The plan was for Team to join the others later on in the evening. Some of the third years, including Win and Dean, had organised to go to a bar to celebrate the end of their final second semester exam. But the coach of the swimming club wanted to discuss potential sponsorships with Team, and what that would entail, so he wouldn’t be there for the first half of the proceedings.
In all honesty, Win had looked tired even before they were due to leave for the bar. Team had taken one look at his boyfriend—the lines of his face drawn, uncharacteristically subdued—and pulled him gently to one side out of earshot.
“If you want to just go home and nap,” Team suggested quietly, “I’d be happy to come with you. I can probably come up with an excuse for the both of us. Or, I can sneak you off when I arrive and deal with the consequences later.”
Win had just smiled at him, tired but fond. “It’s okay, Team. The others want me to go, so I’ll go. We haven’t been out together in a while, and they might be disappointed if I don’t show.”
Team had frowned a little, wanting to ask what Win wanted, but Win was already squeezing his wrist reassuringly.
“Go to your meeting, Team,” he said, gently nudging Team towards the coach’s office, “I’ll see you later.”
It’s now over an hour later, and Team heads back to the dorm after the meeting has finished. It took a little longer than he expected, and he’s just finished changing into more appropriate bar attire when his phone rings.
Dean’s name flashing across the screen is so unexpected that he frowns at it for a beat. Ordinarily, Win would be the one who would call if there was a change of plan. Unless there was something wrong with Win that meant he couldn’t get to his phone.
Team scrambles to answer the call.
Before he can get a word in, Dean hurries to say, “How soon can you get here, Team?”
The urgency in his tone panics him immediately. “What? Why?” he whirls around, frantically looking for his car keys, “What happened, phi?” he spots them on the bedside table and swipes them up, “Is there something wrong with Hia Win?”
He can hear Pharm’s faint voice in the background, a little muffled from the ambient noises of the bar, “Don’t scare him, P’Dean!”
“Nothing happened to Win,” Dean reassures, “He just drank a little more than usual, and keeps asking where you are. Every five minutes for the better part of an hour.” Dean sounds like he’s speaking through gritted teeth.
Team’s heart rate calms now that he knows there’s no horrific medical emergency he has to attend to. Enough to be amused at the thought of his tipsy boyfriend annoying the hell out of Dean while Pharm watches.
“I’ll be there soon, phi,” Team promises, trying to keep the amusement out of his tone, “I’m going to drive my car so it’s quicker.”
“Team,” Dean says, with an unfamiliar note of hesitancy, “I feel like you should know, he’s currently Six Drink Win.”
Team goes absolutely still. He’s never had the pleasure of meeting Six Drink Win before, only hearing about him from Dean and Pruk when Win wasn’t there to overhear. According to them, any filter Win has vanishes after enough alcohol. In general, Win had a fairly high tolerance, unlike Team, but on rare occasions he would accidentally slide over a certain threshold that lowered his inhibitions.
Win scarcely drinks enough to get to that point purely because he prefers to be level headed and calculated, careful with every word he says. Even Dean has only seen him like that twice before; Pruk only once.
“How bad is it?” Team hesitantly asks.
There is a loaded pause on the other end of the line that does not bode well.
“He asked if you were single,” Dean eventually offers, “And when Pharm said no, he looked like he was about to cry.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” Team says quickly, already pulling on his shoes.
Team drums his fingers nervously on the steering wheel as he drives. They’ve only been officially dating a couple of months, though it did take them several months to get to this point, and this will be the first time Team has seen Win genuinely drunk. Team is a lightweight, and Win has had to take care of him before, but this will be the first time the tables are turned. He doesn’t really know what to expect.
He has to park ten minutes away, but a brisk walk later has him entering the dimly lit bar and peering around for a glimpse of blond hair.
Pharm spots him, before anyone else does, on his way back from the bathroom. His best friend taps him once, jauntily, on the shoulder.
“Tag,” he says playfully, eyes crinkling in amusement, “You’re it. P’Dean and I entrust him over to you.”
Team peers around Pharm warily. The space they’ve chosen to sit is along one wall, with two tables that seat four people each, separated by a small space. At one table, Team recognises some of the other swim team members, and at the other he can see what is unmistakably Dean talking lowly opposite Win, who has his arms folded on the table, chin resting on top sullenly. Pharm’s jacket rests on the empty chair next to Dean, and the seat next to Win has obviously been left open for Team.
Team glances back at Pharm. “How many drinks did he have? He’s normally quite careful.”
“I’m not sure,” Pharm says thoughtfully, “P’Win did seem a little bit tired when we arrived at the bar. I think the last few weeks of exams may have taken a toll on him. It’s possible he didn’t even realise the first two drinks were doubles before it was too late.”
Team nods absently as he processes. He knows it isn’t just the exams taking their toll on Win lately. Win is being pulled in many different directions; keeping up his grades, tutoring his juniors, competing in swimming competitions, providing extra coaching to members who are struggling, preparing to take over his parents’ company, keeping his brothers happy, and helping Team deal with his nightmares.
The list goes on, and Win is selfless almost to a fault. He’s being stretched so thin it’s a wonder he hasn’t snapped yet, but he would never say it’s too much, preferring to keep it bottled up.
Team sometimes feels like he’s watching Atlas, holding the weight of the sky. Or Icarus. All his responsibilities as wax wings too close to the sun. Win flying, then burning, then falling, falling, falling.
“Pharm,” he says, snapping out of his reverie, “How is he, really?”
His best friend pats him consolingly on the arm. “You’ll see,” he says simply, then wanders off toward the bar.
As Team approaches, Dean and Win’s conversation slowly drifts into focus. Dean is sat with his back to Team, and Win doesn’t look up from his sulk to notice him coming.
“I already told you,” A small touch of exasperation slips between Dean’s normally level tone, like he’s been through this several times already, “Team is on his way to the bar.”
“Shouldn’t he be with his boyfriend,” Win mumbles grumpily.
“Yes,” Team cuts in, and Dean turns to look at him in relief.
Win sits up ramrod straight when he spots him. His cheeks are rosy with alcohol, eyes bright but a little glossy. His hair is loose and slightly ruffled, like he’s been running his hand through it.
The smile that lit up Win’s face upon seeing him seems to dim slowly, sliding into uncertainty. Team settles into the chair next to Win, and is pleased to note the way Win angles his body subconsciously towards him, even in his inebriated state.
When Win says nothing, continuing to stare at him warily, Team asks, “What’s wrong, hia?”
Win glances briefly across at Dean, who is now pretending that the opposite side of the bar is the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen.
“Dean said you have a boyfriend,” he says cautiously.
“I do have a boyfriend,” Team confirms agreeably.
A couple of months ago, those words would have made him squirm in front of other people’s curious eyes, but everything is different now.
Win sullenly scuffs one of his feet into the ground, then looks back to Team.
“Is he good looking?”
“Sometimes unfairly so,” Team answers, pretending to think about it, “He has a lot of piercings and some cool tattoos, so that’s pretty nice.”
Win frowns. “I have piercings and tattoos too,” he says, with a touch of petulance.
Team nods. “That’s right,” he agrees, waiting for the penny to drop.
Unfortunately, Win doesn’t seem to grasp what Team is trying to spell out. Instead, his lip actually wobbles slightly, and he blinks big sad eyes down at the table.
“Is he better than me?” Win asks quietly, and suddenly it isn’t funny anymore.
A pang of genuine pain lances through Team at the vulnerability in his tone, and he quickly decides the joke is over. The others at the next table swiftly turn away and pretend not to be listening, sensing the shift in Team’s demeanour. Team doesn’t pay them any attention, focused on getting that broken look off his boyfriend’s face.
“Hia,” he says carefully, “Look at me,” and when Win’s face stays where it is, gently cups his flushed cheek to catch his eye.
Win blinks glassily back at him. “I wanted you to be my boyfriend,” he adds in a miserable whisper.
Team wants the earth to open up and swallow him whole. He’d take anything over having to face that heartbroken expression on Win’s face. He looks around, notices they’re in a fairly dark and quiet corner of the bar, and Dean is mostly blocking them from view. Team takes a chance and presses a chaste kiss to Win’s downturned mouth.
When he pulls back, Win’s face is a complicated mix of bewilderment and elation.
“You are my boyfriend, hia,” Team says firmly.
“Oh,” Win breathes, cheek bunching up into a happy smile against Team’s palm. It is blinding in its very nature, and Team can’t help but smile back.
Team startles and drops his palm when Win suddenly points accusingly in Dean’s general direction. Team pushes his arm with a single finger until he’s actually pointing at Dean and not a vague place at the other side of the room.
“When were you going to tell me?” he accuses.
Dean flicks the tip of his finger, indifferent. “I did tell you,” he states, “Multiple times, in fact.”
“A likely story,” Win grumbles. He falls silent for a moment, and Team can practically see the cogs turning as Win processes their recent conversation. Eventually, his face brightens as he gloats at Team. “You think I’m good looking.”
Team throws him a look. “We’re literally dating.”
Win nods once. “For two months and three days,” he proclaims.
Team’s brain comically record-scratches. “Oh, so now you remember?”
He ignores the precision to which Win is counting the length of their relationship because it makes him go warm and fuzzy, and he’s a little too preoccupied to get into that too deeply.
Win smiles at him, slow and languid, like honey. “You kissed me and it was like I never forgot,” he says wistfully, “A modern day Sleeping Beauty.”
Team blinks at him, unimpressed. “I don’t think that’s how that story goes.”
Win leans closer unsteadily. “Are you challenging my literary prowess?”
Team carefully pushes him back upright with a gentle hand to his chest. “You’re awfully eloquent for somebody who’s had over six drinks.”
Win shrugs. “Talking is easier like this. I don’t have to hide anything,” Before Team has time to interpret that loaded statement, Win gestures toward Dean, “Dean said I have a sloppy mouth.”
“I said you have loose lips,” Dean says, pained. “And only when you’re this drunk.”
By this point, Pharm has returned from the bar, and he starts laughing as he places a glass in front of Dean.
“Sloppy mouth?” he teases, sliding into his chair.
“Please don’t,” Dean replies, face still pained.
Pharm pushes his drink closer consolingly, then turns to Team. “Sorry Team, I didn’t buy you a drink because I figured…” he nods towards Win.
Team waves away the apology. “I drove my car here so I could take hia back to the dorm.” He briefly watches the way Win is now trying to push his hair out of his face, huffing in frustration when it falls back over his eyes.
Knowing that Win keeps a tie on him at all times, he plunges his hand down into the closest pocket of Win’s black jeans to find one.
“We’re in public,” Win protests, weakly batting at his searching hands, “I’m not an exhibitionist.”
Team doesn’t even deem that worth a response, removing his hand from Win’s pocket triumphantly. He picks the bits of lint off the black hair tie and then snaps it onto his wrist.
Standing to move behind Win, he taps the top of his head, “Tilt your head back,” he requests.
Obediently, Win’s head tips backwards, except the alcohol has caused him to have limited control of his neck muscles, so he overdoes it and the top of his head ends up bonking into Team’s chest.
Win blinks big glassy eyes up at him. Then, like he’s only just registered it’s Team, his face spreads into a slow dopey smile.
“Team,” he breathes, “You look pretty when you’re upside down.” He pauses for a beat, a crease appearing between his eyebrows, “Why are you upside down?”
There is genuine worry in his tone, and Team literally doesn’t know if he can take much more of this. His boyfriend is being so… honest. And very cute. Apparently, that’s amplified tenfold when he has no filter.
Team gathers Win’s hair up and ties it into a quick ponytail on the top of his head, pulling it tight like how Manaow showed him, making sure it’s as close to the middle as he can get it.
Win pats at the ponytail, and apparently deems it worthy of his approval. “Thank you,” he says, blinking up at Team, and then immediately after, “I’m hungry. I wanna go home with you.”
Team is endlessly amused by the sudden switch in topics. “Let’s get you some food, and then we can go home.”
Win smiles serenely at him. “You’re the best, Team,” he says dopily. Win rarely raises his voice for any reason, but he increases the volume slightly just enough to state, “You’re always the best.”
“Always?” Dean cuts in innocently. Team startles, almost forgetting he was there.
Win’s eyes snap to Dean’s suspiciously, and Team begins to feel a keen sense of dread. “Always,” he insists stubbornly, “Team will always be the best.”
Dean’s innocent tone doesn’t change, but he does raise an eyebrow. “What if Team were a ghost?” he asks, and Win freezes, “Would he still be the best then?”
Team suppresses a groan. Win’s debilitating phobia of ghosts is known by only a handful of people, and Dean is one of the select few. Dean is obviously angling for revenge for the sloppy mouth comment. Luckily, nobody else seems to be paying them any attention, so Win’s secret appears to be safe.
Win is sitting unnaturally still and quiet, staring unseeingly into space. He starts to slide down in his chair, like the possibility of Team becoming a ghost is a weight pushing him down towards the ground. Team allows himself the liberty of looking to the ceiling in exasperation for only a split second, before grabbing Win by the shoulder to stop his descent.
To the ridiculous boy he adores, he says, “Stop slumping, you’ll fall off the chair.” And to said ridiculous boy’s best friend, he says, “Stop teasing him, phi.”
There’s an almost immeasurable shift in Dean’s expression, a small spark of challenge in his eyes. Team has never argued back or chastised him before, usually too intimidated by Dean as his senior and president of the swim club to do so. Win being teased while in the state he’s in is enough to override his usual survival instincts.
Dean’s eyes flick back to Win contemplatively, like he’s gearing up to speak again. Team makes an obvious show of glancing at Pharm, who is hiding a smile behind his glass, then back to Dean.
“Pharm,” Team says, looking directly at Dean, “Your boyfriend is being mean.”
“P’Dean,” Pharm pipes up, voice too amused to sound threatening, “Stop teasing P’Win.”
Dean lifts his hands placatingly, expression coloured a little impressed by Team’s boldness. The side of his mouth quirks up in a rare show of amusement. His cheeks are a little flushed too, the only obvious sign Dean has been drinking at all, other than his slightly more talkative nature.
“You win this round,” Dean concedes, and Team can’t smother his proud smile.
“I need to pee,” Win announces, then springs up and leaves. Team watches him warily, but his coordination seems unaffected, and he’s making a steady beeline for the bathroom, so Team figures he’ll be fine on his own.
When he draws his attention back to the table, he sees that Dean has swivelled around to watch Win go, likely still primed to get up should he need help. For all of his complaints about Win, the show of concern from Dean is adorable.
Dean straightens back around and is faced with two pointed smiles from Pharm and Team.
There’s a beat of silence, and then Dean clears his throat and begins to talk. “The first time I saw Win like this, we were still in high school. Win broke into his dad’s liquor cabinet because he wanted to know what whiskey was like.” Dean’s eyes are fixed on him intently, and Team automatically knows this is important. “That was the day Win first told me he was bisexual. I could tell there had been something on his mind lately, but I never bothered to ask. At the time, I still felt like a part of me was missing, always aimlessly looking for someone,” Pharm silently rests his head on his shoulder, “And because of that, I didn’t always see what was happening with him.”
Win had made it clear to Team he was open about his sexuality since high school, but he never thought about what it must have been like for Win to tell his closest friend. It’s hard to link up a younger Win, hesitant to come out to his best friend, with the confident and proud Win he is now.
“The second time I saw him like this was freshman year of university,” Dean continues. “He ended up calling his tattoo parlor, and finally making the appointment for his wings. He’d wanted them for so long and kept putting it off, but something that day made him finally give in.”
Team stares at Dean in thought. It’s easy to forget with how much they tease, but Win and Dean have known each other the longest out of any of them. Their bond as best friends runs deeper than any of them realise. Dean probably knows things about Win that Team has yet to learn. Team wants to spend the rest of his life figuring Win out, if that’s what it takes.
“What I’m trying to say,” Dean explains, “Is that this version of Win is the most sincere. He asks for exactly what he wants. Win never lies, and that’s especially important to remember when he’s like this.”
Team straightens up, a new kind of determination flooding through him. “He’s in safe hands with me, phi.”
“I know,” Dean reaches over and squeezes his shoulder, “That’s why I called you.”
After Win reappears, they both say goodbye to Dean, Pharm, and the other swim team members and head outside. There is a restaurant they regularly go to on the way back from the university, and it happens to be only a five minute walk away. The night air is marginally cooler than it was in the day, but it’s still warm enough to be pleasant as Team guides Win, who has been mostly silent since they started walking, down the street.
“I would need time to get used to it,” Win offers quietly, out of the blue.
Team replays their recent conversation in his head and comes up empty. He has no idea what Win is referring to.
Team dextrously steers Win around a street light. “I’m gonna need you to elaborate.”
Win takes in a steadying breath. “If you were a ghost,” he ventures, “I think I’d need some time. But I—I think I could get used to it. I could date a ghost if the ghost was you.”
Team almost wants to laugh, but it seems like it took a lot out of Win to say it. He’s a little green around the edges, and somehow Team isn’t sure that’s because of the alcohol. To anybody else, it may be amusing, but Win being willing to overcome his fear just for Team sends an unstoppable surge of affection through him. He must have been thinking about it since Dean brought it up.
“Thank you, hia,” he says solemnly, fighting a smile, to which Win nods absently.
They continue down the street, the restaurant’s neon sign eventually coming into view a short distance away. After a suspiciously long silence, Team glances sideways to see Win staring down at the gap between their bodies as they walk, eyebrows furrowed, deep in thought.
“What are you thinking about?” Team asks. Win’s head pops up, throwing him a questioning look. “That’s your thinking scrunch,” Team explains, reaching out to massage over the wrinkle between Win’s eyebrows until it smooths out.
Win stares at the retreating hand as Team drops it back to his side.
“I want to hold your hand,” Win says.
They’ve come to an abrupt stop just beside the restaurant, and Team once again finds himself at a loss for words.
“I always want to hold your hand,” Win continues, tone matter-of-fact, “Your fingers are cute, and I like playing with them. I also like how your hands are a little bit smaller than mine.” Win spreads his hand out in front of him, palm out. “I like how well we fit together.”
Team has gone warm and wobbly all over. “You’ve never told me that before,” he rasps, and is all at once struck with a vivid reminder of Dean’s words.
This Win actually asks for what he wants. This Win is wearing his heart on his sleeve, walls pulled completely down, ripe for the taking. Team is suddenly overcome with the unbearable need to shield him from prying eyes, to hold this vulnerable version of Win protectively to his chest where he’ll be safe.
He understands with sudden clarity why Win is normally careful not to drink this much. Teasing from his friends aside, there’s also the chance he might reveal something that he’s been keeping inside for a reason.
Somebody brushes past them, jostling Team out of thought. Win’s hand is still held out, and Team wants nothing more than to press his hand there, palm to palm, and entwine their fingers, to give Win what he wants. But Win drops it before he gets the chance.
“It’s okay. I know you don’t like it when there’s a lot of people,” Win smiles sweetly, gently, and Team knows Win truly doesn’t mind. That’s just the kind of person he is.
Team swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. “Let’s get some food,” he manages, “I’ll treat you this time.”
Win blinks earnestly. “I don’t mind paying for both of us. I like doing it.”
“I know you do,” Team replies quietly, “But I want to pay today. Okay?”
“Okay,” Win smiles again, as sweet as before.
The restaurant itself is small and relatively cheap, offering quick meals or street food on the go. It’s become a particular favourite of theirs over the last couple of months. Through the restaurant, there is outside seating at the back, and Team leads Win there, knowing he prefers to be outside.
There are only a few other groups of people here, given how relatively late it is in the evening. Once they’re seated, Team passes Win one of the menus, even though they usually order the same thing each time, and Win takes it absently. He has his head tilted back, staring at the deep black sky. The moon is barely visible beneath the blare of the city lights, a faint silver coin in the sky.
“We can never see the stars here,” Win wonders.
“It’s the light pollution,” Team explains, even though he knows Win is well aware, “You can see them better outside of the city.”
Win hums in contemplation, then fixes his stare on Team. “Do you miss them?”
“The stars?” Team glances up. His hometown is in another province, in the countryside far away from the main city. At this time of year, there would be multiple glittering constellations visible from his bedroom window. After he moved to Bangkok, he remembers thinking that if he could at least look up at the same stars, he’d be able to feel closer to home. “A little, when I'm homesick.” He sends Win a small smile, “What do you want to order?”
Win stares briefly at the menu. “The pork here is my favourite.”
Team pauses, confused. “I thought the chicken was your favourite.”
Win shakes his head vigorously, silver earrings swinging with the movement, overenthusiastic under the alcohol’s influence. He takes a few seconds to re-focus back on Team’s face.
“I like pork the best,” he insists.
“But you always order the same as me,” Team says slowly, “And I get chicken.”
Win frowns at him, like he doesn’t understand the problem. Team is beginning to feel like he’s missing something.
“I order chicken because you like chicken,” Win states, one of his feet rubbing absently along Team’s ankle.
Team stares at him uncomprehendingly.
“You always eat my leftovers,” Win explains patiently, “And chicken is your favourite,” he shrugs like it’s not a big deal, then goes back to reading the menu.
Team fights to keep the astonishment from showing on his face. He wonders how many other little sacrifices Win makes just to make those around him comfortable.
Team goes inside to give their order, and when he gets to the counter, he orders two portions of pork.
When their food arrives, Win makes a happy little noise around the first bite, and Team is suddenly so grateful for this Win’s unbridled honesty. He’s enjoying the food like it’s the first time he’s ever tasted anything before.
Team can no longer resist, reaching out to tangle their fingers together underneath the table. Win’s face lights up so much that it’s almost blinding, and Team’s breath catches. The street lights around them are reflected in Win’s eyes, and they look like stars against the backdrop of his irises. Team sees his home in them; a hundred glittering constellations.
Something must show on his face, because Win smiles tenderly at him and squeezes his hand. Team squeezes back.
Team has to eat the rest of the food with his left hand, his right clutched tightly within Win’s, but he can’t bring himself to care. When Win polishes off his entire portion, Team pushes his plate towards him, and watches with fondness as Win happily finishes off his leftovers.
Team manages to wrangle Win into the car and then, after a short drive, into the dorms with little fuss. They usually spend most of their time in Win’s room, and Team already has multiple changes of clothes stashed there, so Team doesn’t even consider going back to his own room.
After toeing off his shoes, Team heads into the bathroom to wash up. As he expected, Win follows him and hops up onto the counter by the sink. He jauntily swings his long legs back and forth, watching as Team unashamedly steals Win’s fancy facial cleanser to wash his face.
Win has always been adamant that Team can use anything he finds in his room in order to not have to keep going back to his own. He even bought Team a toothbrush to use when he stays over—the bright red handle slotted perfectly next to Win’s blue one.
Team pats his face dry with a towel, glancing at Win, who seems content just to watch in silence. “Do you want to shower?”
There is a mischievous glint to his eyes now, his cheeks still flushed from the alcohol, and Team is immediately suspicious.
“Do I smell?” Win asks, blinking innocently.
Team throws him a look. “I’m not falling for that.”
Win pouts in response, exaggeratedly jutting out his lower lip because he’s a menace.
Rolling his eyes, Team steps between Win’s open knees and obediently leans in to make a show of sniffing him. He grips Win by the waist, noses under the delicate skin behind Win’s ear where he’s sensitive, and Win’s breath hitches. The only thing he can smell is Win’s shampoo and a tiny hint of alcohol. This close, he can practically feel Win’s gaze where it bores into the side of his head.
“I want you to kiss me again,” Win says quietly, like it’s a secret.
Team draws back only enough to see his face. Win’s eyes have dropped down to his lips, mesmerised. Team kisses the tip of his nose, and Win blinks at him dazedly. He rests his hands on Team’s shoulders.
“More?” Win murmurs.
Team tilts his head in thought. “I’ll make you a deal.” He heads into the bedroom to grab a bottle of water, coming back to stand between Win’s knees again. He holds up the bottle, and Win glances at it only briefly before focusing back on Team. “If you drink some water, you get a kiss from me in exchange. How does that sound?”
Win processes this, pulling him a little closer. “I do want more kisses.”
Team twists open the cap. “If you want more kisses,” he pushes it into Win’s waiting hand, “You have to drink some water.”
Win thinks about it. “If you want me to drink water, you should give me more kisses,” he counters.
Team smothers a smile. “Show me where.”
Win takes a long pull on the water, then points to his flushed cheek.
Team kisses it dutifully, the skin pleasantly warm beneath his lips.
Win’s mouth twitches, then he takes another drag. He taps the middle of his forehead, and Team has to go up on his tiptoes in order to plant a kiss there.
Win takes another swallow, and this time Team doesn’t wait before he slots their lips together, tugging Win towards him with a grip on his thighs. The shape of Win’s lips curve upwards, and Team matches him, until they’re pressing smiles into each other’s mouths.
They continue just like that for a while. Win drinks the water, and Team compliantly kisses the tip of his nose, his temple, the jut of his cheekbones.
At one point, Win taps the back of his hand then obediently takes a sip of the bottle. Team cups his hand under Win’s, gently lifting the back of it to his lips, looking at Win from under his eyelashes. Compared to every other kiss, the one he presses to the back of his hand is strangely the most intimate, and Win seems to realise that. His eyes are wide, the flush reaching the tips of his ears as Team pulls back. Team slides his thumb over the soft skin of his hand, then drops it.
“I think you’ve had enough water for now,” he says, to which Win nods dazedly.
Win is slightly more subdued as he slides off the counter to wash his face. Once he’s finished, Team hands him his toothbrush, already primed with toothpaste, and they brush their teeth side by side.
Team has come to appreciate these simple moments, strangely personal and incredibly domestic, for the feeling of belonging they invoke within him. It’s difficult to remember a time where Win wasn’t by his side, often playfully pressing toothpaste kisses to his cheek, and Team wouldn’t want it any other way.
By the time they’re done, Win’s eyes are starting to droop a little. Team heads back into the bedroom, and Win follows silently behind him like an adorably tipsy duckling.
Team changes into a soft t-shirt and shorts, and sits on the edge of the bed to pull off his socks. Once Team looks up, Win has already switched his jeans and shirt for a soft pair of black sweatpants. He tends to run hot, and the alcohol doesn’t help, so he usually sleeps shirtless.
He’s hovering silently near the bed, his gaze unreadable, watching Team intently. Team throws the last sock in the direction of Win’s laundry basket and waits for him to speak.
Win points at Team’s lap and says, very politely, “May I sit there?”
Team glances down, then back up at him, expression confused, “That’s my lap.”
Win huffs a frustrated little breath. “That doesn’t answer my question, Team.”
“Um,” Team says eloquently.
Win fidgets with the material of his sweatpants, rubbing a section methodically between his thumb and forefinger, and waits. He looks uncharacteristically hesitant, which makes it an easy decision for Team to hold his hand out.
“Come here,” he requests.
Win takes his hand and lets himself be tugged down, knees settling either side of Team. He slides his arms over Team’s shoulders and seems to melt into him in relief, going soft and silent as he allows himself to be held. Team rubs a soothing hand up and down his back, and Win makes a tiny noise in the back of his throat.
“Hia,” Team ventures carefully, “Are you okay?”
Win’s arms tighten imperceptibly around him. “I’m fine,” he mumbles, “I just…” he curls further into Team, the tip of his nose pressed snugly into the crook of Team’s neck, small and fragile, “Can I stay here for a while?” he asks quietly.
Team’s heart thuds painfully against his ribcage. He wonders how often Win just wants to be held like this, but can never bring himself to ask. The recognition that Win keeps so many things like this bottled up sits uncomfortably in Team’s chest. It’s no surprise that everything spills over and flows out of him when his inhibitions are lowered.
“Of course,” Team assures him, just as quietly. He pulls Win impossibly closer, arms wrapped securely around his waist, warm and safe. “Anything you want.”
Team loses track of time, allowing the gentle movement of Win’s chest rising against his own to lull him into a soft, relaxed state.
When he comes back to himself, they’ve been sat in the embrace for a while, and Team’s back is starting to ache from keeping it straight enough so Win doesn’t over balance. Team presses a hand against Win’s spine to get his attention, and Win stirs in his arms.
“We should lie down,” Team coaxes, “We’ll be more comfortable that way.”
He feels rather than sees Win nod, reluctantly disengaging from Team to crawl beneath the covers. Win holds them open for him, and Team slides in gratefully after switching off the lamp, settling on his side in an exact mirror of Win.
At first, Team thinks Win will go straight to sleep with how tired he must feel, but his gaze is strangely attentive as he focuses intent eyes on Team. The only light in the room comes from the street lamps shining dimly through the window.
‘If you could have any three wishes, what would you wish for?” Win asks.
Although several answers spring to mind, Team is more interested in how Win would answer that question. Especially like this, raw and honest.
‘What would yours be?” Team asks.
Win doesn’t hesitate, like he’s thought about it several times and his answer has never changed.
“I’d wish to take away your nightmares. Then at least I’d feel like I was helping.”
The things that haunt Team at night will always be a difficult topic for Win. They aren’t something physical he can just magically fix, or throw himself in front of in order to protect him. But that has never mattered to Team. When he’s with Win, every dark thing within him seems to settle, chased out by Win’s presence, which shines so brightly sometimes he feels like he’s standing within a supernova.
The way Win holds him sets off something warm and golden in his mind, and Team knows without a doubt that he’s safe. Feeling safe is one of the most important things to Team. He hasn’t felt safe in a long time, not since the water dragged him down into darkness. Not until he met Win.
He’s been silent for so long that Win asks, “What would be your first wish?”
“I’d wish you could see how safe you make me feel,” Team answers, and Win’s eyes flutter in soft surprise. “I don’t need my fears to suddenly disappear, as long as I have you. I probably should have told you sooner, but I feel safe whenever I’m with you. You make me feel brave.”
Win swallows. “Thank you for telling me,” he rasps, and Team’s mouth quirks in a small smile.
“What’s your second wish, hia?”
Win’s eyes drift over to the window. “I wish I could take you stargazing.”
Their conversation at the restaurant suddenly makes more sense. “Why stargazing?” Team asks.
“Your sleep is more fitful when the city is louder,” Win explains. “I want to take you far away, just for a few days, into the rural areas where everything is quieter. I know you miss being able to see them like you can in your hometown…” he trails off. “I’ve been learning the names of the constellations,” he adds in a smaller voice, “I wanted to be able to impress you.”
Team had seen the astronomy textbook open on Win’s desk, but he’d assumed it was for one of his tutees with a niche module. Win must have been planning the trip for weeks in advance, and the thought makes Team’s heart hurt in the best way.
“What’s your second wish?” Win asks.
Team barely even needs to think about it. Both of Win’s wishes so far have been for Team. Even in his most genuine, honest state, Win is always thinking about other people, and never himself.
“I wish you’d ask for something just for yourself, hia,” Their faces are close together in the dim light. Win’s eyes flit back and forth between Team’s, like he isn’t sure how he should respond. “You always think about other people, and I love that about you. But I think you deserve to be selfish sometimes.”
Team can see Win processing his request. He gives him some time by busying himself pressing a gentle kiss to the tip of Win’s nose, then to his forehead, and finally on his cheek. By the time he’s pulling away, Win looks calmer, but still uncertain.
“I wish you’d let me call you ‘baby’,” Win whispers eventually.
Team’s breath catches in his throat. His heart flutters like butterfly wings trapped between his ribs, and there’s that feeling again; warm and golden and safe.
“Everybody gets to call you ‘Team’,” Win continues earnestly, “I want something that’s just for me, and nobody else. I want to be the only one who calls you ‘baby’.”
“You can have that,” Team insists, and Win blinks sleepily at him, “You can call me that. I—I want you to.”
“Baby,” Win says carefully, as if testing it out. Then, he smiles languidly, like he enjoys the way it feels on his lips. “Baby,” he says again, leaning in to nuzzle where the tip of Team’s ear has flushed at the endearment, “My baby.”
The flush spreads down to Team’s neck. Win presses a tiny kiss to the warm shell of his ear, then his mouth drops open in a splitting yawn.
“Okay,” Team says quickly, grateful for the reprieve. He guides Win’s head down onto the pillow, “That’s enough for one night. Time for bed, hia.”
Win obediently snuggles into the pillow, too tired from the day’s events to protest.
“What’s your final wish?” Win mumbles, eyes fluttered shut. Team admires the way his eyelashes cast delicate shadows over his cheekbones.
He pets his hand gently through Win’s hair and doesn’t respond. Win’s breathing slows, body relaxing minutely into the bed, as sleep softly cradles him. Team leans down and presses a feather-light kiss to his temple.
“I wish you’d remember all this in the morning,” Team whispers, so soft it’s almost inaudible.
Win’s face stays relaxed with sleep, chest rising and falling in a peaceful rhythm.
Team is pulled from sleep by the soft rustle of the sheets beside him. He can feel Win’s nose pressed into the material over his ribs, his boyfriend moving in his sleep to burrow into him, hiding from the early morning light. Team smooths a hand over his hair, and Win stirs, blinking cutely up at him.
“Good morning sunshine,” Team says. “How are you feeling?”
Win is squinting a little against the light, his expression confused.
“Team?” he murmurs questioningly, like he thought he dreamed him, “You’re here?”
A sinking feeling of disappointment sits uncomfortably in his stomach. The likelihood was that Win doesn’t remember anything that happened last night. It wasn’t so long ago that he may have felt relief that Win didn’t remember their intimate conversation, but now the thought saddens him.
Trying to hide his unease, Team slides out from under him to grab a bottle of water from across the room. Win sits up slowly, his face unreadable.
“Where else would I be?” Team responds, reaching out to hand him the bottle, “It’s my job to take care of you.”
Win takes it from him, his gaze an intense stare that Team can’t decipher. “Thank you,” he says quietly, and then, after a short beat of hesitation, “Baby.”
Team freezes, his cheeks prickling with warmth. His heart kicks up an erratic rhythm against his ribs. The pet name almost turns his limbs to liquid, but all of it is overridden by the knowledge that Win remembers.
Win’s lips turn up into a small smile, grateful and enamoured.
Team swallows around the sudden lump in his throat. “You remember.”
Win moves to sit on the edge of the bed. “I remember,” he confirms.
Now that Win remembers everything, he can’t help but feel a small rush of embarrassment at how freely they’d both spoken. It had been easier to lay themselves bare under the filtered streetlight, pressed close in the dark, Win’s cheeks flushed with alcohol.
In the daylight with Win sober, he feels inexplicably nervous. Team bundles up that nervous feeling and shoves it in a box somewhere far, far down in his psyche. The progress they made last night feels significant, and he doesn’t want to ruin it with his self-consciousness.
Still, when Win shifts to stand, Team can’t help but turn away to face the window, away from Win’s tender expression. His arms fold around himself automatically.
“I remember you coming to my rescue,” Win says from behind him, “I remember you tying my hair up when it got on my nerves, and being brave enough to stop Dean from teasing.” His voice is closer now, and Team can sense the movement before strong arms wind around his waist, his back now nestled to Win’s chest. Team hopes Win can’t hear the way his heart is racing. “I remember you buying me food, and tricking me into drinking water.”
“It wasn’t a trick,” Team protests weakly, “It was a fair exchange.”
Win’s chin finds a home in his shoulder. Team can’t help but close his eyes, temple resting against Win’s soft hair.
“I remember telling you my wishes,” Win’s voice is unbearably soft, “And I remember yours, too.”
Team can’t see him other than the faint reflection in the window. It’s easier to reveal parts of himself like this, without Win’s affectionate eyes on him, bright and attentive. The words flow easily from him, like a gentle rainfall.
“Hia,” his voice is quiet, “Will you take me to see the stars?”
“Anything you want,” he responds. Three words, sure and genuine.
Team knows that to be true. If Team asked for the moon, Win would find a way to bring it to him.
When there's someone who keeps saying "yes" to whatever you ask, you need to be careful with what you ask for. That's a lesson Team wishes people would learn when it comes to Win. Win will give away every part of himself just to make other people feel whole. He would allow his very bones to be taken if it allowed somebody else to stand upright.
Team doesn’t want to be another person who just takes and takes from Win until there’s nothing left of him.
“You too,” Team says. Win makes a questioning noise, so Team finally turns to face him. He cups his hand against Win’s cheek, and Win leans into the touch, though his eyes remain fixed on Team in wonder. “You can have anything you want. I’ll give it to you, if I can. Or at least I’ll try my hardest.” His voice goes soft, reassuring, “You deserve to have whatever you want.”
Team knows that all of Win’s responsibilities won’t just disappear in a puff of smoke. There will still be days where he’s stretched too thin, where everything threatens to overwhelm him. But if Team can take some of that burden, make him feel seen and heard and wanted, then Win will always have someone to rely on.
Win’s face does something complicated, shock bleeding into tender affection. He visibly swallows down whatever complex emotion he’s feeling, and smiles lopsidedly.
“I really want a kiss from my boyfriend,” he requests.
Team smiles gently, and gives Win what he wants.