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Dare Me Once

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“This cannot keep happening,” the professor is saying. Pran does his best not to roll his eyes. This guy - he’s one of Pat’s professors, and Pran doesn’t even know his name - thinks they can just stop their friends from fighting by, what, asking nicely? Yeah, right. He and Pat are supposed to be fighting all the time, anyways, how could they convince several of their friends not to when that’s all they want to do.

“I didn’t want to do this,” the professor continues, “but if you get caught one more time, you’ll be banned from all university activities.”

“But, Professor, the rugby-” Pat tries, and then subsides when the professor glares at him.

“Don’t fight, and you’ll get your rugby. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” Pat and Pran chorus, hands together under their chins.

“Fine, get out,” the man says, gesturing at the door.

“Yes, sir,” they both say, before filing out of his office.

Pat stops just outside the door and looks back at Pran. Pran raises his eyebrows - what could Pat possibly want, now that he’s gotten both of them in trouble? But Pat just shakes his head, so Pran stalks off towards his dorm.

He’s halfway there, walking through a small green space, when Pat finally calls after him.

“Hey Pran? Pran, wait up.”

Pran rolls his eyes, but stops anyway. Why couldn’t they have done this before?

“What?” he demands as he watches Pat jog up.

“Here,” Pat holds out a tube of bruise cream, “Picked it up at the store, figured you probably got hurt too.” Pran hesitates. Is he sincerely offering something nice? What’s the catch?

“Alright, look, I’m only going to say this once. I’m sorry that Korn wouldn’t take Wai’s apology. I thought he would, and I was wrong. So... sorry,” Pat says with a shrug.

Ah. Guilt. Better to pay off the debt now, than to owe him some unnamed favor later. That makes sense. He takes it, and walks over to a nearby bench to sit and put some on, shrugging out of the neck of his button-down to reach the spot on his shoulder that Pat had hit. Pat stands nearby awkwardly, avoiding looking at him. Pran rolls his eyes and shakes his head.

“So what are we going to do about what the professor said?” he asks, just to break the weird silence.

“Don’t suppose just telling everyone what he said will work.”

Pran snorts.

“Maybe. For about ten minutes. Till somebody gets drunk again.”

“Yeah,” Pat agrees. He comes to sit at the other end of the bench. Pran finishes rubbing the cream into his shoulder and shrugs his shirt back on. Pat snorts.

“What?” Pran asks, holding out the tube of cream. Pat takes it, and shoves it into a pocket.

“I was just thinking this would be so much easier if I had a girlfriend in Architecture.”

“As if any Architect would date your ugly ass. We have standards over in my faculty, you know.”

“Well it’d be a hell of a lot easier to find me someone in Architecture than you finding someone in Engineering, no Engineer would date someone with a stick so far up their butt it’s coming out their ears. Besides, I’m charming. I can date anyone I want.”

Pran can’t help the snort that comes out at that.

“What, I can! Point me at a girl, I’ll get her to go out with me! Any girl!” Pat protests.

“I would, just to watch you fall flat on your face, but it’s pointless. Your friends might back off, but mine would just say that you ‘stole’ them,” Pran points out, “And I bet it’d be the same if you found me someone in Engineering.”

“Oh,” Pat says, “Yeah. That might be true.” They lapse into silence. Pran is about ready to give up and leave, when Pat speaks up.

“What if…” he starts, speaking slowly, a distant look in his eye, “What if you date me?”

“Excuse me?” Pran asks.

“No, no, think about it. If we dated somebody our friends didn’t know that well, then yeah, they’d say that we did it just to get back at the other side. But if it’s us-” Pat pauses to gesture between the two of them, “Then they either have to accept it, or say that one of us was stupid enough to be taken in. It’s perfect!”

Pran blinks. This might be the dumbest idea that Pat has ever had.

“Why the hell would I date you, asshole? Do you remember the last time we even looked like friends?”

“No, no, it wouldn’t really be dating, just in front of them, to make them believe it enough to behave. Our parents wouldn’t have to know,” Pat insists. Pran rolls his eyes and sighs. He’d said the same about the concert in high school, and Pran knows all too well what the consequences of that were. Not for Pat, of course, no. Just for him - a whole new life halfway through high school and no friends or anything.

“I still don’t think it’s a good idea...” Pran says.

“I dare you,” Pat says before he even finishes, “It’ll work, and to prove I’m right, I dare you to pretend to date me.”

Pran stares at Pat as he considers. Pat knows all the right buttons to push, of course, and has since they were little.

“Fine,” he says, finally.

“Good,” Pat says, crossing his arms and leaning back on the bench, and looking like he just won.

“But only if you promise not to fall in love with me,” Pran taunts, just as Pat is getting settled. It’ll be hard enough not to fall back into old habits of feeling himself. Pat sits back up.

“As if. If anybody falls in love for real, it’d be you,” Pat huffs, “I mean, look at me, I’m the hottest kid in school.”

“If only your personality wasn’t hot garbage,” Pran added, “I’m far more charming than you, and you’re asking me to flirt with you on purpose. It will be harder than you can possibly imagine to resist me.” He stares over at Pat who is meeting his gaze belligerently.

“First one to fall in love for real loses?” they both ask at the same time. Pran rolls his eyes. It’s stupid how they can still do that even after years apart.

“Deal,” Pat says, holding out a fist to bump.

“Deal,” Pran says, bumping it.

“So… Do we just tell them now?” Pat asks, after a moment.

“No, if we just tell them, they’ll be suspicious that we’re making it up, we have to make it look like they caught us.”

“What, really? That sounds like effort.”

“Probably won’t take too much, Wai was asking me the other day why we don’t punch each other as hard, he already suspects something is up. We just need to ease him into the idea. Your friends, though... I mean, they’re dumb enough you can just tell them if you want.”

“Hey, my friends are smarter than your dumb Architecture friends!”

“Well, fine then, you’ll have to do a bit of work at convincing them that you really have been dating me.”

“Have been?”

“We can’t very well say we started dating after this last fight, that wouldn’t make any sense. Why would we?” Pran points out.

“Oh. Yeah, alright. What’s your idea?”

“We have to get them thinking we’re dating someone before we tell them it’s us. But we have to do it fast or they’ll get back around to fighting first. Hmmmm… I think I know what to do. Just, tomorrow, make sure your friends see you with it, okay?” Pran says, getting up from the bench and heading off towards the convenience store.

“See me with what?” Pat calls after him, but Pran just waves over his shoulder.

“Wait, Pran!” Pat yells, and Pran turns to find him running up from the bench, “If we’re going to pull this off, I need your Line.”

Ah, right. Pran pulls out his phone, and offers up the QR code, which Pat scans.

“While we’re at it,” Pran says, tucking his phone back in his pocket, “Where do you live?”

Later that evening, Pran pulls the cap off a pen with his teeth, and sits down to write on his favorite sticky notes. He thinks for a moment, and then writes:

Hope your day is as sweet as you are.

Pat will know exactly who it’s from, and therefore know just how backhanded a compliment it is. His friends, though, should see it as a flirty note, and give Pat hell for it. He pulls the sticky note off the pad and stares at it for a moment. Yes, that will do.

He carefully tucks the note inside the bag with three Oishis in it, and quietly crosses the hall to hang the bag on Pat’s door handle.