Win’s return to work at his family’s company was not quite as intimidating as he expected it to be. The first day, he went in with his father and stayed with him for the first hour, being shown around. People at the company had all heard about Win’s accident, but only specific people who needed to know were told about his amnesia. His return was met with a lot of smiles and kind words, all of which Win took in stride the best he could. He knew that under normal circumstances, he would be social and friendly to everyone who greeted him, but not recognizing nine out of ten people he saw brought on the anxiety instead.
It was hard to say whether the employees knowing about his amnesia would have been better or not. On the one hand, it might be nice to not have to explain why he might be distant or confused. On the other hand, if people knew he had lost his memory, they might take advantage of the situation or change their expectations of his ability to do his job. Even if it was unintentional, their view of him might change in a way that could be detrimental to his image, especially as the boss's son. Ultimately, they decided it was better to keep it secret to the vast majority of the company. Pretending to have memories that were missing was stressful and made his anxiety flare, but he tried his best to fall back on the exercises given to him in therapy. He took slow, deep breaths any time his chest started feeling tight and that helped.
Win didn’t have an assistant while working at the company before, but his father thought it best to assign him one now to help him get acclimated to the job. The assistant was a 23 year old man named Podd who had been an intern while studying in college. He showed such promise that he was hired on permanently when he graduated. Podd was smart, intuitive, and well spoken. He stayed by Win’s side once his father returned to work. Whenever someone approached them, Podd gave Win the quickest, quietest summary of who it was, their name, job, and any relevant information that Win would definitely have known.
As soon as he was able to, Win retreated to his office. Podd gave him a quick rundown of anything he would need to know, said he would be at the desk just outside if he needed him, and taught Win how to use some business software on his computer. After that, he left Win to take some time to breathe and relax. He would guard the office, so no one bothered Win for a while. Rather than immediately start working, Win decided to take a look around at his office and figure out what his business self was like.
One of the first things he noticed was the fact that there was a framed photograph of Team on his desk. He picked it up and smiled, thinking back to his phone call with Dean, teasing him for having a framed photo of Pharm. Team was smiling brightly, turned towards something out of frame. His eyes were half moons, cheeks rounded, mouth open and teeth showing; he was laughing when it was taken. Looking at that photograph immediately brought warmth to Win’s heart and, he realized, the tight knot in his chest loosened a little bit. Whatever the story behind the picture was, it must have been one that made Win feel happy. That was probably why it was on his desk.
Win set it back down and continued exploring. His desk was neat and tidy, the drawers were organized; the order of it all was satisfying. There was a desk calendar with color coded writing of important dates and information. It was set to last month, he realized, and carefully tore off the top page but didn’t throw it away, just in case there was information he would want to keep or reference later. Both of his diplomas were framed and hung on the wall behind the desk, along with a couple certifications.
There was a bookshelf against one wall, which mostly housed business books, both in Thai and English, as well as a few little decorations. There was a frame that held two pictures side by side, one of Win with his father, and another one with the whole family that was taken by a professional photographer. Among the little tchotchke decorations, there was a red, double decker bus figure which Win picked up and smiled at. It must have been something he got from England. There was a trophy from when he got first place in a swim competition, and a figurine of a swimmer beside it. The last thing his eyes fell on was a little potted cactus. He reached out and picked it up, looking it over curiously.
Taking his phone from his pocket, snapped a picture of the cactus, then set the plant down to send the picture to Team. Win wasn’t positive why, but he knew that Team had something to do with the cactus. Looking at it made him think of Team, and Win knew that the man must have bought it for him, or he bought it because of Team. He was at swim practice, which meant the odds of him seeing the picture soon were slim, so Win locked his phone and put it back into his pocket. He supposed he should try and get some work done; if nothing else, he was sure to have hundreds of emails built up from the weeks away.
Reading through the emails was an ordeal. Some things were obviously not important or were no longer relevant, and those all got deleted. Of the emails that were out of date, he felt reasonably confident deleting some of them, but saved others in case they were the sort of thing he would have to reference later. The rest were kind of a guessing game. He ended up starting up multiple documents with notes and lists of things he would have to look into and learn about, in many different areas. After an hour and a half staring at emails, Win’s head started to hurt. He leaned back in his office chair and sighed, staring at the ceiling, before dropping his head forward. The first thing his gaze landed on was the picture of Team, and Win had to smile. He wondered how often he had done that exact same thing only to see the man he loved and feel slightly lighter.
Win grabbed his phone off the desk and noticed a couple missed messages, one from Team. Ignoring the others, he went straight to Team’s and smiled again when he saw a sticker of a brown bear with hearts for eyes in response to the cactus picture. The text below it said “Little Nong! She is doing well!”
The timestamp was from a few minutes ago, so Win replied, “Did you buy her for me?”
“I did, when you moved into that office,” the response was quickly sent back.
“I thought of you when I looked at it, but didn’t know why. Now I do.”
There was a long pause before Team finally replied, and Win stared at his phone waiting the entire time. Once it came through, he knew what the hold up was. Team had sent a selfie, topless, with wet hair and water beading on his skin. He was smiling happily and holding up a fist in victory, a row of nice looking lockers served as a background and Win realized Team must have just gotten out of the pool or the shower. There was text scribbled on top of the picture, presumably written with his fingertip, which said “Way to go, hia!”
The whole thing made Win laugh, feeling warmed through by Team’s enthusiasm (and a little bit by the thought of his naked form). Taking a picture of himself smiling and making a finger heart, he sent it with drawn on text that said, “Thanks, baby!”
They traded a few more texts after that, with Team asking how work was going and Win honestly responding that it was a bit overwhelming, but that he was managing. Team reminded him not to overdo it and to take his time settling back into the swing of things. It was strange; if anyone else had said the same thing to him, Win might have brushed it off. However, coming from Team, it made Win feel loved. It felt like a genuine reminder not to push himself too hard.
Team had told Win that he often worried about him overworking in the past, and it seemed that some part of him responded to Team’s concern differently than anyone else’s. He tried to imagine the same message coming from Wan and how he would feel about it. Maybe there would be some element of feeling that Wan was trying to care for him, but Win innately knew he would keep on working just as hard. Ultimately, the only people who could effectively remind Win not to overwork were his father, Dean and Team. Perhaps his mother, but he would likely still work too hard even if she reminded him. His father could convince him to take it easy, because he so rarely said something like that. If Win was ever overworking in his father’s eyes, then there was definitely a problem.
Dean and Team were the outliers. Similar to his father, Win had trouble imagining Dean actually telling him to stop overworking, but as he tried to think about it, the mental image of Dean’s concerned face and a gentle, “Win, go home” came to mind. He pictured it in a study room at the university and wondered if it was an actual memory or just something that was likely to have happened. Maybe it was something that happened several times and just felt familiar, similar to knowing the cactus was from Team without knowing how he knew.
The difference between Dean’s care and Team’s, however, was the way it made Win feel. Dean was logical, straightforward, and just a touch intimidating (even to Win, on occasion). If he said to anyone that they needed to go rest, it meant that they absolutely needed to go rest. It wasn’t really specific to Win, so much as Dean just didn’t say things if he didn’t mean them. Team, on the other hand, said things from a place of love. Where Dean’s reminders felt akin to, “You need sleep, so go sleep,” Team’s felt more like, “I’m worried about you and want you to rest.”
The idea of worrying Team was something Win wanted to avoid. Perhaps, that was a sign of loving Team. Win would take care of himself to avoid making Team fret any more than he already might. Remembering that he loved Team wasn’t as straightforward as Win thought it would be. It turned out to be a series of smaller, more nuanced memories and feelings. It wasn’t about remembering the way he fell in love, but about remembering the things that made him feel in love.
Win sent a response to Team that he would try to take it easy, then resumed working. He carried on for another hour and a half before his head started hurting very badly. Since the day of the terrible migraine, Win had been pretty careful whenever he started getting a headache. Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought to bring any medicine with him to the office and didn’t take into account the way the artificial light from the screen would affect him. Turning away from the computer, Win held his head in his hand and closed his eyes, hoping that the pain would subside.
Apparently he sat there long enough that Podd noticed his predicament. He snuck quietly into the office and approached the desk before speaking softly, “Khun Win... Are you alright?”
Win lifted his head and realized that the overhead lights made his head hurt even worse, “I think I have a migraine.”
“Can I get you anything? Medicine? Water?”
He opened his mouth to respond, then closed it and sighed, shoulders dropping. After glancing at his watch, he looked back to Podd, “Can you arrange a driver to take me home?”
“Of course. Would you like me to inform your father or...?”
“Yes, you can let him know. I can do some work from home once the migraine is gone. The medicine my doctor gave me is there.”
“Alright. Do you have anything you would like me to help you with? For work, I mean.”
“Oh... actually, yes. I have a few topics I would like more information on. I’ll email them to you now. Thank you.”
“Very good, sir. I’ll go ahead and call a driver,” Podd gestured with a thumb over his shoulder and then excused himself from the office.
Win could tell that Podd was going to be a valuable asset in his return to work, and he was already grateful after just a few hours. Once Podd left, Win turned his attention back to his computer and picked a few of the topics he had listed earlier and quickly sent them to his new assistant, then closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, waiting until he was able to leave.
Win and his father were driven to work that morning in a company car. As it turned out, the same man was the one who took Win home now. He hadn’t caught the man’s name that morning, but recognized his face from earlier. Whether he always acted as Win’s driver or he was new, Win couldn’t remember and didn’t have the energy to ask. He sent a text to Team as soon as he got into the backseat, simply saying he had a migraine and was on the way home. After that, he sat with his eyes closed until the car came to a full stop.
Team was waiting just outside the front door when Win got out of the car, giving his thanks to the driver. He shuffled his way over to Team and was immediately pulled into a one-armed hug and ushered inside. On the table in the entryway, Team had a glass of water ready along with his pain medicine. After swallowing down the pills and half the water, he set the glass down and turned to bury his face against Team’s chest.
“Oh, hia...” he wrapped his arms around Win and held him tightly, setting one hand ever so gently on the back of Win’s head. “Want to go up to bed?”
“Yeah,” Win could tell his voice sounded whiny, but he didn’t care, not in front of Team, anyway.
They slowly climbed the stairs and went straight to their bedroom. Team brought the water up and set it on the bedside table before helping Win change out of his work clothes and into something more comfortable. Climbing into bed together, Team sat up against the headboard and Win curled up with his head on Team’s lap.
“Do you mind?” Win asked, then realized he might need to clarify. “Just sitting here, I mean?”
“I don’t mind. Get some rest, hia,” he began combing his fingers gently through Win’s hair. “I can play on my phone.”
“Beat Hia Wan’s score. In something, anything. Just beat him.”
Team laughed, “I’ll do my best.”
Though he couldn’t see it, Win guessed that Team was smiling. He ran his fingers down through Win’s hair to massage at the base of his skull, and down his neck. Presumably, he wasn’t playing any games or beating any top scores, with the way he was focused on Win. It felt comforting and eased the pain in his head.
“Love you,” Win said, because right now it felt right. It felt true.
Team’s hand paused for just a second, before continuing the soothing motions, “Love you, hia.” His voice was soft and there was some kind of emotion there, but Win wasn’t able to identify it in his current state.
And then, he was asleep.
Win went back to work the next day, but made sure to bring some pain medicine with him this time, just in case the headache returned. He worked for several hours before his head was swimming with too much new information. Once again, Podd was a life saver. Not only did he give him a slew of information about all the topics Win had emailed him the previous day, at some point he also put together information sheets on everyone that Win would have to regularly interact with. The profiles included their photograph, job position, what Win’s professional relationship with them was like, and even personal details that Win would know, such as if they had a partner or children.
He also included a few words about each person’s personality, in a professional way, but so that Win would know how to act around them, if they were gruff, sensitive, or liked to crack jokes. On one person’s profile, the words “subtly homophobic” were included and Win almost laughed when he saw it. He thanked Podd for that one and saw the way the young man breathed out with relief. Apparently Podd had been worried about it being unprofessional to include, but wanted to forewarn Win, just in case it was necessary to do so. He had been apprehensive about how it would be received since the moment he gave Win the profiles. Win assured him that he appreciated the warning, and put the young man at ease.
The work shift continued without incident and when he left today, Team was the one to pick Win up from the office. He showed up dressed nicely in a button down shirt and slacks, rather than jeans and a tee shirt. They met in the lobby and Win wasn’t sure what his usual etiquette was when greeting Team at the office. Luckily, he was able to defer to Team’s behavior instead of making a decision.
Team gave Win a one-armed hug and the very briefest of sniff-kiss to his cheek before pulling back. The whole action made Win smile brightly.
“How was work?” Team asked at the same time Win said, “How was practice?”
They both scoffed a laugh, then Win gestured for Team to answer first.
“It was good. I didn’t break any records, but I didn’t fall behind either. It was pretty standard.”
“Good job, baby. Maintaining where you’re at is important,” Win slid an arm around Team’s shoulders and moved them towards the exit.
“Is work getting any easier yet?”
“A little. N’Podd is a huge help, and I think I’m picking things up quickly, but there’s still so much to learn.”
“You’ll get there, hia,” Team squeezed his arm around Win’s waist and, now that they were outside the building, kissed his temple. “Did you remember anything new today?”
“A few people, who had apparently been with the company forever. I may have met them during the time before I lost the memories, though. Or right around the same time where my memories leave off? That line is getting fuzzier.”
“I read that older memories tend to resurface first,” Team offered. He opened the door on the passenger side of the car for Win before finally releasing him. It was very chivalrous.
“That’s what I understand, too,” he took a seat and waited for Team to get into the car on the other side. “Sometimes it’s weird... It’s not like in a drama where I see something and I’m suddenly transported back to a moment where I remember a thing.”
Team laughed, “Really? TV shows are fictional?”
“Shut up,” Win frowned but Team kept laughing. “It’s more like, the information is just there and I don’t know if it’s from before or after where my memories stop. And sometimes I remember part of a thing but not all of it. There’s this man who works for us, he has been there for a long time, I remember him from when I was, I don’t know, 16? I also remembered his wife, but they got married while I was at university. I don’t remember his kids, who were born last year and the year before, while I was away in England.”
Team listened, considered what he said, and nodded, “I guess it just happens that way. I remembered the words to an English song once, I heard it and started singing along. I didn’t know why I knew the words or what it was from, though. It turned out to be a song from a show I watched when I was younger.”
“You don’t even like speaking English,” Win said.
“I know! That’s why I was so confused as to why I knew it so well,” he laughed. “I hadn’t thought about it in probably six or seven years, but it was just there like I never forgot it.”
“Music is like that, though. I’ve recognized songs that came out during the time of my memory lapse.”
“Do you remember where you were when you heard any of them?” Team glanced over at Win before returning his eyes to the road.
“I never thought about it.” Win stared out ahead as well and considered the question. Then he blinked, not recognizing the road they were on. “Wait, where are we going? This isn’t the way home.”
Team chuckled, “You remember the way home now?”
“Enough to know this isn’t it...”
“Does it seem familiar at all? In any other way?” Team asked, glancing sidelong at him. He sounded really curious, but Win’s eyes were on the road, focused on where they were going, rather than Team’s expression.
Win recognized the part of town they were in, but not the names of most roads they passed. Some buildings seemed familiar, but it might have been because they looked similar to others he had seen before. They stopped at a red light near a fountain and Win stared hard at it. “I know that...”
“The fountain?” Team asked in the same curious tone.
“Yeah...” He noticed they were in the right lane, then turned to look at Team, “Are we going right at the next light?”
Team took in a small breath and held it for just a second, before letting it out as he nodded. “Yes. Do you know why?”
“No... Not yet...” Win shook his head, then looked ahead. The light changed to green and Team drove on. Sure enough, the turn signal started clicking as he shifted into the next lane and rounded the corner. “We’re going on a date right now, aren’t we?”
As they drove, Win realized they were heading towards an outdoor mall, with wide walkways, shops and restaurants. He asked and Team confirmed that was where they were going. Win still didn’t know why, though, whether there was a restaurant there that they liked or something else. They parked and got out of the car, the sun shining brightly overhead, just before it would start to set.
Team linked their hands and started walking towards the mall, “Are you hungry, hia? We can get some dinner.”
“Sure,” he nodded and felt the vaguest sense of familiarity but couldn’t place what it was about the area that felt familiar. “What would you like?”
“Hmm, Korean barbeque?”
“Definitely,” Win agreed and Team led the way. They held hands the entire way, and Win knew in his heart that it was a big deal for Team to feel comfortable with that kind of public display of affection. He squeezed Team’s hand and the other man looked at him with furrowed brows.
“Yes,” Win said, smiling back. He lifted their joined hands and kissed Team’s knuckles.
“Hia...” Team whined, blushed faintly, and looked away. He didn’t let go of Win’s hand, though.
“I like it when you hold my hand.” He paused for a moment, then added, “You didn’t always.”
“No...” Win couldn’t quite read the expression on Team’s face as he said that.
“I know you were shy,” Win squeezed his hand again. “And our friends didn’t know we were dating for a while.”
“Mm,” Team nodded. “Can you think of any times I held your hand?”
Win tipped his head and thought about it. He focused on the way Team’s hand felt in his and tried to imagine Team sneaking his hand into Win’s, or holding his hand under the table. Then, all at once, he let out a single, loud laugh. Team looked at him horrified and Win cleared his throat. “Sorry, uh... no I... I just...”
“What did you think of, hia?” Team had backed slightly away from Win and was looking at him like he was crazy, but didn’t release his hand, so it must have been an act.
“I thought about going to a movie with you... you wanted to see a horror film and I agreed, trying to be cool.”
Realization dawned on Team’s face, followed by a nasty little smirk. That asshole. “Ohhhh, I see.”
“You didn’t know I hated them at that time--”
“Are afraid of them, you mean.”
“Hate them because I’m afraid, yeah, shut up. We went and I got scared and you held my hand.”
“You’re adorable when you’re scared, hia,” Team pulled him closer until their shoulders bumped together.
“Which is why you always make me watch horror movies with you.”
“That... and because you always hug me when we watch them,” the smirk returned to Team’s face.
“You know you can just ask me to hug you!”
“Yeah, but then you would know I wanted to cuddle. I couldn’t be perceived like that.”
“So I have to suffer,” Win shook his head, sighing dramatically.
“Lucky for you, your boyfriend is strong and can protect you from the ghosts.”
“The ghosts he inflicts on me!” Win shivered at the very thought of it, but Team just laughed at him. “You are so lucky you’re hot, Team.”
Still laughing, Team opened the door to the Korean barbeque restaurant and they entered. They only had to wait a short time before being seated and ordering. Over the course of the meal, Team asked Win several questions about work, giving him the chance to recite the things he learned throughout the day. Though it really wasn’t the ideal date conversation topic, it did help Win to solidify some of the information he would need to remember for his job. It was subtle, but Win realized that Team just did these kinds of things for him. He recognized what Win needed and provided it without ceremony.
As Win had this thought towards the end of the meal, he reached out a hand and placed it on top of Team’s, smiling across the table at him. “You really are amazing, Team.”
He blinked back at Win, “For... taking you to dinner?”
Win laughed softly and shook his head, “You don’t even realize how much you do for me, do you?”
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s okay, because I do,” Win said and stood, leaning over the table to kiss Team’s forehead.
It was a big enough move that Team blushed and glanced at the nearby tables, to check if anyone saw it, but settled his gaze on Win soon after he sat back in his seat. “Hia...”
“I love you, Team.”
Team blinked again, pressing his lips together. He shifted the hand underneath Win’s until their fingers laced together. “I love you, hia,” he whispered back.
The sun set while they were eating dinner. As they left the restaurant, Win’s arm took its natural place around Team’s shoulders, and Team hugged Win close about the waist. They walked out into the street and then Win stopped mid-step. The suddenness of it made Team stumble. He looked up at Win, then out ahead of them at what made Win stop in his tracks.
“It’s December...” Win said softly, more to himself then Team.
Strands of tiny white lights were strung up all over: winding around tree trunks and lamp posts, draped and hanging like wide crescents overhead, all shining brightly. It made Win’s heart beat a little faster, made his chest feel tight. He held Team closer. The reason why this place seemed so familiar finally clicked into place.
“Come on, let’s take a walk,” Team said, urging him on with the arm around his waist.
As they walked, Win was overwhelmed by the familiarity of it all. It wasn’t just that this mall put up Christmas lights every year for the last decade or more. Of course, he had seen the lights when he was younger, but they never held special meaning to Win, other than being pretty to look at. He hadn’t taken anyone he dated to see them, until Team. While Team had told Win that they went to see the Christmas lights their first year together, that wasn’t the reason it felt familiar. Win knew in his heart that this would feel familiar even if Team hadn’t told him that story.
“You were eating Lays...” Win said, smiling.
Team chuckled, “Yeah, I was. You complained about it.”
“You just kept eating, even though you asked me to take you to see the lights,” Win shook his head, then he looked around. “Hey, over here...” He released Team’s shoulders and grabbed his hand, tugging him away from the lights and over to a path with stone benches. His heart started racing with excitement and he walked along, slowing before each bench until it felt right, then stopped. “Right here. You wanted to sit.”
“Yeah, hia,” Team said and Win finally looked at him instead of the scenery. Though Team was smiling, clearly happy, there was a shiny quality to his eyes that Win now recognized as unshed tears.
Win stepped forward until they were merely inches apart and held onto Team’s hips. “I had the broccoli in a bag. It wasn’t the little plastic one we have at home, it was real. I had gotten it from the grocery store between my classes, before I saw you that afternoon. I carried that damn thing for so long. I remember one of my classmates asked me why I had it and I had to tell him, ‘don’t worry about it’.”
Team laughed, it was a wet sound, but his smile was so warm and happy.
Lifting a hand to Team’s cheek, Win swiped his thumb under one eye to catch a tear that had escaped. “You were so cute... trying to pretend it wasn’t a date. I was so happy when you kissed me. I didn’t know if you would.”
He thought back to that moment, how unsure Team had looked, the way he checked if anyone was watching before kissing Win, and how shocked he appeared after he did kiss Win. Everything was so tenuous and unclear at that time, the single kiss meant so much to Win.
“You said we would have long lasting love,” Team finally managed to speak.
“It’s a good thing you kissed me back then, because it seems like it worked.”
With another teary laugh, Team wrapped his arms around Win’s shoulders and hugged him tightly, knocking him back a step with the momentum of it. Win quickly held him around the waist, close and secure.
“I’m glad you remember, hia,” he said before tucking his face against Win’s neck. The tears finally shed, falling onto Win’s skin.
He lifted one hand to hold the back of Team’s head, soothing fingers through his hair, “Me too, baby. Me too...” Win held Team like that for a few deep breaths, then urged the younger man to lift his head and look at him. “Memories or not, Team... one thing I know for certain is that you and I belong together. Now and always.”
More tears fell from Team’s eyes and his lips quivered before he pressed them to Win’s in a series of short kisses, completely heedless of anyone who might be watching. He pressed their foreheads together after the last kiss and whispered, “Now and always, hia, you said it.”
“I said it, and I promise. I’m not letting you go.” Win kissed him once more, then pulled back just enough to see Team’s face. He brushed away the tears with both thumbs then smiled, “I thought you wanted to look at the lights. All I see is you crying.” He remembered this line, but the first time he said it, he was complaining about Team eating.
Team shoved Win’s shoulder lightly and laughed before sniffling. “It’s your fault I’m crying. You had to go and remember our date.”
“Isn’t that why you brought me here?” Win pulled him along and started them walking again. “I think it’s your own fault.”
“I thought it might be a long-shot that you would remember... besides, you were the one who went all romantic on me.”
“Mm, maybe life can be a little bit like a TV drama,” he grinned at Team, looking sideways at him. “Don’t you like it when I’m romantic?”
“I--” Team opened his mouth, then was caught out and snapped his jaw shut, looking away with a pout. Win immediately laughed at it.
“It’s okay, you can admit it. You like when I’m romantic.”
“Nope,” he shook his head, “Mm-mm, no I don’t. I hate it, and you, and everything and--”
“Ai’Team? P’Win?” A woman’s voice called out to them and they both turned to see where it was coming from. A young woman with a pretty face, bright smile, and long, brown hair was waving to them. She stood beside another young woman that Win belatedly realized was Dean’s little sister, Del.
“Manaow, Del!” Team called back, then looked away from them to quickly swipe at the last remnants of tears.
Win stepped forward to block Team from view and waved to them. “Nong Del, Nong Manaow. Hi!”
“Ahh!” Manaow took Del’s hand and hurried towards them, practically skipping on the way. “Do you remember us, phi?”
Win scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “I remember N’Del from years ago, but... I mostly know you from pictures.”
“That’s okay, phi! I’m sorry I asked,” Manaow waved both her hands in front of herself, trying to erase it all. “I’m so happy to see you!”
“Me too,” Del said, smiling in her sweet, quiet way. Win did meet her when Del was much younger, and had seen pictures of her, the same as Manaow, but didn’t really know much about her. Dean didn’t live with his younger siblings at the time before his memory loss. “How are you, P’Win?”
By the time the girls were near enough to talk, Team had deemed his face presentable and moved to stand beside Win. Their shoulders were touching, but they weren’t holding hands.
“I’m doing alright, getting better each day,” he offered a smile to the girls.
“That’s wonderful!” Manaow clasped her hands together and grinned. “Team said you hadn’t been up for visiting, but I’m glad to run into you now. Is it okay to talk for a bit?”
“That’s fine,” Win nodded, not quite sure how to feel about them knowing he hadn’t been up for visits. Of course, it was true, but it still felt strange.
Del glanced between Win and Team, then raised one hand to say she had a question, “We’re not interrupting a date... are we?”
“Uhh...” Win looked over at Team, then back to the girls and shrugged. “Well...”
“It was...” Team confirmed, “but it’s okay with me, if it’s okay with you, hia.”
Win nodded to the group, then glanced around and spotted a table with benches. “How about we all sit?”
They agreed, and Win took Team’s hand as they walked over to the table, taking a seat beside one another, with the girls sitting across from them on the other bench.
“Were you out shopping?” Team asked, perhaps to take the attention off Win and his situation.
“Yes! A new line of makeup just came out, it’s being advertised by my idol and we had to go check it out!” Manaow excitedly answered.
“We were also looking for a gift for one of my coworkers, her birthday is next week and I didn’t know what to get,” Del added. “Manaow was helping me find something.”
“I am an expert when it comes to shopping!” Manaow preened.
“Makeup, shopping and nothing else,” Team teased and Manaow swatted at him, hitting his arm but clearly not hard enough to hurt.
It made Win snicker and he caught a sparkle of amusement in Del’s eyes too. This must be common between the two of them. “Did you find a gift, then?”
“We did, phi,” Del nodded. “I’m giving her some soaps and lotions, and a little fox figurine for her desk, because she likes them a lot.”
“It’s really cute, too!”
“That’s sweet of you,” Win said. “I’m sure she’ll be pleased, then.”
“Where did you two go today?” Del asked, leaning forward, her forearms were braced on the table and her hands clasped together.
“We had barbeque and were just walking around,” Team answered.
“Team was taking me to see the lights,” he gestured to the decorations around them.
“Oh, I didn’t know you liked Christmas lights, P’Win,” Manaow tipped her head.
“Mm, it was something from mine and Team’s past.”
“Oohh, maybe we can finally get details about you two!”
“Don’t bet on it, Manaow,” Team warned.
“You’re no fun at all,” she pouted and crossed her arms.
Win wondered how much of Team being closed off about sharing his relationship with Win was due to shyness and how much of it was actually just an ongoing way of taunting Manaow. He was much more open about it around Pharm and Dean when they had dinner together.
“Manaow, I heard you are together with P’Pruk?” Win changed the subject to rescue his boyfriend.
“Yes! He’s the sweetest! And so sexy,” she made her hand into a claw and meowed like a hungry cat.
“It’s true love,” Del said in mock seriousness and Win had to laugh.
“It is true love, P’Pruk is the perfect man,” she sighed dreamily, shaking her head and looking off into the distance. It was dramatic, but in an adorable way.
“I’m certain that I’m very happy for you two,” Win said. “What about you, Del? I can’t remember ... are you seeing anyone?”
“Me?” her eyes flitted over to the dreamy Manaow, then back to Win and Team. She smiled and shook her head, “No, not right now, but I’m okay with that.” She shrugged narrow shoulders.
“There’s no reason to date anyone if you don’t want to,” Team said, drawing Win’s attention. Team looked at Win, blinked at his surprised expression, then turned back to Del. “I was okay being single until ... well.”
“Until you met the love of your life!” Manaow held up both hands to frame Win’s face. She said the words ‘love of your life’ in English for some kind of emphasis. Team kicked her under the table and she glared at him. “So rude!.”
Team rolled his eyes.
Win leaned over and bumped his shoulder into Team’s and grinned down at him, “You know, she’s right about me being the love of your life.”
Team scowled and looked away, and Win knew for sure that this time it was out of shyness. So did Manaow, and she cooed out a high pitched “ooo-eee” sound. Immediately, Team’s shy scowl turned into an angry one and he lifted his hand in a fist. She didn’t seem intimidated by this threat at all, and laughed in response.
Watching the two of them interact was interesting to Win. Team was kind of mean to Manaow, which surprised Win a little, but as the conversation went on, he realized Team wasn’t being authentically mean. The threats of violence were empty, and even when he kicked her under the table, it didn’t seem as if it hurt her. Likewise, Manaow’s smack to his arm wasn’t hard, either.
Win propped his chin in an upturned palm and observed Team and Manaow currently bickering about Team’s lack of proficiency in English -- Win missed how they even got on that subject -- and it dawned on him: Manaow was like a sister to Team. Pharm might be Team’s best friend, but Manaow was a sibling. Their playful banter, bickering and feigned violence was not unlike Win and Wan’s relationship, especially the part where it was difficult to tell who was the “older” sibling of the two. Manaow seemed a bit like a bratty little sister, but also like a taunting older sister, depending on the way she teased Team.
“Have I ever called you two twins?” Win said suddenly and both Team and Manaow looked at him with shocked expressions.
“No?” Team answered.
“P’Win, how could you think I am anything like Team?” Manaow asked in horror, apparently not taking into account that, coming from Win, being like Team would be a compliment.
He laughed and shook his head, “Because you two act like siblings, but neither of you seems like the phi.”
They sat there, slack jawed, and Del was the one who ended up laughing. All eyes turned to her, Win smiling while Manaow and Team were glaring.
“He has a point,” Del said with an apologetic shrug. “I think that might stick. You two are like twins.”
The betrayal on Manaow’s face made both Win and Del laugh, which in turn made laughter bubble up from Team. Manaow turned her glare on him, then succumbed to the laughter as well.
Once the giggles died down, Win very formally offered a wai to Manaow, “I’m pleased to have you as a sister-in-law, Nong Manaow.”
“Phi Win!” Her jaw dropped, then she got flustered and blushed, but also gave him a wai to maintain the act. “When you put it that way, how can I be mad?” She turned her attention on Team and reached across the table to shove his shoulder, “Marry him already, so I can be his sister officially!”
Team lifted his hands, confusion evident on his face, “Manaow, we aren’t actually brother and sister. That’s not how this works.”
“Oh, whatever! Can I be the flower girl?”
“You’re too old, idiot.” Team rolled his eyes.
“Fine! Can I be your maid of honor?”
Del giggled, “Wouldn’t Pharm be his best man?”
“He can have a best man and a maid of honor!” Manaow said, exasperated.
“Oh!” Del perked up, lifting one finger, “P’Win! You have two brothers, and P’Dean, right? So they would be your groomsmen, that means Team needs one more person on his side!”
“What makes you think we would even have a Western style wedding?” Team asked, making both of the girls scowl at him for ruining their plans.
Win watched it all with warmth in his heart, resting his head in his palm again. The fact that Team so casually talked with his friends about their theoretical wedding without even getting shy about the concept made him think his worries from the past week really were unfounded.
By the end of the conversation, Manaow and Del agreed that Team and Win would have Pharm and Dean, Manaow and Wan, then Del and View as their groomsmen and “groomsmaids.” They also decided on a beach wedding, picked a color theme, and were discussing flower arrangements as Team groaned in annoyance. Win wasn’t entirely sure how fake Team’s reaction was, but he guessed that if anything, Team was annoyed at the girls for planning the whole thing without his input.
Reaching out, Win set a hand on Team’s thigh and smiled at him. Team looked over and studied Win’s face and his relaxed pose. His own face softened into a look of pure love and it made Win nearly swoon. He wondered if a faint blush was evident in the dim light, but if it was, Team didn’t say anything about it, and the girls were too in their own world to notice. Team settled his hand on top of Win’s hand on his thigh.
Win mouthed the words “love you” at Team and squeezed his leg. Team tipped his head down just slightly, perhaps trying not to look too shy. Unfortunately for both of them, Manaow and Del had caught the two of them staring lovingly at each other. The young women leaned into each other, then cooed loudly at Team and Win, calling out, “Cuuuute!”
Team groaned and dropped his head, so Win scooted forward to catch him against his shoulder, letting Team hide as he turned to look at the ladies. “Guilty as charged. We are the cutest!”
Both Manaow and Del giggled at him, then Manaow sighed, “I had been worried before, but you’re the exact same P’Win as always.”
Del nodded, “You haven’t changed at all.”
Hearing that from the two of them made Win smile in the most genuine way, “Really?”
“Yeah, it feels just like old times,” Manaow shrugged. “Even if there are things you don’t remember, you’re still P’Win!”
“She’s right,” Team said, lifting his head to look at Win.
He looked at Team, then closed his eyes and pressed their foreheads together, “Thank you.”
This time, Manaow and Del were quiet, respecting the moment, and even if Team was shy, he seemed to know that Win needed this, so he didn’t pull away. They stayed there for two or three slow breaths, then Win squeezed Team’s thigh just before leaning back and smiling at him. Manaow quietly cleared her throat, and when the boys turned to look at the girls, they were gathering up their shopping bags.
“We should probably be getting home,” Del said as she stood.
“It’s late,” Manaow agreed.
Team and Win stood as well, and Win spoke, “Do you have a way home? Will you be safe?”
Del nodded, “Yes, I drove us here, Manaow is staying over at my house tonight, too.”
“Thanks for worrying, Phi, we’ll be okay!”
“Good,” Win hooked his arm around Team’s shoulders once they moved away from the table, “Because Team drove us and I would have to convince him to take you two home otherwise.”
“Then we’d never get home!” Manaow cried out dramatically, holding the back of her hand to her forehead.
“I’ve given you plenty of rides,” Team scowled at her. “Don’t try to make me look bad in front of Hia Win.”
“Oh, you’re no fun,” Manaow swatted at him and once more Del giggled quietly. “We should all get dinner together sometime. Then I can tell you all the embarrassing stories Team doesn’t want you to know, phi!”
“No way I’m letting that happen,” Team shook his head.
“Then I’ll just invite P’Win out to lunch while you’re swimming!” Manaow raised her brows at Team, challenging him.
“Nope,” he shook his head, “Not allowed.”
“Because I said so.”
“And you’re the boss of P’Win?”
“I’m--” Team started, but Win cut him off.
“He is,” Win used his best, most devious grin and tightened his hold around Team. “I have to do what he says.”
“Hia!” Team covered his face, Manaow flushed pink, and Del brought a hand up over her mouth.
“Okay, that’s really more than I needed to know...” Manaow said, fully defeated.
“Time to go!” Del grabbed Manaow by the arm and dragged her away. She turned back over her shoulder to wave to the two of them, “Goodnight phi! Goodnight Team!”
“Night!” Win waved back, then pulled Team off in the direction of his car. “Off we go, too.”
“Hiaaaa,” Team whined, dropping his hands and letting himself be pulled, “Why did you say that?”
“Because it was funny,” Win said simply, then brought his lips to Team’s ear, “And maybe it’d be fun to let you boss me around a little bit.”
Team groaned, “If I can boss you around, how about you keep your mouth shut.”
Win turned devious again, “Got something to keep my mouth busy with?” We waggled his eyebrows at Team.
“Hia!” Team shoved him away, but even in the dim light, Win could see he was blushing. They were definitely going to have some fun tonight once they got home.