Actions

Work Header

sick of this fake love

Chapter Text

“Tin, I know you don’t like him, but he’s my soulmate. Can’t you at least make an effort?” whispered Pete, peering at him from beneath his lashes, the picture of innocence Tin knew he no longer was thanks to the appearance of his soulmate.

Just the thought of soulmates made him shiver.

What he had never told Pete, never told anyone, was that he was marked as well. Something that was so rare and so revered, was present in his best friend and himself. Of course, most believed the appearance of the mark was the work of some higher being. Tin didn’t know what to think about it, mostly he just tried not to.

Tin hadn’t even noticed the mark that had appeared between his shoulder blades around the time of his fifteenth birthday. His then roommate had spotted it one day when Tin was changing. The next day the whole school had known about it. Just another reason for them to pick on him for being different for no other student in the school had a mark but everyone knew what it meant.

At the time he’d fantasised that his soulmate would be the friend he had had since they were in nappies, Pete. They came from similar backgrounds, they understood each other, but as far as he knew then, Pete did not have the mark. Only the ‘lucky’ few were ever marked, something like 0.01 percent of the population. When his mark had first appeared, he had researched the worldwide statistics. He had even worked out that there were only must be only around six thousand people, on average, in Thailand.

Most made it through life without having their choices taken away by some greater force that despite centuries of research, no one had ever come up with why it happened or a ‘cure’ for those affected.

Pete was fortunate, despite being an uncouth Thai Program, Ae was a good guy, he’d never let Pete come to any harm. Not everyone could be destined to be with someone ‘good’.

Part of Tin longed to find his soulmate, someone destined to love him unconditionally, part of him feared it. It was inevitable they would find one another, fate made sure of it. However, fate couldn’t make his mate love him, he was certain of that.

“I am making an effort,” Tin said in response, voice low so that the others around the table couldn’t hear. “I said hello didn’t I?”

Pete sat back and raised an eyebrow to say that is what you call an effort? Tin widened his eyes. Yes. It’s the best I can do. Pete rolled his eyes and looked away as Ae approached carrying a tray containing his and Pete’s lunch. Tin scowled when he noticed that Ae was not alone.

Can. Tin hated that kid. The brat had already tried to punch Tin twice, both times held back by members of the football team, so the punch had never landed. Tin had only expressed his disappointment that Pete’s soulmate was a Thai Program and he had flipped. Okay, so Tin had started by expressing his distaste for Can himself after a stray football had slammed into his chest. Perhaps he deserved his punishment.

“Sorry, sorry!” the Thai Program had said, skidding to halt in front of him at the end of his pursuit for the ball. “My aim is a little off today. Are you hurt?” He’d held his hands out for the ball and shot Tin a stunning smile that had knocked the air from his lungs, a sensation he did not appreciate.

“Save your apology, Thai Program,” Tin had spat back, feeling uncharacteristically rattled, showing the footballer his cold face. “You’re lucky I’m unharmed because—”

“Hey, Can, come on! Just take the penalty already!” The owner of the voice was the Thai Program that Pete had aligned with.

“Of course, you’re friends with that ingrate,” Tin had sneered, and thrust the ball into the footballer’s chest, causing him to stagger back a step. “Poor Pete having to slum it for the rest of his life—”

He’d found himself with the ball shoved right back at him with force. “Say what you like about me you stuck up asshole, I can take it. Trash talk my friends and I’ll end you!” For someone so diminutive he certainly had a high-volume setting. Tin’s ears would probably be ringing for hours after the encounter.

Feeling an exhilarating spike of adrenalin at the fire in the little guy’s eyes Tin hadn’t been able to help himself. He’d smiled. “I question that sanity of anyone who wants to be friends with someone as uncouth as you. If you even know what the word means.”

By then a small crowd of football players had begun to congregate behind his opponent, which was fortunate for Tin, because the one in front of him pulled back his fist and it was a centimetre from his face when he was yanked back by two of the players, fist still swinging, cheeks puffing up like a hamster.

Tin had smirked and walked away, verbal abuse following him until he’d turned a corner and out of the line of sight of the fireball athlete.

Unfortunately, that had not been his last encounter with Can.

The second time had resulted in another near miss when he’d taken a swing for him again and been stopped by Ae.

“Thanks, Ae,” Can had said, glaring at Tin as his friend held him back. “Saved me from getting bruised knuckles! He’s not worth it.” He’d shaken his friend off and walked away, leaving Tin and Ae facing one another awkwardly. Ae had just nodded and followed his friend. Tin figured he was making the effort for Pete’s sake, as Tin had been trying to do in return.

Tin had watched Can walk away and join the rowdy group of Thai Programs who had taken over a couple of tables at the far side of the courtyard.

He’s not worth it. Wasn’t that the truth?

Now, a few weeks after that incident, and several less violent but always verbally aggressive run-ins with Can later, he watched Can approach the table with Ae he realised with dismay that there was only one open seat. Ae would automatically take the seat beside Pete, which left the one opposite Tin open for Can. Great.

It seemed Can was having the same realisation as he reached the table and his face fell. He muttered something to himself under his breath that sounded very much like fuck my life.

Tin considered leaving but there was no way he was going to play into Can’s hands by making things easy for him. He’d started to really enjoy these encounters and the reactions he could earn; he’d just rather it did not happen at the table.

It was almost cute the way Can came to a halt in front of the open seat and pointedly did not look at Tin. Tin enjoyed watching the internal struggle. If he was truthful with himself there was something about the guy that fascinated him. He was slight and his face was pretty, but that was generally ruined by his potty mouth. He also hated Tin and never tried to sugar coat or hide it. Aside from Pete, this was probably the most honest relationship he had and what did that say about his life?

He watched with a smirk as Can placed his tray on the table and slid onto the end of the bench. Without acknowledging Tin, he took a long gulp of a disgusting looking bright green drink and began shovelling food into his mouth like he was a prisoner ending a hunger strike. Tin felt the jigging of his leg as he bumped his under the table.

“You eat like a pig,” Tin said, watching him in anticipation for a reaction.

“Tin!” Pete hissed, kicking him, hard. “Do you call this making an effort?”

Without taking his eyes off Can’s - disappointingly - still bent head Tin replied, “I’m making an effort with your soulmate. You didn’t specify that I had to extend my efforts to his…acquaintances.”

Wordlessly Can picked up his tray, walked to the other end of the table and said, “Shove up. That asshole is putting me off my lunch.” Everyone obliged and Can sat down next to the girl who was half of the only other couple in the group. She immediately patted his hand consolingly and leant in to whisper something in his ear that caused an instant grin followed by a head shake and a pretty pout.

Tin pushed his own lunch away, appetite gone.

He really hated that kid.

-o-

Later that day, when he went home after his last class, he spent an hour in the gym before swimming fifty lengths of the pool, just as he did at least four days a week. When he climbed out of the water Dira was waiting for him by the door. She bowed politely and said, “Your father wants to see you in his study.”

Tin groaned internally, but politely thanked the maid and went to get dressed. His father would not be happy if he went to meet with him wearing a robe. Meetings with his father were irregular and made Tin feel like he used to back at boarding school when he’d been sent to see the headmaster following another infraction that he’d somehow been blamed for but had had nothing to do with. He’d stopped denying his involvement in the end, deciding to keep his energy for battles that he could win.

Once he was seated before his father Tin waited patiently for the old man to stop whatever he was doing on his laptop to give Tin the attention that he’d been summoned to receive. His father was a cold man. Tin couldn’t remember ever getting as much as a hug from him. Not that his mother had been anymore loving. Any hugs Tin had received when he was growing up had been from his older brother or his nanny. Turned out only the nanny’s affection had been anywhere near genuine, and she’d been paid to care for him.

Tin sometimes wondered what his father was like before he lost his first wife, his brother Tul’s mother, in a car crash when she’d been visiting family in England. Had he been a different person then? Warmer? Loving? The whole saga was a sorry tragic tale that resulted in Trai Medthanan marrying Tin’s own mother, the heiress Rasaa Kayotna.

Rasaa didn’t have the excuse of loving and losing someone. She was self-absorbed and shallow all on her own.

“Tin, with the break coming up I need you in the Seoul office to oversee the Skyrocket project. Tul is going to be in London longer than we anticipated and it would be an insult to the investors if we didn’t send a Medthanan.”

“I— Thank you, Father.” He’d been heavily involved in the Skyrocket project, as much as he could be anyway with studying full-time. Despite what had happened when he’d been in England and his parent’s reaction to the whole thing, he’d still be expected to take up a role in the company when he graduated. His dream of studying architecture had been dismissed as a whim. It had been International Business or nothing.

“This is your chance to prove yourself, Tin.”

“I appreciate the opportunity. I promise I won’t let you down.”

Chapter Text

“What’s up with Ae?” Techno asked when he slid into an empty chair next to Can after depositing a tray containing a jug of beer and several glasses on the table.

“The IC are on their break and Pete is helping Tin with a presentation or something so Ae won’t see him tonight,” Can said, looking at Ae’s forlorn expression. “Poor Pete.”

Ae’s head shot up and he glared at Can. “Do you have to remind me?”

Can held his hands up. “What? It’s not like you haven’t complained about it forty times already! Anyway, I’m empathising or whatever. Mostly with Pete, because imagine being stuck somewhere with His Assholey-ness for longer than five minutes. But. Still.”

Job snorted. “You two need screw already, Jeez.”

“Hey!” Can protested, folding his crossing his arms. “Do I look insane to you?”

Everyone erupted into laughter. Even Ae.

Can scratched the back of his head. “Some friends you lot are,” he complained but he couldn’t help but laugh too.

“Are you jealous of Tin and Pete?” Bow asked Ae, all laughter gone now.

Ae rubbed his left wrist, where his mark was displayed. “I’m jealous Pete’s spending time with him, but I’m not jealous like I think there’s anything going on. I just hate being apart.”

No one mentioned that it would be physically impossible for anything to be ‘going on’ with Tin and Pete now that Pete was bonded to his soulmate. Once bonded, being with someone else while your soulmate lived would cause intense physical pain to both parties.

“I feel just like that when I don’t see ChaAim for a couple of hours,” Pond simpered, batting his lashes at his girlfriend who immediately rolled her eyes and elbowed him.

“You’re really lucky to have a soulmate,” ChaAim said dreamily. “Someone born just for you, it’s so romantic.”

“Oi. I can be romantic,” Pond complained to loud teasing from the group.

Can poured himself a beer and tuned out. He didn’t think it was romantic at all, but to be fair he didn’t really understand the concept of romance. He found the idea of it rather fake. Like, why not be yourself with someone, why act in a way that isn’t true to yourself just to get someone to fancy           you? Why not show them that you loved them all the time and not just when you wanted something or because there was a stupid date in the calendar that dictated you had to be romantic that day?

He also thought there was nothing ‘romantic’ whatsoever in having a soulmate. Not at all. His own mark was hidden on the side of his torso just level with his heart. Techno was the only one at the table who knew he had it. He hadn’t even told Good. It was the reason he never wore sleeveless t-shirts and had stopped going swimming. Of course, any of the eleven of them around the table could also be hiding a mark. All he knew for sure was that none of them matched his if they had one, because all these people he had touched in some way, and nothing had happened.

There was no romance in knowing that there was no point in nurturing that crush you had one the girl who sat in front of you in maths when you were sixteen… a girl you had known wasn’t your soulmate the moment your fingers touched when she dropped her pen and you both reached for it. No romance in kissing your football captain one time when you were drunk and having to reject him when he told you he had feelings for you because you knew it would have to end one day. Can had told Techno about his mark the following day. He didn’t want to lose his friend.

There was no romance at all in the terror he sometimes felt when he wondered who might have the twin mark to his own. It was all out his control and he hated it. HATED it.

His ma told him not to worry. Easy for her to say when she and Pa had enjoyed the free will to choose one another. He had never met anyone else with a soul mark until he’d met Ae.

Ae was so gone for Pete, they were sickeningly in love. Can never asked Ae why he didn’t mind that he didn’t choose it. It chose him. It probably helped that Pete was one of the nicest guys Can had ever met, even Can was a little bit in love with him! No, he never asked because he didn’t want to hear the answer…and he didn’t want anyone else to know about his mark.

Keeping it a secret almost stopped it from being real.

“Earth to Can!” Mai snapped his fingers in front of Can’s face making him jump out of his thoughts.

“Huh?”

“You up for a game of pool? Doubles. Me and Pond against you and Techno.”

Can put all his maudlin thoughts to one side and went into battle.

-o-

“Don’t look now, but there’s really hot guy over there,” Bow said, eyes sparkling with mischief. “You wouldn’t push him off a cliff that’s for sure.”

“Why are you telling me? Ooh, are we going to arm wrestle for him? I’d be up for that.” Can sat up straight and put his elbow in the table. Wiggling his fingers, he said, “Think you can beat me?”

“You’re an idiot!” Bow slapped his hand down, laughing and said, “You haven’t even looked at him yet.”

It was the end of a long day of classes. Can had decided to replenish his energy with cake at a table outside campus coffee shop before heading down to the track to run laps with some of the team. ChaAim was working and always gave him the biggest slice and her staff discount. He’d bumped into Bow who was waiting for ChaAim’s shift to end so they could go to the cinema.

ChaAim dropped in the third chair with a dramatic sigh. “Bloody customers,” she grumbled, the looked from one to the other. “What’s going on?”

“There’s a cute guy over there, Can wants to fight me for him.” Bow pointed with her eyes towards the culprit and Can decided enough was enough and full turned his head to see what all the fuss was about.

Bow had not been imagining it. He was indeed hot and now he was staring at Can. Great. He was tall with light brown hair and intense eyes that locked straight onto Can’s.

Can felt an unpleasant shiver and looked away. The guy was familiar, but he couldn’t place why.

“That’s your best friend Tin’s older brother, Tul Medthanan,” ChaAim informed them, and both Bow and Can turned their puzzled expressions on her. She sighed. “Does no one else keep up with the celebrity gossip pages? They love him. Recently divorced from a supermodel, he got custody of their kid and everything. He’s said to be a real womaniser and totally ruthless.”

“Tin’s a Medthanan?” Can said stupidly, scratching his head. He didn’t live in a cave, not all the time anyway. He’d heard the name Medthanan. He was pretty sure they owned half of Thailand. He just didn’t know that Tin was one of them. Figured. Perhaps it was as well he hadn’t landed those punches; he might have landed a lawsuit for his troubles.

ChaAim and Bow both snorted with laughter. “Seriously, Can, you didn’t know?”

Can pouted. No wonder Tin looked down on him so much. What had he called him that time? Uncouth. Not fit to be in the presence of a Medthanan that was for sure. He looked back up at Tul to find he had thankfully turned his attention back to his companion.

“Is that guy with Asshole Senior the English professor who covered when Prof Shi was ill?” Can mused, not expecting the girls to know the answer as neither were in the Sports faculty with him.

ChaAim again had the answer. “Could well be. He’s head of languages at the IC.” Seeing Can’s confused look, she added, “He’s a regular at the café. He’s rather full of his own importance, hard not to know who he is. Tul went there too, so he probably knows him from his days as a student.”

“ChaAim,” Can said. “Are you sure you should be here and not in training for the NIA?”

ChaAim sat back, folded her arms and pretended to straighten the hem of her skirt. “Who says I’m not?”

The girls left to go to the cinema leaving Can alone with his neglected cake which needless to say did not stay forgotten for long. When he stood to leave, he looked over at Tin’s brother again just as he and the professor had shaken hands. This time, when their eyes met, the older Medthanan’s expression was unreadable. Can shuddered. The guy gave him the creeps. He just… He had a feeling that he couldn’t quite place. Can turned his head and broke the stare, walking away. He was already late for the warm-up. Techno would kill him.

-o-

The trip to Seoul had been an outright success and Tin was still riding high off the feeling of pride and relief that gave him. His father, while not overly effusive – nothing new there – had expressed his satisfaction that Tin had come back with the signatures he needed. The deal had been done.

He’d encountered Can at lunch time while he’d been arguing on the phone with Mother about going to some tedious fundraising event for a cause he really didn’t care for. He’d been so distracted looking at Can and trying to think up what he could do to annoy him that he’d dropped his phone. Luckily it didn’t smash but it did turn the speaker on, and his mother’s angry voice could be heard by anyone within the vicinity which at that moment was just Can and a couple of girls hurrying past on their way somewhere.

“You selfish child! Don’t you even think about letting me down! Your brother can’t make it, so I need you—” Tin winced at the distaste in her tone. He should be used it, he was used to it, but he didn’t usually have an external audience when she talked to him like that. The ‘family’, yes, and the staff, but Can was neither. The rushing in his ears blocked out what she said next.  Tin grabbed the phone and as he went to turn off the speaker he heard, “—I want you to charm the American Carmichael girl—”

The speaker was finally off and he lifted the phone to his ear. “I told you, I won’t be going. I’m not a substitute for your favourite son. I have work to do, I don’t have time to play happy families. Goodbye.” He hung up the phone and realised that Can was still there, staring at him. “What?” he snapped.

Tin did not want to get into it with Can. With anyone. Not that Can was asking. He was looking at him like he’d never seen him before. Can probably had a proper mother who hugged him and who wanted to spend time with him. One who wanted the best for her child, not for herself.

Never show your vulnerabilities. He tucked his phone back into his pocket and started to walk away.

“Tin—” Can grabbed his sleeve. “Your mother…”

Tin stopped and turned. Can’s cheeks were pink and unusually for him he looked nervous as he watched Tin. The way he gulped more words down was a giveaway. He yanked his sleeve back and stepped so close to Can there was barely a inch between them. He had to tilt his head to look into his eyes from this angle due to their difference in height.

So help him, suddenly Tin wanted to kiss Can so bad. Danger! Danger! He stepped back, fast, putting as much space between them as he could and threw the first insult that came to mind at him, “Touch me again, Thai Program, and I’ll sue you.” With that he walked away.

He half expected Can to shout after him, but he was chased by nothing but silence.

-o-

The shame of it was that Tin still ended up going to the bloody gala that night. His father had called him to his office when he’d got home and asked him to go, not to woo the Carmichael girl – although that would apparently be advantageous – but to ‘be visible as a valued member of the Medthanan family’. Tin could hardly say no to that.

His mother wore and dress that revealed more than it covered. She was forty-two and looked thirty, she was a woman who took care of herself. She certainly had the time to do so, Tin knew. She didn’t work, never had, which made it all the more deplorable that she’d taken no interest in being his mother unless there was something in it for her. As soon as they arrived at the event, she removed her hand from his arm and gravitated towards her circle of friends, but not before hissing in his ear to behave himself.

Jessica Carmichael was a tall and attractive girl around his age, the only daughter of a family just like his from the States. On first sight she reminded him of the stereotypical American high school movie popular cheerleader type, all bouncy blond hair and perfectly aligned teeth. Turned out that she was anything but. As soon as the introduction had been made and they were left to make small talk alone she said, “I really need a smoke. Come outside with me?”

Not a cheerleader, not popular, not even really blond, Jessica told him she had been a complete bookworm at school, was about to start studying pre-med at NYU and claimed the only reason she looked like she did was because her new step-mother, a woman just six years older than herself, had given her a makeover.

Tin found himself liking her and did not protest when she suggested they meet for dinner the following night. “A date but not a date,” she said conspiratorially. “Let them think that though.”

Chapter Text

Over the course of the next couple of weeks Tin took Jessica out of on no less than five ‘dates’. It was a mutual companionship, no romance at all, just the good company and that satisfaction that his mother thought she’d come out victorious. Now, Jessica was due to fly back to the States the following day.

“This place is nice,” Jessica said when they’d been seated by the Maître d’ at a table for two in the window of a popular ‘European’ restaurant. “Have you eaten here before?”

“I don’t eat out a lot,” Tin confessed. “This last couple of weeks with you is the most I’ve been out in a long time.” He only went out to eat when it was a Medthanan thing he couldn’t get out and very occasionally with Pete – before Ae had come on the scene. He didn’t exactly have a load of friends to dine out with.

“Welcome to Europa. My name is Can and I’ll be your waiter tonight. Can I— Oh fuck… Sorry I mean, hello, Tin.

Tin enjoyed the way Can’s cheeks pinked in frustration at discovering Tin’s presence at his place of work. Tin had had no idea that Can even had a job and if he had known he would never have imagined Can in place like this one. Surely a guy like him was more liability than help.

Tin turned his attention to Jessica. “Apologies, Jessica. If I had known this place had such low standards, I would never have brought you here.” Her eyes widened, darting between the two of them as Can thrust a menu towards him, offered Jessica a wai and retreated, muttering something about coming back soon to take a drinks order.

“Who was that?” Jessica asked, watching Can’s retreat with interest. “He’s kinda cute.”

“Cute my ass,” Tin huffed, eyes fixed on Can’s cute ass as he walked away. Realising what he was doing he jerked his gaze back to Jessica. “He’s a friend of Pete’s boyfriend that’s all. We don’t get on.”

“Hm,” Jessica responded, clearly intrigued. She picked up the menu and began to read it. Tin did the same.

After a couple of minutes, a female server appeared, pen poised to take a drinks order. A server that was not Can. “Where did Can go?” Tin asked, scanning the restaurant for the missing Thai Program.

“He was needed to cover another section,” was the reply accompanied by a bright smile. “Would you like to order any drinks?”

Sure enough, throughout the course of the evening Tin observed Can serving other customers and pointedly, at least it felt that way, avoiding looking in Tin’s direction.

When they had reached the dessert stage of the evening Jessica ordered an ‘Eton Mess’ and Tin a coffee. He was startled when she took his hand, dragging his gaze from where Can was flirting with a table of young women.

“You haven’t taken your eyes off the cute waiter all night.” Her tone was teasing, and her eyes sparkled with amusement.

This time it was Tin’s turn to flush. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said, his thoughts running a mile a minute. Had he really been staring that much that Jessica had noticed? “I can’t stand him.”

“Of course not,” she teased, biting her lip to hold back a grin.Tin sighed. “Even if I did…appreciate certain aspects of him, or anyone even—” he hedged, deciding if there was anyone he could be honest with it was Jessica. He patted his left shoulder blade. “—I’m marked.”

Her eyes went as wide as saucers. “Really? Can I see?”

Tin nodded and she stood and walked behind him, easily pulling back the fabric of the thin jumper he wore and peering down to find the mark that marred his skin. “Wow,” she said, letting the material fall back into place and coming to sit back down to look at him intently. “You know, just because you’re marked doesn’t mean you can’t date other people until you meet him or her. Touch them for the first time.”

“I know that. I have…been with other people in the past. I— Can, he—” Tin took a deep breath. “I don’t want just a hook up, you know?”

Tin’s head began to spin, because… Where the actual fuck had that come from? He wanted Can, and not just a quick fuck either? He picked up his wine glass and peered into it, deciding he’d drunk far too much already.

“Have you touched him? Like, are you sure he’s not the one?”

Tin nodded thinking of all their altercations. Contact had been made and nothing had happened. “It’s not him. So, I really can’t go there.”

Jessica’s hand covered his again and they both turned their attention to Can as he appeared out of the kitchen carrying three plates which he expertly carried to a table in the centre. When he’d successfully placed each meal in front of its recipient, he finally turned his attention in Tin’s direction, eyes meeting Tin’s for a moment before landing on his and Jessica’s joined hands. He turned away and returned to the kitchen and Jessica said, “You can go wherever you want.”

-o-

“I’d rather be anywhere else than here,” Can said under his breath, so that only Techno could hear him. He’d been so tempted to decline the invite, but Pete was one of those people who only had to turn his huge wide eyes on him, and Can was unable to say no to him. He’d even said as much to Techno who had ruffled his hair and said he knew exactly how that felt and so did his wallet. Still, Techno held his hand and Can drew strength from it and felt reassured that he could handle any shit that Tin Medthanan chose to throw at him.

In the three weeks since Tin had been a customer at Can’s aunt’s restaurant while he was working a shift it felt as though Tin was everywhere, his contemptuous eyes watching his every move, and to start with he’d given as good as he got, staring right back at him until one of them, usually Tin, gave up first and looked away. He was even coming to football practice with Pete and had been at the last two matches.

Can no longer gave him the opportunity to engage with him, making sure to sit as far away as possible from him if Tin appeared at the lunch table, heading straight to the changing rooms if Tin was at a match, avoiding going to the pub afterwards and just going for a quiet drink with Techno and Good, sometimes just Techno.

Avoiding Ae’s birthday party would have been rude and frankly Can didn’t want to, because Ae was a good friend. However, the moment he arrived and saw Tin talking to a couple of other IC students Can vaguely recognised his mood plummeted.

He grabbed a glass of something alcoholic from a passing waiter and downed the whole thing in two gulps. There, immediately he felt better.

Sixty minutes later and three more glasses of whatever it was he felt amazing. When he caught Tin looking at him, Can waved and blew a kiss. Asshole. Without thinking he sought out Techno’s hand, enjoying it when Techno squeezed his hand reassuringly. Fuck soulmates. Techno cared about him, made him feel nice. Why couldn’t he date him…fall in love with him?

Why couldn’t he have a choice?

It was later when he left Techno’s side and made his way to the bathroom to pee and saw him – the older Medthanan brother – watching the whole party scene from the balcony with an impassive expression. He caught Can looking at him and raised the glass he was holding mockingly. Can glared back, deciding both Medthanan brothers were assholes. When he came out of the bathroom someone grabbed his wrist and Can found himself bundled into a room that looked like and office.

“What the fuck?” Can wrenched his arm back and backed himself straight into a wall.

Tul Medthanan looked back at him with a smug smile. On the desk behind him was a framed photograph of the man in front of him beaming beside an unsmiling Tin. Wait. Was this the Medthanan house? Can had assumed this was Pete’s family home.

“Do you know who I am?”

“No,” Can lied, trying to press himself further backwards despite the very solid wall behind him.

“No?” Tul’s expression was one of disbelief. “You’re in my house.”

“Yes, well, I thought it was Pete’s house until I saw that picture of you on the desk.”

“You don’t remember coming here before?”

“Pretty sure I’d remember coming here.” Can would remember coming somewhere so fancy. This house made his parents’ look like a shack.

Tul’s intense gaze pinned him to the wall. “I remember it well. You were probably about nine years-old and in the care of your older cousin, Gonhin.”

Something clicked into place, something long buried by the passing of time. It wasn’t a claim he could dispute. He’d spent a lot of time with Hin when he was younger, he’d idolised his cousin. He still did. He certainly missed him.

Hin and Can’s fathers were brothers. Uncle Day was kind of a douche and had left Hin and his mother when Hin was still in pre-school so Can had never met him. To help out Aunt Joy, Hin had spent a lot of time with Can’s parents and that had continued into his teen years. Aunt Joy had worked as the housekeeper for a rich family and… Oh. The penny dropped.

“Aunt Joy worked here?” Can had had no idea she’d worked for the Medthanans, he’d never paid that much attention to where she worked if he was honest. Aunt Joy was close to his Ma, but they tended to spend time together out of the house, shopping, eating…going away together to the spa. Can really missed his cousin’s presence but they still talked a few times a week.

Never tell anyone where I am, Can, promise me? Can never broke a promise and he had a feeling he was about to be tested on that.

“Your aunt worked for my family for many years. Your cousin grew up alongside me. He never mentioned me?”

“Hin talked of a Tul, but I just met you, I had no idea he talked of you.”

Tul stepped closer, his whole demeanour menacing. Can braced himself, he knew what came next. He was right. “Where is he? Where is Hin?”

-o-

Tin was not a huge fan of parties, especially not parties in his own house whereby his escape would be noticed. Well, by Pete at least. Whatever had possessed him to agree to this ridiculous idea? Renovations at Pete’s mother’s house had ruled out having the party there, but it could easily have been held in a nightclub or bar, or anywhere else that wasn’t right here.

He already felt horribly out of sorts. Seeing Can holding hands with his football captain had done a real number on him. Jessica had managed to pry information out of him that he’d barely admitted to himself. That he wanted Can. Who knew, he might even be able to have him one time, maybe more, if he stopped being such an asshole to him. Then again, maybe not. Maybe the football captain senior and Can were boyfriends or worse, soulmates.

Why did the thought of that make him feel like throwing up? He’d already ascertained that Can wasn’t the one meant for him as his mark remained stubbornly benign. He didn’t even know if Can had a mark anyway and the odds were vastly against it.

He needed to be alone to process. He needed to be away from this celebration that did nothing for him other than to remind him just how alone he really was. The party was fully staffed, it wasn’t like he was the actual host either, Pete was playing that role. He was going to his room.

Fate had other ideas though, as his father’s office door opened and Can came tumbling out looking a little dishevelled and rosy cheeked. Like the masochist he was Tin looked beyond Can into the room behind, dreading to see the football captain there looking just as ruffled as Can. Instead, he found his brother, but not the calm impassive version he was used to these days, but one whose face twisted with an emotion that he couldn’t place on him.

The jealousy that stabbed through him at his first thought that they’d been making out nearly bent him in two, but it dispersed with what happened next. Whatever was between the two was not passion, at least not for each other.

Tul took two long paces to the doorway and came to a standstill at the sight of Tin. He shot a glare at Can who had moved to hide behind Tin and said, “This conversation is not over.”

Tul closed the door leaving Tin stunned and Can incandescent with rage.

“Yes it is!” Can yelled at the closed door, nearly bursting Tin’s eardrums with his proximity. He looked at Tin and his expression sobered and morphed into a pout. “Your brother reminds me of the Terminator.”

“What was that all about?”

Can frowned. “I’m not sure I should tell you. You might want to blackmail me into telling you what I wouldn’t tell him.”

Tin grabbed hold of Can’s wrist. “We need to talk,” he said and led Can towards the stairs and his bedroom.

Can surprisingly didn’t put up a fight even when they reach Tin’s room and he let go of him and pushed him inside. “Hey! You can’t just—” He stopped dead and clutched his side. “Oh fuck.” His eyes flew up to Tin’s, wide and afraid.

Puzzled, Tin started to speak but got as far as “What—” when he felt it. The space between his shoulders was on fire. His soul mark had ignited. How in  hell? “How can it be you?”

Can dropped down onto the nearest seat, the end of the sofa, looking totally devastated. Confused brown eyes looked up at him. Can shook his head. “We’d touched before today. I’d ruled you out. How—” He palmed his face, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger then crossed his arms at the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it up over his head. The mark was unmistakable, familiar, on the side of his slender torso, it was glowing sunset gold.

Following his lead, Tin undid his shirt and slid it down to reveal his back, turning round to view his own mark in the mirror. It was the perfect match for the one on Can. In the reflection he could see Can’s incredulous face. His energy leaving him, Tin sank down onto the sofa besides Can.

Their eyes met and Can gave a small smile and said, “Surprise?”

“You could say that,” Tin said, feeling a wash of heat and dizziness rising up. “Do you feel—” Before he could even finish the question his world turned black.

Chapter Text

When he woke up he had no idea if it was ten minutes or ten hours later. Checking his watch revealed it was probably only about half-an-hour. He was laid out on the sofa in a position he surely didn’t fall into, obvious by the blanket that was pulled over him.

Can was nowhere to be seen.

Tin lowered his legs to the floor and rubbed his eyes. How on earth was Can his soulmate? They’d touched before. Hadn’t they? He closed his eyes and replayed all their encounters. The punches that never landed, footballs shoved into chests, the grabbing of sleeves, knees touching through cloth under the table that one time.

Obviously amidst all of that, skin had never actually made contact.

Tin groaned at the realisation. The burgeoning feelings he’d refused to act upon finally made sense. Had his subconscious had known what his logical brain did not?

He’d found the one person in the world that was meant to love him. Tin picked up his phone then realised he didn’t have Can’s number. Of course he didn’t. Can hated him.

He could hear the sounds from the party downstairs. Can could still be there. They needed to talk. Soon they’d need skinship. Then consummation. They had time before that though. The talk was the most imperative.

Tin went to the bathroom to pee then checked himself in the mirror, flattening down the hair that was sticking up following his unplanned nap. The man he saw staring back at him didn’t look any different from the man he saw every single day. Outwardly he looked like someone in control, confident and attractive, but inside he loathed himself. His good looks were a lie. He was rotten, unlovable.

Even his own soulmate had run.

The party was still in full swing, but a quick search had not revealed Can. He wasn’t holed up in a side room with his brother – whatever that had been all about – because Tin could see Tul in conversation with Pete’s cousin. No, Can was missing, and so was the football team captain.

Tin decided against asking Pete or Ae for Can’s number. Instead, he returned to his room alone.

-o-

Can was good at avoiding people when he really put his mind to it. Short of quitting college and moving to Mars, he just kept away from all the places he knew he’d be likely to run into Tin. That included football practice. Luckily Techno knew why and allowed it without complaint.

Techno had been the first person he’d run to on the night of the party when everything had gone to shit and Tin Medthanan had been revealed as the soulmate he never wanted. It seemed that the feeling was mutual if the look on Tin’s face had been anything to go by before they’d both lost consciousness. Luckily for Can he had come to first and had left before Tin came round.

He’d stayed at Techno’s that night on the sofa in his bedroom, but he hadn’t been able to sleep, his busy mind wouldn’t allow him any peace. His nightmare had become a reality. His soulmate was someone that hated him. Not that Can could blame him really, he had tried to hit him twice, but it had been ages and Can had stopped that battle, but still Tin kept deliberately trying to rile him up, seemed to take pleasure in making him angry.

Tin was the man he would have to lose his virginity to soon if he wanted to avoid a lifetime of pain. Would have to regularly sleep with. There was no way around it. Documented cases of soulmates not consummating, for a variety of reasons – the bond was ignited when they were in a big crowd and they didn’t find one another for a long time, family kept them apart, situation kept them apart…the list went on – those involved would experience increasing levels of pain that medication could not touch, pain that would eventually kill the sufferer if the bond remained unsatisfied.

Techno had tried to reason with him, pointing out that at least Tin was attractive, that he was rich, and Can would never have to worry about money with him as his soulmate… Even Techno had given up at those two reasons, admitting they were superficial. He’d hugged Can tight and despite Can’s state of numbness, his heart had broken at Techno’s tears because he knew they were not just for him but for himself and the finality that he and Can could never be more than friends.

By morning he had formulated a plan. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that he could avoid the inevitable. He had choices even if right now those choices were just limited.

Still, plan or not, he did not want to face Tin until he absolutely had to.

Now he was in a situation where he was avoiding both Medthanan brothers. Tul wanted to know where Hin was, Can was not going to tell him. Ever. The most he could do was speak to his cousin about it directly. If Hin knew Tul wanted so badly to see him maybe he’d agree to it. Can had no clue what was between the two of them, just that they couldn’t be soulmates. No soulmates could exist apart for as long as Hin had been away from Thailand.

In the end he only managed to avoid Tin for four days. When he got home from college on Thursday evening there was an expensive car parked outside his house and that could only mean it was one of the brothers. It was Tin who unfolded himself from the driver’s side at Can’s arrival, glaring at him with folded arms.

“We need to talk.”

Can had struggled to tear his gaze away, blaming it on a soulmate connection thing, but was able to glance at his house and ascertain at least one family member was home. He had no desire to have the ‘talk’ with Tin there, where he would easily be overheard. Now Tin was right in front of him he knew he couldn’t avoid it.

“Not here,” he said, scuffing his shoes on the tarmac. He felt tired, hungry and sticky. “I— You can buy me dinner. Let me go and change first, I’ll be fifteen minutes.”

Before Tin could argue Can and slipped in through the gate and was running into the house. He shouted a quick greeting at his father who was reading a book on the sofa and ran upstairs. A quick shower and a change of clothes later and he was on his way out again, calling that he was meeting a friend for dinner as he exited.

He slid into the passenger seat and reached for the seatbelt silently. He didn’t look at Tin. Couldn’t.

“Where would you like to go?”

“Somewhere quiet,” Can said, thinking that the last thing they needed was people overhearing this particular conversation. Unusually for him, his appetite had deserted him in favour of anxiety around the conversation they needed to have.

They drove in silence until Tin parked outside what looked like a high-end  French restaurant. Can let Tin usher him inside and it was only when they were seated in a corner booth did he look at him again.

-o-

“I’ll start,” Can said when they had ordered and had been served drinks. He didn’t look at Tin, apparently finding the bubbles in his coke fascinating. He took an audible breath and finally raised his eyes to meet Tin’s. “I don’t want a soulmate. I don’t want you.”

Words held so much power. Words could cause unparalleled pain and tear your heart into two.

Can shook his head slightly, and Tin prayed his expression wasn’t showing how felt. Hopefully years of practice could conceal his his internal trauma. “But I want to live and I’m sure you do too. So—” He shrugged like it was all no big deal. “I propose we get the consummation out of the way and set up a schedule of regular meet ups so we can satisfy the…soulmate bond thing.

“I don’t want any fake romance or bullshit like that. We just fuck, and maybe spend some time holding hands or something in between to fend off the withdrawal stuff, yeah?”

Tin didn’t know what he’d expected from this inevitable conversation but it definitely wasn’t this. I don’t want you. Of course. He’d known Can didn’t like him, but this was something else. His soulmate didn’t even want to try to make a go of it with him. He really must be something heinous.

“If that’s what you want. We can consummate tonight. Where do you want to do it?”

Before Can could answer the waiter arrived then with their order. Can didn’t even look at it when he said, like he was asking Tin to pass the salt, “Hotel. I don’t want my folks to know and I don’t want to encounter your brother at your place so—”

That momentarily distracted Tin. “What did he want with you that day?”

“He wants to know where my cousin is. You remember him? Hin?” Can stabbed at a piece of meat with a fork and began to eat.

Tin couldn’t hide the surprise at that. “Hin is your cousin?”

Mouth full, Can nodded and swallowed. “I’m not telling you where he is either.”

“I wasn’t asking.” Tin had only found out that something had gone on with his brother and the housekeeper’s son after Hin had left. He’d heard Tul begging the housekeeper, Joy, to tell him where Hin had gone but she’d sworn she didn’t know. He’d heard his brother crying in the privacy of his own room when he’d walked past. Hin was his Achilles heel.

“Good,” Can said, eyes scanning the dishes in front of him before putting his fork down with a sigh. “It’s no good. I’ve lost my appetite. All I can think about is the fucking. Could we just get it over with?”

“You really weren’t joking when you said no romance, were you?” He flagged down the waiter. “Something’s come up and we have to leave. Can we get the bill please.”

The walk to the car was silent. Once Can strapped into the passenger seat and Tin had started the engine he blurted, “I’ve never done it before so…”

He faded out and Tin filled the space he’d left with, “We can go slow.” He pulled away from the parking space, aiming for a hotel in the city centre owned by Pete’s family.

“No! Not slow. Slow is ‘romantic’, yeah. I don’t want that.”

“You’ve made that perfectly clear. We will go slow because it’s your first time and you could get hurt.”

Tin could see Can’s pout from the corner of his eye before he huffed, “Fine.”

-o-

Tin sat propped up against the pillows in the large hotel bed, the not quite slam of the door still sounding in his ears from Can’t departure.

They’d fucked. Tin had never had sex like that before. True, he’d never been anyone’s first, but it wasn’t that. On paper it hadn’t even been that good, because despite his apparent nonchalance about the whole thing, Can had been quite obviously nervous to start with, and yes, Tin had gone slow. He’d wanted to be gentle with it but Can would have read that as romance. Tin’s orgasm though, fuck, it had never been like that. It made all that had gone before fade into total insignificance.

He’d read that soulmate sex was something else, but he hadn’t really understood what that meant. It was like every touch, every thrust, was ramped up. Even with Can barely looking at him, with the lack of kissing, with the lack of anything that said intimacy.

He’d managed to hold out, make sure Can came first, and what a sight that had been…if Tin had thought him pretty before that had magnified tenfold.

His soulmate was otherworldly.

The moment it was over though, he crashed down to earth with frightening speed as Can sprang from the bed and began to dress. Tin watched him, making doubly sure his expression was unreadable, the churning in his stomach making that almost impossible.

“Let’s talk tomorrow and set up a schedule,” Can had said, not looking at Tin as he wedged his feet into his trainers. He glanced up at Tin for one brief moment before glancing away again, seemingly looking around on the floor for something. “Keep this between us though, yeah? I don’t want people to know.”

He was out the door before Tin could formulate a reply. Keep this between us.

Even his soulmate wanted nothing to do with him beyond the necessary. Sure, Tin hadn’t made Can’s life easy before they actually touched and discovered the truth, but now he knew, he didn’t even want to try to get to know him. Tin wanted to know everything about Can. Everything. His soul was screaming at him to go after Can now, never let him out of his sight and Can wanted to talk about schedules.

Tin took his time dressing and exiting the hotel room to return home. Tul pounced on him the moment he tried to walk past him on his way up to his room. “I want you to find out from your little friend where Hin is.”

Tin snorted. “All the money and resources at your disposal and you want that stupid little Thai Program to tell you something you should have worked out for yourself.” A sharp pain stabbed at his heart. Fuck. Even words he didn’t mean, when against his soulmate, had the power to harm.

Tul actually sounded human when he said, “You think I haven’t tried everything?”

Tin halted at the base of the stairs and turned to face his brother. “Everything? You apparently knew that Can was his cousin but you’d never approached him before. Why?”

Tul didn’t respond, so Tin continued, “You know what? Never mind. Just stay away from Can.” He could feel Tul’s gaze on him as he walked away.

Chapter Text

The next time he saw Can was at lunch two days later. Tin had realised he still didn’t have his number. Seeing Can walk into the food court with Ae had made the heavy weight on his chest lift some. The actual physical need to be close to Can was real. Can had to feel it too. Tin had read that soulmates could be apart for a few days at a time without coming to harm, but that it would always feel like they were being drawn together, like something was missing.

Catching his eye, Can sat opposite Tin and after a couple of minutes of banter with his friends, he slipped his hand onto Tin’s under the table. Immediately Tin felt content.

When lunch was over Can lingered as everyone dispersed and asked Tin for his number ‘to make things easier’.

From that day on there was no mention of schedules. Just Can messaging him to meet up every couple of days or so, the two of them having sex in hotel rooms and Can mostly leaving afterwards. Twice he fell asleep afterwards and one time he seemed to want to talk about how unlucky they were that they were tied to one another. Tin had shut that down fast. He already knew Can resented the situation, resented him, he didn’t feel the need to discuss it. “I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow,” he’d dismissed and Can had flushed and backed down, leaving quietly.

He was lucky his coursework required a lot of attention, he could bury himself in that and not think about anything else. If he let himself think, he might well unravel completely and he couldn’t allow that. His studies were all he had.

-o-

“You coming with us for food, Can?” Techno asked as he hosted his bag onto his shoulder ready to leave.

Can shrugged. “I’ll finish up here and be along later.” He rummaged in his backpack and pulled out a clean t-shirt. “You go ahead. I’m on a go slow today.”

Techno hesitated for a moment, eyes narrowed in assessment before he nodded and said, “Don’t be too long. I’m buying.”

“Have you ever known me pass up a free meal?”

Techno rolled his eyes and backed out of the door. Can heard his ascent on the concrete stairs the led up to the field. He slowed down his rubbing of the towel on his head and strained his ears. Techno’s footprints became fainter and vanished and were replaced by a new set, coming closer, descending the stairs.

The door opened to reveal Tin. Not wholly unexpected seeing as Can had summoned him with a text, hoping he’d turn up. Can was fed up of that hotel room.

Can looked him up and down hungrily. “Lock the door,” he said, standing up and throwing his head towel on the bench, moving his hands to his waist where another towel was secured around his waist. He looked at Tin and raised an eyebrow.

Tin’s lips quirked and he stepped forward and placed both hands over Can’s where they rested on his waist. “C’mere,” he half whispered, pulling Can’s hands away from the towel with one hand and using the other to pull it off him. Can moved easily into his arms from there, letting Tin kiss his mouth open, revelling in his own nakedness next to Tin’s state of full dress.

He pulled back, “Don’t get undressed,” he said, working Tin’s zip down. “Fuck me like this.” He slid his hand inside and cupped Tin’s balls, loving the small gasp he made as his cock perked up.

“Jeez, Can,” Tin managed. Can felt empowered. He felt brave. This was new, this was good.

-o-

Can’s limbs felt like noodles. He managed to get one foot into his boxers but had to hold onto the wall to do the other one.

“Do you want to get something to eat?” Tin asked from his seat under the hooks, all put together now like Can hadn’t just ridden his dick.

Can probably should feel some shame at his wantoness, but hell if Tin didn’t know how to make him feel good. True, he had nothing to compare it to, and he never would now would he? If he’d known actually kissing him would feel that amazing as well he’d have done it from the start rather than avoiding Tin’s attempts to kiss him before. This time it just felt right. Spontaneous and unplanned, not in the impersonal hotel room, expensive though it was, it might as well have been a by the hour shitty motel.

“Can’t tonight. Techno’s waiting for me.”

He looked at Tin then, apparently surprising him because in that moment his expression was unguarded. He looked like Can had never seen him before. Not cold like normal, just broken. It was gone in a moment though as he nodded and said, “See you soon then.”

He was on his feet and unlocking the door before Can could even process. He found himself staring at the closed door for far longer than necessary before he jumped back to life and yanked on his clothes. He didn’t want to miss out on that free food!

-o-

It was becoming increasingly difficult for Tin to spend time apart from Can. Meeting up with him every few days for sex and touching whenever they were near one another at college wasn’t enough. It was nowhere near. Oh, he pretended everything was fine. Pretended he didn’t care that Can treated him like a booty call and nothing more. Pretended he didn’t feel the separation acutely by the second day.

Can nodding off after the sex gave Tin a chance to study him as he slept. His pre soulmate reveal infatuation with him had likely been his subconscious connecting to the bond, but that didn’t make Can any less perfect to him. Tin felt like he could look at him forever and never get tired of him. He was in love. He loved. He wanted. Needed. Can was made just for him.

Can didn’t love him. Can didn’t even like him. Can did like it when Tin kissed him. Loved it when he fucked him. Then, usually, Can couldn’t get away fast enough. Falling asleep like this was irregular.

Snuggling into his side was also new. Of course, that only happened when he was asleep. Tin liked it. More than like. He loved it. He wanted Can to be like that around him all the time, unreserved, uninhibited – not just when they had sex, Can had zero inhibitions on that front it seemed.

Of course, Can would wake soon and once he realised he’d been snuggling Tin he’d be out of the door like a speeding train. Therefore Tin had to be the one to leave first. Despite the heat outside, Tin felt cold when he carefully extracted himself from Can and dressed himself. He couldn’t help kissing him lightly on the forehead before he left.

He was in the car before he really let himself really breathe, head on the steering wheel as he fought with himself. He couldn’t go on like this. Was this how it had to be for the rest of their lives? He honestly couldn’t see how he would survive it.

He wasn’t even sure that he wanted to.

-o-

When Tin was called into the head of department’s office on Monday he didn’t think anything of it. He worked hard, his grades were always top of the class. He found the subject dry and mostly uninteresting but as it was easy he was able to get through it. The ease of his day-to-day coursework allowed him to spend more time on the architecture modules he’d signed up for. His father didn’t know about them, probably wouldn’t care anyway as long as Tin continued to do the international business course he’d chosen for him.

“I’ve called you here today, Tin, to give you a chance to explain yourself before I take things further,” Professor Chaiwong began, the stern tone of his voice alerting Tin that something was very wrong. “Professor Thawon has advised me of concerns that he has around the few assignments that you have submitted for Professor Shi’s class. He claims that they are plagiarised from assignments your older brother submitted when he attended here a few years ago.”

“I— Sorry, but he’s mistaken.” Tin’s head began to spin. Plagiarise? Tin would never be so lazy, nor would he ever cheat! Plagiarise from Tul? Like he’d even be able to access any work his brother had completed anyway. “Sir, I don’t need to cheat. I’m more than capable of writing my own assignments.”

The professor nodded. “Knowing you as I do, Tin, I’m inclined to believe you. However, as you know, I cannot ignore such allegations. There’s going to have to be an investigation.”

As the professor said the words Tin knew this was Tul’s work. He was being set up by his brother. Again.

-o-

“You seem different lately,” Ley observed through narrowed eyes, causing Can to pause with the spoon almost at this lips. They were eating alone while both parents were still at work. “Care to tell your little sister?”

Can shoved the spoon into his mouth and made a show of chewing before saying, “No!”

Ley raised and eyebrow and levelled him with a glare and that was it. The woman had some kind of magic mind. He caved. “Fine,” he huffed, pushing his plate away. “I met my ‘soulmate’.” Then he told her about Tin, leaving out who he was. She’d love that way to much.

The hearts in her eyes soon faded when he told her their arrangement. “You what?” she screeched and Can was certain if there had been a knife close by she would have pointed it at him. “You can’t do that! Don’t you know how privileged you are to be marked? You have a person made just for you, who will always be there for you, will always love you, whose touch is just more than between non soulmates… and you’re rejecting it?”

Can shovelled some rice into his mouth. “I’m not rejecting I’m coping,” he muttered with his mouth full, knowing it annoyed Ley.

“That poor guy,” Ley whispered turning burning eyes onto him. “He must be heartbroken.”

Can shook his head. “He’s fine with it. He doesn’t even like me anyway.” Tin had gone along with everything hadn’t he? He’d always gone out of his way to pick on Can. He wasn’t ‘heartbroken’. Cue the image of Tin’s face after the time in the locker room when Can had rejected his offer to eat together. Did he care?

“Unbelievable,” Ley huffed, shaking her head and pushing her plate away. She stood and stomped out, calling behind her, “You can wash up!”

-o-

“No, he hasn’t asked again but I think he’d biding his time.” Can balanced his phone between his shoulder and cheek as he tried to do up his jeans and naturally the phone fell to the floor and a huge cracked formed down the centre of the screen to join the small spider web cracks in two of the corners. “Fuck!”

“Can? What are you doing?” His cousin’s distant voice beamed out of the speaker where the phone lay on the floor. “Can!”

Can picked up the offending phone, realising he’d need a new screen at the very least. He couldn’t afford a new one. “Sorry, Hin, dropped the phone.”

He could almost feel Hin rolling his eyes. “Maybe it’s time for a new one, one with a working camera so that we can FaceTime. I miss your stupid face.”

Even though Hin wouldn’t see, Can obliged by pulling a face before sobering and asking, “Why is he only coming to me about this now? And, well, he’s mega rich so why hasn’t he found you with surveillance or something?”

There was a short silence and Hin sighed. “It’s really complicated. I’m not sure I can explain it over the phone. Can we meet this weekend - Saturday? We can make a night of it. Usual place.”

Can was supposed to meet Tin on Saturday. Tin had said he preferred to be more organised about meeting rather than waiting around for Can to text so they had their meetings down to every three days now. Any longer and it started to get uncomfortable. Ideally they would spend almost all their free time together, but the situation was as was far from ideal as it could get. Can could bring it forward, Friday night instead of Saturday, Tin probably wouldn’t care either way, Can knew their bond was an inconvenience for him too. “Okay. I can be there early afternoon.”

-o-

The last thing he wanted to do that evening was meet with Can. Except conversely, it was the only thing he wanted to do. He wanted to feel the comfort of his soulmate’s arms around him around him. Can had asked to see him Friday instead of Saturday. Tin found saying no to him impossible. He wanted to give him everything.

As soon as he entered the room he could tell that Can was distracted. He was almost passive when Tin approached him and brushed his hair out of his eyes before kissing his neck.

“What’s wrong?” Tin asked, pulling back and looking into his troubled eyes. Can was working his lip.

Can closed his eyes as if drawing strength. When he opened them again he said, “I heard a rumour.”

Tin dropped his hands to his sides and took a step back. He didn’t need to be a mind reader to work out what that rumour was. “Let me guess. I cheated on my assignments?”

Can’s expression morphed in an instant from curious to furious. He nodded, folding his arms in front of his chest. “What happened? Cos I know you wouldn’t cheat.”

Tin blinked in surprise. “You believe that?”

“Why, are you saying you did?” Even as he said the words Can was shaking his head. “You’re far too clever ever need to copy someone else’s work. You’re also too honest. You don’t give much away, but when you do it’s real. So—what happened?”

Tin stared at Can. Overwhelmed. He couldn’t form a sentence! Can believed him. No interrogation, no doubt. He reached out and pulled the smaller man into his arms, burying his face in his neck. He didn’t let the tears that were forming beneath his lids fall free, instead he turned the hug into a kiss and from there they fell to the bed.

Afterwards Can stayed, both of them silent and staring at the ceiling. “I’m visiting Hin this weekend,” Can said eventually. “S’why I asked to change the day.”

“Give him my best.” His relationship with Hin had been fractious. He hadn’t always been nice to him, his brother’s influence again. It was something he felt bad about now that he was older and understood how his actions had consequences.

“You’ll be able to prove you didn’t do anything wrong,” Can said, flipping the subject abruptly, still staring upwards but threading his fingers into Tin’s. “They can’t accuse you without proof.”

“I admire your optimism,” Tin said, hyper aware that the hand in his when it didn’t need to be, was more intimate than anything else, even if the sex they’d just enjoyed had been the most intimate it had ever between them.

Can squeezed his hand. “I have faith.”