Chapter 1: 00 - Prologue
Life had been a whirlwind the last few days. The last few weeks, actually, if Team was honest with himself. Win returned from England five months ago and about three months ago they decided that living in Team’s cramped condo not really meant for two was a challenge, so they started hunting for a home together. A real, actual house. Not a dorm, not an apartment, not a condo, but a home. They spent two months searching for houses and deciding on the perfect area to live in. The number of spreadsheets and documents Win had put together honestly boggled the mind, but Team kind of fell more in love with him in the process. Win was definitely the more detail oriented of the two of them, and sometimes it was Team’s job to pull him back from it just a little bit. To remind him to look at the big picture as well as the little things.
They had to first decide on an area, one that was a good distance between Win’s job with his family’s company, the pool where Team practiced swimming, the homes of their friends and was in a nice neighborhood. Once they did that, budgets were next, because even though Win was more than able to pay for both of them, Team insisted on contributing an equal amount. Professional swimming had afforded him a pretty decent paycheck, which was often boosted by the tournaments he won and deals with brand sponsors. Win always helped him decide which sponsors to sign with and which ones to turn down, protecting his personal interests. Team really did love that man, for so many reasons.
He smiled as he briskly walked down the street, thinking back over everything that had happened since he graduated and Win returned. In any case, after picking an area and a budget, they started the actual hunt for houses and that was the part Team liked best. They drove around countless off days looking at homes for sale, worked with a realtor to find what they were looking for and toured homes, talking about what they liked and didn’t like about each place. When they finally found the perfect home, it was like a dream come true.
The only problem was, they weren’t the only couple interested in buying, so they had to put in a competitive offer. It ended up being on the higher end of their budget, but Team and Win both decided it was worth it in the long run, because truly, it was perfect. Yesterday, the seller accepted their offer and they ended up rushing over on Win’s lunch break and when Team could convince his coach to let him take an hour off to go sign the paperwork. His hair was still wet with pool water as he put his name to paper.
In all the rushing, they didn’t have time to properly celebrate the purchase, so that’s exactly what they were about to do now. It was Friday, Team had a short practice and Win was able to get out of the office early, so the day was bright with early afternoon sunlight, a cool breeze moved the air about, making it a comfortable, beautiful day. Team’s heart felt light and warm, and as he paused at a crosswalk, he closed his eyes, turned his face to the sun and took in a deep breath. When he lowered his head and opened his eyes, there was Win.
Win was beautiful. He stood across the street with an elated smile on his face, absolutely glowing with joy. He must have been watching Team bask in the sunlight and happiness, because the fond look on his face was one that could stop Team in his tracks and steal his breath away. They both waited for the light to change, so they could cross the street and meet one another. No one was on Win’s side of the road and only two people stood beside Team. Win took the first step forward, eyes trained on Team as he moved with the casual assurance that only Win could display.
Maybe if he didn’t have eyes for only Team, things might have turned out differently.
The first thing Team heard was the woman beside him scream in shock. He turned to look at her without even thinking about it, so he missed what was about to happen until the sound of brakes screeching drew his attention back to the street. It was too late to change what happened next. He was too far away and something clogged Team’s throat, maybe it was his heart leaping up out of his chest. Win’s head turned a split second to see the car careening towards him, running a red light and going way too fast.
The driver clearly tried to stop, but he wasn’t going to make it in time. The car slammed into Win and sent him to the ground with a sickening crack. Team’s entire world froze. There was no sound, no air, nothing moving. His breath stopped. Then it was as if everything moved in fast-forward. He rushed across the street to Win and crouched down beside him, hands going to his arm and shoulder. Win’s eyes were closed and his head lulled to the side, he was unconscious. Then Team noticed the blood... so, so much blood. It spilled freely from Win’s head and pooled on the street below him, it streaked his brown hair with bright red.
“Hia...” Team’s voice was barely above a whisper, his lips trembling, his face already streaked with tears. “H-hia.... Hia...” He choked back a sob, then looked up at the crowd around him. His eyes locked on the first person that met his gaze. “Call an ambulance!” He wasted no more than a second to see the person lift their phone before looking back down to Win. A trembling hand lifted to his face to check his breathing, and when he felt the soft puff of air, Team broke down completely. He began sobbing over Win’s body and didn’t let go or move away from him until paramedics arrived and dragged him back.
Win was his entire world. He had only just gotten the man back, they were moving into their adult lives and everything was supposed to be better now. If he lost Win ...
The ride to the hospital was a blur, and all Team remembered was sitting in the back of the ambulance, holding Win’s hand as long as the paramedics allowed him to, as did all they could to keep him stable and breathing until they got him to the emergency room. By the time he was forced apart from his love and into the waiting room, Team was in a state of shock. It was so bad that a nurse stayed with him and helped him make a call to Win’s parents to explain what happened. She also helped him wash the blood off his hands. After calling Win’s parents, he called Pharm, who rushed over with Dean and the two of them, his blessed friends, took care of everything else. Any time Pharm wasn’t helping out, he sat with his arm around Team, letting him cry into his shoulder until Pharm’s shirt was wet with tears.
Win’s parents hugged Team a lot, too, but once they knew Pharm could take care of him, they comforted each other, until Win’s brothers could arrive. Everyone took turns crying, worrying, or trying to keep the mood light and hopeful. They talked about how strong Win was, how it would be okay. Team couldn’t bring himself to think about anything, his brain was static, replaying the scene of Win getting hit by the car and bleeding on the street over and over. He wept until he had no tears left to fall.
It was hours and hours later before a doctor came out and let everyone know that Win was stable, but in an induced coma. He would live, and Team relaxed for the first time since the accident. The relief at knowing Win would live was practically earth shattering. So much so, that he almost missed what came next.
“There’s just one thing...” The doctor said, and everyone held their breath. “His skull was fractured and there was a lot of swelling in his brain. We did everything we could to take care of him, but we won’t know the extent of the damage until he wakes up.”
Win’s mother and father asked some questions, but Team didn’t quite catch them. All he could think about was Win’s beautiful, amazing mind. His brilliance, his attention to detail, his clever wit... All Team had worried about until this moment was whether or not Win would live, he hadn’t even considered the possibility of brain damage.
Team’s world narrowed to trying to focus on Win being alive. Which turned to hoping he would wake up soon, hoping he would wake up period. Then his mind turned to static, and he only vaguely registered Pharm holding him again when he could hear his own choked out sobs. He dropped his head onto Pharm’s shoulder and hugged the smaller man for dear life, fingers trembling as they tightened around the fabric of Pharm’s shirt. Eventually, more arms wrapped around the two of them and Team couldn’t have said if it was Dean, Wan, or Win’s parents who joined in the embrace. It was entirely possible that everyone did, for all Team was aware. He couldn’t lift his head from Pharm’s shoulder.
At least, not until someone nearby spoke, and the words, “Would you like to go see him?” filtered through the fog in his mind.
Sniffling and lifting his head, Team found that the words were spoken by Win’s father and were directed at Team. He nodded, and Pharm pulled away, moving into Dean’s arms, either to comfort or be comforted, Team wasn’t sure which, maybe both. Wan moved into Pharm’s place and wrapped an arm around Team’s shoulders, and pulled him towards the family, his other arm wrapped around View, Win’s younger brother. The parents led the way and the children followed behind. For better or worse, Team was part of the family now, and he always felt accepted. Right now, he was eternally grateful for that.
Inside the steril and cold room, Win was laid out on a bed, tubes and wires attached to him, monitors beeping and some kind of machine making whooshing sounds, helping Win to keep breathing. His head was bandaged, one eye was swollen shut, already badly bruised. There were countless smaller cuts and scrapes. He vaguely recalled hearing the doctor say Win had broken ribs and a few fractures. He didn’t remember where. Team could feel himself trembling, his whole body felt weak. A wet sniffle came from Wan’s other side, as View let out a little sob. The eldest brother wrapped both Team and View up into a tight hold, and both younger men clung to Wan for dear life. Team didn’t know how Wan could do it, but he knew that Win was cut from the same cloth, and somehow that made his heart ache even more.
They stayed in the room with Win as long as they could. Nurses came and went, checking on the machines and writing things down. Although, because Win was in intensive care, they were told they had to leave eventually, but that they could come back and visit in smaller numbers later.
Win was in intensive care for two days. During that time, only Win’s immediate family - which thankfully included Team - could visit and only for a few hours at a time, and only two people at a time.
After that, he was moved to a regular room, where he could have more visitors and they could stay for as long as they wanted. Team was there every day. He was given a pass from swim practice from his coach, because there was no way he was getting into a pool in his current emotional state. He withdrew from an upcoming tournament as well, and his agent took care of everything to do with that. Team almost never left, sleeping in the chair beside Win, often holding his hand. He spoke to Win, told him stories, and even sang to him from time to time, all of Win’s favorite songs.
On the third day in the regular hospital room, Pharm and Dean gave him the gentlest intervention, sending him home to shower, eat and sleep. Pharm had made packed meals for Team to take home with him and eat and forced Team to text him pictures as proof that he ate them. It took Win’s family to convince Team to stop spending every single moment in the hospital. They worked out a schedule so that someone would always be there with Win, in case he woke up. The rotation included Win’s parents, Wan, View, Dean, Pharm and, of course, Team.
During the times Team wasn’t at the hospital, Manaow and Pruk, and Dean and Pharm traded off helping him get things moved into the new house. Dean and Pruk usually did the heavy lifting while Pharm and Manaow were more about unboxing and setting things up or keeping their belongings organized. Everyone agreed on Team’s behalf that having the project of moving into the house to work on was good for him. If he was kind, he had to admit that they were right. Setting up their new home was a good way to force Team to think about the outcome of Win recovering, waking up, and coming home.
It was almost a week later, when Manaow, Pruk, and Team were all in the new house that Dean called to say that Win was awake.
Team literally dropped everything, which in this case was a large wooden bowl he was finding a place for in the kitchen. The bowl cracked and broke into two pieces when it hit the floor and Team cursed briefly before apologizing to Dean and saying he would be there immediately. He left Manaow and Pruk to take care of the house, grabbed his keys, then ran out the door and for the car, barely snagging his shoes off the ground on his way out. He didn’t even bother putting them on until the first red light.
All of Team’s willpower combined was the only thing that kept him from running through the hospital to Win’s room. He was practically speed walking down the hall when he nearly ran into Pharm outside the door. The smaller man intercepted him with a delicate hand to Team’s chest.
Team made a pained sound, his eyebrows drawing together, and looked down at Pharm, “What? Why? Pharm, let me go in.”
The look on Pharm’s face didn’t make any sense. Win was awake, he should be smiling and ushering Team directly into the room, not stopping him and looking worried.
Team’s mind cleared a little as Pharm opened his mouth to speak. Something was wrong.
“Before you go in there, Team, I need to tell you something...”
It felt like Team’s heart stopped beating.
Chapter 2: 01 - honey, you're familiar
Win wakes up in the hospital and realizes something is terribly wrong.
Sleep was something Win usually loved. He wasn’t a lazy person by nature, but whenever it was time to rest, he certainly enjoyed it. When he woke up now, though, Win felt anything but rested. He felt groggy and disoriented and his head felt fuzzy. Blinking his eyes open, the first thing Win saw was bright lights. Then the muffled sound of beeping and wooshing became clearer as consciousness found him. Everything felt wrong; he couldn’t quite move, his mouth was dry as the desert, and his throat felt strangely raw. He tried to speak but it came out as a moan.
Movement from the corner of his eye drew Win’s attention that way and he let his head fall to the side and tried to focus on the man nearby. As his vision cleared, he was confused, the man was at once familiar and unfamiliar.
“Dean?” Win blinked a few times to try and figure out why Dean didn’t look quite right.
“Win? You’re awake, let me call a nurse.” Dean’s voice sounded weird, too, in a way Win couldn’t explain either.
He watched Dean press a call button on a remote and then croaked out another few words, “What happened?”
“You got hit by a car,” Dean said, blunt as ever. At least that was familiar.
“Ouch,” Win closed his eyes, the room still seemed too bright and focusing on anything was a struggle. “How bad?”
“You fractured your skull, broke a couple ribs, have a hairline fracture in one arm, you had a black eye for a while--”
“Okay, okay, bad, I get it.” Win cut him off from carrying on the list. He thought about what he heard and through the fog in his mind, he realized something strange. “For a while? How long have I been asleep?”
“About a week and a half,” Dean answered. Win opened his eyes and was about to ask something else when a nursed walked into the room.
Her eyes fell on Win and she brightened with a smile, “I see you’re awake, Mr Phawin. How are you feeling?” While waiting for his answer, she began checking the machines’ readings and writing things down on a chart she picked up from the wall.
“Confused,” seemed the best answer Win could come up with.
“I’ll bet. Are you in any pain?” She checked a bag hooked to his IV as she asked this, then turned to look at his face. She was pretty and seemed nice.
“Umm... throat hurts. I’m thirsty. Everything feels... fuzzy.”
She nodded, took some notes, and then carried on asking him questions about how he was doing. He answered to the best of his ability while trying to take stock of how his body felt. Moving seemed like entirely too much work, but he was able to do a little. By the time she left to go report things to the doctor, Win felt exhausted. He dropped his head to the side on the pillow and looked at Dean again. Something still seemed off.
“You look weird...” Was the eloquent way Win chose to comment on it. Then his brows furrowed. “Are my parents coming?”
Dean looked affronted but didn’t say anything about Win’s observation, choosing instead to answer the question, “They know you’re in the hospital, it was my and Pharm’s turn to watch over you. I was going to see if you had any questions before giving them a call.”
Win tried to follow that but got confused. “Uh... yeah, a few ... this is... everything seems weird. Who is Pharm?”
Dean stared at him for a long moment, eyes narrowed with concern. “Pharm is...”
The door opened again and a short, cute man walked in with two cups of coffee in hand, “P’Dean I--” he stopped short and looked at Win, “P’Win! You’re awake!”
Win blinked at him, then looked at Dean.
“This is Pharm...” Dean said, gesturing to the cute man. “He’s my husband...”
Win’s eyes darted between Dean and the man, back and forth. His heart was suddenly beating very hard and his breath was coming much shorter. This is what panic felt like, he knew that much, but he didn’t seem to know anything else and swallowed hard. Finally, his eyes fell on Dean and something clicked. The thing that looked wrong about Dean is that he looked old, like a grown up. The word ‘husband’ weighed heavy in his mind.
“Wha...” Win tried to control his breathing enough to speak. “How... how old... What year...” Win closed his eyes and tried to take a deep breath, but it was shaky. He felt Dean’s large hand come to rest on his shoulder, squeezing softly. Without opening his eyes, Win said, “You said I was only asleep for a week and a half...”
“You were. Win, right now you’re 25 years old. How old do you think you are?”
“I.... I ...” He swallowed and tried to think about it, tried to figure out what he remembered. His breathing felt labored, panic still rising despite the steady anchor of Dean’s hand. “We aren’t... first years anymore?”
“No,” Dean said simply. There was a pause, and Win opened his eyes to look up at Dean, who was facing the cute man with the coffee. “Pharm, call Win’s parents.” He released Win’s shoulder to press a button near the bed. “I’m getting the nurse back in here.”
“Should I also call--” Pharm started to ask, but Dean shook his head.
“Okay, P’Dean...” Pharm nodded, set the coffee cups down on a table and walked out, presumably to call Win’s parents and not someone else. Win decided not to think about that.
Dean returned his gaze to Win and the concern in his friend’s face made the panic rise again. He returned his hand to Win’s shoulder, “The nurse and doctor should be able to tell us more.”
“Dean... I...” He what? Win didn’t even know what he was going to say. Instead he closed his eyes again and made an attempt to lift his hand to Dean’s, but he was too weak. His best friend got the hint, thankfully, and drew his hand down from Win’s shoulder to hold his hand, giving it a squeeze.
“It’s going to be okay, Win.”
Win squeezed back with all the force he could muster, then started to cry.
For as long as Win could remember, he almost never cried in front of anyone since he was a child. Hia Wan had seen him cry on a couple occasions, Dean had seen it exactly once, when he got his heart broken, and every other time he had been alone. Right now, the fear, the pain, the worry, it was all too much for Win. How much of his life was missing right now?
The nurse came in again to disrupt his thoughts. It was the same woman from a moment ago and Win lifted watery eyes to her.
“I spoke to Nong Pharm,” he voice was soft and kind as she set a hand on Win’s forearm. “You’re having trouble remembering things?”
Win swallowed thickly and nodded.
“That’s not uncommon with head injuries. You’ve only just woken up, we will get the doctor in here to have a look at you, we’ll run some tests, and we will take it all one step at a time, okay?”
Listening to hear talk, Win regained composure. He wiped his cheek against his shoulder and took a slow, calming breath. He could be strong through this and nodded to her, “Okay.”
“Do you have any questions right now?”
“Will I remember everything again?” was the only question Win could think to ask right now, so he did.
She smiled sadly at him, “The doctor will be able to tell you more about it, but regaining your memories to some degree is a possibility, certainly.”
Win nodded, trying not to worry about the part where that didn’t sound all that encouraging.
“Anything else right now?”
“I... I don’t know...”
Dean squeezed his hand and Win looked up at him, then back to the nurse.
“Alright, well, then I’m going to ask you a few questions if you’re up to it, then talk to the doctor.” Win agreed and so she did, asking him a series of questions to test his cognitive abilities and getting some kind of baseline of information to tell the doctor. They talked until Win got sleepy and then she excused herself. At some point, Pharm had slipped back into the room, but Win didn’t have the strength to pay much attention to him while answering the questions. He looked over at the petite man with the kind eyes and a sweet smile after the woman left and he couldn’t explain why, but he seemed somehow perfect for Dean.
Pharm moved over to Dean’s side after the nurse left and Win felt himself getting sleepy. His head hurt badly, too. Drowsy, he looked up at Dean. “Sorry I forgot your husband...”
Dean looked at Win in a way that was softer than Win was used to seeing. “You’re forgiven.”
“Your parents are on the way, P’Win,” Pharm said. “They’re calling your brothers, too.”
“Thanks,” He nodded and felt his eyes falling shut, “and thanks for finding Dean.”
Dean kept holding Win’s hand even as Win felt his own fingers loosening from the grip. He wanted to stay awake, to see his family, to ask Dean about Pharm and being married, but he just couldn’t seem to do it. Soon enough, he drifted off completely.
When he woke again, Win was still in the hospital but was at least somewhat less confused about it all. The first person he saw was his mother, who was in a chair beside the bed, holding onto the same hand Dean had earlier, “Mae?”
She had been crying, he could tell, and brightened immediately upon seeing him awake. “Hi darling, you had us so scared.” Leaning in, she kissed his head but he couldn’t quite feel it, like something was between her lips and his skin but he didn’t know what.
“Sorry, Mae, I didn’t mean to...”
“Silly boy, of course you didn’t,” she lifted his hand to kiss it, then set it back down, grasped in both of her own. “The doctor wants to ask you some questions, when you feel up to it.”
Win looked away from his mother to see who else was in the room. For now, at least, it seemed like Dean and his husband were gone, but his father and brothers were there now. Wan had an arm around View’s shoulders and his father was standing behind his mother’s chair, a hand on her. A foolish part of his brain told him that he was responsible for worrying all of them and disrupting their lives with this. He shook his head to try and rid himself of the thought, only to immediately regret it. With a groan, he closed his eyes, “My head hurts.”
“Well, you literally cracked it open,” Wan’s teasing voice answered. “I guess your skull isn’t so thick after all.”
“Hiaaa...” Win whined and opened his eyes just in time to see View smack their older brother in the stomach. He took a moment to look at the two of them and really study them, “View, you got so big...”
“Sorry, hia Win... P’Dean said that you can’t remember the last few years, huh? Not even P’Pharm.”
“Mm,” Win managed to answer without nodding, he didn’t want to risk making it hurt again. “Pharm is his husband, right?” He had already forgotten the man’s name until View said it.
“Yeah, they got married a few months ago, after Pharm graduated from university,” Wan answered. There was something about his tone that Win couldn’t quite identify, it seemed like sadness. Probably because Win couldn’t remember his best friend’s wedding or husband.
“Did they leave?”
“They’re still here,” his mother said and Win slowly turned his head to look at her. “They’re calling your friends to let them know what’s going on.”
“Thank them for me, please?”
“Of course, dear.” She squeezed his hand again. “Do you want to speak to the doctor now or later?”
“Now, I guess...”
“I’ll go get her,” View said, pulling away from Wan to go out the door. He came back first, and a few minutes later, an older woman in a white coat came in to talk to everyone. Wan, View and his father all left to give Win some space while answering, but Win’s mother stayed there, holding his hand through it all.
They spent a long time figuring out what Win did know and remember. She talked about the different types of memory loss. Apparently Win had something called retrograde amnesia, which meant he would still remember how to do physical tasks and a lot of his past, just more recent memories were missing. The fact that he remembered who he was, remembered his family and how to do certain things -- if he was a little too weak to do much -- was supposed to be a good sign. He also remembered that Dean was married, information from earlier that day.
“It’s possible you will have trouble remembering new information, but the fact that you remembered something new gives me hope,” the doctor said.
“So ... will I remember my past? The years I’ve lost?” Win liked the things he was hearing about it all, but that didn’t change the fact that he still thought he was in his first year at university when he actually already had a masters and was working for his family’s company.
The doctor took a deep breath and sighed as she shook her head, “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, Win. Some patients remember everything, some remember a few things, and some never get those memories back. I don’t want to give you false hope, but I don’t want you to be discouraged either.”
“What can we do?” his mother asked the doctor.
She paused before answering, which made Win feel a little anxious. “There is no one cure for amnesia, but love and emotional support are both important. It is better to spend time with your friends and family than to be alone.. Psychological therapy can also help you try to recover memories and I recommend it, anyway, to cope with the struggles of adjusting to life with lost time. We can give some recommendations for therapists if you would like.”
“Please,” Win’s mother said.
“Of course. Do you have any other questions? Win?”
Win pressed his lips together and sighed. He was getting tired again and his brain was spinning with all the information. “Not right now, it’s hard to think.”
“Get some more rest, then. If you think of anything, have someone write them down for you.”
“Okay... I’ll do that...” Win felt his eyes falling shut again. “Mae...”
Win felt her lips press to his brow, then he was out.
“He’s on his way now,” Dean’s voice filtered through Win’s half asleep mind.
“I’ll wait for him outside,” another voice said, higher pitched, softer. The sound of a quiet kiss came next, followed by rustling and a door opening and shutting.
Win groaned and pried his eyes open. Blearly, he looked over to Dean who had been staring at the door, “Honeymoon looks good on you.”
Dean turned to look at him, surprised to see Win awake, and laughed.
“How long have you two been together?” He didn’t quite have the strength to lift his head or do anything but look half-lidded at Dean. Win was just glad there weren’t any doctors or nurses asking questions of him right now.
“Four and a half years,” Dean was as straightforward and to the point as always, but then the next thing he said took Win by surprise. “It feels like forever, though.”
It wasn’t just that Dean said such a thing, it was the wistful tone with which he said it that really surprised Win. “Must be love.”
Dean nodded in agreement. “How’s your head?”
Win groaned, “It hurts... and I’m tired of that question already. I’m tired of all questions, actually. I should be the one asking questions, I forgot everything, you guys know all the stuff.” He wanted to cross his arms indignantly but that seemed like too much work, so he pouted instead. It made Dean laugh either way, so he considered it a success.
“What do you want to ask?”
“Technically, that’s a question, but I’ll let it slide,” Win closed his eyes and took a breath, trying to think of what to ask. He wanted to know more about Pharm and how the stoic, unfriendly Dean wooed him. Or how Pharm was able to break through Dean’s walls. There was something needling at him about Dean that he wanted to remember, but couldn’t quite place. “Wasn’t there... didn’t you... tell me something once? About...”
The door opened again, cutting off Win’s failed attempt at recovering a memory about Dean. When he looked at the door, hoping to see Pharm or someone from his family, he was only half disappointed to see an unfamiliar face. Probably another nurse coming in to ask him more questions, but it wasn’t the woman from before. While she was pretty, she had nothing on the guy that just stepped through the door, which is why Win was only half disappointed.
The guy was hot, actually. Tall, but not as tall as Dean, and probably a little shorter than Win, with dark hair, warm eyes, and round cheeks. His build was great, too. Wide, muscled biceps filled out the tight sleeves of his tee shirt and Win could almost make out the outline of presumably firm pecs. Maybe getting asked more questions wouldn’t be so bad if this was the guy asking them. At first, Win thought the man was older than him, but had to remind himself that he wasn’t 18 anymore. That was weird. This was all so weird.
Belatedly, Win realized that he had seen the plump lips of the hot guy’s mouth move, but whatever he said didn’t register in Win’s brain, because he was so busy ogling the man.
“Sorry,” Win closed his eyes and shook his head, immediately regretting the motion and groaning. “Ouch... Sorry, uh... didn’t catch that,” he opened his eyes again to look at the man, “Are you a nurse here?”
The man’s face looked pained and Win could see his throat bob as he swallowed.
He blinked, then looked over at Dean who was also frowning. “Not... a nurse then...” Win said cautiously, looking back to the man. He bit his lip and wanted to apologize again, so he did. “I’m sorry I... can’t seem to remember a lot... I don’t know if they told you.”
He nodded and took a step forward, then stopped, fingers grabbing at the hem of his shirt, worrying at the fabric and seeming at a loss of what to do with himself. “Pharm told me...” His eyes flicked to Dean, but Win kept looking at the man. “I’m-- M- my name is Team.”
Win smiled as gently as he could, wanting to comfort the other man, despite the fact that he was the one in the hospital. “Hi Team. You can come in... take a seat?”
“I can leave if you want,” Dean said, and both of them looked over at him, his own eyes seemed to flick between Win and Team. Win wasn’t sure who he was expecting to answer.
“It’s up to you, phi...” Team said, but he was looking at Dean, not Win. So Dean was older than Team, which meant Win was too. He filed that information away and hoped he would actually be able to remember it later.
When Dean’s eyes fell on Win again, he shrugged one shoulder, “I’ll be alright.”
Dean frowned, seeming uncomfortable, and ultimately stood up from the chair and moved towards Team and the door. “I’ll give you time to talk without me hovering. Text me or Pharm if you need us.” He set a hand on Team’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze, then left when neither of them stopped him.
Team made his way over to the vacated chair and sat down on the edge of it, hands clasped together, hanging between his knees. For a long while, he just looked at his hands and they were both quiet. Win didn’t know what was going on and Team seemed to need a moment, so he just waited for the younger man - a fact he was still trying to wrap his head around - to gather himself.
“I don’t really know where to start,” Team said, when he finally spoke, and laughed without humor. There was a wet sound to it, and Win wondered if he was trying to hold back tears.
“When did we meet? And where?” Win offered as a starting point.
Team took a deep breath and there was a shaky quality to it. He finally leaned back in the chair and ran his hands over his jeans. “My first year at university, your third. I was a member of the swim club, you were vice president.”
“Ahh, so you are an athlete,” Win said, feeling proud of his observation skills. Team tipped his head, confused by that statement, so he clarified, “Uh, your build, you look like you’re in good shape.”
“Oi, hia...” Team loosened up for the first time since he walked in, lifting his hands to cover his face as he groaned.
Win took down another piece of important information, Team called Dean phi, but called him hia.
The hands came back down and Team went on, “Well, we met in the swim club. I stayed in it all four years I was at university, now I’m a professional swimmer.”
Win wanted to whistle to show how impressed he was, but his mouth and lips were so dry that the action failed. He made a face about it, then returned his attention to Team, “You must be very good.”
“Mm, I have you to thank for it,” Team stood up as he said this, moving to take a glass and water pitcher from the bedside table that Win didn’t even notice. He poured some water and stuck a straw into it, before holding it up to Win’s lips. “Drink.”
“...Thanks,” Win blinked up at Team, then took a slow sip from the straw. The water felt cool and wonderful against his tongue and the pleased hum that followed sounded sinful even to his own ears. He took one more sip before letting Team take the glass away and reclaim his seat. Win wondered if the light blush on the other man’s cheeks was his imagination or not.
“You were really tough on me as vice president... because you knew I could do better. You also helped me in a lot of other ways.”
“Oh...” Win hummed thoughtfully, not really sure how to respond. He wished he could remember this man and what he did to help him become successful. “Do I still help coach you?”
Team looked away. Since Win didn’t know the other man, he couldn’t read what expression was on his face, what was going on behind his eyes and in his mind. It was terrible, the imbalance of having someone who knew him but who Win didn’t know. Made worse by the fact that Team actually knew more about Win than Win knew about himself now.
“I’m sorry...” Win looked down at his blankets, frowning.
“No... no, hia.” Team’s hand came into view and he watched as the other man’s fingers curled around his.
He couldn’t remember the last time so many people held his hand in one day. But then again, he couldn’t remember the last six or so years of his life, so maybe it was more common now than before. Or maybe waking up from a coma after head trauma just made people hold your hand more often. Win lifted his eyes to Team’s face and was momentarily struck by how close the very hot guy was to him.
Were the situation different, he would have said something flirtatious. As it was, Win still had no concept of who Team was, other than a junior and a swimmer.
Team leaned back and released his hand, giving Win some space again, probably trying to be polite, but Win was kind of mad about losing that proximity. Not that he could act on anything in his current predicament, but he had eyes and was still a man, injured or not.
“You don’t coach me anymore, not really,” he finally answered the question. “After you graduated, you moved to England to get a masters degree.”
“Huh. Someone... I think Dean... told me I had a masters, but he left out the part where I got it in England.”
Team made a face that Win couldn’t read agan. “You just moved home about six months ago.”
Win took a moment to think about what he had learned so far, trying to piece things together. “So... you and Pharm graduated at the same time I finished my masters and came back home. Then Pharm and Dean got married... a little after that?”
“Mm, that’s right. And Pharm is my best friend, like P’Dean is yours.”
“Is that how Pharm and Dean met?”
“Kind of, yes. He and Manaow, that’s our other friend, came to cheer me on when I tried out for the swim club. Then kept coming to visit. Pharm had a crush on P’Dean and would make snacks for me to give to him.”
“He won Dean over with food? That doesn’t seem right...” Win frowned, confused, but Team just laughed.
“Pharm could win anyone over with his food. Manaow proposed to him a bunch of times. The whole club always got excited when Pharm gave us food. He always made something extra special for P’Dean, though.”
“Interesting...” Win frowned. He knew there had to be more to the story than that, but he would have to get it out of Dean. After thinking about that for a moment, he looked at Team again. “So... you and me...”
Team sucked in a breath but waited for Win to finish whatever he was going to ask. That was interesting, too.
“We’re close, huh?”
Team pressed his lips together and nodded.
“But you said Dean was still my best friend... and Pharm is your best friend... so...”
“Hia...” The look on Team’s face was one of pain. The way he said ‘hia’ was wet with emotion. “I’m-- You--”
“I’m your boyfriend, Hia Win.”
“Oh...” Win blinked, shocked. He took in the good-looking man sitting directly beside him, “Oh!”
“Mm.” Team nodded, looking incredibly unsure; even without knowing him, that much was easy for Win to read.
“Does that mean it’s okay for me to say that you are really hot?”
Both of Team’s hands came up to cover his face before Win could see if the words made him blush or not. The next thing that happened was Team groaning out a long-suffering, “Hiaaaa!”
I hope you guys enjoy the start of this! I'm going to try and update on Friday evenings (US East coast time).
Let me know what you think in a comment and/or hit me up on twitter!
Chapter 3: 02 - there is no right way
Win learns a little bit more about his life now, and a little bit more about Team. He is already too familiar with his own insecurities, however, and doesn't need to relearn those. Unfortunately, doubt is never far away.
Quick note on language:
The Taechew dialect is a Chinese dialect in Southeast Asia. In it, as most of you probably know, “hia” means older brother. Lesser known, perhaps, is that “ti” means younger brother. It can also be spelled phonetically as “dtee.” You can go here to hear it spoken.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You call me hia,” Win observed aloud, a smile on his lips.
Team pulled his hands down from his face and Win was pleased to see that he was, in fact, blushing. That was a great piece of information. “I do, yeah... I always have.”
“I like that.”
“I know...” Team’s eyes cut to the side and he tipped his head away a little. The blush remained on his cheeks but Win wasn’t sure if this was a shy reaction or something else. He didn’t have long to study it before Team looked back and cleared his throat. “Do you have any other questions?”
“Oh yes, a lot of them now,” Win laughed, or tried to. It was more of a hoarse few puffs of air and he glanced to the side table. Team immediately got up and passed over the water for him to sip at again. Once Team was sitting again, Win really looked at his face, beyond the attractive features, he noticed bags under Team’s bloodshot eyes.
“What do you want to know?” Team prompted him when Win didn’t ask anything.
“Are you okay?”
Team’s brows drew together and he opened his mouth, closed it, then said, “I didn’t get hurt--”
“No, I mean...” Win looked down at his own blanket-covered injured body, “Not physically. Are you doing okay... with all this?” He looked up at Team and saw pain clear on his face.
“Honestly, hia... no. I uh... no, I’m not.” Team closed his eyes and shook his head, swallowing hard. His fingers curled into fists, resting against his legs.
“You don’t... have to apologize,” Team’s voice was thick, presumably with unshed tears. “It’s not your fault this happened.”
“What um... what exactly did happen?” The moment the question left Win’s lips, he instantly regretted it. Team let out a small sob but was still trying to keep it together. His cheeks were dry but it broke Win’s heart that this man he didn’t even know was suffering and trying to stay strong at the same time. “Sorry-- you don’t-- I can ask Dean, or hia Wan, or ... you don’t have to tell me.”
“I’m sorry hia...” Team lifted a loosely curled fist to his lips and looked like he was trying to regain composure. He cleared his throat before continuing to speak, “I don’t... I don’t think I can talk about it right now...”
“It’s okay... It’s okay, Team, you don’t have to.” Win could feel every beat of his heart thumping in his chest. He felt uncertain and a little scared. He didn’t want to upset Team, didn’t want to cause him any more pain than he was already clearly in. “Um, uh... do you ... what’s your favorite color?”
“What?” The sound that came out of Team was what Win could only describe as a confused laugh.
“Your favorite color, what is it?”
“Cool. Red. Got it. Do you like tattoos?”
Team cleared his throat. “Yeah... I do like tattoos.”
“They’re hot, right?”
“Mm-hmm,” Team nodded, lips pressed together. It seemed like his blush that had faded earlier was returning.
“I’ve wanted a bunch of them, but I... can’t remember if I got them or not.”
“Yeah, hia... you got a few of them.”
Win eyed Team, his lips turning up at the corners in a smile, “You like my tattoos, huh?”
Team crossed his arms over his chest, leaned back in the chair, and looked away. The blush was definitely back.
“Do you have any?”
“Tattoos, do you have any, Team?”
“Yeah, I do...” Team was looking sidelong at him, his face still half turned away.
“Because of me?” Win couldn’t help but grin.
“I’m not answering that right now.”
“Why? Do you have my name tattooed on you or something?”
Team scoffed and rolled his eyes, loosening up again. “No, I don’t have your name tattooed on me.”
“Hmm, not sure if I should be upset about that answer...”
After shaking his head unamused, Team fell silent for a moment, watching Win with curious eyes. “This is weird...” The distant way Team said that made Win wonder if it was a thought spoken aloud or something Team meant to say.
“You’re telling me! I woke up, realized I lost the memories of my adult life, my best friend is married, my little brother is practically all grown up, and I’ve got a hot boyfriend I can’t even remember meeting...”
Team frowned at all of that but didn’t say anything right away. Win resisted the urge to apologize again. He figured Team was as tired of hearing it as he was of saying it. Or maybe not, Win had no idea what their dynamic was like.
“I keep looking at you and thinking you’re older than me, too... but then you call me hia.”
“That’s ... huh,” The baffled look on Team’s face made him look younger which almost made Win laugh. “Well... it’s... it’s weird because you seem...”
“It’s like, talking to you is the same, but not... You say the kind of things I would expect you to say... while asking questions I’m used to you knowing the answers to...”
“I lost my memories, not my personality,” Win attempted to shrug one shoulder, and realized he was feeling weak and sore again.
“That’s something, at least...” It looked like Team tried to smile, but it missed the mark.
“Does that mean you like my personality?”
“I told you, we’re dating.”
Win looked away from Team. In the memories Win did retain, his experience told him those two things were not mutually exclusive. People dated him without actually caring for his personality. Or him, for that matter. The icy tendrils of doubt started to trickle into his thoughts.
What if Win’s personality alone wasn’t enough to keep Team? Would Win lose a relationship he couldn’t even remember having? Maybe that would mean he wouldn’t have anything to miss, apart from potential encounters with the objectively attractive man. Could he make this work without the memories of their history together? Maybe Team just tolerated his personality because it came part and parcel with shared experience.
“Hia?” Team’s voice drew Win out of his thoughts and he looked back to see concern on the other man’s face.
“You went quiet...” He said tentatively.
“Oh... uh... I was just... thinking about things,” he looked over at Team and studied him again. Letting his cheek rest against the thin pillow of his bed, Win smiled at the other man, who looked at him with such care and worry. It was easy to see how he fell for Team, at least on the surface level. He didn’t know how long they had been dating, though, just how long they had known each other. Win only just got back from England, what if this was only the start of their relationship?
“Do you want to ask something?” Team tipped his head to the side, as if matching the angle of Win’s head, where he laid against the inclined bed.
“A lot ... But I don’t know if I’m ready for the answers...” Win let his gaze fall away from Team’s face. It might have been a mistake, though, because he ended up trailing the curves of the man’s muscular upper body. Those biceps, especially, looked really nice. Then, just beneath the cuff of his tee shirt sleeve, Win spotted something, “Ah... what’s this?”
“What’s what?” Team looked down at himself.
“I found a tattoo...” Lifting his arm was too much work, so Win nodded to the bit of ink he could see peeking out beneath the material. “Let me see it?”
The look Team gave Win was flat and hard for him to read again, but he uncrossed his arms and pulled the short sleeve up enough to reveal the tattoo covering his upper arm. “Nice. That looks like something I kind of want...”
Team scoffed a laugh and stood up, pulling his phone from his pocket. He tapped and swiped a few times, smiling to himself as he did so. Win had no idea what he was up to, until he turned the phone around and showed Win a picture of himself at a swim meet, shirt off, tattoos on full display.
“Oh...” Win wanted to lift himself up to get a closer look, but he was too weak, so he just inclined his head a little and Team leaned on the rail at the side of the bed to hold the phone closer. “Wow, I really did go get tattoos, huh?”
“You really did, hia.” Team pulled the phone back to swipe to a different photo, then pinch zoomed in on it before turning the phone back to him. “This is your arm.”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking of!” He hummed in appreciation, proud of himself. “Hey, I’m kinda hot, aren’t I?”
Team rolled his eyes and took the phone away as punishment, putting it back in his pocket. “Yes, hia, you’re very hot.” He shook his head in a way that Win thought made the statement significantly less genuine.
“What, you don’t think I’m hot?” Win raised a brow and realized the action hurt, so he stopped.
“Everyone thinks you’re hot.”
“I don’t care about everyone.”
Team opened his mouth but didn’t speak. A half second later, Win realized it was because what he just said made Team gasp, affected him. The blush wasn’t back, though, and Win wasn’t sure what that meant. It was getting really frustrating, because Win was used to reading people, used to figuring them out and all of their reactions and expressions. He was here, across from this man that was supposed to be his boyfriend, and Win knew nothing about him.
“I do think you’re hot, hia...” There was a strange quality to Team’s voice, and Win believed the words were genuine this time, but maybe not the sort of thing Team was used to saying?
“That’s good...” Win smiled and closed his eyes. He relaxed against the pillow.
“You look so tired, hia...” Team’s voice was softer now, and Win was surprised by it. He wasn’t used to such a tone.
“I don’t want to sleep...” Despite his words, he didn’t open his eyes.
The tentative brush of fingers against his brow did make him open his eyes though, and Win saw Team standing over him, looking down into his face with such love and affection it took Win’s breath away. Team pulled back once he had been caught and Win couldn’t decide if seeing that expression was worth losing the physical closeness. He hoped to see and feel both again.
“You should sleep, though,” his voice was still soft. Win looked at him with drooping eyes. “You’re still healing and you only just woke up.”
“Do you always use logic against me?” Win laughed and let his eyes close.
“Usually it’s the other way around.”
“I regret everything I don’t remember teaching you.”
Team’s quiet laughter was the last thing Win heard before he fell asleep.
Time meant very little to Win while he was in the hospital. Not least of all because he was still struggling with memory loss. The first day he was awake was a series of brief interactions with friends, family, nurses and the doctor before pain and medicine forced him back to sleep. The following days were similar, but with doctors waking him up for check ups. Just about every time he woke up, someone was there in the room with him, but he had no concept of what time of day it was and usually fell back asleep after a brief conversation. Most of the time, it was someone from his family there, usually his mom or View, sometimes Wan.
A few times it was Dean or Pharm, once it was a man he vaguely remembered from the swim club named Pruk. Once more, Team was there, but he was asleep in the chair beside the bed and Win didn’t want to wake him up, instead choosing to watch the man sleep.
On what was apparently the fourth day since he came out of the coma, Win finally felt lucid and energetic. He was able to sit up on his own and the doctor lowered the dose of pain medication that was keeping him drowsy. His head still hurt but it was more like a bad headache than splitting pain. Moving didn’t hurt as much either, though there was an undeniable soreness in his whole body. Apparently getting hit by a car and being bed ridden for two weeks would do that to a person.
Wan was there when they helped him into a wheelchair and let him leave the room for a change of scenery. They went outside for some fresh air and even the oppressive heat was a welcome change from the cold, steril air inside the hospital room.
“They say you can leave tomorrow, if you feel up to it,” Wan said as he stopped the wheelchair in a shady area near the building. He took a seat on a stone bench across from Win so they could face each other.
“I can’t wait to get out of here,” Win sighed and turned his face to the open blue sky.
“There’s just one thing you have to figure out, other than whether you’re physically up to it.”
“What’s that?” Win didn’t look down yet, he was enjoying the view of something other than a white ceiling and empty walls.
“Where you want to go when you leave.”
Win blinked, confused. Then he looked down at Wan when he realized he had no idea where he lived these days. “What.... are my options..?” he asked cautiously.
“You can always go home, of course. Mae and Phaw kept all of our rooms for when we visit, so you can stay there.”
“Where did I live before the accident?”
Wan pursed his lips and seemed to be considering something before speaking. “You were living in England... when you came back, you moved into Team’s condo while the two of you looked for a house to buy.”
“So it’s home or Team’s condo?”
“Well... Obviously you’ll want to talk to Team about all of this, but you guys did buy a house. You signed the paperwork the day before you got hit by the car.”
“Oh.” Win was truly shocked by this. A whole series of thoughts rushed through his mind: He and Team were living together, they bought a house together, the accident happened immediately after the fact. Then he lost his memory. Then Team essentially lost his boyfriend right after they got the house. They wouldn’t have even moved in yet.
“Win?” Wan called him out of his spiral.
“Is Team okay?” He looked at Wan, feeling the heavy weight of guilt from the pain he caused.
Wan frowned and shook his head, shoulders slumped.
A breeze moved the humid air around them, making Win shiver involuntarily. “Tell me.”
“He’s having a really hard time with all of this,” Wan didn’t betray much in his expression apart from the soft, older brother aura of concern. Whether that brotherly concern was for Win or Team or both of them, Win wasn’t too sure.
“How long have we been dating?”
“That’s a better question for Team than me...” he frowned again.
“I hate this, hia...”
“I know,” Wan stood up and moved close enough to hold his shoulder. “Try not to push yourself too hard, or beat yourself up, ti.”
Win puffed out a sigh of deep frustration and Wan squeezed his shoulder. He could tell his brother was frowning without even looking up at him. The frustration just kept mounting; Win was the one who took care of everyone else, now everyone had to fawn over and take care of him. He wanted to just get up from the wheelchair and storm off, but despite his recent recovery, his body was still weak.
“I want to just... run or something. I want to move. I feel trapped... in my head, in my body, in this damn chair.”
Wan moved around to crouch down in front of Win, setting hands on his knees. “You’ll be able to move freely soon enough. Maybe getting out of the hospital will help get some memories back, too. But the more you force it, the harder it will be.”
Win stared flatly at him, doubting Wan knew what he was talking about.
“Hey, I’m not the same useless hia you knew six years ago,” Wan stuck his tongue out at him. “I’ve been working in the real world for years now.”
Win codfished for a moment, not used to Wan blatantly talking about the fact that Win did all the hard stuff between them. He couldn’t think of how to respond to that, so he didn’t.
“Look, any time I try to solve a problem and can’t think of the solution, I just do something else and stop focusing on it. Let your mind relax. Don’t focus so hard on it.”
“So... you’ve learned how to be an adult, and your advice is to slack off?”
Wan glared and pointed a finger at Win, “You work too hard, Win.”
“How dare you insult the prime quality of my entire personality, hia,” Win shook his head in feigned disgust.
“Really? I thought flirting with people and trying to look hot was your most defining quality?”
Win’s jaw dropped. He wanted to yell at Wan for that jab, but it was too accurate for him to have any defense against it. So instead he pouted and looked away, which was met with Wan’s teasing laughter.
“It’s okay, ti, you’re very attractive, so it works for you.”
“You’re mean. I am in the hospital and you’re being mean.”
“Laughter is the best medicine, they say!”
“You’re the one laughing!” Win shot back, glaring at him.
“Hmm, you’re right, thank you for making me smile, Win. I was having a hard day.”
“I hate you.”
“You love me.”
Sure enough, as Wan said, Win was being discharged from the hospital the next morning. It was apparently a Saturday, which was news to Win, because he hadn’t even bothered to keep track of the days. What use was it knowing the day of the week when you didn’t even know the year or couldn’t tell whether it was morning or night? He supposed once he left the hospital that would be more important to know.
He could now walk on his own, which was great because he could finally be autonomous and not need someone to help him do everything. He still got light headed from time to time, and headaches were more common than he was used to. Sometimes he could ignore the pain, other times it was so bad that he had to lay still in absolute darkness, and every sound the machines made felt piercingly loud.
Win also was able to finally see himself again, once he had mobility back. The first shock was seeing himself with brown hair. No one had bothered to tell him he wasn’t blonde anymore. Dean got the brunt of that fit, since he was the one visiting at the time, which was probably for the best, because all he did was roll his eyes at Win. Worse than the brown hair, however, was the fact that a big portion of his hair was shaved where his head had been cracked open. A large scar ran across his skull in the shape of a question mark, oddly enough. Some hair had already started growing back in the area that had been shaved, but right where the scar was had no hair at all. He wondered if it would always be like that. Either way, a proper haircut was definitely in order.
A few hours before he was to be discharged, Win’s mother and Team showed up to meet him there and talk about what would happen next. Seeing both of them together made Win feel strange. There was an obvious kinship between them, the way his mother would regularly touch Team’s back or arm. His mom was trying to comfort Team, it seemed, and it was weird seeing that happen with someone he didn’t remember beyond the couple meetings he had since waking up in the hospital. Though it meant that Team must be close with Win’s family.
“I’m going to go speak with the doctors, why don’t you two talk for a bit?” Win’s mother said just before excusing herself from the room.
Win was sitting on the edge of the bed, fully dressed in clothes he didn’t recognize, and Team was standing half way between the bed and the door, arms folded behind his back, hands grasping his elbows.
“So uh... Hia Wan told me that you and I just bought a house together...” Win ventured.
“Mm,” Team nodded and scuffed the toe of his foot on the floor. “We did. My condo was too small for both of us... I started getting paid well for professional swimming, too.”
“Have you moved in yet?”
“Kind of... our friends were helping me move our stuff over there... I still have the condo, though, so some nights I stay there... some nights I spend at the house. Have uh... have you thought about where you want to go?”
“Yeah, but I have no idea what to do, really. It’s like ... I just don’t have enough information to make a decision.”
Team nodded to that and took some time to form a reply, “If you want to go straight to your parents house first, I understand. It will be familiar, at least.”
“I would know where the kitchen and stuff is,” Win chuckled.
“You can change your mind, too,” Team offered. “You can start there and then move to the house later, if you want. All of your things are kind of scattered between the house, the condo and your parents’ home. You left big things there while you were in England, and were going to decide what to get when we moved to the house...”
“I chose a really bad time to get hit by a car, didn’t I?” Win meant it as a joke, but it didn’t land, if the pained expression on Team’s face was anything to go by. “Uh, please forget I just said that.”
“It’s okay, hia.”
Win didn’t believe that for a second, but what could he do? He stood up and moved closer to Team. It was the first time they stood near each other and Win was suddenly reminded that he was both taller and older than Team. “I want to get to know you again, Team. I know it’s... not easy for you, and I’m sorry. But I... I want to remember you.”
The pain in Team’s face didn’t go away, but there was a glimmer of something else there. In what might have been a moment of weakness, Team unfolded his arms, stepped forward, and hugged onto Win. Despite those muscular biceps, Team held Win very gently around the middle and tucked his face against Win’s neck.
“Hia...” was the one word he said, and it sounded wet with emotion. Win felt like crying.
He returned the embrace, tentatively at first, and wound his arms around Team’s shoulders. Long fingers slid into thick, dark hair and he held Team as he took some time with his emotions. It felt strangely like skipping steps, comforting someone like this that he barely knew, but at the same time, Win knew that for Team this must feel like going backwards. It broke Win’s heart that he could cause such pain to someone who cared about him.
Team was close with Win’s family, they were moving into a house together, they had known each other for years... Was it possible that Team even loved him? Did he love Team? Were they in love with each other? Win didn’t even know what to do with that possibility, he didn’t think it was something he would be afforded in life. Something he hoped for, of course, but the chance of it being a reality wasn’t something he knew how to process right now. He really, really wished he could remember Team and what they had been through together.
Not remembering was causing this man pain. The threat that he could lose something he didn’t even remember stabbed like ice in his heart. What if the pain was too much for Team to handle? What if Win wasn’t a good enough boyfriend to be worth this turmoil? Dean met Pharm at presumably the same time Win met Team... but Dean was married now, and Team and Win weren’t. Maybe there was a reason for that.
Team sniffled and tried to take a calming breath, but it was shaky at best. He leaned back and wiped his cheek against his shoulder. Their eyes met, and once again Win noticed the dark circles under Team’s eyes.
“Sorry... and thanks...” Team cleared his throat and pulled out of the hug, so Win simply let his arms fall away from the other man, not sure what else to do. “Um, so... so where do you want to go for today?”
Win felt like his heart was breaking as he answered, “I guess my parents’ house...” He watched Team’s throat bob as he swallowed at hearing that. “For now, just to see something familiar. Be somewhere familiar.”
Team nodded but didn’t speak.
“Will you come with me?”
There was a spark of something in Team’s face, his lips parted, and he nodded again, “Yeah, hia, I’ll come with you.”
I'm going to endeavor to post chapter updates every Friday! I hope you guys like this installment~ Let me know what you think so far, if you feel so inclined! I'd love to hear~
Chapter 4: 03 - we should just kiss
Win heads home from the hospital and gets a chance to have a real conversation with Team.
This chapter is dedicated to my lovely friend Dia, whose birthday was yesterday! Happy Birthday, beautiful lady!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The ride to Win’s home was quick. His mother drove, Win sat in the passenger seat, and Team sat in the back, mostly looking out the window and fiddling with whatever his fingers could reach. Win watched him through the mirror in his sun visor any time Team wasn’t looking. None of them spoke on the drive. When he wasn’t watching Team, Win let his gaze drift to the passing scenery. Much like when he saw Dean for the first time and thought he looked familiar but not at the same time, the landscape and buildings were similarly familiar but different.
Arriving at his childhood home, thankfully, was just what he expected. He sighed with relief to see something that didn’t look strange. “It hasn’t changed.”
“No, not from the outside,” his mother replied gently as she parked the car. “Or much inside, but a few things may look different.”
All of them got out of the car and Win walked side by side with his mother, then realized that Team was hanging back behind them. Glancing over his shoulder, he made sure Team followed them inside and was glad to see that he did. Win still didn’t have too much information about the other man, but if they were so close that Win’s family treated him like one of their own, he didn’t want Team to be left out.
After taking off their shoes, the three went inside and Win took the lead, looking around the house for anything that seemed different. For the most part, it just felt like home, and Win felt right for the first time since he woke up in the hospital. Sighing, he let his shoulders sag with relief, hoping to dispel some of the tension in his body. Oh, it was good to be home. His mother moved in behind him, setting a hand on his back.
“Would you like something to eat?”
“Sure, Mae. Thank you,” he smiled warmly at her and she squeezed an arm around him before stepping away to go into the kitchen. He spun around slowly, taking in the entryway of the house, then his eyes fell on Team, standing timidly by the door. “Is this your first time here?”
Team shook his head, “No, I’ve been here before.” He must have taken it as a cue, because Team moved forward, closing the distance a bit. “I was going to let you have some space.”
“I’ll be honest...” Win started, then looked up at Team’s face with a frown, “I really don’t know how to navigate... this.” He gestured between the two of them.
Team let out a puff of air and shook his head, “Neither do I, hia.”
They were both silent for a moment while Win gathered his thoughts on the matter, “Will you let me know if I do anything that... hurts you, somehow?”
“Uh... I’ll try?” he shrugged as he answered that, not seeming sure. Win didn’t know which part he was unsure about. “Will you let me know if I make you uncomfortable?”
Win tipped his head curiously and hummed, “Uncomfortable how?”
“I don’t know, hia... just, um, anything,” the blush was back and Win had to smile at seeing it, wondering if it was always going to be easy to make Team blush. He could see why he fell for the guy.
Leaning in, Win grinned in a way he knew usually worked for him, “I’ll be sure to tell you if you make me... uncomfortable.” Flirting came almost as naturally to Win as breathing, and that didn’t go anywhere when he lost his memories.
Despite the deeper red flush on Team’s cheeks, his face went stern as he poked one finger into Win’s shoulder and pushed him back, “Stop that.”
“Oh?” Win let himself be pushed but didn’t wipe the grin off his face. He rocked back on his feet and studied Team.
Team studied him right back, but then the stern expression turned to a frown, “I can’t-- I don’t--” He stopped speaking and closed his eyes, and Win realized he had made a misstep. “You’re too good at flirting, hia, but I don’t know how to respond to it now.”
“Oh, right,” Win put his hands into his pockets and slid back away from Team a little bit. “I just said I didn’t want to hurt you, and now I have.”
“No, no, you didn’t hurt me,” Team jumped at that, moving forward and reaching out to Win. “It’s just that-- the last time you flirted with me like this, I was new to it all. And now I’m used to responding in a really different way when you flirt.”
“Different how?” Win tipped his head.
The look in Team’s eyes was one Win could only describe as smoldering and it set something alight in Win’s gut. He truly wanted to hear the answer, but that’s when his mom called them into the kitchen for food.
“Hold that thought.”
“No way,” Team shook his head and took the lead walking into the kitchen, leaving Win to follow behind him now.
Learning Team was going to be quite an experience, Win decided, one that he was ready to tackle. But it was also like a minefield, because at any moment, he could say or do the wrong thing. Win wasn’t used to making those kinds of mistakes; he was used to reading a situation and knowing exactly how to navigate it. Team knew his tricks, though, which added a whole new layer of challenges, and he was not going to rise to them, either, despite the way it clearly affected him.
The downside to all of this, was that now when he made Team blush, Win also had to consider the possibility of putting Team into a difficult situation. One where he maybe wanted to act on his feelings, but couldn’t or wouldn’t for Win’s sake. This was going to get a lot more frustrating before it got better, he realized, and wished desperately that he could just remember everything that happened.
All he could do for now, however, was eat the food his mother provided for them.
After the meal of real food - not hospital fare and nutrient drips into an IV - Win wandered around his house to see what things had changed. Team hung back but followed him, his mother decided to leave them alone for a bit. For the most part, everything was the same: the furniture, the plants, the layout. The only things that had really changed were some of the decorations. There were photos in frames that he didn’t recognize and figurines or souvenirs that he didn’t remember seeing before.
Win stopped in front of a table that held family photos. One showed him with his brothers, at a time where View was taller than he remembered, but younger than he was now. They were at a beach resort that had been in the family for years, so the location was familiar. Many other photos were familiar and Win just looked over them, feeling fonder than usual at seeing them. He stopped at another picture that was new, lifting it up to get a better look.
He was with Team in the photo, standing together at the shoreline, the daylight near dusk. It was a really beautiful picture, objectively speaking, with the lighting and composition. Team and Win both had their backs to the camera, the warm glow of orange and pink lit the sky as the sun went down somewhere out of sight. Team was facing the ocean, their hands were intertwined in the small gap between them, and Win was facing Team, smiling. It was strange to see himself looking so happy.
“Hia Wan took that picture,” Team said from beside him.
“It’s really nice...” He couldn’t bring himself to look at Team right now. “When was it?”
“Last year. You were visiting home and we all went to the beach together.” There was a brief pause, then Team laughed softly and added, “You were really tired of the cold in England.”
“How long was I gone, again?”
“Two years,” there was a weight with which Team said that; it must have felt like two very long years.
“Were we already dating when I left?” Now he chanced a glance at Team and found that the other man was looking at the photograph. He turned his gaze up to Win when he saw the movement though.
“Mm, we were,” Team nodded.
“How long have we been together? We met four years ago, I think you said?”
“Uhh, it’s... complicated.” There was a bit of amusement in Team’s eyes as he failed to answer that question.
Win’s brows drew together and he glanced away, thinking about how it could be that his own boyfriend couldn’t answer that. Then he thought about all of his other relationships that he could remember and realized that this maybe wasn’t all that surprising. He looked cautiously back to Team and was at least a little relieved to see him smiling.
“It really depends on how you want to count it,” Team explained further. “We met about four and a half years ago now, and we’ve been... doing things... almost that entire time.”
“ Things .”
Win blinked. Team blushed. Win grinned, “I see.”
Team nodded, lips a tight line.
“I’m going to have to get clarity on these ... things ... at some point.”
“Not today, not here,” Team crossed his arms. The stern face was back and Win idly wondered who, between the two of them, was more mature.
Win looked back down at the photograph. He and Team had been together for years. Even if they weren’t officially dating from the beginning, Team said they were dating before the two years he was in England, at least, and they still were now. He had so many questions he wanted to ask Team, but didn’t know where to start or what would be okay to ask. So he went with the easiest of them all.
“Do we have a copy of this picture? It’s nice.”
“I’ve got it on my phone.”
“I need to get a new phone. They said mine was broken.” He set the photo down and turned back to Team. “Do you have a lot of pictures of us?”
At first, Team glared at him and must have thought Win was teasing him, but then his expression softened, and so did his voice, “Yeah, and there are more framed pictures at the house... in boxes.”
“You’re still unpacking, huh?” Win tipped his head.
“It’s... been weird. Manaow and Pharm helped as much as they could but I just...” Team sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s hard to decide where to put things and I’ve been halfway between the condo and the house... and the hospital.”
Win frowned and looked down.
“And work, too,” Team quickly added. “The coach has given me time away, but... It’s good to keep practicing with some regularity, so my times don’t suffer. I figured, uh, when you get your memories back, if you found out I’d been slacking, you’d probably yell at me.”
“Do I yell at you a lot?”
“No-- mm, you just always push me to do my best. When you were vice president of the swim team and I was in my first year, you made me do extra laps all the time.”
Win tipped his head and thought about why he would do that, without having all the information.
“You saw the potential in me,” Team answered the question that Win didn’t ask. “You knew I could do better, so you made me work hard at it. Honestly... it’s probably partly why I’m a pro now.”
“I’d like to watch you swim sometime.”
“I have videos from competitions, or you can come by the pool during practice,” Team offered.
“Yeah, either one. Or both, really,” Win said and was pleased to see the way it made Team smile. “Do you have any competitions coming up?”
“I did... but I withdrew, because there was just-- there was too much going on.”
“But there will be others, it wasn’t a big deal to miss this one. I’ll bring you the schedule.”
“Thanks, I’d like that.” Win nodded and smiled at Team, then a thought occurred to him. “You know, I never thought I’d be dating a professional athlete.”
“Hia!” Team dropped his head back and groaned, which made Win laugh.
“I’m being serious,” He punched lightly at Team’s arm and was more than a little pleased to feel how firm it was. Team leveled him with a flat look that said he didn’t believe it. “Really.”
“You think I’m cool?” Team pursed his lips to the side, looking like he was waiting for a punchline.
“You really have no idea how amazing you are?” Win’s brows drew together in genuine confusion. “You’re a professional swimmer, that’s not easy to achieve, Team. Plus you’ve got a great body and--”
The expression on Team’s face almost looked pained, which wasn’t what Win’s goal had been, but then he spoke, “Do you have to say things that make me want to kiss you, hia?”
Win’s lips parted and he stared at Team. It was another one of those moments when Win had to remind himself that Team was, in fact, younger. The use of ‘hia’ was an effective reminder, but was doing a lot of heavy lifting in the face of the mature man standing before him, apparently wanting to kiss him. Win’s voice sounded distant even to his own ears, “Maybe you should...”
“Maybe you should kiss me.”
Team swallowed, his eyes darting down to Win’s lips, then back up to his eyes. There was a hesitation in his face and, for a moment, Win thought it was a ridiculous thing to have said. He was about to take the suggestion back, thinking it was all a step too far. This was unfair to Team. Then Team licked his lips and Win’s eyes were drawn down to them. He bit his lower lip and felt his heartbeat quicken.
Moving forward, Team closed the small distance between them. One hand went to Win’s back, the other to his cheek, and then soft lips were on his. Team pulled him in until their bodies were flush. Instinct took over and Win wound his arms around Team’s broad shoulders, tipping his head to the side. Despite any attempts to trace his tongue over Team’s lips, the other man didn’t allow the kiss to deepen. Win took it as it was, felt the heat of their bodies, the warmth of Team’s hand on his back through his t-shirt.
It felt good .
Team was a very good kisser, and Win gave himself up to the moment. There was a need in that kiss, and despite the boundary Team set on the level of passion, it wasn’t brief or chaste by any stretch of the imagination. It was a kiss shared by lovers, who had known each other’s taste and touch. It was almost overwhelming; Win couldn’t remember experiencing a kiss like this before, but at the same time it felt so right, so familiar.
It was Team who pulled back first, separating their lips but nothing more. Their foreheads pressed together and when Win glanced up, he saw Team’s eyes were still closed. They were both panting softly when Team finally pulled back, putting a little distance between them. His hand remained at Win’s cheek, palm warm and tender.
“That was... a good kiss...” Win whispered in the quiet space between them.
Team laughed and it sounded nice.
“We do that a lot, huh?”
“It’s not something we struggle with.”
Win snuck another brief kiss before carefully pulling back and looking at Team, “Thank you.”
Team ran a hand through his hair and shook his head, “Pretty sure I should be the one thanking you.”
“I dunno, I got to kiss the hot guy,” Win smirked at Team.
“ I’m the hot guy?” Team pointed at his chest and raised a brow.
“Do I not tell you this enough?”
Team frowned and shook his head, “No, it’s not that... I just... didn’t know you thought I was hot without knowing me.”
Win tipped his head and wondered about that. “Show me a picture of you when we met.”
“You’re not hard of hearing, right?” Win blinked at him. “I’m seriously asking.”
“No,” Team scowled at him and it was cute. “You’re just--” Team didn’t finish speaking, instead reaching into his pocket to pull out his phone. After tapping and swiping for a bit, he finally stopped on a picture and turned the phone to face Win.
There was a line of young men at the university swimming pool. It was from the club’s facebook page, and Win took the phone to look at it more closely. He spotted Team immediately, even though he looked much younger, he still stood out from the rest of the members. Win also saw himself and Dean, but decided to ignore that for now. He zoomed in on Team and nodded.
“Yeah, you were always hot,” He looked up at the man and studied him, “You’re even hotter now. But you were back then, too.”
“This is weird...”
Win laughed and passed the phone back, “Why is it weird?”
“It’s like... seeing you see me for the first time,” Team tipped his head, then shrugged one shoulder, “Which I guess you are, in a way...”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“I didn’t realize that I was your... type.”
“My type? In what way?” As far as Win was concerned, everything about Team was appealing.
Team shook his head, “It’s... difficult to explain.”
Win hummed. He wanted to press, but it was clear that Team wasn’t ready to explain, so he didn’t. Maybe when he knew more about their history and how they got together, it might become clearer.
There was a sudden silence between them and it felt heavy with unspoken words. Win’s back felt cool where Team’s hand used to be. He lifted his arm and ran the back of his hand over that same spot, suddenly missing the warmth.
“So, uh,” Win ventured to fill the silence. “Am I your type, then?”
Team blinked at Win, seeming surprised by the question. “Well... yes. You’re the only person I’ve ever dated.”
“Mm,” he nodded but didn’t elaborate.
Win wanted to get more out of Team but was having a hard time of it. Moving forward, he took Team’s wrist in both his hands, “Are you always this quiet?”
Team chuckled softly and glanced away but let Win hold onto his wrist. “Sometimes, I guess.”
“I told you, I want to get to know you, and know the Phawin you know me as,” he tugged at Team’s wrist and was pleased when it made the other man smile.
“I don’t know what my type is, actually... I don’t know if I have one? If I do, though, you are it,” he looked up at Win with soft brown eyes.
Win’s mouth went dry and he bit his lip. “I’m glad to hear that.”
The words made Team blush and Win counted that as a success. Team cleared his throat and tugged him along to keep looking around the house. They spent about an hour talking about photographs and mementos on display. Sometimes Win would tell Team stories from his childhood, and whether Team had heard them or not before, he didn’t let on. He simply smiled and listened, asking the odd question here or there. Whenever they came across a photograph from when Win was older, Team told him what he knew about when it was taken and what was going on. Team even seemed to know about the photos that he, himself, wasn’t in.
Win came across one of Team with Wan and View playing in the backyard pool together. Win wasn’t in sight.
“Did I take this picture?” he asked, lifting it up to show Team.
“No,” Team shook his head and took the framed photo from him to look over it. “This was taken while you were in England. I was having a real hard time. You got Wan to come pick me up from campus and drag me back here because it was a holiday weekend, so I had an extra day off from school.”
Win listened and figured that made sense, if Team was as close to his family as he seemed to be. That sounded like the kind of thing Win would do for someone. “They really like you.”
“Hm?” Team looked at him confused.
“My family, I mean.”
“Ohh...” Team smiled, soft and warm, then nodded. “They take very good care of me.”
“Does-- Are you close with your family?” Win asked this a little tentatively, because he had known other guys whose families didn’t approve of them being gay or bisexual, though he realized now that he didn’t know Team’s exact sexuality. Just that he had only ever dated Win.
“My family lives far away, I moved to Bangkok to go to university,” Team set the photograph back down with the others, then turned to face Win, hands sliding into his pockets.
“Do you plan to move back?” He tipped his head curiously.
“Not any time soon... seeing as I just bought a house here,” there was an upturn of Team’s lips on one side, it looked like a teasing grin.
“Right!” Win nodded, “Right, of course. I --”
“It’s okay, hia,” Team said with a kind smile. “You’re trying to catch up with six years worth of memories, it’s okay if you forget some things.”
Win opened his mouth to protest that he shouldn’t forget about having a home with his boyfriend, but considering he couldn’t even remember said boyfriend, he closed his mouth again and frowned.
“You’re planning to stay here tonight, right?” Team asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah, I... I think so. After all that time in the hospital bed, I think I want my own bed now.”
Some emotion crossed Team’s face, but it happened too quickly for Win to register what it was. He really needed to learn Team’s expressions, in general. “Would you like to come see the house tomorrow? Or my condo... or both?” He chuckled at himself after he asked this.
Win nodded, trying for a smile, “I would, yeah. Either one, or both. And uh--” He stopped and ran a hand through his hair. “Do you know where I usually get my hair done?”
Team’s eyes shifted upward and his hand lifted to Win’s hair next. He ever so gently brushed back the top layer of his hair to the butchered underside, fingertips grazing over where his head was shaved for surgery. Without looking down again, Team replied, “Yeah, hia, I can take you there tomorrow.”
“Thanks...” Win didn’t mean for the word to come out sounding so breathless, but the soft way that Team touched him set something alight in his chest. Team looked down again to meet Win’s gaze and they held it for a moment.
“Of course,” Team’s voice was still gentle as he pulled his hand away, pocketing it again, “I should let you get settled in here. Mae has my phone number, so you can call me whenever you want to get together tomorrow.”
Win nodded, then a thought occurred to him. Grinning, he asked, “So ... would that be a date?”
Team choked and coughed, “I-- I mean, do you want it to be a date?” The blush was back.
Win shrugged one shoulder, still grinning, “I want to get to know you, so why not?”
“Sure... um, yeah, sure, we can call it a date. If you want.”
“Great,” he nodded towards the hall, “let me walk you out?”
“Okay...” Team cleared his throat and spun on a heel to stand sideways, letting Win take the lead as they headed for the hall and eventually to the front door. He only jumped a little bit when Win draped an arm over his shoulders.
“I may not know how to act around you... but is it okay if I do stuff like this?” Win squeezed his arm enough to indicate what he meant.
Team nodded first, lips tight, before answering verbally. His eyes strayed to the hand hanging over his shoulder, “You... do this a lot.”
“You’re a good height, Team. It was hard to resist, so I didn’t,” Win couldn’t help but laugh after saying it.
“Yeah, that-- sounds like you,” Team laughed as well. He reached his own hand up to give Win’s a squeeze before dropping back down again. Once they reached the door, Team slid an arm around Win’s back and turned enough to pull him into a hug.
Win returned the hug easily with the arm already around Team, allowing himself to hold the back of the shorter man’s head. Team was the first to pull back and when he did so, he fully removed himself from Win’s embrace.
“Have a good night, hia. I hope being here...” he looked down the hallway, pausing briefly, before returning his gaze to Win. “I hope it helps you feel more comfortable.”
“Thanks,” Win said and chewed his lower lip. It seemed like there was something unsaid in Team’s words. His face was solemn once more and Win couldn’t figure out what emotion was behind his eyes. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“See you tomorrow, hia,” Team nodded, then opened the front door and stepped out.
Win followed behind him, staying on the front step to watch him slip into his shoes and go. After a few steps, Team waved and turned around, pulling keys from his pocket and walking towards a car Win hadn’t noticed earlier. He supposed it was Team’s car, and wondered if that meant he had ridden to the hospital with Win’s mae in the morning. Something about that tugged at his heartstrings.
In the car, Team sat for a moment before driving away. His windows were too tinted for Win to make out what caused him to wait before reversing out, but it made him wonder. Team drove out of sight and the wind blew, chilling Win suddenly and forcing him out of his reverie and back into the safety of the house.
The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur. It was Win’s first full day up and about, free from the hospital and there was a lot to process. He took a nap shortly after Team left, was woken for food in the evening and then Wan helped him buy and set up a new phone. He also programmed Team’s and Dean’s phone numbers into Win’s phone without even being asked to do so. Not only that, he put Team’s name in with a string of emojis, including a heart, swimmer, sweating face, and an eggplant. Win hit him and deleted all of them except the swimmer and sweating face.
Win texted both of them to give them his new phone number. Dean replied in the expected monosyllabic way and Team sent his thanks and a cartoon sticker of a cute pig giving a thumbs up. It made Win smile, so he sent back a grinning shark, just to be flirty. Team didn’t respond and Win tried not to overthink that. Instead, he tried to figure out exactly what to do with his phone.
The amnesia struck in the strangest of ways sometimes. He seemed to instinctively know how to use the new phone -- even though it wasn’t the same as phones were from six years ago -- but he didn’t recognize the icons for a bunch of apps, nor what his username or login was for anything. His LineID was the same, but he had to get the password reset, because it wasn’t the one he thought it was. Luckily, his security questions and email address had remained the same. All the games that Wan installed on his phone were unfamiliar, but once he started playing any one, he picked it up really fast. It was hard to say if that was because of buried memories or just that it was the kind of game he was already good at.
Win ended up spending a good chunk of time reading up on retrograde amnesia on his phone’s web browser while laying in bed. It seemed as though some things fell into the category of muscle memory, which meant he had working memory but not experienced memory. The way the phone worked was muscle memory, the content of his passwords was lost. Frowning and eyes heavy, Win dropped his phone onto the bed and let his eyelids fall shut.
Immediately, the image of Team’s blushing face appeared to him. Team really was a good looking guy. He was muscular, pretty, handsome, hot. Win hummed to himself and smiled. He was close to Win’s family, was there when Win was in the hospital, and seemed wrecked by the loss of Win’s memories. Team was a professional athlete, had successfully graduated from university, and was making enough money to buy a house with Win. Theoretically. Win didn’t actually know how much each of them were paying for said house. It was possible that Win was paying for all of it... He would have to figure that part out.
“Uhg, come on, back to nice thoughts,” Win chastised himself out loud, opening his eyes to stare momentarily at the ceiling.
Curling onto his side, Win tugged the blankets up around his bare upper half. He stretched an arm out across the empty space in his bed and wondered how the two of them slept together. Who slept on which side? Did they cuddle up close or sleep apart? How often did they have sex? And how did they do it? Win couldn’t quite tell from their brief kiss and mostly supervised time together which of them was the more dominant. Of course, Win liked it both ways, so it really didn’t matter, but he wondered what Team liked.
Smiling, he thought back to that kiss, the way Team’s lips felt against his own, the strong hand at his back and cheek. He thought about Team’s gentle touch to his hair, too. There was a lot to like about Team already, and Win barely knew the guy. He wondered if he fell this fast in the beginning. He wondered which of them made the first move. Who asked who out?
There were so many things that Win wondered and wanted to know. The only thing he didn’t seem to wonder about was why he fell for Team.
That much was obvious. He didn’t know if it was love at first sight for himself when they first met, but it sure felt like it this time. Win definitely wanted Team, wanted to know him and learn him and be near him. He just hoped that Team wanted the same, would still want the same, when Win didn’t have his memories of their life together. It left Win simultaneously excited and terrified.
Win somehow managed to get the perfect man. Now ... he just had to make sure he could keep him.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading so far! I hope you've been enjoying it and continue to do so~ As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings!
I'm starting a new job on Tuesday and will probably be a little stressed coming up, but I'm going to do my best to stick to the posting schedule. I've already got the next chapter underway to try and stay on track!
This is me on twitter if you wanna find me~
Chapter 5: 04 - love and its decisive pain
Win has his first date with Team, only it’s not really a date in the most conventional terms. He learns a little bit more about his relationship with Team and how the accident is effecting him.
Thanks so much to everyone who has supported this fic so far!! All of your comments and enthusiasm mean the world to me! Hope you enjoy this update!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I’ll be there soon
Win read the last text from Team again. It was mid-morning and Win had been a little giddy since he woke up. Everything was weird, he was still nervous about the whole amnesia thing, but he was feeling better today and had a date with Team. At least, Team allowed him to call it that. Dealing with losing a significant portion of his memory was undoubtedly a struggle, and there were times when it frustrated Win to his very core. Other times, it was like a strange adventure, a science fiction movie where he woke up and was transported to his body in the future.
Sometimes, Win just tried to focus on the fact that he got to learn interesting things about his life. If he thought about it in terms of learning, he could avoid thinking about it in terms of loss. Any time he got too focused on the part where he lost everything, it quickly turned into a downward spiral. However, when he thought about the fact that he got to go on dates with a man who blushed when he flirted and kissed the way Team kissed, it was like he won the lottery.
Win waited outside for Team. He had to dress in whatever he could find in the closet of his childhood home and decided on a black tee shirt that seemed well loved, based on the soft, worn fabric. Paired with dark jeans and the shoes Team had brought him when he left the hospital, Win thought he looked pretty good. He was definitely unhappy with his hair and couldn’t find a way to style it that looked ideal, but Team assured him that he was able to get him an appointment at a salon, so he left it down.
Team pulled into the driveway with the same car he drove the night before and got out, looking as good as he had every time Win had seen him. Toying with his keys as he walked around the front of the car, Team shot him a tentative smile. “Hey hia... ready to go?”
“Yep,” Win pushed off the wall he was leaning against and closed the distance to Team. He held out his arms in the offer of a hug and was pleased -- and a little relieved -- when it looked like a bit of tension released from Team’s form as he accepted the hug. Brief though Win intended it, Team wrapped his arms tightly around Win and held him for a long time. He pressed his face into Win’s neck and breathed out, the air warm against his skin.
After a long moment, Team shifted backwards and cleared his throat as he released Win, “Sorry...”
“It’s okay,” Win shook his head and offered a smile. Then he remembered, he wasn’t just going on a date with a good looking guy, he was going on a date with someone who missed him. He cupped a hand to Team’s cheek and really looked at the other man’s face. The bags under his eyes were pronounced, “Are you sleeping alright?”
Team closed his eyes and leaned into that hand, then scoffed a laugh at the question. “Not really,” he answered in what Win had to assume was blatant honesty. He gently pulled Win’s hand from his face just before opening his eyes and turning away. “We should get going.”
Win wanted to press, wanted to ask, but Team didn’t seem to want to talk about it, so he nodded instead. He quickly squeezed Team’s hand, then climbed into the passenger seat of the car, strapping in and waiting for Team. “Where are we going first?”
“We’ll start with the house. My condo isn’t really much to look at,” Team’s voice was more steady than it was a moment ago as he reversed the car out of the driveway, taking to the road. “I managed to get most of the stuff into boxes there, and have been trying to spend more time at the house. I don’t know if either will feel familiar to you... or bring back any memories.”
“Mm, nothing has come back so far. Other than... I know how to do stuff, and apparently I’m pretty good at English?”
Team laughed, “You’re very good at English, hia. You tutored me in it.”
“Yeah, Hia Wan said I was an idiot if I thought I wasn’t good at English when I spent two years in England, living and studying and speaking there,” Win chuckled. “But I was good at it before that too?”
“You were, yeah. You probably would have gone to England for your masters even if you weren’t already good at it, just for the challenge,” he eyed Win and smirked before turning back to the road. “But I always hated it. Manaow and Pharm both gave up on teaching me, which is when you took over tutoring me.”
“Was I a good tutor?” Win figured he knew the answer already, because he could remember tutoring View his whole life, and fellow students in high school. It didn’t hurt to hear it from Team, though.
“Yeah, hia, a really good tutor,” he smiled, clearly remembering something he was fond of, but Win had no idea what. “I could speak with your friends in England when I came to visit.”
“You visited me in England?” That took Win by surprise.
“I did,” Team nodded, then he gasped, “I guess we should tell them what happened... Your friends there, I mean. You keep in touch with a couple of them still... and you got a new number, hmm.”
“I don’t suppose you have their numbers, huh?” Win asked. He doubted it, and didn’t even know what he would say, but the thought of someone trying to reach out to him from halfway across the world only to get no response didn’t sit well with Win.
“Yeah, I have James’s contact information. He was your flatmate.” Team said this absently, like it was no big deal that he had this person’s information. He was more focused on making a right hand turn and avoiding oncoming traffic than what he was saying.
“So you were in contact with my flatmate while I was there? Did you keep tabs on me or something?” Win hoped that question came across as the joke he meant for it to be.
Team got into the new lane and cruised easily, then turned to Win long enough to grin at him and raise a brow, “And if I did?”
Win blinked at him, then turned to look out the window straight ahead. He wondered if he was the kind of boyfriend that Team didn’t trust. He wondered if Team was afraid he would cheat on him while he was away in another country. Worse, Win worried that he had become the kind of boyfriend that would cheat on someone. Surely not, surely he wouldn’t do something like that to someone as great as Team, or anyone.
More horrifying than losing a huge chunk of memory, was the idea that Win had become someone he didn’t recognize.
“Hia? Hey, hia, you okay?” The concern in Team’s voice cut through Win’s thoughts.
“Huh? What?” Win’s eyes regained focus and he noticed they were stopped at a red light. He looked over at Team and saw the man’s brows drawn together; he was frowning. “Sorry.”
“Are you alright?” Team reached a hand across the center console and let it fall on Win’s thigh.
“Yeah, just got ... lost in thought.”
“I only kept tabs on you to make sure you were alright over there. To make sure there was another pair of eyes on you, so you weren’t overworking yourself.”
“Oh,” Win blinked, swallowing around a lump that had formed in his throat. He looked up to Team’s eyes and was almost bowled over by the emotion he saw there. “You worry about that? I mean, you worry about me that way?”
“Yes, hia, you work harder than anyone else I’ve ever known,” he squeezed Win’s thigh gently. His voice was soft, contrary to the accusatory tone Wan had taken with him at the hospital, “too hard, sometimes.”
A car behind them honked and they both jumped and looked ahead to see the light had changed to green while they were talking. Team took his hand back and they both fell silent as he drove. Win decided to set aside the worry that he would ever be the kind of person to cheat on his boyfriend. He still wasn’t sure if Team thought that or not, or if that was something he worried about while they were apart. Or if he had to worry about Team straying while he was gone. For all the good things he forgot, Win surely forgot bad things as well. At some point, he would have to learn about both of their low points, as well.
One step at a time, Win told himself. Instead, he would try to focus on the part where Team cared enough to worry about him overworking as he got his masters.
“We’re nearly there,” Team spoke and turned onto a street full of nice houses. They all had gates at the end of the driveways and were two stories tall. The homes were relatively close together, but still offered moderate privacy by way of walls and trees or other greenery. The home Team stopped at was really pretty with white walls and a dark shingled roof. The windows and doorways all had stylishly arched framing. The upper floor had two balconies with iron railing; vines winding around the handrails added color to the exterior.
Once through the gate, they parked under a carport and Win got out, looking around at the house that he and Team had chosen as their home. “It’s really beautiful...”
Team moved up and set a hand on Win’s hip, arm around his back. “This is the first time we’ve been here together... since buying it.”
Win’s heart beat a little faster and he bit his bottom lip. It was an unimaginable situation: Win felt like he was on his first date with Team; meanwhile, Team was showing up for the first time to a home he bought with his long-time boyfriend. Win couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that this was actually happening in his life, but the solid hand at his hip and the man beside him were as real as anything.
“Do you want to go in?” Team’s hand slid from his hip and Win immediately wanted it back. “It’s ... a bit of a mess inside.”
“Yeah, let’s go,” he nodded and looked down at Team’s hand hanging by his side. Win licked his lips, then took a chance and laced their fingers together. He looked back up at Team, “Is this okay?”
Team looked at their intertwined hands and smiled as he gave Win’s hand a squeeze, “Yeah, this is fine.”
“Seems like... if it’s our first time going in together, we should hold hands. Or I could carry you,” he grinned and shrugged. “Wait, can I carry you?”
“Are you asking permission? Or if you’re physically capable of it?” Team gave him a wary glance that made him laugh.
“The second one,” he wiggled Team’s hand as he assured him.
“You are strong enough to pick me up and carry me. Though, uh... it’s usually the other way around,” Team looked away from Win and he couldn’t quite tell if it was nerves or something else.
Win tugged Team and shifted to stand in front of him, catching his eye. They weren’t in his parents’ home anymore, his mae wasn’t about to walk around the corner and catch them in conversation. “You’re stronger than me, huh?”
Team met his gaze with a smoldering stare, “Now is really not the time for your strength kink, hia.”
“What was it you said yesterday?” Win tipped his head curiously, feeling hot all over. “Stop saying things that make me want to kiss you?”
“Don’t start something you can’t finish,” Team squeezed his hand and walked right past Win, dragging him towards the front door to the house.
It took a moment for Win to get his feet back under him and catch up with Team, so that he wasn’t dragged the whole way there. He was about to ask what Team meant about not being able to finish what he started, then realized that this probably really wasn’t the time to goad Team too far into something sexual. Win wasn’t used to having to be careful with his flirting this way, because normally he knew where he stood with the other person. Guilt quickly took over the desire to flirt with Team and he had to tamp that feeling down so it wouldn’t drown him as he set foot into their joint home for the first time together.
“Hey wait,” Win pulled Team to a stop on the front step and squeezed his hand.
“You said this is our first time coming here together, right?”
“I’ve... forgotten all of our other firsts, and I’m so sorry about that... but,” Win turned to look at the door, then back at Team. “This is a new first, for both of us this time. One I will definitely remember, even if I don’t remember all the stuff that led up to it.”
Team softened visibly at hearing that. He tipped his head down and smiled -- perhaps more to himself than to Win. When he lifted his head and turned that sweet smile on Win, it nearly took his breath away.
“Oh, you are pretty...” Win said without thinking.
“Hia!” Team rolled his eyes but didn’t stop smiling; if anything, his smile seemed brighter now.
“You sure I can’t carry you through the door?” He grinned, “Or you can carry me, whichever.”
“Pretty sure that’s for when we get married,” Team sneered playfully at him, then got his keys and unlocked the door. “I’ll let you carry some boxes through later.”
Win couldn’t help but laugh at the teasing jab and watch as Team let them in. Sure enough, they walked hand in hand through the entrance, Team leading the way a step ahead of Win. As he looked around the home, Win expected to be blown away by how perfect it all seemed, but he wasn’t actually. The feelings were there, in a way, as much as they could be for someone he didn’t remember. This was a big deal, coming into a house with his boyfriend, living together, moving into another stage of their life.
It was that the house itself just wasn’t what Win expected it to be. It was definitely cute, and full of boxes just like Team said it would be, but where Team seemed practically perfect in every way, the house just seemed alright. He turned to look at Team, and found that the other man was looking at him, studying his face. Win couldn’t read the expression on Team’s face, and wondered if Team ever struggled to read his.
“How does it feel?” Team asked, canting his head.
“Strange?” he answered honestly and felt Team squeeze his hand and offer a little smile.
“Yeah, I bet... Sorry it’s such a mess,” Team’s eyes strayed away and he pulled Win further into the house. “Let me show you around.”
“Okay, sure.” Win nodded, then after thinking about it for the briefest of moments, lifted their joined hands to kiss the back of Team’s. It drew a shy smile from the man and Team ducked his head before leading them further into the house.
There was a living room, another room Team said was meant to be the office and a kitchen on the first floor, along with a nice bathroom. Most of the rooms were lacking furniture and had boxes all around labeled with the room where they were supposed to be. They had a desk in the office, a couch and a coffee table in the living room. The bathroom and kitchen were the most put-together of all the rooms. Team said it was because they were the easiest to set up without his input.
“Sorry I haven’t been able to... help...” Win shrugged his shoulders.
“You don’t need to apologize, hia. You didn’t choose to--” Team stopped cold, clenching his jaw shut and glanced away. It took Win a moment to see he was trembling.
“Hey... hey, Team,” Win stepped forward and slid his hand along Team’s shoulders.
Team turned immediately and clung to Win, arms around his waist, face tucked into his shoulder. Win felt tears against his neck before he even realized Team was crying. The younger man’s fingers held tight to the back of Win’s shirt and the soft weeping turned to sobs. All Win could do was wrap him up in both arms and hold Team tightly. One hand sank into Team’s hair, the other ran soothingly over his back.
“Hey, shh, shh, it’s okay... It’s okay, Team, I’m right here...” Win thought that might be a weak reassurance, since he might be there physically but wasn’t really there mentally, in the way Team probably needed. Strong arms tightened around Win all the same. “Let it out, Team, it’s okay. I know it hurts...”
“Hia...” Team’s voice was wrecked, broken by a sob. He flattened one hand against Win’s shoulder and tried to lift his head, sniffling, breath hitching, and making an effort to speak. “I saw it... I was there when it happened. I saw you get hit.” The pain and grief in Team’s expression told the whole story.
Win moved both hands to hold Team’s face, cradling it between his palms, “Oh no, Team... Oh no, no, you shouldn’t--” His own voice was thick with emotion and Win had to swallow it down to speak. “You shouldn’t have had to see that.”
Team closed his eyes and dropped his head forward; Win leaned in to meet it, their foreheads pressed together. He swiped his thumbs along round cheeks to brush the tears away. “I can’t stop-- I keep seeing it in my mind, hia...”
“Oh, Team, no, no...” Still holding the sides of Team’s face, he tilted the man’s head down to kiss his forehead, then drew Team back into his arms. Carding fingers through his hair, hushing him and running a soothing hand over Team’s back, Win tried to help him through his grief. After Team’s quiet sobs abated a little, he tried a light joke, “If anyone should have a memory erased, it’s you and that one.”
Team laughed wetly, sniffled, and tried to stand upright again. He wiped the backs of his hands over tear-stained cheeks and attempted to regain control of his emotions. “I didn’t mean to cry all over you, hia...”
Win frowned. “Hey... I know I don’t... remember anything, but I can see things. I see how close you are with my family, I see that we own a home together, I see that you’re hurting. If I had all my memories of what we’ve shared, would I have comforted you?”
“Mm,” Team nodded, lips pressed together. Perhaps he didn’t trust his voice.
“Then let me comfort you,” Win reached out to carefully tuck a lock of hair behind Team’s ear. “I know that we’ve been together for a long time, I don’t know what I would do if I were in your position, Team. It’s... in a way, it’s easier for me, because I don’t really know what I’m missing? I woke up and found out that I’ve got a house and a career and a really hot boyfriend.” Team laughed wetly and Win counted that as a success. “I also don’t really remember anything I learned in school, though, so that kind of puts a damper on the career thing, but... even if I don’t remember you, you seem amazing so far, Team. So, if you need to cry on me because I’ve forgotten everything, then you know, cry on me. Okay?”
“Okay,” Team took a deep breath, nodded, then repeated, “Okay.”
“You alright for now? Need another hug?” He held out his arms and Team laughed as he moved in for the hug, whether he needed it or not. “I could offer you a kiss, too? Wouldn’t mind one of those, myself.”
That didn’t work for Win, however, because Team scoffed and playfully shoved him away, “Some things don’t change.”
“Come on, let’s sit down,” Win grabbed Team’s hand and tugged him over to the couch. “I want to learn more about us.”
Team seemed to hesitate but let himself be pulled. They sat beside one another with Team turned sideways, folding one leg over the seat of the couch so that he could face Win. “What do you want to know?”
“Hmm...” Win took a moment to think it over before jumping in. “How about we start at the beginning. Between us... Who made the first move?”
The question made Team snort, which turned into a laugh and made Win a little nervous, “Uhh... you definitely did.” He cleared his throat and wiped away the last traces of tears.
“Ah, huh, well, that makes sense for me, I guess...” He eyed Team, curious about that reaction, and found the man smiling a little. “What exactly did I do?”
“Uhhh...” Team looked away. Suddenly there was an open-mouthed grin on his face and maybe a light blush on his cheeks.
“You jerked me off one night at our first swim club practice trip,” Team cleared his throat again and looked back at Win, something devious in his eyes.
“Oh, you did,” Team nodded.
“That was me making the first move?”
Win dropped his head into his hands in shame, wondering why he was like this. Team’s delighted laughter to his left was a blessing and a curse. At least Team didn’t hate him for this, though they probably wouldn’t be together if he did. Win hadn’t thought he was capable of being embarrassed by brazen flirtations, but apparently he had a lot to learn about himself -- and what he considered acceptable ‘flirting’.
Lifting his head to chance a look at Team, he saw the other man looking very much like he was enjoying himself now, “I was a first year student, you were in your third year.”
“Oh my god...” he said in English, raising his hands to cover his face. “Team...”
“I mean, it worked,” Team shrugged one shoulder. “More or less, in the end.”
“How did that work?” Team looked at him flatly and that’s when the gears turned and something clicked. Win always was pretty good with his hands. He tipped his head in consideration and nodded, to which Team laughed fondly. Win sighed at himself, still feeling a little ashamed, “In my defense, you’re incredibly hot.”
Team sputtered and nearly choked. He smacked Win’s arm with the back of one hand with a chastising, “Hia!”
“Seriously, it’s taking everything in my power not to flirt with you constantly.”
“You’re a menace.” Team dropped his head onto the back of the couch, eyes closed and looking mildly exasperated, if Win were to guess.
“You’re not crying anymore, at least?” he hazarded.
Team opened one eye, then the other, staring softly at Win, “That’s true... What else would you like to know?”
Win shifted on the couch until he could mirror Team’s position, sitting sideways with his head resting on the couch back. “You said we were doing things before we were really dating... what did you mean?”
“Yeah... we uh, hmm,” Team frowned and thought about that before answering. “So, there was that first night, which was... more than just a handjob in the end. But it kind of took us a long time to figure out where we stood with each other.”
“How long had I known you when that night happened?”
“Two weeks,” Team answered with a little smirk, perhaps knowing the shame that would wash over Win once more. “It’s okay, hia, don’t feel bad.”
“Uhg, I guess, way to shoot your shot, past me?”
Team snorted and reached out, taking one of Win’s hands into his and toying with his fingers. “It’s kind of complicated, but basically, we... just sort of spent a lot of time around each other. Between the swim club and... well, you started to tutor me. We traveled together for swim meets and stuff. Plus with Pharm being my best friend and dating P'Dean, we were just all always together. Then uh... Well, I get nightmares sometimes, especially when I’m stressed, so we started sleeping together a lot.”
“Sleeping, as in--”
“Really sleeping, just sleep. When I couldn’t get through the night, I’d go to your room or you would come to mine, and you’d hug me and usually I could sleep then.”
“Do you still get the nightmares?” Win asked and Team just looked up into his eyes with such a soulful stare that it gave him the answer: yes. Win nodded. “So we would sleep in the same bed. Then what?”
“A bunch of stuff happened around that time, and you were always flirting with me, but I didn’t really know if you were serious or not. Eventually... you made sure I knew that you were and, well, after that we kind of made it official.”
“How long was it before that happened?” Win laced their fingers together and squeezed Team’s hand.
“Most of the school year. We celebrate the day we made it official as our anniversary, but... we both kind of think of it like we’ve been together since before then. It’s just that, we can circle that date and say ‘here is when it happened’ but, we were only flirting with each other before that.”
“Did you flirt with me, too?”
Team smiled, “In my own way, yeah.”
“What did you do? Besides show up at my room to sleep in my arms?”
He closed his eyes and laughed at Win’s question, “Right, besides that... I played songs for you. Sometimes I shared Pharm’s treats with you. Which-- you don’t understand right now, because you don’t remember Pharm’s cooking, but that was a big deal.”
Win’s eyes widened and he looked suspiciously at Team, “I’ll take your word for it.”
“He owns a restaurant now. Or, well, he’s opening one soon. It was always his dream, and his mom owns restaurants in America. Our house is near P'Dean and Pharm’s, that’s part of why we chose to live here. Their house and the restaurant are nearby, and so is Hua Mak Sports Complex, and your family’s business. Anyway--” Team cleared his throat.
Before he could go on, Win interrupted him, “Go back to the part where you said you played songs for me. What do you mean?”
Team chuckled, then smiled, “Hia Wan had a guitar when he went to university but never learned to play it... so he gave it to you, but you didn’t learn either.” Win rolled his eyes at both himself and his older brother. “I saw it in your dorm one day and you let me play it. So... I played a song I knew from my mae.”
“Was it a love song?” Win couldn’t help but tease.
It earned him another flat look from Team. Just when Win thought he wasn’t going to answer that, he offered a gritted, “Maybe.”
Win felt triumphant; he grinned broadly.
“And a year later I found out that you downloaded every one of the group’s songs and played them on loop because you couldn’t stop thinking about me,” Team shot back.
Win’s grin deflated just slightly in the blunt face of finding out just how utterly whipped he was for this man, “Oh.”
“That was before we were together?” Win asked tentatively.
“And you didn’t know I was serious about you?”
“Did you miss the part where I said I found that fact out a year later?” Team narrowed his eyes at Win.
“Okay, fair. How did you even find out?”
“I saw the total play count on your music library one day and it was... a lot of plays.”
“In my defense, you’re incredibly hot and you can play the guitar,” he reiterated his original point with a significant addendum.
Team laughed at that and lifted Win’s hand up so he could kiss his knuckles. It was such a tender move that Win couldn’t help the way his heart sped up. Did they really do things like this so casually? He looked up from his own hand to Team’s eyes and caught the other man staring at him. Win wondered what his own face looked like right now.
Without giving himself time to second guess, Win moved forward and pressed his lips to Team’s in a soft kiss. He meant for it to be short -- a brief thing -- but once he felt Team’s hand tighten around his, Win didn’t want to stop. Neither did Team, it seemed, as he tipped his head opposite Win’s and slotted their mouths together easily. His hand came up to slide into Win’s hair and keep him close as they kissed.
Unlike the last time, Team didn’t stop him when Win urged their lips open, adding tongues to the kiss. Instead, he made a small sound at the back of his throat and tightened his hold on the back of Win’s head. Win lifted both hands to cup Team’s face, a vestige of their earlier pose. Team said before that kissing wasn’t something they struggled with and he was right; whether it was muscle memory for Win or the fact that the two of them just matched well, that kiss felt amazing. It was made better when Team gently pushed Win back on the couch, taking the lead as he pressed that strong body against Win’s.
Now it was Win’s turn to let out a soft moan, hands sliding back into Team’s hair, gripping soft strands as he opened his mouth wider, inviting Team in for more, wanting to give more. Win shifted beneath the other man, hooking a leg up and over his hip, and delighting in the way Team instinctively thrust his own hips forward to meet him. A hot moan was drawn out of Win, this time breaking the kiss. Just when he expected Team to chase after it and reaffirm the kiss, he pulled back.
Panting heavily, Team held himself up, propped on a hand against the arm of the couch. He closed his eyes and kept himself arm’s length from Win’s face. “Shit... hia...”
Win studied the face of the man above him, disheveled and pained. He blinked and couldn’t quite follow what just happened, “Team... what’s wrong?”
Pulling back completely, Team settled in his original spot on the couch and washed his hands over his face. Win sat up as well, watching Team take some calming breaths before dropping his hands into his lap. His eyes and face remained downturned, gaze on his hands. Win’s heart sank, he really didn’t understand what changed.
“I’m sorry if I...” Win started, then stopped. He was supposed to be the older man between them, but right now Win felt very much like the first year student he remembered being.
“It’s okay, hia... Don’t... you don’t need to be sorry,” Team took another breath, then looked up with tired eyes and smiled at Win. “For two weeks I--” he closed his eyes again and turned away. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “When you were in a coma, I didn’t know if you were ever going to wake up again. I was so terrified of losing you. Having you here now, in our house, wanting to kiss me...”
He lifted his head once more and met Win’s eyes with a gaze that was at once tear-filled and smoldering. Win felt that if Team kissed him again, he wouldn’t let the other man stop.
“I want you... so badly, hia. Just to know you’re alive and breathing, to feel you, firm and real under my hands.”
Win swore his heart was beating so loudly that even Team would be able to hear it. He wasn’t used to being on this side of things, having someone want his body with such fierceness it burned in his eyes. He dated, of course, fooled around, definitely. He thought he had fallen in love before, too, only to have that fall apart. None of that compared to this.
Suddenly, Win felt immature, out of his league and out of his depth. He idly wondered if this was how Team felt that first night they were together. Then came the icy doubt, whether Team would still want Win if he wasn’t Team’s more mature senior.
“I’m-- I’m so sorry, Team... I’m so sorry this is happening...” He didn’t know what to say, what to do, how to make things right. Win was always the one fixing things, taking care of everything and everyone, but he had no idea how to take care of the one person that seemed to be so important in his life. He didn’t know how to take care of his partner.
Team dropped a hand onto Win’s and gave it a tight squeeze. “You’re alive. That matters more to me than anything else, hia, just knowing you’re alive.”
Win grabbed a hold of Team’s wrist, lifting his hand to press against his own chest, just above his rapidly beating heart. He looked up into Team’s eyes and held his gaze steadfast. “I’m alive.”
As Team stared back at him, Win made a vow to himself and any higher power that might be listening. He would remember Team. He had to get those memories back, he had to do it for Team.
As always, I love to hear what you guys think of the chapter! 🥰 And you can find me on Twitter @shellygurumi
Thank you so much for reading!
Chapter 6: 05 - the kind of love I've been dreaming of
Win gets to have the date part of his time with Team with a trip to the mall for a meal and a much needed haircut. The more he learns about their relationship, the more he's amazed by how Team seems to be right for him in every way.
I'm so sorry this chapter was late this week, guys! Work has been taking up most of my time and energy (plus an exciting mult-day anxiety attack didn't help), but every time I had a few hours free, I'd write as much as I could. I had ideas for scenes that I really wanted to include in this chapter and didn't want to cut them out to get it finished sooner. As a result, it's actually the longest chapter so far! So I hope that makes up for the delay. 💜 As always, thank you for reading!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Once Team and Win had regained control of their emotions, Team showed Win the rest of the house. He hadn’t even made it upstairs before they wandered down the path of emotional breakdown together. As it turned out, there were two bedrooms, the main one that was meant to be theirs and a guest room, as well as another bathroom upstairs. The guest room had nothing in it at all, not even boxes, and the main bedroom did have a bed that Team said came from his condo. Apparently they picked out the bed together, even though Win only slept in it when he was home from England and over the past few months since returning to Thailand. The plan, it seemed, was to buy a new one for themselves when they moved into the house and then put the old bed into the guest room.
“We have a lot of things we still need to buy, don’t we?” Win asked, as they stood in the empty guest room.
“Yeah... we didn’t have a lot of space before now,” Team confirmed, hands in his pockets. “There is some furniture at your parents’ house that we may take, but we didn’t get a chance to decide yet.
“We can still do that. I don’t suppose I need to remember everything in order to have an opinion on furniture.”
Team chuckled and nodded, “I guess not, no.”
“What day is today again?” Win scratched his head and his fingertips grazed over the shaved area, making him scowl and drop his hand. Team’s expression went soft when he saw it.
“Today is Sunday,” he glanced at his watch after answering. “Actually, we can head out for your haircut any time now. The salon is in a mall, so we can get a bite to eat or just look around if we’re early.”
“Oh... yeah, let’s do that.” Win bounced on his feet, feeling excited about the prospect of fixing his hair and doing something that was decidedly more date-like with Team. “Back to it being Sunday, though... What is your schedule for the week?”
Team laughed when Win bounced, it made him look younger and less exhausted than a moment ago. He tapped Win’s arm and led him back downstairs as he answered the question. “It’s pretty flexible right now. I’ve kept my coach updated with what’s going on so he isn’t expecting me in on any specific days.”
“Okay, so we can try to start getting things figured out together this week, then? With the house, I mean.” Downstairs, they got their shoes on and headed out to Team’s car.
“Of course, hia. If you feel up to it,” Team unlocked the car and went for the drivers’ side. Win stopped and glanced around the exterior of the house. “What’s up?”
“Do I have a car? Where is it?” He turned back to Team, who laughed and nodded.
“You have a car and a motorcycle, hia. The motorcycle is at my condo and the car is at your parents’ house, I think. Usually, I drive us around.”
“I have a motorcycle?” Win’s eyes went wide in astonishment. He always wanted one, and just like finding out about all of his tattoos, he was delighted to know he achieved that dream.
“You do, and you drive too fast, and I don’t like it.”
Win blinked at him, heartstruck and frowning, although Team looked amused. “You don’t like it?”
“Don’t worry, it’s not something I stop you from enjoying,” the soft smile on Team’s face looked fond. “I still ride when you want me to. It’s... mm, more of a joke now for us.”
“Oh... I see, okay.” Win nodded, chewing his bottom lip. “Is that why you drive us around mostly?”
Team nodded and opened his door, getting into the car, so Win followed suit. “When I joined the swim club, you often asked me to give you a ride back to the dorms... Oh, I guess uh,” Team trailed off, then cleared his throat and started again. “You and I lived in the same building, your room was a floor up from mine. So we just went to and from campus together a lot.”
“Is that why we slept over with each other a lot, too?”
“Mm. It was really convenient that I could just go upstairs or you could come down.” Team stared out the window as he drove, then smiled at some memory and tipped his head, “Sometimes you’d see I was awake and without even asking, you would come downstairs and knock at my door.”
Win wanted to ask if it ever bothered Team, that he did that, but considering the way Team was smiling, he figured he had the answer already. Though, now he wondered what other ways he took care of Team. “I’m glad I was there for you, Team.”
Team looked over, expression still soft, “Me too, hia...”
“Thank you... for taking care of me now,” Win offered, voice gentle. It must have struck Team hard, because the other man swallowed and pressed his lips together, pointedly looking at the street before them. His hands tightened on the steering wheel with a squeak.
“Always,” the single word was nearly croaked out.
That answer went right to Win’s heart. How often did Team take care of him? There was so much he wanted to know ... about Team, about their relationship, their dynamic, their history. He wished so badly that he could remember and it hurt that he couldn’t. He resisted the urge to apologize and they both fell silent again.
It wasn’t much longer before they arrived at the mall, Team parked the car and got out, checking the time as they headed inside. “We have about 45 minutes... what do you want to do?”
“Let’s get some food,” Win suggested, feeling hungry. It was already past lunchtime now. Team agreed and his stomach growled as if on cue. With a shy laugh, he suggested a shabu-shabu place that they apparently went to often. Win figured that Team knew what he liked, so that’s where they went. They were quickly seated and handed menus. Win took his time reading through all of the options before setting it down, only to find that Team was watching him, head resting on a loose fist, elbow on the table. “Guess you already know what you want, huh?”
“Yeah. I was curious to see what ingredients you would pick.”
Win wasn’t the kind of guy to get nervous on a date, and the feeling he had now wasn’t exactly nerves. It was something between excitement and anxiety. He really didn’t want to make a misstep or a wrong move, but at the same time, Team was already his long-term boyfriend, so surely that meant everything would be okay. On the other hand, he didn’t want to act differently from what Team expected.
They placed the order with the waitress. When she walked away, Win looked curiously at Team.
The younger man dropped his arms onto the table, one folded lightly over the other, “That’s pretty much how you always order.”
“Oh, good,” Win nodded a few times, “I guess my tastes didn’t change that much?”
Team shook his head, “Guess not. But... you’re kind of only uhh, mentally two years younger? Two years before the time I met you.”
Win laughed at Team’s attempt at phrasing. “I have trouble figuring out how to think of it, too. If you didn’t call me hia all the time, I would forget you’re younger than me... which is weird. My memories are all from when I was in my first year at university or earlier. I don’t really know if I feel younger or not... because I don’t remember what it feels like to be 25?”
Pursing his lips, Team nodded to that, “That’s fair.”
“Do I seem more like the Win you first met than the one you know now?”
Team tipped his head to the side and looked off in thought, “Yes and no...” He turned his attention back to Win.
“What’s the same?”
“You flirt with me the same way you did when I first met you,” Team chuckled.
Win took it as an invitation and stretched his legs out beneath the table. He caught Team’s ankles between his own and grinned at him above the table. Team smiled and rolled his eyes but didn’t pull away. “Like this?”
“Yeah, but you still do this now,” he tipped his head down to indicate their legs. “The bigger difference is that I don’t kick you for it.”
Win’s jaw dropped at hearing that, “You would kick me?”
Team shrugged, “Yeah, probably.”
Looking away, Team started fiddling with his fingers, flicking his thumbnails over one another. “Partly, I just got used to it. Not... like it was ever unwelcome, really. I just get nervous in public?” He finally looked back to Win’s face and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Win wondered if it was hard for Team to talk about these things. “When you were gone, though, in England, I missed it...”
Win thought that over and nodded, “Was it really hard for you? When I was gone?”
“Mm. It was hard for both of us, but...” Team considered his words before going on, “It was a good opportunity for you, and we made it work.”
Win’s eyes turned down, he reached out to take one of Team’s hands and laced their fingers together, “You struggled through being away from me for two years... and now I can’t even remember what I learned during that time...”
“Hia,” Team set his free hand on top of their joined hands. His voice was a little shaky as he spoke, “No, hia... you can’t-- think that way. You... might still remember. And... you saved all your notes from your classes. Besides, it’s already passed, and I would never... I wouldn’t want you to give up an opportunity like that to stay close to me.”
“No,” Team’s voice was firm. “I know what you’re going to say, hia. We had this conversation a lot before you decided to go. If I could go back in time, knowing what was coming now, I would still tell you to go.”
Win blinked at the other man, his heart beating fast. He squeezed one of Team’s hands. It was hard to hear something like this, and harder still to believe it. He couldn’t find a voice to respond and didn’t even know what to say if he could.
“You put everyone else before yourself, hia. Sometimes you need someone to remind you to put yourself first,” Team’s eyes didn’t waver from holding Win’s gaze, his tone was still firm, but gentle. His hands were steady around Win’s.
“Are you sure this isn’t a dream?”
The question must have hit Team strangely, because he suddenly laughed, confused, “What? What kind of dream?”
“A dream where I woke up to find out I’m dating the perfect man?”
Team scoffed and yanked both hands away from Win in exchange for crossing his arms over his chest. Win noted, with pleasure, that Team left his ankle between Win’s legs and a blush had appeared on his cheeks. He hadn’t pulled away completely.
Win couldn’t help but laugh at how cute Team was after being so mature just a second ago. He was about to try teasing Team lightly, but the waitress came back with the broth, ingredients, and sauces for their meal. Team quickly busied himself with cooking and Win simply watched him work, propping his chin on an upturned palm. The conversation turned to more practical topics, such as asking one another to pass an ingredient or dish. Since he didn’t know their eating dynamic, Win let Team take the lead here.
The most interesting thing was the way Team dished out the food to the both of them. Win watched with awe as Team filled his plate with all his favorites without having to ask. All of the mushrooms ended up on Win’s plate, none on Team’s.
“You don’t like shiitake?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.
Team looked down at his plate, then up at Win, “Not as much as you do.”
“That’s not a no.”
Team opened his mouth, closed it, then frowned. “I don’t... dislike them, but you like them a lot, and I don’t mind not having them. You used to steal them off my plate when I didn’t eat them, so I just started giving them to you.”
Win smiled warmly and Team squirmed in his seat.
“It ... it’s not...” Team huffed and set his chopsticks down to look directly at Win. “You do things like this all the time, and so... sometimes I just do it back for you. I’m not-- the perfect man or whatever. I just learned how to do things like this from you.”
“Do you also know... that you’re the only one to do it, though?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know what happened in-- what-- the year and a half between what I can remember and when I met you, but ... no one I can remember dating has ever made that kind of effort for me.”
In a turn Win was absolutely not expecting, Team scowled. He looked angrier than Win had seen him so far and it made Win lean back in his seat, wondering what he just said wrong. “Team?”
Team closed his eyes and took a slow breath before opening his eyes and looking softer. He spoke carefully, “I do know that... I just... get really angry sometimes, when I think about people taking advantage of your kindness.”
“Oh... so, you’re stronger than me and also like to protect me, huh?” A slow smirk spread across Win’s face.
With a grunt, Team dropped his face into his hands. Win laughed at the way Team went from flustered to angry and back to flustered so rapidly.
“You’re such an interesting person, Team.” He reached out to ruffle Team’s hair and laughed again when the other man swatted his hand away.
“I feel seen and I don’t like it,” Team pouted and shoved a piece of meat in his mouth, chewing it sullenly.
“You already know everything about me and I don’t know anything about you, what else am I supposed to do but see you?”
“Don’t use logic against me, hia,” he said around a cheekful of food.
“I am curious about something, though,” Win hummed thoughtfully.
Team swallowed down his food and took a sip of water before speaking this time, “What’s that?”
“You’re stronger than me, you know I’ve got a strength kink...” Win started and noticed Team was suddenly eyeing him very hard. “But you also blush really easily...”
“Nope, no. Nope, we’re not having this conversation,” Team waved both hands in front of his face.
“You don’t even know what I was going to ask!” Win complained, trying to hold back a laugh.
“Hia, I know you, and I know exactly what you’re getting at here.”
“What am I going to ask then?”
“No, no, no,” Team shook his head, “you aren’t going to trick me into it either.”
“Come on, Team, I’m going to find out eventually, right?” He gestured at Team, who glared back at him. “Look, considering what my first move on you was... and the fact that you apparently went along with it after only knowing me for two weeks...”
Team leaned back, dropping his head against the booth, shoulders slumped, “Why do I love you...?”
Win stopped breathing and stared at Team. His heart raced and his cheeks felt warm.
He must have been quiet for too long, because Team lifted his head again and looked concerned, “Hia? Are you okay?”
Team’s brows furrowed in thought, then realization dawned on him. “Oh! Hia... no I ... I didn’t mean to ask it like that...” He reached past the dishes littering the table to take Win’s hand, holding it. “I don’t ever wonder why--”
“You love me,” Win finished for him, looking up into Team’s eyes.
Team blinked, lips parted, then he smiled as he blushed, “Hia... Yes. I guess... this is the first time you remember me saying it, huh?”
“Yeah...” Win swallowed. He didn’t expect to hear those words any time soon. Or at all, necessarily. Realistically, you didn’t move in with someone you didn’t love. Your family didn’t treat that person as one of their own if you weren’t in love with each other. Knowing it logically and hearing it were two different things, though, and Win couldn’t seem to get his heart under control.
Team glanced around the restaurant, pressed his lips together, then pulled Win’s hand close enough to kiss his knuckles. He met Win’s eyes and whispered, “I love you, hia.”
Win was still holding his breath when Team pulled back and let go of his hand, blush dark now. His brain quickly supplied some of the details he learned about Team today: They had been together for something like four and a half years. They spent two years apart. Team used to fight against public displays of affection but accepted them after being away from Win. Team learned to put Win first from watching Win put everyone else first. Team loved him and just admitted it in public, along with a romantic type of kiss, despite his obvious shyness about such things.
“Was that too much?” Team asked, voice soft and a little worried, if Win were to guess.
“No....” he shook his head, still a little shocked, then laughed at himself. “Okay, well, I guess it was, but not... in a bad way. It’s kind of overwhelming because I don’t... I’m not used to this.”
Team nodded, “Even just a year ago, I wasn’t really used to it, either.” He picked up his chopsticks and nudged a piece of meat around on his plate, a distraction, Win assumed. A mostly comfortable silence followed as Team put his thoughts together. “I almost died once. When I was a kid, while swimming. It’s why I get nightmares.”
Despite Team pausing, Win didn’t think he was done speaking. He also didn’t think Team was waiting for a reply just yet, but what he said made Win wonder how on earth he managed to become a professional swimmer with nightmares about drowning. Team was strong in ways Win hadn’t even realized yet.
“I was too young then, really, to learn how fragile life can be... how easy it is to lose something. The whole time you were overseas, though... I did realize how much I missed being close to you... and all the things you did. I always appreciated you, but I-- I guess the things I pretended annoyed me... I figured out they didn’t really, and I missed them as much as I missed you. I still get shy about it all, but...” Team took a deep, shaky breath, then looked up at Win with unshed tears and managed a tiny smile. “After what happened to you, I don’t want to... I don’t want to be so self-conscious that I don’t tell you how I feel.”
Win knew that in the face of everything Team just said, he was supposed to feel touched, warmed, loved, but for some reason it left him terrified. It was easier even just two days ago, when Team was nothing more than a super hot guy that he was dating for a long time. Now, Win knew the truth, Team was actually perfect. Team was in love with him. From all he knew about the other man, Win could assume that he loved Team, too. The problem was, he couldn’t remember any of this. Now that Win realized just what a great thing he had to lose, he was petrified at the prospect of ruining it somehow.
He had to say something. He couldn’t be silent after that deep confession from Team, not when he looked like he might cry again at any moment. Comedy had worked before, but that didn’t exactly seem like an option now. Win felt uncharacteristically out of his depth.
“I hope that... I hope I can... I want--” Win closed his mouth, then his eyes, frustrated.
“It’s okay, hia,” he heard Team say, followed by a sniffle and a clearing of his throat. Win couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes and see if he was wiping tears away, too. “You don’t need to say anything back.”
“Team...” Win had to be strong for the other man. He faced his fears, opened his eyes and looked across the table, surprised to see Team smiling, if weakly. “You deserve--”
He cut Win off with a shake of his head, then picked up a piece of beef and set it on Win’s plate. “Finish eating, your hair appointment is soon.”
With nothing left to say or do but eat, Win did as he was told. He still felt a little uneasy about not responding to Team’s clearly emotional confession, but it seemed as though Team was okay with it. Or, perhaps, was good at projecting being okay. Then again, Team had been very straight forward, so far, about saying something was wrong when Win asked, so maybe he really was alright with Win not saying anything back right now. His head was starting to hurt, and he figured it wasn’t just from all of the uncertainty.
After leaving the restaurant, Team led Win through the mall to an upscale salon and checked him in at the front desk. The salon itself didn’t seem familiar to Win, but Team said that his stylist was a woman named Panhan that he’d been seeing since before the two of them had met. Win could remember having blonde hair but not whether he had found a person to regularly go to yet. The moment she walked over to greet them, however, that changed.
Panhan was a tall, slim woman with an iridescent smile. Her magenta colored hair looked bright against her darker skin tone; it hung stick straight to her shoulders and bangs covered her forehead almost to her eyes. Apart from the hair color, she looked instantly familiar to Win.
“P’Pan?” he asked, giving her a wai in greeting and she lit up, drawing him into a one-armed hug.
“Nong Win!” she cooed over him, “Nong Team told me what happened! I cleared a spot in my schedule just for you, let me take a look at you! Are you alright?” She turned him this way and that, looking him over for any kind of injury.
“As good as can be expected,” Win answered with a soft laugh. His headache was worse after walking, but he didn’t want to bring it up right now. “My hair, though...”
“Don’t you worry about your hair, phi is here, you’re in good hands,” she nodded decisively, then glanced over his shoulder to Team. “Are you going to join us or wait here?”
Win looked back as well, just in time to see Team give a polite smile to her, “You two go, I trust you to take care of him, phi. I’ll wait over here.” He gestured to the seating area near the front of the salon.
“Alright, you sit tight, I’ll bring your husband back looking as sexy as ever!” she grinned toothily at Team, who immediately blushed.
She shrugged one shoulder at Team, cheeky grin still in place, then walked Win over to her station to sit him down, “Now! Let’s see what we have to work with here.”
The teasing airs Pan used around Team vanished to be replaced by the keen eyes of a professional assessing damage and making a plan. Win trusted her to know what she was doing, especially as it seemed like he had been seeing her as his stylist for the past six years. She was the last stylist he saw before the lost time in his memories, and once he saw her face, he remembered meeting her early in his first year at university.
While she worked, they talked a little. At first just about his hair and the options they had to work with. It seemed as though whatever they decided on, he would have to leave it styled down until the hair that had been shaved grew out more. Otherwise, he had to change the style completely and Win wasn’t interested buzzing off more hair to even it all out. He gave her some direction and she went to work making sense of his butchered hair.
Win knew that normally he would have ended up talking about what was going on in his life or Pan’s life during the visit, but since he didn’t really know a lot about either of their lives for the past six years, that was a little trickier than usual. Apparently she had gotten married to her longtime boyfriend Phon last year and they were happy together, which Win was glad to hear about. He didn’t remember Phon at all, but Pan said they had been dating for many years. Win told her that he and Team were in the process of moving into a house together when the accident happened. She said that last time he came to visit, they were still looking at houses but hadn’t settled on one yet.
“Hey, Phi...?” Win hedged while she was still cutting his hair, texturizing it with fancy scissors.
“Yes?” Her eyes flicked to his in the mirror.
“You referred to me as Team’s husband earlier...” he returned her gaze through the mirror and saw her smiling. “Do people think of us that way? Do you know?”
Pan pursed her lips and lowered her scissors before answering him. She set one hand on his shoulder and gave a light squeeze, “You two have been together a long time, and every time you talk about him to me, you light up like he’s your world. If you two have any plans to get married, you never told me about it, but Nong Team is just so much fun to tease!”
Win had to laugh at that, and when he did, Pan grinned and winked at him, “It’s really cute when he blushes.”
“If it weren’t for Phon, I’d have tried to snatch Nong Team up for myself!”
“Hey, hands off, he’s mine!” Win pointed at her reflection in faux threat and she lifted her hands in surrender.
Sobering again, she smiled in a way that seemed particularly motherly, “It’s up to the two of you, together, to decide what you mean to each other. All I know is that I can spot love when I see it, and you two? That’s love. Whatever the future holds for you, I think you can get through it together.”
“Any time,” she winked at him, then resumed her work, leaving Win to his thoughts.
By the time Pan finished up, his hair looked much better, no longer lopsided and strange. Win could even run his hands through it without having to be quite so self conscious, though Pan smacked his hand away claiming he was messing up her hard work. She told him to wait until he got back home to let Team mess it up for him and he laughed. Returning to the front desk, he booked another appointment for a few weeks out and thanked her again. Team came over to join them, complimenting Win’s hair and thanking Pan, too.
Team asked if he wanted to go anywhere else before leaving the mall, but Win’s headache was getting to a point where he needed to rest, so he suggested heading back to the house for now. As they walked, Win brushed the back of his hand against Team’s and, without a word, Team laced their fingers together holding Win’s hand for the short trip back to the car. The absent way he did it made Win’s heart feel warm and light, and reminded him of Pan’s sage words. Win and Team could get through this together.
As they got out of the car, Win’s headache was becoming quickly unbearable. He stumbled walking through the front door of their house and Team caught him with a concerned, “Hia?”
“I’m okay... my head just hurts,” Win let Team hold him about the waist and lead him the rest of the way inside.
“I could have taken you back to your parents house...” Team said softly and Win couldn’t see his face from this angle to sort out the emotion behind those words.
“I didn’t want to go back yet,” Win stopped as Team was leading him into the living room and towards the couch. He turned to face the shorter man and set both hands on Team’s shoulders, head bowed slightly and eyes closed. “I think I need to lay down, but I want to stay with you.”
There was silence for a moment and Win couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes just yet. Instead, he leaned forward and set his forehead against his own hand on Team’s shoulder, then felt Team’s hands slide around his waist and slowly up his back. It felt so comforting that Win nearly whimpered.
“Okay, hia, I’ve got you. Do you want to lay on the couch or...?”
“Do you mind laying in bed with me?” Win didn’t want to let on how nervous he felt asking that. He hoped any wavering in his tone could be attributed to the pain.
“I don’t mind,” Team’s voice was soft and kind, and he continued to run his hand soothingly over Win’s back. “Do you want some water or medicine? I know we’ve got some basics here at least.”
“Mm, yeah, that’s a good idea.”
“Let’s get you into bed first, then I’ll go get it for you, okay?”
Win hummed in agreement and Team gently urged him upright again before leading him upstairs. He took a seat on the edge of the bed while Team got a pair of sleep pants to change into. Seeing as how they had been dating for years now, it shouldn’t have been surprising when Team helped him change clothes, but the domesticity of the action went straight to Win’s heart. Once more, it felt like skipping several steps, but he let Team help him under the covers of the bed they had apparently been sharing for months now.
“I’ll be right back,” Team gently ran a hand over Win’s hair, then left the room.
The room was blissfully quiet but the afternoon sunlight coming through the windows was too bright. He threw a bare arm over his eyes and tried to ignore the stabbing pain in the side of his head. The doctors had said the headaches were going to be a normal thing for a while, so maybe Win would have to learn to address them as soon as they started in order to avoid getting to this point again. He had prescription pain medicine for it, but it was in his bedroom at home. Maybe he should keep some here, too.
A shuffling sound drew Win’s attention away from his thoughts and he pulled his arm away from his eyes to see that Team had drawn the curtains over the windows. A soft glow of light from the slightly ajar door was enough to see by without hurting his head quite so badly. Team sat on the side of the bed and passed a glass of water over to Win, along with a couple of pills. He took them with thanks and drank slowly from the glass, downing half of it before passing it back to Team.
“Guess you were thirsty,” Team laughed as he took the glass and set it on the bedside table.
“Mm-hmm,” Win hummed and settled back into the bed. He gazed up at Team for a moment, studying his face. Team was so pretty, but also looked so tired all the time. Reaching up, Win cupped his face and ran a thumb over one cheekbone, “Come here.”
He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Win’s forehead before pulling back and rummaging in a drawer for some more comfortable clothes. For some reason, Win expected Team to tell him to look away while he changed, but it didn’t happen. How many times had they changed around each other that even someone who blushed as easily as Team no longer felt the need to get shy about it? Then he remembered that they were in the swim club together, so maybe Team was never shy about changing in front of Win.
Whatever the case, Win appreciated the view of all that skin and muscles and toned body: broad shoulders, muscled back, thick biceps and thighs. Team was so hot and if Win wasn’t in such pain right now, he would have taken the time to run his hands over every inch of that gorgeous man. Once dressed in flannel pants and a long sleeve shirt, Team turned around and caught Win staring, but he smiled rather than blushing. Another surprise.
Team walked forward, climbed into the bed, and settled on his side next to Win, “How do you want to lay, hia?”
“Hmm...” Win thought that over, then gently urged Team to lay on his back. Shifting closer, Win laid his head on Team’s shoulder and draped an arm over his chest. “Is this okay?”
“This is fine, hia,” Team pulled the blanket over Win’s bare shoulders, then laced fingers through his hair, very slowly petting through it. Team’s other arm wrapped around Win’s waist atop the blanket. “Are you comfortable?”
“Yeah, you?” Win closed his eyes and sighed contentedly. It felt so amazing to be held like this.
“Very,” the word was spoken with such comforted honesty that it made Win smile.
“We fit together nicely,” Win observed and Team laughed quietly.
“We’ve had a lot of practice,” Team tipped his head to lean against Win’s.
“Hmm, I wonder if this is a muscle memory thing for me...”
“Could be,” Team yawned.
Win waited until Team was unsuspecting to ask, “Think sex will be the same?”
When Team didn’t answer right away, Win wondered if he was rolling his eyes or if he just wasn’t going to respond. Then in a thoughtful tone, he said, “Maybe... I don’t know.”
“Guess we’ll have to figure that out, too.”
Team laughed and shook his head a little.
“Do we have a lot of practice with that, too?” Win wanted to lift his head and look at Team, but the idea of moving was too daunting.
“Yeah, hia. We uh... we’re pretty um...” Team took a slow breath in and sighed out loudly. “We have a lot of sex, hia.”
“Oh, good, because you’re stupidly hot and I’d really like to know what that’s like,” he nudged his nose against Team’s neck.
Team turned to kiss the top of Win’s head, “You want to know what sex with me is like?” Before Win had a chance to answer, Team added, “Actually, yeah, I don’t know why I’m surprised.”
“You said the first thing I did was jerk you off, Team. How exactly did that go down, anyway?”
“Uhh...” Team huffed in annoyance, whether at himself or the question, Win wasn’t sure. “This is so embarrassing...”
“Did I cause it? Or find you with one? Or were you looking at me when it happened?” Win grinned and wondered if Team could tell he was grinning. The last question earned him a pinch on his side. Win yelped and squirmed.
“You found me trying to take a cold shower to deal with it and offered an alternative solution.”
“And you accepted,” Win observed. Team didn’t deny it. “You liked me already, huh?”
“I’ve wondered about that a lot since then... Honestly, I don’t know exactly when I started to like you? But I figured you probably knew what you were doing... and you were hot, so...”
Win chuckled, “Okay, so you thought I was hot from the start at least.”
“Hia, have you ever met anyone that didn’t think you were hot?”
“Dean?” Win suggested, a little unsure if that was true.
“Okay, fair. But even Pharm thinks you’re hot. He told P’Dean one day and P’Dean got jealous.”
Laughter bubbled up through Win at the thought of Dean getting jealous because his husband thought he was hot. He immediately regretted the laughter and groaned, “Owww...”
“Aw, hia,” Team cooed and gently stroked his head. “P’Dean would probably say that serves you right.”
“Probably, but you don’t have to,” Win pouted.
“I’m sorry, hia,” Team kept cooing but Win could swear he heard the smile in his voice. “I’ll be nice. Yes, I thought you were hot right away.”
“Good,” Win nuzzled into Team’s neck and got a little laugh out of Team for it. He couldn’t quite remember how they got to this point in the conversation and traced back the line of topics they went through and remembered it all started with talking about sex in general. “What do you like?”
Team was quiet for a moment, “What do I like about you, or...?”
“Oh, oops, guess I changed thoughts in my head. When it comes to sex... what do you like?”
“Well, uh... you, obviously,” Team huffed out a tiny laugh, it made Win smile and press a kiss to Team’s neck. “I don’t know, I like a lot of stuff. Everything we’ve done has been pretty good, and so we just... do what feels good when it feels good? I’m bad at talking about this kind of stuff, hia.”
“You used ‘good’ an awful lot there... is it not great?” Win chanced lifting his head to look at Team, eyebrow raised. Team stared back flatly.
“Everything we do is hot. We do what feels good and it’s amazing. Better?”
“You’re cute when you’re annoyed,” Win grinned and laid back down slowly.
“Must be why you annoy me all the time,” Team nudged him with a shoulder.
“Must be,” he agreed. “So does this mean we switch roles?”
“Yeah, that’s something we both agree on. Took us a little while to figure it out, though. I got frustrated because I uh... wanted to try it the other way around... you were always the one in control and... doing stuff...”
“I was always the one fucking you, is what you’re trying to say,” Win said bluntly, saving Team from struggling to find the words.
“Then one day you told me you wanted it the other way?”
“... More or less. I was worried you wouldn’t want to, though.”
“And I definitely didn’t mind,” Win said, smiling to himself. “I may not remember, but I am sure of that much.”
“Yeah, pretty much, so now we just... do whatever we want to, whatever we feel like,” Team ran his hand through Win’s hair and down to hold the back of his neck, massaging gently.
“Mmm, that feels nice,” Win let his eyes fall shut and his shoulders relax.
“You should probably try to rest, hia.”
“But I like talking to you.”
Team kissed the top of his head, “I’m not going anywhere.”
That simple sentence warmed Win’s heart through and through. He remembered times when he would have sex with someone only for them to want to leave an hour or two later. Then here was Team, who apparently slept in the same bed with Win multiple times just for the sake of sleeping and not sex. Win marveled, thinking about how different that must have felt when it was new.
“You need sleep, too, don’t you?” Win asked, swiping his thumb back and forth over Team’s chest slowly.
“I’ll sleep if you do, too.”
Team tipped his head to kiss the top of Win’s again, then hugged him tightly, “Okay, hia, it’s a deal.”
Win smiled and returned that kiss with one of his own to Team’s collarbone, then settled down, nuzzling into his neck and sighing. As Win let his muscles relax, Team kept massaging the back of his neck. With the aid of the medicine as well as being still in the dark, the pain in his head had gone from sharp and stabbing to a dull ache. He tried to keep track of Team’s breathing, focus on the flex of Team’s fingers, and wait until the other man fell asleep first, but it was no use. Without the quiet conversation, Win was starting to succumb to the fatigue. Before this moment, Win thought sleeping in his childhood bed would give him the comfort of familiarity, but as it turned out, drifting off in Team’s arms felt more like home than anything else had.
I'm gonna try and get on chapter 6 ASAP to get ahead this coming week. I don't have as many plans for this weekend as I did last week. ...But I'm also getting my second dose of covid vaccine this week, so HOPEFULLY that doesn't knock me on my ass for too long. Wish me luck 😅
Thank you to everyone for your support and kindness! I can't tell you how much all of your comments mean to me, it's truly a gift, thank you so much! 💜💜💜
Chapter 7: 06 - I'm set alight
Team and Win spend some quality time together... in bed, this time.
Win woke feeling disoriented, which had become commonplace over the last week or so, but even more so recently. His first thing he noticed was that he was in someone’s arms, wrapped loosely around his upper body, one hand on the back of his head. He was in Team’s arms, to be more precise, and was laying against his chest. The second thing he noticed was that Team was still asleep, breathing slow and deep and even. The curtains were drawn over the windows, but Win could tell it was dark outside, so it must be night time, but whether it was early evening or the middle of the night was anyone’s guess.
Carefully lifting himself up, while trying not to disturb Team’s much needed slumber, Win glanced around for a clock but couldn’t find one. They must just use phones to tell the time and Win couldn’t remember where his ended up. Left with few options, Win turned his attention to the sleeping man. Team looked younger when he slept, more innocent and peaceful. He wondered if this was what the man looked like all the time when they first met.
Team’s cheeks were rounded like little steam buns. His lips were plump, parted now as he slept. Where his body was hard lines and muscles, Team’s face was sweet and soft. As cute as he looked while scowling and flustered, this peaceful look was perhaps Win’s favorite so far. It was interesting, how many different facets there were to Team, the way he so often shut down conversations of a sexual nature, but then how openly he talked about them in private. The way he took such good care of Win, but had apparently learned much of it from Win himself. Then there was the part where Team was a professional athlete, which meant he must be driven and competitive, despite the fact that he seemed so calm and laid back since Win met him.
On the surface, Team seemed like such a simple man, but there were so many layers to who he was. Win wanted to learn all of them again, wanted to be the perfect boyfriend for Team, the way Team seemed to be perfect for him. He really hoped he could achieve it. He’d done it once, so theoretically he could do it again, but doubt and insecurity were just a stone’s throw away, ready to plunge him into the dark, cold waters of uncertainty. Win just wanted this to work so badly.
Shifting to rest on one arm, Win brought his hand to Team’s cheek, cupping it lightly and brushing his thumb over one round cheek. Team pressed his lips together and hummed in his sleep, head turning toward Win’s hand. It made Win’s heart beat a little faster. He wanted to let Team sleep, knew that the man needed it, but at the same time he wanted to wake him, spend more time with him. Win held his breath and stayed still.
Team breathed in deeply and stretched, arching his back and tightening his arms around Win. A little groan sounded as he nuzzled into Win’s hand, “Hia...”
“I’m right here,” Win whispered.
Blinking, Team’s eyebrows scrunched up, forehead wrinkling in confusion. He turned to look at Win hovering above him and seemed surprised to find him there. “Hey...”
“Hi,” Win smiled and started to draw his hand away from Team’s face, only for Team to catch it and stop him.
“I thought it was a dream...” Team closed his eyes and turned towards Win’s hand again, now holding it to his cheek. He kissed the palm of it, which sent a tingling feeling through Win’s arm.
“Not a dream,” Win took a chance and tipped his head down, nuzzling his nose against Team’s other cheek.
Team let out a pained noise that Win wasn’t expecting, then said, “Hia, you’re going to make me want more from you..”
“More what?” Win asked, letting his lips trace down from Team’s cheek to his ear. He knew what he was doing.
“I want to kiss you,” Team’s voice sounded strained and husky.
“So kiss me,” he whispered back.
Team turned and looked up into Win’s eyes, searching for something. Whatever he was looking for, he must have found it, because both hands shot up to hold the side of Win’s face and pulled him down into a solid kiss. With his head tilted to the side, their lips slotted together, open mouthed, and tongues tangling. Win couldn’t help the soft moan that escaped between them as he eagerly returned the kiss. He barely had the strength to hold himself up above Team’s body, pressing one arm against that broad chest of his.
It didn’t matter for long, however, because Team slid one hand to Win’s head and brought the other arm down around his back. In a fluid motion, Team rolled them over, putting Win on his back, at first cradled in his arms before the hand at Win’s back shifted to hold him by the hip, pinning him down.
A hot moan from Win broke the kiss, but in an instant, Team reaffirmed it, pressing into him with his mouth, hands, and body. Win felt completely consumed and surrounded, almost overwhelmed by how hot it all was, his body felt like it was on fire. He didn’t want it to stop, so he laced his fingers through Team’s hair and wrapped the long fingers of his other hand around Team’s thick bicep. The way the muscles of that arm felt tight and firm beneath Win’s hand sent a wave of pleasure through him. It seemed to have a similar effect on Team, who practically growled and kissed Win that much harder.
On instinct, Win hauled one leg up over Team’s hip and was pleased by the way Team shifted into the open space, slotting his leg between Win’s thighs and grinding against him. They both moaned now and Team spoke against Win’s open mouth.
“Hia ... I want you...”
“Fuck, Team...” Win couldn’t help but kiss him again, chasing more, lifting his hips to meet that grinding motion.
Team pressed his hand to the front of Win’s shoulder, pushing him back down into the bed and pinning him there. It was clearly meant to put a pause on things, but instead it lit a fire in Win.
“Wait,” Team closed his eyes and took a slow, calming breath before opening them again. “It’s been weeks since we’ve had sex and I... really, really want this. I just need to know you do, too... You basically just met me, hia...”
Win swallowed around a sudden lump in his throat as he looked up at Team. He was putting Win first, again. “I know I ... I don’t remember what we’ve done together but... It doesn’t feel like I just met you? I know we have history, I can see it in... everything. Everything you do, and everything we have, and--” Win had to stop and close his eyes, because the way Team was looking down at him with all the love in the world might send him into a frenzy.
“Look, Team,” he opened his eyes again. “Everything about you makes me want you. It makes me want to talk to you, touch you, hold you, be near you, and yes... also makes me want to kiss you.”
“I’m asking about more than just kissing, hia,” Team’s tone was soft, gentle.
“You’re making sure I want to have sex with you, that I’m not just going along with it because we’re.. here, like this, and clearly both horny.”
“Hia,” Team closed his eyes and dropped his head, now he seemed more exasperated than sweet. It made Win laugh.
“I’ll admit it, the first time I saw you, all I could think about was how good you looked.” Win paused when Team lifted his head to look flatly at him. He reached up to hold Team’s cheek, “That hasn’t changed... In fact, you’re even more attractive to me now than you were before, because of everything I’ve learned about you already.”
Team pursed his lips in thought, then locked eyes on Win’s, “So you aren’t doing this just because you think it’s what I want?”
“I want it, and it seems like you do, too,” eyes still pointedly on Team’s, Win bucked his hips up just enough to get the point across. The smouldering stare Win had seen from Team a couple of times before returned now, “Fuck, you’re hot...”
“So are you, hia Win...” and like that, Team’s lips were on Win’s again. He pinned Win down with hips and mouth and kissed him in the most all-consuming way Win could have ever imagined. All Win could do was hold tight to his hair and return that kiss with everything he had, arching his back to meet Team’s body above him and bucking his hips again. They both moaned hotly into the kiss with pent up desire now unchecked.
The two of them laid still for several moments as they came down from their respective highs and caught their breath, hands joined and settled between them. Team was the first to move, sitting up in bed and giving Win’s hand a tug, “We should get washed up.”
“Mm, yeah, guess so,” Win tugged back until Team pulled him up to a sitting position as well. “What time is it, anyway?”
Team glanced to the right, then grabbed his phone from the bedside table, lighting it up to check the time, “Uhhh, almost midnight.”
“Guess we slept through dinner,” Win chuckled and draped himself over Team’s back, arm hanging over one shoulder.
“How’s your head, hia?” he asked, rubbing a hand over that arm.
Win had to check in with himself to even notice, he had been too distracted previously. “It hurts a little still, but you were pretty good at making me forget about it.”
Team laughed and kissed Win’s upper arm before patting it once and getting them out of bed together. “I don’t think blowjobs are a cure for headaches in general.”
“You never know,” Win shrugged and stretched once he was standing. “So... shower?”
“Yeah, we can take a quick one together, then we should get some more water and medicine into you, probably.” Team ushered him towards the bathroom and Win didn’t put up a fight. “A light dinner would be good too, I guess...”
“Did you manage to sleep alright, Team?”
Team turned on the shower to heat up the water and leaned against the bathroom counter, naked and glorious. Win had to stop himself from staring.
“Yeah, I slept well for the first time in a while.”
“We should get back to bed after eating something,” Win suggested and Team agreed.
Showering was a quick endeavor, just as Team said it would be. It seemed his motivation to share the shower stall had more to do with keeping an eye on Win than getting into anything more sexual. Cleaned, dried and dressed again in clean pajamas, Team changed the sheets on the bed then they headed down to the kitchen to make some instant noodles.
It seemed neither of them were particularly into cooking, though they both liked food. Team put some additional spices and ingredients into the noodles, but explained that they both ate out a lot, unless they were having dinner with Dean and Pharm. Or, on a rare occasion, when they decided to try and follow a recipe. Usually that went better if Pharm was around to help them. Win wondered if Pharm’s “help” was more just doing all of the work, but he decided not to ask.
They ate in relative silence, standing in the kitchen leaning against counters, and Win added chairs and a dining table to a new mental list of furniture they needed. The only other thing he was sure about them needing was a bed, as Team had mentioned earlier. Once done, they put dishes into the sink to deal with in the morning and Team made Win drink a glass of water and take more medicine before refilling the glass and leading them back up to bed.
Fatigue was apparent on Team the moment he fell into the bed, once again wearing long sleeves and soft pants. Win was in just pants once more and he looked Team over while climbing into the bed beside him.
“Do you get cold when you sleep?”
Team hummed and nodded, curling onto his side and facing Win, “Yeah, the air conditioning makes me feel cold. You always run hot, though.”
“I do, yeah,” Win mirrored Team’s position. “I’m sure we talked about it before, but why don’t we just turn off the air con?”
“Because then it gets too hot,” Team yawned and snuggled closer, wrapping an arm around Win’s waist and curling into his chest. “I grew up in the mountain region, so I’m used to the air being cool at night, but I’ve never gotten used to the artificial cold, unless you’re with me.”
“Because I’m warm?” he wrapped an arm around Team, pulling him into a hug.
“Mm, yeah,” Team’s eyes were already closed. “And you make the nightmares go away.”
“Does the cold make the nightmares come?”
“Yeah, and stress, and stuff...” Team nuzzled against Win’s chest, his words were getting softer and sleep-slurred. “It’s cold at the bottom of the pool...”
“Oh, Team...” Win hugged him tighter, rubbing a hand up and down his back to keep him warm.
“I missed you, hia...”
“I’m so sorry, Team,” he whispered into his hair. “I’m here now.”
Whether Team heard those last words or not, Win wasn’t too sure, because when he looked down, it seemed like Team was already asleep. At least now he knew why Team looked so tired all the time. If he had been sleeping alone for the past few weeks, stressed and worried about Win, how many nightmares had he suffered through? With no one there to chase them away or keep him warm and safe at night? Team had watched Win get hit by the car, spent two weeks waiting for him to come out of a coma, then when he did, Win had no memory of Team or who he was. He had been suffering alone this whole time.
Win’s heart ached for the man in his arms. This perfect, wonderful, amazing man, suffering under such a weight and unable to even find solace in sleep or in the man he loved. Before he realized what was happening, tears were trailing down his face. Win closed his eyes tight against them and tried to keep his breathing even, but the urge to sob was overwhelming. He choked it back all the same, determined to not wake Team from his much needed sleep. Win wept, silent and still as could be. One sentence ran through his head over and over until he fell asleep:
I’m so sorry, Team, I’m so sorry...
Win woke sometime before dawn to the sound of soft whimpers and the feel of struggling. He opened dry eyes to find Team had rolled over out of his arms and was curled in on himself, shivering or maybe trembling. Shifting closer, Win set a hand on his tense arm and rubbed it gently, “Team, hey...”
He continued to whimper, eyes squeezed tight. The one hand Win could see was clinging to his own elbow, squeezing so hard that Win was afraid he’d bruise himself. Not sure what to do, Win urged him to roll over until Team was facing him again, then tugged the blankets up over him, tucking Team in against his chest. Both arms wound around the other man and he rubbed over his back and arms, trying to warm him.
“It’s okay, Team, hia is here,” Win whispered against the crown of his head. “You’re not alone, it’s just a bad dream.”
Team’s hands loosened from their deathgrip on his own arms and reached out for Win, halting against his chest. “Hia...” the single word came in a choked out sound.
“Yeah, Team, it’s hia Win, I’m here with you now, you aren’t alone,” saying the words made Win want to start crying again, but he swallowed the tears down. He gently shook one of Team’s shoulders, “Wake up, Team. Wake up now.”
With a little more shaking from Win, Team blinked his eyes open and seemed astonished to find himself in Win’s arms. He cried out “hia” once more, then immediately wrapped both arms around Win, burying his face into his chest. The sobs came in the next instant, wracking Team’s whole body. All Win could do was hold him tightly and try to sooth the pain and grief. He nuzzled the top of Team’s head with his cheek, ran his hands over his back and arms and spoke into his ear any kind of affirmations he could think of.
“I’m here, you’re safe, I’m safe, it’s okay, it was a nightmare, I’m here now, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.”
Eventually the sobs ebbed off into sniffles and soft crying and Win was able to talk Team through taking a few deep breaths. It’s what he could remember doing for View when he was little and woke from nightmares or was crying because he got hurt. Apart from his nose being stuffy, Team was able to breathe easier eventually and pulled back enough to swipe at the tear stains on his face. Win replaced Team’s hand with his own and brushed the tears away more gently with his thumb.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Win asked carefully.
Team took another slow breath and sniffled after exhaling, “I don’t think I can talk about it without crying again.”
“That’s okay,” he kissed Team’s forehead.
“I swear I’m not usually this much of a crybaby...” he snuggled back into Win’s chest and closed tear-damp eyes.
“I don’t think you’re a crybaby,” Win smiled and tightened an arm around Team’s shoulders again. “I think you’re stressed and exhausted and dealing with more than one person should have to deal with at one time.”
Team let out a wet laugh.
“Would it help to know that I’ve cried during all this, too?” Win went to pet Team’s hair but the other man leaned back and looked at him with furrowed brows before he could.
“What?” he cupped Win’s cheek and brushed his thumb beneath one eye. “Hia...”
Win turned his head and kissed Team’s palm with a smile, “Have you ever seen me cry?”
“Yeah...” Team answered quietly as he urged Win to turn back to face him. Team settled on the pillow and frowned at Win. “Not often. You don’t like anyone seeing you cry.”
Win nodded to that.
“You tried to hide it the first time I found you crying... we had been, like, sharing beds for over a year, but only officially dating for about half a year by then. A bunch of really stressful stuff was going on and you got bad news about something while I was still on campus. I came straight to your room without checking first and walked in to find you crying next to the bed. You tried to pretend nothing was happening, but... I didn’t let you, I guess you could say?”
Win had to laugh, he could only imagine how that went. He’d pulled that exact move off so many times, and everyone either didn’t notice or just went with it if they did. “That sounds about right.”
“You always helped me through so much, I wanted to help you, too...”
“Mm,” Win looked down and closed his eyes. It was hard for him to accept help like that.
“Hia...” Team bopped his nose against Win’s until he looked up. “It took a long time for me to show you... it’s okay to let yourself be taken care of sometimes. You don’t have to be strong for everyone all the time.”
“That’s-- but...” he had to swallow around a lump in his throat.
“It’s all you know. I know, hia,” Team pressed a kiss to his chest, just above his heart, then another one to his cheek, and finally his forehead. “I know you better than anyone else.”
“Team...” Win took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. He cleared his throat and then looked at the younger man with a strained smile, “I was supposed to be comforting you, not the other way around.”
It seemed like Team was studying him curiously but Win couldn’t figure out what was going on inside his head. It made Win feel a little uneasy and out of his depth. Finally, Team smiled and kissed Win’s forehead again before resettling on the pillow, “We should try to get back to sleep.”
Win opened his mouth to say something, but then Team yawned suddenly and he decided it was best to agree with the other man. “Yeah, a few hours here and there probably isn’t enough for either of us...” He ran a hand through Team’s hair. “It’s a good thing your coach isn’t expecting you tomorrow... or today, I guess.”
“For real,” Team said, eyes already closed.
It wasn’t long before Team was out, but Win didn’t feel tired enough yet to sleep. Instead, he thought about what he had just learned from Team. At first, it had been a nice thought, the idea that Team was able to comfort and care for him as well. Then something switched in Win... Being strong and taking care of everyone was something that defined Win and he wasn’t sure how he could just give that up.
Maybe he had in the past because Team slowly eased him into the idea, he learned it over time. Trying to change that part of himself over night wasn’t going to be easy, and maybe he couldn’t even do it. If Team was expecting Win to go back to being the Win he knew now, after four years together... Fear and doubt gripped Win’s heart and sent a shiver down his spine. What if Team didn’t want to put in the work twice? He had already been through so much because of Win, what if this was too much?
Two years apart, finally reunited, only to lose his memories and then also to have to rebuild everything they had been through but only from one side? Team might want to rush through all those things because he was already used to having it... Or he might get frustrated when Win didn’t say or do the things Team expected of him now. How would he even know what those things are? Would he get hurt if Win tried to hide crying from him? Or if he didn’t rely enough on Team?
There would be no more sleep for Win before sunrise, only quiet fears and doubt seeping into him. When Team woke up again, Win would pretend he had just woken up a little while ago. It was a white lie, and Win vowed he wouldn’t lie to Team about anything big, he just couldn’t face admitting that he stayed awake second guessing everything. Besides, Team didn’t need to know about it right now, he was already carrying so much as it was.
After showering separately and getting dressed, Team and Win met up in the kitchen downstairs to make breakfast. As Team put the rice cooker to work, Win started chopping some ingredients to put into an omelet. They were both quiet as they worked and it seemed like a mostly comfortable silence until Team came to stand nearby, leaning one hip against the counter and watching Win work. He looked up and over at the other man.
“Everything okay?” Team asked and Win blinked.
“What do you mean?” Win hedged, not too sure what Team was getting at.
“You seem... introspective.”
“Oh,” Win nodded a couple times and then closed his eyes because the action made his head hurt. He had to get used to this. “Yeah, I guess I have been. Just thinking about a lot of stuff.”
“Is there anything I can help with? You can think out loud or something,” Team offered.
Win turned his attention back to the green onion he was dicing up. “It’s just weird jumping six years into the future... I keep trying to think about how I got from there to here.”
Team was silent and when Win glanced over at him, he saw the other man picking at the end of his shirtsleeve. He didn’t look up before asking, “Do you like how your life turned out?”
“I’m still trying to get an idea of what exactly my life is now, but Team...” Win reached out to tug on his sleeve until he looked at him. “The part where you’re in my life? That’s pretty amazing.”
“Yeah?” Team smiled, looking somewhat bashful.
“Definitely,” Win tugged him in for a kiss to the cheek. “That much I know.”
Team tipped his head down, shy and grinning, after being kissed, “Good... cause I... I don’t want you to be disappointed...”
“Disappointed? You’re practically perfect!”
“Hia!” Team rolled his eyes and then looked at Win again, “I’m not perfect.”
Abandoning his kitchen duties, Win grabbed Team by the hips and pulled him in, “Let’s see, you’re really good looking, you said you love me, you’re strong, funny, easy to talk to, oh and... I cannot emphasize this enough, you give really good head.”
Team punched his arm but didn’t pull away. He did blush, however, “You’re ridiculous.”
Win laughed and pulled him closer in his arms, hugging him about the waist now, “So did I teach you that or...?”
“You’re the only person I’ve ever had sex with, so what do you think?” Team looked at him evenly, but the blush was still plain on his cheeks.
“So either I taught you, or you learned from lots and lots of practice.”
“Let’s call it the second one.”
“I’m going to kiss you now, if that’s okay,” Win grinned and leaned in. Team lifted his arms to drape over Win’s shoulders and he took that as a go-ahead. Tipping his head to the side, he caught Team’s lips in a soft and slow kiss. It was lingering and smooth, with no need to rush. Team breathed into it and tightened his hold around Win, shifting forward until their bodies met.
Kissing Team always felt good, but now it also felt familiar in a way Win couldn’t quite place. The press of Team’s body, the weight of his arms, the movement of his lips, his taste, all of it felt right like coming home. Win let out a small sound, somewhere between a whimper and a moan, and Team pulled back.
“Hia?” one hand lifted to cup Win’s cheek.
He smiled as he opened his eyes, “I’m okay. Promise. I really like the way that feels...”
Team blinked, confused, then ran his thumb over Win’s cheek, “You mean this?”
Win laughed softly, “Well, yes, that too, but I meant kissing you.”
He still looked confused.
“Not just... in a sexual way, it’s more like... mm, it just feels right.”
“Like something you remember?” There was hope in Team’s eyes that Win didn’t want to crush.
“I guess it’s like my body remembers... But maybe that means my mind will, too?”
Team tucked his head against Win’s neck and hugged him tightly. Win immediately wrapped him up in a strong hug and held him close, gently rubbing his back.
“I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you, Team...”
“As long as you’re alive, I’ll be okay,” he spoke against Win’s skin.
“Well, that much isn’t going to change. Apart from some great new headaches, I’m physically fine.”
Team lifted his head suddenly, concern clear on his face, “Speaking of that...”
“It’s normal. The doctors said I will probably get migraines for years now...”
“Oh... I’m so sorry, hia,” he gently tucked some hair back behind Win’s ear. “So that’s what happened yesterday?”
“Mm-hmm. I’m sorry if I scared you, Team... I’ll try to be more careful next time I feel one coming on.”
“You better,” Team glared at him, going from soft to hard in the blink of an eye. Win reared back, a little wide eyed.
“You can be fierce when you want to be, huh?”
“I was president of the swim club after you and P’Dean graduated.”
“I know I don’t remember the time when I was president, or -- vice president, was it?” Team nodded. “But it seems like all this is more of a Dean vibe than one of mine.”
“Yeah... that’s... true...” Team chewed his lip.
“Do your juniors know what you’re like outside of that?” He tipped his head, genuinely curious.
“Mm, some of them, I guess?”
“Hey!” Win lit up with an idea, “What if we go to the university today?”
“We can do that,” Team nodded. “I was thinking of taking it easy today and unpacking some stuff in the house, but if you’re up for some sightseeing, I think it would be good for you.”
“Yeah, I’d like that, at least for a little while.”
“Okay, just promise you’ll let me know if your head starts hurting.”
“I promise,” Win spoke as solemnly as he could muster, and stepped back enough to hold out his little finger to Team.
With a smile, Team wound his little finger around Win’s and that was that, “Can’t break a pinky promise.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Win kissed Team’s cheek and then the rice cooker played a tune to say it was finished cooking. “Oops...”
“Oh... we... should have finished the omelet by now.”
“Is this why we’re both bad at cooking?” Win asked honestly, not teasing.
“...Only partly why,” Team kissed his cheek then pulled away to go deal with the rice. “It’s mostly that we seem to ruin everything that requires actual skill.”
Win focused on finishing chopping up the green onion and a bell pepper and discovered that knife skills were not in his wheelhouse. It wasn’t one of the things that came with his muscle memory, which likely meant it was never something he was any good at. With that done, he turned to find a pan on the stove and some eggs by a bowl.
“Remind me how to do this again?”
Team laughed and moved back after he finished dishing the rice out into a bowl. He walked Win through breaking the eggs into another bowl, adding milk and some spices before beating it all up together. The egg mixture went into the hot pan, followed by the onion and pepper that Win chopped up, and some fresh basil leaves that he skipped chopping. Team took charge of cooking the omelet in the pan while Win just watched, impressed with his mastery, even if this was something simple.
In the times Win remembered, someone else always cooked for him, and he rarely ever cooked for himself. Those days in university, he mostly grabbed breakfast from the campus canteen or one of the street venders. Making his own breakfast was a bit new to Win and having Team teach him how to cook was delightfully domestic.
“You know, you’re pretty good at this,” Win said while they waited for the eggs to cook through.
“This is pretty easy, though. Pharm made sure I could do at least this much,” he laughed.
“I’d like to meet Pharm again, and... what was the other person’s name? The girl.”
“Manaow, she’s dating P’Pruk, your senior.”
“Oh yeah, you said he was in the swim club... do you have a picture of him?”
Team grabbed his phone and pulled up a picture, showing it to Win, “This is Manaow and P’Pruk.”
Win took the phone and studied the photo. The girl was beautiful, with long hair and a bright, silly smile. He liked her already. The man wearing glasses and a more placid expression looked familiar to Win. It took him a moment to place him, but then it all clicked, “Oh! Yes, he’s quiet, right? I remember him being smart and a pretty decent swimmer, but not super social?”
“That sounds about right, he’s really, really nice but way more laid back. But not as quiet as P’Dean.”
Win laughed, “Is anyone as quiet as Dean?”
Team touched a finger to his lips and thought about that, “No, I guess not.”
“At least that hasn’t changed,” Win chuckled. “Is he happy with Nong Pharm?”
“Yeah, both of them are,” Team returned his focus to the omelet but smiled as he talked about Dean and Pharm. “Really, the only time P’Dean isn’t scary is when Pharm is there to make him be nice. Pharm claims he’s really cute and funny, but I don’t believe him.”
“He can be funny when the mood strikes him, you just have to get him in the right mood.”
“Pff, I guess he’s never in the right mood when I’m around.”
Win frowned, “If he’s mean to you, I’ll beat him up.”
Team flashed a smile at Win and, for a moment, Win forgot how to breathe.
“It’s okay, hia, you always glare at him when he’s mean to me, and usually drag me away...”
“For kisses?” Win waggled his brows. Team laughed.
“Yeah, sometimes, but mostly just to somewhere else while he deals with whatever is going on. I’m used to him now, I know he doesn’t hate me or anything, that’s just how he is.”
“Is it hard, though, being that he’s your best friend’s husband?”
“He’s not mean to me all the time. He’s just not playful or funny around me,” Team shrugged. “Besides, he’s also my boyfriend’s best friend.”
Win took a moment to compute that, then pointed at himself, “Oh hey, that’s me.”
“Hia is the smartest,” Team grinned and went up on his toes to kiss Win’s forehead.
“I feel like you’re patronizing me...”
“I would never,” Team held a hand to his chest, faux offended.
Win shoved his shoulder and they both laughed.
By the time the omelet was finished cooking, the rice was already getting cold, so they quickly put their breakfast plates together and ate up. Washing the dishes was a chore they shared, with Team washing and Win drying. He also started learning where everything in the kitchen went, and discovered they would need to buy enough groceries for the both of them soon. Maybe that would go on the list for later today.
When they went back upstairs, Team went to the bathroom first to finish washing up while Win searched through his packed clothes. He ended up getting distracted pulling them all out of boxes and laying them on the bed. When Team came out of the bathroom he helped Win start putting them in the closet and dresser.
Once everything was put away, they broke down the boxes and folded them up to be stored or recycled. Win dusted his hands off and was then surprised by Team hugging him from behind.
“Are you thinking of staying here longer?” the shorter man set his chin on Win’s shoulder and gave him a squeeze.
Win leaned back into that hold and rested his arms atop Team’s, “Yeah... I think so. It’s nice sleeping here with you.”
“Just sleeping?” Team tipped his head just enough to give Win a sidelong glance.
“I mean, if other things happen, that’s good too,” Win turned around in Team’s arms and draped his on Team’s shoulders, a reversal of their hug downstairs. Win tipped his head down and stole Team’s lips in a kiss, which was eagerly returned. Team’s hands slid up his back, pulling him in closer, and Win dropped one hand down to his shoulder, the other moving up into his hair. He backed Team up against a wall, kissing him a little harder.
The move punched a moan out of Team and his fingers clung to the back of the shirt Win had put on. Win couldn’t get enough of kissing Team, it set a fire in him every single time. With great effort, he broke the kiss and pressed their foreheads together, panting heavily in the small space between them.
“I really like kissing you...”
“Yeah... Same...” Team chuckled breathlessly.
“If I don’t stop now we’re going to need another shower...”
Raising his hands to Win’s shoulders, Team gently pushed him away, “A horny Hia Phawin is a force to be reckoned with.”
Win couldn’t stop the laughter that erupted from him at that statement so solemnly delivered, “You’re adorable.”
Team looked up at him with the most unamused expression, “Finish getting washed up while I change. Or else we’ll never make it to the campus without falling into bed again.”
“Doesn’t have to be the bed... there’s always the wall here... or the floor, what about the sofa downstairs?”
“Hia,” Team groaned, long suffering.
“Look, we have a whole house to break in!” Win said as Team pushed him towards the bathroom. “New memories to create together!”
“Yes. Later. Brush your teeth.”
“Does my breath stink?”
“Hia!” With one final shove, Win was propelled, laughing, into the bathroom. Team promptly closed the door on him and on the idea of having sex on every surface in every room. He supposed that was fair, they had plenty of time for that later.
I hope the way I added the link to the explicit content made sense. I want to keep this whole story in the Mature rating, but I can't NOT provide the explicit option for those who want it. This seemed like the best of both worlds, in a way. Let me know what you guys think! I know some people prefer a Fade To Black kinda situation. Nothing important plot-wise happens there, just... more of Team knowing what Win likes and wants. :3
Thanks as always for reading guys!! Your support and comments mean a lot to me! The covid vax dose two reeeally kicked my ass this week (missed two and a half days of work, crazy high fever, I felt like death) but I was determined to get the chapter out on time just for you all! Much love, my darlings! 💜💜💜
This end note is too long as it is. Love you! Catch me on twitter~ @shellygurumi
Chapter 8: 07 - the holding of hands
Team and Win take a trip down memory lane and visit their university campus, hoping to spark some recognition.
Thank you to everyone for your patience and support! I'm sorry this chapter is so late, but it's a long one, so I hope it's worth the wait!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mid-morning on campus was a busy time. Lots of students were milling about in the canteen, walking from class to class, or hanging out and chatting with their friends in their free time. The scene was familiar to Win and it felt like he should be in a uniform there with them all. Instead, he felt strange in plain clothes -- a sleeveless white tee shirt and jeans. Stranger still, he was visiting as a graduated alumni with his boyfriend, who had also already graduated despite being two years Win’s junior. That was the part that made the trip feel weird, trying to comprehend that he was significantly older than the students they passed.
Team carried himself like a senior. He had the confident walk of someone who knew every inch of the campus, who had lived through the entire university experience and came out the other side of it. Win felt like a child next to him, despite being older. Win had always felt mature beyond his age, having grown up so quickly and done so much to take care of his family and the family’s business. He always felt older than Hia Wan, but now he felt younger than Team. It was time for a fake-it-til-you-make-it defense, Win decided. If he could pretend he was older, maybe it would feel real eventually. The lack of remembered life experience would have to be ignored and replaced with what everyone told him he had accomplished.
Win put one hand in his pocket, held his head high and shoulders back, and draped an arm over Team’s shoulders as they walked. This pose helped put him in the mindset of confidence. Regardless of what he remembered, he knew more or less where he stood with Team and that this was allowed. If Team looked like a senior and Win could hold onto him like this, Win would look like a senior too. Plus, it gave the added bonus of being close to Team.
They stopped near the pool area so Team could survey what was going on before interrupting anything. Since it was the middle of the day and most of the swim club members were probably in class, only a few people were around getting in a bit of practice during their free time. Team led them further in when he deemed it okay and only once they stopped closer to the diving boards did Win let his arm fall away from Team, slipping his hands into his back pockets and waiting.
A student finished his lap and another student in a club jacket who stood on the pool deck clicked a stopwatch and told him his time. The one in the water nodded, seeming okay with it and wiped a few drops of water away from his brow before Team and Win caught his attention.
“P’Team?” he asked, suddenly surprised and pulled himself out of the water.
The dry student whirled around and his eyes went wide at the sight of the pair, as well. “P’Team! What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be practicing? Big professional that you are now?”
Team chuckled at them and they all exchanged proper greetings. “I’ve got the day off. Hia Win and I came to visit campus today.”
The two boys turned their attention on Win. Their reactions were very distinct, the taller of the two boys, who had been timing the other, grinned broadly, poised to say something sure to be teasing. The other boy, still dripping wet with pool water, simply offered a polite wai in Win’s direction. Out of the corner of his eye, Win could see Team was already glaring at the taller boy.
“Hello, P’Win,” the swimmer spoke first, before any jibes could be made. “My name is Top, I’m a second year student. Did you attend this university?”
The taller boy hit Top’s shoulder with the back of his hand, “This is the legendary P’Win, who was swim club vice president before P’Team, and also the only person who can make P’Tea--”
“Pop!” Team spoke the other boy’s name with such an authoritative tone, Win had to turn and make sure it was still Team and Dean hadn’t suddenly appeared in his place.
The boy, who was apparently named Pop, turned back to Team with a grin but said nothing.
“Make P’Team... what...?” Top blinked and looked between the three others.
Win threw his arm over Team’s shoulder again and grinned, pursing his lips in consideration, “Blush?”
Team turned his glare on Win and Pop immediately snorted a laugh. Top still looked confused.
“I was just going to say he was the only one who could inspire P’Team to break his records, I don’t know what everyone else is talking about,” Pop shrugged, holding his hands up innocently. Team reached out to flick his forehead with one finger and the younger man winced, holding the sore spot, “Ouch! Phi! Okay, fine, I was going to say he was the one who could make you actually smile.”
“I smile!” Team rolled his eyes and Pop lowered his hands to give Team a look.
“I’ve seen P’Team smile!” Top chirped up, “Lots of times!”
“Not the way P’Win makes him smile!” As Pop said this, he quickly dove behind Top, setting his hands on the other boy’s shoulders and using him as a shield.
Top looked over his shoulder, then back at Team and Win, seemingly calculating the way Win’s arm was draped over Team and the way he was grinning, “Oh... P’Win, are you P’Team’s boyfriend?”
Pop snickered. Team huffed. Win smiled.
“I am his boyfriend, yep,” Win nodded.
“Did you go to school here at the same time as P’Pop?” Top looked over at the boy behind him, then back to Win, who had no idea how to answer that question.
“Pop was a first year the year Hia Win graduated,” Team answered for him. “Like you and me.”
“Ohh,” Top nodded, understanding.
“They were terrible when they were both here at the same time,” Pop said, still grinning. “P’Win would show up with all these scratches on his back...”
“Do you want me to push you in the pool?” Team asked, tone threatening.
“Then! I got to see how he changed after P’Win left and he became president of the swim club,” Top carried on, undaunted by the threat. “How is P’Dean, anyway?”
“Who is P’Dean?” Top asked.
“My best friend,” Win answered, since he could. “He was president of the swim club when I was vice president.”
“Yeah, and we all wished P’Team would take after P’Win instead of P’Dean... but noooo.”
Team rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Win noticed, with pride, that Team still leaned back against his chest despite all the teasing. He squeezed the arm around Team’s shoulders.
“He had to act more like Ai’Dean to keep all of you knuckleheads in line,” Win offered as a plausible explanation. He figured it was probably close to the truth.
“Exactly!” Team said, pointing at Pop.
The student looked at Win, betrayed, “Phi! How could you?”
“How could he what, P’Pop? Side with his boyfriend?” Top asked over his shoulder, eyebrow raised.
The betrayal escalated and suddenly Pop looked like he felt quite outnumbered. Win was amused and noticed the almost smug look in Team’s face. He badly wanted to kiss Team’s cheek, but knew it wasn’t the right time to do something like that, so he refrained.
“Do you guys have practice this afternoon?” Win asked, changing the subject.
“Yeah, P’Pop was helping me with my lap times because we don’t have classes this morning. Will you two be around later?”
“We might be,” Team answered. “You two should get back to practicing, don’t let us hold you up.”
Top nodded in deference to Team, “Okay! I hope you can see you again before you leave.” He offered them both a wai and a goodbye before leaving his position of shielding Pop to return to the pool’s edge.
Pop watched him go and gave him instructions before saying he’d be over in a moment. He stepped closer, clasped his hands behind his back, and spoke more softly, “I heard about the accident, P’Win... How are you doing?”
“Oh... I’m okay doing alright physically. How much did you hear?” He tipped his head.
Pop shook his head, “Just that it was bad enough that you were in a coma, but that you had woken up and been able to leave. That’s about it. It was really scary to hear about, I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Thank you for your concern.” Win smiled kindly, then he felt Team’s arm move up around his waist and glanced over at his boyfriend. Team’s jaw was tight but he didn’t betray anything else. As Win looked back at Pop, he noticed the younger man’s eyes had glanced over to Team, then back.
“The younger members of the club don’t know about what happened. Since they didn’t know you, we didn’t really talk openly about it. So mostly just the members in my year know.”
“That makes sense,” Team said with a little nod.
“I can’t imagine how scary it was for you, P’Team,” Pop frowned, then quickly moved on. “The whole club is here for you two, if you need anything.”
Win and Team both bowed their heads and said thank you simultaneously. It brought a smile to Win’s lips that they could be synchronous despite the memory loss. It also seemed as though Pop, at least, had no idea about the amnesia. Apparently their friends kept that close to the vest.
“We won’t keep you any longer. Nong Top is waiting for you,” Win said with a smile.
Pop looked over at the young man swimming and smiled, then looked back, “Yeah, I should. He’s doing really well, and you’re practically his hero, P’Team. I think he wants to become professional like you.”
“Yeah?” Team turned towards the pool and watched him swim down the length of the lane, turn, and come back.
His eyes were sharp and Win could tell he was watching with the eye of a coach, processing what he saw, strengths and weaknesses. Win had seen that same look in his own coaches before. A kind of pride swelled in his chest at watching it.
“Think he’s got it?” Win asked Team.
Team looked over at Win, then back to the pool, “He’s got potential. And drive, if he’s here for extra practice. How are his times?”
Pop pulled the stopwatch from his pocket and showed the last lap he had timed to Team. Win peered at it and whistled low. Team pursed his lips and nodded, then looked back to Pop.
“Yeah, that’s good. You can give him my LineID, tell him if he has any questions about going pro, he can ask me.”
“Thanks, Phi! He’ll love that,” Pop smiled brightly. “I’ll go back to him now.” He gave a wai and small bow before taking his leave.
Team kept watching them for a moment before turning his head to look at Win, who was already looking at him. He seemed surprised by Win’s attention. “What?”
“You’re really cool,” Win said with a little laugh. It made Team roll his eyes. “I’m not teasing you, promise.”
“Is this because of the whole... being a professional athlete thing again?”
“Kind of, but more because you’re a really good phi to your nongs,” Win said and Team blushed. “I bet you were a great president.”
“I guess you have to ask them,” Team nodded towards the two young men. “But I think I was pretty good.”
Win started them walking again, heading towards the stands where a few students were scattered around, chatting, eating snacks, or doing school work. He picked a place far from anyone else to grab a seat, lounging with his arms spread over the backrest. Team took place beside him, one leg bent across the seat, turned to face Win, hands holding his leg.
“I wish I could remember what kind of vice president I was, or what Dean was like... seems like everyone thinks you were more like Dean, though. Which, to be honest, would be kind of hard to imagine before today,” Win laughed.
Team chuckled, too, “Yeah, P’Dean and I are not really alike as people. I guess... when I was president, I just tried to do my best,” he shrugged. “It wasn’t like I did everything the same as P’Dean, I did a lot like you, too... and a lot of things my own way. I was just stern like P’Dean, that’s all.”
“So I was right, about keeping them all under control?” Win let his head fall to his own shoulder, gaze on Team.
“Yeah, that was--” Team interrupted himself with a laugh. “That was probably something you would have said before amnesia.”
Win smiled, that meant at least his instincts were good.
“You were able to convince people to do things because you’re charismatic. I don’t have that kind of charisma, so I said and did things the way P’Dean did, instead.”
“Who was your vice president?” Win asked, though he figured he wouldn’t remember the student, anyway. “What was he like?”
“Mew is his name, he was a good balance with me. He kept things fun for the club when I was strict, which is kind of what you and P’Dean did, too.” Team pursed his lips in thought, then shook his head. “You were serious when you were in charge, but in between you would make jokes and laugh with us... or let us bend the rules a bit more. Like letting me eat in the locker room.”
Win laughed at that, “You like to snack a lot?”
“Mm, especially on Pharm’s desserts. But also you’d always have Lays for me.”
“Lays? I had those?”
“Uhh...” Team looked down at his hands. “They were my favorite snack when I was a student and ... it was a whole thing for us.”
Win reached out to take Team’s hand, drawing his gaze back up. “Tell me about it?”
Team had gone shy again and even though he met Win’s eyes, he ended up fiddling with their fingers and glancing away as he spoke, “I liked Lays a lot, way more than was really healthy for my diet? So you would uh... ration them, kind of, like take them away if I was bad or give them to me if I pouted or did well. But whenever I was really hungry, you always had a bag of Lays in your locker or backpack for me...”
The explanation made Win smile and he squeezed Team’s hand. “I was pretty whipped for you, huh?”
“I-- Hia...” Team’s eyes went wide, then looked anywhere but Win’s face. “At that time... I... never thought of it that way?”
“I always had your favorite snack on hand, Team,” Win laughed at himself. “Do we keep them at home, too?”
Team nodded, “Yeah, there’s always at least one bag, but I don’t eat them all the time anymore. More just, when I get a craving for them, or if we’re hanging out with friends or something.”
“Special occasions, like having a beer or soft drinks?” Win guessed.
“Yeah, like that,” he nodded again.
“Is there more to it...? What about it makes you shy?”
Team pressed his lips together, then turned so he was sitting beside Win, their shoulders pressed together, holding Win’s hand in his lap. “There have just been a few things... One night I was studying and ran out of Lays, so I went to the convenience store by campus to buy more... You found me there and ... it was when you offered to tutor me in English.”
Win watched Team as he spoke, eyes focused on their hands, a faint blush on his cheeks. His heart felt warm and light.
Clearing his throat, Team went on with the story, “I said I didn’t know if I could afford your tutoring fee.”
“Did I charge a fee?”
Team laughed and tipped his head, “I didn’t know at the time, but no... you usually didn't. For me, though, because I said it, you did.”
“What did I charge you?” Win’s brows furrowed in confusion. He couldn’t figure out why he would charge Team, of all people, for tutoring.
Turning his head, Team looked at Win, studied his face for a moment and smiled. Then he glanced around them to see if anyone was paying attention, and when was satisfied, he made his move. One hand held the back of Win’s head, tipping it down, and Team pressed a brief kiss to his forehead, before pulling away quickly and dropping his hand. Win stared at him, wide-eyed, and felt his heartbeat quicken.
“That’s what you charged me...” Team said, biting his lip around a smile.
“In the middle of the store?”
“Yes,” Team’s expression changed to a glare, but there was clearly no anger behind it.
“I was bold, huh?” Win grinned, proud of his past self for making that move. Team nodded. “What did you do?”
“You were smug and walked away to pay for my snacks... I just... got mad and followed you.”
“You still let me tutor you, though.”
“And I assume you let me kiss you again...” Win waggled his eyebrows at Team.
Team laughed, rolling his eyes, and smacked Win in the chest.
“This was still before we were officially together, I guess?”
“Mm,” Team leaned back against the stands again, and Win took the opportunity to drape his arm around the man’s shoulders. “It was one more way to spend time together.”
“Were you really mad at me for that?”
“I dunno... no? I think I was just... flustered. I didn’t know how to deal with you.”
Win laughed softly, but nodded, “You still get flustered.”
“Yeah, but now I know how to get back at you,” Team cut his eyes over to Win and smirked. It was a whole look.
“I like that. It’s hot,” as soon as Win said that, Team looked away. “You get this expression in your eyes... like you want to eat me alive.”
“Let’s go look around some more,” Team said suddenly, standing up from the bench. He walked towards the stairs, “Come on.”
Having no choice but to follow, Win laughed as he stood and walked after him, wondering where they were going. As it turned out, Team led them towards the locker rooms. After checking with Pop that no one was using it, they went in. It looked about the same as Win expected it to, a little rundown, lockers beat up, wooden benches in the middle of the room, showers off to the side. It smelled exactly as he expected, too, that mixture of chlorine, sweat, and soap.
Team turned around in the middle of the room, facing Win, “Do you remember which locker was yours?”
Win glanced around, then moved to a wall of lockers. He felt Team’s eyes on him the whole time but made a point not to look at his expression. Stopping at one near the end of the row, he ran his hand over the faded number plate on the front. “This one, in my first year...”
Finally looking over, Win saw that Team’s expression was neutral, he simply nodded at the words. So Win walked along the row of lockers again, running his hand over them, looking for anything that seemed or felt familiar. Moving to where the upperclassmen lockers tended to be, he stood in front of a few that might have been his in the time when Team knew him. He started to reach for the second, thinking Dean might have the first, but ended up stopping his hand on the third, then turned to Team.
“Was this one mine?” He asked and watched as Team’s throat bobbed, swallowing down some emotion, perhaps.
He nodded slowly, “Yeah, hia, that’s your locker.”
“Oh...” Win turned back to it and ran his hand down it. Somehow, he expected there to be a chip in the paint exactly where there was one. It was familiar, though he couldn’t remember it specifically. It was the first time that happened since the accident... Well, apart from the way holding and kissing Team felt familiar.
Lost in thought, Win didn’t hear Team moving before he felt arms slide around his waist, hugging him from behind. His face was pressed into the back of one shoulder and Win set a hand on top of Team’s arm.
“Maybe it’s still in there,” Team said into the fabric of Win’s shirt. “Your memories.”
Win leaned back against Team’s chest, hoping the younger man was right. He looked at the locker in an awe that the beat up piece of metal didn’t likely deserve and said, “Maybe...”
They spent another few hours on campus after that. Team took them to the canteen and showed Win where they sat at lunch every day with their friends. He pointed out where he and Win often sat at the table, but even sitting there, it didn’t feel any more familiar than any of the other seats looked. If Win had a particular place he sat in his first year, he didn’t remember that, either. Deciding that the table must not have been as important as the people who occupied it, he probably just didn’t remember.
Wandering around, Team showed him to the business school’s part of campus and they walked through the halls. Win remembered where some of his classes had been, but not much more than that. They ran into a teacher who recognized him after a double-take, citing that the change in hair color threw her off at first. She was warm and friendly, and seemed like the kind of teacher Win would have liked, but he had no memory of her whatsoever.
She asked a few questions of him, how he was doing, how it was to live in England, and Win gave the vaguest, polite answers he could muster. Team stayed by his side through all of it, not touching him overtly, but the warmth of his body heat so close to Win was a comfort in his duress. It was Team who got him out of the conversation, too, first saying something about how Win was being modest and naming his position in the family business. When he caught the teacher’s attention, she asked Team a bit about himself, recognizing him as the star of the swim club from the previous year.
Finally, Team maneuvered a polite excuse of not wanting to hold her up too long, saying she must have a lot to do. They parted ways and once Team and Win rounded a corner to escape, Team held onto Win’s hand, giving it a squeeze. Win tried to bury down the anxiety of having to hold up a conversation with someone he didn’t remember, and Team suggested they leave campus for now. Win agreed with a nod, rather than words.
It was late afternoon by the time they left, and the swim club would surely begin practice soon. Win dreaded the idea of having to pretend to know any of the senior members of the club that actually remembered him, so instead, they got into the car and Team started driving. Win didn’t know where they were going, but he also didn’t remember the directions to places he had been to in the last six years.
“How’s your head feeling?” Team broached, filling the silence that had fallen since they left.
“Not so bad...” Win said honestly and lifted his fingers to gingerly trace the scar. “Just hurts on the side...”
“Would you like to get something to eat?”
“Mm, that sounds good,” Win leaned back against his seat and closed his eyes. “I’m hungry.”
“Me too,” there was a lightness to Team’s voice and it was surprisingly soothing.
Win tried to focus on that, on the man beside him, but the struggle of knowing so little about everyone around him was feeling a little too real right now. He kept his eyes closed for the whole drive and Team seemed content to let him be silent.
Music from the car’s radio marked the passage of time. Approximately six songs later, Team stopped the car and Win opened his eyes. They were in front of a nice looking restaurant that advertised traditional Thai food. It looked comfortably upscale, not so fancy that Win would feel underdressed there in his casual clothes, but the building looked new and had a feel of something fancier than an old, family run business.
“Where are we?” Win asked, looking over at Team, who was smiling.
“Come on, I’ll show you,” he got out of the car and led Win inside, holding the door for him on the way.
A glance at his watch told Win that it was late in the day for lunch but far too early for dinner; nonetheless, the restaurant was almost half full with locals and tourists alike. They were met by a hostess who recognized them both and showed them to a seat.
“We come here often?” Win asked after sliding into a booth opposite Team.
“Mm,” Team nodded, still smiling. “We do. The food here is the best.”
“It seems popular. How long has it been here?”
“It’s been open for about three or four months.”
“That’s it?” Win blinked, then looked around again, wondering if maybe it was a bigger space than he originally thought. He supposed that it might have been located on a busy street, but Win hadn’t been paying attention when they arrived.
“There were some good critic reviews when it opened and it had a lot of good advertisements, too.”
“Is that how we found it?” Win asked and Team opened his mouth to answer before someone came up to the side of their table.
“Ai’Team! P’Win!” It was a cute, short man with soft brown hair and after a moment, Win recognized him as Pharm, Dean’s husband.
“Nong Pharm, right?” Win looked up at him. He smiled brightly.
“Yes! That’s right. This is my restaurant,” Pharm glanced around with a quiet pride, his eyes shining. “And actually, P’Dean will be here in a little while. I’m sure he will want to talk with you, P’Win.”
Win sat up a little straighter, “Yeah, definitely.”
“Great! I’ll let him know you’re here, then,” Pharm rocked on his toes and back, then gestured to the menus that the hostess had left with them. “Take a look at what you want to eat, it’s on the house.”
“Pharm...” Team said, frowning but Pharm shook his head.
“No, you guys are dealing with a lot, let me at least feed you,” Pharm set his hand on Team’s shoulder. There was a definite fondness between the two of them and Team gave in immediately.
“Okay, thank you,” he patted Pharm’s hand before the small man withdrew it and stepped back.
“Take your time, someone will be over in a moment to take your order,” Pharm turned his attention to Win. “It’s good to see you, P’Win, and I like your haircut!”
Win chuckled, “Thanks, and thank you for lunch.”
“Of course!” Pharm gave them a wai, then excused himself to go take care of things.
“I can see why he’s your best friend,” Win said softly, and Team smiled the same bright way Pharm had.
“Pharm is the nicest person I’ve ever met.”
“Nicer than me?” Win grinned.
Team took a moment to think about it, tapping his chin theatrically. “You’re both nice, but he’s sweet and you’re wicked.”
Laughter erupted from Win at that response and supposed he deserved it, “Yeah, I guess he isn’t as much of a deviant, huh?”
“No. And he always fed me at school.”
Win propped his chin on his upturned palm and leaned towards Team, “I’m sure I fed you very well. Or should I say ate you?”
Team blinked, then immediately blushed. “Hia!” he groaned, “Pharm is definitely nicer than you.”
Relenting, Win brought his attention to the menu and Team did the same. They ordered and turned their conversation to the restaurant and food. Team explained how Pharm’s family had been in the restaurant business for a long time, how he liked cooking for fun and joined the cooking club at school. It turned out that one of Pharm’s final projects at school was writing up a business model for this very restaurant they were sitting in.
Dean’s family helped back the venture but Pharm put in all of the work himself. The way Team talked about Pharm and all he had done to get the place up and running, it was clear he had a lot of pride in his friend. It was then that Win saw the ways in which their friendship ran deeper than just “he fed me, so I like him.” He knew there had to be more to it, but Team hadn’t ever explained it before. What Win had learned about Pharm also told him more about why he and Dean worked. Someone with drive, determination, and the strength to start a successful business straight out of university would be well matched with Dean.
The food, when it arrived, was also just as good as Team had made it out to be. Win didn’t often have traditional Thai food unless he got it from a street vendor -- at least, in the memories he retained. There was a big difference between Thai street food and traditional restaurant food, though, and this was amazing. Any time someone talked up something as being unbelievably good, it rarely lived up to the infamy. In this case, Team wasn’t wrong at all, Pharm’s cooking was truly special.
“Hey...” Win said, remembering something Team had told him.
“Hm?” Team lifted his head from his plate, mouth full of food. It was adorable.
“Didn’t you say you shared Pharm’s food with me when we were dating?”
He chewed slowly, swallowed, then wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Yeah. I did.”
“Has it always been this good?” Win tipped his head.
Team looked down to study the plate before him, then back up and considered. “Yes and no? It’s always been really, really good. He’s gotten better, though, the more he made. Also what he made for me regularly was ... sandwiches or desserts. I think the desserts were always the best, just as good then as now.”
Win smiled. Team gave him a much more detailed answer than he was expecting, but it had become clear just how much food meant to Team, especially when it came to his best friend’s food. His heart felt warmed. “You liked it this much and still shared with me.”
Team set his fork and spoon down and looked seriously across at Win, he nodded, “Yeah.”
“Can I ask why?”
Team chewed his lip and fidgeted in his seat. “Well... It was good, and I liked it... and I thought you would like it, so I wanted you to have some, too. You always smiled when I shared.”
“Were you always so nice to me?” Win leaned his cheek on a loose fist, smiling across at Team.
The other man laughed, shaking his head, “No, I wasn’t.” Before Win could ask what that meant, Team had picked up his utensils again to carry on eating, “I’ll explain another time.”
Thinking back on all he knew about Team and their relationship, Win remembered the last time they were out eating together. Team had said he might have hit Win for showing affection in public, so maybe that was the kind of thing he was referring to. Returning to eating himself, Win focused more on finishing his food than the conversation.
Both of them cleaned their plates, which someone came to take away. Just as Win was going to ask about desserts, Dean showed up standing by Team’s side of the table. He had a small, fancy plate of some kind of brightly colored treats.
Dean gestured for Team to scoot over once he set the plate down, and slid into the booth beside him once he did. He looked across to Win with a somewhat softer than usual expression, “Hey, how are you?”
Win watched Team lick his lips, eyeing the desserts, then turned his attention to Dean, “Good, I’m good. Nong Pharm’s food is delicious.”
“It is,” Dean smiled genuinely and nodded his agreement. He gestured to the plate in the middle of the table, “This is one of his most popular desserts. It’s called Leum Kleun.”
Win blinked at the odd name and looked over to Team.
“It’s so good, you feel like you forgot to swallow,” he explained while slowly reaching for one, like a child trying to sneak a treat he wasn’t allowed to have yet.
“I see...” Taking one of the little cups, he eyed the blue substance inside it curiously.
“It was the first dessert of Pharm’s that any of us tried,” Dean said, taking one for himself. “He thought you might like that.”
Win watched both Team and Dean squeeze the bottom of the plastic cup and tilt their heads back to drop the dessert into their mouths. His eyes lingered on Team as the younger man closed his eyes and worked the dessert over, looking blissful. Win’s eyes slid over to Dean curiously, and found him with a similar, if more muted, version of Team’s expression.
Shrugging, he did the same and was surprised by both the texture and flavor of the Leum Kleun. Pushing it about with his tongue, he could taste the layers of different flavors. Coconut and custard, smoke, salt, and jasmine, it was floral and sweet and balanced. He kept trying to identify each individual flavor and realized how it got its name. Swallowing, he looked back at Dean, “Please thank Pharm for me, he was right.”
Team laughed and passed another little cup to Win before taking a second for himself, “He got P’Dean’s attention with this... P’Dean posted it on his facebook, even.” Team looked sidelong at Dean, as if wondering if he was going to get away with light teasing.
“You post on facebook?” Win asked, eyeing his friend.
Dean’s jaw was set and he slid his eyes over to Team, but ultimately let Win have his attention, “Not usually.”
“It was the talk of campus when he did,” Team said before quickly distracting himself with the second Leum Kleun.
Win chuckled and leaned back in the booth, turning the little plastic cup around in his fingers. “Team told me Pharm won you over with food and I thought that was weird for you... but I guess not?”
Dean glanced away, considering his words, before looking back and speaking, “He got my attention on his own, his food gave us a way to communicate.”
A peek at Team revealed a knowing smile that said there was more to it than what Dean was saying. Then something clicked into place. Win snapped and pointed at Dean, “The person you were waiting for... you said there was someone you knew you were meant to be with or something, right?”
“Yes,” Dean nodded once, smiling.
“That’s him, huh? You found him,” Win felt warmed through for his friend. He remembered the conversation they once had when he wondered why Dean never seemed to have an interest in dating anyone.
“I did,” it seemed like that might be all Dean would say on the subject, but he went on. “We were meant to be together, and both of us knew it.”
“You’ll have to tell me more about that sometime,” Win said, then finally ate his second dessert serving.
“I will,” Dean said like a promise. “You can ask me things about your life, too, Win.”
Team sat up and leaned in, “Yeah, P’Dean knows things I don’t, and can tell you things I can’t.”
“You two should come over for dinner this week,” Dean suggested. “If you’re feeling up to it.”
“That would be great. I have to see where you’re living, married man,” Win smirked at Dean and saw his friend soften with a laugh.
“It’s not far from your new house,” Dean informed him. “Have you been there yet?”
“Yeah, I spent last night there and plan to stay there from now on,” Win looked over at Team, reaching out a hand across the table for him. There was just a moment of hesitation before Team took his hand, holding it and looking away from Dean. That was interesting.
Dean eyed their hands, then pointedly ignored what he saw. “That’s good. Uh, it’ll probably be a while before you deal with this, but... I know you have all your notes from your master’s degree. I still have mine, too. I wouldn’t mind sharing them, or helping you with any questions.”
“Oh, thanks! That would be really helpful, actually. I’m sure I’ll have lots of questions... I don’t even remember my undergrad classes. My Phaw said I don’t need to go back to work yet, but eventually I’ll have to.” Win had pulled his hand back across the table while talking with Dean. Team sat idly by, letting his seniors talk without interrupting.
“Don’t rush yourself,” Dean said with what Win would have thought was an uncharacteristic gentleness. Maybe he had grown softer in the years that Win forgot. “Your family knows how hard you work.”
Win nodded, “I’ll try to remember that.”
Dean chuckled and looked over to Team, “You help him remember that.”
Team straightened and agreed, “Yes, sir.” He eyed Win, “I’ll remind him, or tell you if he doesn’t listen.”
Eyes shifting between Team and Dean, Win pursed his lips, “Why do I feel ganged up on?”
“It takes a village to stop you from overworking,” Dean said, then ate the last Leum Kleun.
Team pointed at Dean, “What he said.”
“I guess I should be thankful?” Win raised a brow at them both.
“You should,” Dean said, then his eyes were drawn away as if by some sort of extrasensory perception.
Win looked over his shoulder and almost laughed when he saw Pharm approaching their table. Pharm moved immediately to his husband and rested a slim arm on Dean’s nearest shoulder, leaning his hip into the larger man. Dean’s arm went around the smaller man’s waist, keeping him close. It was adorable, but more than that, it was deeply natural. It seemed that the two gravitated towards each other, and fit together perfectly. Win couldn’t help but move his gaze to Team after seeing it, and smiled to see him leaning over the table past Dean to look at Pharm. He looked sweet and happy, young and without some of the stress he always seemed to carry.
“How was lunch?” Pharm asked.
“Delicious!” Win answered immediately, then pointed at the now-empty dessert plate. “And this... The Leum Kleun? That was amazing.”
Pharm brightened considerably, which Win didn’t think was possible. The man was almost ethereal. “I’m glad you liked it, P’Win! Did P’Dean tell you why I chose it for you?”
“He did, and thank you. That was very considerate of you.”
Dean’s arm tightened around Pharm’s waist and he smiled in a way Win wasn’t used to seeing.
“You’re very welcome, P’Win. I hope your recovery is going alright. P’Dean and I are here for you and Ai’Team, for whatever you need.”
“Again, thank you. It’s going as well as it can...” Win looked over to his boyfriend. “Team has been a great help.”
Everyone else’s attention also turned to Team then and the man glanced between the three and leaned back in his seat again. “Well... I... yeah.”
“I’m sure he’s been wonderful,” Pharm said and looked back to Win, sparing Team. Dean did the same. “Did P’Dean invite you to dinner at our house?”
“He did, I’m sure we will find a time to come over,” Win held back a laugh, finding it amusing that Pharm made sure Dean conveyed everything he wanted him to.
“Especially if you’re cooking,” Team added and Pharm laughed sweetly.
“Maybe I can try again to teach P’Win how to cook,” Pharm grinned at Win, teasing.
“Good luck with that,” Dean shook his head.
“I feel like I should be insulted...” Win said, eyeing them both, “But considering I don’t seem to have any cooking skills...”
They all ended up chuckling at that. After a little more chatter and more thanks from Team and Win to Pharm and Dean, they all decided it was about time to head out. Pharm insisted on giving them food to take home, saying he knew that they wouldn’t be eating well if he didn’t. He also refused, once more, to let them pay for any of the food. Team and Pharm shared a hug before parting ways, which Win thought was sweet. Dean embraced Win very briefly, but patted him on the back and left his hand there until their respective partners were finished with their goodbyes.
Team let Win walk them out with an arm around his shoulder until they got back to the car. Spinning on a heel, Team leaned back against the driver side door of the car and looked up at Win, holding one of his hands in the space between them. The leftovers Pharm gave them in Team’s other hand.
“What do you want to do now?” Team asked, squeezing his hand.
“Guess we should head home to at least put that in the refrigerator,” Win nodded to the leftovers. “Then... I don’t know? Maybe we can check out your old condo?” Something suddenly occurred to Win. “And see my motorcycle?”
With a groan, Team dropped his head back, leaning more heavily against the car. The dramatic reaction made Win laugh. He lifted his head up and pouted, “Hiaaaa, I don’t want you riding it.”
“Team...” Win leaned forward and gave him a sniff-kiss to the cheek. “I’m not going to ride it, I just want to see it.”
“Do you promise?” Team stared up at him.
“I promise, no riding,” Win used formal language to convey his sincerity. When it seemed Team was appeased, he spoke again, “We’ll have to figure out how to get it to the house, though.”
“Mm... I thought about that. We can rent a trailer to put it on and take it that way,” Team swayed their joined hands. “I’m ... scared of you getting on it right now.”
“I understand, I’m not in a hurry to ride,” he squeezed Team’s hand. More than that, Win wasn’t sure he could remember how to ride just yet, either. He wasn’t about to tell Team that and scare him all the more, but at least he could honestly assure Team that he had no intention of riding. It had been a dream to have a motorcycle for so long that he really wanted to see what his bike looked like.
“Okay, hia,” Team nodded and pushed off the car. Win didn’t back up, so they ended up standing close together. “Ready to go?”
He pulled Team’s hand until it was behind Win’s back, tugging him that much closer. Since Team didn’t move away, Win leaned down to kiss him properly. It was chaste and brief, but Team met that kiss willingly. Win sighed as it ended, tipping his head down to press their foreheads together, then said, “Yeah, I’m ready.”
Team took his hand back and gently pushed against Win’s chest to put space between them. He passed the leftover container to Win and shooed him away to the passenger side of the car. “Let’s go home, hia.”
To anyone who may not remember, the name of Leum Kleun means "I forgot to swallow" - it was explained in the show, but it occurred to me that not everyone remembers that bit. :)
I'm gonna do all I can to get the next chapter out on time!! Ideally, I want to get it posted before WinTeamWeek starts. My new job just keeps stealing all my mental energy lol
Thank you, as always, for all the support!! Everyone's comments and cheering mean so much to me, I can't even express it~~
Chapter 9: 08 - the breaking of glass
Things start to unravel for Win as the stress of amnesia eats away at his ability to cope with his situation. Thinking that spending a day alone might help, he finds out that it really doesn't.
A quick content warning about this chapter, there are some rather detailed depictions of anxiety here, so if that's something that is hard to deal with for you, just be prepared and take care of yourself. 💜
That being said, this is absolutely my favorite chapter that I've written so far and I'm so happy about it! (It's also the longest...)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
Eee~ I hope you guys enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!
There will not be an update next Friday, because literally right now as I post this (in my time zone), it is the start of Win Team Week and there will be so much content getting posted, that it just makes sense to take the week off from this WIP. I may or may not participate in WTW myself, but atyatm will return on the 14th!
(Or earlier that week.... we'll see what happens, but def by the 14th!)
As always, thank you all for your love, support and comments~~ I love you guys!!! 💜💜💜
[@shellygurumi on Twitter]
Chapter 10: 09 - I know your beat, baby
Picking up where the last chapter left off, Team takes Win upstairs for some... quality time.
This chapter includes explicit content
I honestly spent so much time trying to figure out how to go about posting this chapter without giving myself 10 times as much work or changing the rating of the overall fic. I literally wrote myself into a corner this time. Anyway, ALL of the explicit content is in this chapter post (not cut), but it's marked with [explicit content starts here] / [ ... ends here] if you do want to skip over it.
I dunno if that's better or worse? At this point, I just want to post what I have though, so HERE WE GO. It's fanfic, it ain't that deep, right? Hopefully. ENJOY!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“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, 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 squeezed 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 upstairs. He moved easily, only pausing for a moment to adjust his balance before ascending the stairs.
Magnanimously, Win waited until they reached the top before he started peppering kisses to Team’s ear. He was rewarded with the tightening grip of Team’s hands, and once they were through the bedroom door, Team turned and pressed Win’s back against the wall. That was when the kissing started in earnest, Team’s lips crushing Win’s as he pinned him there, feet off the ground, totally at Team’s mercy. Win didn’t want it any other way; he moaned as he slid his hands into Team’s hair, holding him there and kissing back.
With his legs wrapped around Team’s waist, all Team had to do was shift forward a little bit to draw another hot moan from Win’s lips. Feeling the pressure against his cock, Win broke the kiss to drop his head back against the wall, “Team...”
“Hia,” the word was breathed out against Win’s cheek, followed by several more kisses, trailing over to his ear. Team’s deep, husky voice spoke again, “I want you...”
“I’m right here, baby,” Win gasped out and felt the way his words made Team’s hands grip his body harder. He lifted his head and returned some of those kisses, making his way down Team’s neck. Kisses, soft bites, the grazing of teeth, all teased along Team’s skin, until Win found a sweet spot. Right where neck meets shoulder, Win gently bit down and pulled a moan from Team’s throat.
One of his hands moved to the small of Win’s back and held tight. Team’s knees trembled slightly and the wall became necessary support for both of them. Win dropped his legs down so he could stand of his own accord, then brought a hand to Team’s hip as he continued his assault on that spot that made Team weak. He kissed and sucked, reveling in the sounds Team was making in response, wanting to hear them all. The other man braced his forearm on the wall just beside Win and leaned heavily against him.
“Ah, Hia... That’s...” Team gasped, unable to finish his thought.
Win stopped and licked along the spot he had been sucking at, making Team breathe raggedly. He lifted his lips to the man’s ear and nipped gently at it before saying, “Does it feel good, baby?”
“Yes,” Team sounded wrecked and it lit something up inside of Win.
He turned them around, putting Team’s back to the wall now and resumed his assault on the man’s neck. One hand pinned his shoulder back while the other grabbed Team’s hip, squeezing just hard enough to keep him where he was. Without any struggle whatsoever, Team gave up control entirely to Win, eyes closed, head tipped back and away, and mouth open to release a series of soft whines and moans.
Win sucked a bruise onto that soft spot that drove Team crazy, then moved, open-mouthed, up his neck. He bit gently at the pulse point of his throat and smiled when Team hummed with pleasure. Bringing his lips to Team’s ear, Win spoke breathily against it, “You like this, huh?”
Team laughed, a few soft puffs of air, “You always want to mark up my neck...” He had to take a slow, calming breath before he could open his eyes to look at Win. “Normally I tell you not to.”
“What’s different now?” Win pulled back just enough to see Team’s face properly. His pupils were blown wide, his lips parted, panting softly.
“Now...” Team glanced away, then met Win’s eyes again, “Now I want to feel you, I don’t care who knows or sees later. I don’t care if I get teased.”
Win blinked, trying to keep his heart from racing at those words. Team wanted to feel him, wanted to be close to him, wanted him. The hand at Team’s shoulder shifted to hold the back of his neck before Win closed the slight space between them to kiss him hard. Team opened himself up to Win and accepted that kiss and the intruding tongue that came with it. He moaned as Win pressed their hips together, grinding against him. Hands grasped desperately at the back of Win’s shirt, keeping him close, and hitching one leg up just enough so that Win could slot his leg between Team’s.
With the hand at Team’s hip, Win drew his thumb down over his hip bone, pressing into the tender space beside the bone and elicited another throaty moan from the man. It was muffled by the kiss, which was somehow even hotter to Win. He wanted to draw all the sounds out of Team, take him apart, make him come undone. Every right move he made spurred Win onward. He kissed harder and deeper, wanting to consume Team. Eventually they broke the kiss and gasped into each other’s mouths, trying to catch their breath.
In that same moment, Win ground his thigh against Team’s crotch and made him nearly whimper. Team held the back of Win’s head and leaned in, whining into Win’s ear, “Hia... please...”
“Tell me what you need, baby,” Win pinned him harder against the wall and kissed anywhere he could reach.
“You...” the single word was desperate.
Win stepped backwards and the pained sound Team made struck right to his heart. He moved fast, pulling Team forward so their bodies weren’t separated for long. Directing them to the bed, Win turned them around and gently pushed Team down to sit on the edge. He ran a hand up from shoulder to neck, then drew his fingertips along his jawline, stopping at Team’s chin. He tipped the younger man’s head up until his eyes were on Win, then smiled down at him.
Both hands grabbed at the hem of his shirt and Win pulled it up and off, exposing his torso for Team’s hungry eyes. His pants were shucked next, but Win left his boxers on for now, just to tantalize his lover.
“Your turn,” Win said, voice low, before he helped Team out of his own shirt and jeans. Rid of most of their clothing, Team backed up along the bed and Win crawled after him, prowling like a cat stalking his prey. The whole time, Team never took his eyes off Win, and swallowed hard once they were settled by the pillows. Team leaned back on his elbows, holding himself up to keep level with Win, who came to a stop between Team’s legs.
There was a charged moment between them as they held one another’s gaze, waiting to see who would act first. Team’s chest moved up and down, breathing heavily, and Win knew, instinctively, that if he put a hand to the other man’s heart, he’d feel it beating hard. His own was beating rapidly and Win’s world narrowed to the gorgeous man before him. In a quick motion, he wrapped one arm behind Team’s back and pulled him into a passionate kiss.
Team moaned and lowered himself down, bringing both arms around Win to keep him close. One of his hands moved up to lace fingers through Win’s hair. The kiss broke when Win rolled his hips against Team’s and they both moaned at the closer contact, only the thin fabric of their boxers separating them. Win started trailing kisses down his neck and chest, hitting that already bruising skin along the way.
This time the kisses and bites made Team arch his back up off the bed. More soft moans fell from his lips, fingers tightening in Win’s hair, “Hia... yes...”
“I love to hear that,” Win murmured against Team’s collarbone. Moving further down, he kissed and bit at Team’s nipple, lapping his tongue over it to make Team gasp. He wanted to take care of the other man, in return for the ways Team had taken such good care of him ever since he left the hospital. Every moan, gasp, or soft grunt Team made spurred Win onward.
He showered Team’s toned body in affection, traveling all the way down to his pelvis. Leaning back just a little, Win placed one long hand over Team’s crotch and rubbed his palm over it. Team groaned and bucked his hips upward, chasing that pressure. His eyes closed and his head tilted back into the pillow. Win continued to rub, his fingertips tracing the outline of Team’s cock until the other man moaned.
“More... please...” Team murmured the words unprompted, making Win think that this was something he had encouraged Team to do in the past: ask for what he wanted.
“Want me to take these off, baby?” Fingers of Win’s free hand tugged lightly at the elastic waistband, pulling it down enough to expose one hip. His lips moved immediately to the exposed skin, leaving light, brief kisses there.
“Yes,” he nodded, breathing ragged.
Win carefully pulled the boxers down his hips, Team pushing his shoulders into the bed to lift his hips up for the movement. Legs free, he let them settle on either side of Win, looking down his body at the older man. Win settled his hands on those long legs, just above Team’s knees, and slid his hands slowly upwards, eyes glued to Team’s all the while.
An intake of breath showed the way those trailing fingers affected him. Win made sure to trace his thumbs along Team’s inner thighs on his way up, and stopped just shy of where Team surely wanted those hands to end up. Team bit his lip as he stared back at Win, holding his breath. It was the last expression Win saw before turning his gaze down to his own hands, bending down to place light kisses along Team’s inner thigh, moving upwards, then over to the other thigh and back down.
[explicit content starts here]
Team let out a sound half way between pain and pleading. In response, Win opened his mouth to bite at the thick muscle of Team’s thigh. He saw Team’s cock twitch from the corner of his eye and glanced over at the beautiful, flushed erection. It was hard, despite the neglect from Win’s hands and mouth. He figured he should remedy that, even though the little whimpers of need from Team sounded so very nice.
Win kissed his way further up Team’s thigh, licked at his balls and nuzzled his nose against the base of that thick cock. A sudden gasp from Team was music to his ears.
“Shit, please, hia,” he begged. A hand found its way into Win’s hair once more, gripping hard in an attempt to keep him where he was. Win yielded to that need, because he wanted the same thing. Licking a stripe up Team’s dick, Win took it into his mouth once he reached the top and swallowed down as much of it as he could handle. He held it deep in his throat for as long as he could, before gasping and pulling off.
After catching his breath, Win held the base of Team’s cock and sucked at just the head, pushing his lips over it to simulate the feeling of penetration. Team moaned his pleasure, but after a few bobs of Win’s head, he slid his hand down from Win’s hair to the back of his neck, urging him upward. Letting himself be directed, Win smiled into the kiss that Team started. It wasn’t as desperate as Win had expected, though, more soft and sweet.
Pulling back, Win looked down at Team curiously, “What’s wrong?”
Team chuckled and shook his head, “Nothing, hia... Nothing at all. I just... want something a little different...”
“Tell me what you want,” Win said, trying to keep the threat of insecurity at bay.
“I want you,” Team said, not for the first time. Win blinked at him.
Team shook his head, then closed his eyes. Some sort of struggle happened inside of him before he managed to speak again. Lifting himself up, Team hid his face by way of speaking directly into Win’s ear, “I want you to fuck me, hia.”
“Ohhhh,” Win turned his head so he could see Team’s face, finding the other man blushing darkly. Despite the fact that Team was more forward in private than public, apparently this level of directness still flustered him.
Suddenly, Team looked very uncertain, “Is that okay?”
“Yeah,” Win nodded, smiling at Team and pushing him back down onto the bed. “Yeah, baby, that’s okay.”
Team gazed up at Win and bit his lower lip. He seemed younger now, in some way that Win couldn’t put his finger on. Maybe it was the softness about his expression, or the need for Win to take him and be the aggressive one. Maybe it was just that the weight of everything that had happened over the last few weeks was too much for him. Whatever the case, Win drew his eyes away from Team’s face and down to his chest, where he ran a hand slowly up along the muscles of his torso. Lowering himself down, Win placed kiss after kiss over his pecs, pulling a soft gasp from Team’s lips.
The kisses moved back up to Team’s neck as one of Win’s hands slid down to hold firmly to one hip, pinning Team down to the bed. Win pressed his entire body along the line of Team’s, and little sounds of pleasure from Team were his reward for all the attention. He kissed his way up to Team’s ear, nibbling at the lobe before speaking in a low voice.
“Tell me where we keep the lube, baby,” he grazed his teeth over the shell of Team’s ear and a soft moan was the first answer to his question. He had an assumption where it was, but there were tables on either side of the bed.
“Bedside table, drawer... your side,” Team managed to pant the words out, but his arms were wrapped around Win, one hand at the back of his head, keeping Win close.
“Gonna be hard to get it if you don’t let me go...” Win breathed into his ear, then nuzzled into the side of his face.
Team turned his head just enough to see Win, eyes half-lidded and full of desire. If he intended to say anything in response, it didn’t happen, because Team desperately kissed Win’s lips instead. Unable to deny him, Win kissed back and ran his hands over Team’s arms, pinning them down before he abruptly broke the kiss, leaving Team chasing after him.
“Hold that thought,” Win winked at Team, then pulled away to search the drawer by his side of the bed for the bottle of lube. It was a very large bottle, somehow bigger than Win was expecting, and already a quarter empty. He chuckled slightly as he returned to a hungry looking Team with it. “I take it we make good use of this...”
Team’s eyes strayed to the bottle in Win’s hand, then back again, the blush still on his cheeks, “We can chat later...”
Win raised a brow, a slow grin spread across his lips, “Impatient.”
“Ah, yes,” he remembered now that Team said it had been weeks since the two of them had sex; it would have to have been so, considering the time Win spent in the hospital. Granted, they had oral sex just a few days ago, but Team was wanting something else now. Win just hoped he could provide what Team needed as well as he normally would. Win had memories of having sex, of course, but he lost six years worth of experience. And here was Team, desperately eager for him, so Win would have to rely on muscle memory, along with what he knew, and hope for the best.
“Hia,” Team nearly whined the word when he hesitated for just a little too long.
“I’ve got you, baby,” Win said, with more bravado than he actually felt. He quickly removed his boxers, tossing them aside, then settled between Team’s legs again. He kissed his way along the inside of one muscular thigh. Team hummed and lifted the same leg up to rest over Win’s shoulder, so he reached beneath the younger man and began massaging at one round cheek. Win then coated his fingers with lube, worked it over to warm it up, and gently prodded the tip of his middle finger at Team’s entrance. At the same moment, he pressed kisses to the sensitive skin just beside Team’s cock.
A soft moan sounded before Team took a slow breath, consciously relaxing his body and muscles as Win pushed his finger in. Team stayed mostly still as Win worked him loose with one finger. Win wondered just how long it had been since they were in this particular position. Team was tight, but took Win with the experience of someone who had done this many times before. That alone was enough to make Win’s cock ache with need. He pressed more kisses to Team as he worked him open, trailing them up the side of his cock.
With hot breath against kiss-damp skin, he said, “You’re doing so well, baby, taking it so good...” Win remembered the way praise had affected him the last time.
Team squirmed and pushed down onto Win’s finger greedily, letting out a low sound, somewhere between a grunt and a moan, “Feels good, hia... more... please?”
“Anything,” he licked a stripe up Team’s cock and then kissed the head, before looking up at Team with a wicked grin. Team looked back, expression relaxed but tinted with desire. While holding that gaze, Win slowly and carefully added a second finger and watched as Team’s face dissolved into pleasure. He kept his eyes on Win for as long as he could manage, before finally closing them and dropping his head back onto the pillow.
“Yes...” Team gasped out, neck exposed. If Win could reach it, he’d have kissed it, adding more marks to the already purpling ones there. Team let himself relax around the intrusion of the second finger and was fucking himself back on Win’s hand sooner than he had with the one alone. Win quickly began stretching Team, now wanting him even more.
It had taken him time to change his mindset to thinking of Team as someone less dominant, after everything he had witnessed with the other man. Seeing him spread out, a leg hooked over Win’s shoulder, taking the fingers inside him and begging for more... Win’s perspective changed dramatically. He turned his head to place soft bites against Team’s inner thigh, smiling against the skin when Team whined his pleasure.
“Hia Win... I need you,” Team’s eyes were still closed, head still tipped back. One hand was gripping the pillow beside his head, the other holding the sheet near his hip.
Win hummed, delighted by the needy tone of Team’s voice. He moved his hand a little faster, spread his fingers apart wider, added a third with a little less caution than the second. Team moaned his approval and took it easily. “Fuck, you’re hot Team...”
“It’s good, I’m good, hia please,” he tipped his head down to meet Win’s eyes and the look of wild desperation told Win he needed something more than fingers at this point.
“If you don’t fuck me right now--”
“Yeah, got it!” Win carefully pulled his fingers out after hearing the building frustration in Team’s voice and wasted very little time slicking his dick with lube. Team was panting heavily as he waited, and had lifted himself up on his elbows to watch, eyes directly on Win’s cock, and licked his lips.
Win was shocked by how that expression from Team affected his body, making him burn with desire. Some sort of Pavlovian response, he figured, and then stopped thinking about anything other than the sexy man before him. He lifted Team’s hips and lined up his cock at the slick, spread entrance, then set his eyes on Team’s face as he slowly urged his way in.
Contrary to everything Win was expecting, when Win bottomed out, Team’s expression was awash with a satisfied relief. Something more like alleviation and comfort than the ache of soreness. Win stayed right where he was, deep inside Team, as the other man reached out to pull Win into his arms. They shared a long, slow kiss that felt so antithetical to the frenzied need of a moment ago.
Team was panting as they pulled apart and blinked his eyes open to look up at Win, “I missed this feeling...”
Win kissed him again, then brushed his nose against Team’s, “I think there’s this thing called cock warming...” He trailed off when Team suddenly glanced away shyly. Win narrowed his eyes, grinning wide, “Team?”
“Yeah, we’ve done that,” Team said, then as some form of distraction, he clenched around Win and rocked his hips a little. It had the desired effect and stopped Win from teasing Team in exchange for moving his own hips. He pulled out enough to thrust back in and draw a pleasured grunt from Team.
He wrapped his legs around Win’s waist and slid his hands into Win’s hair, holding him close as Win pushed into him again and again, each time with building speed. Each thrust made Team grunt or moan, clearly loving the feeling of Win sunk all the way in. Win wanted to get deeper, go further, and he bet that Team wanted the same thing. Snaking one arm around Team’s lower back and the other around his shoulders, he hauled Team up off the bed until he was straddling Win’s lap.
With a gasp, Team looked down into Win’s face, draping his arms around Win’s shoulders, nails digging into his skin, “Hia...”
“Hey, baby,” Win bit his lower lip, then tightened the arm around Team’s waist, lifting him up before thrusting back into him, pulling Team down at the same time. Team dropped his head forward and moaned, tightening his arms and grip. He helped lift himself up, flexing his muscles as he did so. It was one hell of a sight: this strong man, clinging with desperation, fucking himself down onto Win, coming undone.
All manner of sounds were punched out of Team, moans, gasps, grunts, whimpers. The more the tension built up inside him, the tighter he held to Win, and the more he scratched at Win’s back. It was almost as if he couldn’t get enough of Win, wanting not just to be full, but as close as possible.
Win kissed every inch of skin he could reach, all along his neck and shoulders, biting and sucking, or just panting against him, “Damn, Team... baby... you feel so good.”
Team moaned into Win’s ear and grabbed at the hair at the back of his head, squeezing hard enough to pull, but not hurt, “Don’t stop, hia, please.”
“I won’t, baby,” Win panted, thrusting as deep and as hard as he could, filling Team as much as he could. He hooked a hand over Team’s shoulder from behind, using it to pull him down as he thrust upward.
“Nng, yes, please,” his words became less coherent as the pleasure built up in him, a litany of pleas mostly, between “yes” and “hia.” It seemed like Team was close to orgasm, and Win wanted nothing more than to drive him to completion. He thrust hard and deep, bringing one hand between them to stroke Team’s shaft as he did so. Team panted, his mouth open against Win’s neck, until he came with a shout, spurting all over both of their chests.
His whole body seized up around Win, fingers digging in where they held on, legs and arms holding unimaginably tighter, body clenching around Win’s dick. He practically held his breath.
“I’ve got you, baby,” Win whispered into Team’s ear, stroking a hand soothingly over his back. “I’ve got you.”
It punched the air out of Team and stuttered breathing resumed, puffing out little gasps and tiny sounds of pleasure. His hands loosened their grip, and rested almost delicately atop Win’s shoulders, “Hia...”
“I’m here,” he kissed at Team’s sweaty temple, then carefully started to lift him up a little, to pull out.
“Wait,” Team lifted his head suddenly and met Win’s eyes with a surprising intensity. “Don’t.”
“But you--” Win started, only to be cut off again.
“Not til you’re done,” Team said matter-of-factly, then cupped Win’s cheek and kissed him, effectively cutting off any kind of protest. To drive the point home, Team began rolling his hips in such a way that immediately made Win moan into the kiss. They stopped kissing, but didn’t pull apart, instead breathing into each other’s mouths as Team rode Win.
“Team... fuck...” he bit at Team’s lower lip, pulling on it slightly.
Team grinned, kissed him, then did something with his body that Win couldn’t quite figure out, but which felt amazing. At first, all he did was roll and move his hips in slow, but incredibly effective motions, then Team started to lift and lower himself and fuck back onto Win until they built up a good pace. He brought his lips to Win’s ear and whispered to him, “I’m yours, hia, always.”
Win moaned low and held Team close. Those words struck his heart as much as his dick. He had been so fearful of losing Team, that hearing those words of validation was almost overwhelming.
“Take me, I’m yours, Hia Win,” he continued, nipping at Win’s ear until a strangled noise erupted from Win’s throat.
Putting Team on his back, he hooked an arm under the knee of one leg and rolled Team up until his shoulders were pressed into the mattress and hips were up off of it. He bent Team in on himself and thrust into him with an almost reckless abandon. It was a little rough and Win might have worried if his actions didn’t pull such pleasured moans from Team.
Win had braced his free hand on the bed by Team’s shoulder and Team reached his hand up to lace their fingers together. It kept Team’s hand pinned down, something Team seemed to like as well. His head was turned towards their joined hands, mouth open, panting and moaning and gasping out, “yes, yes, yes” over and over.
He kept going until one final, deep thrust into Team brought his climax. Without the use of a condom, he filled Team with his release and gasped as he watched the satisfaction wash over Team’s face. Win marveled at the fact that he caused that look on Team. More shocking still, Team pulled their joint hands over and kissed the back of Win’s, before closing his eyes and relaxing into the bed.
Win slowly and carefully pulled out of Team, the motion slick and wet. He couldn’t remember a time he had sex with someone without a condom, and for the first memory to be this one, Win decided that was, well, a win. Before he had a chance to decide what to do next, Team wound his arm around Win’s back and pulled him down to lay atop Team’s body.
[explicit content ends here]
“You’re amazing, Team,” he nuzzled into the side of the other man’s face.
Team chuckled breathlessly, “Thank you for this, hia...”
“For saying you’re amazing?” They were a mess, and Win thought about the fact that they would have to get washed up soon, but for now he just wanted to lay there with his lover, his boyfriend, the apparent love of his life.
“No,” Team laughed, trailing his fingers delicately over Win’s scratched up back. “For ... the... sex.”
Win lifted himself up enough to see Team’s face, “Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”
Team blinked, then glanced off thoughtfully. Ultimately, he shrugged and looked back at Win with a rather soft expression, “Maybe, but... I just... I really needed this.”
“Mm, you said it’d been a while, I guess we have a lot of sex--”
“Kinda, but-- it’s not just that,” Team swallowed hard and looked away, focusing instead on their hands. He ran his thumb over Win’s and bit his bottom lip.
“What is it then? Talk to me.”
Team looked back, his eyes wet with unshed tears, “I needed to feel you. Whole and alive.”
“Ohh... Team, baby,” Win gathered him up and rolled over, holding Team against his chest, wrapped securely in his arms, “I’m here, I’m alive, I’m not going anywhere.”
“I love you, Hia Win,” Team whispered the words into Win’s shoulder.
Win was torn, he knew he had loved Team before the accident, he wanted to say it back, too. He didn’t know if it would sound honest, though, without the memories of all they had together. It felt terrible not to respond with anything, though. What ended up coming out was, “Everything about you is a dream made real.”
Team smiled, Win could feel his cheek rounding against his chest. Maybe that was actually the perfect thing to say. He began combing fingers through Team’s hair and hummed quietly. Eventually, they would have to get up and wash off, both of them covered in sweat and other substances, but for just a little while, they could be content and lazy, catching their breaths and letting their bodies calm down.
“You’re really amazing in bed, you know?” Win said at length, chuckling.
Team’s own laughter was muffled by Win’s chest, more a quiet huff and shake of his shoulders, than anything else.
Win tipped his head down until he could press a cheek against the top of Team’s head. A little insecure voice in the back of his mind needled away at him, though. He couldn’t shake a particular uncertainty and wanted to be brave enough to fight it, “I hope I was good, too.”
Team lifted himself up, making Win’s trailing hands pause their movement, “Are you kidding?” Win stared back without saying anything. “Hia, didn’t you see me come all over myself? And you?”
They both looked down at their sticky stomachs, Win cringed a little, but when their eyes met once more, Team’s expression was genuine, if a bit shocked. “Yeah, I just--”
His words were cut off yet again when Team suddenly kissed Win. It was slow, sure, and spoke of promises too big or too fragile for words. When he pulled back, Team pressed their foreheads together, “You’re not capable of being bad at sex, hia.”
Win laughed at the disconnect between the intensity of the kiss and the silliness of the statement, “I’ve always said I’m a born winner...”
“The best at everything, Phawin Wanichakarnjonkul,” Team said with an air of ceremony.
“The best person for me, Teerayu Siriyothin,” Win said back, voice soft.
Team drew in a breath, blinked, then kissed Win soundly on the lips. Eventually they would have to get up and wash off, sure, but it could wait just a little bit longer.
I'm sorry this update is late, work will not let me live! I've had a lot of burn out (mentally and physically) and keep working 40+ hour weeks. And even though it seems cute and sweet to work in a baker, boy howdy, it is a very physically demanding job, especially when you're super short like me. This particular update was meant to be short and sweet stand-alone smut but it accidentally turned into 5k of emotional sex, so... I hope you enjoyed it!
Chapter 11: 10 - your love was unmoved
Time passes, Team and Win settle into a more consistent routine, and finally find time to visit Pharm and Dean.
A quick note of warning, this chapter briefly makes reference to In and Korn's suicide from the UWMA/Red Thread canon.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Waking up the morning after having sex with Team was a delight. Win felt lazy and content, if a little sore. He chalked the soreness up to the stress and anxiety that happened earlier in the day, however. That, and spending too long sitting on the floor, hunched over notes from his graduate degree. As Win laid on his back, Team was curled up against his side, an arm and leg draped over Win’s body, head on his shoulder, snoring softly in a deep sleep. Win didn’t want to wake him, but couldn’t resist placing a kiss to Team’s forehead and gently running his fingers through the sleeping man’s hair.
Team shifted in his sleep, nuzzling into Win and sighing. His arm tightened the grip around Win’s chest and Win brought his other hand up to rest atop Team’s, stroking a thumb over his knuckles. As he looked down at Team’s sleeping face, he thought back over everything that happened the previous day. Thoughts came in a jumble, out of order: the image of Team cleaning up the broken glass, the phone call with Dean, finding the list of wedding venues, the dauntingly extensive list of insecurities, and then the voice of Team, saying he loves Win, wants him, is his.
He looked down with something akin to awe at the man laying on his chest. Team really did want him. He stuck around through a confusing, nebulous beginning of their relationship, stayed with Win for two years, waited for him while he was out of the country, and was now staying by his side despite the amnesia. Win’s memory of his dating experiences wasn’t exactly terrible. He had amicable breakups, was friends with most of his exes, but they had a tendency to decide that Win was too good for them, or left because they weren’t really interested in something serious with him. Rarely was it the case that Win broke up with them. He didn’t know what the couple years between where his memories left off and when he met Team were like. Much of the same, Win figured, but then something strange happened with Team.
Considering what Team told Win about how their relationship started, it was kind of miraculous that they were where they are now. Win tried to imagine the scenes that Team had told him about: offering to jerk him off at the swim club retreat, charging him a kiss for tutoring, late nights when he couldn’t sleep, coming to Win’s dorm to be held. They all seemed vague and unfamiliar, though he had his current situation as reference for holding a sleeping Team, and had recently helped him through a nightmare. Moving the scenario to a dorm room bed in his imagination didn’t feel as familiar as a memory, however. Win took in a deep breath and sighed it out heavily. The shifting of his chest made Team stir; he hummed and stretched.
“What time is it?” Team’s voice was muffled by the way his cheek was pressed against Win.
“Early still,” he massaged Team’s scalp, drawing a pleased hum from him. “You can go back to sleep.”
Team yawned and lifted himself up on one arm, before ultimately giving up and flopping back down on Win with a thud.
“Oof!” Win laughed and rolled them onto their sides, facing one another, “You’re heavy.”
“All my muscles,” he murmured, eyes still closed. “You like it.”
Team was teasing him, more than informing him of this. Win was sure of that, despite the flat way Team had said it, “Not when all those muscles fall like a brick on me.”
With a soft laugh, Team leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Win’s, eyes remaining closed.
“Not going to swim practice today?” Win used long fingers to gently comb some hair from Team’s brow.
“No,” he sighed slowly. “Probably too many bruises left by someone.”
“You said you didn’t care last night,” Win reminded him, and Team just smiled in response. “Or is it really that I just wore you out?”
He snorted, “Sure, hia, we’ll say that.”
“Do I ever tell you that you’re hard to read? Or ... I guess by now I’m normally just used to reading you.”
“Mm, sometimes,” Team blinked his eyes open and met Win’s gaze.
“Sometimes to which?”
“Sometimes it’s hard for you to read me, but you’re better at it now-- or were, I guess. It’s weird.”
“It’s definitely weird,” Win agreed and smiled at Team, who smiled back, though there was some sadness in it.
“We have... mm, I can be bad at talking about my ... feelings and stuff, so there are things I say that you normally just understand, so I don’t have to spell it out.”
“Like... last night, when you said you needed me?”
Team closed his eyes and nodded.
“Normally you’d get that, in a moment like that, so I don’t have to ... say it.”
“It was kind of hot when you did, though. Just saying.”
Team groaned and turned his head towards the mattress, but couldn’t fully hide. His cheek was a light pink color, “Hiaaa...”
“So you-- we have some things that are short-hand, then, for when you can’t say it and then other times I still have trouble reading you?” Even as Win asked this, he wasn’t really sure what the purpose of it was. It wasn’t as though he could snap his fingers and get back to that stage.
“Yeah, uh,” he lifted his head again, though he was still blushing faintly. “Sometimes you just get me, sometimes I need to use some words but ... not all of them, and sometimes you still need to make me actually talk about what’s going on.”
Win nodded, “I guess that’s probably the case for all relationships, huh?”
Team shrugged, “I really only have experience dating you. I guess I’ve seen how P’Dean and Pharm are together, and Manaow and P’Pruk. But Pharm and P’Dean are basically destined to be together.”
“What’s up with that, by the way? I know Dean had always been waiting for someone, but... what happened when they found each other?”
“Honestly? I still don’t really know all the details. The two of them just always knew they were waiting for someone. Pharm told me and Manaow about it when we were newly friends... and he and P’Dean flirted with one another for a while, then got together pretty quick. What I know from you, P’Dean had always been waiting for Pharm and had the same kind of reaction when he saw Pharm? They both just stared at each other. A lot. They stared so much.”
Win couldn’t help but laugh at that description of them staring at each other a lot. He could imagine it from Dean, who was always quiet, but couldn’t picture Pharm staring off the same way. “They got married recently, though, after I got back from England?”
“Mm-hmm, P’Dean was waiting until Pharm graduated, but they had been planning it for a long time. We all knew it was going to happen practically since the end of first year. P’Dean still made a big thing of proposing to Pharm last year.”
“I bet that was cute.”
“You cried,” Team said off hand.
“I-- what--” Win floundered and wanted to immediately deny it, though he had no memory of the event. “At the proposal ? The wedding, sure, probably, but I cried at the proposal?”
Team laughed at him and nodded, “You were home from England for a break and blamed it on missing everyone so much.”
“But-- it-- did--” Win clamped his mouth shut and huffed, then started again, “It was probably just a few little tears, though, right?”
Taking mercy on him, Team nodded and shifted forward to kiss Win’s forehead. “Yeah, I was the only one who saw.”
“Good, then my reputation is saved,” Win sighed in faux dramatics.
“Pretty much everyone got a little weepy at the wedding, but Manaow was so dramatic that she’s the only one anyone remembers crying. Well, and Pharm and P’Dean. They both did, but you know... it was their wedding.”
“Mm, yeah, I could see that,” Win nodded once, then looked over at Team and grinned. “Do you think you’d cry at our wedding?”
The reaction Win was expecting was not the reaction Team had.
He had expected Team to roll his eyes or blush or shout “Hia” and smack him. Instead, Team became suddenly solemn and cast his eyes down to Win’s chest, chewing his bottom lip. It felt like a knife stabbed Win straight in the heart and he instantly regretted the teasing.
“Sorry, I-- that wasn’t a...”
Team shook his head but didn’t lift his eyes, “It’s alright, hia.”
“We... we aren’t... I didn’t forget that we’re...”
“Engaged?” Team finally looked up. He held his own left hand between them, “Have you noticed a ring on either of our fingers?”
That should have been a relief to Win. It wasn’t. He took Team’s hand and wrapped his fingers around it, pulling it up to press a kiss to Team’s knuckles, “I’m so sorry, Team.”
“You’re alive, and you’re still here,” Team tightened his grasp on Win’s hand. “That’s all that matters.”
Win nodded and tried to believe that was true.
The day progressed in a lazy yet somewhat productive manner. The rest of their furniture was delivered and set up. Win called his mother and asked her for the information the hospital had given them about going to therapy and despite not really being used to such things, Win scheduled an appointment to see someone. He figured a panic attack was a good reason to start going and Team had also encouraged him to do so as well. Team called Pharm and set up a date to actually go visit them for dinner.
The next day, Team went back to swim practice and Win spent most of his time studying, both school and general history of what happened in Thailand and the world in the last few years. A surprising amount of time was devoted to scrolling through the social media accounts of his friends. There were also a lot of messages on facebook that he hadn’t checked -- friends and acquaintances asking if he was alright after they heard the news of the accident. Some he recognized, some he didn’t. Everyone got the same kind of message back, about how he was physically alright and recovering.
The day following that, Win had his appointment with his therapist and it went a lot better than he had expected. They mostly just talked about what was going on in his life right now and the therapist got to know who he was as a person. She was a nice, middle aged woman named Jade, who had a husband, two kids, and a cat (pictures of all of them were framed in her office). Overall, he liked Jade a lot and was happy to go back to see her again. She gave him some homework to do, but it was mostly tactics to deal with his anxiety and how to notice when he was getting anxious, so that a panic attack wouldn’t sneak up on him again. Shockingly, she didn’t have some secret method of bringing all of his memories back in an instant.
That afternoon, View came over to get Win and take him to the family home to spend some time with them. For some reason, he still didn’t want to drive anywhere, neither by car nor by motorcycle (which now resided at the house instead of Team’s condo). He figured he should bring that up with the therapist at a future session, or ask Team about it, or both. Despite going with the intention of spending time with his family, what he ended up doing was talking to his father about work for the majority of the visit.
Obviously, he didn’t remember anything from graduate school or most of his time in undergrad, but he had already been balancing the books back when he was a teenager, so Win could still be of some use to the company. They agreed that he could come back for a few days a week to start learning things again, whenever he was ready to do so. His mother had passed along that he was going to therapy, so his father didn’t want to rush him into anything he wasn’t ready for. Win was eternally grateful for his kind and understanding family. He also thought that, perhaps, going back might spark something and he might remember technical aspects of the job just by doing it.
After work talk was done, Wan dragged him off to play video games together, because he was apparently looking forward to destroying Win in every game now that he had forgotten how to play them all. Win was pleased when he beat Wan on the second round of a fighting game after some very skillful button mashing tactics. Wan muttered about beginners' luck and proceeded to defeat Win in every following match up. Win was saved when Team showed up at the house and his mother called them all together for dinner.
Win fully expected that they would return to their home after dinner, but Wan and Team decided to continue playing games, so that’s what the three boys did. Win and Team played together against Wan and it was amazing, because Team was very, very good at video games, and they won most of the time. The teasing of Hia Wan that ensued absolutely made Win’s day. They all played so late into the night that Win and Team ended up staying over in his childhood bedroom together, and returning home in the morning.
Nights with Team were always nice. Whatever happened throughout the day, they always ended up in each other’s arms at night. Sometimes they made out, sometimes they had sex, and sometimes they just slept. Win also discovered that he and Team didn’t have just one standard sleeping position, they could lay on their sides facing one another, back to back, or spooning (and apparently either of them could be the big spoon), or with one of them on their back and the other curled on his side against him, or even mostly separated, apart from holding hands in some way. If they ever fell asleep in that last position, Win found that he always woke up with Team pressed against him in some fashion. They had also gone at least a week since Team’s last nightmare, so Win took that as a good sign.
On the third day, Team and Win had their plans to go visit Dean and Pharm in the evening. Team went to swim practice that morning, Win spent time studying once again, this time documents his father had emailed over about the company, all of the hotels and resorts they currently held, and the job Win had done there. The company had grown a lot bigger than he remembered it being, with even more locations than before. He expected all of the information to be rather daunting, but so much of it was familiar enough from the memories he retained that it wasn’t so bad.
Time flew by as Win read through the various documents, it came as nearly a shock when Team walked through the front door calling out that he was home. Win blinked and checked the clock on his laptop to see it was already past three in the afternoon. Team leaned on the doorframe, hair damp, smiling at Win on the couch.
“Hey,” he said and lifted a bag, “I picked up some wine on the way home. We can take it with us tonight.”
“Oh wow, we’re really adults, aren’t we?” Win chuckled and closed his laptop, setting it on the coffee table. “We take wine to their house?”
Team rolled his eyes and grinned, “Yeah, I think P’Dean and Pharm are the adults more than we are. We really only drink wine there... or out at one of your family’s events or something.”
Win stood and walked over to Team, leaning on the other side of the door frame to kiss him sweetly on the lips. It felt very domestic, but very natural at the same time. He’d been playing house with Team for weeks now; maybe he wasn’t playing anymore, just living it. “Do you need a shower?”
“Yeah, I just did a quick rinse after practice,” Team stole another kiss from Win before pulling back to head towards the stairs, setting the wine bottle on the hall table along the way. Win followed him up.
“How did it go today? Beat any of your times?” Since Team had gone back to practice, he had been keeping Win updated on his progress and how well he was doing, what competition prospects were on the horizon, and if he was going to try to compete in them.
“My backstroke has gotten better, I was one second faster, freestyle is the same. We’re doing relays now, too,” Team yawned and stretched once they got to the bedroom, pulling off his shirt and tossing it into the hamper, paying no mind to Win ogling his back.
“That’s great,” Win had to distract himself with picking out what to wear tonight so he didn’t get lost in how gorgeous Team was. “Do you like relays?”
“Depends on who I’m teamed up with, but yeah, they’re fine. I usually get placed third or fourth to make up any time lost by the first or second swimmers.”
“Mm, my star athlete,” Win grinned broadly at Team, who rolled his eyes and failed to hide a blush just before he ducked into the bathroom.
“Shut up, hia, get dressed, I’m showering.” The door slammed shut and Win simply laughed.
Dean and Pharm’s house really was close to Team and Win’s; it only took about ten minutes to drive there. The married couple’s house was bigger, however, and in a slightly nicer neighborhood. It didn’t surprise Win at all to see Dean in a house such as this, but he did wonder why he and Team were in a smaller, somewhat cheaper home. Surely, they could have afforded one like this on Win’s salary alone -- then it occurred to Win, perhaps Team insisted on an even split of costs. That would be the most logical reason for the difference.
Team led the way to the front door and Win carried the bottle of wine. Pharm answered the door quickly after they rang the bell and immediately the smaller man lit up with excitement at seeing the pair of them. No matter how many times Win saw Pharm, he was always amused by how incredibly cute he was, nearly the polar opposite of Dean. Pharm threw his arms around Team in a big hug, which Team returned readily, wrapping his arms around the shorter man.
“I’m so glad you guys were able to come over!” Pharm ushered Team in, then turned to hug Win. “Hi, P’Win! I hope you’re hungry!”
Dean stood just inside the door, holding it open and smiling at Team and Win as they entered. He simply shared a nod with Team once Pharm released him.
“I’m definitely hungry,” Team said, once inside.
“You’re always hungry,” Pharm teased and the four men moved into the house.
Win clapped Dean on the shoulder as a manner of greeting and passed him the bottle of wine. He looked around the expansive home as Pharm led them all in.
“I went to swim practice today, can you blame me?” Team whined back, following Pharm.
Dean fell into step beside Win as the two younger men led the way. They kept a slower pace, so Win could take in the new place -- new to him, anyway. He and Team had been here before, of course, but it felt like the first time to Win. Team glanced back over his shoulder at Win, checking on him, and Win offered him a smile and a nod to say he was alright, and so his boyfriend went along with Pharm, presumably into the kitchen.
“So you guys drink wine, huh?” Win asked Dean, brow raised.
Dean laughed, more a puff of air through his nose, “You drink wine, too.”
“At home ?” Win raised a brow at Dean.
“Uhh... actually, I don’t know,” he shook his head. “You guys don’t exactly host sit down dinners unless Pharm is cooking.”
“Tell me, do you even have beer in the house?”
“Yes, we have beer in the house,” Dean rolled his eyes and walked on ahead, leading Win to the kitchen. Just before they walked in, he leaned down to speak softly, “And my husband isn’t a light weight like your boyfriend.”
Win’s eyes went wide and he looked from Dean to the aforementioned pair in the kitchen. “Team?” he mouthed at Dean.
Dean nodded solemnly.
“Wow, good to know,” he whispered, then moved fully into the kitchen, which looked like a smaller version of a professional kitchen. It was spacious, immaculately clean, with plenty of counter space to work on, fancy equipment, and full of delicious smells. There were several components being made all at once, though Win presumed most of them were already done, or else Pharm wouldn’t have been the one to meet them at the door.
As he and Team chatted away, trading teasing remarks, Pharm expertly finished up putting together all the different parts of their meal -- smacking Team’s hand away any time he tried to steal a bite. It was like watching an artist at work. His hands moved swiftly, going from pot to pan to plate with grace and ease. Win found himself captivated by the sight. If Pharm couldn’t teach the pair of them how to cook, it must have been hopeless for him and Team. No wonder they weren’t the ones to host dinner parties.
Dean bumped his shoulder into Win’s and drew his attention away from the display of a professional chef at work. “Pretty impressive, huh?”
“Are you gloating?” Win asked.
“Maybe,” he smirked.
“Team!” Pharm chastised, “How about instead of trying to steal food, you just help me move it all to the table?”
“Fiiiine,” Team’s voice sounded like a whiny teenager, but he was smiling brightly and already helping Pharm gather up the serving dishes.
“P’Dean can you grab these last two?” He nodded to a platter and bowl on the counter, then moved off towards the dining table to show Team where to put his dishes.
“Of course,” Dean did as he was asked, and Win joined in, carrying the bowl while Dean took the platter.
Once the table was set, Dean poured wine for everyone and they all toasted to family and friends before digging into the meal. Conversation around the table was fairly mundane. Each of them talked about what they had going on recently. Pharm talked about the success of the restaurant and one small gripe with a junior chef who wasn’t showing up on time lately. Team talked about an upcoming competition he was considering trying out for. Dean talked to Win about the business he was in these days. Win updated them on his progress learning about his family’s company. All between that, multiple compliments to Pharm’s cooking were passed around, all of which Pharm took graciously with sweet smiles and raised shoulders.
There was far more food than everyone at the table could eat and Win pointed this out as everyone started to get full.
“Pharm always does this, so he can send us home with food to eat,” Team explained.
“I don’t know how you two survive,” Pharm shook his head, frowning gravely.
“It’s true, we’d starve without you, Pharm. Please come over and cook for us all the time? You could live in the spare room! P’Dean could visit you on weekends.” Team held both hands together, pleading to Pharm.
“I don’t think so,” Dean said, voice severe.
“Ah, true, Dean would starve without his chef to feed him,” Win grinned over at Dean, “I’m sure you eat him ev--”
“Win,” Dean sternly warned before the sentence was even finished, but his eyes were light.
Ah, good, Win thought, this kind of teasing was still something they did, despite being grown. He cleared his throat and grinned, “I mean, Dean would miss his sweet husband very much.”
Pharm laughed and shook his head, not bothered by Win’s teasing, “I’d miss him, too!”
“I guess we’ll just settle for him sending us home with food,” Team sighed dramatically, resting his cheek on his chin and frowning.
“And this is why I make extra, P’Win,” Pharm spread his hands out to encompass the whole table, as though this were a conversation that happened every time they were together.
They chatted and joked for a little while longer before Pharm got up to start clearing plates away. Team stood to join him, gathering dishes. Win was about to do the same when Pharm reached for something near him and caught his eye.
“Hey... I helped Dean pick that out,” Win said, pointing to the bracelet on Pharm’s wrist. He hadn’t noticed it until that moment.
Pharm looked down at his wrist, then back up at Win, confused, “What?”
Win blinked back at him, looked down at the bracelet again, and furrowed his brows. It was three black cords woven together in an intricate style with beads and ornaments worked into it. He absolutely remembered the bracelet. Looking back up at Pharm, then over to Dean, who was also staring, he blinked again. “Was that a secret? Were you not supposed to know? We found it while we were out of town on a swim meet.”
“P’Dean bought this for me,” Pharm said simply.
“You mean, because he knew he’d give it to you once he found you?” Win tipped his head.
“I was looking for something for Pharm when you helped me pick it out,” Dean said, as if that was supposed to make it all make more sense.
“Hia, that happened after P’Dean and Pharm met. I was on that trip with you,” Team’s voice was a little more strained than before and the tone made Win look over at the man.
“You mean...” Win blinked again.
“That happened while you and P’Dean were in your fourth year. After we all met,” Team clarified.
“Oh...” he looked back at the bracelet on Pharm’s wrist, then up to his face, then over to Dean. “I remember the shop and seeing the bracelets... and you wanted something nice, and showed me two or three, and I said that one was the best.”
“That’s exactly what happened,” Dean confirmed.
Win’s heartbeat quickened, “So I remembered something.”
“You did, hia,” Team stepped towards him and set a hand on Win’s hip. He was smiling up at him, looking hopeful.
“I don’t remember you being there, though...” Win frowned as he looked at Team, he wanted so badly to remember Team, not Pharm’s jewelry.
Team just laughed and shook his head, “Because I was with Mew, or someone else at the time. You also bought something for me while you were there.”
“Mm, a necklace, made of hemp, with seashells woven into it.” He gently poked Win in the side and frowned, “You remember Pharm’s gift but not mine?”
“Hey...” Win frowned, “Maybe if you wore it, I would remember that, too!”
Team laughed again, “I’m teasing, hia, it’s fine. I’m just happy you remembered something!”
“It’s so exciting, P’Win!” Pharm chimed in.
“Figures that the first thing you remember is that you had to help me pick out my gift,” Dean said around a smirk.
Win draped an arm around Team’s shoulders, “It’s not my fault I have better taste than you, surely your husband already knows this.”
Pharm snickered and when Dean looked over to him, an expression of betrayal on his face, Pharm quickly gestured to the table, “I’ll go ahead and clear these away. You and Team take a moment to enjoy this.”
Team hid a laugh behind a fist, perhaps in fear of Dean, but Win smiled a bright, shit-eating grin at Dean, “Thanks Nong Pharm, you’re the sweetest!”
“P’Dean, help me take these away,” Pharm said before giggling and carrying things to the kitchen. Dean followed after him, arms full of dishes.
Win and Team watched them go, then turned to full face one another, both of Team’s hands on his waist now.
“Tell me what you remember, hia.”
“I remember the stall, it had all kinds of different water and beach themed things. I guess it was a resort town near a beach.” He closed his eyes and tried to envision the place, Dean holding up the three choices he had narrowed down. “It must have been near the ocean, it smelled like salt water there.”
“It was,” Team confirmed and Win opened his eyes. “There were shops all along the waterfront, stalls in an open-air market. You and P’Dean went off on your own so all of the juniors could have fun without worrying about you guys watching over us. Well, mostly without worrying about P’Dean.”
Win chuckled and nodded, “And how come you didn’t come with me?”
“Because I was having fun where P’Dean couldn’t yell at me, and so I could eat all the Lays I wanted without you messing with me,” Team grinned up at him and Win had to laugh again.
“And then I bought you a gift, too...” Win said, more to himself than to Team. He tried to go back to that memory and whether he could think about necklaces there on display at the stall. Giving up, he shook his head and frowned at Team, “I guess I must have gotten your necklace somewhere else.”
“When we go home, I’ll show it to you, maybe it will be familiar.”
“Okay, baby,” Win tightened his arm around Team’s shoulders and drew him in for a kiss to the forehead.
“It’s okay if you don’t remember, too, hia,” he said softly, head still bowed so that Win’s lips could linger on his forehead longer.
Win turned his head to press his cheek to the spot he kissed, “I want to remember.”
“I know, me too...” Team swallowed after speaking, then hugged him tightly about the middle. “It will happen when it happens.”
Holding Team tightly, Win wondered who the words were meant to comfort, him or Team. Perhaps he spoke to comfort both of them. They stood holding one another for a while, before Dean made a point of loudly entering the room, to give them enough time to collect themselves before being caught in a private moment. They stepped apart and Team cleared his throat and quickly turned his attention to the table, finding something to pick up.
“We should help them clean up.”
“Mm, yeah,” Win agreed and did the same. Between the two of them and Dean, they got the rest of the dishes with food on them into the kitchen, where Pharm was dutifully packing everything up.
Team bowed his head a little said, “I’ll clear away the dirty dishes, P’Dean.”
“Thanks,” Dean smiled at him, then he and Win watched Team duck out of the kitchen. Once gone, Dean looked at Win and nodded towards the other door leading in the opposite direction of the dining room. They left the kitchen to Pharm and Team and headed towards a room with a couple chairs, bookshelves, two small tables, and a couple of liquor bottles off to the side on a bar cart. It looked like the kind of room their fathers would have.
They both claimed a seat and Win tried to relax. He glanced over at the door, then back at Dean.
“We should let Team have some time with Pharm,” Dean said, as explanation. Win knew exactly what he was doing, using Team getting quality time with his friend to give Win an excuse to do the same. It worked, too.
“He’s been having a hard time...” Win frowned.
Dean nodded, “I’m sure you’ve been helping him the best you can.”
Win took a deep breath in and sighed it out. He leaned heavily back in the chair and looked up at the ceiling. “It’s kind of hard when I’m the reason he’s hurting.”
Dean said nothing, but Win knew what he was doing. He was giving Win the time and space to voice what was in his head, without immediately responding.
“I don’t know what to do... because I know that when he looks at me, he wants to see the Win he knows... and instead he’s got me, and I comfort him when and how I can but... I just hope it’s enough... enough for him to get through this.” Win lowered his head again and stared forward, not ready to look at Dean yet.
“What about you? How are you getting along? Honestly, Win.”
Win let out a dry laugh and shook his head, “I guess about as good as I can be?” Finally, he looked over at Dean and saw concern on his friend’s face. “I feel stronger some days than others. Team is... honestly, he’s amazing. Waking up to find myself in a relationship with him is kind of like a dream come true, apart from the whole... ‘Not remembering the past six years’ part of it.”
“You told me before that Team was the best thing that ever happened to you,” when Dean said this, Win smiled. Then he went on, “I haven’t heard it from Team, but I’m sure he feels the same way about you.”
“Can I ask something that’s probably dumb?”
“I don’t know, if it’s you, it could be really dumb...” Dean looked sidelong at him and it made Win laugh, letting out some of the tension that was quietly growing within him.
“You and Pharm are married... How come Team and I aren’t even engaged yet? Is there... some reason I don’t know about?”
Dean frowned and didn’t answer right away, but that was pretty par for the course with Dean. He tended to think before speaking and chose his words carefully. “It’s a little complicated. Pharm and I were able to live in the same city for the last four and a half years, and we could move in together. You and Team were separated for two years, which was something you were both worried about when it happened.”
“Were we worried that we would break up?”
“Well...” he tipped his head, then shook it. “You never said those words, that you thought he would break up with you, but I think it scared you.”
Win nodded, not sure what to say or what to think of that.
“I think you believed in him too much to doubt him, but two years apart was a long time, and the biggest challenge to your relationship either of you had faced. And... you had been with him longer than anyone else you had dated at that point.”
“So... if we were going to get engaged...”
“Mm,” Dean nodded, following Win’s train of thought. “It would have been around this point in your relationship.”
“Then I had to go and get hit by a car.”
“Right after signing for your house.”
“Not helping, Dean,” Win glared at him and Dean chuckled, lifting his hands in surrender.
“Look, Win,” he leaned forward, bracing forearms on his knees, and stared straight at Win. “I know that Pharm and I met at the same time you and Team did, but our paths aren’t the same. Just because we’re married and you two aren’t doesn’t mean anything about your relationship. We have other friends who have been dating as long as us and they aren’t married either. So let go of that. Team isn’t going anywhere, that’s the last thing you need to worry about.”
Taking a slow breath and nodding, Win agreed to try and let it go.
“So, other than unfounded paranoia that the guy who is in love with you will leave you, how are you doing?”
“You should have been a doctor, your bedside manner is impeccable.”
“Just answer the question, idiot.”
Win couldn’t help but laugh, “I don’t know... Apparently I have a lot of anxiety. It comes out of nowhere, but suddenly my chest feels really tight and I get really tense. I guess that’s common when your entire life gets turned upside down. The doctors said I should go to therapy to help cope with the memory loss, so... I’ve started doing that.”
“That’s good. There was a time when Pharm and I probably should have done that.”
“Wait, what? Really?”
“Mm. It’s a long story, one I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again if you don’t eventually remember, but not tonight. You have enough to think about already. We just dealt with some really heavy things our first year together, and found out that people in our families had committed suicide before we were born, because they were gay and couldn’t be together.”
“Wait, someone in Pharm’s family dated someone in your family?”
Dean nodded, “It’s ... very complicated and neither of us met them. They died when they were the same age that Pharm and I met.”
“Pharm and I half way broke up for a little while during our first year together, and ... well, the point is, sometimes dealing with really difficult things is hard to do on your own. And when the person you would turn to for comfort is also hurting, it’s good to have someone else to turn to. A friend, or a therapist.”
“So what you’re saying is... you and Pharm purposely just separated me and Team so you could be friends to us.”
“Maybe.” Dean’s lips turned up in a smirk.
“Very clever,” Win laughed.
“You were there for me and Team was there for Pharm. Of course we’ll be here for you both.”
“We don’t have to hug now, do we?”
Win laughed and stood up, “Oh, now that you said it that way, we definitely have to hug.” He dragged Dean to his feet and forced him into a hug.
Despite pretending to hate it, he actually wrapped Win up in a strong and comforting embrace. Dean ran a hand solidly over Win’s back and let him stay there for longer than Win expected. Just as Win was starting to feel the prickle of heat behind his eyes, he pulled back and cleared his throat.
“Think Pharm and Team are done with their heart-to-heart?”
“Only one way to find out,” Dean shrugged and gestured for Win to go back the way they came in. “So how much trouble are you in for remembering Pharm’s gift and not Team’s?”
Win laughed, “Not too much, I don’t think. I’ll let you know later if I am.”
Dean shook his head, but kept on smiling. They walked through a hall with photos on the wall of Dean, Pharm, their families and friends, which Win hadn’t noticed the first time they passed. One group photo in particular caught his eye, but he kept walking in pace with Dean until they entered the kitchen.
Pharm was leaning against the counter, facing Team, whose back was to the entryway where Dean and Win came in. He wore a sympathetic frown on his face just before his eyes flicked to the side and he greeted the two seniors. Team’s hand moved up to his face just before he turned around and smiled. Win wasn’t sure if it was a random hand movement or if Team was quickly swiping away a tear, but either way he moved immediately to the younger man’s side and draped an arm around his shoulders.
Team leaned into that hold, wrapping one arm around Win’s waist and shoving his other hand into his pocket. Dean moved in behind Pharm, holding the smaller man back against his chest, arms around his middle. Pharm was already the smallest of the four, but compared to Dean, the tallest of them all, he looked especially tiny. It was really cute, Win decided, and he wondered if people ever looked at him and Team and thought they looked cute.
“All the food is packed up and ready to go for you guys, P’Win,” Pharm said, gesturing to a couple bags on the kitchen counter. He then let his hands rest on top of Dean’s wrists, smiling as he leaned back against his husband.
“I guess we should probably head out soon,” Team said, then bowed respectfully, “Thank you so much for everything.”
“It’s always a pleasure to have you both over! And P’Win remembered something! Team told me that was your first full memory, Phi.”
“It was, maybe that means we should come over for dinner more often.”
“You should!” Pharm smiled brightly. “Or even just come over to spend some time visiting. Or we can come to you guys.”
“Yeah, I guess we haven’t really had anyone over to the house properly...” Team said, squeezing his arm around Win.
“It’s not exactly a good time for a housewarming party,” Dean added.
“Oh hey, speaking of parties,” Win piped up and they all looked at him curiously. “Not... because I want to have one, but there’s a picture I saw out there and I wanted to take a look at it.”
“Oh, sure,” Pharm nodded and pulled away from Dean to grab the bags of food, only to have Dean take them for him. The group headed back out to the hall and Win stopped in front of the photograph he had seen a moment ago.
“This one,” he pointed to the group of friends all standing together in some kind of cabin. Win recognized most of them, but not everyone. He and Team were standing together at one side, hair wet. Around them, he recognized Dean, Pharm, Pruk, the girl he had come to learn was Manaow, Dean’s little sister Del, and some others.
“Ahh, this was from a party, yeah,” Pharm agreed. “It was last year, we rented a big house in the mountains for a long weekend. You and P’Dean just graduated from university and you were about to leave for England. Team, Manaow, Del and I had just finished big projects and final exams for our classes, so we all got together to relax at a resort.”
Team didn’t say anything, he just leaned back against Win’s chest as they looked at the pictures, not unlike the pose Dean and Pharm had a moment ago. Win snaked an arm around Team’s waist and pointed at the two of them in the photo. “How come everyone else is dry but us?”
“I don’t actually remember...” Pharm said, looking over at Team for the answer.
“We were in the hottub,” Team said easily.
“Oh, that’s right! We wanted to take the picture and couldn’t find you. Manaow found you guys outside and made you come in!” Pharm turned his attention to Win, “You guys were crazy, it was so cold outside at night. You were the only ones who wanted to go out there.”
Win looked at Pharm’s confounded face, then glanced up at Dean, who was smirking and looking away. There had to be more to the story than Pharm knew and neither Team nor Dean was saying it. “I like it, could you send me a copy?”
“I have a copy, hia,” Team said before Pharm could answer.
“Great,” Win tightened his arm around Team briefly, before turning to Pharm and Dean. “Thanks again for dinner and everything. It was really great.”
“Of course! Any time,” Pharm beamed a smile at them, and that’s when Dean turned back to the group, smirk gone as if it were never there.
“We’ll walk you out,” he gestured with one of the bags in his hand, then the group headed towards the door. More thanks, more hugs, and more food than Team and Win could likely eat over the next two days passed between them. After final goodnights were said, Team and Win put their shoes on and were out the door heading for Team’s car.
They had just pulled out of the driveway and turned onto the road when Win looked over at Team and asked, “So what happened in the hottub?”
Team grinned and glanced over at Win, “What do you think happened?”
Win blinked at him, a little astonished, “Did we have sex in the hottub? Before Manaow came looking for us?”
“I guess that depends on if you consider handjobs sex,” Team said with a straight face as he turned at a traffic light.
“We jerked each other off where our friends could find us... Damn, we’re bold,” Win blinked, shaking his head.
Team laughed, “I guess I didn’t specify that the very first time you gave me a handjob when you found me trying to take a cold shower at training camp, we were also outside.”
“How in the world are you the same man that got shy when I held your hand in a restaurant in front of Dean?” Win was absolutely bewildered.
Team only laughed and kept driving.
I've been battling with motivation with this work recently and I absolutely do not want to give up the fight. I'm going to try and keep posting once a week, maybe moving to Saturdays rather than Fridays (US time zone) may help. I know asking for comments is tacky or cringe, but the comments from people enjoying this work is really what drives my motivation to keep going: knowing that people enjoy it and want it to continue makes me want to keep writing.
I get my energy from other people and "words of affirmation" is my love language. It makes all the difference in the world to me, truly and honestly. Even the keyboard smashes make me happy. 💜💜💜
Chapter 12: 11 - the art of scraping through
It's finally time for Win to attempt returning to a normal routine. It's not exactly easy, but he isn't alone and he'll get through with a little help.
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.
I cannot thank everyone enough for all the comments on the last chapter. You guys have no idea what it meant to me! I was riding high for days, even stressful things that happened at work were easier to deal with because I was in such a good mental space. I love everyone who reads and supports this work so much, you guys are amazing! Honestly, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I hope you continue to enjoy this story! It's getting close to the end now, we only have a few chapters left. :) I put a lot of time and effort into this one, too! And took my time getting it out, after all the reassurance from everyone in the comments before. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
P.S. to anyone wondering, no, Podd isn't anyone in particular (unlike P'Pan), it's just a name I chose. :)