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"Nothing's gonna hurt you baby"

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Win woke up in the middle of the night and his natural instinct of feeling Team attached to him was missing. Sluggishly, he ran his hand over the mattress in hopes of finding Team's presence- yet he was met with a cold bed.

If he could draw an analysis of this terrible sensation that he was currently feeling to anything, it would perhaps be the feeling of having your favorite fluffy cozy blanket under which you felt the most safe and sound- being snatched away while you're asleep.

When his brain registered Team's absence, it was as if someone poured a bucket of cold water over his head; the nerves started kicking in, the adrenaline rush from not finding Team in any corner of the bed was real and his heart started drumming fast.
He shot up at once and looked around, Team was nowhere to be found. He managed to bolt on his feet a little too swiftly, feeling a sudden wave of dizziness rush to his head as he didn't give himself enough time to find his balance, yet he conveniently ignored it, not letting it overtake him, and sauntered his way to his next destination i.e. the bathroom. Finding the door left slightly ajar, he heard faint sounds of hiccups and muffled, almost failed efforts of suppressed crying. Team was the only thing on his mind at this moment.

He pushed open the door and his heart dropped at the scene in front of him.
The lights were off, and Team was found to be on the floor. Team's silhouette reached Win's feet as the bathroom was now moderately illuminated through the light that snaked its way from the room itself.
He found Team curled up in a ball, shaking uncontrollably. His head was buried in the hollow formed from his curled up figure, hugging his knees tightly as his knuckles turned white from fisting his palms too hard.

Although Win's presence was very much evident, Team didn't seem to notice him there.

"Team baby, what happened?" Win asked, getting to the floor at once. He changed his position from being on his knees to sitting down on the floor so that they were at a uniform level. Win took him into his embrace at once and Team hungrily gave in, dissolving right into his arms as if his state of matter resembled that of gas.
Win's body now shook with Team's hiccups and shaking cries, and he could feel his shirt get soaked through the thin material.

Getting nothing but silence from Team's end as a respond to his interrogation, he gently encouraged Team to let out his tears now that he held him as if he was holding a baby - with scrupulous caution and vigilance; becoming a human shield to any and every possible thing that might hurt him.

"I've got you baby, you're fine. You're fine, everything is fine now." Win cooed, tenderly patting Team's back.

After some time passed, while Win patiently let Team have his time, he slowly calmed down, although just a little.

"Wait here, I'll get you some water" Win instructed, slowly detaching himself from Team. In response, he received Team clutching onto his shirt sleeve even more if it was even possible, as tight as ever, like a baby clutching onto his comfort blanket, furiously shaking his head with his eyes screw shut.

"Okay, okay I'm not going anywhere. Let's stay here, yeah?" Win reassured him, and let Team hang onto him in whatever way that he found solace in.

With a few more fleeting moments which felt like hours, Team's cries died down, his breath became more steady as he seemed more tired from the surge of emotions that overtook him; the two stayed in comfortable silence, holding each other as their life depended on it.

"You wanna talk about it?" Win asked, disengaging himself a little from Team, successfully this time; ushering him to show his face, something inside him was desperate for Team's eyes - to look into them, make sure he was there and to give him the assurance that Win was there too.

"Hia, I had a bad dream. It was probably the scariest one I've had yet" Team croaked, his voice came out meek as his face lightly scrunched at the thought of the morbidly fresh memory.

"Why didn't you wake me up baby? I'm there for you, you know that right?" Win quizzed, unsure of why Team- who would generally wake him up or talk about his dream, or even just hold him tighter in his sleep, didn't wake him up. It was unusual, they were long past the stage where Team felt guilty for waking Win up for his nightmares, a line so crossed as Win painstakingly convinced Team and established it as a matter of fact, time and again, that he could depend on him, wake him up at any time and talk to him when the nightmares hit. So, this was quite disappointing for Win to learn that Team must've ran to the bathroom instead of running to his arms.

"What was it about? You think you can tell me?" Win pushed further, at the same time being tremendously conscious and choosing his words meticulously, to not make Team uncomfortable in any way that might possibly act as a trigger.

As he was still enveloping Team in a way so that he could now see his face, his right hand reached out to remove the fringes from Team's forehead that were damp from the tears causing an obstruction to his eyes.

"I didn't wake you up because it was about you" Team replied quietly.

"All the nightmares I've had yet, it's always been about me. Me, the bottomless, unremitting darkness from the water around me. Today, it was you. You were drowning, Hia. You were drowning and you called for help. No - you called for MY help, you yelled my name, you yelled Team. You were flailing your arms frantically and it was scary. You- You seemed so helpless. I jumped in, and I began swimming as fast as I could but my timing was slow. No matter how much I tried, the distance between us did not reduce, it only felt like it was increasing incrementally, the more I swam. I used all my body strength, every ounce and every fiber of my body worked towards swimming fast enough to save you, I thought of the best technique, the best stroke that I could use - anything that would get me to you. But it just did not work. I just could not reach to you" Team recalled with a sharp intake of breath at the last sentence, as his head fell onto Win's shoulder in defeat, heavy from the overwhelming pressure.

"Team-" Win started, flabbergasted upon learning the fact that it was Win's possible death in Team's nightmare that affected him so much, that nearly crushed him, and not himself.

Team's body trembled in his arms even more after the confession.

"Hey, hey shh. I've got you. I'm not gonna let anything hurt you, nothing's gonna hurt you baby." Win hushed softly, as his hand extended to wipe Team's face stained with tears. His eyes were red and swollen. It broke his heart to see Team suffer like this. If he could, he would take Team's nightmares and exchange it for his sleep in a heartbeat, and he cursed the universe for not working that way, and giving his Team nightmares in the first place.

 

Team cut him off, and continued on with the his encounter.

"P'Dean was there too. He was standing on the ledge, he kept timing me with the stopwatch, and scolding me for being slow. He told me to be faster, that no matter how good of a swimmer I was, if I couldn't save you- I was a failure, that I didn't deserve on the Team. I don't know Hia- it was too twisted. I don't know- I don't, I really don't know" Team chanted the same thing at the end, his eyes shut tightly as he kept rocking back and forth from the reviving memory of the paranoia which he faced in his dream.

Win had a moment of epiphany and all the puzzled pieces slowly seemed to come together to form a clear picture. The tangled and knotted strings of the elements of Team's nightmare unraveled. His nightmare was a trigger from the practice they had earlier during the day.
Dean was a little too hard on Team as, for some reason- beyond even Win's comprehension, Team's timings were especially slow today. Dean was more stressed because they were practicing for an upcoming competition, and the past few days Team had been doing quite well, more than his usual. But suddenly, today's crash in Team's record meant his swimming chart suddenly declined from a previous upward sloping graph, which caused Dean to react harshly. Of course, Dean sincerely apologized to Team after practice, and Team assured him that he knew Dean meant well.

Naturally, Win mediated in between and took matters into his own hands, overtaking charge of Team's practice, knowing Team needed the familiarity that came from Win. Still, today was just not the day. And Win accepted it, but Team didn't. Win's constant attempts of making Team realize this were successful- or so he thought.

After practice Win had a talk with Team and explained to him that he couldn't always be perfect, setbacks were important to teach us about our mistakes and how to correct them, so that one could avoid it in the actual completion. Team nodded and complied to the words of wisdom Win passed to him as a senior and as a vice captain of the team.

But when it came to swimming, Team held his expectations of himself higher than anyone. When it came to swimming, Team was relentlessly harsh on himself, he was unforgiving and intolerable towards any and every mistake, no matter how big or small - he was a perfectionist. It was quite painful for Win to see Team like this sometimes, because the way he treated himself and his practice sessions, especially now when he held an indispensable position in the Team and knew that the club relied on him to quite an extent for it's achievements, it resulted in events like the one that took place earlier, with Team mistreating himself for small mistakes, which irked him and his mood for the remaining day. It wasn't fair, and Win wanted to make him realize that.

"Team, look at me. I'm fine. You need to see me, see?" Win reached out his hand to Team's chin, gesturing him to look up.

"I'm fine, nothing has happened to me. I am a swimmer myself, so it's safe to say that I'm not going to drown yeah? And of course, if something like that ever happens, I have the best swimmer as a boyfriend, my knight in shining armor who will save me. I'm not afraid of anything with you next to me, especially not drowning." Win remarked, incorporating a little light hearted note on his end to alleviate the heavy atmosphere even by just a percent.

"This isn't your fault, you know that right? You deserve to be on the team more than anyone Team. You've worked hard and you keep working hard every single day to prove your worth there. Just because your timings were off today, doesn't mean you don't deserve a spot Team. You can't keep treating yourself like this, you can't be so cruel to your own self. You have to understand that making mistakes is a good thing. Making mistakes during practice is going to help you ten times more for your competition than having a perfect record during practice. You're the best swimmer that we have, but you're not perfect Team, you can't be and you can't always be the best at all times too. Because you're human. On the days you feel tired, I will stay beside you. When you fall down, I'll be there to pick you up. To hold you until you can stand again. But you can't make yourself suffer like this. You do know your nightmare was a result of today's practice right?" Win asks, comforting him in every way possible.

Team's heart melted at Win's sincere confession.

"You were drowning, Hia. You should've seen yourself- no I hope you never have to see yourself like that. I won't ever let that happen" Team remarked, ignoring Win's question and quickly changing his mind as he shook his head midway in realization.

"Team, it was just a dream. A nightmare.. It happened and it's over. I'm here and I'm fine. You cannot blame yourself for not saving me from drowning in a dream! A dream which is not real. But you have to promise me to be kinder to yourself. You have to let yourself fall and get hurt, and learn from your mistakes. You think Dean and I haven't made mistakes? You think we've had a perfect record these two years? Heck, you think we've won every competition that we participated in? Newsflash, we haven't. In fact, I lost my very first race. I came last, Team. I was so overconfident of myself back then because I was on a roll during the practice, coach kept on telling me my performance was bound to win us a first place. And what did I do? I let it get to my head and became cocky. And because of me, we lost. You know how I felt? embarrassed. I felt like a loser, I let my team down. But I'm here today, as a Vice Captain of the team because I allowed myself to learn from my mistakes. We all need to make mistakes Team, we're human." Win cajoled, and Team obediently listened to Win's story with glistening eyes and utter concentration.

"Do you understand?" Win inquired, forcing Team to look into his eyes.

When Win ended his story, he found Team nodding, partially in agreement and partially because that was the only response he could give at that moment.

"I'm sorry Hia" Team said, looking down.

"Sorry for?" Win probed.

He was met with a moment of silence, and all he hoped was for Team to understand his mistake of being harsh on himself.
"For being too harsh on myself" Team whispered quietly, it was almost as if he did not want to admit it but he knew that somewhere or the other, Hia was right.

"Good, because I'm not going to let anyone treat my boyfriend like that, not even his own self. Next time something like this happens, no lays for a week. A week Team, I'm being dead serious" Win said, looking straight into his eyes.

Instead of arguing, Team nodded slowly. Win felt defeated knowing Team didn't protest like his usual self.

"I love you, Team. It hurts me knowing that something is hurting you. If there is someone that hurts you, I don't know what I might to do them, I'm afraid I might lose my mind and hurt them an infinite times more. But you're the one that's hurting you. I can't watch you do that to yourself, so please, for your sake and for mine, don't be so hard on yourself. I know Dean was strict today and I'll talk to him. We'll work on your practice, me & you together. But we're not going to let this behavior continue, okay? We can't. It's not healthy" Win beseeched with a longing gaze.

Seeing Win like this, it hit Team hard. He realized just how much he was hurting not only himself, but Win in the process too. And if he was unforgiving to his owns elf earlier, he might never be able to live with himself knowing he hurt Win.

"I'm sorry I hurt you Hia. I don't ever want to be that person who hurts you. I'll do better, I'll work on myself. Thank you Hia, I don't know what I would've done without you" Team replied, hugging Win in gratitude.

"You don't have to thank me, silly. We're in this together, yeah? And you have to wake me up the next time if this happens. You have no idea how I felt not finding you beside me, it broke me seeing you on the floor this way." Win demanded, shuddering at the recent incident.

In reply, Win felt Team nod.

"I really think I'm gonna ask Dean what his deal is. He didn't only scold my boyfriend in his dream but didn't even save his bestfriend. I'm offended. He's clearly the only one at fault here" Win suddenly commented cheekily, hoping to gain a smile from Team. Unfortunately make Team smile mission failed.

"P'Dean was right about my times being slow, he was just being a captain" Team replied looking down, playing with the cuticles of his fingers. It was as if blaming himself for swimming was second nature to him.

"Team" Win warned, raising his eyebrows.

"Right, sorry. I'm sorry. You should definitely ask him tomorrow. or today. Whatever the time is right now" Team replied in a hurry, feeling scared of Win's reaction to his tongue slip.

"It's okay. Baby steps, remember? From now on, your homework is to compliment yourself, pat yourself on the back for any and every small achievement. You woke up early today? Good job. You spent a few extra minutes stretching before jumping into the pool? Wonderful. You initiated a kiss? Bravo. Now that is something I'd like to commend you for" Win wiggled his eyebrows at his final statement and Team rolled his eyes. Finally, his Team was back.

"Hiaaa" Team whined.

"Its not over yet. While you praise yourself for your achievements, you also have to go easy on yourself and remember to be gentle; if your timings get slower, you tell yourself it's okay to not be your best at all times, you mess up your strokes? You remind yourself it's normal and human of you to make mistakes, understood?" Win demanded.

"Hia I already have a lot of homework already" Team grumbled.
"Have I made myself clear, is what I'm asking" Win questioned in an authoritarian tone.

Team hesitated for a moment, leaned forward and pecked Win's lips, not just because Win cited it as an example a moment ago, about Team initiating a kiss, but also because he felt incredibly lucky to have Win beside him and wanted to convey his message in the best way he could think of for now.

"Crystal" Team gave a one word crisp reply, after the stolen kiss.
"Good job, baby" Win smiled, praising him as promised and blushing like a fool once he comprehended what Team just did.

 

They both remained comfortably stuck together in each other's warmth for a little longer, as their backs now rested against the cabinet below the basin where they stored their toiletries. They shared a comfortable tranquility while Win's hand never ceased to stop running through Team's hair.
Team's head was nested on Win's shoulder with his eyes closed, resting from the tiring turn of events. This time, he breathed more comfortably and more peacefully.

 

"Team? let's go back to bed. You need some water too" Win whispered, hoping his voice doesn't break the established serenity which might disturb Team's equanimity.

"I don't think I can fall asleep now, Hia" Team replied, his eyes that were shut opened slowly as he voluntarily looked towards Win's direction for the first time.

"Then let's get out of here. It's just 4:27, we can go watch the sunrise and have a nice breakfast. What say? Pancakes sound good?" Win suggested teasingly, praying that it would crack a smile from Team.
And his prayers were answered, somewhat. He observed how the corners of Team's mouth, very faintly, just for a split second curved up, and he nodded with a grateful countenance.

"Thank you so much Hia" Team gratified, as they both got up and Team laid his head on Win's shoulder, still a tiny bit abashed from the breakdown. Win tried his best to ignore the cramp that conquered his leg, which was also numb from sitting in the same position, simultaneously throbbing from being buried under the weight of his body for too long.

"Hey you don't need to be embarrassed" Win said, kissing Team's forehead, as he proceeded with poking Team's cheeks back and forth to make him look up, a habit of Win that Team was accustomed to by now. Team really would never understand Win's obsession with his cheeks, for one because Team hated how chubby they were. But since Win loved it, Team slowly accepted it too, and even became fond of it.

Team nodded, cheeks tainted red.

"See your face is all blotched up. You're no longer Salapao, you're a tomato" Win chuckled, turning on the faucet, scooping some water in his hand and maneuvering Team's face over the basin as he washed it. Team's face felt hot in his hands, while the cool water helped calm it down.
Win grabbed the towel next, and Team tried to take it from his hands. Despite his attempts, Win didn't let Team have it.

"I can wash and wipe my own face Hia" Team mumbled. Win was babying him, and he suddenly felt hyper aware of it.
"I know that. but it feels good to have someone do it for you though, sometimes" Win murmured, working on drying Team's wet bangs once he was done wiping his face.

"I'll get you some water. Go grab a sweatshirt, it's chilly outside." Win instructed, and Team merely nodded.

"I'm going to let Dean know you won't be coming for practice today" Win informed, and Team's stomach coiled.

"Hia the competition- " Team started to protest, but he was cut off midway, before he could put forward his claims.

"I know the competition is near but you need rest. You're going to sleep today, give yourself a break, wake up fresh tomorrow and we'll practice a little more after our usual practice session tomorrow. We'll work on where you went wrong and try to improve it, okay?" Win directed, already having a well organized plan like always, probably ready to put it down in his journal and highlighting it with his branded highlighter set that he was a proud owner of. Yes, Team did find Win's obsession with stationery and highlighters weird and nerdy, and made sure Win knew about it.

Once again, of course, Team nodded in acquiescence.
In the car, Win didn't let go of Team's hand even for a moment the whole time that he was driving.

None of them knew this day and this incident would soon turn into a fond memory that they would tell their kids about, how their dad had a nervous breakdown over his competition (it would start out as a lesson that Team would inculcate to his kids the night before their very first competition, telling them about his own experience, just like Win did to him that very day on the bathroom floor) - and the lesson would soon turn into a dreamy reminiscent story of how their dads hopped into the car, had an impromptu romantic rendezvous as they chased the dawn and watched the sunrise after sneaking into the school's terrace together and shared pancakes for breakfast (Given, this story was a very distilled version of the whole chapter, but no one needed to know the intimate details, especially not the kids)
of course, the sweet nostalgia also meant it would gain a groan as a response from the kids, begging their dads to not narrate the same story for the zillionth time, as they could themselves practically recite word by word from hearing it way too many times. Both Win and Team would shake their heads, laughing in harmony at their kid's exasperated reactions.

 

~

BOUNus -

Winniethepool : Dean, Team and I won't be attending practice tomorrow. I'll tell you why later. For now, just know he can't. He needs a break.
Dean: No problem. Is he doing okay? I know I was a little strict on him today, I'll talk to him again tomorrow.
Winniethepool: It's fine, he understands you meant well. He's good now, don't worry.
Winniethepool: Also, don't you dare tell him that I won first place in our first competition. okay? Tell everyone about it, especially in the club and all seniors whom you think may risk slipping it. Please. I'm asking this as a favor.
Dean: okay, I've got it.
Winniethepool: thanks man 😘
Dean: fuck off
Winniethepool: lmfao

Captain Team discovered about his boyfriend's shenanigans and twisted tales, one fine day in his fourth year when their coach was giving a pep talk to the first years before their first competition.

"Now kids, I'm not asking you to win first place. I know your seniors have set a high standard for you, You ex- vice captain whom you may all know as P'Win, was one of the first fresher who won gold in his first competition. Of course, his legacy was continued by your current captain, P'Team. But you have to remember to enjoy the race more. I want you to win, but I want you to enjoy the water more" Coach said, and it hit him like a lightening bolt, the real story which was way different from the version narrated by Win two years ago. He asked his coach about the validity of the facts again when he went to submit the attendance register, and coach assured him that Win did in fact came first place, and didn't know why he would lie to him.

When Team confided Win about it on facetime, Win's first resort was a lame excuse of his mobile data acting up, supported by the next lame excuse of London's wifi being shit, and when Team blatantly ignored his ridiculous attempts with a straight face and folded hands, wearing an expression which said he demanded an explanation, Win gave up and confessed he did so for a reason, that it was what Team needed to hear at that time.
Was Team dramatically angry? sure.
Was Team eternally grateful to god, the universe or whatever force that was out there, for his boyfriend? absolutely.