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hold my heart (in your hands)

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“I mean, he is kind of really cute, though, isn’t he?”

Ohm, Fong and Phuak gaped at him, mouths slightly hanging open in disbelief.

And then it was Tine’s turn to be alarmed.  He hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

It all fell into place when P’Fang called him after class, panicked and very, very freaked out. “Tine, I made a mistake.” At first, Tine was confused as to what she was referring. “Mistake? What kind of mistake, P?”

“A big mistake.”

Sighing, Tine said, “Explain this big mistake, P’Fang. I’ll have to hurry back to my dorm-”

“Oh, absolutely not!” P’Fang cut him off vehemently. “You’re coming to the club room, right now.”

“Can’t this wait till tomorrow? I’m tired and-”

“I accidentally cast a truth spell.”

“A truth spell?”

“Yes. A truth spell...on all of you.”

Tine stopped in his tracks. “What do you mean, ‘all of you’?”

He heard P’Fang sigh deeply. “On the entire cheerleading club.”

“Wait, what?” Tine asked. “Wha – How?”

“Haven’t you been experiencing some weird incidents today?” P’Fang now asked. “Like, I don’t know, the lack of a brain-to-mouth filter?”

Fucking hell. A sinking realization dawned on him, and he dragged the palm of his hand across his face. “-Tine?”

“I’m coming to the club room right now.”

 

*

 

“I almost told my crush that I like her,” Pear said, scandalized. “I’ve had at least three such instances today. I literally ran away when I realized a potential fourth was possible.”

“P’Fang, how did this happen?” Tine asked, settling down beside an agitated P’Fang.

“Remember the spell I said I was working on?”

“The memory spell, yes, I remember,” Tine said, recalling the previous evening when P’Fang was explaining it in meticulous terms to Tine.

“So you’re aware that the memory spell requires a book or a notebook of some sort, right?” she said. “With textual content in it, which I would ideally memorize with a spell.”

“Yes, P. So, what went wrong?”

P’Fang looked distressed. “I had the log book of the cheerleading club when I was attempting the spell and I...did it wrong. Obviously, as you can see. It is a very difficult spell, Tine. I honestly should not have attempted it.”

Tine narrowed his eyes at her, hands on his hips. “Of course it is tremendously difficult to cast. If it were easy, we would all use the spell to ace our exams. But we can’t because the spell only responds to a certain level of maturity and experience. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone our age who has successfully been able to cast a memory spell.”

“P’Team from the Faculty of Architecture can,” P’Fang said, earning a side-eyed glare from Tine. “Okay, okay, I know. We’re in a bit of a pickle.”

“A huge pickle,” Tine corrected. “Having no brain-to-mouth filter is a complete disaster.”

“Yeah, now you’re going to confess your feelings for Nong Sarawat even if you don’t want to,” P’Fang said, and then immediately proceeded to cover her mouth. “It’s the spell!”

Tine’s eyes went wild, heart picking up pace and messing up his homeostasis for a good few seconds. “How do you know that?” Tine asked, since he realized there was no point in trying to pretend otherwise, anyway.

“It’s all written in the way you look at him, Tine,” P’Fang said earnestly. “Like you want to tenderly remove a careless strand of hair from his face and fuck him till he trembles and cries out your name while he comes all over you.”

P’Fang looked mortified beyond measure, but before she could say anything, Tine choked out a small, “I want to,” and then the two were engaged in a staring contest of disbelief, waiting for the other to break the ice.

“We really need to reverse the spell,” Tine mumbled, which happened to be the most glaring truth at that moment.

“Also, nobody outside the club can know,” P’Fang warned. “Otherwise we’ll be in even more trouble.”

“But that’s impossible,” Green said. “Because of the spell. We’ll just blurt out that we’re under a truth spell, won’t we?”

“We can use the resistance spell,” P’Fang answered. “But you can only focus your resistance on one thing, so it won’t be useful in any other scenario. And that one thing has to be keeping this conundrum a secret. Many of you will find yourselves in, erm, embarrassing situations, but please, don’t use resistance other than to stop yourself from revealing this secret.”

Pear and Tine looked at each, a silent exchange of we’re-so-doomed passing between the two.

 

*

 

Tine’s first and obvious idea was to simply avoid Sarawat until the cheerleading club could come up with the remedy to their collective catastrophe.

But of course, the universe hated Tine.

Which is why, now more than ever, he stumbled upon Sarawat anywhere he went.

Even in the fucking library. And he had never seen Wat in the library ever before, mostly because the IR guys had a different slot. Sarawat’s ridiculously adorable eyes beamed like a thousand fairy lights as the musician spotted Tine in the library and he immediately strode over to where he was seated. “Our Professor had to go back home due to some emergency,” he said, seating himself beside Tine with that inherent graceful fluidity that drove Tine crazy. “’S good. I get to hang out with you now.”

“It is,” Tine said, gulping immediately after. “My heart rate went crazy on spotting you here.”

Fong’s head sprang up from where he was scribbling on a notebook. Sarawat looked like a ginormous wave had just crashed all over him, rendering him speechless and unable to move.

Tine wanted the earth to open itself and swallow him whole.

“Wha – what did you say?” Sarawat asked, scooting closer to Tine. His eyes were big and pretty and eager. His slender fingers touched Tine’s left knee. “Tine?”

“Don’t do that,” Tine said, and he wished only he could hear the slight tremor in his own voice.

“Do what?”

“Bore holes into my soul with those large, beautiful eyes you have,” Tine said, mentally slapping himself as the unhinged words flowed out of their own volition. “And caress my knee so gently. It makes me feel things.”

Tine thought he almost saw Sarawat’s heart stutter with the way Wat’s face was hanging open after he delivered those lines. Fong swiftly stood up and grabbing Tine’s wrist tightly, proceeded to exit the library. “We – we have class,” he lamely said, even though Sarawat was clearly too dazed to have registered his words.

Outside the library, Fong pulled Tine into a corner. “What is up with you?”

“What is up with me?” Tine tried, offering Fong an innocent smile which would obviously not get him out of this.

“What were you saying?” Fong asked, arms crossed. “To Wat. Don’t act dumb, Tine.”

“I was telling him how I felt,” Tine said, resolutely.

“Yeah,” Fong said. “Yeah, I saw that. You were telling him how you felt. It’s just...I have a lot of questions – about that. It was so...abrupt? And direct?”

Resistance. Tine silently cast the resistance spell to stop himself from admitting the truth about P’Fang’s mistake. “Well, that’s how I felt,” Tine dumbly said.

Fong narrowed his eyes at him, tilting his head to a side. “Something’s up, isn’t it?”

Resistance. “No, nothing,” Tine chuckled nervously, holding his friend’s wrist. “Now, let’s get to class, yeah? No more questions.”

 

*

 

That evening, the doorbell to Tine’s dorm rang thrice, and on opening the door, in came Sarawat.

Could the universe hate him more? Tine didn’t think so.

“Oh, Wat,” Tine said calmly, as if his brain was not combusting on the inside. “What brings you here?”

Sarawat looked like a five year old whose mother had promised to buy him his favourite video game if he scored a certain grade in his test, and he had just aced that test. “So...” he coughed, probably for emphasis Tine figured, sitting at the edge of Tine’s bed. “I wanted to talk about what happened, uh, in the library. What – what you said.” He bit his upper lip shyly, darting his gaze slowly towards Tine’s face.

“Yeah. What about it?” Tine coolly shot back.

“You said...things, Tine,” Sarawat mumbled, eyes shining with a beautiful light.

“What things?” Why was he stalling this? He knew he had to confront it, anyway, now that he had already gone and said all those heavily indicative things.

Sarawat huffed, scrunching his eyebrows together. Cute. “Cute,” Tine muttered.

“What was that?”

“I said, ‘cute’,” Tine repeated, closing his eyes shut. His brain-to-mouth may be gone, but his heart was still aggressively thrumming against his ribcages at the direction this conversation was taking.

Sarawat balked. “You...you called me cute?”

His questions left no room for safe answers. Tine was sure that his face was as red as a rose. “Yes. I called you cute.” Tine could literally hear his heart’s rapid hammering.

Sarawat looked like there were so many things he wanted to say that he couldn’t pick one out of them. He bit his lip again, chewing hard and staring right into Tine’s soul.

“Tine,” he said, a little breathy. “Do you mean it?”

“Do I mean what?” Oh my god, someone give Tine an award for the most stupidly obvious questions asked within the span of one damn conversation.

“What you just said,” Sarawat said. “And what you said back in the library.”

He was internally cursing P’Fang for this predicament he was currently faced with and had no escape from whatsoever. “I mean it.”

“Y-You mean it...?” Sarawat asked, unsure of whether to believe his own ears. Then, as if a delightful realization just washed over him, he exclaimed, “Oh my god, Tine, are you flirting with me?”

“No, I’m simply stating whatever I think is true,” Tine said, almost about to slap himself. He was really, really fucking tempted to use the resistance spell right now to stop himself from blurting out the desires of his heart.

Sarawat exulted, the prettiest smile overtaking his features. “Am I dreaming?” he said, more to himself than to Tine. “You’re actually flirting back!”

“Once again, I’m-”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Sarawat rolled his eyes fondly. “You’re only stating what you think is true.” Then, with a mischievous glint in his eyes, added, “Which includes me being cute and having large and beautiful eyes. Oh, and my fingers caressing your knee makes you...feel things.”

Tine almost physically cringed at Sarawat wording out the things he’d said, one after the other. “Don’t get smug,” Tine said, which was probably the least mortifying and close-to-usual thing he’d said to the guitarist that day.

“Do you blame me,” Sarawat had that look in his eyes again – dreamy and dazed and giddy. “My crush of over a year is flirting with me. Let me live in this moment of utmost and superior ecstasy.”

“You’re so adorable,” Tine said.

At this point, he was just internally laughing at himself.

“Oh my god,” Sarawat softly gasped. “Tine. If I wasn’t so hopelessly besotted with you and was yearning to hear you say these things to me, I’d almost think something was wrong.”

Resistance. You can’t tell him about the truth spell.

“Wait. Wait – is there something wrong?” Sarawat asked, slight fear creeping into his voice.

“No,” Tine immediately said. “No, no, no. Of course not. What would be wrong?”

“You’re sure, right?” Sarawat asked again, pursing his lips and a small breath leaving his mouth. “Nothing’s wrong? You meant the things you said...about me?”

The answer to both questions was a big, fat yes. “Nothing’s wrong, Wat,” Tine said, comfortingly, because above truth spells and hidden feelings and every other thing in between, Tine couldn’t bear to see Sarawat feeling sad. “Trust me.”

“I trust you,” Sarawat said, smile returning to his face. “But I want to know. Why are you suddenly being so upfront? What changed?”

What changed is that I’m under a fucking truth spell and I want the ground beneath me to part so I can jump right in and never come out. But instead, he said, “I think it’s about time.”

All breath seemed to be punched out of Sarawat’s lungs and his eyes looked so pretty that Tine thought he would drown in them. “Okay,” he rasped out.

Okay? Tine felt slightly unsettled. He thought Sarawat would jump at the prospect of finally getting together with him.

Wat stepped towards him slowly, teeth digging into his bottom lip in what looked like contained excitement. “Can – I just – how do I –”

Tine could read the boy like an open book and even though the guitarist only offered him fragments, he understood what he was trying to convey. He wanted to be courted by Tine, too. He wanted to live on the high of being flirting with by his crush for a few days maybe, before they finally got together. Tine’s heart turned to mush once again, as he said, “Hey, I get it. You don’t have to say it.”

Sarawat’s eyes shot up. “You know, I’m still very shocked.”

“You have no need to be,” Tine said. “Everything I’ve said is nothing but the truth.”

 

*

 

Two days later, Tine was scouring the canteen for Sarawat. He hadn’t seen the boy all day.

He finally found him cramped up in one corner of the music room, a thick book in his hands. “Wat?” he asked, stepping inside. “What are you doing?”

Sarawat ran a stressed hand through his hair. “I have a test in my next class. We were told this morning.” Tine sighed knowingly. He knew what that was like. Law majors had to deal with surprise tests that happened to reflect on their overall grade all the time.

“Didn’t you also have band practice this morning?” Tine asked.

Sarawat nodded, throwing his head back against the wall tiredly. “How do you do this all the time?”

Tine chuckled sympathetically. “Well, you don’t get into Law if you can’t cram. We signed up for this.”

“Do you know,” Sarawat said, scooting closer to Tine. “P’Dim was also not present today. And Earn’s guitar string snapped. I had to run down to the office to ask for a new one, and the co-ordinator made me wait for a whole half hour outside.”

Tine cooed, pulling his head to rest it atop his shoulder. “Did you have breakfast?”

“I didn’t get the chance to,” Sarawat sighed. “I usually have breakfast after band practice but we were told about the test and...well, here I am.”

“I figured as much,” Tine said. Then, pulling out a sandwich from his bag, he said, “Here. Have this right now.”

Sarawat looked at him as if he had whole galaxies veiled behind his eyes. “What? I can’t bring you food?” Tine joked, nudging him lightly.

Wordlessly, Sarawat took the packed sandwich from Tine and began to unwrap the foil. “Thank you, Tine,” he softly said, the cutest blush appearing on his cheeks. Tine’s brain decided to combust.

“How are you this pretty,” he mumbled, loud enough for Sarawat, who was practically pressed against him, to hear. The guitarist’s eyes widened, obviously still not used to Tine offering him such open and heartfelt confessions. “You know, the best part in all of this is that you get to know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of being flirted with. How it’s a constant battle trying to prevent your brain from frying every time the other says something so bluntly cheesy. That’s what it’s like to be me, Wat. Now you know.”

“Your brain fries when I flirt with you?” Of course, in all of that, that was the one thing Sarawat caught onto.

Tine, now three days into the harrows of being under a truth spell, knew that there was no way around it. “Yes. Yes, it does.”

Sarawat always spoke about how much he loved Tine’s smile, how it was his smile that had made his heart leap at first glance. And honestly, Tine understood. He understood because he, too, felt this intoxicating surge of adoration rise up his chest every time Sarawat offered him the barest curl of his lips.

Sarawat took one of Tine’s hands in his own, relishing in the feel of it against his own. He then brought it up and pressed it against his chest, right where one could feel their heartbeat.

If Tine didn’t already know the cause, he’d perhaps be concerned about how insanely fast Sarawat’s heart was beating.

“Can you feel it?” Wat asked, eyeing him softly.

Tine nodded.

“It’s because of how you make me feel.”

And Tine was glad that his lack of brain-to-mouth filter had no effect on his actions because he was overcome with an irresistible urge to kiss him till he dropped.

 

*

 

“Wat – Wat?”

Sarawat hadn’t been answering his phone all day. They were supposed to hang out later in the bar with the others. He hadn’t even shown up to college.

It was the end of the day, and after numerous rings, Sarawat had finally felt the courtesy to call him back. But when he did, he sounded bleary and weak.

“Are you okay?” Tine asked. “You’ve been MIA all day and haven’t been answering me.”

There was momentary silence on the end of the line. “I’m ill,” Sarawat said. “Go without me.”

“Go where without you?”

“To the bar,” Sarawat sounded hoarse, like it was hurting his throat to talk.

“You’re a funny man, Wat,” Tine remarked, already on his way to Sarawat’s dorm room. “To suppose that I’d leave you sick and alone and go enjoy a night-out at the bar.”

“Wha –”

The line went dead.

Tine had a spare key to Wat’s apartment, so he entered soundlessly, cautious as to not stir the boy. He was lying on the mattress that he called his bed, covered from head to toe with a warm comforter. Tine nimbly walked over to Sarawat’s side, seating himself at the edge of the mattress. “Hey, Wat?” he softly called, placing a hand on his cheeks. “Wat?”

Sarawat stirred awake pretty quickly, never the deep sleeper. His eyes fluttered open and Tine saw the sickness glistening in them. Tine placed the back of his palm on Sarawat’s forehead. “You’re running quite a fever.”

“Mhm,” Sarawat hummed in response, melting into the comfortable warmth of Tine’s hand.

“Did you wake up feeling like this?”

“I had a light headache since last night,” he mumbled against the skin of Tine’s arm. “I thought it’d go away, but...”

“Wat,” Tine said. “You could’ve called me earlier. I just had one class today – that too, I could’ve easily skipped and come look after you.”

“You’re not obligated to,” Sarawat said, softly groaning and nuzzling his head into Tine’s lap.

“No, I’m not,” Tine said. “But I want to.” He ran his fingers through Sarawat’s slightly sweaty bangs, earning a low hum of contentment from the boy nestled beside him. “Did you take any meds?”

Sarawat shook his head. “Only got up to make myself something to eat.” Tine passed him a disapproving glare, then lowered his head to kiss Sarawat’s temple. The guitarist’s breath caught in his throat at the sudden gesture and when Tine looked at him, Wat’s eyes were held in a wild daze. “Tine,” he gulped, not breaking eye contact for even a moment.

It was too much, the proximity, the vulnerability and openness on Wat’s face, the unsteady beating of his heart – Tine felt like he was being stretched thin by a sudden tide of overwhelming emotions and before he could say anything he wouldn’t want to, he disentangled himself from the musician. Something akin to hurt passed through Sarawat’s face.

“I’m going to make you some congee,” Tine said. “We need to get something in you to be able to give you the meds.” Sarawat meekly nodded, eyes turned away from Tine. He pulled up his blanket around him, exhaling shakily. Tine’s eyes hovered to Sarawat’s lashes resting on the hollow below his eyes, then to the curve of his lips and that perfect cupid’s bow. How is he even real, he distractedly thought.

When he was done making the congee, he settled himself beside Sarawat again. Removing the locks sticking to Sarawat’s forehead, his hands shifted to the softness of his cheeks and his fingers tentatively caressed the too-warm skin. “Hey, Tine,” Sarawat said, and then he had the audacity to flash the most beautiful smile Tine’s eyes had ever seen, all while he was lying beside him, bleary and sick.

“Hey, baby,” Tine said, immediately regretting the choice of words. “Let’s get some food in you, yeah?”

“You can’t – you can’t do that,” Sarawat said, a playful accusation in his tone.

“Can’t do what?”

“Treat me like this,” Sarawat said after a moment. “Like you care about me so much.”

Tine offered him a pointed look, and then bringing the pot of congee on his lap, he said, “I do care about you, Wat.” At this point, Tine had just stopped thinking about the outcome or consequences of everything he had said in the past few days. He had changed the character of his relationship with Wat completely, though he had always been aware of the latter’s feelings (he didn’t exactly make a secret of it) and had acknowledged his own as well. Even if they remained largely unsaid.

“You know what I mean,” Sarawat said, opening his mouth petulantly like a child being coaxed into consuming the congee.

“Yes, I know what you mean,” Tine said, stalling the conversation as much as he could.

Sarawat frowned, leaning against Tine’s shoulder. “Don’t play with my heart while I’m sick,” he whined lowly, hands travelling down to Tine’s belly. “I’m still puzzled as to what made you so blunt about your feelings. But I’m not complaining, obviously.”

“Oh, I bet you’re enjoying this,” Tine laughed softly, breath ghosting over Sarawat’s face. They were so close, so, so close. He could just lean in and he could catch Wat’s lips with his own. Instead, he brought another spoonful of congee to Sarawat’s mouth.

“Stay the night,” Sarawat pleaded, using that baby-whiny voice and those bewitching eyes. “Please, Tine?”

And honestly? Tine was a simple man. He couldn’t say no to that. He couldn’t say no to him. With or without a truth spell.

 

*

 

P’Fang called three days later, sounding too excited at 7:30 in the morning.

“I swear, P, if it isn’t about the reversal –”

“It is!”

Tine stopped mid-yawn, pressing his phone harder against his ear. “Oh – oh. Oh my god. Seriously? You’ve figured out a remedy?”

“Yes, Tine,” P’Fang jovially said. “I’ve already called Pear, Green, Pom and Vee. The six of us together need to cast the reversing spell. It should be enough to break the truth spell.”

“Are you sure?” Tine asked, flinging off his bed and hurriedly putting on a pair of jeans and a tee. When P’Fang affirmed her belief, he practically ran out of his condo, relief filling his chest.

At P’Fang’s place, Pear, Green and Vee had already arrived when Tine turned up. Shortly after, Pom arrived as well. Clasping her hands together, P’Fang said, “Okay, so. Are we ready?”

“Oh, please yes,” Pear said. “Though I’m sure I’ve already said too much.”

“Earn?” Tine sympathetically asked. “It’s all okay...right?”

“Oh, she was thrilled,” Pear said, shutting her eyes. “I’m saying the most embarrassingly cheesy stuff, and Earn is having the time of her life.” Then, she asked, “How about you...and you know, Sarawat?”

“What do you think,” Tine said, shaking his head. “Everything’s out in the open. I’m more scared about what’s going to happen now. Now that I’ll have a filter once again. What do I do now after everything I’ve already said?”

“You’re not alone in this,” Pear said, mock-sobbing.

P’Fang placed the cheerleading club’s log book on a table and asked the five of them to gather around. “I’ve written the spell on five pieces of paper. It’s kind of long.” She handed them out and waited for them to memorize it well enough to cast it. When they all nodded their affirmation, P’Fang asked a last, “Ready?” and then the six of them chanted out a long series of words in unison.

A minute or two later, they looked up from the log book, having finished casting the spell. “Well?” Vee asked. “How do we know it worked?”

“I’m going to kick you. Hard,” P’Fang offered. “And you’re going to say that it didn’t hurt.”

“Whoa, P!” Vee exclaimed, taking a step back from the leader of the cheerleading club. “Why does it have to be me, why not –”

P’Fang kicked him below his knee, not hard enough to bruise but hard enough to elicit a reaction. “Ow, P!” Vee said, clutching his leg.

“Don’t say it, say the opposite,” Green prompted him.

“Ah – ah, this doesn’t hurt at all,” Vee said, eyes twitching slightly in pain but also gleaming from the realization that the spell had worked. “We’re fine. We’ve broken the spell.”

“Yeah,” P’Fang said. “Now, we have to deal with the consequences of whatever we’ve spewed out in the past few days.”

 

*

 

I got this, Tine told himself as he made his way out of P’Fang’s house.

He went straight to Uni from P’Fang’s place having been notified the day before about early classes. Ohm, Fong and Phuak were waiting for him inside the auditorium where their special session was to be held. “Where were you?” Ohm whisper-shouted, pointing at his watch. “It’s a good thing that the guest professor is late otherwise the session should’ve started by now.”

Tine, panting, answered, “Was at P’Fang’s.”

“P’Fang’s?” Phuak asked. “So early in the morning?”

“Cheerleading business,” Tine said. “She called in the morning while I was in bed and –”

“We’d be really happy to hear all about it, Tine,” Fong interjected. “But we need to go through our group papers right now if we want good participation scores.”

“Right, right,” Tine assented, fishing out a stack of assignment sheets from his bag. “I’ve gone through most of it. But I had no time for revision.”

“I didn’t either,” Phuak said, scrunching up his nose. “I had my nightmare of a cousin come over yesterday and he kept messing up all my papers and playing with my highlighter pen, underlining the word ‘jurisprudence’ wherever he found it because he thought it was spooky.”

“Hey, did you guys see Wat this morning?” Tine asked.

Ohm nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I think he was with Earn when we walked inside the auditorium. Earn and P’Dim.”

Fong gravely nodded. “Yeah, we thought we’d call them to join the session. But, they seemed to be very deep in conversation, like they were working out some equation.”

“Non-laws can participate, too?” Tine asked.

“Yes, you dumbfuck, where have you been?” Fong said, admonishingly.

I’ve been trying to deal with a goddamned truth spell giving away everything I’ve managed to hide for so long. Once again, he was reminded of the deep, expressive pools of Sarawat’s eyes, of the plump, ever-pouting lips literally asking to be kissed; of how he smiled privately against Tine’s neck when he thought the other wasn’t looking, how the soft strands of his hair tickled against Tine’s skin; Tine thought of how he smelled – a distinct mixture of something earthy and rooted and warm – he could recognise it anywhere. It filled his chest with a sense of unfathomable love and familiarity.

“ –Tine?”

“Huh?”

“Here. I’ve divided the parts. See.”

Tine nodded, the fear of confrontation suddenly seeping out of him. What was he afraid of, anyway? His feelings were out there, he’d gone and said it all already. Perhaps, the truth spell was a blessing in disguise. Who knew how long it would have taken him otherwise to finally tell Wat how he felt? He was overcome by a jolting sense of liberty.

After a day full of back to back lectures and assignment submissions, Tine, Ohm, Fong and Phuak were drained. Phuak had fleetingly proposed going to the bar, but Fong had immediately dismissed him, saying, “What we need is sleep. Now bye.”

“I wonder where Wat is,” Tine thought out loud, craning back his neck to look at the campus. “Didn’t see him all day.” He walked with the three to the footpath, trying to dig out his phone from inside his bag. They took their leaves for the night. Unlocking his phone, Tine saw 7 missed call notifications from Sarawat.

Fuck, he had forgotten to turn off the silent mode after leaving P’Fang’s house.

He had missed calls from a few others, too, but ignoring those, he first checked his LINE messages to see what Sarawat wanted so badly to tell him. But there were no texts from him. Tine dialled in his number and waited.

“ –Wat?” Tine asked. “What is it? I couldn’t hear my phone. It was on silent.”

“Tine?” Sarawat said. He sounded...upset? “Can you – can you come over?”

“Hey, is everything okay?” Tine asked. “Are you okay?”

“Can you please come over?” Sarawat asked again, ignoring Tine’s question. “I need to talk to you.”

“You need to – okay,” Tine gulped down the small fear forming inside him. Talk to him? And why did he sound so grave and dire while saying it? He thought everything was going just fine – great, in fact. They were the closest to ever being in an actual relationship. Wasn’t that what Sarawat always wanted? Tine knew from experience that the phrase I need to talk to you usually never meant anything good. But he couldn’t fathom what might have gone wrong.

Did Sarawat not want this anymore?

Surely, that wasn’t possible. Right?

Anxious, Tine knocked on his door twice before realising that he owned a spare key to Wat’s dorm. When he pushed open the door, his eyes landed on Sarawat’s slender frame crouched down beside his mattress. On seeing Tine, his eyes widened for a split second before the light dowsed into something more apprehensive. “Wat?” Tine asked, throwing his bag on the couch.

“Tine, tell me the truth,” Sarawat croaked, refusing to meet Tine’s gaze.

“The truth?” Tine’s first thought was that Sarawat had somehow found out about the truth spell. But also, if that was the case, he would be the contrary of upset and Sarawat looked very clearly upset.

Sarawat stared at him, hurt and accusatory. Tine’s heart twisted. “Everything you’ve said these past few days, everything you’ve done...that wasn’t real, was it?” Sarawat shut his eyes, as if rebuking himself for believing Tine. He let out a small exhale, and before anything else, Tine reached forward and grabbed his hands, covered in cold sweat.

“Of course it was real, Wat,” Tine said, bewildered. “Why are you asking me this? What made you think that I was being insincere?”

A momentary relief passed through the glaze of Sarawat’s eyes, but they were still engulfed in distress. “I spoke to Earn and P’Dim today. And they told me that Green and Pear have been acting in a similar way...as you have been,” Sarawat explained. “They were suddenly being very direct about their feelings. As if they couldn’t control their words. It’s been the same with you, Tine. Why? Was it...was it some sick play-pretend game? How is it that all three of you decided to –”

“Wat,” Tine eyed his softly, cupping his face with his hands. “Shh.” Sarawat’s breath visibly caught as Tine shushed him with a finger to his lips. In a swift motion, Tine placed one hand on Sarawat’s back and the other under his knees to lift him up in his arms. Sarawat yelped, instinctively wrapping his arms around Tine’s neck on losing contact with the ground. “Not as heavy as I thought,” Tine joked, the strain clear in his voice. The musician’s breath fell on the skin of Tine’s neck, giggling in soft notes. “Yeah, I can see that,” he mumbled.

He plopped him down on the bed, the latter letting out a small squeal of surprise. “Can I kiss you, Wat?” Tine said, all tender and mushy, caressing Sarawat’s cheeks.

The radiance in Sarawat’s eyes at that question punched all breath out of Tine’s lungs. “Yes,” he practically purred, leaning in for Tine to catch his parted lips with his own. Wat kissed messily, like a desperate teenager diving in for their first kiss and just putting their mouth everywhere in an attempt to overpower the other. That’s when Tine realised, this is his first kiss.

He held his face tightly, pushing him back against the bed frame. Sarawat reluctantly gave up trying to lead and gave in to the experienced moving of Tine’s lips. Tine kissed him hungrily, having dreamt of various versions of this exact moment for months. Oh, how sweet Sarawat’s lips tasted, much sweeter than in any of his reveries. “I’ve thought of this,” Tine said, smacking his lips. “For so long. God, Wat. So fucking long.”

“Do I kiss well?” Sarawat asked, cheeks flushing.

“You kiss like a rookie, chaotic and overexcited,” Tine laughed, rubbing their noses together. “But it’s perfect because it’s you.”

A hint of wariness flashed through Sarawat’s face. “You didn’t explain. You know, what I asked.”

Tine sighed. “There is an explanation,” he began. Sarawat looked like everything at once – apprehensive, confused and above everything else, vulnerable. He had bared his heart before Tine, and was now completely at his mercy. Like he was allowing Tine, with his own hands, to crush his heart if he wished to.

“It was a truth spell,” Tine simply stated. “P’Fang cast a truth spell on the entire club by mistake.”

Sarawat gawked, sitting up with force. “Wait, what?”

“She was meaning to cast a memory spell, but instead she –”

“You were under a truth spell when you said all of that?” Sarawat asked again, eyes growing frantic by the second. “Oh my god. Wait. So that means...oh.” He let out a breathy laugh, mouth parted in shock. “That means...you meant each and every word you said.”

“Yes, saraleo,” Tine hit his shoulders playfully. “And you were assuming the opposite.”

“Are you still under the spell?” Sarawat looked wild with excitement.

“No,” Tine retorted. “It’s too late to exploit it.”

Sarawat huffed with displeasure, turning his lips in a frown. “You’ve already called me pretty in ten different ways in almost every conversation we’ve had this week and the last.”

“That’s because you are,” Tine said. “So pretty. Beautiful.”

“Are you sure you’re not under the spell anymore?”

Tine smacked him on his arm. “No. I’m saying it of my own volition.”

“You also called me...baby,” Sarawat stated, an impish grin forming on his face.

Tine let out a long-suffering sigh. Sarawat was a demon, a whole demon. “Yes. I distinctly remember calling you that. What about it?”

“Call me baby again,” Sarawat said, fluttering his lashes dramatically. “Free of spell control.”

“You could ask me to confess my feelings for you,” Tine said. “But you ask for this. Why am I even surprised?”

“What,” Sarawat said, crossing his arms across his chest. “No one’s ever called me baby before. It’s a first for me, okay.”

“God, I love you so much,” Tine breathed out. “I love you so much it’s ridiculous.”

Sarawat looked stupefied, a small choked sound coming out of his mouth. “Y-You love me?”

“Yes, saraleo,” Tine said, heart exulting. “I love you. I always have.”

Sarawat’s face tore into an ecstatic smile and for a second, Tine thought he saw Wat’s lashes shimmering with unshed tears. “Tine,” he said, voice trembling. “Tine. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

Tine took one of Sarawat’s hands in his own, and interlacing their fingers, brought it up and pressed it against his chest. “Do you feel it?” Tine asked in a low hum. His heart was rumbling and rejoicing. “It’s because of how you make me feel.” Wat bit on his lips to suppress the grin threatening to explode at Tine repeating his own words, that absolute little shit.

“So, are we boyfriends now or what?”

Sarawat’s lips were on his own, pulling and biting with fervour like never before. “Shut up,” he smugly said, in between his ravage on Tine’s lips which probably looked like two swollen blobs by then.

Yes. Yes, they were.