The week turned out to be surprisingly busy. As promised, Team took Win to the condo to see his motorcycle, which was even more glorious than Win had hoped. It was a beautiful black bike, sleek and shiny, and clean. He had kept it covered under a fitted tarp made specifically for it, and parked in the condo’s garage. The condo itself was empty but for a few boxes, odds and ends. Win helped Team get them all into the car before they returned to the house, then they looked up transport options as well and made a plan to get the motorcycle to the house.
During the daytime, they passed much of their time unpacking boxes and putting things away. The house was starting to take shape and feel like a home, though they still lacked quite a lot of furniture. Some things in the kitchen and bathrooms moved around after discussions of how to best organize their space. They decorated the living room together with various knickknacks the pair of them had apparently collected over the years. A few things Win actually recognized as his own, but Team had to explain most of their possessions to him.
The most notably strange one was a plastic broccoli tied up with a red ribbon that Win pulled from a box.
“Uh... Team?” He held the broccoli aloft, “The other things I get but... why do we have this?”
Team looked over, confused, then laughed, smiling softly. He moved over to Win and took the thing. “Do you know what mistletoe is?”
Win blinked, “It’s not broccoli. Isn’t it a western thing?”
“Yeah. Manaow and Del were in a play one year, they were both in the school’s drama club. For a big event welcoming students interested in attending the university, they did a play all about soulmates and the red thread. At lunch one day, we were talking about what it meant, and you said if you woke up to find a string attached to your finger or something, you’d cut it off rather than following it.”
Win winced, “Oh, wow... bad move on my part, huh?”
Team laughed and shrugged, “Well, that night was another night I couldn’t sleep, so I came to your room and slept over. I asked you to take me to see the Christmas lights, and you said you would.”
“Okay, better, I’m less mad at my past self now,” Win chuckled, then looked at the broccoli, “I still don’t understand this, though?”
“You tried to make up for not being romantic.. So while we were out walking and looking at the lights, you asked if I knew the tradition of mistletoe.”
Win pressed his lips together and looked abashed, “Uh... what is the tradition?”
Team laughed, “You told me that anyone who kissed under mistletoe would have a long lasting love. I asked where we could get mistletoe and you said you had some... And then pulled out some broccoli wrapped in a ribbon. You tried to hold it out of view so I couldn’t see it, but I saw... I just kind of went along with it.”
“Oh...” Win slid an arm around Team’s waist and pulled him into a hug. He took the plastic broccoli back and held it up above their heads.
Team looked up, then down into Win’s eyes, and smiled. He draped his arms around Win’s shoulders and leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips. Win held him close as they kissed, hoping that if this had worked for them in the past, it would work again now. He would take any good fortune he could get when it came to keeping Team.
Lowering the broccoli as they pulled back, Win smiled at Team, “Is that when we became an official couple?”
Team smiled and shook his head, “It was definitely a step towards it. We could count it as that, but not at the same time. I did know I wanted to be with you then...”
“You kissed me so we would have a lasting love,” Win observed. He wondered if it was at a time when Team was still shy about affection or not.
“I did...” Team brought his hands to the back of Win’s neck, toying with his hair. It sent a tingle down Win’s spine that he tried to ignore for now.
“But you weren’t sure about us?”
“I didn’t know how you felt about me for sure yet.”
“Ahh...” Win nodded. “Letting you into my bed to sleep, taking you to see Christmas lights, and doing something romantic for you didn’t make it clear?”
Team chuckled, “There was more to it than just that... You liked to tease me a lot, and I was never really sure what was you being playful or annoying me, and what was real. The day you made that clear to me was the day we called it official.”
Win hummed in consideration. He lifted the broccoli to look at it, then turned his attention back to Team, “Do you think... Did I ever tell you if I wasn’t sure about your feelings for me?”
Team blinked at Win, brows furrowed.
“Did I kiss you under my fake mistletoe? Or did you kiss me?”
Blinking again, Team looked off thoughtfully, then met Win’s eyes, “You held it up and made a kissing face at me, then I kissed you.”
Win pulled Team into a tighter hug, wrapping both arms around him and pulling him close. It only took a moment for Team to tighten his arms around Win’s shoulders, returning the embrace.
“Are you okay, hia?” He lifted a hand to hold the back of Win’s head.
“Sometimes it’s easier to walk a fine line between teasing and being serious, just in case the other person doesn’t feel the same way.”
Team tipped his head down and pressed his face to Win’s neck, holding him and letting himself be held. They stayed like that for several deep breaths, before pulling back and finding a good place to put their fake broccoli mistletoe.
The following nights together with Team were not quite as active as their first night in the house. More often, they just slept, or made out a little bit before falling asleep. It seemed like Team was so genuinely tired that he needed the rest and Win’s headaches demanded more stillness than hot and heavy makeout sessions or sex. They still curled close together in each other’s arms throughout the night, though. Team often sought out the safety, warmth, and comfort of Win’s body, and Win was happy to hold the other man.
Unfortunately, the times when Team was fast asleep and the headaches kept Win awake were the hardest. That’s when doubt and insecurity always crept in. Ever since the day they visited their old campus, Win was a little more anxious to go anywhere and visit anyone. Shopping was fine, because they never ran into anyone who knew him, but any of Team’s suggestions to go visit friends, Win found an excuse to avoid. They still needed to pick a night to see Dean and Pharm’s house, and as much as Win wanted to go, it gave him an anxiety he wasn’t accustomed to.
Being social was just part of who Win was, he always got along well with new people and enjoyed spending time with old friends. The problem now was that they weren’t new people. They were old friends who he just didn’t remember. Pharm was sweet as could be and Dean, of course, he did know, but he couldn’t seem to get through his mind that it would be okay. Apparently their friends Manaow and Pruk also wanted to visit, and he was sure they wanted to see for themselves that he was alright but... was he?
Nights were hard.
One afternoon, Team and Win agreed it was a good day to go shopping for furniture. It started out well enough, as they quickly found and agreed on a dining set that would go nicely in the breakfast area by the kitchen. It could seat four to six people, depending on if they expanded it or not, and matched the overall look of their kitchen. After only looking at three tables, both Team and Win had spotted it and instantly knew it was perfect. They were smiling and happy, having started off on a good note.
It seemed to go downhill from there and Win wasn’t really sure what was going wrong at first. Picking out a television was difficult because Win didn’t fully understand the specifications on any of them, so he didn’t have a lot of input to give. He ultimately let Team make the decision and said whatever he picked was fine. Next they looked for a couch for the living room, because the one loveseat they had didn’t fill the space very well and they needed more seating for whenever friends would come over. That went a little better. Win picked out three or four he liked and Team also found some he liked, but for whatever reason they didn’t agree on their favorites. So Win switched to the one Team liked best, after trying it again and deciding it was a decent choice.
Things hit a boiling point when they were looking for a couple desks for the office. After going from one desk to another, Win didn’t see anything that was particularly appealing nor particularly bad.
“What about this one?” Team said, stopping before a black desk with a shelving unit.
“Seems fine,” Win shrugged. He checked it out, but didn’t have much of an opinion.
“You’ve said that about the last three desks, hia.”
“I don’t know what makes a good desk, Team.”
“You have to have an opinion on what you want though,” Team let his shoulders slump.
“I--” Win sighed and crossed his arms. “I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what works for me, Team.”
“So pick something you think you’d like, then if it doesn’t work, we’ll get something different,” Team gestured helplessly.
“I’m not trying to be difficult...” Win frowned and looked down.
“I don’t want to pick everything, it’s not just my house, it’s yours, too. You should pick things you like.”
“I don’t know what I like,” he shrugged, frustrated. “What if I pick something and then get my memories back and then hate it or something? Or pick something and you hate it?”
“Hia, that won’t happen,” Team stepped forward and put a hand on Win’s arm.
“How do you know, though?”
“Because I know you, I know us ,” Team tried, but those words didn’t comfort Win, they just highlighted the problem.
“But I don’t , so how can I know?”
“It’s just easier to let you pick things, you can have what you want and I’ll be fine with it, I don’t mind what we have in the house.”
Team sighed, and sounded annoyed, “We should go home. We got some stuff, the rest can wait.”
Win held his arms tighter around himself and swallowed thickly. He nodded, not wanting to annoy Team further and didn’t know the right thing to say to fix it. Getting into a fight with Team was not something Win wanted; he felt out of his element every time the things he said came out wrong. Failing at communication wasn’t something Win was used to, and it shook him to his core in a way that shouldn’t have been so rattling.
The drive home was tense and quiet. Whatever was going through Team’s mind was a mystery to Win, so he was left with his own thoughts. This was the first real fissure in their relationship since the accident. Until now, everything had been easy. If one of them was struggling, the other could help to some degree, but Team had never been annoyed with him before.
Sure, he’d gone too far and Team had put a stop to things, but that was all sexual stuff, and even if it had taken him aback, Win understood once Team explained. This time, it was that Team was asking him to pick things he had no real opinion about. He really didn’t mind one way or the other what they got, and if it was something Team liked, then he was good with it. Maybe this was the kind of fight they had normally? Or maybe this was part of their new situation. How quickly did they normally make up? And who made up first? What was he supposed to do?
They arrived at the house quicker than Win expected and as soon as the car stopped, he almost jolted out of his thoughts. Hazarding a glance at Team, he noticed the other man was frowning and seemed deep in thought as well.
“Team...?” Win lifted his hand, trying to decide if he should reach out or not.
He blinked and looked over at Win, “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry...” He let his hand fall back down.
Team’s shoulders relaxed and his expression softened, “I’m sorry for getting frustrated.”
Win nodded, “Let’s get the stuff inside?”
So they did, unloading the car and taking multiple trips to get the new possessions into the house. The couch, table, and chairs would be delivered later, as they wouldn’t fit in Team’s car, but the TV and a few other odds and ends they bought for storage and the like were able to be transported easily enough. The unloading was a quiet affair and things still felt off, even though they both apologized.
Team decided to start setting up the TV, but Win had no idea how to help, so after hovering around uselessly for a while, he started setting up something else. They were near enough to talk, but didn’t.
The rest of the day continued the same way. Dinner at Dean and Pharm’s would wait until another time.
The next morning while getting dressed, Team brought up that he might go to the pool to get some training in, offering to let Win come and watch if he wanted to. Though it seemed like an honest invitation, Win was worried that Team might need some time and space to himself, to sort out his own thoughts.
“You should go, get some training in. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” Win asked.
“Yeah... Kind of worried about getting out of shape,” Team shrugged.
“I don’t know about that...” Win chuckled and eyed him up and down, so Team threw a shirt at his head.
“Do you want to come with? You can watch. I don’t know if it would be boring or not, though...”
“You should go on your own, I’ll be alright here. I would probably just be a distraction if I came along.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind if you’re there,” Team sounded unsure, but the uncertainty seemed more rooted in what was best for Win, rather than himself.
Win walked over and looped his arms around Team’s waist, “I’ll be fine by myself. I want to go through some of my stuff, like my school notes, and see what’s there. You need to take care of yourself, too, Team.”
Team dropped his head to Win’s shoulder and sighed. He stayed like that for a moment and Win decided to let him be until he was ready. Win pressed a kiss to his hair. With a deep breath, he straightened up but didn’t pull out of Win’s arms, “I’ll text my coach that I’ll be in today.”
“Good. Maybe... some time away will be good for you, too.”
“Hia-- that’s--” Team floundered.
“No, I know, Team. I didn’t mean it like that. Just that... maybe doing something normal might be good. Besides, it would be boring to watch me read old school notes, but I should really try doing that.”
Team took a deep breath and nodded, “Okay, hia.”
“Good, come on, let’s get breakfast.”
They did just that, and after Team gave Win a rundown of everything he could possibly need to know, he finally took his leave to go to swim practice. Once the door shut, Win looked around and realized that this was the first time he had been fully alone since he moved into the house with Team.
Really, everything about Team was wonderful and Win loved spending time with him. From what he could tell, he loved Team, or had loved him and likely would again. However, spending all of his time with another person was still a challenge and that became clear when they were shopping the previous day and got on each other’s nerves. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and maybe the constant struggle of the situation had just gotten to both of them a little too much.
Hopefully some time alone for Win and burning off some energy for Team would be good for both of them.
The first thing Win did was head to the office where boxes labeled with Win’s name were sitting. There was one box of Team’s things as well, and Win left that alone. Apparently most of his notes were in these boxes, as well as another box Team mentioned being on the floor in the bedroom closet. He figured it was best to start on the ones in the office first.
Settling on the floor, he lifted the lid and pulled out a stack of binders and notebooks. There was no way to know right away which years or schools the notes were from. He did, it turned out, label the names of the classes on the outside of some books, however, so that was a start. Flipping the first one open, he found that he had dated the pages. Checking the others, he thanked himself for that trend and was able to at least sort the books from oldest to newest. From there, he organized them by classes and set aside anything that wasn’t directly business related.
With that sorted, Win read through his notes for an hour before realizing that sitting on the floor in the office with books either on his lap or on the floor wasn’t so good for him. His body was older now and apparently sitting on the floor wasn’t something he did all the time. Maybe he should have taken Team’s advice and just picked a desk while they were shopping yesterday. Half an hour later, the dining set was delivered and Win got a reprieve from studying to help the delivery people set up the furniture in the kitchen.
That came with the added bonus of giving him a better place to set up, as well. So he brought a stack of notebooks downstairs and proceeded to spend the next three hours breaking in the kitchen table by relearning business. Unfortunately, Win didn’t have any blank paper to use for taking new notes, but found half a stack of sticky notes in the box and a pen in the kitchen, so he was able to mark pages with brief questions or comments for future reference. He also had a file on his phone with a list of questions to ask Dean later.
One thing Win had noticed is the way his organizational skills changed over time. Highlighters, different colored pens, as well as charts and bullet points between longer sentences or paragraphs all slowly showed up throughout the notebooks. Reference points were written in a specific color and on the left hand margin of any given page. The entire layout made sense to Win instinctively. He wondered if it was just because he was the one who made it, or because some part of his brain remembered it. The amnesia was frustrating, because Win never knew what was memory and what was just instinct.
What he was not remembering, however, were all of the things he learned in school over the last six years. Groaning with frustration, Win gave up for the time being and made himself some lunch. He sent Dean a text asking if he had the time to teach Win everything he ever knew about business in one day. Dean simply texted back, “No.” Win accused him of grave betrayal and ate his lunch.
Curious about the other box Team mentioned being in the bedroom, Win went to check out what was in it. Kneeling on the floor, he pulled the box from the closet and opened it up. Sure enough, it was more notebooks and binders, a few books as well. The biggest difference was that everything was in English. Win flipped through the first notebook to see page after page of English in his handwriting. The same note taking style from the other books appeared here, as well. He tried reading through some of the denser notes and found that he understood pretty much everything he read, which was interesting. He hadn’t spoken, listened to, or read hardly any English since the accident, but reading it now wasn’t a struggle.
Win flipped to another page and paused when he saw Thai written among all the English. Focusing on the page, it appeared to be something called a decision matrix. He flipped back to read up on what that was, and it was actually pretty straightforward: a chart that helps someone organize options to make a decision. Each option had a series of qualities which were rated and whatever had the highest score was supposed to be the best option to choose. That all made sense, from a business perspective. What didn’t make sense, however, was the example matrix Win had made at the end of his notes.
It was a series of locations in Thailand, all looking to be wedding venues. Immediately, Win texted Dean, asking where he and Pharm got married. Dean sent back the name of the venue, along with a couple pictures, including one of him and Pharm in fine looking suits, then another one with the whole wedding party standing together outside. Win got momentarily distracted ogling Team in a suit and being pleased with how nice he, himself, looked. They made a handsome pair. Win shook his head, saved the photos, then went back to compare the place where Dean got married to the list in the notes.
The venue wasn’t listed.
Win blinked, bit his bottom lip, then texted Dean again, this time asking, “Did I ever talk to you about marrying Team?”
He saw Dean typing, stop typing, start typing, and stop again. As Win anxiously waited for a response, staring hard at his phone, he almost dropped it when the phone rang, showing Dean was calling.
“Hello?” Win’s voice was more strained than he expected.
“What did you find?” Dean’s voice was calm and now was one of those times Win was grateful for Dean’s steady demeanor.
“Answer the question,” Win pleaded.
“We’ve talked about it, in general. About whether you wanted to marry him one day... but if you had specific plans, you haven’t told me about them.”
Win was quiet, thinking that over, trying to sort through what he knew versus what he didn’t know.
“What did you find?” Dean said again, pulling Win’s attention back.
“A list of wedding venue options in my notes from grad school. I thought at first that it was-- I don’t know, maybe I was helping you pick a place? But where you got married isn’t one of them.”
“You wouldn’t want to get married where Pharm and I got married?” Dean asked, as if Win could even answer that question.
“As soon as I remember your wedding, I’ll let you know. Can we stick to the point?”
Dean laughed, the asshole. Then he said, “You missed Team pretty bad when you were gone. I think at one point, you were annoying your teacher specifically by finding a way to work Team into every assignment you were given.”
“What? Why would-- what?”
“It was a teacher you liked, and eventually she called you out for bringing up Team too often, so you made a point of including him wherever you could, just for fun. Or something like that. You told me about it, but I really only paid attention long enough to tease you about it later.”
“Huh...” Win tried to wrap his mind around all of that. “You’re kind of a crappy friend, you know that?”
Dean laughed again, “When you remember how much you and Team teased me and Pharm, I’ll check back on that.”
“I’ll let you know,” Win rolled his eyes for himself only. “So I never talked to you about, like, proposing to Team or anything?”
“Not specifically,” Dean’s tone seemed to imply there was more to it than that.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m not keeping any of your plans from you, Win. You missed Team, and Pharm and I were planning our wedding while you were gone. I talked to you about all of that, so weddings were probably on your mind while you missed home. I don’t know if you were daydreaming about marrying Team or if you were just having fun with an assignment.”
Win realized his heart was beating hard in his chest and his breathing was a little shorter than usual. It occurred to him that he was scared. “Did I want to marry him? You said we talked in general about that.”
“Just tell me, I want to know.”
Dean sighed, but it didn’t sound annoyed. He sounded more worried or troubled, if Win were to guess. “I’ve never seen you with anyone else the way you were with Team. I asked you once if you had thought about marriage and you said you would stay with Team for the rest of your life if you could.”
“What if I fuck it up, Dean?” Win’s voice sounded small, even to his own ears. He was feeling fragile right now, in a way that was unfamiliar.
“Team loves you,” the certainty in Dean’s voice, the way he said that as though it was just a fact, helped.
But not enough. “He loved who I was before I lost my memory.”
Dean was silent and Win’s mind started racing, all the doubts and fears filling his thoughts. What if he couldn’t be the Win that Team loved again? What if he lost too much? What if he ended up a different person than Team was used to?
“He stayed with you for four years, Win. Two of those years you were halfway across the world. Team also doesn’t give up easily,” Dean paused but Win didn’t fill the gap in conversation. “Look, Win, I know right now you’re used to people giving up on you.”
Win let out a laugh that was wet with emotion. It was as close to a sob as he would allow in front of anyone else, even over the phone.
“You only have memories of shitty dating experiences. You don’t remember what you’ve been through with him. Believe me, I’ve had to suffer through you talking about how amazing he is. He’s loyal, Win. He won’t give up.”
Taking a deep breath, Win tried to calm his nerves. “Okay... Okay, thanks, Dean...”
“Any time... Honestly,” Dean said, voice softer than Win was used to.
“Pharm has changed you,” Win managed a little laugh. “You’re nicer.”
“You literally just called me a crappy friend.” Dean laughed, then asked, “You okay now?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Win cleared his throat. His heart wasn’t racing quite as hard as it was earlier, though the doubts were still lingering. “Thanks for calling.”
“No problem. You should talk to Team,” Dean suggested.
“He’s at swim practice right now,” Win looked at the open bedroom door. At some point in the conversation, he had shifted to sit with his back against the bed frame, knees drawn up to his chest.
“Later then,” Dean’s voice was soft. “Just talk to him... But maybe not about marriage yet.”
Win laughed, “No? I was thinking of proposing when he got home.”
“Let me know how that goes.”
Win could practically see the wry smile he knew was on Dean’s face. “Will do. I’ll text you later... You go uh, do whatever you do with Pharm. Make love sick eyes at each other.”
“I’m at work.”
“Then stare at his picture. I’m sure you’ve got one framed on your desk,” Win rolled his eyes. The silence from Dean’s end was very telling. “Oh my god, you do have a framed picture of him on your desk, don’t you?”
“Goodbye, Win,” and with that, Dean hung up the phone.
Win smiled as he lowered the phone and rested his chin on his knees. His phone screen showed the text conversation with Dean from before the call and he scrolled back up to the wedding photos. Zooming in on Team and himself standing side by side in suits, Win stared. They looked so happy, probably because their best friends got married, but Win’s arm was wrapped around Team’s upper back and Team’s was around his waist. They were holding each other so close together and smiling brightly for the camera.
Win looked at the little details, the way Team’s fingers pressed into Win’s hip, clearly gripping him tightly. His head was tilted towards Win, and Win’s was tipped towards Team. Win’s hand on Team’s shoulder was close to his neck and on closer inspection, he noticed that his thumb actually was brushing the back of Team’s neck. The whole pose looked so intimate, and suddenly Win wanted to see more pictures from that day.
He opened up Facebook and went to Dean’s page, which led him to Pharm’s, which was where he found a whole album of wedding photos. He scrolled through, looking for more pictures of them together. There was one more from the same outdoor area as the picture that Dean texted. Team and Win were in nearly the same position, but Win’s other hand was on Team’s stomach, and he was turned more towards his boyfriend. Team’s eyes were on Win’s face and he was smiling more softly. Win thought he, himself, looked ridiculously in love. His fondness for Team was clear on his features. He saved the photo to his phone to look at later.
Going back through to the album, Win found another picture of the two of them on the dance floor, or near it. They were by themselves, facing each other, with Team’s arms up and resting against Win’s shoulders. His hands were clasped loosely behind Win’s head and a relaxed smile on his face made Win wonder if Team had been a little tipsy when the photo was taken. Win’s arms were around Team’s waist, holding him close enough that their hips were touching. It looked like they were staring into each other’s eyes, from the angle of their heads. Win could feel his heart thudding hard in his chest. His stomach did a strange flip, too. Maybe this was what love felt like...
Win saved that photo too.
After the phone call with Dean, Win hadn’t managed to read through any more of his notes. Instead, he stayed sitting on the floor in the bedroom, looking through his phone for any clues about his life that he could find. He scrolled through posts on Facebook and Instagram, and skimmed through past texts with Team and Dean saved on Line. His conversations with Dean seemed to be mostly just links to things they both thought the other would like, interspersed with brief talks of plans -- where they were going, who would be there, what time to meet.
Texts with Team were very different and much more varied. Sometimes they would send each other selfies, most of Win’s were cute, where most of Team’s were playfully scowling or making a silly face. Win had sent at least one of himself topless in bed, to which Team responded with angry emojis. It must have been an inconvenient time to be turned on, Win assumed, and laughed to himself.
They also texted about very domestic things, like shopping, picking up dinner, when they were leaving their respective workplaces, or what time they would be home. Team had sent a couple videos of himself swimming and Win watched those over and over, marveling at just how talented he was. Win had responded to all of them with praise, and Team responded to the praise with smiling emojis or happy stickers. Win learned that he sent more heart emojis to Team than Team sent back, but several times when Win texted that he was traveling somewhere, Team would say something like “be safe” in response. Win wondered if those were days that he was riding his motorcycle.
Win went so far back into the text conversation that the app started lagging and glitching as it loaded older messages. He decided it was time to stop, clicked the phone off, and leaned his head back against the side of the mattress. Closing his eyes, Win let his mind drift through the various things he had learned. Perhaps ironically, none of his thoughts were on the school notes he had spent several hours studying, but rather on what he learned about himself and Team so far.
The pair of them were in a well established relationship. Team had seen Win cry and Win had let it happen, probably more than once. Win missed Team like crazy while he was away in England, to the point that he would bring Team up in class so often that his teacher had to call him out on it. At which point, he doubled down on the references. He kept Team’s favorite snack on hand while they were at school together, made romantic gestures with vegetables just to see if Team wanted to have a lasting love with him, and had at least entertained the idea of marriage to some degree.
All in all, it seemed like things in his life were really good. So why was it that his heart kept beating so hard, his chest felt tight, his jaw was clenched? Team was perfect, his life was perfect, but he couldn’t remember any of it. Win curled in on himself, hugging his knees to his chest. He watched goosebumps form over the skin of his bare arms, set off by the cool breeze from the air conditioner that just kicked on.
Beneath the knowledge that his life had apparently been pretty great was a massive iceberg made of uncertainty. Half the things that were said to him which were meant to be reassuring had the opposite effect. Yesterday, Team said he knew Win, knew the two of them, but Win still didn’t have a perfect grasp on how they worked together. He also didn’t know how that dynamic had changed and would continue to change as he relearned everything.
Win had six years to learn and grow and find his place as an adult in this world. Now he had to try and learn six years of his life all at once, and there was no certainty that he would be the same person on the other side of it. Team said he knew Win, but did he? Would he know the person that Win would become? Would he like the person Win would become? Would Team be able to adapt to the kind of person Win would end up being?
Question after question, doubt after doubt, built up on themselves until Win worked himself up into a state of distress. Now restless from anxiety, he stood up and rubbed his hands over his face, growling in annoyance. At least he wasn’t crying, so there was that. He quickly tossed his notes back into the box and shoved it against the wall before leaving the room and heading downstairs. He moved around from room to room, but no matter where he ended up, the anxiety in his head wouldn’t abate.
Sitting on the couch, he turned on their new TV but soon realized he had no idea what to watch because he didn’t really know what any new shows were. They apparently owned movies, but Win had no idea what box they might be packed away in, so he would have to ask Team about that. Everywhere he went and everything he tried to do just reminded Win of how much information he had lost. There was no escape from a problem inside his own brain and the continuous refrain of frightening questions that he didn’t have the answers to.
Win’s head was starting to hurt and he didn’t think it was just from the crack in his skull this time. He headed towards the kitchen where his pain medicine was kept on a counter for easy access. Just one step into the kitchen, the sound of the front door opening signaled that Team had arrived home. Win wasn’t sure if he was relieved or scared to no longer be alone. What he was sure of was that this whole anxiety thing was not a development he liked at all . Suddenly, he understood why the doctors recommended he go to therapy.
“Hia, I’m home,” Team called out and Win could hear the door closing and keys being set down on the new little table they got for the front hall. The soft rustle Team’s dufflebag landing on the stairs followed.
“In the kitchen,” Win called back, wondering if the waver in his voice was obvious to anyone other than himself.
The scuff of house slippers on the wooden floor announced Team’s approach. He came into the kitchen and leaned one hip against a counter, just a couple steps away from Win. “You okay?”
Win quickly snagged the pill bottle from the counter and gestured with it, “Just a headache.”
Team studied him, head tilted, and Win offered the best false smile he could manage as a means of reassuring him. Whether it worked or not, Team moved to the cupboard saying, “I’ll get you some water.”
He filled a glass and passed it over to Win, who accepted with thanks, and took the headache medicine with about half of the water in the glass. When he set it down on the counter, Win tried another smile for Team, “How was practice?”
“Not too bad,” Team settled his hands on the counter, bracketing his hips as he leaned back, posture open, facing Win. “I wasn’t too out of practice, and about half way through, I was pretty much on par with my usual performance.”
“That’s great,” Win smiled and knew it was more genuine this time. Despite his building anxiety, it truly was nice to hear that Team’s career was presumably going to be okay. “Think you’ll go back tomorrow?”
“I haven’t decided yet. Coach said we could take it one day at a time.” Win nodded to that and Team went on, “How did things go here?”
Win gestured to the kitchen table, which still had his notes laid out, “Table and chairs came, and I spent most of the day studying.” He picked up the glass and took another long drink of the cool water, as if hoping to drown the anxiety with it.
Team glanced to the side and nodded, then looked back to Win, “It really looks good there. We made the right choice.”
“Mm, it fits perfectly, and bonus, it is pretty decent to work at for a few hours.”
Team smirked, “Better than a desk, you think?”
It was meant to be teasing, Win knew that, but his nerves were so raw from all his doubts that the reminder of the frustrating end to their shopping trip the previous day just sparked a chain reaction in his brain. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes.
“Hia?” Team’s voice sounded worried but Win couldn’t look at him just yet.
“I’m sorry...” Win cleared his throat, his mouth felt dry.
“You haven’t done anything wrong,” Team’s tone was gentle.
Win took a slow, deep breath, then opened his eyes to look at Team. “I don’t want to screw everything up.”
Team’s face scrunched up and he took a step towards Win, but Win set his water glass down and stepped away. He had to move, too full of nervous energy. He began pacing.
“I’m-- I don’t know who I am, or who I was? I don’t know how I’ll be different now from what you’re used to...” Win crossed his arms to hold himself as he paced, feeling so unsteady. “I keep... You say you know me, but I don’t know you... and you seem so perfect and wonderful and--”
“Hia...” Team moved after him and reached out, but Win changed course so he couldn’t. The pained look on Team’s face made Win’s heart ache, but he had to get this out.
“No, I... Team,” Win clenched his fists and pressed them harder against himself. His whole body was wound tight. “You’re like-- everything I could want in a partner and I’m just-- a mess right now. I keep saying the wrong thing and I’m... shit, Team, I’m scared. I don’t want to hurt you or ruin this and I don’t want... I don’t want to be someone you don’t like anymore?”
Win’s mouth was so dry that it was making already difficult words even harder to say. He moved back to the counter and grabbed the nearly empty glass, downing the last of it.
“Wait, hia, stop,” Team said, trying again to get near him. He was looking at Win like a cornered, wild animal, “It’s okay.”
“It-- I--” with eyes on Team, Win reached out to set the glass down but missed the counter entirely and it fell to the ground and shattered.
Instinctively, Win started to step back, but Team’s hands were suddenly on his shoulders, holding him still, “Don’t move.”
Win stood so still that he held his breath. Looking down, he realized his feet were bare. Glancing over, he saw that Team’s house slippers had a hard bottom. He let out a breath, it was a short puff of air, followed by more, short, shallow breathing, “I think I’m having a panic attack?”
Team wrapped his arms around Win and held him from the side, “Okay, we’re going to breathe, hia. Look at me.” He talked Win through taking slow breaths in and out, having him match Team’s own breathing.
It took several repetitions before Win’s shaky breaths came out slower and more even. He still felt anxious and on edge, but the horrible panic that seized him was more manageable now.
“I’m going to clean up the glass, okay?” Team said and Win nodded. “Can you put an arm around my shoulders?”
That request threw Win off completely, but he nodded and did as he was asked. Bending a little, Team wrapped one arm around Win’s back and scooped the other behind his knees and, without much trouble, he lifted Win up off his feet. Instinctively, Win threw his other arm around Team to help hold himself up, but it didn’t seem like Team actually needed the help. If he weren’t in such a state, the move would have sent Win’s heart racing in a much more pleasant way than it was right now. Team carried him to the other side of the kitchen and set him down on his feet in a spot that was free of broken glass.
With both hands moving to Win’s hips, Team looked directly into his eyes, “Will you be okay for a moment?”
“Yeah,” Win nodded, blinked, then said, “You’re really strong.”
Team laughed and squeezed Win’s hips briefly before letting him go, “Wait here, it’ll just be a moment. Keep breathing.”
Win nodded again, then Team moved away to find a broom and dustpan to clean up. While that happened, Win slid down against the wall behind him and sat on the ground, drawing his knees up to his chest and crossing his arms over the tops of his knees. He rested his chin on his arms and watched.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for Team to clean up the glass shards and as soon as he was done, he came over and knelt in front of Win. Lifting his head, Win met Team’s gaze and managed a small smile when Team’s hands came to rest on his arms.
“Okay, about what you said. First, hia, I love you,” Team looked directly into Win’s eyes as he spoke. When Win nodded, Team went on. “Remember the other day when I said we became an official couple when you made your feelings for me clear?”
Win nodded again, “After the broccoli thing. I mean, not the same-- you told me about it after explaining the broccoli.”
Team laughed quietly, “Yeah. So... we went on an end of the year trip with the swim club and you made sure that we shared a room. The first night there, it was really late at night when we got to bed, because P’Dean went to bed early with Pharm and-- well, it doesn’t matter. It was late and we were getting into bed and you started flirting with me again and I got so frustrated, because I didn’t know what was real and, damn, hia, I wanted you but I was so confused. I kissed you, then pushed you away and... well, basically laid out what I was frustrated about. You know, in my ... bad-at-communicating-stuff-about-feelings way.”
Win didn’t know what to say, so he kept nodding every time Team paused.
Sitting back on his heels, Team took one of Win’s hands and lifted it up, pressing it against his own chest, “You did this, held my hand to your heart, and said that I could be afraid of anything in this world, except your feelings for me. You told me to be brave about it. I don’t think I understood how you felt then more deeply than I do right now. Hia, you can be scared, it’s okay, this whole thing is big and scary and hard to deal with. I’m scared, too. But you don’t have to be scared that my feelings for you will change.”
“Team...” Swallowing hard, Win blinked back the tears threatening to fill his eyes. He pressed his lips together, then shifted, moving to his knees, mirroring Team’s position. After gently pulling his hand free of Team’s grasp, Win wrapped both arms around his shoulders and hugged Team tightly. “Okay... Okay, baby, I’ll try to be brave, too.”
Team’s arms went around Win, returning that embrace, and tucking his face in against Win’s neck. It seemed like Team liked to hide his face there. They held each other quietly until Win noticed that Team was shaking slightly. Tipping his head away, he tried to look at the younger man.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Win asked, nudging Team with his cheek, not wanting to let go of that hug yet.
Team lifted his head and, sure enough, there were tears on his face, “Hia...”
“Baby, what’s wrong?” Win asked and Team let out a little sob. He had no idea what was happening or why Team was unexpectedly upset.
Team moved a hand to Win’s cheek and leaned in to capture his lips in a sudden kiss. Without reason to resist, Win kissed him back, and Team broke it almost as quickly as it started. He pressed their foreheads together and smiled, “I’m happy.”
“Oh! Well... I’m glad, but confused,” Win laughed. “What did I do? So I can do it again...”
Pulling back enough to look into Win’s eyes, Team said, “You called me baby.”
Win had to think back to what he had just said and realized that he had, in fact, done that, “I... Wait. Was that the first time I said that?”
“And that’s what I usually call you? I mean, before the accident.”
“Yeah, hia. All the time,” Team sniffled, then laughed at himself. “I missed hearing you say it.”
“Sorry it took so long, baby,” Win felt like his heart skipped a beat at the way that line made Team melt. He couldn’t resist the urge to kiss the man again, drawing him in with a hand to the back of his head.
This kiss was much longer, slower and sweeter, than the brief one of a moment ago. Team leaned into it with a soft hunger, nearly pushing Win all the way back against the wall behind him. Win shifted, trying not to break the kiss too much, and unfolding his legs. Team immediately climbed into his lap, straddling Win, and pressing his hands lightly against Win’s chest. Win wrapped his other arm around Team’s back and held him close but loose. The moment felt tender and light, warm and welcome.
They drew apart slowly, trailing away with several shorter kisses. Win sighed as he opened his eyes and gazed at Team’s face. “You really are gorgeous, you know that?”
Team dropped his head backwards, clearly embarrassed by the compliment, but his mouth showed a wide, relaxed smile as he lifted his head back up again. “Are you feeling a little better now?”
“Mm, yeah,” Win nodded, and realized he actually felt fine for the first time all day. “A lot better, actually. Who knew I just had to have a panic attack and break a glass to fix everything?”
Laughter bubbled up from Team and he rolled his eyes, “Oh yeah, that’s all.”
“If I realized I could get you to carry me, I might have broken something sooner,” Win smirked.
“I can’t believe it took me over a year to figure out you have such a strength kink,” he shook his head.
Now Win laughed, “I was the one kind of leading all of our sexual experiences at first, wasn’t I? I’m going to guess I just didn’t make it obvious until I realized you might be into it, too. But... whatever our dynamic was at the start, you really exude dominant energy now. I don’t know if you realize it.”
“Huh,” Team looked genuinely surprised by that, then looked curious and contemplative. “Probably because you were hurt and I’ve been taking care of you. Most of the time it’s more...” He gestured vaguely between them, trying to find the right words, “Equal? Even? Half the time you’re more dominant and half the time I am. It’s whatever mood we’re in.” Team shrugged, showing it wasn’t a big deal either way.
Win leaned back against the wall and smiled at Team, “I’m so glad I found you.”
“Hia!” Team whined, but he was smiling.
“We should probably get off the floor... but I really just want to kiss you some more.”
Team laughed, then leaned in and kissed Win’s lips. It was just a tease, though, because as soon as Win started kissing back, Team pulled away. Win leaned forward to try and catch his lips, but the younger man stood instead. It was a cruel trick, but it worked. He took Win’s hands and hauled him up to stand as well.
“I’ll make a deal with you.”
“What’s that?” Win asked, still holding both of Team’s hands.
“I’ll carry you upstairs if you promise to at least try and let me know when things start stressing you out.”
“Hmm... what will happen when we get upstairs?”
“Ah, you’ll have to agree to the deal to find out,” Team grinned at him.
“You drive a hard bargain, but... yeah, I promise I’ll try to let you know. It’s just hard... I’m not used to relying on someone else like that.”
He nodded, face calm, “I know, hia, and I understand. I can usually tell when things aren’t right with you. I just want you to be honest when I ask you if you’re okay or if something is going on, because I can’t read your mind to know what’s making you uneasy.”
Win sobered at that explanation, taking Team’s words seriously, “Okay, baby, I can promise that. I’ll try to be more honest with you about it all, and try to let you know before it gets to this point.”
“Thank you, hia,” he leaned in to kiss Win’s cheek. “That’s all I ask.”
“So...” Win smirked, raising his eyebrows, “How are you planning to carry me?”
With a laugh, Team stepped forward to close the small distance between them. His hands started on Win’s hips, then slid back over his ass, then down to his thighs. Getting the idea, Win wrapped his arms around Team’s shoulders just before he was hoisted up by strong hands. He wrapped his legs around Team’s waist and quickly realized that he barely had to hold on at all, because Team was more than strong enough to support his weight. He let his hands rest more lightly on Team’s shoulders and looked down into his face from the higher than usual vantage point.
“I’m curious... Have we ever had sex like this?”
Team laughed again and walked out of the kitchen and towards the stairs.
“Hey, I’m serious, because I bet it would be hot.”
The smoldering look Win loved so much appeared in Team’s eyes, “Maybe.”
Win swallowed and tightened his grip on Team’s shoulders, “If we did... I’m going to need it to happen again. Because that is a memory I sure as hell want to have.”
“You’re incorrigible,” Team said simply, and carried him up to their bedroom.