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The Unspoken

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Khom 


Type runs after his football and never comes back.

For a long time, Khom waits alone in the yard, kicking at the dust with his sandals and feeling the warm sea breeze against his face. Perhaps Type got distracted, he thinks – perhaps his father called for him, or he can’t find the ball, or he met up with another of their friends and forgot to come back.

Perhaps he has fallen and hurt himself.

And so, as the sun sets over the ocean behind him and the shadows lengthen, Khom sets out to find his friend. He skips a little, still in good spirits; it’s the first week of summer vacation, and they have weeks of warm weather and fun ahead of them. For the first time, his father has said he is old enough to start helping with the holidaymakers, and he can’t wait to practice his English and earn some money from tips. 

Khom reaches the end of the track and stops, his smile fading. Type is nowhere to be found.

“Type?” He calls uncertainly, turning slowly on the spot. He shouldn’t be worried – it’s getting late, and surely Type has just gone home – but there is an ominous, frightened feeling prickling up his spine, and it makes him want to cry. “Type?”

He glances over his shoulder towards the old warehouse. It’s crumbling with disuse, its tin roof rusty and stained, and the sight of it makes him shiver. He considers looking inside, just in case, but in the end, he turns away and walks home.

Even if he had checked, Type tells him many years later, he would have been too late.

He finds out what happened from the newspaper, three days later. His mother reads it over breakfast, pales, and rushes from the room, leaving it on the table. Curious, Khom leans over to glance at the headline, and feels his blood freeze in his veins.

“Type isn’t taking any visitors,” Type’s father tells him when he knocks on their door, out of breath from running. He looks as though he hasn’t slept in days; his face is grey, his eyes bloodshot, the angles of his face shadowed by a haunting sorrow and guilt. Khom is too young to understand, really, what has happened, but Type’s father’s face explains it better than anything else ever could.

“Please,” Khom says. “I just want to see him.”

“He’s sick.”

“He isn’t sick!” Khom brandishes the newspaper. “I know what happened. Please, let me see him, I’m his best friend.”

Type’s father looks like he is about to grow angry, but then his mother appears in the doorway and offers Khom a quavering smile. “Khom, come in. I don’t know if Type will want to see you, but you can try.”

So, cautiously, Khom climbs the stairs to Type’s bedroom and knocks on his door. 

“Type?” No response. “It’s me, Khom. Can I come in?”

For a long moment, there is no reply. Then, almost inaudibly, he hears Type whisper, “Khom.”

Type’s bedroom looks the same as it always has. The same football posters, the same trophies, the same model rockets and toy trains, the same mobile above his bed where all the planets in the solar system spin slowly above them. 

And there, on the bed, is Type, hunched against the headboard with his knees drawn to his chest and his hands clenched around them, his face streaked with tears. His eyes are dark.

Slowly, Khom moves to sit on the edge of the bed near him, and Type flinches.

“Type.” His voice comes out as a whisper. He doesn’t know what to say. “Did you ever find the football?”

He curses the words as soon as they are out of his mouth – but then Type snorts a tiny laugh, and Khom feels his chest lighten a little. Until, seconds later, Type buries his face in his knees and begins to cry.

“Type,” he says again, helpless. He reaches out and brushes Type’s shoulder, gently, and Type flings his hand away with a choked gasp.

“Don’t touch me!” He sobs, and Khom shuffles away, feeling awful.

“I’m sorry,” he tells him, and he sits there, silent and useless, until Type’s tears subside. He moves to stand, and although Type doesn’t say anything, he sees the flash of fear in his eyes, sees the way his hand darts out for an instant as if to stop him. Type doesn’t want to be alone, he realises. Type wants him to stay.

He sits back down, and the relief in Type’s eyes is palpable.

“We don’t have to talk,” Khom tells him. “But let me sit with you for a while.”

An hour later, Type’s mother comes in, and Khom leaves. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he tells Type, who makes no indication of having heard him.

He returns the next day, and the day after that.

After five days, Type whispers, “Talk to me.” So Khom tells him about their school friends, and the tourist who had been stung by a jellyfish, and the recent football fixtures. When he says Type’s favourite team has won, he sees him smile, just a little.

A week later, he brings a card game. He lets Type win. Type gives him a tiny, fragile version of his usual smirk, and says, “You can do better than that. Let’s play again.”

Two weeks later, they watch the football together. Khom’s favourite team beats Type’s three-nil, and Type shoves him in feigned annoyance. It’s the first time they have touched since it happened.

A month later, Type leaves his bedroom for the first time.

Slowly, Type is getting better, but Khom knows things will never be the same as they were. Something about Type has irrevocably, irreparably changed; he is older now, more cynical, more bitter. There is a deep anger burning within him, fuelled by fear, and Khom doesn’t know how to put it out.

So, when they are fourteen years old and a classmate tells them about their older brother who is gay, and Type says, “That’s disgusting!”, Khom doesn’t contradict him. He sees the haunted look in his eyes, the memories from three years ago rising to the surface, and he feels Type’s pain.

When he gets home that night, he burns the magazines he had hidden beneath his mattress, watches the muscular bodies flicker and curl. He tries to suppress the way he feels when he sees male actors and k-pop stars on the television – the way he feels when he sees Type.

He doesn’t want to be the kind of person his best friend is afraid of.

He doesn’t want to be the kind of person who hurts little boys.

So he pushes it all deep down inside, locks it away, hides it in the darkest part of his heart until he can almost convince himself it was never there at all.

 

Techno


“I swear I’m going to be dead by the end of this semester,” Techno announces as they walk back from football practice, the late afternoon sun scorching the backs of their necks. They’re two weeks into their freshman year of university, and already Techno feels like he is going to explode from stress.

“Is that a promise?” Type asks, and Techno elbows him hard in the ribs.

“You won’t be laughing when you find my dead body sprawled out in the courtyard, a testament to the suffering of the poor, overworked freshmen.”

Type snorts. “Actually, that would be pretty funny.”

“Hey!” Techno pushes him, but catches his arm before he can stumble into the road, because he’s not an absolute monster. “I’m not kidding. I actually feel like I’m going to die.”

He must sound pitiful enough for Type to feel sorry for him, because a moment later, he feels his friend’s arm fall casually across his shoulders. “Come on, you big baby. Let’s go find you some ice tea or something.”

They order their drinks and sit down at a table in the corner of the coffee shop, by the wide window overlooking the street. The sidewalk is quiet at this time, most people having returned from work or college and retreated to their homes to escape the searing sun, and the usual noises of the city have receded a little.

This is the city he’s grown up in, the place he knows like the back of his hand – but for Type, raised on the southern coast, it’s an entirely new world. Techno wonders if, behind his friend’s brash confidence, there is a part of him that is afraid.

“Are you still dying?” Type asks.

Techno considers this for a moment, then shakes his head. “No,” he concedes. “I think the ice tea has revived me.”

Type huffs and gives him a smile of fond exasperation. They’ve only known each other for two weeks, since they got lost together on freshman induction day, but they have already become close friends, clinging together in the manner of people thrust into an unfamiliar environment. On the surface, they are polar opposites, but underneath, Techno suspects they have more in common than Type would care to admit.

“Hey, No,” Type says, taking another sip of his tea. “Is there a barber near here? My hair is getting way too long.”

“I think it looks fine.”

Type rolls his eyes. “I wasn’t asking for your opinion, dumbass.”

He grins sheepishly. “Sorry. Uhh…oh, yeah, there’s one just a few streets away! I can take you there, if you want.”

“Really?”

“Hm!” He nods enthusiastically. “Are you free tomorrow?”

Type squints at him, looking simultaneously bewildered and touched. “You don’t have to go with me. I can find it by myself.”

“It’s fine, I’ll take you. I know the city better than you. Besides,” he says with a smile. “Of course I’ll help you. That’s what friends are for.”

Oddly, that insignificant exchange becomes the defining moment of their friendship. From that point onwards, they fall into a steady rhythm of give and take, of helping one another and being their rock to lean on, allowing themselves to fall back on each other. It’s a relationship founded entirely on trust, and that trust never wavers, not for an instant.

When Type has a weird sexuality crisis about his roommate, Techno supports him, even if he has literally no fucking clue what’s going on or what the problem is. And when, finally, Type and Tharn get into a relationship, then break up, Techno is there to give him a bed for the night and a shoulder to cry on.

And Type repays him in kind – pulling all-nighters to help him study, buying him food, standing up to anyone who dares to mock him. When, many months later, Techno passes out drunk and wakes up to find himself in bed with his little brother’s friend, accused of the unthinkable - the first person he runs to is Type, who holds him and calms him and helps untangle the truth, and threatens to beat the shit out of Kengkla with a ferocity Techno has never seen in him before or since. 

“Thank you,” Techno says to him a many years later, when they are sitting in the bar together, slightly tipsy and buzzing from the atmosphere. Tharn has just performed, and the room is alight with the afterglow of his music.

Type squints at him over the rim of his glass. “For what?”

“I dunno. Everything.” Shit, yeah, the alcohol is really getting to him. The lights are all kind of blurring together. “For being my friend, I guess. Helping me, and not turning me away even when I really fucked up, and looking after me through all these years. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

Type wrinkles his nose, looking doubtful. “I’m kind of an asshole, though,” he says. And yeah, it’s sort of true, but it makes Techno mad, because he’s the only person allowed to say stuff like that about his best friend.

“Shut up.” He flings an arm around him, and Type pulls a face but doesn’t resist. “You’re an asshole, but you’re my favourite asshole.”

“Whatever.” But Type is smiling, small and satisfied, his cheeks flushed a light pink. “Come on, lets get you home before you pass out on the floor.”

Type slings an arm beneath his shoulders and hauls him upright. He staggers a little and closes his eyes, bracing for impact, but Type catches him and holds him up. “You’re okay, I’ve got you,” he mutters.

“Thank you,” he murmurs into his friend’s shirt. “Thank you.”

Type just tuts at him as he guides him out into the cool air of the night. “Stop saying that,” he says. “Of course I’ll help you. That’s what friends are for.”

 

Tharn


Type. Oh, Type.

Tharn knows there is something special about him from the moment they first meet, struggling down the corridor to their shared dorm, arms piled high with boxes. It isn’t love at first sight, not exactly, but the spark is there.

Type falls heavily onto the bed nearest the door, surrounded by boxes, and declares he is too tired to unpack today, and will do it in the morning. Tharn smiles at him, opening his own boxes and spreading out the contents on the floor.

“Have you travelled far?” Tharn asks him.

“Mm. Seven hours.”

“Oh, wow. I was going to ask you to get food with me, but you should stay here and rest. I’ll buy something for both of us.”

Type sits up. “No, I’m okay, I’ll come with you. I need to learn my way around.”

So they walk to the convenience store together, talking all the way, and by the time they return with plastic carrier bags swinging at their sides, they are firm friends. Tharn would like them to become more, of course, but he doesn’t set his hopes high – society doesn’t smile upon people like him, and the last thing he wants is to break the bond he has forged with Type.

But, as always, nothing good can last forever.

Everyone has a flaw, and in Type’s case, it is raging, deep-set homophobia. Tharn doesn’t know how he finds out, but one day he strolls back to the dorm with snacks for both of them, and is immediately faced with Type’s rage. He’s used to homophobia, of course, but it stings, coming from Type – especially when he sees the expression on his face, a depth and intensity of hatred he has never seen anywhere before.

It’s a long time before he understands. But later, when he holds Type close and feels the tears soak into his shoulder and the bitter revulsion roiling in his stomach, he promises himself he will never resent Type for his feelings, nor pressure him into anything he is uncomfortable with again.

It still hurts.

It hurts for a long time – through their breakup, through the loss of a friend, through everything that happens to poor, sweet Tar – but in the end, the stars align and fate finds its rightful path, and they come together; Tharn and Type, two broken halves who have finally found their whole.

It isn’t always easy. Tharn still struggles with the after-ache of constant hurt, the pain of betrayal and one too many rejections. 

For Type, the scarring runs far deeper. Countless nights, Tharn wakes to the sound of tears and gasping breaths, and sleep-muffled cries; “help me, help me, please!” It’s become routine now, to wake him and hold him and kiss his forehead and whisper to him while he cries, to remind him over and over that he is safe and loved. Sometimes, when Type has fallen back asleep in his arms, Tharn cries a little himself, because Type doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t know how it’s possible to feel so much hatred for a man he has never met.

Sex, too, has been difficult.

Actually, no, that’s not true – it’s been wonderful. Most of the time. But it can be hard for Type, he knows, to differentiate between Then and Now, to remember that Tharn is doing this because he loves him. So Tharn talks to him; soft, loving words of praise, grounding him in the present. And if, sometimes, Type pulls away and gasps for him to stop – he stops. He stops, for God’s sake, and he holds him and comforts him, and sometimes they carry on and sometimes they just cuddle, and either is fine.

Everything is fine, now. Finally, they’re okay.

“Why are you staring at me?” Type grumbles, setting down his graphic novel on the pillow and rolling to face him.

Tharn smiles. “I could stare at you forever.”   

“Ugh.” He pulls a face. “Why do you have to say things like that? It makes me want to throw up.”

“But you love me.” It isn’t a question. Tharn leans in and gently brushes Type’s cheek with his nose, and Type rolls his eyes but doesn’t protest – then, a second later, he moves his lips to meet Tharn’s.

“God knows why, but I do. Now shut up and kiss me already.”

So he does.

 

Tar


For a long time, everything is dark.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s not been there, but it’s like he’s seeing everything through fog – no, more than fog. Thick, black, house-fire smoke, blinding him and filling his lungs, suffocating him. Nothing else is real anymore, only the darkness.

The worst part is, he doesn’t even remember it. It’s there in pieces, fragmented; the ghostly hands on his wrists, his hips; the bruising weight of bodies on his own; the blurry light above him and the shadowed figures looming down like something from a nightmare.

When he watches himself later in the clip – oh God, that clip – limp and pliant as a ragdoll, it feels like he’s watching a stranger.

He isn’t himself, anymore.

“Tar,” Tum says gently across the breakfast table (or in the car, or before bed, or when they are side by side on the couch watching a TV show that Tar no longer cares about). “Are you okay?”

And Tar just nods, because it’s the easiest answer. He’s too exhausted to explain, and honestly, what’s the fucking point? 

He could never bear to see Tum cry.

When he gets home from school, he climbs to his room and sits on the floor with his back to the door. He gazes around at the artwork tacked to the walls, the bold stokes and intricate details and the colours, all the colours, and he hates it. Those pictures were painted by the old Tar. The clean Tar.

He tears them down, rips them to shreds, but he doesn’t even grieve their loss because they’re not his anymore. He stands among the scattered fragments, impassive. Then he turns to his newest canvas, blank and echoing with promise, waiting to be filled with beauty.

He picks up his brush and, in a single motion, paints it black.

Type saves his life.

Tar shows them the video – and God, it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done, to expose his own vulnerability like that – and Type and Techno watch it, and Tar watches their expressions cycle through horror and revulsion and despair. After less than a minute, Techno grimaces and hides his face – but Type keeps watching, transfixed, a look of horrified fascination in his eyes, as if he can’t draw himself away.

The bile rises in Tar’s throat, and he only just makes it to the bathroom in time.

But after that – after everything has happened, and Lhong’s secret has been revealed and Tharn and Type have been reunited – Tar had thought it would get easier. He has resolution. He has closure.

So why does it still hurt so badly? 

While everyone else is moving on with their life, Tar is sinking deeper beneath the waves, drowning. His saviour comes in the form of Type, and an iced coffee.

“Tar.” He glances up, startled, as Type comes to sit on the bench opposite him, a plastic cup in each hand. He slides ones of them across the table towards him. “I bought you a drink.”

“Oh, P’Type.” Hesitantly, he reaches for it and takes a sip. “Thank you.”

Type shrugs him off. “What are you studying?”

“Chemistry.” It’s not entirely true. His chemistry textbooks are scattered across the outdoor table around him, but he can’t absorb a single word. None of it makes sense through the smoke.

“Ugh, chemistry. Gross.”

“It’s okay.”

“Each to his own, I guess.” Type gazes up at the overhanging tree and across the lawn. There is a sense of nervousness about him, and it occurs to Tar that perhaps he has some greater reason for being here, more than just delivering a drink. Eventually, Type leans forward and says, “I know you must be sick of hearing this, but – how are you doing?”

Tar blinks. “I’m okay.”

Type looks steadily at him for a long moment, and Tar can tell he doesn’t believe him. Then his gaze shifts, and he says, “Okay. But if you want to talk to me, I’m here.”

They sit in silence. Sometimes, Tar feels the words well up within him, but the smoke extinguishes them. Once he starts to talk, the dam will be broken, and he’s too exhausted to deal with that.

Eventually, he whispers, “I don’t know what to say.”

“We don’t have to talk,” Type tells him. “But let me sit with you for a while.”

After a while, it becomes a routine. Tar will sit at the table in the sunlight, trying his best to study, and Type will bring him iced coffee. Sometimes they will sit in silence, sometimes they will exchange a few words. At first, these encounters make him nervous, uncomfortable, but soon he begins to look forward to them, and feels a rush of relief whenever Type’s face comes into view.

He associates Type with safety, he realises. Companionship.

A couple of weeks later, Tar is poring over English vocabulary, when Type says, quite suddenly, “Tar, can I tell you a story?”

He glances up and laughs shyly. “I think I’m a little old for stories, P’Type.”

Type shakes his head with a sad smile. “You’re not too old for this one.”

So Type tells him a story – a story about a young boy who chases after his ball and runs into a man who promises to take him to a field full of footballs; but, it turns out, the field is actually a dark room in a warehouse, and the only football is the one that falls to the floor when the boy is tied to a chair and – 

Type stops speaking, but Tar already knows how the story ends.

“The boy,” Tar whispers, as Type is wiping his eyes with shaking hands. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

He nods.

“How – how old were you?”

Type swallows. “Eleven.”

That hits him like a punch to the gut. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because,” Type says, “I want you to know that I understand. You’re not the only person who feels like this. If I went through hell and made it out the other side, then you can, too.”

Tar just shakes his head, because Type clearly doesn’t understand – there is no way out. 

“Tar.” Type’s voice is soft but sincere. “It gets better. I promise.”

For a long time, Tar doesn’t believe him. When the dark smoke overwhelms him, he runs away to France; and perhaps they see it as a sign he is moving on – but really, he is hiding, stagnating, pretending the smoke can’t follow him here. But it does.

But then, slowly, things start to change. He walks along the Champs-Elysées in the spring sunlight and looks at the smiling faces of the people passing by, and for an instant, he feels something. He makes friends, and even though they don’t speak Thai and he doesn’t speak French, they communicate through halting English and laughter, and it’s enough. He discovers cooking; experiences the joy, the art, of combining raw ingredients to create something beautiful.

I want to be a chef, he decides – then realises that, for the first time in years, he has thought about his future.

The smoke is still there. It hasn’t lifted, not completely, and on some days it suffocates him – but, beyond the darkness, he thinks he can see the distant light of dawn.

 

Type


Tharn’s hands are firm over his eyes.

“Where are you taking me?” Type protests, struggling half-heartedly – although he isn’t really worried, because he knows Tharn wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.

“I can’t tell you,” Tharn says, and Type can hear the smirk in his voice. The smug, insufferable bastard. “It would ruin the surprise.”

“I hate surprises.”

Tharn laughs. “You ‘hate’ a lot of things, Type.”

“Including you.”

“Including me.”

They turn a corner, and Type hears overlapping conversations on the sidewalk, and feels the occasional cool breeze of a vehicle passing by. He tries to visualise where he is – this place is familiar, he’s sure of it – but he can’t work it out, until he is guided through a doorway and the hands are removed from his eyes.

“Happy birthday, Type!”

Startled, Type opens his eyes and stares around. They are at P’Jeed’s bar – of course they are, it makes sense now – and the entire room has been decorated with balloons and streamers. At the tables in front of him, all his friends are sitting - and he hadn’t realised he had so many until they are all here together: No and Champ and Ae and Can and Good, everyone from the football team, Tin and Pete – and, sitting at the end of the table and looking a little nervous, is Khom.

“Khom,” Type gasps, blinking rapidly. “How did you get here?”

Khom smiles at him. “Tharn invited me. He said it would make your day if I came. I bet you’d forgotten it even was your birthday, hadn’t you?”

He shrugs, scowling a little. “So what if I did?”

“Always the same, Type.” He opens his arms. “Am I a good surprise, then?”

With feigned reluctance, Type steps into the waiting embrace. “I guess you’ll do,” he says, and feels Khom’s chest vibrate with laughter.

“I have a boyfriend now,” Khom murmurs into his shoulder. “I was going to invite him here, but I didn’t know if you’d want…”

Type pulls back a little to look him in the eyes. “Bring him next time,” he says, and Khom’s smile bridges the final rift between them.

When he draws away, Type gazes around at the assembled friends around him. It’s overwhelming, that all of this has been arranged, everyone has come here -  for him. He hates to admit it, but he’s touched.

“Why,” he stutters, cursing the weakness in his voice. “Why are you doing this?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” No says, rolling his eyes fondly. “It’s because we love you.”

The others nod their assent, and Type hurriedly blinks to suppress the sting behind his eyes – his friends would never let it go if he cried in front of them. 

“Oh,” he says intelligently.

“Yes, oh.” No grins and pats the vacant seat next to him. “Come here. We have another surprise for you.”

“Another one?”  By this point, he thinks, he must be numb to surprises, but he sits down beside No regardless. Tharn leans over his shoulder and places a laptop on front of him, and his heart leaps when he sees the screen.

“Tar!”

“Happy birthday, P’Type.” The video is a little pixelated, but Type can make out Tar’s smiling face against the backdrop of his dorm. The white glow of natural light behind him highlights the distance between them; while it is evening in Bangkok, in Paris it is early afternoon. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there in person. I was going to call you anyway, but Tharn messaged me to say that I should FaceTime you now. I hope it’s okay?”

“Of course it is,” Type says, the paternal warmth he often feels around Tar blooming in his chest. 

“I couldn’t give you a present, either, but I promise I’ll bring you something from France next time I come home.”

“You don’t have to do that,” he protests, but Tar shakes his head.

“I want to.”

Type sighs, embarrassed but touched. “Fine, whatever. Now tell me about France.”

So he listens to Tar talk – about his university and his classes and his friends, all his friends, and his newfound passion for cooking – and after a while, it all starts to blur together into a labyrinth of French names he can’t even attempt to comprehend, but it doesn’t matter, because Tar is happy.

Tar is happy, he realises, and it’s like a thousand weights have lifted from his chest.

Type looks at the sparkle in his eyes when he speaks, the way he moves his hands with the energy of someone enamoured with life, the way his face falls easily into smiles and laughter. Of course, Type holds no illusions; he knows better than anyone that Tar’s fear will never lift completely, that there will always be a fragment of darkness in his memory that can never be relieved. But it’s four years on, and Tar is reaching out to the world again, and that’s all that matters.

“Sorry,” Tar says eventually, glancing away from the camera. “I have to go. I have a class in ten minutes.”

So they say goodbye and end the call – and, a moment later, Type’s phone chimes with a message.

You were right. It’s getting better.

Type is glad Can chooses that moment to come bursting into the room with a candle-lit cake, because he would have certainly burst into tears.

To his humiliation, they all insist on singing to him; and then, once they have cut the cake, Tin orders everyone a round of drinks and they all sit and talk as the evening wears on. During a lull in conversation, while Type is sitting quietly and basking in the warmth of good company, Tharn appears beside him and presses a quick kiss to his hairline.

“Is this a good birthday?” He asks, pink-faced and smiling, and Type can barely keep from kissing him on the spot.

“I don’t understand. I – why is everyone here for me?

Tharn just shakes his head with a fond look. “Because they care about you, Type.”

“But – why?”

Tharn sighs, as if Type has said something impossibly stupid, then wraps his arms around him and leans closer, close enough that his breath is hot against Type’s cheek. “There are so many people who care about you, Type. You just need to let them in.”

He lets those words sink in as they sit quietly together, Type’s head resting on Tharn’s shoulder. He still can’t fathom that all these people love him so deeply; but perhaps, one day, he’ll come to accept it.

There is the sharp chime of a spoon against glass, and the room simmers into silence. No is standing, somewhat precariously, on a chair, his glass raised in front of him.

“I want to propose a toast,” he says. No isn’t drunk yet, but Type can hear the first notes of intoxication in his voice. “To Type.”

“To Type,” his friends echo, turning to look at him, and Type feels himself flush scarlet.

“Stop, no,” he protests. “We can’t just toast to me.”

No laughs. “Who should we drink to, then? You’re the birthday boy!”

Type looks around at them all, gathered in the fading light. Khom, closer than a brother to him, who had saved him as a child and drawn him from the depths of despair, who always came back no matter how many times Type hurt him and pushed him away. No, who has supported him through his most difficult times, been his voice of reason and the strength he can always rely on. Tharn – and he can’t even express how much Tharn means to him, how much Tharn has changed him and brightened his life in the most unimaginable of ways. Tar, who had resurfaced the memories he longed to forget, but had also awakened a warmth and sympathy he didn’t know he had in him.

And everyone else; his teammates and his friends, the people with whom he has created the most precious of memories, the moments he will look back on for years to come. 

He has never been alone, he realises, and his heart is full.

Type raises his glass. “To us.”

A beat of silence – then, in unison, they lift their glasses to the lamplight.

“To us.”