says humourlessly. “Just…get dressed.”

May shifts her gaze awkwardly, hurriedly adjusting herself and pulling her underwear back on, then shuffles off of the bed. She grips her own elbow in one hand, watching helplessly as Prae makes quick work of smoothing out the sheets and fluffing out the pillow, the faint beige stain of bronzer placed face side down to hide the evidence of her recent euphoria. 

“I’ll…see you in class,” Prae says in a low voice, before slipping out of the room into the hallway. When she’s back out in the living room, the rest of their friends have either fallen asleep or slowly getting there. Sure enough, Kong and Arthit are nowhere to be found. 

Sorry, I’ve gotta leave first. Thanks for the party. Happy Birthday to you both <3

She watches the text get delivered, but remain unread. And then, like breaking a habit, she climbs into the backseat of a taxi and texts the license plate number to Maprang instead. 

Picture This

A series of pictures in KongArt’s lives that are for Arthit’s eyes only.

“Help me take a picture! Use your phone; it takes good photos.”

Hazers, freshmen, and alumni alike crowd around the table to squeeze into the tiny frame of Arthit’s phone screen for one of the last pictures they’ll probably get the chance to take before the end of the night. The end of a growing process for the freshmen. The end of the hazers’ chapter of leadership. The end of a cycle for the recent graduates. 

The end of an era.

Arthit, though holding the phone as far away from himself as possible to make sure everyone’s face can be seen, turns to look at the one image in his life’s view that he never wants to tear his eyes away from. 

How much time had passed for his junior to grow up like this? The boy had slowly edged his way into infecting every fibre of Arthit’s being, whispering sweet nothings into his ear in the mornings, mastering the art of flirtation via LINE stickers, and sulking for kisses that Arthit would love to grant but won’t allow himself to for fear of getting carried away. 

And on nights when Kongpob would stumble into his apartment, weary from all the hazing activities, or burned out from studying, Arthit would let him have whatever the boy wanted. If he could kiss and hold away all his fears and fatigue, he’s more than glad to tuck his shyness away in a drawer for just a little while. 

He wants nothing more than for Kongpob to have all the joy he deserves, and hides a smile of his own as he takes in his boyfriend’s sparkling grin.

Happiness looks good on him.

Before he realises, Bright has finagled the phone out of his hand to take a look at the thirty or so selfies Arthit had unknowingly taken in his distracted appreciation.

“The photo looks nice…wait, Arthit,” he raises an eyebrow. “Why aren’t you looking at the camera?”

“Yeah, Arthit,” Prem pipes up. “Your eyes were on Kongpob.”

“What?” 

No, they weren’t….were they? 

“No!” he says in protest, his entire face warming at the accusation, knowing full well that this tidbit of information would be the catalyst for endlessly smug teasing from both his friends and the very boy he’d just shamelessly been admiring.

“He mistook Kongpob’s eyes for the camera!” Bright says, followed by loud whoops of second-hand frisson from around the table. 

“I wanted to show off my side profile,” Arthit insists, knowing full well that nobody in his presence believes him. 

Kongpob, watching the entire commotion, blushes to himself, quiet with the satisfaction that the man he loves had momentarily slipped in his facade of aloofness. Perhaps he would allow him to kiss his very red face later on, when everyone else had dispersed.

For now, he links his fingers between Arthit’s under the table to calm the fluttering in his stomach. 

And when the photo gets sent to the group chat, Kongpob makes a cropped duplicate, wanting always to be reminded of how Arthit does, in fact, love him like he loves nobody else. 

The sand crunches wetly between his fingers as the two of them flop down by the water, still laughing and panting from their playful shenanigans. Their shirts cling wet to their backs, and Arthit shakes the salty water out his hair as they turn to face the setting sun. 

A picturesque sight by any standard, but Arthit has his gaze cast elsewhere. 

He’d finally wrangled his shirt back from his mischievous boyfriend, pulling it on as they’d clambered up to shore before anyone unnecessarily saw more of his naked torso. Not that he’s embarrassed or ashamed of his body, but in Kongpob’s presence…it almost feels scandalous to expose himself to him anywhere other than behind a locked door. 

“P’Arthit, do you like the sea?”

“I do.”

The crashing waves and sand between his toes had bore witness to a night of some of the biggest milestones they’d reached in their time together, from a vague confession in which Kongpob had given him his heart, to the making of an appointment which he would later come to realise was a date, and the terrifying realisation that perhaps he, too, wanted his heart in Kongpob’s care. 

If the sun had eyes, they would smile upon this moment.

For now, though, their shared bliss and the smiles that result from it are for Arthit’s eyes only. 

“But there was a moment when I was scared of it.”

“When was that?”

True enough, he’d once panicked at the thought of losing someone he’d had yet to understand the labyrinth of his feelings for. To have crashing waves steal from him the bane—and heartbeat—of his existence. 

“Actually, it was my fault,” he says, watching the water’s steady inhale, followed by a release that tickled the tips of their toes. “I shouldn’t have told you to go cool your head in the sea. Who would’ve known that you would actually do it?”

He’s teasing his boyfriend’s occasional flair for the dramatics, but in a strange way, he’s grateful for the boy’s disappearance under water highlighting for him the extent of the necessity Kongpob held in his heart. 

“But you were looking at me the whole time. So you thought I was drowning.”

“What? Who was looking at you?”

I was. And I am now. 

He hopes Kongpob will never be too long out of sight.

“What about you? Do you like the sea?”

The answer is prefaced with a smug raise of the eyebrow, and a smirk that Arthit loves to hate. “I do,” he says, and Arthit awaits his reasoning. “It reminds me that someone cares about me.”

And suddenly the view is overwhelming, bringing Arthit to avert Kongpob’s knowing smile. 

“What? I don’t care about you.”

He’s lying.

But Kongpob doesn’t get the opportunity to point this small detail out, as their gossip-mongering colleague comes bounding towards them with her camera.

“Let me take your photo!” she gestures for them to move closer to each other. 

They do, but only as much as would be normal for a senior and junior who happen to be working at the same company. 

“So beautiful!” 

She’s referring to the overall framework of the picture, but the borders of Arthit’s viewfinder are elsewhere. 

“Get closer!”

They shuffle forward just a little, and Arthit can’t deny himself the pleasure of being reminded of Kongpob’s role in his life. He won’t ever let the sea, or anything else, induce the fear of losing him again, if he can help it. He’s selfish like that.

So when Durian asks for a photo with just Kongpob, Arthit tells her that his hands are dirty. A sore excuse if he’d ever heard one, what with the water literally inches away for him to rinse the sand away. 

But as long as Kongpob will allow him, Arthit won’t let a single chapter of their story go by without reserving a page for just the two of them.

Everyone knows now.

I love Kongpob,” he’d said into the microphone in front of a hundred surprised faces, and a few knowing smiles. 

There’s something cathartic, or perhaps self-indulging, about claiming your territory. Not that Kongpob is an object to be possessed by any being, but indeed the object of desire for many, and Arthit no longer wants to allow  the same people whose opinions he’d feared to potentially be options from which Kongpob could choose. 

He doesn’t want Kongpob to even consider those many different options, when Arthit has only ever had one.

“Smile for me,” he says now, his tone teasing, but with sheer satisfaction in the knowledge that the upturned corners of Kongpob’s lips are, indeed, for Arthit alone.

For once, Kongpob is speechless, his smile so wide that his cheeks almost hurt. And so he simply follows his lover with his hand in Arthit’s warm, solid grasp as they make their way home.

At one point, Arthit lets go, allowing Kongpob to trail ahead of him, until he stops to pull out his phone. Kongpob pauses, thinking that the man might be replying to a message, until he’s proven wrong yet again.

“Kongpob,” Arthit calls for his attention. He turns around, blinking in surprise when his usually reserved boyfriend suddenly snaps a picture of him. And then he’s taking another one, and another, angling the phone back and forth to get the best framing and lighting as possible under the dim lighting of the street lamp. 

“Why are you taking pictures of me?” he muses, although he’s not complaining.

Arthit doesn’t answer him, instead holding his hand out as he tucks his own phone away. 

“Give me your phone,” he says, to Kongpob’s confusion, although the boy still hands the device over. He thinks he might like this slightly possessive side of Arthit, but he isn’t sure about the idea of being monitored in this fashion.

“Are you checking my phone?” 

He doesn’t have anything to hide. After all, his friends know him to be notorious for leaving his messages on read except for work-related matters, family, and indeed, for the one whose every word for which he wants to create an album of its own.

“What are you talking about?” Arthit scrunches his brows up at the ridiculous notion. Didn’t the boy know by now that he trusted him more than anyone else? That it was others he held reservations for? “Give me your hand,” he feigns exasperation. 

And for the second time that evening, Arthit takes hold of his hand, snapping a portrait of their grasp, a millisecond frozen in time of a memory only the two of them know the story behind. He makes it Kongpob’s wallpaper, the constant backdrop to his days, and a reminder of his love no matter the obstacles. 

“Whenever you see your phone, you’ll see the picture that I took.”

Kongpob is still finding his footing in this seemingly renewed side of his boyfriend, and thinks that the man may be up to something.

“You’re being so lovely to me…is there something you want from me in particular?

“I don’t want anything,” he refutes the accusation, then, for the third time that evening, pulls Kongpob’s hand into his. “Let’s go.”

He won’t show Kongpob the photos, nor share them online for anyone to see. While most everyone in their lives knew about them now, Arthit is still a private person. He wants to remember this evening as not one in which he’d made a public declaration of his love, but a night on which he’d walked his lover home and held his hand. 

Not too far ahead, nor trailing behind. 

He’ll walk beside him, no matter the distance. 

Picture this, if you will; 

One day, if my eyesight 

Fails me in my old age, or 

I should go blind from staring 

at the sun as it warms our faces, or 

technology fails to preserve the bytes;

I will still have every picture 

I framed with my own eyes, the ones 

of you that were solely for me, the ones 

only we experienced and I take out 

to sift through when the nights are lonely. 

My love is no secret

at least not one kept from you

I have pictures to prove

of a life only we knew.

Wake Me Up Before You Go

Warnings: Slight OOC, Descriptions of Injury and Medical Procedure

Kongpob both anticipates and dreads these visits from a man who disappears as suddenly as he shows up.

Kongpob thinks he should be used to it by now.

Given, it’s only the fifth time it’s happened, but the visits come with a confusing mix of dread at the knowledge that these visits only happen because of an injury, but relief because at least it usually not serious enough to justify an urgent visit to A&E.

After all, this is the blunder of most of those who work in first aid, or very much any medical facet, although Kongpob had never imagined in his meagre years as a high school nurse that he would be tending to more than minor scrapes, a few sniffly starts to colds, and the occasional slacker with a ‘headache’ that somehow morphs into shoulder pain and then food poisoning.

No, this is quite different.

“What’s your name? I never asked.”

The man–because that’s about as simple of a word that Kongpob can use to describe whatever this guy is—hesitates a moment, as if gauging the level of trust he has in Kongpob to share this seemingly private information.

Maybe just a few basic things wouldn’t hurt; after all, he’d been the one who’d knocked on Kongpob’s door at 2AM, asking to be stitched up so he didn’t bleed out and die on the streets, or if not, then of an eventual infection.

“I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Kongpob doesn’t meet his gaze, still carefully tending to the open cut. “I don’t have anyone to tell, anyway. I live alone, and I essentially spend my days in the same room as teenagers with fake leg cramps all day.”

The injured man snorts, shaking his head, then after a pause,

“Arthit.”

Kongpob nods, running a piece of cotton wool soaked with wound disinfectant around the area. He’ll probably need stitches, he thinks.

“I’m Kongpob.”

“You told me that the first time I was here.”

So he had. The first time Arthit had come crash landing onto his balcony was almost three months ago, when Kongpob had awoken in the dead of night to find a man—a whole person— outside the sliding glass door.

When he’d first heard the noise, he’d been convinced it was a burglar, although why someone would choose his bare bones shoebox studio to rob, he has no idea. He has no elaborate or luxury possessions, unless you count his laptop, or the comically large and surprisingly well-equipped first aid kit his sisters had gifted him as a joke at his graduation from nursing school.

But then Arthit hadn’t made any move to attack or steal, only groaning as he laid on his side and clutching as his ribs in agony. And then he’d knocked on the glass, indicating that indeed, this was no burglar.

Nevertheless, Kongpob had had a moment of panicked sweating, perhaps more than he professionally should, before opening the door and crouching down next to the injured man. Arthit had winced painfully as he lifted the side of his shirt to reveal a large scrape across his rib cage, the wound already beginning to cake with blood.

And Kongpob had picked him up to lay on his bed, removed the debris, cleaned and dressed the wound without question, and let him rest there, rambling about this or that (more so to calm himself than Arthit). As he’d gone to the bathroom to wash his hands, he’d returned to an empty room. It had left him in state of unrest about whether or not the mysterious man’s injury would heal properly or not, and with about a million questions about how he’d landed on his tenth-floor balcony to begin with.

He’d been certain he would never see Arthit again, until several weeks later when the man had, like this evening, rung his doorbell and held up a gash along the top of his forearm that looked something like he’d been scratched by a tiger, or, as Arthit soon revealed, a possibly rabid cat that he’d accidentally spooked in an alleyway. Once again, Kongpob had tended to him without query, but now, after three months of administering what was essentially free and illegal use of his nursing registry, he thinks he deserves at least the barest of answers.

“Why can’t you go to a hospital?”

Arthit sighs. “They would ask a lot of questions.”

“And what is it that you think I’m doing?”

“You’re….asking a lot of questions,” he admits with a smirk that Kongpob doesn’t see. “But I’m still here and alive after several visits, so something tells me you’re not about to report me to the government and subject me to being drugged and experimented on.”

Kongpob quirks a smile. “Guess you hit the jackpot by landing on a school nurse’s balcony, then,” he quips, then frowns slightly at the gash on Arthit’s shoulder. “You’re going to need stitches. I don’t have any numbing fluid, though.”

“It’s fine, just do it.”

“It’s going to hurt, though.”

“Not more than being stabbed with a Swiss Army knife, I would guess.”

“Mm,” is all that Kongpob hums in response, digging through the enormous kit that he’s now oddly grateful to have, searching for sutures. “What is it that happened this time? A knife fight?”

“Something like that. The guy was trying to mug a homeless woman and had a Swiss Army knife on him. He backed off, but not before blindly nicking me in the arm. That’s the trouble when he can’t see me, I guess.”

“Yeah, looks like a pretty clean cut. Shouldn’t be too difficult to stitch up.”

“Can nurses give stitches? I mean, legally.”

“Uh,” Kongpob cleans the tip of the curved needle. “The simple answer is no. But some registered nurses are allowed to do them on non-vital areas, so like, no internal organs or muscles, tendons, or anywhere with a lot of blood vessels.”

“So…not this type of cut, then.”

“No, technically not.”

“Thank you.”

Kongpob simply nods, then pauses. “I’m going to like, do it, now.”

“Okay.”

Arthit visibly tenses, mashing his lips together in a tight grimace as the needle makes its first piercing into the edge of the cut. Immediately, his entire face scrunches up in pain, but he makes no obvious noise.

“You okay?”

“Y-yeah…yeah. Just…uh, could you…talk? It helps.”

“What do you want to know?” Kongpob’s feet become a little numb, trying to keep his breathing steady as he pulls the thread gently through into a tidy stitch.

“Uh…do you have a girlfriend?”

“What?”

“You have sanitary pads in your apartment,” he nods towards at the open suitcase on the floor. “It’s not that far of a stretch to ask.”

“I’m also a high school nurse,” Kongpob counters, wincing at Arthit’s hiss of pain as he carefully pulls the needle through a second time. “And no, I’m single. And gay.”

Arthit says nothing, but stiffens again, although Kongpob isn’t entirely sure whether it’s because of what he’s said, or because the pain is overwhelming.

“Arthit?”

“I’m fine, just…give me a moment.”

He takes several long, deep breaths, sucking the air through his teeth. Kongpob hovers with the suture in his tweezers, gulping as he watches the muscles in Arthit’s back tense with the sharp pain.

“Okay,” he finally grunts after a few moments, although he’s still stiff. “You can keep going.”

“This is the last one,” Kongpob says quietly, to which Arthit nods. This time, as the needle pulls through flesh, Arthit audibly groans, fists gripping the quilt under him so tightly that his knuckles turn white.

And with the final stitch to seal the wound shut, Kongpob cuts off the end of the thread, then whispers a quiet shhhhhh in an attempt to soothe him, like he would with kids who stumble in from P.E. with a particularly nasty scrape.

Then, he cleans the tweezers and pulls off his gloves cautiously, still watching Arthit closely as he exhales through the worst of his excruciating pain. Eventually, though, his breath evens out, and he relaxes a little. Kongpob gets off of the bed from behind Arthit and stands in front of him now, holding his hands up.

“I’m…going to go wash up.”

“Okay,” Arthit nods, leaning back on one wrist. “Thank you.”

Kongpob doesn’t move, though, pondering until Arthit slowly looks up, eyes questioning.

“You’re not going to disappear on me again, are you?”

He finds himself blurting out the question before he can stop himself. Arthit immediately lowers his gaze again, as if having had his mind read.

“I’ve…caused you enough trouble for the night.”

“You shouldn’t be moving around so much with your shoulder like that. You could tear the stitches.”

“It’s fine, I can—”

“I’ll be worried.”

There, he’d said it.

Arthit blinks at him, stunned by the sentiment. Nobody, in his years of dashing around the Bangkok night, had ever shown even the slightest concern for his well-being, and even as his employees would scramble at his feet and leave generic store-bought gifts on his desk vying for his affection, he would return most nights to an empty penthouse, save for when housekeeping staff were on the tail end of the job as he unlocked the door.

A part of him knows that letting anyone in on his secret is a risk that would not only put his life in danger, but hadn’t he been the one to seek help in the first place? As the fates would have it, and as his weakening state that night had almost given him away as he flew home to somehow will away his latest injury, he’d taken a leap of faith and ducked into one of the balconies of the nearest building.

And Kongpob had nursed him, patched up the near-infected scrape, and not asked any questions.

But worry? Perhaps Arthit had assumed that, much like his strange abilities, he could disappear out of sight and consequently out of mind, to become once more a wallflower. Apparently, he’d underestimated this strange friendship he’d formed with the nurse, having decided for both of them that it would be best if he kept his distance beyond necessity.

Now, he watches Kongpob’s pinched brows await his response, and can’t help but feel an odd warmth spreading in his chest.

“Okay. I won’t disappear this time.”

Kongpob nods, seemingly satisfied, although he reaches past Arthit to grab his bloodied shirt. “I’ll wash this for you. You can borrow one of my shirts. In the third drawer over there,” he nods at the plain dresser, the top of which is lined with stacks and stacks of comic books.

Arthit hears the water from the sink running, and gingerly stands to retrieve a clean shirt. He pauses, though, thumbing gently through the tall stacks, most of them seemingly placed in order of release date, many tucked carefully into sealed plastic pouches, not a wrinkle in sight.

“You read them, too?”

Kongpob says, looking over as he pulls a hanger off the rack in his closet and drapes the damp shirt onto it. Arthit carefully replaces the volumes into their tidy pile, then tilts his head side to side.

“A few here and there when I was a kid. It’s…much less glamorous in practice.”

Kongpob chuckles, hooking the hanger on the closet door. “You don’t have a superhero name or a cool lycra suit, then?”

“No,” Arthit lets out a laugh, and Kongpob bites his lip, because it’s the first time he’s seen Arthit smile. Granted, he’s usually bleeding out and in pain, but it’s still a sight to behold. “I’m not some hero. Just a lonely nerd who can fly and become invisible.”

“What about a tragic, rags-to-riches backstory?”

“Oh, I suppose I sort of have one of those, although it’s really not that tragic. Not an orphan, but my parents shipped me off to boarding school at age ten and I essentially haven’t spoken to them since I was eighteen.”

“And the rich part?”

“I…run my own business.”

An understatement if he’d ever made one, but Kongpob doesn’t need to know just how deep his pockets really are.

“Cool,” Kongpob says simply, before remembering that Arthit is still very much shirtless and standing in front of him all muscled and roughed up.

It’s entirely expected, given that most of the superheroes he’s grown up reading about are in top physical condition, but it’s one thing to look at sharply coloured illustrations and an entirely different thing to see the real thing up close, goosebumps from the chilly air forming over warm, pale skin.

He averts his gaze before Arthit catches him staring. “I, uh…I can get you a waterproof plaster if you want to take a shower or something.”

Arthit looks down at himself, noting his somewhat dishevelled, sweaty state. A shower sounds nice, but…

“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude on you any more than necessary.”

“It’s the weekend. If I had a life, I’d be out on a Friday night, not lying around my apartment ready to nurse an injured superhero.”

“I’m not a superhe—”

“Right, so you’ve said.”

It falls quiet between them, before Kongpob reaches up to scratch the back of his own neck. “Don’t worry, I may never have had another man sleep in my bed, but I’m not desperate enough that I would do anything to you beyond accidentally kicking you in my sleep…you know, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort,” Arthit smirks at Kongpob’s rambling. “So…you’re…not…you haven’t—”

“I’m a huge virgin, yes, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“I was going to say ‘haven’t been in a relationship before’ but I guess that works, too.”

“Right,” Kongpob’s blush darkens. “But no, not that either.”

Arthit smiles gently. “Neither have I.”

“I would say I’m surprised, but the way you keep showing up here and bleeding everywhere, I can guess what you’re doing most nights instead of dating,” he nods at the stitched up cut. He swallows, realising that amidst his rambling, he’d indirectly suggested that he found Arthit good-looking. “Uh…well, speaking of which, I’ll get you that plaster.”

It takes everything within him to shake off whatever nerves still linger in his body as he tidies his supplies back into the enormous kit and straightens out the bedsheets while Arthit showers.

No, he has no ulterior motives in asking Arthit to stay other than to make sure he doesn’t accidentally tear open his stitches, but a man in his bed is still a man in his bed, no matter how innocent the context.

An extremely attractive man, at that, and Kongpob has no idea how to behave. The last time he’d shared a bed with anyone had been at camp in high school, during which his classmate had snored all night and hogged the blanket, leaving Kongpob to shiver on the wooden plank of a mattress.

He’d handed Arthit a clean set of clothes before the man had slipped into the bathroom, and now, he flicks the lights off, the way they’d been before the doorbell had rung. Somehow he can’t bring himself to relax, laying on his side as he stares out the window for some time before he hears the bathroom door click open, and the soft padding of bare feet on his tiled floor.

A few shuffling noises here and there, and then the space on the mattress next to him dips down slightly, and there’s a faint warmth behind him as Arthit tucks himself under the blanket.

Kongpob doesn’t move, focusing on breathing, as he imagines the man next to him is, too.

He’s safe, he tells himself. He’s been stitched up, and he’s fine now.

His quiet self-reassurance allows his shoulders to loosen slightly.

“Arthit?” he says softly into the room.

“Mm?”

“I know it’s like, your thing, or whatever…but…don’t disappear again without saying goodbye.”

Arthit turns his head slightly to glance at the back of Kongpob’s head in the dark.

“I won’t.”

“Promise?”

“I promise. Go to sleep.”

“Good night, Arthit.”

Kongpob finally allows his eyes to fall shut. If he doesn’t turn around, maybe he won’t open them in the morning to an empty pillow.

“Good night, Kongpob.”

True Love’s Kiss

AU Setting: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (the original fairytale, not the Disney film). That being said, I’ve used the nicknames from the film just to distinguish between the different dwarves. Genre is humour/fluff/crack. I don’t know if I need to put a warning for character death seeing as I imagine all of us know how the story of Snow White goes already…?

For your reference:

Grumpy:Arthit
Happy:Kongpob
Bashful:M
DopeyBright
DocKnot
SneezyOak
SleepyTutah
Snow White:Prae
Prince(ss) Charming:May

Following the death of their beloved Snow White, the seven dwarves mourn in their own ways. Grumpy takes it particularly hard, and Happy tries to comfort him.

The cottage had grown incredibly quiet since that fateful night.

The seven dwarves had laughed and sung working songs as they trudged home with their pick axes slung over their shoulders. It had been a long, tiring day in the coal mines, but they knew that their hard work would come to fruition when the court jeweller would come to purchase their findings.

Knot had been the first to open the creaky wooden door, being the responsible keeper of the cottage keys. A few others had trickled into the living room after him, before stopping in their tracks, their song and laughter dying down as they’d taken in the scene in front of them.

Oak had immediately pulled Bright and M back outside into the open, knowing that they would get increasingly upset if they were to stay.

Kongpob, for a change, had wiped his usual cheery demeanour from his face, hands trembling as he watched Tutah and Knot rush to Prae’s side, trying gently to shake some consciousness into her lifeless body, and pulling Arthit’s angry, tearful face into his shoulder when Knot had looked up at them mournfully after placing his short, stubby finger shakily under her nose. Tutah had solemnly picked up the apple that had fallen out her grasp, just after she’d taken the smallest of bites.

When Bright and M had finally realised what had happened, they had been inconsolable, sobbing and sniffling late into the night until exhaustion had finally overtaken all of them. It had been especially difficult to have to tuck themselves into bed that night, having grown accustomed to being lulled to sleep with Prae’s gentle song, and gentle kisses to each of their forehead as she brought the blankets up to their chins.

Over the next few days, they’d worked on building their beautiful caregiver an equally pristine coffin to rest in. Tutah and M carve out intricate patterns of vines and birds into the mahogany base of the coffin, while Doc busies himself with hammering a large concave of glass into crystalline shape, that would serve as the coffin’s lid. Even in death, Prae’s beauty deserved to be fully on display, for anyone who would come by to witness the purest of souls being preserved in her element.

They’re working on the final touches now, M brushing a coat of varnish onto the wood to give it a gleaming finish. The others rest after hours of hard work, sipping on clay mugs of hot tea that Kongpob had brought them to warm their hands in the nipping air of dusk in the forest clearing where they’re building the coffin.

Barely any of them have said a word to each other since Prae’s death, and the silence breaks in the most inelegant of manners.

“I can’t believe it,” Arthit says through clenched teeth. “After all we told her about not talking to strangers, she goes and does this.”

Tutah is the first to look at him, incredulous. Being generally fatigued by nature, he’d become even more lethargic in the last few nights, lying wide awake at night while trying to stifle his yawns.

“How could you say that, Grumpy? Are you trying to say that Snow did this to herself?”

“I’m not saying it’s her fault, Sleepy, but honestly!” he narrows his eyes. “Who takes an apple from a complete stranger who passes by the window?”

“I’m sure she was just being polite,” says Knot. “You know what she’s like. She even fed every bird who sat on our windowsill.”

“That’s exactly what I mean, Doc,” Arthit shakes his head in exasperation. “Maybe if she’d learned to say no once in a while, she wouldn’t have ended up like-“

“You know what, Grumpy? We don’t need your negativity right now,” Oak stands up, pointing an accusing finger at him. “We just lost our Snow and all you can do is complain and talk like you’re any better than the rest of us.”

“Yeah! Sneezy’s right!” M pipes up. “You’ve barely helped us with the coffin, and now you’re basically blaming her for her own death!”

Bright, who’d been crying up to this point, looks up at Arthit with angry, tearful eyes.

“Now look what you’ve done. You’ve gone and upset Dopey,” Knot sighs in exasperation. “Look, Grumpy, if you don’t have anything remotely helpful to say or do, just go back to the cottage.”

Arthit takes in the five angry glares surrounding him, and bites back the tears welling up in his eyes.

“Fine, I guess I’m not needed here.”

He dumps his empty mug on the ground next to the log he’d been sitting on, and stomps back towards the cottage as quickly as his short little legs will take him.

Kongpob watches after him, and his stomach sinks. He turns to the others, and sighs, picking up the fallen mug.

“You all know that he doesn’t actually mean any of that, right?”

“Happy, he basically said that it was Snow’s fault. How could he?” Oak pinches his nose as he holds in a quiet sneeze.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant,” Kongpob replies, standing up now, dusting moss off the back of his trousers. “Anyway, I’m going to go and check on him.”

The others bite back muted huffs of irritation as Kongpob, too, makes his way down the path leading back to their humble cottage. Kongpob had always been the only one among all of them who could tame Arthit’s ever-grumpy outbursts, and it’s only natural that this is the case now.

When Kongpob reaches the cottage, he sees Arthit standing at the edge of the pond that stretches out in front of their home. He’s kicking pebbles, watching as they plop with a resounding bloomp! into the mossy green water.

“You want to tell me what’s really on your mind, Grumpy?”

Arthit sighs, glancing sideways at his companion, whose usually sparkling eyes are now dim with a mask of sadness. Kongpob sits on a nearby log, patting the space next to him, into which Arthit slowly settles after a moment.

“I didn’t mean that I thought it was her fault,” he says, almost bitingly. “The others always just assume that I’m being horrible.”

“I know,” Kongpob shuffles closer to him and stretches his own small arm over Arthit’s narrow shoulders. “So what’s going on?”

“I guess…I’m just mad at myself, Happy. She’s always been so pure and kind, and always thought nobody could do her wrong, even me.”

“You never did anything to her, Grumpy,” Kongpob reassures him.

“I did! I knew how innocent she was and I knew someone should have stayed with her at the cottage, especially after her crazy stepmother tried twice with the suffocating bodices and the poisoned comb. I…I could’ve stayed with her, Happy, and I could’ve-“

“You could’ve what?” Kongpob reaches out to wipe a stray tear that’s rolling down Arthit’s cheek. “Grumpy, if not this time, the Evil Queen could have found another way. There’s nothing any of us could have done. We were all at the mine, like we always are, and it’s nobody’s fault, especially not yours.”

He pulls Arthit in closer, gently brushing a speck of dirt off the tip of his nose. Despite his nickname, Kongpob knows, looking into Arthit’s wide, scared eyes, that under all the snarky remarks, he, too, has a heart of pure gold.

“She’s at peace now, Grumpy,” Kongpob whispers, pulling Arthit’s crying face into his chest, the entire length of his arms cradling his head.

As he holds him, Kongpob looks up briefly to see Knot, whose shoulders are slumped over with guilt at having chastised their friend, who is clearly hurting just as much as the rest of them.

Knot walks over to them, frowning slightly before he, too, wraps his arms around Arthit, resting his head on his back. Arthit startles a little at the contact, but soon nestles his face further into Kongpob’s chest. As the others make their way back from the clearing, they join in on the collective embrace, crying silent tears together at the loss of their lovely Prae.

It takes all seven of them to carry Prae’s body to the coffin, but with some careful and calculated teamwork, they manage to heave her onto the bed of the casket, Tutah smoothing out her skirt and folding her hands on her abdomen. Despite almost a week having passed, she still looks as fresh as the morning they’d last seen her, almost as if she were merely deep in sleep. The only sign of her lifelessness is the colour gone from her cheeks, leaving her skin as white and pale as, well, snow.

As they stand around the casket, they each pull their caps off of their heads, clasping them in their fists as they silently say their goodbyes. Kongpob silently reaches for Arthit’s hand, and he takes it wordlessly, gripping it tightly as he looks down at his feet.

As Knot moves slide the glass top over the casket, they hear the trotting of a horse in the distance, causing several of them to look up. They watch in amazement as the stallion in question slows to a halt when it reaches the clearing.

The rider of the white steed, a broad-shouldered woman with large eyes and raven-black hair, gracefully slides off of the saddle, her long riding boots thumping onto the ground with the crunch of leaves. M immediately cowers, stepping backwards towards the coffin as though this sword-wielding, strikingly handsome rider could cause any further harm to their beloved Prae.

“I’m not going to hurt any of you,” she says, noticing the fear in some of their eyes. “I’m Princess May, daughter of King Tew from the neighbouring kingdom.”

The dwarves, upon realising they’re in the presence of royalty, immediately kneel in front of the princess, who quickly ushers for them to stand.

“Please, good men, there’s no need for that. I simply noticed that there were people in this clearing, and wondered what the commotion was.”

Knot, although somewhat reserved, speaks up.

“We’re holding a funeral, your Highness,” he says, gesturing to the coffin behind him. “Our caregiver was taken from us too soon.”

Princess May’s brows furrow with concern, and she moves towards the coffin, her sturdy armour scraping with every step. She sighs gently, taking in the features of the young woman, the gentle slope of her nose, her still-pink lips and the ebony hair swept off of her face.

“She’s beautiful,” she says, almost a whisper. “What happened to her?”

“She bit into a poisoned apple. The Queen of our kingdom has been trying to kill her for some time now. She’s incredibly jealous of her beauty.”

“Your queen? Queen Paga?”

“Yes,” Oak squeaks at the sound of her name. “We think she’s the one who disguised herself and gave our Snow White the apple.”

“She was too pure!” Bright wails suddenly, and Tutah pats his back.

“Oh, Dopey,” he says, an attempt at comforting his usually scatterbrained friend.

“You know,” Princess May stands up straight, still looking at Prae. “There’s an old legend that says that Queen Paga is actually a witch. She was once the most beautiful woman in all the land. But her first love broke her heart, and she grew bitter. From then on, she conjured a spell that could kill any woman who dared to surpass her beauty. I imagine that that’s what she’s done with the apple.”

“Like a curse?” Kongpob tilts his head up at her in wonder.

“Exactly,” May nods at him.

“Well, every curse can be lifted, can’t it?” Arthit finally speaks for the first time. The others look at him curiously as this realisation dawns on him. “Is there any way we can bring her back?”

“There is,” May speaks slowly now. “But I don’t know if it will be so easy to accomplish.”

“What is it? We’ll do whatever it takes!” M says, eyes pleading.

“Well, the legend states that the only way that the curse can be lifted is if she receives a kiss from her true love,” she sighs, pushing her sword hilt behind her. “The problem is that we don’t know who that is.”

A moment of silence hangs among them, until suddenly, Bright breaks it with a loud outburst.

“I volunteer myself!” he cries. “I will kiss her!”

Knot smacks him in the chest with the back of his hand.

“Nobody asked for a volunteer, Dopey. And anyhow, she loved us all equally.”

“No, she loved me best!”

“No, I was her favourite!”

“She said I was handsome!”

“She said I mined the best diamonds!”

May tries to stifle a giggle at the way the miniature men around her are bickering.

“Gentlemen,” she says, trying to bring the focus back to the matter. “Look, I’m sure she loved all of you very much. And in such a case, I don’t think it would hurt for all of you to try.”

They exchange hesitant glances at each other, before nodding.

“I’ll go first!” Bright says, stepping closer to the coffin and climbing onto the edge to prop himself up so that he’s tall enough to reach. Despite his initial eagerness, his heart drops upon seeing Prae lie motionless, and a tear trickles down his nose as he gently presses a kiss to her forehead. The others hold their breaths as they wait for some sort of miracle reaction.

But none comes even after several minutes, and Bright eventually lowers himself back down to the ground, clearly disappointed, both with Prae’s persisting unconscious state, and with the fact that he was not, in fact, her true love.

“Um…I guess I’ll go next,” Knot mumbles. He, too, quickly pecks her forehead, and anxiously watches for any sign of awakening. Nothing.

The others follow after, each placing furtive kisses on her cheeks and forehead, each leaving disappointed when she doesn’t so much as flinch. Her skin remains cold and lifeless.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” May looks glumly down at her feet. “I wish I knew how else I could help. But there’s not much we can do when we don’t know who her true love is.”

They cling tighter to their hats, all solemn with defeat. Kongpob, however, who still has a teary Arthit’s face buried into his shoulder, looks up at her.

“Princess May, if I could, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for your highness to try as well? There’s no saying that her true love must be a man.”

At this, the others snap their heads up in surprise, trying to comprehend his meaning. Even Princess May takes a moment to ponder his words. Eventually, all the others are nodding in agreement, and gaze up at her with pleading eyes.

“Please?” Arthit says through a sniffle. “It’s our last hope for now.”

The handsome princess looks from them, to the resting maiden in the casket, and then back at the crying dwarves. For them, she would try. And if one as beautiful as the fair one lying before her were to be her true love, she can’t say that she minds terribly.

She steps forward, tucking her hair behind her ear, before slowly bending down, until her face nears Prae’s, observing the curve of her eyelashes and the ethereal glow of her pale skin. Then, her breath hitches as she gently presses her lips to the young girl’s, surprised by the softness, nothing like the lips of the nobleman with whom her mother had tried to arrange an engagement for her.

A few seconds pass, and she pulls away, her own cheeks slightly rosy.

She and the dwarves peer closely, breaths shortened as they wait eagerly.

Then, a miracle happens.

Kongpob thinks he might be seeing things, but he gasps when he realises that indeed, the colour in Prae’s cheeks flush a gentle pink, and her lashes flutter ever so slightly.

The others soon realise, too, and May grasps at Prae’s hands, feeling the warmth return to them gradually. A few more rises and falls of her chest and Prae’s eyes slowly flutter open, hazily taking in her surroundings.

The first thing she sees is the most dashingly beautiful woman she’s ever seen, and the small, dimpled smile on her face is lovely.

“Hello,” May whispers to her. “You must be Snow White.”

They stare at each other admiringly for a few more moments, before Prae finds herself surrounded by the hugs and kisses of her seven little friends, who are crying tears of joy and singing songs of praise.

Another week passes, and Kongpob and Arthit find themselves sitting at the window inside the cottage, gazing out into the front yard, where Prae is blushing and giggling at something Princess May whispers into her ear.

The two dwarves have just finished sweeping all the kitchen dust out the door, and after Oak’s complaints of it worsening his allergies, they decide to take a breather.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Kongpob says, watching the two girls.

“What is?” Arthit rests his chin on his hand, elbow on the windowsill.

“How love is so powerful that it can bring someone back to life,” he clarifies. “A simple kiss brought our Snow back to us.”

“Yes, well…what are the chances, though? Not all of us can find our true love in this lifetime.”

Kongpob smiles at his friend, an aching tightness forming in his chest as he observes the soft features of Arthit’s face, a complete juxtaposition to his nickname. He’s always thought that Arthit is just as, if not more, beautiful than Prae.

“What are you looking at?” Arthit suddenly feels awfully shy, blinking rapidly as the tips of ears redden with embarrassment.

“Would you kiss me to save my life, Grumpy?”

“Wh-What?” Arthit stutters. “Who says I’m your true love? And besides, you shouldn’t be taking poison apples from strangers anyway!”

He exhales sharply, a slight pout forming at Kongpob’s cheeky suggestion. The cheerful dwarf simply chuckles, leaning in closer, sending Arthit’s already thumping heart into overdrive.

“But hypothetically, if you were my true love, would you kiss me to bring me back?”

Arthit glances sideways at him, leaning away from the mischievous smirk.

“No,” he huffs, earning a slightly dejected look from Kongpob, who now moves away to rest his chin on his hands, palms laid on top of each other.

The corner of Arthit’s mouth turns up slightly. Feeling a hint of bravery wash through him, he leans in close enough to whisper in Kongpob’s ear.

“I’d kiss you even if you weren’t dead.”

Then he stands up, picking up the broom again and heading into the kitchen where Knot and Bright are stirring something in a large pot.

Looking over his shoulder briefly, he sees Kongpob’s shocked expression, and smiles slightly as Kongpob’s own mouth breaks into a wide grin, the sparkle in his eyes returning for the first time in two weeks.

True love does come in all genders, shapes, and sizes, after all.

Great Heights

Kongpob finds himself in an unusual predicament one afternoon when he seeks comfort at his favourite place on campus.

On days following heavy storms, a cool breeze sifts through the area, the humid weight of dark grey clouds having dissipated from the skies.

On days like these, Kongpob likes to spend time alone under his favourite spot on the university lawn. Actually, to call it a lawn would be a bit of stretch, seeing as it’s really more of a 200 meter-squared spread of dried-up grass that is rarely maintained, leaving sporadically exposed patches of dirt and the occasional mud hole. 

But it’s not the grass to which Kongpob feels attached. In the far corner, behind the faculty building, there’s a giant monkey-pod tree, a marvellous creature in its own right, like a mushroom overgrown a by a thousand times. From afar, with its branches spidering almost endlessly outwards into densely packed leaves, it looks sort of like nature’s brain emerging out of the ground. 

It’s special to Kongpob, not just because he’d discovered it on a particularly difficult day in his freshman year, but also because it’s the perfect cool shade from the blazing heat without the dryness of air-conditioning, and has a sturdy trunk right in the centre that supports his back in the most optimal way. 

Today, after a particularly long lecture on game theory, he seeks comfort under nature’s giant umbrella, allowing his things to fall beside him as he leans back and stretches his legs out. He thinks there’s nothing that could ever interrupt his blissful moment alone, away from freeloading classmates and the droning sound of his professor’s voice. 

That is, until he hears a cough.

Or at least, he thinks it’s a cough. 

But that can’t be, because there’s nobody seated around any other side of the trunk, nor can he see anyone else within a twenty-metre radius. 

I’m probably just tired and hearing things.

He resumes his position, leaning his head back against the smooth central stem of the tree, closing his eyes and taking deep, calming breaths.

Until he hears it again.

He stands up this time, properly walking a full circle around the base of the tree, trying to source out the origin of the sound. Suddenly, he hears a brief rustling of the leaves above him, and only when he looks up, does he startle in surprise.

It’s a…person.

An actual, living, breathing person, just…sitting in the tree, on a high branch at least three or four metres off the ground. He’s wearing a crimson red workshop jacket, the colour of the university’s engineering faculty, a black t-shirt, jeans, and…one shoe?

“Hi,” he calls out finally, overcoming the initial shock, now simply bewildered at the fact that there is a person! In the tree! His tree!

The guy doesn’t look down at him. Instead, his eyes remain trained straight ahead, and occasionally above him.

“H-hi,” he responds, his fingers gripping tightly onto the branch. He’s nestled at the nook of the branch, right where it meets the main trunk.

“Um…sorry, I don’t mean to bother you,” Kongpob scratches the back of his neck. “But…w-why are you in the tree?”

There’s a slight irritation to his voice. He doesn’t like the idea of sharing his beloved tree with anyone, especially note in such a way where someone feels entitled to just climb its branches like monkey bars. Kongpob doesn’t get a response at first, the engineering student seemingly refusing to look down at him. 

“I…my shoe,” he finally says after a moment, pointing vaguely upwards at a branch a little further away from him. “It got stuck up there.” 

Kongpob squints at where the guy is pointing, and sure enough, a greyish-blue sneaker with white laces and a thick, flat rubber sole is sitting on one of the larger branches, about a metre’s grasp away.

He glances back at the guy now. He’s still shaking a little, holding onto the branch he’s sitting on, legs curled under and around the branch like any slight movement would cause him to fall to his death. 

“Are you stuck?”

The guy simply nods a little, biting his lip as he gulps slightly. 

“I…don’t know how to get down,” he says, voice cracking a little. “I didn’t think it was this far up.”

The poor guy is afraid of heights, Kongpob realises. Suddenly, the previous indignation he’d held about the intruder dissipates into sympathy, and he looks down at his own feet for a moment, then visually scans the length of the tree trunk, trying to map out how the tree-sitter had managed to get up so high in the first place.

And then he’s placed one foot in a ridge between two of the main, thicker branches that stem from near the bottom, and pulled himself upwards until he can reach even further.

“Wh-what are you doing?” Kongpob hears the guy’s shaky voice.

“Getting your shoe.”

“Wait, don’t-” he starts in protest, but Kongpob is already clambering his way towards the isolated target.

“It’s fine.”

The process reminds him of the times he’s been indoor rock climbing, except maybe a little easier, as there are sturdier surfaces for him to place his footing, and deeper crevices for his fingers to curl around. He easily climbs and leaps his way up to where the lone sneaker is, carefully grabbing it off the branch, and holding it out, waving it at the other boy in triumph.

“Got it!” he grins, clearly proud of himself.

He looks over at the guy now, who’s sort of smiling, but it’s more a grimace as he nods slowly. He’s kind of cute, Kongpob notices, taking in his large, slightly nervous doe eyes and the sharp slope of his nose that meets a pair of shapely, rosy lips. 

“You shouldn’t have come up here,” the guys says quietly, eyes closing in a sigh.

“Why? I got your shoe,” Kongpob clings on to a smaller branch hanging above him, standing on one of the sturdier branches a little less than adjacent to the one the other guy is sitting on. 

“Yes, thanks…but, um,” he gestures vaguely downwards without looking. “How are we going to get down now?”

“What do you mean? We’ll just climb back down.”

Kongpob chuckles in amusement before allowing his gaze to fall below him, and only then does he suck in a short gasp. 

Like before, he mentally maps out how he’d managed to get up so high off the ground, except this time, he’s struggling to find an appropriate route downwards. While he’d had no trouble leaping and bounding upwards, jumping up and grabbing whichever low-reaching branch he could hold on to, the realisation now dawns on him that jumping down onto the narrow widths of said branches was a whole different story. 

There’s no way he can get down without breaking at least one limb. Suddenly, the ground looks much further away than it initially had. 

“Crap…” 

“Yep…pretty much.”

Kongpob exhales deeply and slowly lowers himself into a crouch, pawing cautiously at a branch in front of him to do so, before seating himself onto the fork in the almost completely vertical length of wood, not unlike the one his companion is currently situated on. 

He allows the shoe to fall below him, just to see how long it takes to reach the grass below, and only confirms his dread when it lands after two seconds, bouncing several times across the soil before rolling away, stopping several meters from the base of the trunk. 

“Do you…have your phone?” Kongpob rubs a finger across his chin, slightly embarrassed.

“It’s out of battery. You?”

“In my bag,” he sheepishly points down at his belongings, now seemingly far tinier than they had been before.

Kongpob looks over at the guy now, who’s still trying to calm himself with deep, steady breaths, and willing himself not to look down.

“Hey, what’s your name?”

The boy returns his gaze momentarily, surprised by the question.

“Arthit,” he replies after a dazed few seconds.

“Ah, looks like I couldn’t escape the sun after all,” the corner of Kongpob’s mouth turns upwards, faintly teasing. “I’m Kongpob, from the faculty of economics.”

Arthit presses his lips into a thin smile, blushing slightly at the comment. 

“Engineering,” he pulls slightly at his jacket to emphasise the embroidered gear on the right chest pocket. SSU ’57, Kongpob can just about make out the small print. So he’s a senior.

“How did your shoe end up in a tree anyway?” 

It seems the most obvious question to ask, and one with the least obvious answer. Arthit snorts, shaking his head in mild annoyance.

“One of my friends…he thought he saw a fruit up here and wanted to knock it down.”

“Fruit?” Kongpob quirks an eyebrow. “If there were seedpods, they’d be all over the tree and the ground.”

“Yes, well, my friend isn’t all that bright…. ironically,” Arthit seems slightly more relaxed now. “His name is Bright,” he clarifies, noting Kongpob’s slightly confused expression at his previous remark. 

“Why didn’t he use his own shoe?”

“He said mine had a heavier sole and therefore would have a greater impact. That,  and he didn’t want to ruin his Air Jordans.”

Kongpob grins in amusement at this, glad to see Arthit slightly more relaxed now. 

There could be worse ways to spend his afternoon than sitting in a tree with a cute guy, Kongpob can admit. He chuckles to himself, a familiar childish rhyme popping into his mind.

“What?” Arthit eyes him curiously.

“Nothing, it’s just…this whole situation is kind of ridiculous,” he breaks into a wide smile. “I meant to spend my afternoon just reading and instead, we’re both stuck in a giant tree, you’re only wearing one shoe, and honestly, I’m not even mad.”

“You’re not? Because the minute we get down from here, I’m carrying out a murder plot,” Arthit snickers, shaking his head. “It could be worse, I guess. You could’ve just left me here to fend for myself.”

“I would do no such thing,” Kongpob reassures him. 

He gazes out beyond the leaves, at tiny figures passing by along paths in the distance. For a moment, he considers just screaming at the top of his lungs for help, but admittedly, he’s not exactly in a rush to leave his current position, practical predicament aside.

“I’ve always liked the view from this tree,” Arthit leans against the trunk now, his legs dangling on either side of the branch he’s sat on. “But honestly, this is a whole new perspective.” 

Kongpob turns to Arthit, who’s staring in the same direction that his own line of vision had just been, a small smirk on his face. 

“Yeah, I like the view up here,” he agrees quietly and with a soft smile, and Arthit briefly shifts his gaze towards him. 

It takes a few moments for Arthit to fully register the double meaning of his words, and when he does, his cheeks flush slightly, and he bites back a smile of his own. He turns his face away but pales again when he realises he’s looking down still, sucking in another sharp breath. 

“So you’re here often, too?”

“Yeah, although I’m usually here in the mornings between classes to nap.”

“No wonder,” Kongpob carefully shifts himself so he’s seated more firmly on the branch. “I’m usually here in the afternoons after longer lectures.”

“Wait, are you the one who carved Kong into the side of the tree?” Arthit suddenly recalls a vague image of the name he’d noticed one day a few months ago. 

“Yeah,” Kongpob laughs. “I guess I’m a little possessive that way. I don’t like being sharing this space. Unless the company’s good, of course,” he adds pointedly. 

“And here I thought this tree was mine,” Arthit says jovially. “I’ll make a note to carve my own name.”

“I suppose we can have shared custody,” Kongpob quips, earning another shy silence.

They remain like this for another hour or so, continuing their coy banter as the sky begins to haze over with the fall of dusk. As the sun goes down, so gradually does Arthit’s previous anxiety over their predicament.

Soon, though, they hear the shuffling of footsteps and glimpse the rays of a flashlight briefly glowing beneath their dangling feet, shining onto Kongpob’s abandoned belongings at the base of the tree. 

The stream of light then moves upwards, and the confused, furrowed brows of a campus security guard stare back at them.

“You boys okay?” the man calls out, flashing his torch between each of their faces, causing both of them to squint.

“We’re stuck!” Arthit calls down, relieved that someone had finally found them.

“Okay,” the guard clicks his flashlight off. “I’ll be right back with a ladder. Hang tight,” he says, making his way back out of the shade. “Kids these days…”

The climb down still has Arthit’s knees shaking, but it’s far less terrifying than having to risk navigating the uneven network of sloped branches of the monkey-pod. As soon as he joins Kongpob back on the ground, he crouches for a moment, patting the ground below him in relief. 

Then, he stands back, dusting the back of his jeans off and thanking the rather miffed security guard, who just shakes his head and manoeuvres the collapsible ladder back under his arm.

Kongpob begins to gather up his things and pulls his phone out of his bag. He has a good thirty unread notifications, but he ignores them, pulling up the dial pad instead.

“Arthit,” he bites his lip nervously. “You don’t have to, but…uh…” he trails off, but meekly holds his phone out to him. “You know, just in case you want some company the next time you’re here.”

Arthit stares at the glowing screen for a moment, glad that the overall dimming glow of sunset makes it difficult for Kongpob to see his flustered face. He hesitates just a moment longer before taking the device and pressing in his number with a reserved smile and then hands the phone back. 

Kongpob looks down at the digits, a shy smile forming on his lips as he saves the contact. 

A few weeks later, they’re leaning against the trunk of the tree, Kongpob with his book and Arthit snoozing with his head tilted back. Sure that Arthit is at least mostly asleep, Kongpob pulls a small Swiss Army knife out of his backpack, pushing himself up to stand and move to where he’d etched his name into the bark months before.

+

Arthit

He adds under his own name.

Juice of Weapon

Kongpob is alone at home, until an intruder breaks into the apartment, and he has to think quick on his feet.

It’s been awfully quiet for the past week. 

Kongpob finds himself still momentarily confused when he wakes up to find the space on the mattress next to him cold and empty. There’d been one night earlier in the week when he’d completely forgotten that he was alone, and had accidentally bought dinner for two. Not being able to stomach spicy food, he’d given the other meal to a homeless woman instead. One time, he’d forgotten to bring his towel into the bathroom, and had called out from the shower, only to remember that there was nobody to help him. He’d poked his head out cautiously to check that he wouldn’t be exposed through any windows before carefully traipsing his way, naked and dripping everywhere, to the bedroom. 

It’s not often that he has the apartment all to himself. Frankly, he’s not even upset about it. Of course, it had taken some getting used to, but towards the end of the week, Kongpob had found that it allowed him room to do things that he wouldn’t normally be able to, like eating all the blandest foods that brought him comfort, watching historical documentaries and gardening shows, and going to bed early. 

By Friday, he’s bored enough in the evenings that he goes to the market and buys an absurd amount of fruit and vegetables, filling the fridge to the brim with an array of produce. He’d read somewhere about the different benefits of juicing, and had decided that a minced pork omelette with rice probably wasn’t bringing him the most balanced nutrition. Tonight with dinner, he makes himself a strawberry, apple, pear and carrot juice.

He marvels at the reddish-pink colour, and smiles fondly, as it reminds him of something –  or rather, someone – else he’s fond of. 

Arthit’s supposed to be home from his trip tomorrow afternoon. Sometimes his work takes him to other provinces for a day or two, or occasionally, to Laos or Cambodia. This time though, he’s been invited to attend a conference in Tokyo and is gone for a full ten days. 

Kongpob resists the daily urge to bombard him with messages of How’s it going? and Are you eating alright? or even just I miss you <3 , knowing that his boyfriend prefers some space from time to time, especially when he’s busy with work. And so Kongpob finds a myriad of ways to distract himself in the evenings. He starts by mopping the floor so clean you could eat off of it,  making every combination of juice he can think of until he feels their blender getting warm, or taking extensive notes as he watches Animal Planet. Literally anything to keep his hands too busy to overwhelm Arthit with texts. 

Tonight, he puts in the extra effort to have the latest episodes of all of Arthit’s favourite animes lined up in their TV, puts a couple of bottles of pink milk in the door of the fridge, and refills the drawer of their bedside table with the appropriate supplies (they’d been running low anyway).

He has a somewhat restless night of sleep, waking every half hour or so to the slightest noises or disturbances, turning in his sleep so often that the bed sheet begins to crease from the movement. The room is both too warm with the blanket on, but too cold without. It’s uncomfortable sleeping on his side, but he can’t fall asleep lying on his back, and yet lying on his front hurts his neck. After he’s woken up yet again by the muted slam of a car door outside the building, he finally accepts defeat and sits up in bed, rubbing his eyes as he peers at the wall clock. It’s three in the morning. 

Maybe he’s just dehydrated. Yes, the irritation in his throat might do well with a cold glass of water. So he pulls himself out of bed, making his way to the kitchen in darkness, the only light coming in from the windows, with the vague glow of warm white street lights that line their neighbourhood. 

He opens the fridge, moving aside a few cucumbers and peaches to grab the water jug, before feeling around the kitchen counter for a glass. The icy cold fluid does soothe his dry throat, sending a pleasant chill throughout him, and he moves to pour himself another glass.

Just as he’s about to pick up the jug again, he hears a sudden click coming from the front door, followed by the faint shuffling of footsteps.

His entire body freezes for a moment, panicking at the thought of an intruder. He’d read the news lately about burglars in their district, stealing anything and everything they deemed worthy of reselling. 

Had he forgotten to lock the door? It couldn’t be that; he always made sure it was the last thing he did before residing in his room for the night. Unless the burglar could pick locks? How else would they be able to enter into people’s homes so easily?

After a few deep breaths, he blindly grabs the first thing he can reach in a moment’s hurry, keeping his eyes trained behind him in case anyone should suddenly sneak up on him. Then he carefully and silently shuts the door of the fridge, turning to make his way towards the living room slowly, his weapon of choice gripped firmly at his side in his trembling hand.

His heart is beating so madly that he can feel it drumming in his ears, and he wills himself to be steady enough to successfully attack the intruder so that they’re at least unconscious for long enough for him to call the police. He almost manages to maintain some semblance of calm, until he sees a dark figure emerge from the front hallway.

And then the lights flicker on.

“AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH NO NO NO NO! JUST TAKE WHATEVER YOU WANT! PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!” he screams frantically, squeezing his eyes shut and aggressively, aimlessly whacking the air in front of him with whatever is in his hands. 

“Whoa, whoa, what are you-“

“J-Just take the television! Or the wine glasses! They’re brand new! S-Spare my life, please!” 

He yelps in terror again as he feels firm hands grab his wrists in an attempt to stop him from struggling.

“Kong, stop it! What are you doing?!”

Hang on a second…the burglar knows his name? 

Still panting in fear, he slowly peeks an eye open, his entire body seeming to sigh with relief when he sees that it’s just his boyfriend, who looks proportionately alarmed and confused. He pushes his suitcase aside and shrugs his backpack off, raising an eyebrow at Kongpob’s distressed state.

“P’Arthit! You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“What the heck are you doing? And why are you up so late?”

“I was getting some water,” Kongpob groans, shuffling forward to step into Arthit’s slightly outstretched arms. He exhales into his lover’s shoulder, the familiar warmth and strong arms around his back, bringing him immediate comfort. “Why are you back so soon? I thought you weren’t supposed to be back until this afternoon.”

“I caught an early flight because I wanted to surprise you,” he chuckles softly into Kongpob’s hair and playing with the tag hanging out of the back of his sleep shirt. “Now, are you going to tell me why were you trying to attack me?”

Kongpob pulls back slightly, a little embarrassed as he avoids Arthit’s amused expression.

“I…I thought you were a burglar or some crazy murderer. There’ve been some news reports about it lately.”

Arthit’s grin widens now, and he laughs as he looks down at what’s in Kongpob’s hand. 

“And…you were going to try and fight off this psycho with…a head of celery?” he says gently, but with a hint of teasing in his voice. He bites his lip to stifle back a laugh, but snickers a little anyway. 

Kongpob now brings his hand up to look at the somewhat dishevelled looking vegetable before quickly hiding it behind him. Indeed, it would not have made a very effective tool in fighting off a criminal, who might potentially have had a knife or gun. Arthit is properly laughing now, though he’s trying to stifle it behind his hand. 

“P’Arthit!” Kongpob groans. “Don’t make fun of me! I just grabbed the first thing I could!” 

“Aww, I’m sorry,” Arthit pulls him closer again, petting the back of his head. He’s still grinning with amusement, though. “I won’t make fun of your very nutritious weapon. Although, I think a white radish might have made a greater impact.” 

His boyfriend huffs softly into the crook of his neck, but eventually returns the hug, placing the celery aside on the end table near them.

“I missed you, P’Arthit,” he says quietly, breathing in Arthit’s familiar scent. “I really tried not to bother you because I know you were busy, but I just-“

“I know. I missed you too,” Arthit gently unwraps Kongpob’s arms from around his waist and, taking in the sight of Kongpob’s slightly pink cheeks, can’t help but press his lips to his forehead. He’s too cute when he’s embarrassed, something that doesn’t happen often. In fact, he’s usually on the receiving end of Kongpob’s relentless teasing. “Although I’m glad you grabbed celery and not a knife, or this night would have turned out very differently.” He pauses a moment, narrowing his eyes in question. “Why did you buy celery anyway? Please don’t tell me you tried to cook again.”

“No,” Kongpob looks at him pointedly, ignoring the jab at his far from perfect culinary skills. “I’ve just been making some smoothies. Do you want one?”

Arthit peers at the rather sad-looking vegetable on the end table, half the stalks snapped in half from his lover’s violent swinging, and the base looking bruised from where he’d gripped it tightly in fear. 

“I’m not sure I want to drink your murder weapon juice.”

“Fine, then,” Kong says, feigning nonchalance. “I’ve read that celery boosts the release of certain hormones, but…if you’re not in the mood, then we can just go to sleep,” he shrugs, then keeps his eyes trained on Arthit’s as he makes his way back to their room.

His boyfriend stares after him a moment, eyeing the celery again, contemplating what Kongpob is implying. It’s certainly been a long week and a half. 

“Kong, wait,” he calls after him. “Tell me more about celery juice.”