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Gentle Learning Curve

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The first time Win pins Team’s wrists to the wall over his head is a Moment for Team. All his senses narrow to Win, and suddenly Team is breathing much more quickly and erratically than he was before. There’s no mistaking what this new position is doing to him, and Win’s just drinking it in with blatant fascination. His eyes won’t move away from Team’s mouth, where Team’s breath is starting to shutter.

Team thinks about pulling his arms free. Win’s grip feels loose enough that he could do it pretty easily. But when Win’s mouth covers his, Team is consumed by it.

By one kiss.

Almost absentmindedly, Team tugs his hands against Win’s grasp, but Win clamps down harder and pushes Team’s arms higher over his head. The force of it pulls an involuntary gasp from Team, and Win smirks. He nips Team’s lower lip and whispers, “You like that?”

Team doesn’t think before he nods. He’s just learned a new thing Win can do that makes him shiver. Of course he likes it.

The next kiss is deeper and wetter and Team makes an impatient, needy noise. Win’s not touching him anywhere but his mouth and his wrists right now, and he knows Win is only holding back to play with him, and yet, he’s allowing it.

When Win’s leg does press against him, Team makes a noise he’s not going to be proud of later and grips Win’s thigh between his own to keep it there.

“Your mouth’s redder,” Win observes.

Team wants to retort, Like I did it on purpose? but he doesn’t have anywhere near enough coherency to manage it.

Instead, in spite of his very limited mobility, Team leans close and kisses Win quiet. From his very limited experience in sex with Win, Team has already figured out that Win nevers turn down kissing. And he’s good at it, too, Team thinks. He doesn’t drool or anything.

Best of all, sex is usually less embarrassing for Team to remember afterward when Win is prevented from speaking.

No teasing, no goading, no dirty talk. Just movement.

And the movement part requires Team’s full concentration.

Case in point: when Win releases Team’s wrists in favor of working open the button of Team’s shorts, Team isn’t sure what to do with his arms. Since it feels unnatural to keep them up, Team brings them down slowly, his eyes fixed on Win’s long fingers so close to where he wants them, and eventually rests his arms on Win’s shoulders.

Right after he does that, though, he realizes what he actually wants is to have his hands on Win’s back. On his skin.

Team tries to be casual about it, like everything he’s doing is considered and controlled and not split-second choices after he’s changed his mind. He moves one arm around Win’s waist, then sneaks his hand just under the hem of Win’s T-shirt. Amazed for the hundredth time that he gets to do this with someone as gorgeous as Win, Team rests his damp palm on the hot plane of Win’s lower back and exhales as evenly as he can.

If memory serves, Team’s index finger should be covering the ink stroke of a feather.

He barely registers Win pulling down Team’s zipper, not until Win brings Team’s own hand to cover himself.

“Having fun, huh?” Win says, smirking.

Team pulls his hand free with a grimace. “Stop it,” he says.

Win glances up at him through the messy fall of his hair, and Team swallows on reflex.

“Wanna try again?” Win asks.

Team doesn’t move a muscle.

He knows what Win’s talking about.

Blowjobs are not a thing Team does well, and Team is, as a general rule, not keen on doing anything he’s demonstrably bad at. The idea of it is still appealing, the thought of making Win unravel a bit under Team’s influence, but….

Win touches a kiss to the corner of Team’s mouth. “You really gonna live your whole life afraid to give head?” Win asks.

A-afraid?

This is an obvious tactic, Team, he tells himself.

It shouldn’t have any effect, because Team knows what Win’s doing.

Win just wants to get blown, and Team’s not going to cave that easily.

Team’s ego isn’t that fragile.

Except it is. It absolutely is.

I’ll show you afraid, Team thinks at him.

With determination, he goes to his knees and pulls the waistband of Win’s track pants down his thighs. He’s tempted to comment on how hard Win himself already is, but Win will absolutely call him out on being a hypocrite if he does, and he’d like Win to stop talking, so he refrains.

Team assumes from the unzipping that Win wants him to touch himself while he does this, but he’s not going to. He needs to focus if he’s going to do this well.

The thing with blowjobs, the thing that Team has learned intimately well over the last several months fooling around with Win, is that it’s very easy to give a boring one that still makes a guy come. Team’s academic references supporting this are the following: every blowjob he’s given Win so far.

And Team knows they were all mediocre because he’s received amazing blowjobs from Win and Team can see and feel the difference in method and sensation alike.

Win has technique. Win has experience. Those both matter with a skill like this, it seems, and Team has neither.

And the thing is, Team is competitive, and he hates knowing he’s done anything on a mediocre level—especially this.

And especially this with Win.

Win, who can immediately find someone better if he ever decides that Team’s not good enough.

So Team’s not going to be mediocre at this anymore. Not at any part of sex, from blowjobs to whatever else Win likes.

He curls his hands behind Win’s thighs and glances up at his face. Win’s already smiling fondly down at him and slowly pushes his fingers through Team’s hair. Even now, months into his whatever-this-is with Win, Team still isn’t sure why Win likes to pet his hair while Team sucks him off.

It’s probably a stupid power thing.

It does feel nice, though.

It’s also a decent way of knowing when he’s doing something right. Every flex of Win’s fingers against his scalp, every sudden grip around his hair, is an encouragement for Team. Win isn’t as loud as Team is, so Team needs every possible indication he can get that he’s doing something right.

As usual, it’s only after Team has started that the intimidation diminishes. Sometimes it helps him concentrate when he closes his eyes, so he tries that, allowing Win’s unsteady breaths to tell him what pace to set and what to do with his hands.

The only advantage to Team giving head poorly is the reminder that Win could be doing this with someone much, much better at it, but he’s chosen Team anyway.

…Of course, it’s entirely possible that Win is just lazy, and Team is convenient, but Team will accept or invent scraps where he can find them if it means he gets Win like this. It’s not like he’s going to ask Win why he puts up with Team’s mediocre blowjobs when he’s into all genders and has his choice of any one or more of the hotter, more experienced people on campus.

Without intending to, Team gets lost in his passive aggressive assault on himself and then Win is coming, his fingers tightening in Team’s hair as a warning before he gasps sharp and loud. Team’s never actually heard Win do more than that when he comes from this. He makes much more noise when he’s fucking Team. So, again. Another mediocre blowjob. Function without finesse.

Fuck’s sake.

Frustrated, Team swallows it all down before he pulls away. The taste isn’t bad, and doing it means he can enjoy the way it makes Win’s pupils expand even more. Team pushes up to his feet and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. It’s almost ludicrous at this point that the same thing happens every single time—Team gets lost in his self-doubt and finishes the blowjob without any real passion or enthusiasm—and he doesn’t know why he can’t just stop the pattern and get this right.

Win slides his fingers through Team’s hair, holding it back from his face, and kisses just above his eyebrow. “Thank you, baby,” he whispers.

Despite his disappointment in himself, Team can’t switch off what that does to him. He feels his body burn with the praise, because it sounds so sincere. Team believes in the sincerity, even though he has no idea why Win thinks he deserves it.

Win is kindhearted, of course, and that’s a major key to why he’s so popular. But he doesn’t praise the bare minimum. Not at swim practice, anyway. Sometimes he does when he’s tutoring—probably because he knows that demanding better than Team’s best in an area he’s actually good at will motivate him, whereas with something like schoolwork, Team’s weakest area, a gentler approach is more effective.

Therefore, Team’s mediocre blowjobs get a thank you. Because Win thinks it’s the best Team can do.

Team thinks of going to the bathroom to wash his mouth out, to erase the taste and diminish the memory of what he just did, but to Team’s immense pleasure and simultaneous embarrassment, Win drags him to bed and returns the favor with more exuberance than Team’s ever been able to achieve.

What’s worse, Team is excruciatingly aware that he’s reduced to whimpering by the time Win lets him come, which would be embarrassing if it weren’t so good—which is embarrassing in itself.

As Win grins and drags his blunt fingernails over the inside of Team’s trembling thigh, Team wonders if it’s normal to finish every sexual encounter so completely sated, but with such an unpleasant aftertaste—literal and figurative.

A week later, with afternoon practice finished, the locker room is its usual level of casual mayhem. Mew has draped his body over the bench to get comfortable while he complains about his girlfriend, and the rest the club changing out of their suits listen with visible amusement.

“I’m just saying: she didn’t have to be so mean about it,” Mew tells them. “I’m not that bad a kisser.”

Win shakes his head as he towels his arms dry. Mew’s rant has barely begun and it’s already veered into whining territory.

“How did you not know you’re a bad kisser?” Pruk asks. He’s fully dressed and ready to go home, but it seems like Mew the Disaster Boyfriend is holding his interest.

Mew gapes at Pruk upside-down with betrayal scrawled over his face. “That’s—! I’m not a bad kisser! I mean, I’m not amazing or whatever, but I’m not bad!”

Kai chucks his towel over Mew’s face from across the room and says, “Clearly your girlfriend disagrees, dumbass.”

The room erupts into shouts of laughing agreement.

“Well, okay, guys,” Low says. “That’s not fair. We don’t know anything for sure. Someone give him a kiss!” He adds a bob of his eyebrows. “You know—for science.”

Of course it’s in that moment that Team walks in from the showers, hair wet and towel slung around his waist. Skin damp, muscles shifting. Like he strolled out from one of Win’s most visited fantasies. Win licks his lips.

Team ignores him.

Cute.

“Let’s have Team do it!” Gin says. He slaps Team’s bare back with a resounding noise.

Team startles, peers over his shoulder, and asks with deep suspicion, “Team should do what?”

Mew sits up on the bench and points to his lips. “Team should help me prove my innocence,” he says.

Team’s expression folds into an intricate portrait of disbelief, confusion, and judgement, and Win barks out a laugh.

What?” Team says. ”No, to whatever this is.”

Win pushes his arms through his shirt sleeves with satisfied smugness. No one’s getting near Team’s lips but him.

Across the room, Dean raises his eyebrows at Win. Calm down, he mouths.

Win pointedly turns his back and fusses with his collar. Hypocrite.

“Come on, I’m a decent kisser! I’m definitely better than most of you!” Mew insists.

“Anyone want to chime in?” Gin asks. He smirks at Team, then at Win, then ducks the tube of lip balm Win chucks at him.

Get caught making out in the showers once

Mew stands and holds his arms out to Team with exaggerated petulance. “Teeeeam, kiss your good friend Mew for science!”

Team shoves him back down onto the bench, rolling his eyes. “Kiss yourself,” he says.

“Ahh, I would if I could,” Mew sighs. A few of the guys snicker.

“All right,” Dean says. “That’s enough. See you all tomorrow.” In different circumstances, he might have said more, but his eyes are fixed firmly on his phone screen as he and Pruk head out.

This leaves Win in charge of locking up by default, which means Win now has to wait for the rest of the guys to clear out before he himself can leave.

No big hassle. He’s waiting for Team anyway.

When Mew finally drags himself to his locker to get dressed, Win takes over the bench and leans back on his hands, enjoying the view of Team’s bare back while he has it. The silence in the room, he notices, simmers with unspoken conversation.

It’s Low, halfway through buttoning up his shirt, who dares ask, “So, what…exactly…? Is…bad kissing? Like, too much tongue, or…?”

Some of the guys make arrogant sounds, as if this question is too far beneath them to answer.

Win says, “Tongue’s not bad if you know how to use it,” with a smirk.

A few hollers of agreement rise in support.

Team towels off his hair, pretending Win didn’t speak in spite of his reddening ears.

Kai says, “I feel like it’s, like, slobbering and bad breath, or cracked lips and your teeth clacking together.”

“Do the bad things have to be paired up like that, or can they be bad individually too?” Win asks, deadpan.

More snickering.

“You know what I meant!” Kai says, sheepish.

Mew folds his arms, standing fully dressed by the door. “I don’t slobber,” he says with genuine petulance.

“Sure you don’t, buddy,” Gin says. He loops an arm around Mew’s neck and calls, “See you all tomorrow!”

“I don’t, though!” Mew insists. “And my lips are smooth! Look! Feel them!”

Win shakes his head as the door closes behind them. “That kid needs to stop offering his mouth to people,” he says.

Kai and Low snort.

Team glances at Win over his shoulder, his expression flat, as he drags his backpack out of his locker. Win grins in return.

The last of the members head out in a cluster, but when Team tries to leave with them, Win doesn’t even bother standing from the bench to grab the closest strap on Team’s backpack.

“Hang on, you,” Win says.

The guys head out the door without noticing (or else noticing and just accepting) that their friend’s been detained by the club’s vice president.

Win happily takes advantage of the empty locker room to pull Team between his thighs. “Well, well, look at this,” Win says. “You’re cute. What’s your name?”

Team levels him with a flat stare and attempts to turn away, but Win predicted he’d try that and grabs Team’s hips.

“Hia,” Team sighs. “What?”

Win leans in close to Team’s stomach, noting with amusement that Team’s eyes change focus from Win’s eyes to his lips. Win takes his time undoing two of Team’s uniform shirt buttons, then touches his lips just above Team’s navel.

“I’m testing if I’m a good kisser or not,” Win says.

When Team’s body trembles very faintly just from that, Win enjoys a flicker of triumph. He takes a chance and darts his tongue into Team’s navel, enjoying even more when Team gasps and shoots a panicked look over his shoulder.

“Quit it! The door’s unlocked!”

Win could say, “So?” but he generously decides not to.

Instead he just laughs and stands up, catching Team in a headlock on the way. While Team complains and wriggles without much effort, Win noses against Team’s ear and whispers, “Pharm drove you today, didn’t he?”

Team makes a face. “Yeah,” he says.

Win hums and smiles. “Great. Then going back, I’ll give you a ride.” He puts some filthy emphasis on that last word, just to see if it makes Team blush.

It does.

Talk of sex has gradually become more common among their little trio since Manaow started dating Pruk.

“Oh, please,” she says. ”I’m not saying we should talk about it in detail. That would be crude.” They’re assembled in the courtyard around one of the smaller four-seater tables, their bags stacked on the empty fourth seat. Manaow punctuates her point with a stroke of black eyeliner to her left lid, her hand steadier than stone. “I just think it’s healthy to be able to talk about sex in general with your friends.“

“Uh huh,” Team says. “You just want to hear what Dean’s like in bed.” He punctuates that with a massive bite out of the sandwich Pharm made him.

Teeeam,” Pharm says, grimacing. “Don’t talk about Dean like that.”

Manaow makes a prim sound and closes her mirror compact in front of Team’s nose just to make him jump (and shamefully, he does). “I’m just saying, we don’t have to be shy about it! We’ve all had sex, right?”

It’s an obvious trap. So very obvious.

This is such a good university. Team’s passing all of his classes.

But in a move too dense to bear remembering later, Pharm and Team automatically look at each other, suspicious of how much Dean or Win has said without their knowledge. Across the table, Manaow is stunned silent by whatever their expressions are saying to her, and then she squeaks so loudly the entire courtyard is also, in turn, stunned into silence.

Team doesn’t even wait for Pharm to finish hissing Manaow’s name to grab his bag and make a break for it, but Manaow lunges forward and seizes his wrist before he can get far.

“Get back here! We’re friends, and friends talk about their sex lives!”

“Where the fuck is that written? Let go!”

“Manaow! Team! Keep your voices down!”

Team sits back down, but he makes sure to do it slowly and reluctantly, and to glare at Manaow throughout the entire process. She isn’t daunted by it.

“Listen,” she coaxes, “I just want to get your input about something. You’re both more experienced than I am, and I need advice.”

“Google it,” Team says.

“Team,” Pharm says.

As if Team never spoke, Manaow continues, “I’ve been wondering, like, from a guy’s perspective how…long? Do you like it to last? Usually, I mean. Like, in general.” She clasps her hands on the table and leans close like this is a job interview. She focuses first on Team, then on Pharm, and then back to Team. “I don’t need exact figures. Estimations are fine too,” she adds.

Team frowns at her for several seconds, then tries to leave again.

This time Pharm grabs his forearm in a vice grip that very clearly communicates, Don’t you dare leave me alone to answer this, so Team cringes and sits back down again with a huff.

“I don’t need to know this about my club senior,” Team protests. He would love if the amount of information he has about Pruk’s sex life remained in the zeros.

Manaow scoffs at him. “You ask Pharm about Dean all the time!”

”Because I’m looking out for him!” Team says. He puts his arm around Pharm’s shoulders and gives him a little jostle to demonstrate his protective instincts.

“Well, how come you’re not looking out for me?” Manaow asks. ”I’m your friend too!”

“Because Pruk’s a decent guy!” Team says. “He’s not scary like Dean.”

Pharm pushes Team’s arm off him. “Dean isn’t scary!” He half-laughs it, like the suggestion itself is absurd.

Team, though, with all the solemnity of having experienced a different side of Dean from the one Pharm’s seen, says, “Dean is very scary.”

“Okay, okay,” Manaow says, waving her hands in dismissal. “I won’t ask for specifics, just tell me if ten minutes is too short.”

Pharm and Team both go very still, and Team wonders if it’s for the same reason. Then Pharm glances at Team, and Team thinks he sees a hint of camaraderie in his eyes, so he decides to be the brave one. With an attempt at solemnity, he turns to Manaow and asks, ”Ten minutes total or…like…each time?”

Pharm barks out a laugh and claps a hand over his mouth, his eyes wide with incredulity.

Manaow blinks at Team rapidly.

“T-Team,” she says. “Are you saying you and Win—”

“Who said Win?” Team interrupts. “Why are you both being weird?”

Inside, he’s got alarm bells going off. Doesn’t everyone do it multiple times? Is that weird? It’s starting to seem like that could be weird.

Also—he realizes belatedly—if he has any hope of keeping his…arrangement with Win private, he’d better get out of here now.

While Pharm and Manaow are visibly gearing up to enter into a full interrogation, Team says, “O-kay! Class time. See you both later.” This time, he manages to dodge both Pharm’s and Manaow’s hands and takes off for the nearest stairwell. He hears the two of them calling his name, but he keeps going, his mind already working through the many, many times he’s had sex with Win and how, apparently, they might be doing it wrong.

And now his friends know way more than they did five minutes ago.

If ever there were a time to hone the skill of spontaneous death and rebirth, now would be ideal.

Win has always strived to maintain both a high level of social skill and a general consideration of others, so when Team says, “Hia?” with a hesitant note in his voice, Win forces himself to focus on that and not on the very inviting mouth saying it.

It should be mentioned at this stage that this is an almost insurmountable challenge, considering they’re in Team’s bed and very much without clothes.

But Win manages it, because he’s a decent human being.

He lifts his hand away from where he’s been stroking Team’s bare hip and tucks some of Team’s hair behind his ear instead. “What’s wrong?” he asks.

Team doesn’t seem to have an answer to that. He just keeps holding eye contact. Then, he breathes in with purpose.

It’s just after five o’clock on a Thursday. Win made his way down to Team’s room about an hour ago, bored and horny and lacking the joy he always gets from being with Team. Ostensibly, the reason for his little journey was to make sure that Team was studying, but when Win found that Team actually was, Win decided to take a nap in Team’s bed while Team finished up his accounting homework.

Ten minutes ago, Team woke up Win by flopping onto the bed, and they’ve been making out ever since.

Win thought—maybe mistakenly—that this was going in a much heavier direction than it seems to be now. But Team did strip Win’s clothes off pretty enthusiastically, so Win can be forgiven for misinterpreting Team’s intentions for the evening, right?

When Team opens his mouth and promptly closes it again—confirming Win’s suspicions that Team doesn’t have any words prepared—Win asks, “Did I do something wrong?”

He knows he probably didn’t. He’s been going at an especially leisurely pace under the presumption that they have hours to themselves, and Team’s been audibly receptive to everything Win’s done to him so far.

Sometimes, though, a simple yes or no question is all you need to build up to getting the trickier answers.

Predictably, Team says, “No, hia,” but his voice is absent, like most of his attention isn’t on what he’s saying, but on what he’s hiding.

Win frowns. “Do you want to stop?” He wedges his elbow underneath himself and puts distance between them. It’s starting to seem like Team won’t want to go back to making out anytime soon.

“No, no, wait,” Team says. He closes the gap again and takes a breath before pressing his mouth over Win’s again. It’s urgent, but the mood feels discordant after those weird moments of tension, so Win pulls back in a thorough fog of confusion.

“Team—?”

“It’s nothing, never mind,” Team says with an edge of a whine. “Forget I said anything.”

He’s insistent on it, too. The next kiss he initiates is focused and familiar, and Win has no idea what the right thing to do is.

At a loss, Win follows Team’s lead.

The sex is great, as always. Team rides him fast and hard and it’s so intense Win thinks he might actually bite through his own lip when he comes. But in the quiet that follows, Team doesn’t stay with Win to wind down like he used to.

As he’s been doing more and more recently, Team leaves Win panting on the bed and heads directly to the bathroom to shower.

Win inhales, holds his breath, then exhales with more control to steady his heartbeat. When he hears the hiss of shower water, he stretches his arms over his head, enjoying the pull of his abdominal muscles. After a few seconds debating whether he should go after Team and ask what’s up, Win reaches for the wet wipes Team keeps on the side of the bed instead.

He can wait until Team’s ready.

Apart from Team’s general frustration with the Art of Giving Blowjobs, sex with Win is a whole entire universe above what he expected sex to be like with anyone. It’s not only that Win is gorgeous, but that Win is gorgeous and also…genuinely attracted to Team. The captivated way Win looks at him sometimes has gotten Team half hard on multiple inconvenient occasions, and after their first night together at the beach, it only took a handful of hours before Team had to jerk off to the memory of Win moaning against his ear.

English class in particular is a perpetual nightmare because Team is terrible at languages, and his boredom creates a high risk of his mind wandering to dangerous places—like the most recent time Win sucked a mark onto the sensitive skin where Team’s inner thigh meets his hip.

Win wants him.

And not just occasionally.

All the time.

And nothing about what they’ve done is bad, exactly, but…

Something feels strange.

And Team knows he needs to tell someone—soon—because Win’s too clever by far and he’s definitely noticed that something is off.

The question is: who can he talk to about it?

He sits next to Mew on the grass before practice one morning as they wait for Dean or Win to arrive and unlock the clubhouse. The sun’s barely crawled over the skyline, and Team spent half the night finishing the homework assignments he’s been avoiding, so he’s not really in the mood to talk about anything.

But his lack of energy also means that his threshold for embarrassment is also lower, so he hears himself ask, “Have you ever had sex that was bad and good at the same time?”

The moment the words are out of his mouth, Team plays them back in his head, confirms that he did in fact say them, and sighs as he rubs his face with both hands. His brain should be well and truly adapted to functioning on three hours of sleep after years and years of nightmares preventing him from getting more than that, but it seems that Win’s influence has actually been helping him sleep more than he realized, and his brain is getting greedy.

Beside him, Mew makes an intrigued sound. “Is this about Win or someone else?” he asks.

Team freezes, then slides his hands down his face and scowls at Mew. “It’s not about Win,” he lies. “Why would you think that?”

“You want a list? Okay.” Mew clears his throat and begins to tick off points on his fingers. “He drapes himself on you constantly, you give him attitude over things you’d never get annoyed about from Dean or Pruk, he keeps Lay’s in his locker for you, you’re wearing his T-shirt right now, Gin caught you making out in the showers once, he—”

Team shoves him and says, “Can you just answer the question?” in desperation.

Laughing, Mew says, “About the good and bad sex? No, I haven’t. It’s either bad or good. Or—like. I don’t know. Like…bad how?”

Team groans and tips his head back against the brick wall. “I don’t know, that’s the problem. Something’s just…wrong.”

“Wow,” Mew says, shaking his head. “Win’s bad at sex. That’s hard to believe.”

Team sees a flash of white and blue in the parking lot and hisses at him to shut up. “If you talk about this to anyone,” he says, pointing at Mew’s face, “I’ll carry you up to the roof of the building and throw you off it. Twice.”

Mew kisses his finger and says, “Your secret terrible sex is safe with me,” with a wink.

Team glumly watches as Win approaches them.

Who’s he supposed to ask now? Pharm?

Win, Dean, and Pruk used to eat lunch with their classmates or the other swim club members. Whoever the group was, Win and Pruk participated in most conversations while Dean just ate in silence. Or did his homework while he ate in silence.

Then came the paradigm shift.

Now that Dean is dating Pharm, and Pruk is dating Manaow, and Win is…working up to dating Team, they’ve all settled on a new, permanent seating arrangement together. Sometimes, a seventh visitor—usually Del—will join them if there’s space at the table, but for the most part, the six of them are a fixed group now, and they all have their preassigned seats.

Manaow and Pruk always sit across from each other, and Dean and Pharm always sit next to each other. This allows Win and Team to sit next to each other as well, and Win has always just assumed it was chance. That Manaow and Pruk preferred sitting across from each other, not that they were engineering a way for Win to sit with Team.

Win remains fairly sure that none of them knows the extent to which he’s pursuing Team until—

“Are you guys officially dating?”

Manaow asks them one day with zero preamble, and Win has no idea how he’s supposed to react.

He wants to say “yes”, of course they are, but he looks to Team in silence instead, because despite whatever Team thinks about him and his proclivity for ”fooling around”, he’s not going to make any public pronouncements about their relationship before Team’s confirmed that he’s comfortable with it.

Besides, Win wants to hear from Team himself what they are, because it’s not a relationship Win can easily explain himself.

He does know that Team hasn’t told his friends about them. Which is understandable, really. It’s not like Team can give them a simple answer since Win’s never asked Team to be his boyfriend, and Team hasn’t asked Win either. The most accurate answer either of them could give right now is that they have sex sometimes and spend other nights together sleeping platonically so Team can get some rest without the invasion of traumatic memories.

It’s a vague relationship—has been from the beginning—but somewhere along the way, Win realized with slow-dawning wonder that what he feels is clear and absolute. What he feels for Team has a kind of unshakable permanence he never really believed was real.

It’s made the sex better too, for sure.

Over the last several months, Win’s studied and memorized what Team likes. All of his sensitive spots, the pressure he likes, the amount of suction he prefers, all of it. Every time Win puts his hands on Team, his main objective is to make sure not only that Team comes, but that there are powerful aftershocks as well.

Not that he’s saying any of that to Manaow, though.

Ultimately, Team tells her, “No, we’re not dating,” without looking up from his noodles. Then he follows up with a sullen, “Mind your own business,“ that makes Manaow grin.

Win is careful not to react outwardly.

He can sense Pharm studying his face, and Dean has been bouncing his calculating gaze back and forth between him and Team since Manaow asked, so Win makes a snap decision. He glances at his watch without actually reading the time and says, “I have to drop by the library. See you all later.” As he stands up, he glances at Team, who concentrates extra diligently on his food. Pharm and Del at least are kind enough to say goodbye, and Manaow visibly stifles her need to push for more information with a sheepish smile. Dean and Pruk wave and keep eating.

Well.

That’s that then.

They’re not dating, at least not publicly.

Which means nothing has changed from how it was before.

Win makes sure to head in the direction of the library even though he doesn’t actually need anything there. He only chose it because he can kill the next twenty minutes there before his accounting class starts.

He wants to be upset, but he can’t bring himself to feel it with any justification. Team’s friends don’t seem to know he’s gay, not as far as Win can tell. He could ask, but…should he? So much of what he has with Team hinges entirely on what’s unspoken, and Team can be…mulish…when he’s asked direct questions.

He’s halfway across campus and descending rapidly into a murky mood when someone’s arm brushes against his.

Team, feigning nonchalance, says, “I left something in your room last night,” and pretends they’ve been walking together this whole time.

Most of the time, nothing about them makes sense, but sometimes, everything does.

Win’s grin moves slow along his lips. “And? Is it mine now?” he teases.

Team says, “No, but I’m not sure where I left it. I’ll come over later and look.”

There’s a dash of broth on Team’s cheek that wasn’t there before, and Win wonders if Team scarfed down the rest of his lunch so he could catch up. Warmed by his theory, Win slings an arm around Team’s shoulders and tugs him closer. He’s tempted to lick the dried broth from Team’s cheek, but he knows where the boundaries are, so he resists and says, “Sounds good to me.”

To Team’s frustration, the sex they have that night is…unremarkable.

(Just like Team’s blowjobs.)

Win almost stops in the middle of it—that’s how boring and unsatisfying it must be for him.

With Win staring down at Team with his clever eyes, Team focuses on giving nothing away. His hands tighten on Win’s shoulders as he prepares to go on the defensive. He can’t think of anything to say that would persuade Win into believing that there isn’t a problem. They both know there is, and they both know it’s Team’s fault.

After a few seconds, Team leans on the trick he’s used recently and leans up to fit his mouth over Win’s, moaning against his lips and only half-faking it. He has the cover of an erection to back up his sound effects, at least. As Win tries to open his mouth to speak, Team hitches his hips up, drawing Win deeper inside, and lets out a more sincere gasp when his body locks up around him in response.

It’s still not that the sex is bad—it’s just…weird.

Two rounds later, they’re well and truly done for the night, and Team knows the second one was only done out of habit. Team came twice, though, and he’s in desperate need of a shower, but when he tries to make an escape for the bathroom, Win seizes his wrist and says, “Hang on. Talk to me for a sec.”

Since their perfunctory cleanup with wet wipes, the only remaining sources of evidence are the wet spots on the sheets and Win’s hair, chaotic from sweat and the grip of Team’s fist. Win’s nowhere near as ruined after two rounds as he used to look after just one, though. He barely exerted himself at all.

Team fidgets on the side of the bed and rolls his hand to test Win’s grip on his wrist. He could get loose if he wanted to—Win’s not really holding on that tight—but he likes Win’s touch on him, so he allows it.

“Listen,” Win says. “Are you going tell me what’s going on?”

Team is struck by the thought that it’s both unfair and simultaneously fitting to the situation that they’re both naked for the moment when Win decides to ask about this.

With nothing to lose by being honest, Team says, “I don’t know,” and studies Win’s fingers curled around his wrist. The hold is more comforting than restrictive now.

If Team had a better understanding of sex, this conversation wouldn’t even be necessary. He has no idea why the sex got weird. It was fun at first, and exciting, and now it’s…weird. How else is he supposed to describe it when he has no idea what changed?

Team says, “I’m going to take a shower,” and stands up, but Win won’t let go of his wrist.

“You’re not going to figure it out in there by yourself.” Team can’t look at him, but Win’s voice is exasperated enough for him to guess what his expression looks like.

Team shakes Win’s hand free and rolls his eyes. “You just want to shower together.” He heads to the bathroom without waiting for a response.

Team doesn’t lock the door, but Win doesn’t follow him in. The whole shower passes with Team glancing at the door, expecting it to open, but it never does.

When he returns, wearing Win’s clothes and rubbing his hair dry with a towel, Win’s changed the bedsheets and moved to the desk to do his homework, pajama pants on and one foot propped up on the chair with his chin on his knee while he scrolls slowly through some long, long reading assignment.

Just the sight of him is an all-encompassing strike on Team’s senses.

That, at least, has always been consistent.

Team spends the night in Win’s room for the third night in a row. He wakes twice in silence, not from nightmares.

As one of three children, Win is accustomed to waiting for attention. Growing up with a younger sibling made him patient in some ways, and he considers that one of his advantages in trying to pursue something more committed with Team than what they have right now.

But it’s starting to seem like patience won’t be all he needs.

Something’s wrong between them, and having failed every attempt at direct conversation so far, Win squashes his pride and goes to Dean for advice.

He decides to approach him following afternoon practice and doesn’t even try to delay Team from leaving. To Win’s lukewarm pleasure, Team hesitates near the door, but only for a moment, and then he’s gone.

Win sinks down onto the bench, fully dressed and ready to go back to his dorm for a real shower. When the room is empty, Win peers up at Dean’s profile as earnestly as he can and clears his throat until Dean looks over from the competition schedule on the wall.

Win licks his lips, then dives. “I need your advice,” he says.

Dean’s immediate skepticism is a little hurtful, honestly.

“Stop making that face,” Win says, frowning. “I’m serious.”

Dean doesn’t stop making the face, but he does give Win an eloquent rolling gesture with his hand as a kind of “go on” signal.

Win pulls the corner of his mouth tight, unamused, but settles for what he can get. “It’s about sex,” he says.

Dean raises his eyebrows and says, “Nope, bye,” as he heads for the door.

Win jumps up and seizes Dean’s bicep, already halfway into an urgent, “Wait, come on!”

“No way—and let go.”

Win yanks on Dean’s arm to stop him from moving. “I’m not kidding!” Then, when Dean just stares at him, pained, Win presses, “When do I ever come to you for help, huh?”

They’ve known each other for more than six years, throughout high school and up ’til now, and they both know that in all that time, Win has never asked Dean for any serious help with anything. He figures out his problems on his own or he goes to his family, and that’s how he prefers it. For Win to willingly come to Dean for help—that speaks volumes, and they both know it.

Dean sighs and shakes Win’s grip loose. “Fine,” he says. “What? And why me?” He seems to jump to a conclusion on his own and frowns. “Did something happen with Team?”

“No!” Win says. “Well. Okay, no, but it does involve him.“

Dean leans on the nearest locker and waits, his expression already far more judgmental than Win would like it to be. He’s convinced that Dean’s going to stay put this time, though, so Win takes a seat on the bench again and leans back on his hands.

“Look,” Win says, “I know you and Pharm have had sex. I’m just wondering how you…knew what was right for you. Does that make sense?”

Win sees in Dean’s expression the instant he starts taking this conversation seriously.

“What do you mean?” Dean asks.

Win scrunches his nose. He knew Dean would ask that, but he still hasn’t come up with an answer. “I mean…like, sex between guys isn’t the same as sex with a girl, and obviously I know how it works, but—”

“‘Obviously’,” Dean parrots.

“Fuck off,” Win says. “I know what I’m doing, but I think…I’m not…doing it…well.”

It doesn’t feel wonderful to admit it outside his own head, but at least it’s been said and now they’re past the worst part of this conversation. He risks a glance up at Dean’s face and finds more or less what he was expecting: discomfort mixed with mild judgment.

“Shut up,” Win says. He covers his face with both hands and groans.

“I didn’t say anything.” The grin is clear from Dean’s tone. ”What do you think you’re doing wrong?” Before Win can answer, Dean jumps to another conclusion. His tone is much quieter when he asks, “You didn’t hurt him, did you?”

Win drops his hands. “No!” He’s momentarily tempted to launch into a speech proving his technical understanding of all sex—anal and otherwise—but he snaps his mouth shut before he can ruin his own day more than he already has. He settles for a tart, “I said I know what I’m doing.”

Dean holds both hands up as a peace gesture. “So if it’s not that, then what? I don’t want to guess anymore.”

“I think we both don’t want that,” Win says.

Still, the words he needs elude him, so he just allows his mouth to run wild. “Nothing’s bad. I just get the feeling he wants something I’m not giving him, and he doesn’t want some of what we’re doing, but maybe, like…there’s something else he wants that I’m not thinking of, but he won’t tell me, so I don’t know what.”

Dean’s expression hasn’t changed, but his eyes unfocus for a bit. Then he nods and says, “I’m not the one you should talk to about this.“

Win gives him a flat scowl. “Thanks, asshole.”

Dean raises his eyebrows. “I don’t have any experience in not-bad-but-not-good sex,” he says. “What do you want me to do, lie?”

“Brag, brag, brag,” Win mutters, rubbing his forehead.

Dean taps Win’s ankle with his foot. “Why don’t you ask Sorn?” he suggests.

Win grimaces in confusion. “Sorn? Why?“

“Because he’s like you. Also, he’s older than us, and he’s been dating Sin for a long time,” Dean says. “And I can’t think of anyone else.”

Win keeps staring at him for a few seconds, then says, “Just say the last thing, since that’s the only real reason.”

Dean snorts and pushes off the lockers. As he opens the door, he calls over his shoulder, “Don’t ask me for sex advice again!”

Win takes off his sandal and chucks it at Dean’s terrible handsome head, only a little disappointed when it ricochets off the closing door instead.

He never should have taken pity on that sad little boy at the pool.

Team and Pharm have been staring at each other across a table in the cooking club’s empty room for the last ten seconds. Pharm looks increasingly more concerned, his apron neatly folded by his elbow and his backpack next to him on the floor, as prepared to go home as he was a minute ago when Team asked him to stay after the other cooking club members had gone.

Team opens his mouth, then closes it.

Pharm asks, “Is this about your sex life with Win?” with far too much certainty in his eyes. And the seed of a smirk at the corner of his mouth.

There’s a pause.

Then Team says, “Nope, never mind,” and bolts.

Fuck it.

He’ll leave the planet.

Win doesn’t think of Sorn as a close friend the way Dean does, but they’re friendly.

Win met Sorn a few months after meeting Dean. Sorn was already dating Sin at the time, and the two of them were the first same-sex couple Win ever met. He’s always liked both of them, but he’s never felt the urge to contact either of them just to hang out.

It makes contacting Sorn for advice about something so personal extremely awkward.

Win steels himself and texts in the morning, asking if he can drop by the restaurant to ask Sorn’s advice about something that Dean refused to help him with. Ten minutes later, Sorn sends back a smirking tiger stamp and the message: I’m closing the restaurant after lunch tomorrow to take Sin out for his birthday, so I can spare about thirty minutes if you think that’ll be long enough.

Win would rather drown himself than take any more than ten for this, so he agrees.

After class on Thursday, he bequeaths his vice presidential duties to Pruk with Dean’s blessing (“no” → “you skipped practice last month for the second time this semester because you ate too much of Pharm’s cooking—I’ve never even been late” → “fine”), and rides his motorcycle to Sorn’s restaurant. The parking lot is completely cleared out except for Sorn’s car, and the Closed sign hangs resolutely on the front door.

How must Sin feel that Sorn loves him enough to shut down his business in the middle of the day just for him?

As Win pushes the door open, Sorn stands up from wiping one of the tables, cleaner bottle in hand. “Hey,” he says. He has an easy smile, but it’s muted. He’s quiet like Dean, but with an extra layer of sarcasm that appeals profoundly to Win. They’d probably be closer if they had more in common apart from Dean and good taste in men.

Win offers a wai in return. “Sorry I’m intruding on you like this—”

Sorn says, “Don’t worry about it,” and gestures to the table. “Have a seat. Let’s talk.”

Win sits and watches Sorn grab a water pitcher and two cups from a nearby table. Win can count on one hand the number of times he and Sorn have hung out without Dean, but Win is nothing if not a charismatic people person, so he tries not to feel the nerves eating at his determination to do this.

Team is worth it.

Worth anything.

He hasn’t looked at his phone since he left his last class, and he wonders if Team texted him when he found out that Win wouldn’t be at practice. Win’s never, ever missed a practice before, and he has no idea what Dean said to explain his absence. Maybe Team thinks he’s sick. (Would he worry?

He would.

Probably.)

“So,” Sorn says, “what’s going wrong with your sex life?”

While Sorn pours water for them both, Win groans and drops his head back against the wall with a thunk.

When he lifts his head again, Sorn’s grinning against the rim of his own cup. “Dean and I keep no secrets from each other,” he says with mock solemnity.

Win nods to himself—he should have seen this coming—and sighs. “You haven’t met Team, but—”

“He’s the fast one,” Sorn says. “I know. I listen to the swim talk sometimes.”

Warmth fills Win’s chest. “Yeah,” he says. “He’s fantastic. Starting to get serious offers, too. Next Saturday, he’s going to—anyway, that’s not related.” He rubs at his hairline and attempts to organize his thoughts and edit out what doesn’t need mentioning.

Sorn sips his water and kindly allows him the silence.

“Okay so,” Win says, “we’ve been—for lack of a better term—‘fooling around’ for a while. It’s been good, really great, ever since the beginning, but over the last few weeks I’ve noticed him acting strange when we do it, and he won’t tell me why. He wants to, but he seems…unsatisfied. I don’t want to guess why, but I can’t get him to talk to me, so I don’t know how to fix what I’m doing wrong.”

Sorn nods, his eyebrows pulled in close.

At least he’s nice enough to listen like a mature adult.

(Probably because he is.)

“How do you know the problem’s with you?” Sorn asks. “Maybe it’s him.”

Win frowns. That’s…huh.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he admits. “I just assumed—”

Sorn wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. “Nope, bad idea. Don’t do that.”

Win makes a helpless noise and slumps lower in his seat. “What am I supposed to do if he won’t talk to me?” He takes a sullen gulp of water and then cradles the cup between both hands on the table.

“You just have to figure out how to talk to each other,” Sorn says. “There’s no secret, Win. You just have to learn how to communicate with each other.”

“I’ve tried,” Win insists. “I’ve asked him multiple times, but he won’t answer me. He just…deflects, and…runs off to the shower.”

Sorn studies his face for a long moment, then smiles a fond, almost pitying smile. “Win, how old is Team?” he asks.

Win glares at him. Exactly how much has Dean said to him? “Eighteen,” Win says, flat.

“Okay,” Sorn says, still visibly amused. “Now, I don’t want to assume, but would I be correct in guessing that Team’s never been with another man before?”

Win answers with a nod. He has an idea of where this is going.

Sorn hums, running his finger through the circle of condensation left on the table by his cup. He grabs the towel from the next table and swipes over the beads as he says, “Then this is all new to him, and it’s possible that he’s figuring out what he likes and doesn’t like. He probably won’t answer you because he’s embarrassed. Or maybe he doesn’t even know.” He chucks the towel at Win’s face, grinning when Win catches it mid-air and puts it back on the table next to them. “You, on the other hand, are two years older with more experience. Help him out. What confused you when you were with a guy for the first time?”

Win opens his mouth, but he doesn’t respond to that right away.

Instead, he thinks back.

His first time, he was…seventeen? Maybe a few months out. He spent the day with a friend he hadn’t seen since junior high, and as the hours passed, Win caught more and more signs that his friend was into him. The guy kept touching his arm, tracing the ink on Win’s skin, marveling at how well it suited him and holding eye contact for far too long. Win had intended to go home after they ate dinner, but he’d never even kissed a guy at that point, and he wanted to kiss this one, so he ended up back at the guy’s house.

In the guy’s bedroom, they started out sitting across the room from each other, throwing a plush football back and forth. Then they moved to the floor, a little closer to each other. Finally his friend closed the gap between them to show Win a video on his phone. Win decided to kiss him, and his friend put down his phone to focus on kissing Win back.

Neither of them had met up with the intention of hooking up (at least that’s what his friend said later), but Win’s friend did have some condoms hidden in a rolled-up sock in his drawer. He’d never used them, he claimed, but Win kind of doubts that to this day considering how effortlessly he got one on Win.

“When are your parents coming home?” Win asked him. He knew the second he allowed his brain to accept his current reality of straddling a guy’s lap, he wasn’t going to be able to divert his focus to anything else.

His friend pulled him down by the neck and said, “I don’t know, they didn’t say. Maybe just try to be quiet,” before kissing him.

Still, nothing was confusing for Win about that first time. Well, maybe just that his friend didn’t seem to want to top, something Win had assumed they’d both want to do. It all just felt momentous because it was new. Every step, from the condom to sorting out a position to where on the bed Win should brace his hands to where on his friend’s body he was allowed to touch, felt significant.

He doesn’t have a crystal clear recollection of it all now, but his first time with a guy definitely stands out from his first time with a girl. That kind of sex, at least, he’d heard about in vivid, excruciating detail from countless sources. There were no surprises that time. They were equally fun, too. Not the best he’s ever had, of course, but decent. No horror stories.

With this in mind, he gives Sorn a tiny frown. “Have you and Sin—?”

Sorn’s eyebrows rocket up. “Have we what?” he asks, edged.

Win sighs. “I’m just asking. I’m not going to tell anyone. Unlike you, I do keep secrets from Dean.” When Sorn continues to stare at him, with a layer of skepticism thick in the air, Win presses, “C’mon, I can’t talk about this with the majority of my friends, and Dean’s being a dick about it.”

Sorn waves his hand. “All right, all right, I get it. Be grateful you have Dean, though. I didn’t have anyone.” He puts his chin in his hand and visibly considers what to say while studying Win’s face. Then he says, “I’m not telling you specifics, because Sin will murder me if I do, but let’s just say that yes, we’ve had problems in bed, and the only way we got through them was by talking about them. You’re not getting around that part. You’re just gonna have to figure out how to make Team talk to you.”

Win accepts that with as much grace as he can, then melts down his chair with a sigh.

Sorn laughs—a little too brightly. “Please don’t tell me you’re realizing for the first time that relationships take work,” he says.

“Shut up,” Win says into his hands.

He’ll do whatever he needs to.

Team is worth it.

Practice without Win is bizarre. Surreal, even.

It’s not that Pruk is bad or anything. He does a decent job in Win’s place. He’s competent, he knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and he knows when and where he’s needed. If Team had never experienced a practice with Win in charge, he’d probably call Pruk the perfect vice president for the club.

But Team notices a very distinct difference in his performance without Win there snapping at him when he lags. Pruk shouts, but he only does it to be heard over the thrashing water. There’s no urgency in his voice, no fire in his eyes as he watches Team swim, no steep expectations that Team could potentially disappoint if he underperforms.

When practice ends, Dean actually praises him and Pruk slaps his back with a grin, but it doesn’t give Team any boost or sense of pride in himself. He smiles, even though he could have done even better. He can feel the untapped energy still simmering inside him as he showers. He could have been faster. His form could have been cleaner. He could have been better. He slacked off, even if Dean and Pruk couldn’t tell.

He’s good at this, he knows he is, and he’s gotten even better since he joined this club, but he didn’t realize until now how much of his improvement is because Win demanded it from him. At that first tryout, Dean recognized how good Team was, but Win saw how good Team could be. Win never allows Team to give anything but his best.

The irritation Team’s carried toward Win’s strictness for months and months suddenly disintegrates upon close inspection. The training Win’s put him through has been nightmarish, but he’s stronger, and faster, and better than he was before it.

He’s never showed Win any appreciation for it, either.

Or really…anything Win’s done for him.

In a curiously fragile state of mind, Team drives himself back to their building. What is Win even doing that he’d miss practice completely? In the locker room, Dean only told them that Pruk would be filling in for Win, and when Team blurted, “Where is he?“ Dean said, “He has something to do,” and Team stuffed down his follow-up questions so he wouldn’t look disappointed.

As it was, Mew and Gin and Low all smirked at him, so he probably wasn’t especially subtle.

As Team walks into the elevator of his building, he considers the buttons for floors nine and ten, wondering if Win’s back from wherever he skipped practice to go. He could stop by Win’s room, just in case. But the opacity is draining from the walls of indifference that Team normally hides behind, and he’s not sure what effect seeing Win in person will have on him.

He can’t choose a button.

Win decides for him.

The familiar hand moves in front of Team’s and thumbs the button for the tenth floor. Team watches, dazed, as Win smiles at him and leans his shoulder on the back wall.

“Hia,” Team says. The raw emotion in his voice makes him flinch.

Win makes a thorough study of Team’s face, and as they pass the fifth floor, he says, “Do you want to come over?” He nods his chin at the button panel. “You didn’t press anything.”

Team glances up at the display and says nothing—does nothing—as they pass the ninth floor.

Win exhales a breath of amusement, and when the doors open on the tenth, he leads Team out by the hand. Not to be outdone, Team interlocks their fingers and pointedly doesn’t react when Win smiles at him. He wants to be able to do these kinds of things without Win making a big deal out of them.

As Win unlocks his door, Team asks, “Where were you, hia?”

Win says, “With a friend,” and then, in the same tone, “How was practice?”

Over the next thirty minutes, Team watches Win from the bed with scrupulous attention. He watches Win move around the room, discarding his club jacket in the laundry hamper, pulling his hair tie loose, rolling the tension out of his shoulders—

He seems fine.

But.

Win’s never missed practice—he’s never even been late, according to the older members of the club. What could have prevented him from being there?

“What kind of friend, hia?” Team asks.

Win, leaning over his desk and scrolling through a list of notifications on his laptop, says, “What do you mean?”

“The friend you were with today.”

Win glances over his shoulder at Team. Frowns.

With all possible complex thought muted under the thundering of his heartbeat, Team asks again, “What kind of friend are they?“

Win doesn’t offer an outward reaction for a few seconds. Then he abandons his laptop entirely and comes to sit on the end of the bed, close enough to Team that their knees touch.

Team pushes back and puts a few centimeters of space between them.

Win says, “Is this what jealousy looks like on you?” with a slow grin.

“No.”

Win grins as if he’d said “yes”. He braces a hand on the bed between them and leans closer. “It’s a good look. Hot.”

With his free hand, Win catches Team’s chin between his fingers. Team thinks about breaking free, but he’s surprised to find that he doesn’t want to.

“My friend’s name is Sorn,” Win says. The tip of his nose grazes Team’s, and from one of Team’s strongest memories spills cloying humidity and shrill insect noise and sensations of Win’s lips moving gently over his. “He’s even more platonic a friend than Dean is, and I went to talk to him about you, if that makes you feel better.”

Team says, “I’m not jealous,” and surges in to kiss him.

Win’s hands press against Team’s chest, but he isn’t exactly trying to end the kiss, his lips as enthusiastic as ever against Team’s and his fingers curling slowly into the fabric of Team’s collar. A few seconds later, however, he manages, “Wait,” and ducks out of reach.

Team makes a noise on the borderline between exasperation and urgency. “What?”

Win releases Team’s collar and moves his hand up to Team’s neck, his thumb soft on the curve of Team’s jaw. “Let me say something,” he says, quiet and serious. “I’ve been worried about you.” His thumb strokes back to the sensitive spot behind Team’s ear. “You know why, right?”

Team thinks about lying.

He nods instead.

When Win nods in return and opens his mouth to continue, Team decides he’s had enough of doing this Win’s way. Had enough of running, which he said he’d stop doing, and enough of confusion, which won’t go away until he confronts it.

He knocks Win’s hand aside and seizes the front of his shirt, hauling him higher up the bed and then shoving him firmly onto his back. Team doesn’t fail to notice the way Win’s pupils expand as Team straddles his hips, nor Win’s sharp inhale as Team holds his shoulders down.

Nor the way Team’s body burns in response to both.

Huh.

Team squeezes Win’s shoulders and then moves his hands to hold down Win’s biceps instead. He remembers how easy it was for Win to flip this around on him. It’s not happening this time.

Win’s lips slant in a distinct, filthy curve of understanding. “Team,” he says, rough.

That’s it.

That’s it.

Team moves one hand to Win’s neck, a mirror of Win’s hold on him just now, and kisses him with unrelenting urgency. Win’s startled breath against Team’s lips is a new sound between them, and it shreds the vestiges of Team’s hesitation.

Sensing that Win’s not tempted to change the direction of this on him anytime soon, Team releases Win’s other bicep. Immediately, both of Win’s hands slide into his hair and grip tight, his breath heavy as Team gives his lower lip a bite.

“You’ve been paying attention to what I like, huh?” Win asks, eyes closed.

Team stares at his face, breath uneven. Have I?

“Not really,” Team admits. “I just wanted you to do what I wanted for once.”

Win opens his eyes and frowns, and through the haze between them, something in Win seems to lock into place. His hands stroke from Team’s hair to clasp behind the back of his neck, then draw Team down for a simple press of lips. He holds Team close for a moment, studying his eyes, then smiles.

“Tell me what you want, baby,” Win says.

Four rounds later, content with the universe and his purpose in life and other indications of sublimity that won’t last past the afterglow, Team says, “I think I’d rather be on top.”

Win, mid-yawn, says, “Think we figured that out an hour ago, babe.” He grabs the side of Team’s head and kisses his cheek with a wet smack. “But I’m glad you know what you want.”

Team smiles, then preens. He puts his hands behind his head and enjoys his well-earned, wrung-out, bone-deep exhaustion. The room reeks of sex in a way Team didn’t know it could, and the sheets are…frankly, past all hope.

“I think you’ll have to get new sheets, hia.”

Win groans. “Stop.” He smacks Team’s chest, a simple move that only requires him to extend his arm and drop it. “I was trying not to think about it. Do you have any idea how expensive these were?”

Team runs his hand over one of the dry areas and hums. “They feel really nice.”

“Yes, Team,” Win says, rolling his eyes. “That’s the point.”

Grinning, Team turns onto his side and reaches out to trace the triangles inked into Win’s forearm. “Hia?”

Win’s eyes are shut. He looks destroyed. “Mm.”

“Thank you.”

Win rolls his head to the side and peeks one eye open. “For what?” he asks.

Team lifts a shoulder and looks around them to indicate—well, everything.

Win’s small smile widens, and with lazy determination, he picks up Team’s wrist and kisses the back of his hand. “You’re welcome, baby.” Then, drowsy and affectionate, he grazes Team’s lax fingers over his own cheek.

Team continues the motion on his own, rubbing his thumb over one of the high cheekbones he admires so often.

He still can’t believe he gets to do this with someone like Win. Not only because Win is gorgeous, but because Win listens to him and cares about him.

“Maybe we should sleep in my bed tonight,” Team says. His pride in ruining Win’s room with the power of relentless sex is fading fast.

“Fine,” Win says, then yawns again. “Shower, then sleep—fuck, what time is it?”

Team cranes his neck to check the clock above Win’s bed and grimaces. “You don’t wanna know.”

Win groans and, with what may be his last burst of strength for the foreseeable future, pushes himself out of bed and makes his way to the shower. A lick of heat rises in Team’s belly at the sight of the scratch marks scoring Win’s back.

Win hangs on the doorframe of the bathroom and raises his eyebrows at Team. “Coming?” he says.

Team thinks about it. I guess now’s as good a time as any to practice blowjobs.

“Sure.”

At practice hours later, Dean stands next to him and says, “Win,” under his breath.

Win is tracking Team’s progress down the lane, noting and deciding not to call out the various ways in which Team is dragging. It’s half his fault, after all. “Hm?”

What happened to your back?”

“Got fucked by a horny leopard.”

Dean grimaces. “You didn’t have to say it like that,” he says.

Win smirks, eyes still on Team as he flip turns off the far end. “I’m aware.”

Dean says, “If this is advice Sorn gave you, I’m doubly disturbed.”

Win rolls his eyes. “He just told me to communicate with Team better.”

“Uh huh. And that led to—” Dean tugs at Win’s jersey. “You know you have to swim today, right?”

“You’re lucky I’m standing. Halfway through the third round, he figured out how flexible I am, but he wanted to try this thing with my leg over my head, so—”

“Walking away forever now,” Dean says, doing just that. “Going to go set fire to my ears.”

“Have fun,” Win says absently. Team finishes his last lap behind Low of all people and cringes when he hears his time.

By the end of practice, the entire club has definitely noticed how light the workout was, and while Win hoped they’d chalk it up to Win deciding to be kind upon his return after his one-practice absence, several of the guys glance at Team with suspicion as they drift out of the locker room in pairs and groups.

Dean leaves without looking at either of them, and Win smirks at the back of his head until their brave president has gone through the door, leaving Win and Team alone.

Despite the deep, resounding aches in muscles Win has never even known he had before, he makes his way from the table over to lean on the locker beside Team’s.

“Hey,” he says, offering a warm smile.

Team glances up at him from his phone screen. His hair is dry, he’s fully dressed in his uniform, and his backpack is balanced between the edge of his open locker and his stomach.

“Were you waiting for me?” Win asks, smiling wider.

Team says, “No, I was texting Pharm,” and sticks his tongue out. Then, probably realizing that he’s extending an invitation by doing that, Team pulls it back in and shoulders his backpack. “What class do you have next?” he asks.

Win slides an arm around Team’s neck and kisses his cheek, lingering there with his lips pressed to Team’s skin just because he can. Reveling when Team leans into it just a little. “Maybe I’ll follow you to yours,” Win says. “Been a while since I took English.”

“Stop memorizing my class schedule, hia.”

“See, babe, the thing about memorizing—”

“Ugh. Stop.”

They do part ways, of course, and reconvene again a few hours later at lunch.

While Pharm tells the table about his mother’s impending trip to Thailand, Team takes a clump of Win’s noodles, and Win helps himself to Team’s extra fried egg.

Across the table, Manaow is channeling a tea kettle in its final moments before the boiling point. Win pretends ignorance even though he’s been preparing for this moment ever since Pruk and Dean saw his back this morning.

He has three prepared statements, all of which are sarcastic and designed to divert attention entirely to Dean.

Then Team catches him off guard. He touches the inside of Win’s wrist, then skates down Win’s palm and interlocks their fingers.

Win’s mind is wiped blank.

There’s not a single word in his mind right now except, What?

After a cursory glance at Manaow—whose eyes seem to be trying to laser-cut through the table— Win checks on Team and startles when he finds Team already openly staring at him. The grip on Win’s hand tightens, and Team’s lips quirk with a question.

What?

Wow!” Manaow blurts in English. “Are you two holding hands under the table?”

Half the courtyard glances at their table.

“Manaow,” Pruk says through a laugh. “C’mon.”

Pharm and Dean stop eating entirely and instead focus their attention on their respective best friends.

Just because their table has gone quiet doesn’t mean the people nearby have, and the white noise of whispering and murmuring around them is just enough to cover Win’s voice when he moves close to Team’s ear and whispers, “Whatever you want to say, I’ll go along with.”

Team’s expression twists, and Team’s hand slowly becomes a vice around Win’s.

Before Win has even drawn fully away from him, Team says, “We’re dating,” and slams their joined hands onto the table.

Win openly stares at him, mouth parted.

For a suspended moment—specifically one and a half full seconds, as multiple angles of video footage from several classmates will later confirm—dozens of reactions around them build in silence, but Team just offers Win a small and sheepish grin.

Win’s responding smile lasts long after lunch is over, and the phantom sensation of Team’s hand holding his lasts even longer still.

Seems like they’re dating publicly now.

coda

[hey team, remember when you asked me about good sex and bad sex?]

[no]
[that never happened]

[yes it did]
[anyway i got the impression from win’s photo session that you two are probably having good sex now so congrats buddy! also teach me your ways cos damn.]

[………what photo session]

[win was taking selfies of his back in the shower mirror, bro]

[………………]
[what do we have to do to stop you guys from looking at us in the locker room]

[be more boring]

[uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh]