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two plus two (make four)

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Win and Dean had been friends since their early teenage years, and started experimenting a few years later. They’d never been in an official relationship. But two years ago, during Dean and Win’s last year in high school, Team and Pharm had transferred to their school. They were both a grade below them, and they’d both signed up for tutoring, as Dean and Win’s school’s curriculum was more advanced than the one at their old school.

Both Win and Dean were tutors, and it so happened that Win was assigned to Team, and Dean to Pharm. As Win had started to fall for Team, and Dean initiated a relationship with Pharm, Win and Dean realized that their otherwise uncomplicated friendship might not be as clear-cut as they’d previously thought. At first the situation had been one big mess of complicated emotions, but in the end they’d all come to the conclusion that they were okay with all of them dating each other simultaneously.

Win and Pharm hadn’t been an item at first – Win hadn’t thought Pharm was his type at all – but as they’d spend more time together – primarily because they were dating each other’s boyfriends – Win had fallen for Pharm’s sweet charms just as hard as he’d fallen for Team and Dean. Pharm was a lot more straightforward than Team, and a lot more talkative than Dean, and Win really enjoyed what Pharm brought to their dynamic. He was usually the one to sit them all down and make them talk things through when needed.

Just like with Win and Dean, it had also taken awhile for Team and Pharm’s relationship to turn more sexual. They’d been friends for two years already when they transferred schools, and they hadn’t been very open to the idea of venturing into romantic or sexual territory. Win was pretty sure they still viewed each other more as friends than anything – maybe friends with benefits – but it seemed to work for them. And they cared about each other immensely either way.

Win hadn’t been sure how long the relationship between the four of them would last. But here they were, two years later, all of them in a committed and happy, albeit complicated, relationship, and he couldn’t see it ending any time soon.

But as happy as they all were, they hadn’t told anyone about their relationship. Team’s parents had barely accepted that he was gay, and he was sure they definitely wouldn’t accept him dating three other men. Neither would most of society. As far as Team’s parents, and everyone else, were aware, Team was only dating Win, and Dean and Pharm were a couple.

When Dean and Win had graduated, the four of them had gotten two apartments next to each other in the same apartment complex for convenience’s sake. No one would find it weird that two couples, who were friends, were living next to each other. That way they all lived close to each other, and next door was never far away. In addition, both apartments housed very big beds where they could all squeeze together when they wanted to.

But after Team and Pharm had begun in Dean and Win’s university, it had become more difficult to keep the relationship a secret. Beforehand Dean and Win had just been friends with some of the guys on the swim team, but Team and Pharm had quickly befriended two freshman girls – a funny girl named Manaow and Del, Dean’s own sister.

Manaow, especially, was very observant. She thought both Dean and Pharm, and Win and Team, were very cute couples, and seemed to watch their slight romantic gestures like a hawk. It had become more difficult for Win to put his hand on Pharm’s thigh or steal his food. Win was also pretty sure she’d caught him checking out Dean on several occasions. 

Of course, friends could touch each other, eat each other’s food or even check each other out – but the more times it happened, the more disbelieving Manaow looked.

As per usual, they were all eating lunch together in the courtyard. Win had somehow ended up sitting in the middle, with Dean on one side and Del on the other, Team across from him, Pharm across from Dean and Manaow across from Del. Win was trying to enjoy his food, but a lot of his attention went to Team, who was picking at his food and looking bleary eyed.

It seemed that Win wasn’t the only one who’d noticed. Most of the table was watching Team with worry, the fatigue clear in the set of his shoulders.

“Team?” Win called, to catch his attention. Team looked up from his food, and seemed embarrassed to find everyone already staring at him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” nodded Team and sent him a reassuring smile. “Just tired.”

Win wasn’t sure if he believed him. Him, Team and Dean had been practicing at the pool till late the night before, and gone back together, to find Pharm waiting for them in Dean and his apartment with a home-cooked meal. They’d all eaten together and then gone to bed.

Win was sure he would have noticed if Team hadn’t slept well, or if he’d had any nightmares during the night; they’d slept right next to each other, all tangled up. Win had even woken up at one point to find Team drooling on his shoulder, fast asleep and his soft breathing tickling the sensitive skin on Win’s neck. Pharm had lied next to Win on the other side, with a peaceful expression on his face and a tight hold on the top of Win’s pajamas bottoms, fabric scrunched up in his small hand. Dean had been pressed up against Pharm, with his arms protectively around his waist.

It seemed Win wasn’t the only one who was finding it hard to believe Team was “just tired,” though.

“Why are you so tired?” commented Pharm next to Team, with a concerned furrow between his eyebrows. “You slept like a stone last night. Do you think you’re coming down with something?” He pressed the palm of his hand tenderly against Team’s forehead. “You’re not warm.”

“How do you know that?” asked Manaow curiously, interrupting the moment. 

Pharm lowered his hand. “How do I know what?” asked Pharm confused.

“That he slept like a stone,” giggled Manaow. “What, do you have like, couple sleepovers?”

An uncomfortable silence fell over the table. Manaow stopped laughing. Win exchanged a wired glance with Dean, who looked just as uncertain of the situation as Win felt. Pharm opened his mouth, clearly trying to find something to say. Team just continued to look unfocused.

Before anyone could say anything, it was Manaow herself who broke the pregnant tension: “I was just joking,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Jeez. You guys are so uptight.” She took a big bite of her food, as if nothing had happened, but Win noticed that she kept sending them weird looks as she ate.

Del didn’t look like she’d even noticed what had been said; she was still looking concerned at Team. “Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked. “Do you want to go to the infirmary?”

Team shook his head and sent her an appreciative smile. “I’m really okay, I think I just need to rest. I don’t have any more classes today, so I’ll just go back home.”

“I’ll take you,” Win volunteered quickly. “You shouldn’t drive in your state.”

Team pouted petulantly, but he didn’t object.

-

A week passed, and Team really did get better after a few days of taking it easy. Maybe he had just been coming down with something, and it had passed on its own – with the help of Win’s kisses and nursing, Win was sure. Team took two days off of swim practice, but he was quickly back in the pool, brilliant as ever.

One afternoon Win and Dean were alone in the pool, practicing after hours. It was dark already, and everyone else had gone home. Team was studying with Pharm and Manaow in the library; they had a test coming up in a few days.

The two of them were taking turns timing each other. Win hadn’t managed to beat Dean’s time yet, but he was diligently trying. But still, as it was his turn to time Dean, he couldn’t help but admire the fluid way Dean moved through the water; his sharp strokes and the way his back muscles shifted, wet skin glistening in the dim blue lighting. Win never let his mind wander during swim practice, but now that they were alone, Win couldn’t help but think about all the times he’d felt those muscles underneath his hands.

Win was taken back to the first time all four of them had sex. It had taken almost a year to get to that point, but when they finally did, it had exceeded all of Win’s expectations. By then they all knew each other and each other’s bodies really well. It had been fun and exciting, and it still was. He definitely preferred it when they all had sex together, but he liked having sex with them one on one as well. It was different with all of them, but good in their own right.

Pharm was sweet and attentive, and Win always felt like they were making love more than anything. Sex with Pharm was hand holding, gazing into each other’s eyes and peppering kisses all over each other’s bodies. It made him feel cared for, seen.

Team was naughty. Sex with Team was nail scratches, kitten licks, thigh bighting, whispering dirty fantasies into each other’s ears in the dark at 3 am. Team was the most likely to want to try something new, and also, aside from Win, the one who was most often up for it.

Sex with Dean had changed drastically over the course of their relationship. They’d been each other’s first, and in the beginning they’d both been shy and inexperienced. It hadn’t necessarily been very good, but as they’d gotten older, it had gotten better – and more rough. Dean couldn’t – wouldn’t – take Team or Pharm as hard as he took Win, but he knew Win could handle it. And he could; he always gave as good as he got.

“Can you hand me some water?” Dean asked, as he finished his laps. He swam towards Win and stopped a meter away, pushing some of his hair out his face. Without replying, Win took one of the water bottles next to him and opened it, squatting down so that he could hand it over more easily.

Dean swam the last meter to reach him. As he grabbed the edge of the pool for balance, his thumb grazed Win’s foot. Win was pretty sure he’d done it on purpose, especially as he didn’t move his hand.

Dean met Win’s gaze as Win handed him the water bottle, and he held it as his lips closed around the top of the bottle. As he started to drink, Win’s gaze darted to Dean’s adam’s apple, watching as it bobbed every time he swallowed. Win could feel his mouth go dry.

“Hi!” called a familiar voice suddenly, breaking the tension.

“Manaow,” Win exclaimed, taken aback. He stood up so fast, he got dizzy and almost fell backwards. He could hear Dean choking on the water and beginning to cough, the sound echoing through the pool.

“Pharm asked me to bring you some dinner…” Manaow trailed off, looking between them confused. First then did Win notice she was holding a plastic bag, most likely with sandwiches. “Were you having an argument…?”

An argument? Win almost laughed. “It was nothing,” Dean said, no longer coughing. “Thank you, Manaow. That’s very sweet of you. Of you both.”

Manaow’s face broke into a giant smile, mainly directed at Dean. “You’re welcome. Can I stay and watch for a bit? If it doesn’t bother you, of course?”

“Sure,” Win said nonchalantly, trying to act like nothing had happened, just like Dean.

-

It was a Thursday afternoon, and Win had just gotten back from a dentist appointment. He was running his tongue over his smooth teeth as he watched Pharm in the kitchen, getting their dinner ready. Win had asked him if he wanted help, but Pharm had said he was almost done, and that Win would probably do more harm than good, anyway. Win had pretended to be offended.

They were just waiting for Dean and Team to get back from swim practice. Win had had to skip that day because of his dentist appointment. They were taking longer than they usually were, but Win couldn’t imagine Dean and Team fooling around in the showers like him and Team sometimes did. They were probably just doing extra laps.

Just as he was thinking that, the door to the apartment opened and Dean and Team walked in. Win and Pharm could immediately tell that something was off, based on their facial expression and the tight set of their shoulders. Well that, and Team throwing his bag on the floor with a heavy thud was also an indication.

“What’s wrong?” Pharm asked, worry clear in his voice.

Dean groaned as he sat down at his usual seat at the dinner table. Team shortly followed suit, sitting beside him. Dean was the first one to reply: “When Team and I were finishing up in the locker room today, Team complained about pain in his back, so I asked if he wanted a massage. He said yes, sat down on the bench, and took off his shirt-”

“Ooh,” Win whistled. “Tell me more.”

“It’s not that kind of story, Win,” Dean said sternly.

“Oh,” Win replied, only half feigning disappointment.

Apparently Team had had enough, and took over the story: “Manaow and Pruk walked in on us.”

“Doing… what, exactly?” asked Pharm confused, as he put the last pot on the table and joined the three of them.

“Dean giving me a massage,” Team said, a little impatient.

“And that’s very incriminating?” Win asked. “You’ve given Manaow a massage.”

“Yes, but as Dean said, I wasn’t wearing a shirt.”

“And he was moaning,” added Dean.

“You know my skin is really sensitive!” pouted Team.

Dean sighed. “It’s not your fault. It was both of our faults. We should have been more careful.”

“Well, did they say anything?” Pharm asked. “And why was Manaow even in there? It’s the boys’ locker room.”

Team, who had already started filling his plate, took a big bite of food, but started explaining nonetheless: “Pruk took her with him in there, because he thought it would be empty. It was, safe for the two of us. And they didn’t say anything, per se, but the look Manaow sent me... Pruk, of course, didn’t really seem to notice anything.”

Pharm sighed. “I think it’ll be okay. Manaow is observant, but it was just a massage. You guys are friends and teammates, so it’s not really that strange.” Pharm took Dean’s hand on the table, guided it to his lips and kissed it softly.

“You’re probably right,” admitted Dean. He already seemed more at ease. Team, too, seemed to be in a better mood, but Win was pretty sure it was mainly due to Pharm’s cooking. Win watched him fondly as he ate, his cheeks puffing up. Win reached out and ran a hand through his hair, making strands stand up in funny directions. Team just continued to eat.

After they finished eating, they all helped each other clear the table. Seeing as Pharm always cooked, the other three usually did the dishes, but the kitchen was a bit small for all three of them, so they took turns. Today it was Win and Team’s turn, so Dean and Pharm turned on the TV and sat down to relax on the couch.

Team volunteered to actually do the dishes while Win got to wipe them clean and put the dishes away. While Win waited for Team to hand him something clean, he watched Dean and Pharm cuddle on the couch. Dean had already fallen asleep, but Pharm didn’t seem to have noticed. Win couldn’t help but smile and how cute his boyfriends were being.

Pharm looked up, catching Win’s stare. “Whaaat?” Pharm asked, a big smile spreading across his face.

Win didn’t reply, just gestured in Dean’s direction with his chin. Pharm looked down, and his entire face melted. Carefully, as to not wake Dean, he bent his neck a bit to press a gentle kiss to Dean’s forehead.

 Suddenly something wet hit Win across the face. Win yelped and looked towards Team, who was standing with a shit-eating grin looking at Win. He’d flicked some of the soapy dishwater at Win to get his attention.

“I finished some of the plates. Get to work.”

“You little-” Win jumped forward and began tickling Team, who instantly started laughing. It was lucky he wasn’t holding anything, because he would surely have dropped it.

“Sorry!” Team tried to say, but he was laughing too hard to say it properly. Win could tell he was trying to be quiet in an attempt not to wake Dean (although they didn’t really need to try so hard; Dean slept like a stone).

Win was enjoying Team laughing and squirming in his hold, but he finally took mercy on him and stopped tickling him. Win could feel his heart flutter as he looked at Team; his eyes were sparkling, his cheeks were a pretty shade of pink and his whole face was lit up in a beaming smile. Win leaned in and kissed him on the nose.

Team whined and pushed him away gently. “Hiiia. Let’s just do the dishes.” Win didn’t fail to notice that Team’s cheeks were even pinker than before. Win loved that he still had that effect on him. Team still had that effect on him, too.

-

One rainy Sunday morning, Win, Pharm and Manaow were gathered in Pharm and Dean’s kitchen to bake. Well, Pharm and Manaow were baking; Win was sitting by the dinner table, messing around on his phone and listening to the two of them fool around. Team was out with some friends somewhere, and Dean was with his family.

Pharm was teaching Manaow to make some kind of dessert, so that she could give it to Pruk. They’d just started seeing each other, and she wanted to do something special for their upcoming one month day. Pharm was, as per usual, happy to help. They were being loud as usual, and it made Win smile, even though he was only half listening to their conversation.

After two hours of failed attempts, Manaow finally seemed to have gotten the hang of it. Pharm had made a whole batch of the desserts, but Manaow had refused to give Pruk his, as she hadn’t made it herself. She insisted on only giving Pruk desserts she’d made herself, hence the impressive amount of inedible desserts now residing in Dean and Pharm’s trash can.

“I’ll just take these home with me. I can just put them in the refrigerator, then they should be fine on Tuesday, right?” Manaow asked as she was about to leave.

Pharm nodded with a smile. “That’s right.”

“Thanks Pharm!” she said, opening the door. “Bye Pharm. Bye Win!” Win looked up from his phone and waved. She waved back, and then she was out the door, leaving Win and Pharm alone in the apartment.

Pharm sighed contentedly, like he often then when he finished baking something, and leaned back against the kitchen counter. Win watched him fondly. Pharm blushed when he noticed.

“Do you want to try some?” Pharm asked, hopeful. He held up one of the desserts, in case Win was uncertain as to what Pharm was referring to.

Win found it about just as difficult to say no to Pharm as he did to Team (it made arguments very complicated. Win and Dean usually always lost, whereas Pharm was most likely to win. Fortunately, he was the most logical and levelheaded among them). And then of course there was the promise of Pharm’s desserts. That, too, was hard to resist.

Win smiled and stood, walking over to the counter to stand next to Pharm. He opened his mouth teasingly, waiting for Pharm to feed him. Pharm giggled and fed Win a bite of the pinkish dessert. The taste exploded on Win’s tongue almost as soon as it entered his mouth.

“It’s delicious, Pharm,” Win said honestly. He continued, after he’d swallowed the last bite: “Very sweet. Almost as sweet as you.”

Pharm rolled his eyes. “Come here, you sweet talker,” he said, and pulled Win down for a soft kiss. Win suppressed a smirk, finally getting what he wanted. He grabbed Pharm around the waist, pulling him closer and deepening the kiss. Pharm sighed against his mouth and melted against him.

“I forgot my pho-” Manaow said loudly, as she opened the door to the apartment and walked back in.

Win and Pharm jumped apart, but it was too late. Manaow had stopped in her tracks and was staring at them, mouth hanging open. For several long moments, they all just stared at each other, each of them holding their breaths.

Then Manaow’s face cracked, and suddenly she looked betrayed, hurt. “How can you do that to Dean and Team?”

Win and Pharm shared a look, trying to communicate what to do without words. The four of them had decided not to tell anyone – including Manaow – but they hadn’t prepared for this. Wasn’t it better that Manaow knew the truth than thinking Win and Pharm were cheating? And regardless of how she reacted, Win was pretty sure she wouldn’t tell anyone.

Pharm looked like he’d come to the same conclusion, so Win nodded at him, telling him to take the lead. He was closer to Manaow, and Win was pretty sure Pharm was better at explaining things than he was.

“Manaow,” Pharm started hesitantly. “It’s not what you think.”

“So I didn’t just catch you two kissing?” she asked sarcastically, an angry glint to her eyes.

“You did,” Pharm allowed, and bit his lip. Win took his hand and squeezed it in silent support. Manaow glared at their hands.

“Manaow,” Pharm called again, making her look back up at his face. “I’m not… just dating Dean. And Win isn’t just dating Team. We’re all dating. All four of us.” At Manaow’s disbelieving look, Pharm repeated: “Yes, all four of us are dating.”

Manaow looked bewildered. Then she blinked, and Win had the feeling that she’d just remembered all the time she’d caught them in suspicious situations. “But- But why? Why have you never told me?”

“How many people do you think would be okay with four men dating each other, Manaow?” asked Win. “We can’t just tell people. What do you think our parents would say? Do you think anyone would hire us when we graduate if word got around about us?” Win had always been proud of his bisexuality, and he’d never wanted to hide it from his parents or anyone else. He also didn’t want to hide his relationship to his three boyfriends, but he understood why the other three wanted to keep it a secret.

Manaow bit her bottom lip thoughtfully. “Does Del know?” Manaow then settled on.

Pharm shook his head. “No, Dean doesn’t want her to know. At least not yet.”

Manaow nodded slowly, still looking a bit shell-shocked. “Okay… Okay.”

“Okay?” Pharm asked uncertainly.

Manaow smiled at him reassuringly. “Yes, okay. Of course I support you. You’re my friends, aren’t you?”

Win could sense Pharm relax beside him, and it, in turn, made him relax more as well. Now they only had to tell the others that Manaow had found out about them…

-

Team and Dean had taken the news of Manaow finding out alright. Team had said he “knew it would happen eventually” and just shrugged, but he seemed a bit nervous about how Manaow was going to react next time she saw them. Dean hadn’t reacted much at all, besides furrowing his brows. Win figured he was just happy it was Manaow and not Del. Dean would definitely want to tell his sister himself.

The next day, the six friends – plus Pruk – once again met for lunch in the schoolyard. A strange tension had been hanging over them at first, but the tension soon enough evaporated as they began to eat and chat.

Team and Manaow were arguing, but Win ignored them; it was probably about something stupid. It usually was. Instead he turned in Dean’s direction to ask him a swim-related question, but saw he was busy putting some of his meat onto Pharm’s plate. Win was so busy watching them, that he didn’t notice Team steal some of his own pork before Team’s fork had already left his plate.

“Oi!” Win exclaimed at Team, who just stuck his tongue out at him and then popped the bite into his mouth, looking very pleased with himself. Win couldn’t figure out if he wanted to smack him or kiss him.

Win heard Pharm call his name with a laugh in his voice. Win looked over to see him put some of his chicken on his fork. “Have some of mine,” Pharm offered and reached across the table with the fork. Win leaned forward to close his lips around the chicken.

“Thanks, Pharm,” he said, putting emphasis on Pharm’s name as he sent a teasing glare in Team’s direction. Team just smiled, feigning innocence.

That was when he noticed that Manaow was watching them. As he met her gaze, she sent him a knowing smirk, but quickly turned back to her food. Del didn’t seem to have noticed the interaction at all; she was just munching happily on her own food.

All in all, nothing in the group’s dynamic changed. Manaow really did seem to take it well, and she kept quiet as promised. Hopefully Del would take it just as well, when Dean was ready to tell her.

Win looked around the table, at all the people he’d come to care about; his second family. He smiled to himself, feeling very content with how his life had turned out. He knew that whatever life sent their way, they would be alright.