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a case of catching feelings

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“Some girl came looking for you,” Can told Tin when he entered their shared room.

Tin put down his bag down at the leg of his bed and shrugged his shoes off before throwing himself on the mattress. “Who?”

“Don’t know,” Can answered him. He literally didn’t know. “She slammed the door on my face when she saw I wasn’t you, which was weird because the door opens inward and I was inside.”

It wasn’t the first time something like this happened. Truth be told, it wasn’t even the fifth time, Can knew he had lost count after the first five. One girl after another would come banging on Dorm B, Room 312’s door as soon as they found out that their precious P’Tin lived among mere mortals during weekdays.

At the beginning of their current living arrangement, Tin would annoy the hell out of Can by taking these girls on one date and nothing more. He was the one who needed to deal with the crying mess Tin’s reduced the girls to after he’s decided he’s no longer interested in playing the game. Can could swear he continued doing it partly because he knew it was pissing Can off.

They didn’t hit it off instantly, of course. Tin was this entitled, rich, spoiled young master whose father had told him to experience what being a normal college student felt like. On the other hand, Can was struggling to survive off of 1000 baht a week and Tin would never let him forget that fact, constantly mocking him whenever the opportunity presented itself. Can initially assumed he was one of those bourgeoisie who looked down on the working class people, but he quickly realised that Tin looked down on everyone.

Neither of them wanted to file a request to move out because they were equally stubborn, so Can eventually learned how to tune out the jeers and insults.

One day, the banging on the door came at 2 AM and Can was ready to fight whoever was on the other side. When he swung the door open, though, his eyes landed on someone whose facial features resembled Tin’s, but the man was too young to be Tin’s father. He didn’t know Tin had a brother at this point, and in his surprise, the man walked past him into the room and dragged Tin out of bed by the collar of his pajamas.

It wasn’t until the man started screaming profanities at Tin and other ugly things like how Tin should have never been born that Can snapped out of it and jumped on his back. He screamed just as loud, Tin looking at him confusedly, like he was expecting Can to enjoy the show and the display of his humiliation.

He asked Can a question later, much later, when their entire floor had woken up to Can’s screaming and his brother was safely escorted out of the building by the night guard. Why did you stand up for me? Can told him, as sincere as he could, that despite their differences, he wouldn’t just let anyone be mistreated that way. He didn’t know what Tin’s brother deal was, but fuck, he was off the rails.

Tin apologised to him the next day and for the first few weeks, Can was skeptical. But Tin’s sneers never returned and his facial features when he wasn’t scowling all the time were actually not that bad to look at.

Sometime between the third and fourth girl, afternoons spent trying to understand Tin’s explanation of quantum physics, and nights wasted educating Tin on pop culture, Can found himself inevitably drawn to his former arch-enemy. Talk about a plot twist.

He kept it a secret, didn’t tell a soul about his newfound feelings. There wasn’t much he can do about it, after all Tin’s still had girls coming after him, though he’s long stopped entertaining any of them for reasons undisclosed to Can.

“Yo,” Tin’s voice broke his train of thoughts.

“What?”

“You went away again.”

“Sorry, I was thinking of lamb skewers,” Can lied easily.

Tin laughed, his eyes disappearing into two thin lines. “Okay.”

Curiosity getting the best of him, Can tried to steer the discussion back to the mystery girl. “You’re not going to ask for her description?”

He silently wondered if this time Tin would express a renewed interest on the matter.

“I already got her description,” Tin replied, then continued when Can merely stared at him in perplexity, “Rude. See? Got it.”

“She was pretty, though, from the glimpse I got.”

Tin moved to sit up on the bed and faced Can. “So what? She didn’t treat you very nicely.”

Both his expression and the tone of his voice told Can that the topic was no longer open for discussion. If there’s anything that stayed from the way Tin used to be, it must be his stubbornness. Can didn’t manage to get rid even a quarter of it, though he’s not one to speak since he’s just as headstrong as Tin was, if not more.

“And you do?”

“Hey,” Tin frowned. “I’ve apologised many times for the error of my old ways.”

That was true. Tin had more than made up for whatever mild annoyance he had caused Can in the past.

“Fine. I’m hungry.”

A lopsided grin appeared on Tin’s face. “Okay, we can go have some noodle soup.”

“I’m paying.”

“With what money?” Tin bit back casually as he got up from the bed.

When Tin moved to stretch his arms above his head, his untucked shirt rode up to expose the pale strip of skin on his stomach. Can pointedly looked away.

“Are you really going to pass up the opportunity to have a good-looking partner because she’s disinterested in me?”

It didn’t make sense. Tin’s perfect, he wasn’t exactly facing scarcity in terms of potential partners. His grades were to die for and he actually had his shit together. Can saw no downside for Tin if he chose to go out with other people.

“Are you really going to question me about this the rest of the afternoon?” Tin heaved out a sigh, rolling his eyes tiredly. “People are more than just looks and numbers, you taught me this.”

Can liked the sound of that. He taught Tin something, something valuable enough to be incorporated into Tin’s daily life. It felt ridiculous, but a wave of euphoria washed over him as Tin’s words settled in the deepest part of his heart.

“Taught you my ass, you weren’t that cooperative,” he grumbled to hide his happiness, “I had to practically shove the average dose of human decency down your throat, you were choking from it.”

“Kinda kinky, huh?”

That gave Can a mental image he definitely could have survived without. “Get fucked, Ai Tin.”

“I probably wouldn’t mind if it’s you.”

He picked up his pillow to throw at his roommate, but Tin was already hollering down the hallway. Can straightened his pants as he got up and tried to ignore the excited twitch his dick gave away at the thought of kissing Tin.

 


 

Can always had lunch with Ae every Friday, and that week was no exception. The only difference this time was the appearance of a tall, soft-looking brown-haired man on Ae’s tail.

“Hey, Ai Can,” Ae clapped him on the back hard enough to make Can cough up a lung. “Meet my boyfriend, Pete.”

The tall man offered Can a smile so pure it lifted up the atmosphere around them. The people in the cafeteria had started to turn in the direction of the three of them, no doubt unused to the sight of an angelic presence in their midst.

“What the hell?” Ae’s eyes hardened at Can’s reply, so Can quickly followed his exclamation with, “Sorry. I’m just surprised, because you’re very handsome and Ae is nasty on his best days.”

Can knew that Ae was whipped when he didn’t try to hit him after Can literally insulted him to his face. Instead, he was watching his boyfriend, whose cheeks were dusted pink as a result of Ae’s intense gaze.

“I’ve heard so much about you, Ai Can,” Pete finally turned to him after shoving Ae away playfully. “It is a pleasure to finally put a face on the name.”

He raised both eyebrows at the sentiment. “Um? Thanks? I didn’t know Ae liked me that much.”

“Oh?” Pete sounded surprised. “Well, I’m friends with Ai Tin. I’m not sure if he ever mentions me…”

Can racked his brain in search for tidbits of stories Tin’s told him about the people close to him. It shouldn’t be a hard task since Tin didn’t have that many friends anyway. “You’re the young master?” Can tried out a guess.

“I’m pretty sure Ai Tin knows a lot of young masters,” he smiled sweetly, “I’m just me, though. We grew up together.”

He measured Pete up to make sure his next guess is more of an educated one.

“Are you the one with the pet bunny or the one that cries a lot?”

“Tin’s the one with the pet bunnies, plural,” the other man told him patiently, “I’m definitely the crier.”

Can pumped his fist in the air in triumph as Pete just confirmed his long-time suspicions about his roommate's affinity to fluffy animals. Tin had denied on multiple occasions that he has enough heart in him to have pets, but Can knew better. Tin wasn’t heartless, not even at the start when he tried to appear as such. On the contrary, he might’ve had a soft heart that had been hurt too many times.

“I knew it! I knew those pictures in his phone were his, not a friend’s. He has an entire folder dedicated to bunnies, it’s ridiculous.”

Ae interrupted them then, saying that while he’s glad Pete was getting along with his friend, he wondered if his boyfriend would like something to eat so that Ae could procure his meal for him. Can felt like he was watching a romantic drama, one of those television shows his mother was religiously attuned to.

Pete answered him in a hushed voice and Ae told him he’d be right back, asking Can to take care of Pete while he’s gone. Can nodded his agreement and Ae disappeared into the mass of Thai program students queueing for their helpings of som tam.

He gestured to the empty space next to him on the bench and Pete gracefully sat down.

“How’s Ai Tin?”

“Why are you asking me, aren’t you guys in the same faculty?”

“I mean, how’s he at home—” Pete caught himself on the slip and hastily corrected, “the dorm.”

“Doing way much better than he used to. He used to act like a jerk, you know?”

“Of course.” Pete nodded, like it wasn’t a surprise to him. They were childhood friends, so it probably wasn’t. Can didn’t know why he felt a pang of jealousy that someone knew Tin better than he did.

“To you, too?”

Pete’s eyes grew wide. “No, never. I think he has a soft spot for me.”

The jealousy slowly became suffocating. Such a simple statement awakened the green-eyed monster in Can. He tried to grasp why, since he was never bothered by the girls before. It took him a while to figure out, but he did.

“Oh,” he said quietly, mostly to himself. Pete seemed to take this as reciprocation to his statement more than an exclamation to Can's epiphany.

Can was unnerved because unlike other people who came before him, Pete and Tin had a history. They had years to work on their relationship, or maybe there was nothing to work out in the first place. After talking to each other for ten minutes, Can knew everything he needed to conclude that there wasn't a single soul in this universe that wouldn’t instantly love Pete.

He jumped at the curling of Pete’s fingers on his forearm.

“Which is why…” Pete trailed off, cautious. “I might be the only person who can tell you this and not suffer the worst consequences.”

That lifted Can’s mood easily. Pete’s dating Ae— it was illogical to worry about anything happening between him and Tin. Even if it weren’t Pete, Can had no right to mind who Tin chooses to spend his time with, anyway.

“I’m always up for embarrassing childhood memories.”

“It’s not that at all. Uh, it seems to me that Ai Tin might have developed a soft spot for you, too, though it’s quite different than my situation.”

Can searched Pete’s face for clues, any clue. He failed to find any. Pete didn’t continue talking so Can had to prompt him. “Ai Tin talked about me a lot, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Didn’t he tell you that I’m slow? You’re talking in codes and it’s making my head hurts,” Can whined slightly.

Pete politely covered his mouth with his hand in an attempt to hide his amusement.

“Okay, I’ll cut to the point.”

Can waited.

“Ai Tin’s a little in love with you.”

“A little…” he furrowed his brow. He must have heard it wrong because there is no way—

“That might have been an understatement,” Pete continued honestly, “I just didn’t want to freak you out.”

“A little… what?”

“Um. In love?”

Pete almost fell off the bench in the next five seconds and it only registered to Can when Ae came rushing back to see what was going on that it was because he was screaming like a pterodactyl on the top of his lungs.

 


 

“When you said you didn’t mind if it was me, what did you mean?” Can asked from his spot on the bed.

Looking up from his assignment to shoot a questioning look over at Can, Tin had a baffled expression on his face. “What are you talking about?”

“Would you sleep with me?” he posed the question in a way that let Tin know he meant it in that context.

Tin dropped the pen he was holding and Can followed its movement until it clattered quietly on the floor. When he moved his gaze back up again, Tin looked equally mortified and pained. “No.”

It would have hurt more if Can had believed what Pete said before, but in his mind, he knew that it was too good to be true. Rather than falling in love with Can, Tin was probably just excited about having a new friend. Living for almost a year together—eight months if he discounted the first three which were filled with nothing but animosity—he could still be categorised as somewhat new addition to Tin’s life.

He shrugged, feeling a little disappointed but not at all surprised. “Oh. Okay.”

“But wait,” Tin said quietly, “don’t ask anyone else.”

Can thought he looked scared, though that wasn’t possible. Confidence oozed from Tin’s entire being without fail since the day Can first met him, so to say that the sight of him biting his lips and anxiously looking anywhere but at Can was rare would be an understatement. It never happened. Tin always had total control of the situation.

He sat up on the bed, legs dangling over the edge, and eyed Tin carefully. “I wasn’t going to.”

The tension released from his shoulders upon hearing Can’s reply was practically visible.

“So… are you thinking of having sex? Why did you ask me?”

Fuck it, Can decided to be blunt for once. The contract for their room arrangement was almost up, they were required to sign a form for the next school term if they wanted to stay as roommates. If his confession backfired, the worst case scenario was that he’d have to go through the next month avoiding Tin and find a replacement roommate.

“Rather than thinking of having sex, I’m thinking of having sex with you.”

Tin studied the blue paint of their room’s wall intently. His voice was barely above a whisper when he finally asked, “Just sex?”

“Oh, fuck. No! Not like that. I mean, yeah, eventually I’d like to go there, but if you only wanna hold hands for the rest of our lives, that’s fine, too.” Tin’s eyes found his and Can instantly realised his mistake. “Wait—”

“What,” Tin said flatly.

“Um.”

He fixed his gaze on Can. “You just said, the rest of our lives.”

“Busted,” Can grimaced.

“Explain.”

Despite his demanding tone, Can could hear the quiet plea in his command. He wished he couldn’t, since it only made it hard for him to laugh his way out of this particular situation.

“I… kinda like you?”

Tin narrowed his eyes. “Kinda?”

Fine. Surely, Tin deserved way much better than the uncertainty Can had managed to offer him.

“No, I definitely like you. I just didn’t want to freak you out.” He made a mental note to thank Pete for the line he just stole, since it resonated rather well for this situation.

“What kind of like?”

He would have been irked if it seemed like Tin was continuously pushing at his buttons just for the sake of being annoying, but it didn’t seem to be the case. The vulnerability carried in his soft voice, the tone he was using that Can never quite heard coming from him before— they spoke volume about how Tin must be feeling at the moment.

“What kind do you think?”

“Can, please.” Tin’s resorted to explicit begging, now.

Can took a deep breath and made the leap of faith. “The I want to date you kind.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” he confirmed, scratching the back of his neck nervously. Tin didn’t say anything for the longest time and Can’s two seconds away from bursting, so he got up from the bed and made his way to the door to escape. “Right, this is probably awkward because you don’t feel the same way, which is completely fine! Give me a week or two to be weird about it and then I promise I’ll get—” over it, he meant to say, but Tin was suddenly so dangerously close to him and his brain short-circuited because of the proximity.

“I definitely like you, too.”

Tin was grinning from ear to ear, still moving closer and closer to Can, backing him up against the door.

“Yeah?”

“Affirmative,” he huffed, running his fingers through Can dark locks.

It felt fucking intimate and Can wasn’t about to protest.

“Great,” he returned Tin’s grin before cheekily adding, “Is that affirmative to the sex part, too?”

Tin could have pushed Can away, or alternatively, moved away from him. Can was merely joking,  playing the push-and-pull game with him; that much was obvious. Tin replied with much more seriousness and intensity than necessary, prompting butterflies to appear in Can’s stomach.

“After a couple dates, sure.”

Cool lips brushed against Can’s cheek and he instinctively closed his eyes to be able to savour the contact more. “Should— should we go have ice cream and a movie right now? Call it two dates?”

The taller man pulled back, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Or we can just make out on my bed,” he suggested lightly.

“Why your bed?”

Tin shrugged, already back to his normal playful self. “I have clean sheets.”

“Valid points were made,” Can hummed in agreement, then looped his arms around Tin’s neck and slotted their mouths together.

As Tin's tongue swiped across his lips, Can had only one thought: Pete was right the first time when he referred to this as home.