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I.

Sarawat learns very quickly in their relationship that Tine does nothing in moderation. His studies, cheerleading, the music club, helping his friends – everything he does he gives his all, regardless of the health consequences towards himself. Sarawat supposes that the clues to this were there before they became a couple: Tine’s many all-nighters practicing guitar, the times he didn’t eat because of cheerleading practice. Living together reveals even more ways that Tine either refused, or simply forgot, to take care of himself.

Sarawat sometimes wonders how Tine has lived this long without anyone’s help.

Sarawat wakes up one morning to find Tine clutching his nose and running to the bathroom hurriedly. “You okay?” he calls to him.

“Yeah,” Tine says when he returns. He has two bits of tissue stuck up his nostrils. “I just get like this sometimes.”

“Okay.”

Sarawat doesn’t say anything further on the subject because he trusts that Tine will tell him if something is really wrong. Besides, one nosebleed shouldn’t warrant a lot of concern. Sarawat just gives Tine a couple of travel-size tissue packs on their way to university, and squeezes his hand reassuringly before they part for class.

 

II.

The nosebleed is merely the beginning. Sarawat notices many little changes in Tine’s demeanor that worry him. Tine is barely sleeping or eating, and when Sarawat asks what’s wrong he merely shrugs and gives Sarawat a small smile.

“I’m fine,” Tine says. “I’m just not hungry.”

The next day, Tine stays home with a painful migraine. He tells Sarawat he feels a sharp pain behind his eyes, like someone has taken a pick axe to the side of his head.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Sarawat asks as he gives Tine some painkillers. “Should we go to the clinic?”

Tine shakes his head. “I just get like this sometimes,” he says again. “It’ll go away eventually.”

Sarawat has about a thousand questions in response to that, but Tine reminds him he has to go to class, and Sarawat promises to come home with some good food.

When Sarawat returns that evening, he finds the apartment in almost pitch-black darkness. All the lights have been turned off, and the curtains are closed. Tine’s migraine must be light-sensitive. “Tine?” he calls out. “I got some cake for you. How are you feeling? Tine?”

Sarawat enters the bedroom, and sits beside Tine on the bed. Tine stares with one eye at his phone. His eyes glisten with unshed tears.

“What’s wrong?” Tine doesn’t say anything, and Sarawat sighs. “You’re not fine,” he says, as a statement of fact more than anything else. “Is your migraine worse?”

“I just…” Tine’s breathing starts picking up, and his eyes won’t leave his phone screen, “I’m really stressed out.”

It’s another vague answer, and Sarawat restrains himself from showing his frustration. Why won’t his boyfriend just fucking talk to him when he feels upset? “Why are you stressed? Tine?”

“I’m really behind with my assignments,” Tine bursts out, and by the urgency in which he speaks Sarawat wonders how long Tine’s been bottling all of this up, “but I have to go to cheerleading practice and the music club and I promised Phuak and Ohm to help them with their blogs but I also really need to study for my midterms – ” He stops, and looks at his phone again. “And one of my professors just sent us a reminder about a midterm that I forgot I had, and I just feel like I never have enough time – ”

“Hey,” Sarawat interjects, pulling Tine up into a hug. He feels Tine shake a little with small sobs. “It’s okay. You’re allowed to be overwhelmed. You can talk to me about it, too, if that helps.”

“Sorry,” Tine mumbles into his shoulder. “I know you’re really busy, too. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to burden you with my problems.”

Sarawat pulls Tine out of the hug to look at him. “You’re my boyfriend,” he states. “You’re not a burden. You know that, right?”

Tine takes a second to answer, but eventually nods. “Yeah.”

“So, let’s make a plan to get you through mid-terms,” Sarawat says. He grabs one of his school notebooks and a pen and creates a table of dates for the next week. “When are your assignments due?”

As Tine goes over his many assignments and obligations, Sarawat notices that his breathing levels out, and the wrinkles between his eyebrows relax. Thirty minutes later, after Sarawat finally convinces Tine that his friends will understand if he can’t help them out for one week, Tine exhales a huge sigh of relief.

“Feel better?” Sarawat asks, rustling Tine’s hair.

Tine nods. “I’m ready to start the readings for tomorrow, actually.” He reaches for Sarawat’s notebook, where his schedule is laid out in great detail. Sarawat moves the notebook out of Tine’s reach and swats his hand away.

“Nope,” Sarawat says. “You’re not starting tonight. You’re going to sleep for more than four hours, and then start early tomorrow morning.”

Tine pouts. “Wat, come on, please – ”

“No way. Rest.”

“Fine.”

Sarawat gets ready for bed himself and takes his laptop to their bed. Tine peers up at him from the pillow. “Are you working?” he asks.

“I’m just skimming the readings for tomorrow,” Sarawat replies. “Go to sleep.”

“I’m fine, you know,” Tine says. “You don’t have to stay and watch me.”

Sarawat rolls his eyes. “Maybe I wanted to be with you while I read.” He also didn’t want Tine to feel alone after what must have been several stressful days where he felt like he couldn’t talk to him about his problems, but he would never say that out loud.

To Sarawat’s surprise, Tine reaches for one of Sarawat’s hands and places it on his head. “’Night, Wat.”

Sarawat takes the hint and starts running his hand through Tine’s hair until he falls asleep. “Goodnight, Nuisance.”

 

III.

“I’m going to kill Phuak.”

“Wat – ” Tine barely manages to get the word out before retching again over the toilet. He’s sweating profusely, cold and clammy from abdominal pain. “It’s not his fault – ”

“This is the second time you’ve had food poisoning because of his stupid blog,” Sarawat says. He tries to sound angry but it comes out softer than intended. He hates seeing Tine in pain, hates hearing the tired heaving sounds he makes as he kneels by the toilet.

Tine doesn’t answer, but throws up more liquid chunks into the toilet bowl. Sarawat rubs his back soothingly. He wonders what else Tine could possibly have inside him after throwing up for almost an hour.

“I told him I’d help him out,” Tine finally says. “I don’t want to let him down.”

Sarawat opens his mouth to reply, but Tine grabs his stomach and more retching echoes through the bathroom. Sarawat hands him a glass of water when he finishes. “Drink,” he says, “or you’ll get dehydrated.”

“I don’t wanna,” Tine whines, exhausted, “it’ll just come back out.”

“I’m not going to let you pass out again,” Sarawat says firmly. “Drink.”

Tine takes a few hesitant sips, before lying down on the floor of the bathroom. “Don’t kill Phuak,” he mumbles. “It’ll be a pain to get you out of jail.”

Sarawat smirks. Tine must be through the worst of it if he’s making jokes. “You’re too nice, Nuisance,” he mumbles.

A few days later, Sarawat spots Fong, Ohm, and Phuak sitting at a table outside the law building. They’re cheerfully chatting away about some website or other, and don’t notice him until Sarawat slams down his bag on the table. The three go quiet immediately.

“Hey, Wat,” Fong says, eyeing him uneasily. “What’s up – ”

“You,” Sarawat says, pointing at Phuak, who sits up nervously. “Get my boyfriend sick again,” he says in a low voice, “and you and I will have a very heated conversation.”

Phuak gulps. “O-Okay.”

 

IV.

“Can you relax, please?” Tine says from the bed. “You’re making me nauseous.”

Sarawat stops and realizes that he’s been pacing in front of their bed for a few minutes now. He hates how utterly useless he feels. He’s lived a little over two decades on earth, but can’t help his boyfriend when he feels sick? Pathetic.

“It’s just a little fever,” Tine responds, as if reading the anxious thoughts of Sarawat’s mind. “I’ll be fine.”

“Will you stop being so casual about this?” Sarawat scolds. “You’re really sick.”

Tine has the audacity to smile cutely at him through his pale and sweaty face. “I know.”

Sarawat snatches the wet hand towel that’s meant to help Tine’s fever (which was ice cold before but now it’s so warm, shit) and goes to chill it again. “Is this because of your workload? I told you not to take on tutoring those first years.”

“I want to make more money,” is all Tine says.

Sarawat returns with the colder towel and places it back on Tine’s forehead. Sarawat feels the heat radiating from Tine in waves and he swallows. “I don’t know what you need money for,” Sarawat grumbles, “but ask your mom. Ask Type. I don’t like seeing you sick.”

Tine chuckles now, and Sarawat wants to strangle him for being so blasé about the whole thing. “Aww,” he coos, “the Handsome Prince cares about me after all.”

“Nuisance,” Sarawat mutters. “I’m serious. You shouldn’t wear yourself out. If you need money, let me help – ”

“I have to earn it.”

Sarawat groans. “Earn what? How much?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Tine says innocently. He looks down. “Around fifteen thousand baht?”

Sarawat freezes. He sits beside Tine on the bed. “Are you telling me,” Sarawat says slowly, “that you’ve worked yourself into a fever because of my stupid fucking birthday?”

Sarawat really doesn’t care about his birthday. It’s just a day like any other day. His family and fans always made a big deal about it, but Sarawat couldn’t care less. He remembers Tine asking him a month or so ago what a reasonable price for recording microphones would be. He thought the question was odd, as Tine had no strong interest in recording his music, and at any rate Tine has now two acoustic guitars to his name, which he calls Nuisance and Little Buffalo, much to Sarawat’s chagrin.

Tine laughs, which then turns into a cough, and the small part of Sarawat that wanted to be furious with him is overcome with feelings of guilt. “I wanted it to be a surprise,” Tine explains, “but the package is supposed to come tomorrow and I don’t think I’ll be well enough to hide it from you.”

“I told you,” Sarawat says gently, handing Tine a glass of water, “that you didn’t have to do anything for my birthday.”

“Too bad.” Tine manages to recline into a sulking position on the bed. “I’ve been saving my money for a few months. You always do such kind things for me, such big gestures. I wanted to do something nice for you.”

Sarawat smiles at his stupidly kind, generous, loving boyfriend. He finds it funny, the way Tine still thinks that Sarawat’s actions are somehow profound. To Sarawat, showing Tine how much he cares is as easy as breathing, and not something that should be measured or admired. But he realizes that Tine just wants to show him how much he cares, too, even if it costs him his health. “Dummy,” he says, feigning annoyance. “All of that money you’re saving won’t do any good if you work yourself to death.”

Tine continues to pout. “You could just say ‘thank you.’”

Sarawat leans over Tine until their faces are inches apart. “Thank you,” he whispers, before planting a kiss on Tine’s cheek.

“Saraleo,” Tine protests half-heartedly, “you’ll get sick!”

“But then I’ll be able to spend my birthday in bed with you,” Sarawat says, arching an eyebrow, “which is all I wanted in the first place.” He leans back down and continues to pepper Tine’s face with more kisses.

Tine huffs out a laugh as he tries weakly to push him off. “You’re the worst,” he giggles.

Several days later, Sarawat gets his birthday wish.

 

V.

“Hey,” Sarawat calls as he enters the apartment, “I’m home.” He’s back earlier than he usually is on Fridays. Dim forwent an afternoon CTRL-S rehearsal in favor of the band showing up earlier to the venue for an extended soundcheck. Sarawat is still getting used to his new schedule, now that the band has semi-regular gigs at local bars. As a result, he hasn’t really hung out with Tine during the day for almost a week, and he’s excited to surprise him. Maybe they can go on an impromptu date, or watch a movie before he has to leave again. 

Tine is sitting on the couch. Sarawat first notices Tine’s panicked expression, the way he tries (very poorly) to hide something behind him. In his haste, Tine drops what he was holding, and Sarawat sees the contents of their first aid kit spill onto the floor. Tine freezes, then sighs, as if resigned to the fact that he’s been caught. Sarawat then realizes why Tine is hiding.

Tine’s left eye is dark blue, almost purple. It’s not swollen shut but it is considerably puffed out. There’s another blemish of a similar color on his right cheek, and another blooming around the corner of his mouth. His bottom lip is split open, and Sarawat sees blood on his usually pristine shirt. Sarawat takes in all of this at once, and a deep, scalding rage rushes through him like a wave crashing.

“What happened?” Sarawat exclaims as he bolts to Tine, torn between sounding worried and angry. “Are you okay? Who did this?” He kneels down to pick up the first aid supplies and then stays there, looking for more possible injuries.

Tine hangs his head a little lower. “It’s fine, Wat – ”

“It’s not fine!” Sarawat shouts. Obviously, it isn’t fine. How could Tine think it is? Why isn’t Tine upset? Then, Sarawat recognizes that Tine isn’t meeting his gaze – and hasn’t since he arrived – and that somehow hurts more than seeing his boyfriend in pain. Sarawat exhales, and tries again. He tentatively reaches to Tine’s face, cups one hand on the cheek without a bruise and nudges it up. “Tine,” he starts again, softer. “Can you tell me what happened today? Please?”

Tine’s gaze flickers in and out of Sarawat’s, and the tight press of his lips wavers with uncertainty. A small bead of blood oozes out of his lip before Tine wipes it with the back of his hand. Finally, he speaks, and Sarawat’s stomach clenches: “I don’t want you to get mad.”

This, of course, makes Sarawat feel like garbage, because Tine probably thinks he’s mad already. He is angry – furious, actually – but not with Tine. Never with Tine. Sarawat sighs, and tries to dampen the fiery rage inside him. “Okay.”

“Promise?” Tine asks hopefully, his big, nervous eyes staring up at him for the first time since he came home. Sarawat nods. Tine relaxes slightly at this, and begins carefully. “I… ran into some old friends of ours.”

Sarawat frowns in confusion. “Old friends?”

“The ones from the Faculty of Architecture,” Tine explains. Sarawat can feel his face morph with the realization, shifting easily from neutral concern back to fury in a matter of seconds. “I heard them talking shit about you,” Tine continues, and even he seems to be bitter at the memory. “They claimed that you made their girlfriends sad on purpose, that you didn’t even like me, that I stole you from your fans, that we were fake – ” Tine stops himself briefly, as if also restraining his anger. “So I… sort of… fought them.”

“You fought them?”

Tine nods, his expression returning to nervous bashfulness. “I know I shouldn’t have,” he says. “And I know this makes me a hypocrite, because I always nag you about fighting with people, but,” Tine looks down at his hands, which have turned into fists, “I was angry. I told them that if they had problems with their girlfriends they should talk it out with them instead of blaming us. They… didn’t like that very much.”

Sarawat looks at Tine’s hands. His knuckles are scraped back and bloody. Carefully, Sarawat reaches to take one of Tine’s hands in his (avoiding his knuckles of course), and Tine lets him. He picks up the disinfectant from the floor and gets to work cleaning Tine’s hands. He waits to address his face – Tine’s eye will definitely need an ice pack or something – until Tine seems comfortable enough to look at him. After applying the first bandage, Sarawat gives Tine’s hand a squeeze. “Thank you,” he says.

Tine looks at him quizzically. “For what?"

“For fighting for us.”

“Of course,” Tine says, like it’s obvious.

Sarawat smiles. He’s proud of Tine, in a way. Before, Tine would let those kinds of comments get to him, internalizing them to the point of self-doubt. Sarawat can’t express the happiness that he feels in Tine’s faith in them, in Tine’s passionate rebuttal. Part of Sarawat is glad that he can’t express it; he doesn’t want Tine to think that he’s okay with him fighting and getting hurt.

Sarawat reaches for another bandage and places it over the knuckles of Tine’s other hand, which still ooze blood. “How many were there?”

“Three,” Tine responds. His eyes still betray a bit of anxiety.

Sarawat nods, and makes an impressed “Oooh,” sound at Tine. “My boyfriend sounds pretty tough.”

“Shut up,” Tine says, but he gives a small smile at the floor. “I’m sorry,” he adds, softer.

Sarawat reaches out to pat Tine’s head. Tine’s finally looking at him now, at least. “Don’t be,” he says easily. “I would’ve done the same. Now, let’s get something cold for your eye.”

After taking care of the most immediate injuries, Sarawat suggests that they stay in to watch a movie. Tine attempts to say that he’s fine, that Sarawat should go to his gig, but Sarawat sternly hands him more ice and Tine doesn’t try to argue the point again. Sarawat swaddles Tine in blankets on the couch and tells him to choose whatever movie he wants to watch.

Sarawat explains the situation to Dim over the phone, and he is immediately supportive. “Is Tine okay?”

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Sarawat says. “Just a little shaken up. But I think I need to be with him right now.”

Dim hums in agreement. “Maybe Mil can fill in for you today, then.”

“Mil?”

“He came with Phukong to see the band perform.”

Sarawat thinks for a moment. “Dim, could you hand Mil the phone?”

“Sure, why?”

“He knows who did this to Tine.”

 

VI.

Tine believes he’s adept at handling Sarawat’s stubbornness. He has it down to an art, really. Nine months into their relationship, he has a firm grasp at sensing Sarawat’s frustration before it happens, and tiffs between the two of them diminish as he and Tine develop expectations for the other. However, Tine’s art is far from a science, which he realizes when he comes home from classes one day and finds Sarawat still in bed.

“Wat?” Tine asks with a sigh. “Did you really not go to class?” Tine accepted his role as Couple Alarm Clock long ago, and most days Sarawat – while quite grumpy – didn’t protest too much when Tine practically pushed him out of bed. This morning was different. Tine had to pull his boyfriend into a sitting position on the bed, from which he did not move after Tine returned from brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Fearing his own tardiness, Tine threw some clothes at Sarawat and left a drink for him on the kitchen table for breakfast before leaving for the day. The drink, Tine now notices, is in the same place he left it.

When Sarawat doesn’t respond, Tine moves over to him. He sees that Sarawat changed into the outfit Tine chose for him, but he looks pale. Tine reaches out and tentatively touches Sarawat’s forehead. It’s warm, but not alarmingly hot.

Tine remembers how tired Sarawat seemed last night, and then again this morning. Dim had the band working most weekends, and Sarawat spent all his free time working on writing new songs for them. Tine furrows his brow. Was Sarawat sick? He’s not used to Sarawat being sick. It’s usually Sarawat taking care of him, not the other way around.

Before he panics too much, Tine goes to the kitchen and does the only thing he thinks will help immediately: he makes a cup of tea. The two of them are primarily juice and coffee drinkers, so Tine has to reach to the back of a top cabinet shelf to find the box of assorted herbal teas that his mother gave them when they moved apartments. Remembering his mother’s other methods when he and Phukong were sick, Tine scavenges the fridge for another ingredient before going back to the bedroom. Carefully, Tine sits beside Sarawat on the bed.

“Wat,” Tine says gently, moving Sarawat’s bangs out of his eyes. “Wat, wake up.”

Sarawat exhales, and blearily opens his eyes. Even in his pale and exhausted state, he manages to smile lazily at Tine, which makes Tine’s chest tighten. “Good morning, Nuisance.” Sarawat’s voice, Tine notes, is rough and deeper than usual.

“Good afternoon,” Tine corrects. “I’m assuming you didn’t go to class.”

Sarawat scrunches his nose in sulky distaste at Tine’s scolding. He sits up against the headboard of the bed. “I’m just tired today. What time is it?”

Tine checks his phone. “Three-ish.”

Sarawat nods, and moves to a sitting position. “I should probably eat something. Yesterday, eating felt weird; my throat felt kind of sore when I swallowed.” Tine frowns more, which Sarawat sees. “I’m sure that I’ll feel better now that I’ve rested,” he adds, which Tine assumes is more for him than for Sarawat himself.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why didn’t I tell you that I was tired?” Sarawat asks sarcastically.

Tine makes a face at him. “No. Why didn’t you tell me that you were sick?”

“I’m fine, Tine,” Sarawat rasps out, attempting to stand.

Tine pushes Sarawat back onto the bed, still grasping the hot mug of tea in his other hand. He hardly uses any pressure, and yet by the way Sarawat flops back, as if shoved, Tine can tell sitting up was a considerable effort for him. “Like hell you are,” Tine mutters. He puts the mug of tea in front of Sarawat’s face and nudges him to sit up again. “Here, drink this. It has honey in it.”

Sarawat furrows his eyebrows together. “Honey?”

“For sore throats,” Tine explains. Sarawat really must not get sick often if he didn’t know that.

“I do not,” Sarawat tries again, his voice deep and tight, “have a sore throat. I’m not sick.”

Tine huffs out a little sigh. It’s pretty obvious from looking at him, but maybe Sarawat needed convincing. Tine puts the back of his hand to Sarawat’s forehead. “You’re warmer than usual,” he states. “You sound like you’ve eaten gravel, and you just said that it hurt to swallow. Don’t,” Tine warns, predicting the joke. He sees the humorous glint waver briefly in Sarawat’s eyes.

“I have practice,” Sarawat says finally, switching tactics. “Dim will kill me if I don’t show.”

I’ll kill you if you leave,” Tine retorts. He pulls some more blankets out and over Sarawat. “And don’t worry, I can handle Dim. I’ll handle you, too, if you try to get up again.”

“Oh,” Sarawat says. “I’d like to see that.” Tine can tell he’s trying to sound seductive but between the out-of-kilter tone of Sarawat’s voice and the fact that he winces after uttering a syllable from his throat, it ends up appearing more pathetic than anything.

“No cheesy lines,” Tine scolds. “Try not to talk in general, actually. You need to rest your throat. Ah!” Tine says, placing a hand over Sarawat’s protesting mouth. “Rest.”

Sarawat, the baby he is, merely glowers at Tine and sticks his tongue out indignantly.

Sarawat takes several days to recover, and while he takes Tine’s nursing begrudgingly at best, he obeys Tine’s orders. He doesn’t talk for almost three days. In that short time, Tine realizes how much he misses Sarawat’s voice. Sarawat was always a man of few words (excluding the romantic lines), but since knowing him Tine understands that Sarawat makes his speech count. Sarawat always tries to talk with Tine about his day, his interests, his worries. During Sarawat’s sick period, Tine begins so many sentences wanting Sarawat’s opinion on a song or on school gossip that Green tells him, but stops himself, saying, “Never mind,” before Sarawat feels compelled to reply. Tine doesn’t realize how much he misses talking with someone about anything and everything, like he can with Sarawat, but he bears it until he recovers.

On the fourth day of Sarawat’s recovery, Tine is busy making Sarawat congee in the kitchen. Sarawat has the strength to sit up and walk to and from the bathroom now, which is where Tine assumes he is when a thought strikes him. Mindlessly, he wonders aloud: “Wat, who do you think would win in a fight: King Kong or Godzilla?”

When there’s no immediate response, Tine remembers his current situation. He opens his mouth to again say, “Never mind,” when he’s interrupted.

“Godzilla, for sure. He’s agile in multiple environments. If they battle in the water it’s over for Kong.”

Tine looks up, and Sarawat is casually leaning against the doorjamb of their bedroom, sporting his best pajamas. He looks much better than he did before. Relief washes over Tine, knowing that Sarawat is better.

“What?” Sarawat asks, and Tine realizes he must have been staring at him for a while. “You think King Kong would win?”

“No,” Tine says, smiling. “You’re right. Want some congee?”

Sarawat nods, and pads over to the kitchen, briefly embracing Tine from behind. “Thank you for taking care of me,” he mumbles into Tine’s ear.

“Always,” Tine replies. “Though, I might have to talk to your mom about how to handle you next time.”

“What do you mean? I was the perfect patient.”

“Whatever you say,” Tine laughs, scooping congee of the pot and into a bowl. “You big baby.”