Tin realized he was in love in Can when Can spent a weekend at his mom’s. He usually stayed in the dorm on the weekends, like Tin, enjoying the freedom that came with living on an animated campus where they could go out, have drinks and come back to bed by foot with minimal hussle; but Gucci had gotten sick, Can’s mom was worried, Ley was away, and Can simply couldn’t say no to his Ma. Which had led to Tin, alone in the dorm room they both shared, feeling lonely and empty and unable to sleep until he slid into Can’s bed. Surrounded by Can’s comforting smell, he fell asleep instantly, and when he woke up from a dream where Can was cuddling him from behind and leaving soft kisses on his neck, he knew he was screwed.
After that, Tin tried to be careful about how he looked at Can, catching himself when he was staring at his hands or eyes or lips, or turning away to hide his uncontrollably besotted smile whenever Can laughed around whatever he was eating at the moment. If Can knew how Tin felt about him, things would get unbearably awkward between them, and Tin didn’t want to lose the first real friendship he had.
Can was the first person Tin had learned and wanted to trust ever since what happened with Tul in England, and if he were to lose him to something as stupid as an unrequited and unreciprocated crush, he knew he would be devastated. So he kept silent about his quiet epiphany, and Can remained blessedly unaware of it, and Tin became a master in hiding his feelings deep within himself, and if he sometimes volunteered to do the laundry just to be able to breathe in Can’s scent from his shirts, that was his problem.
“Tin? Why are you so quiet? I look awful, I knew it, why did I listen to you? I’m going to change, I knew your shirt would look ridiculous on me, I -”
Tin grabbed Can’s wrist to stop him from going back into the bathroom to change, interrupting him at the same time. It took a lot to not put too much force into his hold, he could easily make Can topple over and catch him in his arms, get him close enough to - but no, he couldn’t.
“Don’t. You look… You look really good,” Tin managed to say, focusing on Can’s eyes instead of the way he was worrying his bottom lip.
Can eased at Tin’s words, his trademark wide and joyful grin spreading on his face and making Tin’s heart clench. “Really? Thank you so much, Tin!”
Can hugged Tin tightly before bouncing away to the bathroom, leaving the door open. “Can I borrow your cologne?” Can asked, and Tin prayed to whoever might be listening to end his suffering. “You always smell so good Ai Tin, and if I smell like you I’ll have more confidence!”
Tin pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes in frustration. Can had no idea of what he was doing to Tin, and Tin had no intention of telling him, ever. “Help yourself,” he feebly called out, and by the time Can emerged from the bathroom Tin was facing away from the door of their dorm, pretending to be focused on whatever book he was holding. He couldn’t look at Can wearing his shirt and smelling like him, like he belonged to Tin, knowing that Can was going on a date with someone else tonight. He wasn’t strong enough.
“Okay, I’m going to be late if i don’t go now, wish me luck,” Can said, and somehow Tin found the strength to give him a thumbs up. Can laughed and left, and Tin dropped his head in his hands.
Tin froze when he heard footsteps outside the dorm room, far earlier than Can was supposed to come back. He shifted in his bed, turning to be on his stomach, face away from the door, and pretented to be asleep.
He heard the door open quietly and Can step inside even more quietly, in a manner so unlike him that Tin knew instantly the date had not gone well. And although he hated to see Can miserable, he felt both relieved and guilty about his relief, which would make a good combination for another long sleepless night.
Can padded his way through the room, the sound of his bare feet softly echoing on the woodboards, and closed the bathroom door. Tin heard him brush his teeth, flush the toilet then take a long shower, keeping very still all the while. He knew Can would want to talk about it in the morning; they were close enough friends that Can always came to him for advice, even though Tin’s advice didn’t seem to have worked this time.
The bathroom door opened again, the light went out, and Tin got hit by a wave of warm air that smelled like his own shower gel. Can had showered with Tin’s stuff. Tin bit his lips to keep from groaning. What was Can playing at?
“Ai Tin?” Can whispered softly.
Tin stayed still for a long moment, debating between suffering now or in the morning, and when he was going to answer just to get it over with, Can sighed.
“Good night, then,” Can said so quietly Tin barely heard him. He sounded so small and defeated that Tin wanted nothing else than to go to him and offer what meager comfort he could, but he knew that if he were to touch Can, in his bed, in the dark and quiet of the night, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from spilling his heart out.
In the dark, he heard Can ruffle his sheets as he climbed into bed, and when Can’s breathing evened out he waited for a sleep that didn’t come.
Tin woke up alone in the room to the soft early morning light coming from the open window. He sighed, because this was Can’s doing. He knew Tin liked to wake up to fresh air and sunlight, so he always made sure to open the curtains and window when he had to leave early for football practice. When Tin had asked why he did that, Can had smiled that big grin that always made Tin’s breath catch and told him he had noticed Tin was always in a better mood after he opened the window in the morning.
Glancing at the clock, Tin realized he had one more hour until Can came back, which gave him plenty of time to steel himself and find things to say to comfort Can from the date that didn’t seem to have gone well. He considered getting up to shower, but before he could get out of bed the door opened on Can, carrying two mugs of coffee from the cafe Tin liked.
Can closed the door with his food, and smiled tentatively at Tin, almost shyly, in a manner so unlike him that Tin frowned.
“Good morning, Tin,” Can said. He gave one of the coffees to Tin and went to sit on his bed, elbows on his knees, a safe distance away.
Tin kept his eyes on the coffee in his hand for a few seconds before answering belatedly. “Good morning. Thanks for the coffee?”
Can looked everywhere but at Tin, shifting his weight and biting his lips. He clearly had something to say but didn’t know how, and sometimes it was better to let him figure it out by himself. Tin sat up and took a sip as he waited, finding it just the way he liked; Can had memorized his order a long time ago, and Tin had done the same.
When the silence stretched for too long, Tin cleared his throat, making Can look up guiltily at him. “Yes?” Tin probed, and Can sighed.
“My date didn’t go well,” Can said, still averting his eyes. Tin felt a little vindictive thrill go through him, even though it was wrong since Can was never going to be his.
“I’m sorry,” Tin said, and it wasn’t a lie. He was sorry Can was feeling sad about it; Can should never feel sad.
“You better be,” Can said with a mirthless laugh. “It’s your fault.”
Tin froze, the coffee halfway to his mouth. “What?”
“She’s in your English class, and she said she recognized both your shirt and your perfume, and that she wanted to go out with me and not a washed-out version of you,” Can explained with a low voice.
“Oh. Well, if she’d rather-”
“And,” Can interrupted, “she said she clearly wasn’t the one I wanted to date.”
Can’s eyes had found his, and Tin couldn’t say a word. He sat there, feeling light-headed with fear and hope, waiting for Can to explain further. Can swallowed what looked like all of his coffee before speaking again.
“She said that with how much I talked about you, you should be the one sitting with me in that restaurant, and then she left.”
Time felt suspended, and Tin was incapable of moving, hanging on Can’s voice and with his breath in his throat.
“She’s right, you know,” Can whispered, and Tin felt hope and disbelief flutter madly inside his ribcage.
“So I don’t know if you like me like that, but I guess I do, and I’d like to try going on dates with you, and- Why are you laughing??”
Tin felt laughter pearl through him, unstoppabble and free and full of all the nervous energy he’d been hoarding.
Can. Can was asking him out the second he figured he liked Tin, the mad bastard, when Tin had spent months agonizing over whether he was looking at Can in a unbecoming manner.
“Tin, stop laughing! I’m sorry, I won’t bring it up again if the idea of us together is so unbelievable, but stop laughing at me, you jackass!”
“Sorry, sorry,” Tin managed to say once he got himself back under control. He wiped his eyes from the tears that had gathered there.
“Can, sweet Cantaloupe, I’m not laughing at you.” Can frowned at the nickname, but Tin ignored it.
“I’ve been in love with you for months, Can.” The weight of carrying those words lifted as he said them, and Tin let himself truly smile for the first time since he realized he loved Can.
Can froze. “What? Really? Wait - what? How?”
Tin smirked. “That right there is why I didn’t confess earlier, I didn’t want to break your brain during the exam season,” he lied joyfully, just to see if Can would call him out on his bullshit.
“Yeah, right,” Can said. “You were scared shitless, more like.”
“That too,” Tin agreed, and God, it was so easy.
Can smiled at him, still a bit shyly but so, so warm that Tin felt all his lingering doubts melt away.
“Can I kiss you?” Tin asked quickly, before he could second-guess himself. Habits were hard to shake.
“I don’t kiss before the first date,” Can said with a wicked smile.
“But you bought us coffee, and we talked about feelings, this is clearly a date,” Tin said with a smile that matched Can’s.
“Mmh,” Can feigned thinking about it, his index on his chin and his lips pursed. “Yeah, okay, that’s fair.”
Tin was on him before he could end his sentence.