The first time Ché meets Kim he is startled, jumps a little at the sudden appearance of this new brother. Kim enters the room armed with a knife that he swings round in his grip in a shockingly casual manner given he’s just walked into a throng of men already bristling with enough hidden cutlery to stock several Tops department stores.
Kim laughs at him for it, afterwards, after the danger, and from then on Ché is too busy feeling offended to remember the edge of fear that had skittered through him at the first sight of those sharp, sharp eyes.
Kim nicknames him Bunny, follows Ché around tormenting him with the name whenever he’s in the family compound, trailing after his elder brother while trying to pretend he has good reasons to be there that don’t involve naked curiosity. Che is too mortified to respond to this teasing with anything other than the most stifled of small talk. Or, at least, that’s what he’s sure the hot blush that rises to his face each time it happens means.
Two months into this strange back and forth, Kim disappears from the compound for two whole weeks. Ché is too honest with himself, even at this early stage, to pretend he doesn’t count every long hour of that endless stretch of days.
When Kim returns, the skin over both sets of his knuckles is burst open, his hands swollen enough that it takes a horrified Ché more than an hour with a first aid kit and the gentlest of touches to bandage him up whole again. It doesn’t occur to Ché for a long time afterwards, until it’s far too late for hypotheticals to save him, that the Family has the best doctors money can buy permanently available on the other end of a line for exactly this kind of occasion.
When Ché is finished with the last of the bandages, Kim takes one of his hands in turn, gingerly, tenderly, and deposits into it a tiny little stuffed bunny. It is white and terribly sweet and so incredibly cute. Kim grins up at Ché and the warmth in his eyes — or, at least, heat — is so overwhelming that Ché feels the last of his resistance crumble into dust, blown away between one breath and the next. He leans down and presses his lips to Kim’s. They give way so very easily, so achingly soft. Ché sinks into the kiss with unseemly haste. He isn’t worried. Kim will bring them up for air before he drowns.
Ché isn’t dumb. He knows there are bits of their relationship that aren’t that healthy. And honestly, it’s not like he would sit and take “don’t get drunk with your friends without me” from any normal boyfriend, but it’s different somehow when that boyfriend is insanely fucking hot and retaliates when Ché (who is no coward) does that very thing by picking him up from their shabby student bar in one of his ridiculous incongruous sports cars and driving them away and pulling up abruptly and going down on an entirely buzzed Ché in the front seat of said stupid fucking car, fuck. Some things are just hot, okay, and don’t need to be rationalised. And yeah, okay, he hadn’t realised at the time - had been way too wasted and angry and horny in turn to realise — that Kim had wrapped a hand hard around one of Ché’s wrists while his mouth had been busy with Ché’s dick. Ground the bones of his wrist together so they were sore the next day, and there were five perfect imprints in Ché’s arm, just about high enough to be covered up with full-sleeve shirts, which — Ché could choose not to wear them if he wanted to, choose not to cover this up, but he doesn’t want anybody to get the wrong impression, not that there even is any wrong impression to get, really.
A week later, the bruises are a pale yellow, barely standing out from the rest of his skin. Ché presses his fingers into each divot carefully, one after the other. They are still sensitive to the touch and a faint nausea rises in him as he does it, but he continues until he has felt out the fading boundaries of every last one of the five.
Kim is out on Family business. He hasn’t said when he’ll be back. Ché’s friends are blowing up the group chat with plans for tonight — it is Friday, after all. Ché is feeling too tired to go out tonight, actually, he texts back. It’s been a long week.
And sometimes, when he’s feeling more petty than comes to him naturally in the normal course of things, Ché feels a certain vindictive smugness in imagining the look on his brother’s face if he were to find out what Ché’s life actually is. Ché knows Porsche thinks Kim is playacting at a pale imitation of the skills Kinn has honed into sure-fire succession of the Family business. Thinks of Ché as the little plaything of the playactor and feels relieved that his brother is, despite his own choice of career, relatively safe nonetheless.
Well, what Porsche doesn’t know about Kim’s recent cultivation of a new line of business into Burma won’t hurt him, thinks Ché. Kim is determined to prove himself as anything other than the baby of the Family and he’s explained to Ché why it needs to be secret for now. But Ché knows, Kim trusts Ché with this, and Ché is drunk on the feeling of it. Had been troubled by the pattern they had settled into, these last couple of years, of Kim keeping back just enough of himself from Ché that Ché never quite knew where they stood. But now he knows, and it’s so simple: together.
And on this particular night, Kim has trusted Ché enough to involve him in the deal that’s currently going down, under the facade of the smartly-suited dinner they have been enjoying in the marbled dining hall of one of the most exclusive private member’s clubs in Bangkok. After the night’s work is over, with truly very little bloodshed, Kim drags him into a darkened corner of a dusty back corridor of the club, pushes Ché to his knees. Unbuttons his trousers.
Ché’s face has never been more red in his life, his eyes darting frantically back down the corridor in the fear that they might be caught, until Kim’s grip tightens in his hair and a particularly strong thrust down his throat makes him drool out a choked-down moan, his eyes drifting closed at the sensation, too overwhelmed to take in anything more than the heft of Kim’s cock weighing down his tongue into immobility, Kim’s fingers twisting in his hair until his neck strains to what feels like the point of snapping and the tears well in his eyes and spill down over his blushing cheeks and the distended downwards curve of his stuffed full mouth.
Sometimes Ché sees a fragment of the kind of life he used to live before all of this float past in front of his vision, and it does the strangest things to him. He is sure that Kim is right to be concerned, that it is a sure sign that he is overtired.
He convinces one of his bodyguards to let him stop by a convenience store to buy a quick bottle of water on an unexpectedly hot day in the rainy season. Ché catches the eye of the young boy behind the counter. Remembers the days when he had been a teenager, his only responsibility the night shift he’d pulled at the local 7-Eleven, with all the physical drudgery of shelf-stacking and ringing up purchases and the mental freedom of people-watching and constructing intricate little stories in his head about all his favourite regulars. The freedom of the tired walk home in the dawn hours, clutching whatever drink and snack had been cheapest on offer for him to split up and share with his brother back in their tiny condo.
The bodyguard comes into the shop five minutes after Ché had first entered it to find him inconsolable on the floor in front of the cold drinks section, a bewildered looking teen in the shop uniform standing uncertainly over him trying to get him to stop, all other shoppers presumably driven out by the awkwardness of the scene before them.
And then there is the high school reunion. He has to go to this one. It would look strange if he didn’t. He stays sober throughout, isn’t so unsophisticated or brash as to think it’s fun to get wasted with his crude school friends these days. When he gets back to the compound, he empties out three of Kim’s favourite reds from their drinks cabinet, steadily working himself up to a fever pitch of drunkenness before draping himself all over an exhausted Kim when he finally gets back home from whatever Family business he’d been called to that night, already 2am.
When Kim sighs longsufferingly and grudgingly reciprocates the touch, turns to take Ché into his arms, Ché starts screaming so loudly they soon have five of the nearest bodyguards with them in the condo, but not before he’s gouged several deep red lines into Kim’s arms with his nails in his panicked attempts to push away from Kim’s touch. Kim had withstood it all without letting go. When Ché realises what he’s done, he starts to cry, then sob — gasp — hyperventilate — passes out, and only comes to the next day, watched over by a grey-faced Kim in the dim light of their bedroom, curtains still drawn over the worst ravages of the previous night.
He does need to rest, Ché thinks. He finally speaks to Kim about it and Kim is so kind. Stops what he’s doing, and takes the time to focus his attention on Ché in a way Ché isn’t sure he’s felt the full force of in years. It’s so tender it brings him to tears, though that seems to be all he’s good for right now, anyway. Kim listens to Ché, really listens. He takes him away for a week’s holiday, rearranges all his other commitments.
They fly to the beach house at Nai Thon . Have it all to themselves, with only the most discreet and minimal security, for the entire week. Kim wakes Ché with coffee in the mornings, and then watches him while Ché slowly cooks them a simple breakfast. Eats all Ché’s cooking with relish, then does the dishes with a smile on his face. They spend the mornings and late afternoons of each day at the beach, dozing on the sand or playing in the clear water. In the noon heat they slink back into the house, trying to move as little as possible under the press of the heat over their skins. Lie on the verandah and eat slivers of mango from each other’s hands and laugh and call it lunch. Each night, Kim makes slow and careful love to Ché. He feels each press of Kim into his skin as a balm over his wounds, a healing touch over the giant bruise of himself. It is one of the best weeks of Ché’s life.