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Shine Until There’s Nothing Left But You

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Tin was the only one he knew that took such good care of his love bell. He treated it as the treasure it was, well to him at least. It was that life line that kept him going every day. The knowledge that out there, somewhere, someone would love him.

There may have been love in Tin’s early life, before his memories started, but even then he didn’t think it was there. His father had an affair with his mother and he was the result. He’d done everything he could to hide the dirty little secret that was this son. He’d shipped his mother and him off to England where he wouldn’t have to see them or think about them aside from monthly allowances directly deposited to their accounts.

His mother resented him because she’d been forced to leave her home and family because of him. Even when she’d eventually found her soulmate in England she still avoided and resented him as he was now a black stain on her perfect match.

When it came time for university he chose a school back in Thailand. He said it was because he wanted to get in touch with his heritage and culture, but in reality he wanted to be alone. He knew his father would never recognize him, and he couldn’t stand being near his mother any more. So he moved. Picked his whole life up and moved back to Thailand to start new.

Due to being raised in England he was a part of the International department in his college. Most of the classes were taught in English to better prepare them for the outside world. He did his best to keep to himself. He didn’t want friends. He just wanted to learn and hopefully find his soulmate soon.

Despite his best efforts to keep everyone at a distance he somehow managed to pick up a friend. Though, he was sure that friend was not quite the right descriptor. This guy had started eating lunch with him every day. They didn’t really talk. Tin because he didn’t want to, and him because well he wasn’t really sure. At least not at first.

They’d only exchanged the most basic of pleasantries. Names, faculties, and ‘is this seat taken’. Good was part of the Sports Medicine faculty and was on the soccer team. Tin thought it was weird that he was eating in the IC cafeteria, but didn’t give it too much thought. Maybe he enjoyed the quiet like Tin did.

Tin got used to the routine. It was nice to not feel quite so alone in those moments. When the boy didn’t show up for a couple days he grew a bit concerned. He’d gotten accustomed to the boy’s quiet companionship. On the third day he went looking for him. It was silly really he didn’t even know where to start. He barely knew the boy.

He asked one of the guys in his class if he knew how to get to the soccer field. It seemed like a good place to start. The boy laughed and said sure, his soulmate was on the team. When the class ended he offered to walk with him over there so he wouldn’t get lost.

“Can I ask why you’re looking for the soccer field?” the boy asked.

“Uh, well this guy that usually eats lunch with me stopped showing up.”

“Why don’t you just message him?”

“I don’t have his number or Line ID.”

“How can you not have a way of contacting your friend? In this day and age that seems a little far-fetched.”

“Uh…well I don’t think we’re really friends. We just eat together.”

“If you’re going out of your way to find him then that has to mean you’re more than lunch buddies. Don’t you think?”

“I don’t know.”

They continued on until they arrived at the soccer field. As the boy ran off to find his soulmate he gave a cheerful wave while wishing him luck on finding his friend.

As he watched the boy practically sprint out to the soccer field he felt a pang of jealousy clench his heart. This boy was so lucky to have found his soulmate already. To know what that felt like. To know he was loved unconditionally. Sometimes the world felt so unfair. He reached up and grasped his own bell that he kept on a chain around his neck. With one last wistful look at the boy he strode forward into the stands to get a better look at the field.

As his eyes began their search looking for his lunch companion. At this distance, though, and with everyone pretty much wearing the same thing, he knew he didn’t stand much of a chance. Still it was nice to be around the energy the players exuded. He didn’t notice his classmate talking to a shorter boy and pointing up at the stands. He was just enjoying watching the boys chasing the ball back and forth across the field.
“P’Tin why are you here?” came a soft drawl beside him.

He looked up to see Good staring down at him with a mildly perplexed look on his face.

“P’Pete told P’Ae you were here looking for someone. I was surprised to see you sitting here” the boy continued in his slow deliberate way.

His soft and methodical way of speaking is one of the reasons Tin enjoyed his company. It was such a nice change from the constant banter and boisterous nature of most people. It was like the eye of a typhoon.

“You weren’t at lunch the past few days. I guess I got a little worried. Sorry to interrupt you. I’ll go.”

“Oh sorry,” came the even reply. “We have a big match coming up and P’No and P’Type called for extra practices. I should have told you.”

“No worries. Again sorry to bother you. I’ll see you later.” With that he rose to leave with a small wai.

“Phone.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Give me your phone, I’ll give you my Line ID so you won’t have to worry.”

“Oh, okay. You sure?” Tin handed his phone over after receiving a curt nod.

He stared at his phone looking at the new contact. It was the only one in there aside from his mother, and she was only in there out of necessity.

“I probably won’t be able to make it to lunch the rest of the week” Good intoned slowly. “Our match is Saturday, but if you want to get a hold of me just send a message.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Good turned and just walked away. No good-bye or talk to you later. It was his way. Another reason Tin liked him. He didn’t mince words. If he was done talking he was done and he’d just walk off. Most people probably found him cold or stupid because of his way of talking, but Tin liked it.

He looked out on the field again before making his way back to his faculty. He wasn’t going to have a chance to eat, but that’s okay. He’d at least found Good and knew that he was okay. He smiled to himself as he looked at his phone again with Good’s ID pulled up.

“You found your friend!” came the cheerful cry as Pete ran up behind him and linked his arm into his.

“Honestly I didn’t think it’d be Ai’Good, he’s a little weird. I didn’t know he actually had any friends outside of P’Can, and even then I don’t know why they’re friends. They’re such polar opposites. Maybe that’s why though.”

Tin looked at the boy hooked on his arm. His initial response was to pull away and glare at the boy to make him leave, but it seems like today was full of surprises because he found he really didn’t mind. The chatter or the touch, both felt nice. He wondered if this was what it felt like to have friends.

The next few weeks brought new joy into Tin’s life. Pete had pretty much adopted him and actively sought him out in between classes. A few days later Tin had a second contact on his phone. Pete was a lot more talkative, but not so much that he was annoying. Tin still enjoyed his lunches the best because Good was such a calming force. It was like a palate cleanse in the middle of the day.

He found himself sending out messages to Pete and even Good from time to time when he found his dorm room a bit too quiet at the end of the day. Pete was always happy to chat back with him, at least until Ae pulled his attention away. Good was the same in text or in person. A man of few words. Even still Tin found himself really enjoying himself.

As exams drew near he found himself going to the library most evenings. He didn’t really need to be there, he had always studied alone, but something about the soft murmurs and sounds of pages turning made it seem less tedious.

One night he found himself sitting there and couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. If his younger self could have seen him now he’d be shocked. Tin Medthanan sitting in a library enjoying the sounds. Having a reason to look at his phone because he has friends that message him. The lonely resented child he had been would look at him in awe.

“What has you smiling like that?” came the cheerful quip as Pete took a seat opposite him.

“Nothing” he replied as he looked at the smiling boy and couldn’t stop his own smile from mirroring.

“Somehow I don’t believe you, but that’s up to you. Ae said he saw you so I had to come say hi. Do you have any plans tomorrow afternoon?

“Perfect! You do now.” Pete said enthusiastically while giving a soft clap after Tin had shaken his head in the negative.

Tin found himself just staring at the sweet boy whose wide eyes literally had stars in them when he smiled. Ae was a lucky guy he found himself thinking.

“Uh,” he started hesitantly. “What plans?”

“There’s a soccer match tomorrow, and all of Ae’s friends are too busy studying to go with me. So you’re going to go with me so I don’t have to sit alone. Plus you can cheer for Good.”

“But…”

“But nothing. I’ve seen your study scores. You can miss a few hours to come watch the match.”

“I don’t know anything about soccer.”

“Silly, I don’t either! I just go and cheer when people on our side of the stadium do. C’mon it’ll do you good to get out. Please please please!!!” Pete pleaded with him, turning his eyes towards him and making sure they were opened as wide as he could.

How does Ae ever get his way when he gets faced with those damn puppy eyes? Tin knew he’d give in. You couldn’t say no to Pete when he looked at you like that. He’d tried once, but that had ended badly. The boy could cry on cue and when his large brown eyes filled with tears and his lip began to tremble you knew you had to give in. No one was that heartless.

“Okay. I’ll go” he replied with a deep sigh.

“Yay! The match is at 11:30 so I’ll come pick you up. Line me your address and we’ll sync up from there. I gotta get back to Ae. See you tomorrow!”

With that the boy got up and scampered off in search of Ae. Tin found himself shaking his head. He had plans. Plans with a friend. Plans that didn’t involve studying. He couldn’t stop the smile from filling his face.

He found himself having a hard time sleeping that night. He was too nervous and excited about tomorrow. He’d sent Good a message saying that he was coming to the game tomorrow. In true Good fashion he received a ‘cool’ in response.

They’d started talking more on their lunches. Not every day, but from time to time. Tin found that Good had joined the soccer team because his best friend Can had wanted someone he knew on the team. He wasn’t good enough to play the main string, but he could hold his own. He had 3 younger siblings that kept his mom and dad busy. He didn’t get to go home as much as he’d like, but when he did he stayed as long as he could to give everyone as much attention as he could.

Tin couldn’t picture the quiet languid guy chasing siblings around or doing anything that involved small children, but he knew people held many secrets and identities.

He’d told the other boy a little about his past. Mostly the challenges of growing up in England. The cold drizzly rain was something he didn’t miss at all. He did miss the snow though. He told Good if he ever got the chance he needed to experience snow. It was peaceful.

Tin’s first soccer match was a lot of fun despite him not knowing what was going on. The enthusiastic crowd more than made up for the confusion. He followed Pete’s lead and just cheered when the people surrounding him did. Afterwards Pete invited him to join him and some of the team, mainly Ae, for a celebratory dinner.

They ended up in some noodle place all gathered around a large table. Ae and Pete sat near him so he wouldn’t feel so lost. After a while he felt someone sit down on his other side.

“Did you enjoy the game?” the slow drawl hit his ears.

“I did, even if I did know what was going on it was still fun.”

“Good, I made Can promise to get us the win just for you.”

“Really?”

“Ah no, I told him if he won I’d buy him dinner.”

“P’Good has jokes I see. Well either way I’m glad you won. Where is P’Can?”

“He had to go home. Some drama or whatever with his sister.” The slowed speech was accompanied with an equally slow eye roll.

Tin found himself chuckling as he returned to his food. The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly. After they all finished eating they split ways as exams started Monday and everyone needed to get back to studying. Tin found it a bit hard to focus that night. His brain was still filled with the day's events.

He’d sent off a quick message to Pete thanking him for the invite and letting him know he’d had a good time. As he sat there remembering how good of a day he had he should have known that things were going too well. He should have known that happiness was never meant to be his. He didn’t deserve it.

His mother called under the guise of checking in on him. Really she wanted to tell him he was going to have to move back to England at the end of the school year. His father had found out he was back in Thailand and was not happy about it. His legitimate son was due to attend that university and he didn’t want them to have anything to do with each other. Since he was extremely wealthy and well connected Tin had no other choice but to obey.

He felt his world crumble as his mom ended their call. He felt so lost and betrayed. He was nothing more than a pawn to be shuffled around when he got in the way. They didn’t care what he wanted or what he thought. He was just something to be sacrificed and forgotten.
He crawled into the shower and turned the water on as hot as he could stand it. He just huddled there under the spray crying and crying. Wishing to know what was so wrong with him that his own mother could not love him. Could so easily discard him and leave him to the whims of a father who could move the world if he so pleased.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat in the shower crying and wishing he could just end everything. He just wanted to not exist anymore. Yet as the water eventually cooled and chilled the bell around his neck he knew he couldn’t give up. His soulmate was out there somewhere. If he gave up now he’d hurt them in the end. What if they, like him, were holding on just for him? No, he couldn’t do that.

Eventually he was able to pull himself out of the shower and dry off. He spent the rest of the night buried in his bed holding tight to his bell until exhaustion finally took him down. By the time exams rolled around Monday he had dark circles under his eyes, and was walking around with a hollow look on his face.

He’d made up his mind over the weekend that the best thing he could do was to isolate himself. He knew he’d have to leave at the end of the year. There wasn’t much point to keep his friendships going. It was the best thing for everyone.

When he entered the first exam room he sat in a new spot so he wouldn’t have to deal with Pete. He knew out of everyone Pete would take this the hardest, but he couldn’t take the sad eyes today or the questions that would follow.

As the rest of the students filed in he felt his phone vibrate with a notification. He pulled it out and read the message from Pete.

Pete: [You look like you had a rough weekend. I’m guessing because you’re sitting over there you’re not ready to talk about it. If you need someone to talk to I’m here if/when you’re ready. =3 ]

He looked up and caught the boys smile as he looked at him and he felt tears prickle in his eyes. Fuck him. Pete was too good and kind to live in this kind of world. He gave the man a watery smile and soft nod before returning his gaze to his desk willing the tears not to fall. Not yet. He needed to get through this test first.

When he finished he rushed out of the room rushing directly to the bathroom where he spent a good fifteen minutes pulling himself together again.

“Come on Tin” he told himself. “You’ve done this before. You know how to shut people out. This is no different than any other time.”

Except deep down he knew it wasn’t the same this time. He’d finally made a life that was his. Found friends that genuinely seemed to like him. This time he truly had things to lose, and he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to do that. With one last look in the mirror and a deep sigh he turned and headed for the canteen. At least with exams going on he’d get to eat in peace. Everyone was trying to get those last few precious moments to study in.

“Pete told Ae that you seemed to be having a bad day, and he told me so I came to see if I could help.”

Tin looked at the figure who had interrupted his lunch time brood session with a puzzled look. Damnit all to hell. Of course Pete would tell Ae, but he didn’t think Ae would tell Good, or that Good would confront him about it.

“I’m just going to sit here” the other boy intoned softly.

Tin appreciated him not pushing the issue. In his own way Good was being that calming force that only he could be. Some days he wished that Good was his soulmate. He could use that calm in his life. That steady presence that never once let you feel like you were too much, or that it would ever fail you.

As he hung his head with such a selfish thought he couldn’t keep down the sob that finally made its way past his lips, and with that the flood gates broke and his tears fell and all he could get out were sobs. He felt Good move to sit beside him and wrap his arm around his shoulders. This caused him just to cry harder.

After a while he heard Pete and Ae’s voices whispering softly with Good. He figured Good had texted one of them about the situation. Pete wrapped him in a giant hug before getting the other two to help get him up from the table. He was sure he was causing a scene, but he didn’t care anymore. He just wanted it to not hurt any more. Why did life have to hurt so damn much?

He found himself being shuffled back into the bathroom where he’d tried to pep talk himself. They sat him down on the counter and Pete started getting some paper towels wet to clean up his face. Ae seemed to be standing guard at the door making sure they weren’t disturbed, and Good just stood there holding him up and just letting his presence calm his hysterics.

“You…you can’t….miss your exams” he finally managed to get out between sobs. “I’ll be fine.”

“My next exam isn’t for a while now” Pete replied softly as he continued to brush away the falling tears. “Ae and Good are done for the day. So we’re not going anywhere until you’re okay. When is your next exam?”

“Three o’clock.”

“Okay. Do you want to talk about what’s going on?”

“I can’t. It’s my problem to deal with. I got my orders and I must follow through” he whispered in between soft hiccups.

“Orders? Who’s ordering you Tin?” Ae spoke up for the first time.

“My father’s. His word is law, and since I’m just a bastard I can’t go against him.”

“You’re a grown up Tin, father or not you don’t have to follow what he says” Ae responded in his matter of fact way.

“Ae’s right,” said Pete. “Plus you don’t have to face whatever this is alone. We can help you, or at least be by your side supporting you.”

“You don’t…” he started.

“We don’t” Good acknowledged “but want to.”

“It’s what friends are for” Pete finished.

“So what’s the problem?” Ae asked.

Tin felt the tears start falling again, but he was able to explain things as best as he could. He told them about his father and how he’d been sent away. How his step brother was going to start at this university next year and he’d been ordered to go back to England. His father didn’t want him anywhere near his son. Probably afraid he’d be tainted by sharing the same air as his bastard. So he had to go.

“Let me guess” Pete started after he’d trailed off. “You were going to pull away from your friends and just tuck your tail and move back to England?”

Tin hung his head suddenly finding the tile flooring very interesting. Unable to look at the pain that filled Pete’s eyes as he’d reacted to everything he’d just unburdened on them.

“What would happen if you said no?” Ae asked.

“I don’t know,” he whispered. “I’ve never done it before.”

“Are you happy here? Do you like this university? Are you learning a lot?” Ae fired at him.

“Yes, more so than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I enjoy the program I’m in. The teachers are good, and I know I can make a good life with the education I’m getting.”

“Okay. Then we have to figure out how to make it so you can stay. Pete, see if your mom can pull some strings, yah? I’ll ask around to see if there’s some scholarships you can apply for that would cover your tuition if your dad pulls his support. Good, do you have any ideas?”

“Not right now.”

“Well think on it. Tin don’t tell your dad or mom anything just yet, but let us know if anything changes. We can meet up again later this week and see where we’re at. For now this is all we can do since Tin you need to get to your exam.”

“Thank you guys so much” Tin found himself whispering before bowing low to all of them in a deep wai.

Ae blushed but lightly punched his shoulder before striding out of the bathroom. Good put his hands on his shoulders and just looked at him for a moment before nodding and following. Pete helped clean his face before wrapping him in a big hug and promising to message him later.

Even with the exam looming in front of him he felt lighter and more at ease. He wasn’t sure if going against his father was the best plan, but it was nice to see people wanting to fight for him. People who would stand up and make sure he was happy and not being treated like a pawn.

That weekend they met up at a coffee shop that was out of the way from the busy weekend crowds. They wanted some place where they could discuss the important matters at hand without too many prying eyes or ears.

Pete had messaged that he’d gotten some information from his mom, but needed a few more details from Tin that he’d willingly supplied. Ae had somehow gotten his number and asked if he could talk about his problem with a couple of his seniors that he thought could help. When he’d said yes Ae let him know they’d join them at the meeting.

As Tin looked around the table at the other men that had gathered to help him he found himself in awe of their kindness. These people that barely knew him, or the couple that didn’t, still were here to help him. He was a nobody born out of lust and discarded like trash. He didn’t deserve this at all. He should just tell them all to forget it, and he’d just do what his father asked. It was too much. Too inconvenient. Too burdensome.

“Don’t you dare” came the harsh whisper in his ear.

He turned to look at Pete before narrowing his eyes trying to figure out if Pete could read his thoughts.

“I know what you’re thinking. I really do” Pete continued in an undertone. “I used to think the same way. That I wasn’t worth being loved because I was gay and because my own father had walked out on us. Then I met Ae, and he showed me every day that I was worth being loved. That it was okay to lean on friends. That to not let them help me was a slap in the face to them because they loved me and wanted to help me. So, don’t even think about turning us down” he ended with a big grin.

He returned the smile though a bit more shyly. He looked over at Ae and found himself in awe of the young man. For such a brusque exterior he really seemed to have a big heart. He hoped that his soulmate was a bit like him. Willing to fight for him and their love.

“Okay” Ae started. “I’ve talked it over with P’Type and P’No and a last resort would be to get you on the soccer team. You wouldn’t actually play, but you’d be covered by a sports obligation. P’Type’s husband has some pull with the music department so there’s that avenue as well. Pete what were you able to find out?”

“My mother found a few scholarships you’d qualify for, but the deadlines have already passed by in order for you to continue next year. However, I talked with her and she’s willing to cover your tuition until we can get you a scholarship.”

“I have an extra bed” Good tacked on at the end.

Tin couldn’t help but just stare at these people. This was a lot of information to take in at once. Okay one thing at a time. Focus Tin.

“I can’t let your mom cover my tuition” he finally managed to get out. “It’s too much. I can’t ask or accept that.”

“You aren’t asking. I’m giving, well my mom is” stated Pete matter of factly. “She wants to. She’s always looking for students to help out. This time she knows that it’s going to someone who really needs it. Sorry, but this part of the plan is non-negotiable.”

“But,” Tin stuttered. “I’ll pay her back, with interest!”

“You’ll do no such thing. If you want to pay her back maybe join us for dinner from time to time. I’m sure she’ll love you. And get good grades.”

“Uh…” Tin was floundering trying to find a way to process. “Good I can’t take your extra bed. It’ll be too much of a burden. I’ll get a job and find an apartment.”

Good just looked at him and blinked his eyes in that slow way that said it wasn’t up for debate. It made Tin feel a bit panicky. He wanted to run.

“Do you have a preference of soccer of music Ai’Tin?” P’Type asked softly. Seeming to sense the panic and trying to focus him on something easy.

“I’m not good at either. I’ve never touched a soccer ball before. I took piano lessons as a kid, but my teacher said I was unteachable.”

“Well since you’re a freshman we can always use a water boy on the field. You’d just be responsible for helping set up and tearing down obstacles for training, and making sure that the players stay hydrated. Does that sound like something you’d like to do?”

“I think so. Since I know Ae and Good I wouldn’t feel as lost I think.”

“Okay, that’s perfect. Getting you under the umbrella of sports holds a bit more importance, and is also the easiest to accomplish.”

“But what about my step-brother? I appreciate all of this help. I really do, but the main issue is that my father doesn’t want me to be around my step-brother.”

“Ah, well we’re waiting on that one. Ai’Can’s relative is one of the deans and Ai’Pete’s mom has made some calls since she runs in the same circles as your father. They’re trying to see if you’re step-brother has decided on a faculty, once we know that it’s a matter of keeping you out of the same classes.”

“You can do that?” Tin asked incredulously.

“Money talks” Good drawled.

“I see” Tin whispered in awe. Of course he’d known what Good said was true. His father lived his life that way. Just shove money at a problem and it magically goes away.

“Is Can okay with this? I haven’t even met him yet, and he seems to be going out on a limb for me. Just like all of you. You don’t even know me. How can you…or why are you?”

“Because it’s what friends do,” Good replied.

“But Can, P’Type and P’No aren’t really friends with me. I’m only meeting them today. So why?”

“Aside from the fact that we’re friends with Ae and Good and they don’t get involved recklessly. It’s just what you do when you see people who need help.” P’No spoke up for the first time.

“I won’t ever be able to thank you enough or repay you.”

“Just do your best Ai’Tin, and pay it forward if you get the chance.” P’Type concluded.

They talked a bit more hammering out some of the details. Starting Monday Tin would join the soccer team so he needed to add practices to his routine. He was glad he didn’t have any classes that would hinder his responsibilities. He already felt like he was putting them out too much, he wanted to make their generosity as seamless as possible

Pete and Ae took him home and helped him work out an email to his parents letting them know that he would not be leaving the university. He would be staying, and if it meant being cut off he would accept that. He liked it here and would not be moving just because his step-brother wanted to go here as well. He promised he’d stay out of said brother’s path, and had people to help him make sure it wouldn’t happen.

As they sent it off Pete wrapped him in a big hug as he let out a shuddering breath as the weight of what he’d just done settled on his shoulders.

“Hmm I think you should stay with us tonight” Pete said softly. “I don’t think staying alone tonight would be good for you.”

“Agreed” Ae threw in.

“Go pack up some things Tin, you’re coming home with us.”

“I’m fine. I don’t want to impose.”

“You can either come with us right now with no fuss,” Ae started as he placed both his hands on Tin’s shoulders making direct eye contact. “Or I’ll tell Pete to give you his puppy eyes that he knows win every argument and I’ll pack your stuff, and you’ll still end up sleeping at our place. Your choice.” Ae ended with a knowing smirk.

Tin looked at Pete who looked like he was working on letting tears fill his eyes to double the impact. With a small sigh he went and started gathering his belongings. He heard Pete giving Ae a hard time about revealing his secrets. He couldn’t hold back the soft chuckle as Ae told him puppy eyes were not a secret.

He ended up staying the whole weekend over at Pete and Ae’s little apartment. It was nice having people around him. Especially when his mom called him the next day to yell and berate him for making things difficult. Why couldn’t he just be a good son and do as he was told? He was such a disappointment and a disgrace.

As he sat there just listening to his mother’s tyraid he couldn’t even respond until he felt the phone being pulled from his hand.

“Ma’me” Pete spoke into the phone with a forcefulness that Tin had never heard from his friend before. “If this is the way you’re choosing to talk to your son right now I’m going to have to kindly ask that you please hang up and call back when you can be calmer. Tin is an adult and he’s allowed to make his own choices. If you cannot respect those then you are most welcome to stop contacting him.”

Tin heard some rather rude things come spouting through the speaker before Pete hung up on her. Tin just looked at him stunned. Ae smirked at his boyfriend before reaching up and giving him a sweet kiss.

“Isn’t my boyfriend amazing?” he asked Tin while still looking at Pete.

“Uh huh” Tin whispered.

“She was being rude!” Pete huffed. “No one treats my friends that way. Sheesh. I’m sorry Tin, but I couldn’t sit there and watch you take that. You didn’t do anything wrong. She was out of line. I know she’s your mother, but she shouldn’t treat you that way.”

“You are so cute when you’re riled up” Ae told the taller boy before bopping him on the nose.

“Ae” Pete whined. “I’m being serious right now! I’m really irritated right now.”

“I can’t help that you’re adorable when you’re fighting injustices.”

Tin found himself suddenly laughing as he took in the scene in front of him. These two boys who had taken him in and even defended him to his mother were the very next minute flirting so brazenly. Oh how he envied them. He wanted that in his life, and yet he was content right now just having friends by his side.

“What’s so funny mister?” he found himself at the end of Pete’s finger and exasperated look.

“You guys are too cute right now, I can’t help but laugh.”

“I am not cute!” Pete practically shouted. “I am a justice warrior fighting all those who would attack my friends!”

“Yes you are,” Ae said with a placating tone. “You are very intimidating and all evil and rude people would run from you.” He threw a wink at Tin before pulling his boyfriend in for a kiss to silence him.

The rest of the weekend was pleasant. Good came over at one point and they all played some board games before going out to dinner. When he got home Sunday night he found himself drifting off to sleep pretty quickly. Actually looking forward to what the week would hold for him. For the first time in his life he felt hope and it made him smile.

Monday afternoon had him making his way over to the soccer field to start his new duties as water boy. He knew the position was superficial, but he appreciated what it represented, and for that he’d do his best. He got several odd looks as he walked up to the field in his IC uniform. He hadn’t had a chance to change yet, but he hoped they’d let him use the locker room.

Good ran up to him with a slight smile. He gave him a head to toe once over before cocking his head indicating Tin should follow him. As they entered the locker room he was glad to see it was empty. He didn’t know these boys yet and the thought of changing around them still had him feeling a bit shy.

“Just come back out when you’re done,” Good told him before leaving him to change in solitude.

As Tin was changing in one of the stalls he heard someone come running in practically crashing into the lockers. Tin heard a small yelp from the intruder before he heard a loud chime in his ears. He looked down at his bell and found himself frozen.

“What the bloody hell?” came from whomever had just run into the room.

Tin heard the boy turning around and then heard the patter of footsteps as they made their way towards the locker stalls.

“Who’s in here with me?” came the curious voice. “It has to be someone who doesn’t belong here because I’ve been with my teammates for months now and my bell has never gone off. So who the fuck is in here?”

Tin saw the feet stop in front of his stall. He could only stare at the cleats. His brain wouldn’t process what was happening. The thing he’d been holding on for, the thing that kept him alive on the many nights when he wanted to give up. The comfort that helped him sleep when he felt so alone. All of that. All the years of waiting were culminating now. Right this very moment his soulmate was on the other side of the door, and he was half naked!

He found himself laughing. The irony of the situation. The absurdity of it all. It was too much so all he could do was laugh.

“Hey asshole!” the angry voice came through the door. “You think this is funny? I am running late to practice and I come in here to change only to be met by some friggen chime from my stupid love bell that is apparently tied to some idiot who is hiding in this locker stall laughing!”

The young man outside the locker started pounding on the door. Yelling that he better open up the damn door or he’d break it in. Tin found himself backing up against the back of the locker. He didn’t care that the person out there was the one he’d been waiting his entire life for. Right now he wanted to run away from the person willing to break down a door.

“Can!” came the sharp yell that stopped the pounding. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“My stupid bell went off when I got to the locker room and my apparent soulmate is some kind of laughing asshole that won’t come out of the locker and show himself.”

“So your response is to try and break down the door? How about asking nicely? Did that thought cross your brain at all?”

The sputtering response said that no it hadn’t. Tin felt himself relax a bit as he saw the cleat clad feet move back away from the door.

“Tin is that you in there?” Ae questioned in a much calmer voice.

“Yeah…” Tin managed to get out.

“You scared the crap out of my friend you punk!” Ae berated Can. “You better be nice or I’m telling Good and Pete that you yelled at their friend and tried to break down a door.”

“Ae you can’t do that. Good will kill me!”

Tin found himself smiling at the thought of the slow paced guy killing any one. He looked up as a soft knock sounded on his door again.

“Hey, uh Tin is it? I’m sorry I was so rude. I’ve been running behind all day and then having my bell go off right as I’m rushing to practice was just the last thing I could handle. I didn’t mean to scare you, even if you were being a douche by laughing at me. You don’t even know me and you were laughing. Like who does that?”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing that I’m standing here in my boxers and my soulmate suddenly shows up.”

“You’re in your boxers? Dude!” the boy chuckled. “Okay I’ll let you have that one. Get dressed and come out so I can see my soulmate.”

Tin found it hard to get his shorts and t-shirt on as he found his hand suddenly shaking. He heard Can and Ae talking outside, but he couldn’t focus on what they were saying. He didn’t bother putting everything back in his back nicely, he was excited now so he just shoved his clothes in the bag before unlocking the door and stepping out.

“Wow” the young man said as he looked Tin over head to toe.

Tin looked at him as well. He was a bit taller than Ae, but not by much. He probably came up to his own chin, but he found that kind of cute. His eyes were nearly black and held a spark that went with the exuberance he’d shown thus far. He had a kind of lopsided smile that went straight to Tin’s heart. The boy’s hair seemed cut in a way to constantly be in his eyes and it made him look younger than he was, but even that came across as endearing to Tin.

“You’re hot!” Can finally managed to get out after looking Tin over and walking around him.

“Can, seriously!?”

“What he is! I got me a hot soulmate.” He threw a grin at Tin who could only lower his eyes and blush.

“You’re not bad yourself” he managed to get out softly.

He suddenly found his hand being grabbed by the smaller boy who was tugging him towards the door. Tin threw a look at Ae pleading for help. Ae just shrugged and smiled at him as if to say ‘he’s your problem now’.

Stumbling to keep up with his soulmate he found himself being pulled into the middle of the other players while Can beamed around at everyone and introduced him as his soulmate. Tin found it hard to look at everyone so he searched for Good. That calm in the storm. He found his friend with a smile in his eyes. Good made his way over to them and pried Can’s hand off of Tin before pulling him out of the limelight.

“I’m glad it’s you.”

Chapter Text

Tin had known that finding his soulmate was bound to change his life. In fact he’d counted on it. Placed everything he had in him on it because anything was better than the life he’d been living. It was the one thing that had kept him going day after day.

The urgency of it had died off a bit once he’d started making friends. Had found other forms of love that helped round out his life. When he’d found that people enjoyed him and wanted to spend time with him he was flabbergasted at first because everything in his life up to then had told him time and time again that he was nothing. He wasn’t loveable. He wasn’t wanted. He was invisible.

He’d gone to see a production of Chicago while he’d been visiting London on one of his school holidays and he’d started crying when the character of Amos Hart had started singing about how he was cellophane. That people would just walk right past him without even knowing he was there. Tin had felt that, and he’d cried.

Now he felt like he was at least the holiday cellophane in that he had some color to him. Some people saw him now, and appreciated him. Most people still ignored him, but he found he was a little more okay with that because he’d found people who cared about him. They weren’t many, but they gave everything to him in a way that let him know that he wasn’t a nobody.

Most importantly his soulmate found new ways every day to let him know he mattered. He’d find notes slipped under his door, or flowers delivered via Pete, or even just random selfies sent to his phone during random times of the day. Every single thing let him know he belonged now. That there was someone who wanted him.
When he’d been drug out onto the soccer pitch he’d been extremely overwhelmed. Suddenly there was this spunky little man pulling him into the center of attention.

Everyone was looking at them and cheering. He didn’t think Can even stopped to breathe and just kept rambling about how his soulmate was so handsome and he couldn’t believe that the universe had paired them together. He’d never imagined what his soulmate would look like or be like, but he is pretty sure if he had he wouldn’t have conjured Tin in any of it.

Listening to all of this had initially sent his heart sinking, that he had somehow once again unknowingly managed to fail at the one thing he was supposed to be. He knew he wasn’t much and here his soulmate was expounding on how he wasn’t what he had pictured. He’d wished he could run away right then.

Then he felt a new hand on his arm, a steady strong hold that managed to pull him away from the bouncy hold Can had on him. He’d looked to see the calm but worried expression on his best (?) friend’s face.

“I’m glad it’s you” came the steady affirmation.

“But…” he tried to start.

“No, no buts you’re perfect for him. You’ll understand in time but when Can is overwhelmed there is no filter on his mouth. He’s trying to process and he’s also really excited. Don’t listen to the words. Look at him.”

So Tin did that. Now that he was out of the fray he looked at his soulmate. Looked at the energy he was giving off, looked at his face, and most importantly his eyes. Eyes that sought him out once he realized that he was no longer holding on to him. Eyes that filled with relief when they met his and a smile that lit his face up.

He felt his body relax and a small smile pull at his lips. He’d found his soulmate. Things were looking up.

“See” said the soft drawl beside him.

Tin could only nod. His voice had abandoned him for now. He looked down at his friend and bowed his head slightly as a thank you. Good managed a soft smile in return before turning to head towards the lockers.

Eventually P’Type and P’No managed to get everyone to calm down and back on track for the day’s practices. They started running drills while P’Type started going over Tin’s duties and showing him where things were and where things would go.

Tin had initially been worried about being accepted by the team since he was only there to fill a non-existent role and so he could be covered by the sports department. He looked nothing like a player and knew nothing about the sport. He was also aware that there was this unspoken rivalry between the IC department and the rest of the college and was hoping that he’d be able to prove himself to them that he wasn’t like the rest and he did deserve to be there.

All those worries got thrown out the window when he’d been found to be one of the team’s soulmate. Now he had a whole new set of worries. He couldn’t articulate them quite yet, but he could feel them forming. For now though, he needed to focus on doing a good job. At the end of the day he still wanted to do a good job and be an asset to the team.

Once practice was over Tin helped clean up the field while the team went and showered and changed. He wasn’t expecting to find Can still there when he entered the lockers to grab his bag and head back to his dorm room.

“Why are you still here?” he found himself asking the boy.

“Really? That’s your response right now? Not ‘oh look I have a soulmate it sure is nice that he waited for me so we could get to know each other’” came the sarcastic response.

“Oh, yeah,” he replied with a shrug.

“Aren’t you excited? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you…I don’t know…ANYTHING?” came the slightly exasperated rebuttal.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly and bowed in a short wai. “Today’s just been…well a lot. I’m really happy that I found you, like more than you’ll ever know. I just…well I expected you’d have plans or other things you needed to do after practice, or that you were tired and go back to your dorm and we’d just see each other next practice.”

“Wow, Good was right about you, you really don’t think you have much value huh?” Can started again. “You don’t think that meeting your soulmate erases all previous plans or exhaustion?”

“I mean it’s a pretty normal phenomenon, and I’m working with the team so it’s not like I’m suddenly not going to be around” he found himself murmuring to the floor.

He suddenly found two hands on his face pulling his gaze to meet a fierce one. A fierce gaze that was a bit intimidating and scary, but held no malice or anger.

“But you’re mine” he said with a seriousness he’d never imagined could come from the bubbly figure. “And I’ve been looking and waiting for you. So get changed and we’re going to go get some food and get to know each other properly.”

Tin felt his cheeks heat with the contact and the words that were being gifted to him. Words that let him know he was wanted, that he’d been looked for, and waited for. Words that were precious and would forever be cherished.

As he stood in the locker stall to change back into his school uniform he found himself touching his cheeks where Can had held him not moments ago. No one had ever touched him like that before. Before becoming friends with Pete, who was touchy by nature, no one touched him ever. He needed to get ahold of himself, he was keeping Can waiting. He changed quickly and found Can waiting to drag him off to some food stall near campus.

Once they had settled and ordered their food they found themselves surrounded by an awkward silence that Tin was unable to break. As much as he’d longed for this moment, been dreaming about it, now that it was here he couldn’t form a coherent thought or question. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at the boy seated across from him.

“Well this is more awkward than I’d imagined” Can let out a soft anxious chuckle.

“Mn” Tin found himself humming.

“Honestly,” Can started in a stage whisper, “I don’t know what the hell to do in this situation, and I’m scared I’ll mess it up and scare you away.”

Tin felt a small smile tug at his lips before he raised his eyes to look at his soulmate.

“Not possible,” he replied. “You’re perfect.”

The sharp laugh that came after his proclamation made a heat rise on his cheeks. This boy that was his looked beautiful when he laughed.

“Okay clearly Good has told you nothing about me, Ae either, because if they had you’d think differently. I do feel a bit at an unfair advantage in that Good has told me a bit about you due to trying to work out your school situation. So, what do you want to know? I answer all questions. Good says it’s a flaw, but I prefer honesty. I also tend to ramble a lot, especially when I’m nervous, and right now I’m like really nervous, also you're ridiculously hot which isn’t helping…oh I need to shut up…”

“Can.” Tin said it softly but firmly. It was enough to stop the jumble of words. It pulled focus and grounded him. He watched as the boy relaxed and just looked at him with a half smile on his lips.

“What do you think I should know?” he started again once the boy had settled. “I know that you’re a freshman, on the soccer team, friends with Good and Ae, and that you’ve been trying to help me despite not having ever met me. So what else should I know?”

“Oh wow, huh. Well I’m 19, I still live at home since my home is near the school. I have one younger sister, Ley, and my mom. My dad passed a few years back, so I’ve had to kind of step up and fill that void, but it’s okay. We all really lean on each other and help out. I’m studying Sports Medicine so in case the soccer career doesn’t pan out I can still work within the sport. Oh and I HATE zucchini.”

Can turned a giant smile at him and looked for his reaction. This boy that was all sunshine was going to take some getting used to. It felt like he’d just been handed an entire encyclopedia on this boy and he wasn’t sure what to do with all the information.

“Why zucchini?”

“It’s a double whammy. It has an awful taste AND an awful texture. It’s the worst vegetable out there.”

Tin found himself laughing softly at the passion the other was showing in his tirade against zucchini. Tin wasn’t sure if he hated anything that much. Growing up he’d learned to like everything because if he complained it just made things worse. Silence was golden in their house.

“I’ll try to remember to not ever order you anything with zucchini in it then. What about other squashes or like eggplant?”

“I’ll eat them, but they’re on thin ice. They at least have flavour.”

“Duly noted” Tin smiled at his reply.

With the ice broken conversation flowed more freely as they ate and started getting to know each other. Tin found himself smiling a lot, and even laughing. They found some common ground in movies and music and they set up a movie date for the weekend. Tin offered to walk Can to the bus stop, but the smaller boy insisted on making sure his pretty soulmate made it back to his dorm safely. He was a soccer player he knew how to be rough, no one would mess with him.

“Tin,” came the soft call as he’d turned to head inside. He turned around and saw a new look on Can’s face. “Thank you for waiting for me” the boy whispered before going up on his toes to plant a soft kiss on his cheek.

Tin felt frozen in place as he watched the boy saunter off. His hand went to his cheek where he’d received two different touches today and he wasn’t sure how to handle them. Eventually he got his legs to move, though, and made his way back to his dorm. It took awhile for him to eventually drift off, but when he did there was a soft smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Can looked down at the boy that had his head resting in his lap. He couldn’t help the smile that softened his face as he listened to the slow rhythmic breathing coming from Tin. Moments like these he wished he could pause time and just enjoy the peace that surrounded them. Times like this he found himself settled and calm.

Can was never calm or quiet, something everyone around him could attest to, but in moments where it was just the two of them Can calmed. Can felt, had felt, that staying still or being quiet was wasting what time they had on this earth. How wrong he was. Being quiet and staying still, let him experience Tin, and he was finding it was his favourite thing to do. He just wished that by not moving, or talking, he could make the moment last forever.

They’d been together now for about a month. Things had been rocky at first. Two people learning the moves so they could dance together in this new life that was theirs alone. Can had learned to slow down, to pay attention. Tin didn’t talk much, and so he found himself having to observe more. He’d always been told to slow down and pay attention, but it wasn’t until Tin that he found himself wanting to. Tin was learning to accept love and attention. He was learning to trust and to open up without fear. They were learning they brought out the best in each other and created a balance that was theirs alone.

Can knew life was short and filled with so many things, and he wanted to experience as much of it as he could, so he’d never stopped. He went at anything and everything full tilt. Determined to make the most of this life that had been given to him. He counted himself lucky to have great friends that kept him from getting into too much trouble. Who knew how to reign him in when necessary.

He trusted too easily, believed anything he was told, but it didn’t always go wrong. He’d found himself surrounded with good people who didn’t abuse this knowledge. In fact most went about to protect it. So when Ae and Good had called a meeting with the soccer team he found himself ready to go to war for the boy that was being forced to leave the school because some rich pompous guy said ‘go away’. He’d gone to his mom to see if she could talk to the dean on behalf of this boy. To help him find a way to stay.

His mom had done what she could. Having family ties came in handy sometimes. The dean had been reluctant at first, not wanting to show favouritism. Then Pete’s mom had gotten involved then, and when they found out who they were against it made them want to fight that much harder for this poor kid. Rich people really were something else. Throwing injustices around just because they could. It made Can fight that much harder to counter them, and he was lucky to have people by his side to help him.

He’d asked Good about Tin afterwards since he’d never seen them together. He didn’t even know that Good went to the IC canteen to eat, let alone had made a friend. He kind of remembered a day when Ae had mentioned something about some IC kid looking for a friend, but he’d been running laps so he hadn’t paid too much attention.

Good had told him just enough to be informational, but wouldn’t go into detail. Something about privacy and not his information to tell. Can understood, he did, even if it just made him more curious. He really wanted to know what had drawn this boy to his best friend because it really was a mystery. Good always tended to attract the strays of the world, it was just his nature, so at first Can had just written it off at that. Then the bell chimed, and this new stray became his and lit his world on fire.

He’d forever be grateful though, that his friend had found this lonely boy, and had pulled him into their little family. He didn’t know if he’d ever gotten to meet his soulmate otherwise. Well he was sure it would have happened eventually, it was supposed to, but it probably would have been a long ways down the line. He was happy for this extra time.

The more he got to know Tin the more and more he fell in love with him. He wanted to take care of this boy who had been beaten down and abandoned by everyone. He needed to make him feel safe and loved. He was thankful to his family for having raised him so well, and teaching him how to love and be loved so that he could give it all to his soulmate.

There were bad days, like today, days when Tin pulled away. Days when he felt overwhelmed and couldn’t handle it all very well. Those days hurt, but Can was learning to be patient. To give him the space he needed. He never left, never walked away. He just stayed near so the other wouldn’t feel abandoned, but could still feel secure and safe in his own little space.

It was always worth it. Watching as the other boy would sneak glances to make sure Can was still there. Seeing the tension eventually ebb out of his frame. The lines smooth along his brow. The panic would gradually fade from his eyes. Eventually when he was calming down he’d make his way over to Can, and like now curl up on the sofa beside him and just rest against him.

Can had learned after the first few times to not draw attention to this. To just let it happen. He’d learned to just make sure Tin was comfortable and he’d gradually start running his fingers through his hair or down his back. The soft contented sighs that would slip from Tin’s lips made it all worthwhile.

He was learning that Tin was like an abused dog. He needed to be shown time and time again that he was loved. That he was safe. Luckily, he didn’t bite when he was scared, instead he’d panic and curl in on himself. Can was happy he’d spent so much time working with dogs as a kid. He loved working at the shelters and rehabilitating dogs. He learned never to raise his voice, even when he was exasperated, and he did his best to reinforce the words of praise and compliments with actions to show they were not hollow or false.

After they found out that Tin was his soulmate, Good had let him know that Tin didn’t think much of himself. It was the only detail that he’d given him that went deeper than basic information. He was grateful for the heads up. It meant he knew what to do when Tin froze or looked at the ground. When he’d murmur about being in the way or inconveniencing. He knew to take it in stride and remind him otherwise, and show how wrong he was. Of course by now he had learned a lot on his own. They spent as much time as they could together. Slowly learning about each other, learning each other’s habits and quirks.

Can found it hilarious that Tin hated to have his food mix on his plate. Tin had been aghast watching Can just mix everything together and start wolfing it down. Can found it endearing that Tin still slept with a stuffed animal, even if it was also a bit sad knowing the reason was so he could find comfort from something. Tin found it adorable how Can had to talk his way through anything. It somehow let him figure things out and get focused.

His favourite thing in the world was watching Tin cook. Having been left on his own more often than not Tin had taught himself to cook so he could have more than rice and instant noodles. Can loved watching him in the kitchen. He’d tried to help a few times, but quickly learned that he just tended to get in the way. Tin had his own rhythm when he was cooking, and as much as he wanted to be a part of that little dance, he also just enjoyed observing it. It was like watching an art performance, and he knew he’d never tire of watching.

A few nights ago after Tin had cooked dinner and they’d sat down to eat. Tin had gotten this deep worried look on his face as they were eating, and Can had waited to see if Tin would talk about it. When he saw him retreating, Can called out to him softly and pulled his focus back to him.

“What has you so worried? Don’t say it’s nothing because I can see it on your face, please tell me.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific Tin,” he stated softly, “because you are good enough for many things, so what specifically do you not think you’re good enough for?”

“You.”

“Oh, I see” Can felt his heart break as he watched Tin pull his legs up onto the chair so he could curl up and hold himself tight.

He was torn wanting to move and hold him close and whisper into his ear about how wrong he was, but he also didn’t want to baby him. To invalidate his feelings by making him think he was lacking or weak by saying these things.

“I’m sorry you feel that way Tin” he said as he moved his chair back so he could lean over to try and catch Tin’s gaze as he peaked between his knees. “I really am sorry that you feel that way. That you’re life has led you down a path that makes you feel like you’re not enough for someone, and that you won’t ever be good enough for someone just because of who, and how, you are.

“The thing is, Tin, I need someone exactly like you in my life though. See I have this really bad tendency to not be very organized, and I tend to talk a lot, and when I do listen I tend to believe everything everyone tells me. It’s gotten me in trouble a few times, since there are people who are willing to take advantage of people like that, you aren’t one of those kinds of people are you?”

He paused with his question waiting to see if he could get Tin to engage a bit more.

“No” came the strained whisper with a gentle shake of his head.

“Well that’s good, so I know you won’t lie to me or try to use my kindness against me. I have been told that I’m impulsive, and tend to leap before I think, but that was because I never had a reason to pause before. You have become my reason to pause, to think things over to make sure I won’t hurt you or do something that will make you sad or uncomfortable.”

“I also really like food,” he started again with a small smile trying to lighten the mood just a bit, “and it turns out that you’re an amazing cook so I’m glad that I can be someone you can cook for so you won’t be so lonely and letting all this delicious food be experienced by you alone.”

He thought he saw a hint of a smile on his face. Oh this man would be his undoing he was convinced of it now. The way his face got so soft and open when he smiled. He would love this man forever. He got up and moved around the table and pulled Tin’s chair out so he could get right in front of him.

“Most importantly Tin, I need to be nothing more than what you are because for me you are perfect. I hope that one day I’ll be able to show how perfect you are for me and that you’ll believe me, but I know that takes time. Just be rest assured, that every day I wake up happy to have you in my life. You are everything I need and more. Can you try to trust me on that? Please.”

He watched as Tin’s eyes filled with tears and as they eventually crested and began to fall. His gaze never wavered, though, and he held Can’s gaze and deep inside he saw that first little ember of hope burn a little brighter.

“I hope, too, that one day you’ll be able to make yourself believe that you are good enough. If you want to change, or do something different, I’ll be here right beside you every step of the way. I will always support you, I will always be right beside you cheering you on. Your life is yours to live, and I’m here to help you if you want me to.”

As he watched the boy settle a bit and start to go over everything Can had just told him, he saw the fear ebb a way. He knew that Tin needed him, and he needed Tin. He could learn patience, and Tin could learn to be loved. They had all the time in the world.

Looking down, once more, at the boy curled in his lap he pressed a soft kiss to his fingers before slowly reaching forward and pressing it on to Tin’s forehead. Small intimacies. You could build mountains with them, and he would build Tin an entire range of mountains if it’s what it took for him to see his worth.

Chapter Text

“Do you think your father would stop pushing so hard if he found out your soulmate was at the same school?” Can questioned.

They’d gathered everyone for dinner to discuss Tin’s school issue since there had been some push back. Tin’s father had been trying to pressure the school to kick Tin out. He hadn’t taken kindly to being told no, and even with the compromises that Tin was willing to make to not have anything to do with his half-brother, he was out for blood now.

Pete’s mum had been wonderful. She’d started getting people in their circle to side with her and to pledge donations to the school with the promise of taking it away if Tin found himself out on the streets. Tin had asked her why she was fighting so hard for him, he was just some bastard, and surely she had more important things to focus on. She’d been so shocked by the question that she’d stopped what she was doing and moved to get close to him.

“Because no one deserves to be treated like they’re trash,” she’d said while holding his gaze. “Plus that man also tried to close down several of my hotels after my own husband left thinking he could take advantage of some weak woman. So part of it is pay back.” She said the last part with a hard glint in her eyes.

Tin could see where Pete got his feisty streak from. He’d wanted to counter her statements, saying that he still wasn’t worth the effort. Even if he wasn’t the full reason behind her help, she should still not worry herself over him. Like her son, though, she seemed to read his mind because she’d turned around to him again and put her hand on his cheek.

“Ai’Tin, listen to me. Personal reasons aside, I’ve now had the pleasure of meeting you,” she started softly, “and I’ve gotten to listen to all the stories Pete tells me about you, and you are very much worth my time and effort.”

Tin had shifted under her look and touch. He’d dropped his eyes to the floor unable to bear the kindness. It was overwhelming.

“Ai’Tin you put everyone before you. Pete has told me time and time again how you make sure that everyone in your group is taken care of, even if it means you go without. It’s very admirable, it shows you have a good heart, but please know that the way you take care of people is also what I do. I know it would hurt you if your friends rejected your help, and if you reject my help it will hurt me. Do you understand? Can you accept it, as a personal request from me?”

He remembered what Pete had told him that first meeting that rejecting their help was like slapping them in the face because they wanted to help. Now his mum was saying the same thing. He felt himself nodding, even if he still couldn’t look at the woman in front of him.

“I’m glad to hear that,” she said, “now could you please help me finish chopping these vegetables for dinner? Can says you’re a wiz in the kitchen.”

“Tin?” Can’s puzzled voice pulled him back to the present. He looked up and saw everyone staring at him.

“Hm?”

“Do you think your father would stop pushing if he knew about me?” Can asked again.

Tin couldn’t help the snort that came from his nose as he looked at Can. Can who was so open and loving. Can who reminded him every day that he belonged now. That there was a place in this world, and it was next to him.

“Not a chance. He didn’t care about his own soulmate, and had an affair. Knowing you were in the picture would probably make him fight harder.” Tin felt the weariness and anger tinge his voice. “He’d do it just to spite me. Inflict more pain to remind me of where I belong, and to keep me from trying to stand up for myself ever again.”

“I swear if I ever get the displeasure of seeing him face-to-face I think I’ll probably punch him. Like honestly how can you not treat people like people? Of all the things he should be worried about he decides that he needs to focus on my soulmate? Like what the actual fuc..”

“Can” Tin managed to interject softly. He could see his partner gearing up for a full on tirade and knew it was better to cut him off before they got kicked out of the restaurant.

“Sorry, but it just really pisses me off. Look at you how wonderful you are, how amazing you are, at the very least he should just…”

Tin placed his hand over Can’s stilling the boy from going further. It was a new sensation for Tin. One he was still adjusting to. Touching other people. Reaching out and making contact. In moments like this though it was the most effective way to get Can to still. Once the words started they didn’t stop easily, so as awkward and unsure as he felt doing so, he still managed to push through and just remind him to breathe.

“What if,” Good began in his slow quiet way, “we find a way to let him know that there are extenuating circumstances that require Tin to stay?”

“He wouldn’t care,” Pete replied. “I’ve talked with my mum and been there a few times when she’s interacted with him at events. Sadly, Tin has his measure. He doesn’t care about anyone outside himself being right and on top. At this point he’s probably not even doing it for his other son, it’s all about pushing Tin down for daring to speak up.”

Tin met Pete’s look with a soft half smile. He was right. He’d pushed back, no matter how deserved it was or how in the right he was to do so, this was the punishment for going against him.

He looked at the men gathered around the table each trying their best to help him out. He couldn’t get over it, at how much each one was going out of their way to fight for him. P’No and P’Type were so helpful with teaching him about soccer and how to help them train the guys. Not just telling him what to do, but explaining why they did what they did. Okay mostly it was P’No, but P’Type was still on the friendly side. It made him feel included in the practices, and a part of the team. He belonged there to help them, not just to fill a non-existent void to provide him protection against the school.

Good had opened up his room to him, since his own roommate had bailed after the first week of classes. Tin had felt a little weird moving in with him, but they got along pretty well. Both being the quiet loner types. He’d hoped that he would have had time to find his own place since he technically still had his room until the end of the year, but then suddenly there were numerous complaints against him. So he’d been forced out early. As helpful as the university was trying to be knowing the situation, their hands were tied when it came to housing as it was managed by an outside company. Said company being owned by Tin’s father.

He still planned on finding his own place, but he was grateful for a roof over his head for the time being. He’d found a part-time job and was busy saving so he could afford a small apartment once the school year ended. Yes, he thought, as he looked around he was so very very lucky.

*Ree ree ree* *Ree ree ree* *Ree ree ree*

He felt the blood drain from his face. That ringtone meant his mother was calling. Okay maybe it was a bit ridiculous to use the noise from Psycho as a ringtone, but with the way she’d been behaving Can told him she deserved it.

Can turned to him and grabbed the ringing phone from his hand where he couldn’t make himself answer it. He felt everyone’s eyes on him, mostly curious to see who warranted the specialized ringtone.

“Sawatdee-krap” Can said as politely as he could as he slid his finger across the screen answering the call.

“Sawatde…who the hell are you? Where is my son?” came the shrill cry from the speaker.

Can pulled the phone away from his ear and hit the speaker button. He wanted everyone to hear this.

“Your son is busy right now, how can I help you?”

“I don’t care if he’s busy, I need to talk to him now. There are some very important family things that need to be addressed. Please put him on the line. Tell him it’s his mother.” She drew out that last word as if it held some kind of importance.

“If this is to discuss your ex-lover trying to get him kicked out of the school he is well aware of the situation” Pete spoke up with such an authoritative tone.

“Pffft! Huh? Excuse me?” she blustered, clearly not expecting to be addressed this way. “Who is that? What the hell is going on? Let me talk to my son!”

“I apologize on Tin’s behalf, but he is currently occupied with trying to make sure he can stay at the school where he’s happy and has people that actually care about him” Can said while staring at Tin with adoration in his eyes.

“Now listen here you little punk. You think you’re being all cute and shit trying to keep me from talking to my son. If you do not let me talk to my son right now there will be hell to pay you hear me you little asshole.”

Can found the phone yanked out of his hand as Tin finally opened his mouth and was reaching for it to minimize the damage, only to find it suddenly in the hands of Good. His relief at having a level head takeover was short lived as the ice that soon filled the air was not normal from such a relaxed guy.

“No, you listen here” Good started with such vehemence in his voice that even Can seemed shocked. “You seem to not understand the situation. Tin doesn’t need you, and he sure doesn’t need to obey you especially if you’re acting like this. He’s only your son at this moment because it’s convenient for you to pull that card and use it.

“If he really was your son you’d be calling him to help him fight against his father so he can continue to get the education he deserves. To help him stay where he wants to be. However, since you seem so intent on trying to ruin his life along with his so-called father, we – his friends and new family – kindly request you stop bothering Tin. We will not ask again.” With that Good ended the call and with a grim look handed the phone back to Tin.

Suddenly the table erupted in whoops and cheers as everyone close to Good moved to clap him on the back. Tin found himself staring at his friend with wonder and appreciation filling his face. He wanted to say something, but his mouth could only hang agape as he was shocked at the outburst.

“Shit, Good” Can laughed, “If I knew you had that in you I would have handed you the phone right off.”

Good just looked at him with a soft slow smile, and just shrugged. ‘It was important’ was all he would say further on the matter. The rest of them started all talking at once as they discussed what to do if she called again, or what they should have said instead.

“Are you okay?” Can’s voice whispered in his ear.

Tin looked at his soulmate, and slowly shook his head. He knew that the conversation that just went down would have consequences. He knew they all meant well, and he was proud to have them as friends, but he also knew his mother. She wouldn’t let this slide.

“I know it wasn’t the most mature thing to do” Can acquiesced, “but we’ve all been feeling a bit frustrated about not being able to fight for you directly. I know you’re worried about what your mother will do in retaliation, but for now enjoy this small victory. Let them be happy for being able to do something for you. Okay?”

“But you don’t know her,” Tin started. He wanted to be happy, and a small part of him was just watching how excited everyone was.

Can reached up slowly and rubbed his thumb across his cheek as he smiled softly. “You’re right I don’t, but I know us, and I’m getting to know you, and whatever happens we’ll address it when it happens okay? You have people by your side now. You don’t have to be afraid because we’ll all protect you.”

Taking a deep breath Tin nodded his head. “Okay,” he managed to get out, “tonight we’ll be happy.”

Can gave him a big smile before giving him a questioning look that Tin had quickly learned was him asking if it was okay to touch him more than gentle brushes on his face or hand. He’d learned that Can understood he wasn’t used to physical touches and that he was always very careful and deliberate when he made to do anything. Making sure that he either had permission, or that Tin had enough time to evade if he wanted. Tin gave him the smile he was looking for and felt himself get drawn in for a tight hug. He buried his head in Can’s shoulder and wrapped his own arms around the other.

Being in Can’s arms was the best place to be. Surrounded by the warmth and strength he felt he could face anything in the world, even his pissed off mother. He felt safe and secure. He felt wanted, and appreciated it. Above all else, he was learning that this new sensation was what it felt to be loved.

Having tasted what it was like to be loved now, he knew that no matter what his mother and father tried to do to him now, he’d fight with everything he had to keep it. He’d always felt that having a soulmate would be the best thing in the world, the thing he’d fight the world to have. He’d only been partially correct. Love, in all its forms, was what mattered the most. The love he had for his friends, the love he was developing for his soulmate, the love he was learning to give himself. This is what made him want to keep fighting.

He needed to know what it felt like to fully love his soulmate. To fully love himself. To have a life so filled with love and joy and respect that everything else just washed away into nothingness. Yes, he was going to fight for this.

Tonight, they would celebrate. Tomorrow, they would fight on.

Chapter Text

Tin spent the next few days on edge. No matter how much his friends tried to comfort him or help him relax he just couldn’t. He knew there would be repercussions to how his mother had been treated, even if it had been well and truly deserved. He knew his mother. When she found herself offended no one was safe.

His friends, well-meaning as they had been, had not only offended her but probably embarrassed her as well as it had become clear that she was on speaker. She was a viper when her feathers had been ruffled.

Tin remembered one incident when he’d been maybe ten and they’d been at some fancy event for his step-father. Everyone had been dressed to the nines and he was expected to act like a mini adult, and he had, until one of the other kids attending had managed to drag him off away from the adults.

The event was being held at some upscale hotel, and the two of them had sneaked off to the pool that was located on the same floor. They hadn’t even done anything wrong. They’d kicked off their shoes and socks and even rolled up their pants so they could put their feet in the water. Creating gentle ripples as they swished their feet back and forth.

They had been commiserating about how boring these events were, and why children were even allowed to come because it was just so boring. The food was terrible, and everyone had to keep that bland couldn’t be bothered look on their face no matter what anyone said. They’d even tried doing it while the other tried to say the most ridiculous things their little ten year old brains could come up with.

He’d actually been enjoying himself. Smiling and even laughing. He’d relaxed in the other boy’s company and hoped that he’d be at future events so they could do this again. It had been his turn to say something silly when his mother had stormed in causing him to bolt up and in the process causing a bigger splash getting both of their pants wet.

His mother had yelled at him about how juvenile he was, and how he had embarrassed her so much because he had wandered off. Then she’d had to search for him and then where does she find him? Practically naked hanging out with some other boy in the pool of all places.

Tin was pretty sure it wasn’t the situation she’d found them in, which wasn’t even nearly as drastic as she made it out to be, but the fact that someone had made mention of him. Reminding his mother that she had a child that was here, and that she needed to keep an eye on him as he was her child after all. Honestly, he was really mad at that point because he didn’t even want to come in the first place, but because he had and had disobeyed he was in big trouble.

He’d been grounded for a month. No TV, no video games, no books that weren’t school books, no anything that could cause him enjoyment or relief from the emptiness that was his life outside of school. He was expected to sit in his room and do his homework, after that he was to be quiet and not do anything. Not that his parents were there to enforce the punishment, but he knew the household staff would rat him out if he even tried.

The thing that had hurt the worst, in the end, was that the next event he’d been dragged to he saw the other boy again. He’d tried to catch the other boy’s eyes and maybe wave, but he’d been ignored. He’d eventually seen him sneak off with another boy, and he envied them their freedom, and hurt by the abandonment even if it wasn’t their fault.

With a childhood filled with memories like this, he knew the blowback that was headed their way would be monumental. He just didn’t know when or how it would manifest. In reality it took nearly a month before it came. Tin had actually started to ever so slightly let his guard down thinking maybe, just maybe, she’d just given up and walked away.

“Medthanan!” the shrill voice rang out over the soccer field.

Tin felt all the blood leave his body at that moment knowing it was no longer needed to keep him alive. Thinking to himself that this was how he was going to die. Right here in this moment his life was over. At least he’d been able to meet his soulmate, however briefly they’d been able to be together. He could die with a small piece of happiness.

MEDTHANAN!” the haughty woman screeched again as she made her way on overpriced heels out to the edge of the pitch. “Where the hell is my good for nothing son?”

Tin wanted to hide. To run away and never look back. He’d abandon everything right now if it meant not having to go deal with his mother. His mother who was here. Was at his university. On their soccer pitch screaming her lungs out.

He felt all the eyes that were turned to him as he prayed to every celestial being to turn him invisible or to kill him instantly. He didn’t care which, but please at least one of those options.

His mother’s eyes followed the rest and landed on him and the sneer that filled her face as she took in his rumpled and dirty appearance. He could practically hear her comments about how people of their status did not wear shorts, or heaven’s forbid sneakers. They sure as hell didn’t participate in outdoor sports activities.

“Medthanan you better get your feet moving and get over here right this instant. I assure you I am no ghost and I do not appreciate being made to wait in this heat. You’re father insisted that I come handle this matter,” at which she waved abstractly at the field and players, “personally since apparently you’re my son right now.”

He couldn’t look at anyone any more, he’d seen this coming, her actually showing up was not fully expected but not surprising. No better way than to get the wayward nuisance in line then to show up in person and wreck his life in front of everyone. Completely ensuring his obedience and ruining and relationships he’d managed to build.

As he moved towards her he felt a rough hand grab his wrist, and another wiry arm wrap around his waist. He looked up to see Can wrapped around him, and Good holding his wrist. Both keeping him in place, and as he looked up he saw the rest of the team moving to create a barrier between him and the screaming woman.
P’Type actually strutted right up to her and got in her face. He couldn’t help the groan that slipped from his lips as he saw this.

“Don’t worry Tin,” Can murmured. “P’Type may be explosive and cranky, but he knows how to handle situations like this. He won’t make it worse, unless she initiates it.”

Can gave his waist a bit of a squeeze and gave him a soft smile. It didn’t help alleviate the panic racing through his body at that very moment, but he appreciated it nonetheless.

“This is a closed practice, only team members are allowed on the field during practices. I’m going to have to kindly ask you to leave as you are disrupting our practice.” P’Type’s voice drifted over the field. Not loud and demanding like his mothers, but with an authoritative tone that allowed it to travel just the same.

His mother eyed the young man who had dared confront her. Taking in the grass and dirt stained uniform, the ruffled hair that kept getting caught in the wind, the silver ring gracing his left hand, and the unamused expression on his face. She may be towering over him in her heels, but P’Type had that way of making himself seem larger than he was. Tin admired it really.

“My apologies,” she stated sarcastically, “but I need to see my son, and I’m afraid that it’s urgent. If you could let him come with me, we’ll get out of your way and you continue,” again looking over the field, “whatever it is you’re doing here.”

“Who is your son?” P’Type asked in a way that took back the power. Blatantly ignoring the fact that she’d been bellowing Tin’s name moments earlier at a decibel level the whole university probably heard.

“Medthanan'' she replied icily, “my son is Medthanan. He’s right over there.” She inclined her chin in Tin’s direction.

“Sorry, but I don’t think we have anyone on the team named that,” P’Type replied feigning confusion. “P’No do we have a player named Medthanan?”

To P’No’s credit he put on his best confused face and scrunched up his brows as if he was trying to do calculus in his head. He then turned around slowly looking at each individual player.

Tin felt himself try to move again. They were playing with her, he could see it even if she didn’t. Can and Good both held on tighter.

“Don’t,” Good said strictly. “Let them handle this.”

“But they’re messing with her,” Tin practically whined. Hating how weak his voice sounded. “They’re going to make it worse.”

“No,” Can said, “they’re letting her know that you can’t be messed with, and they’re doing it under the shield of you being a teammate. They’re not going to budge and let her think she can just walk in here screaming and get her way. You’re on the team and the team has a lot of pull in the university. If the administration hears about her messing with practice she’ll be in trouble. Especially with the big game coming up this weekend.”

Tin hoped they were right. Hoped that this wouldn’t backfire further. He watched as his mother got more irritated the longer P’No took looking through all the players trying to find the elusive Medthanan this woman so clearly wanted.

“I’m sorry,” P’No said after a while, “I don’t see anyone here that answers to that name. Are you sure you’re at the right spot? Here let me take you to the administrative offices and I’m sure they can help you find your son.”

P’No moved forward to gently grab her arm and to do just as he said. She recoiled from him so violently she nearly rolled her ankle. Sending a poison filled sneer towards him like he carried every disease known to man. She threw her gaze back to P’Type in an attempt to get the conversation back on track.

“Is this how you treat a lady? I feel sorry for your poor wife,” she stated with another once over.

He” P’Type started with heavy emphasis on the pronoun, “knows how to be respectful and courteous about other people’s time and obligations. Something you clearly do not understand having come in and so rudely interrupting our practice. Now if you’d please leave we have a big game this weekend and the university is counting on us to bring home the trophy. I’d hate to have to tell the dean that we lost because we didn’t get enough practice time.” He ended with an ever so polite smile plastered on his face.

The eye-roll she gave somehow implied that of course he didn’t have a wife if he was acting this way, it totally figured. Poor people! However, seeing that she was for the moment beaten she retreated, throwing one last glare at Tin before huffing off to find some air con.

Tin felt his legs give out as her back finally faded from view. He let out the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. Glad that Can and Good had him so he didn’t face plant into the turf as he felt all the blood rush to his head.

“Tin?” Can called worriedly as he saw Tin’s eye’s roll back. “Tin!”

He could have sworn he heard panic in his soulmate’s voice. He didn’t know why. He was just in need of a quick nap. It was fine. Naps were good. Should be encouraged more.

A bitter smell assaulted his nasal passages as became aware of his surroundings again. He felt the soft tickle of the grass against the exposed skin on his legs and arms. The comforting solidity of the ground beneath him, and a gentle yet somehow frantic breeze running over his face.

“I think he’s coming around” P’Type said with relief in his voice.

“Tin?” Can called softly. “Are you okay?”

“Mmmn” he managed to grunt as he peeled his eyes open.

He was greeted with a circle of faces all standing around him with various looks of worry on their faces. Can was fanning him with P’No’s clipboard, and P’Type was moving a bottle of something away from his face. He breathed in a deep sigh as the acrid smell of whatever was in that bottle left.

As his senses came back he remembered what had happened, and what he’d put his team through.

“I’m so sorry!” he cried desperately, sitting up faster than he should have. “I didn’t think she’d show up here, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. She was so disruptive. I’m so sorry. P’Type, P’No I’ll understand if you kick me off the team. I know I’m so much trouble for you guys. I’m sorry. I’ll make sure she doesn’t bother you again.”

“Tin,” P’Type said with a gentleness he’d deny if questioned, “It’s not your fault. You did nothing wrong, or anything to deserve the show she decided to put on. You are not allowed to leave the team. Ever.”

“We discussed what to do if this happened” P’No added helpfully. “We thought something like this might happen, though we honestly thought your father would be the one to show up.”

“You did?” Tin couldn’t help the disbelief in his voice. “How?”

“We’ve been talking a lot with the administration, as well as Pete’s mom. Trying to understand our enemy so that we know how to better defend against them and keep you safe and happy. They said this was a strong possibility.”

“I’m so…” Tin started.

“I swear to all things holy nong” P’Type let out an exasperated breath, “if you apologize once more I’ll make you do laps.”

He set his face into a stern façade that was not backed up by his eyes. Tin bowed his head and dropped the matter.

“Alrighty” P’No shouted as he got up. “Everyone, back to what you were doing before we got our own personal soap opera moment. We need to be ready for the game on Saturday.”

Tin looked at Good and Can as they helped him get on his feet. He smiled thankfully to them and his heart rejoiced when they returned his smile. Good moving off before Can so they could have a moment.

“You okay?” Can queried softly.

“No,” Tin replied, “not at all. I can’t believe, no I can, just still. She always preaches about me not embarrassing her, and how I need to act a certain way because of status or whatever. Yet here she is acting like she owns the world and we’re all special because she graced us with her presence and attention. Not even caring that she embarrassed me, and inconvenienced my team and friends.”

“Yeah, well as I’ve seen it, the people who are supposed to have the most manners seem to be the most lacking,” Can stated firmly. “Seriously, she shows up and just starts screaming your last name like it’s supposed to mean something.”

“It is,” Tin said quietly. “It’s to remind me who I am. Who’s name I am forced to carry, so that I won’t ever forget my position.”

“Oh Tin,” Can whispered as he moved to cup his soulmates cheek in his palm. “What an awful woman. How did such a loving and caring person come from someone so awful?”

Tin didn’t answer. It was a question that while begging for an answer, was still rhetorical. He was loving and caring strictly because he wanted to be anything other than what his parents were. For every air they put on, for every snide remark, for every disdainful look, for everything that made them feel superior. Tin took those and threw them out. Determined to be better. Determined to be everything they weren’t.

Seeing the answers in Tin’s eyes Can couldn’t help the woeful smile that filled his face. Soon it was drowned out by determination and defiance, as he remembered what had just happened.

“I am NEVER letting her near you,” he stated with a firmness that shouldn’t be argued.

“You’ll have to,” Tin replied, “I’ll have to deal with her in order to get her to leave.”

“Then I’ll be beside you, every single minute,” Can fired back.

“No, you shouldn’t be anywhere near her. I don’t want her having any effect on you, let alone a chance to throw her nastiness your way.”

“Non-negotiable Tin” Can stated. “You shouldn’t have to be anywhere near her either, because you don’t deserve any of whatever she has to throw at you. However, since you have to, I won’t let you do it alone. I can handle myself. I won’t allow her to hurt you anymore.”

“But if she sees you, and figures out who you are…” Tin started trying to express how bad of an idea this was through expressions and tone since words didn’t seem to be working.

“Then what? Tell me Tin” Can said earnestly. Not baiting or annoyed, but genuine in the way only Can could be.

“Then she’ll…” Tin couldn’t finish. He sighed and threw his hands up as his face filled with pain seeing all the things he knew his mother was capable of but not being able to express any of them.

“She’ll nothing, Tin. No matter what she says, or does. None of it will make me love you less. None of it will make me leave you. None of it changes anything that is us. I waited for you so earnestly. Sped through life trying to get to you faster. Knowing that finding you would make me feel whole and complete.

“And finally meeting you. Finally having you by my side is better than anything I’d ever imagined. I no longer want each day to pass quickly. I want the world to slow down so I can enjoy every moment I can with you. So no matter what you think you know about what she’ll do to us, I’m telling you it is impossible. I found you, and I am NEVER ever letting you go. Got it?”

Tin felt something bloom in his chest. Hot and spreading as he looked into Can’s dark eyes so filled with emotions he’d never thought he’d be on the receiving end. This man before him was his everything. Everything he’d prayed for, had hoped for, had felt guilty for asking for.

He knew in that moment that his life had been rough, but it had never taken any of his love, because he knew now that all his love belonged to this man. He was grateful for every day that he was allowed to give it away now. To give the love he had growing deep inside him to the person who deserved it the most. His Can. His soulmate.

Can gently patted his cheek before turning to go back to practice.

“I owe you one kiss,” he threw over his shoulder nonchalantly.

Tin choked on the breath he’d just taken. Really, Can shouldn’t say such things so breezily. It wasn’t good for his heart.

“Only one?” he managed to squeak out.

“As many as you want” Can yelled loud enough to draw attention and gave him an exaggerated wink and grin.

He really couldn’t with this boy Tin thought as he felt himself blush. He wasn’t sure where that burst of bravery had come from, to reply so cheekily was not something he usually did. Yet, as he considered it, he was doing a lot of things now that he hadn’t before. Can was doing things to him. Making him want to be braver. To be bolder. To not live in fear.

He was lucky he realized. So lucky to find his soulmate. To know that his soulmate accepted him as he was, but was also there to help him grow and be better. And he would, he’d grow, he’d become better. Can deserved it, but more importantly he deserved to live a life filled with love and not fear. He’d make it happen.

Chapter Text

“Shut up” Tin whispered harshly as he scrunched his eyes closed. “Shut up, shut up, shut up, just shut up please.” He hated the whine that started to tinge his voice as he kept repeating this single wish.

“Tin” came the soft whisper in his ear. “Tin listen to me okay.”

Tin squeezed his eyes tighter. Knowing if he relaxed tears would fall, and he couldn’t allow that right now. He couldn’t let her see the effect she was having on him. He could crumble later, when he was in the safety of the dorm room.

“Tin,” his name became a plea. “Tin I need you to listen to me, just me okay. I’m right here, right beside you. I’m not going to leave you. I won’t walk away no matter what.”

Tin felt a strong warm hand rest on his shoulder followed by a firm squeeze. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes to observe the scene unfolding in front of them. His mother’s voice ringing out in the small space was quickly overwhelming.

He’d been called to the dean’s office the next day. Some secretary had shown up at his first class to tell him when he was expected. He wasn’t surprised. He knew his mother would throw a fit and even with the support of the school on his side they still had to play nice and by the rules. Pete had been there when the meeting had been set. Tin said he’d be there, and then proceeded to pay attention in class.

“Aren’t you going to tell him?” Pete had whispered.

“Why?” Tin had whispered in return. “They want me there. He doesn’t need to be there.”

“He’ll want to be there. You need to tell him.”

“It’s not his fight. It’s not his mother.”

“While I admire your determination to take this battle on by yourself,” Pete started hesitantly, “it’s not a weakness to have others beside you. Especially if they want to be there.”

“I’ll think about it.”

He knew he wouldn’t tell Can about it. He knew his soulmate had sworn not to let him face his mother alone, and if it wasn’t a formal summons to the dean’s then he’d have told him, but he wasn’t sure Can’s presence would be allowed or tolerated.

Despite all this, he wasn’t surprised to walk up to the dean’s office and find Can standing outside. He was surprised to see Good there, however, but it was comforting to know he was there too. His cool head would be helpful if Can got riled up.

“Pete?” he asked even though he knew the answer.

“Ai’Asshole,” Can started, “I shouldn’t have to hear that you have a meeting with the dean from my friend, who only knew because his soulmate is in the same class as you. I told you I wouldn’t let you do this alone. I can’t keep my word if you don’t meet me halfway.”

“It was a formal request” Tin started softly hanging his head, “I didn’t want to bother you, and I wasn’t sure you’d be allowed.”

“And?” Good asked in his slow way. “We could wait outside if need be.”

“Exactly,” Can picked up. “Even if we can’t go in, we can be here and you’ll know we're here. Isn’t that better?”

“Mm” Tin nodded shyly. “I’m sorry.”

“Tin, we’re not mad or upset at you. There’s no reason to apologize. Just don’t forget you have us now. We want to help you. You don’t have to do any of this alone.”
Any reply Tin could offer was cut off when the door to the dean’s office opened and Tin was called in. To his surprise Can and Good were allowed to join them. His mother was late, as usual, so they got the small talk out of the way while they waited. The dean was making sure that Tin was fitting in with the soccer team, and gave him updates on how his scholarships were coming along. They had decided to play it safe and assume his father would cut him off at the end of all this chaos so they started on the process early. Things like that always took time.

When his mother finally decided to show up, twenty minutes late, she complained about traffic and how she really didn’t miss the chaos that was Bangkok. Tin wanted to ask why she was here then if she hated it so much, but he knew why, and being impudent at this point in the meeting would set an even sourer tone.
His mother didn’t even introduce herself to Can or Good just looked them over with a sneer. He’d felt a flare of anger at her dismissal and wanted to stand up for them, but a quick look from Can had held him in his seat.

Now they were sitting there listening to his mother rail on about how the soccer team had so rudely kicked her off the soccer green and how she had just wanted to have a nice little chat with her son. She was calling for academic retribution for both P’Type and P’No.

The dean was trying to explain to her that there was no cause to punish P’Type and P’No because they had been within their rights to ask her to leave. Practices were indeed closed to outsiders, and her interruption had cost them precious practice time.

Tin was in awe of the dean who was able to remain calm and collected when faced with the shrill woman who was insistent on being heard and obeyed.

“How is his transfer coming along?” She snapped after making some disgruntled noise after realizing she wasn’t going to get her way concerning the soccer captains.

“Excuse me?” The dean had queried.

“Mr. Medthanan said you were working on a way to transfer the boy to another college so he wouldn’t start as a freshman next year. I assume that it is going smoothly? I’d hate to see his education compromised.”

“I’m not transferring,” Tin said softly but firmly.

“Oh yes you are,” she shot at him, “your father said it was happening so it is going to happen.”

“Ma’me,” the dean started, “I do not know what you’ve been told, but we never received such a request. In fact we have been working quite hard to keep Ai’Tin at our university. He’s been such a welcome addition to our campus.”

The snort and lip curl that graced her face said volumes to the disbelief that anyone would find her son ‘a welcome addition’.

“Does Mr. Medthanan know you’ve been working against him?”

“I do believe he is aware of our position on the matter” the dean replied politely. “In fact one of our top donors, a Ms. Pichaya, has been very persistent in her push to keep Ai’Tin at our university. Seems that Ai’Tin has been very helpful to her son. She’s even gotten the support of several of the other alumni and donors.”

The surprise that flitted across her face at the mention of Pete’s mother was something he didn’t expect. She’d schooled her expression quickly to cover it, but Tin had seen it. It also seemed as if she hadn’t been told all the details as to what was actually happening. Likely his father just ordering her to come deal with him without the information about what she was stepping into. If it was anyone else Tin might have found it in himself to feel sorry for them, but as it was he just couldn’t muster any emotion towards this woman.

“I see,” she said slowly and with clear annoyance.

“I sincerely hope that you do” the dean replied. “Ai’Tin is a good kid and has brought a lot to this university and the soccer team. I hope you’ll pass this information along to Mr. Medthanan and hopefully encourage and reassure him that Ai’Tin’s education is safe in our capable hands. We understand there may be some steps that may be necessary to keep Ai’Tin out of the path of a future student, and we’re willing to work with those within reason.”

The smile that plastered on the dean’s face let everyone know that the meeting was over and that no further discussion would be tolerated. He rose from his chair and held his hand out towards the door letting her know she was free to leave.

She rose stiffly and turned to Tin, unable to walk away without throwing one last barb.

“I don’t know why I was asked to come clean up this mess” she said vehemently giving him a sneer letting him know that he was the mess, not the situation. “I was happy when you left and I could get on with my life, and yet even thousands of miles away you just won’t leave me be. Clinging to me like a stubborn stain. You are nothing, and you never will be, no matter what ‘friends’ tell you. I wash my hands of you. If your father has a problem he can deal with you himself.”

With that she turned on her heel and stormed out of the office. Tin sat frozen as he watched her leave. Everything he’d ever thought his mother had felt towards him, but had never vocalized, had been thrown at him all at once. He’d hoped that maybe, just maybe, somewhere deep down she’d held at least a sliver of affection towards him.

Those final words shattered that small hope. Despite knowing, without truly accepting, it hurt to hear those words. To hear the truths she’d been holding inside for who knows how long. Maybe she was right, he was nothing because he’d never been meant to be. He was an accident, a mistake. A regret that just wouldn’t fade away.

Tin felt the Can wrap his arms around him. He knew he should feel safe in those arms, but right now it was too much. He didn’t want to be touched. He couldn’t take it, no matter how comforting it should be. That some small part deep down wanted it. Right now he couldn’t.

“Please let go,” he managed to get out.

Can released him immediately with a soft apology.

“I’m sorry” he’d whispered back. Lowering his head as he saw Can’s slight shake of his head telling him not to apologize.

He’d moved to squat in front of Tin so that he could look at him without moving. Tin saw him fighting against his instinct and innate need to comfort Tin, but knowing Tin just couldn’t handle being touched right now. He saw the worry cloud his eyes, and the lines in his brow as he frowned at being restrained from doing anything.

He heard the dean and Good shuffle out of the room giving them some privacy. Can having whispered something that he just couldn’t take in right now. His mother’s voice ringing over and over in his ears.

‘You’re nothing’

'I wash my hands of you’

'I was happy you left’

All of it running around in his head. He pulled his legs up onto the chair and wrapped his arms around them. Burying his head in his knees trying to muffle the voice that just kept getting louder. The tears started to fall and he felt the sobs building in his chest.

“…a straight A student. A loving soulmate. A good friend. A helpful teammate. An amazing cook. A kind friend. A selfless human being.”

He wasn’t sure how long Can had been talking before it registered and he lifted his head so he could peer over his knees at the boy who was now sitting on the floor in front of him.

“What?” he managed to rasp out.

“I’m listing all the ways that you are something, or someone. Your mother lied to you. What she said was hurtful, and I’m sorry you had to hear those things, but I figured if she was allowed to speak her ‘truth’ then I could speak the real truth.

“The truth that you are someone who is amazing. A someone who has worked hard to get where he is today. The person who waited for me to find them. The person who opened his heart to me and let me in. The person who has brought comfort and joy to my life every day since I ran into a locker room to change only to be greeted with a laughing asshole hiding in a stall.”

“I wasn’t hiding…” Tin sniffled as he looked into Can’s eyes.

“I’m pretty sure you were. See normally we all just change in the common area, so your use of the stall was just being sneaky.” Can countered with a tease in his voice.
“If I hadn’t been in there I’m pretty sure I would have been bowled over by some rambunctious soccer player, so I was protecting myself.”

Can gasped and grasped at his chest, “are you saying I’m someone you need to be protected from?”

“Mn” Tin responded with a soft nod.

“I see,” Can started, “well then I guess that just means I should keep my distance,” he continued as he started scooting himself further away from Tin.

Tin jerked as he watched Can move away wanting to reach out and pull him back.

“I should also look into a packing supply company and see if I can get a good rate on packing foam. That way I can make sure you’re safe and protected at all costs. It wouldn’t be very nice of me to let you be hurt by me, but since I can’t let you go” Can continued as his face lit with a smirk, “soulmates and all that.”

Tin couldn’t stay still any more. He shifted his legs and slipped down onto the floor beside his other half and reached out and pulled the smaller man into his lap and just held him close. Relishing the smell of his vanilla and honey shampoo that always calmed him, and the heat and weight of his body pressed against his grounding him to this moment.

“Hey now!” Can squawked. “You can’t just go around grabbing at me, what if you get hurt. You said yourself you needed protection from me and here you go acting all recklessly. You need to be…”

Tin gently pressed his lips against the boy’s temple effectively silencing the other. Can stilled in his lap and settled in muttering something about how he won this round. He wasn’t sure if that was true, or if he’d just been startled into sitting still since Tin rarely initiated intimacies. Now he’d been pulled into the taller boys lap and been gently kissed. It was enough to short circuit him for a few minutes.

“I’m really sorry Tin,” Can whispered into the silence after a few minutes.

“Hm?” Tin hummed.

“For not finding you sooner,” Can continued a slight crack in his voice. “I look at you every day and I see what those people did to you, and how they did their very best to break you. I am so proud of you for being strong enough to have survived that. For knowing that I was out there waiting for you, and not giving up so we could be together.

“Every day that I watch you go out into the world and be kind, and give all that you can to the people around you to make the world a better place. I count each as a blessing and cherish them deep inside. I can see what could have been and it breaks my heart, but then you look at me and I feel nothing but love. From you and for you. You are my everything Tin.”

Tin felt like his heart was going to burst. Tears were falling again, but this time out of happiness. He buried his face in Can’s shoulder unable to speak or look at the man who was his.

“I know this isn’t over,” Can continued softly, “but for today it is. Today we won. Today we got rid of one obstacle, and I know the damage that came to us because of it is still fresh and will hurt for a while. Just know that the damage will heal because I will do everything I can to erase it and to fill that space with the care and love that you are deserving of. That I was born to give you, and only you.

“So, you can be sad for now, you can hurt for now, it’s okay. You deserve to feel those things. Just remember they aren’t the whole story. That your story from this point on is my love for you, and your love for me. That you are someone, and that someone belongs to me, and Good, and Pete, and Ae, and the soccer team. Okay?”

Tin nodded his head. He knew that Can spoke the truth, could feel it deep inside. Yet the voice in his head wouldn’t leave him be, not today anyways. He’d fight it, chase it away. The damage it inflicted would heal with time. He knew this. Believed it deep down.

“I love you” he whispered in Can’s ear.

“I love you too,” came the gentle reply.

There was a soft knock on the door that pulled them out of their little bubble. Good poked his head in and looked them over. Something unspoken passing between him and Can. The lines that had been furrowing his brow easing as he took in the two of them on the floor.

“I’m starving,” Can suddenly spouted, “let’s go get some food!”

With that announcement they got up and left the office after thanking the dean for his help and time. They’d quickly set a time to re-visit the events and discuss what further needed to happen before Tin and Good found themselves being drug across the campus to the food stalls. Both exchanging looks and smiles that spoke volumes to the adoration they both felt for the spunky boy that loved with his whole being.

Can was right, the battle for today was over. They would recharge with food and then rest and face the upcoming days with determination. Most importantly they’d face it together.

Chapter Text

Tin was spiraling. He felt it in every fiber of his being. Felt the weight of it as it settled into his bones. He wanted to fight back. To push it away. Remind himself that it held no power over him. That his brain was filled with lies. Filled with darkness that just wanted to drag him down and destroy everything.

He felt it all, and just couldn’t muster the fight he needed. Part of him didn’t even want to fight. He was tired of fighting. It all just hurt too much. Maybe this time it would end him, and he’d be free from everything.

He’d heard somewhere that the body could only handle so much pain before it just stopped functioning. Days like today he wondered what that threshold was because it seems like he should have hit it long ago, and if not then then surely now. Surely his body had to realize that this was too much, and it’d just stop.

Please, he pleaded with the heavens, just make this stop. It hurts too much.

The rational side was trying to keep the darkness away. Reminding him that he wasn’t alone any more. He had friends. He had his soulmate. Can had finally found him. Can loved him. Can would cry if he weren’t here anymore.

Lies! The darkness screamed back. No one cared about him. His friends weren’t really his friends, they were just pretending. It was some huge conspiracy to make him feel like he had friends, but in reality they talked behind his back. They all laughed at him at how weak and stupid he was. They were playing the long con and would abandon him just when he accepted them. When he finally felt safe and secure they’d leave. Laughing at how gullible he’d been to think that someone like him could have friends.

Can loves you. Can is your soulmate. The magic showed you it was there. You heard the bell. Can shows up every day to see you. Can who leaves you notes, who holds you when you’re scared or lonely. Can who has shown you nothing but love and kindness since the day you met.

Can doesn’t really love you, the darkness threw back. He regrets helping you. He bemoans the fact that he’s tied to you. He’ll cheat on you like your father did with his soulmate. He’ll go seeking something that fills the areas you cannot fill. You’ll never be enough. You’ll never be anything. You’re nothing and soon Can will realize it too, and he’ll stray away. You’ll be alone again, just like you deserve to be. You will become invisible.

The boy who thought he was something, thought he could fight back, thought he was brave and strong. Look at you. Pathetic. Lying in bed crying. Sad really. One person gives you attention and suddenly the world is all better filled with rainbows and unicorns? Ha! Your world will always be darkness.

“Tin…” a soft voice cut through the words tumbling around in his head. “Tin can you hear me? How long has he been like this?”

Forever Tin thought. He’d been like this for forever, and he always would be. He’d never be anything else.

“I don’t know” came the slow reply. “He seemed okay when we got back from dinner after the meeting with the dean. I have class before him so I’m always gone first.”

“Fuck,” came the frustrated reply. “I knew this would happen. I knew it and I still left him alone. I should have stayed over, or made him come home with me.”

“It’s not your fault, Can. I should have noticed, should have made sure he was okay before leaving. I just got focused on this test we had. It’s my fault.”

“No,” Tin finally managed to get out barely above a whisper. “My fault. Always my fault…”

“Tin, baby, no this isn’t your fault. It’s that woman’s fault. She put these ideas back in your head. I should find her and teach her some manners.”

“You know that won’t solve anything Can,” Good replied firmly, knowing full well what his friend was like when he went on the offensive.

“She was right though,” Tin mumbled into his pillow, “I am nothing but a nuisance. I just take up space that could be better used by others. I hold you guys back. I’m a burden to you all. You should just leave me alone. I’ll leave the school, and I’ll find somewhere to settle. Somewhere where I won’t be a bother or a nuisance.”

Tin felt the bed shift as Can sat down and leaned his body over so he could look Tin in the face. He couldn’t look at him. Look at the face he knew he was hurting with his words. He knew he’d see the pain his words created and the heartbreak that came with watching someone you love hurt. It would make the guilt climb higher. Showing how much he was actually hurting those around him. Further proof that Can, and everyone, was better off without him. Proof that he wasn’t strong or brave. He was weak. Weak and pathetic and would just bring darkness wherever he went.

“Good, can you pack him some things?” Can asked his roommate. “Enough for a few days. I’m going to take him home with me. You’re welcome to come along too, the more the merrier.”

“No,” Tin replied for Good. “I’m fine. I’ll just stay here. You can stay if you want, but I’m not going.”

“Why not?” Can asked kindly.

“Because I’ll just make everything dark. I can’t make your house dark too.”

“But you can stay here and make your and Good’s room dark? How is that fair?”

“You’re right. Good should leave. Good you should go live with Can. I’ll be fine here by myself.”

“That is so not happening,” Good replied firmly. “How do you know that the light won’t erase your darkness if you go to Can’s house?” he queried, playing into Tin’s metaphor.

“Darkness always wins. It always is. The light is always the one that goes away. It cannot stand against the darkness.”

“Hmm, I guess we're doomed then,” Good replied resolutely.

Tin let out a soft yelp as he felt Good crawl into his bed with him and curl under the covers. Tin tried to shift to give him some room, but he was pinned on the opposite side by Can still sitting on the bed.

“This is nice,” Good whispered softly.

Can let out an exasperated sigh as he looked down at his soulmate and best friend huddled in the bed. One looking disheveled and tear soaked, the other looking content and peaceful. He loved both of them dearly, and as much as he wanted to push Tin to come home with him and be around his family he knew that maybe he just needed this right now.

He got up and pushed Good’s bed over against Tin’s before going to retrieve his phone. He called Ae and asked to speak to Pete.

“Noooooo,” Tin whined from his blanket fortress.

“Ai’Pete,” Can started carefully before walking out of earshot of Tin.

Tin rolled over to look at Good with a question in his eyes. Good just shrugged his shoulders before moving to spread the blankets more evenly across both beds. He then scooted over and pulled Tin with him knowing that Can would come back to claim the other side. Tin needed to be surrounded by love.

“Just because the darkness always comes, doesn’t mean it wins you know,” he stated softly.

“If it always comes back then how is that not winning?” Tin asked just as softly.

“Because the light always comes back too. It chases it away. Neither one really wins. If all you know is darkness then it’s nothing but that. If all you know is light, same thing. If you have both, then you know the light and the dark. You know what each brings and offers. You know that the other is more because the opposite exists. Sure the darkness may feel like it’s always winning because it comes back, but just as surely you know the light will come again.”

“What if it doesn’t this time?”

Good looked at him thoughtfully. Taking in the tear tracks that laced his face and the swollen eyes that were rimmed in red. The normally strong intimidating features were softened and worn thin with depth of emotions that roiled in those eyes. He saw the pain and despair that filled his friend’s thoughts, but he also saw something else, something that showed the darkness wouldn’t win. Couldn’t win when it was present.

Tin must have confused his long silence as acceptance. “See, even you don’t know. Darkness will always win.”

“Nope,” Good said firmly.

“How can you be so sure?” Tin asked, more confused by the absoluteness of his tone than the actual answer.

“I can’t tell you. I just know. Someday you’ll know why too, but just know it won’t.”

Tin rolled his eyes at this. Good couldn’t keep the smile from tugging at his lips. The sarcasm meant good things. He’d gladly accept it. They lay there in silence as they heard Can rummaging around the dorm room. He’d gotten off the phone by now, but still hadn’t come to settle in.

“Do you still believe it?” Tin asked timidly.

“Hm?” Good hummed.

“That I’m still perfect for him?”

Good rolled back to stare at the boy who had curled in on himself again and wouldn’t raise his eyes to look at him. He knew he should answer, but he also saw the struggle playing at Tin’s features. So he waited. Tin needed to get something off his chest, something that worried him. So he waited and just observed.

“I’m nothing but darkness. My life has always been filled with pain. I have never been good or successful at anything. I bring nothing to the world by my existence. No one has ever wanted me, or cared to learn about me. I don’t even know who I am because I never got to figure it out. I just knew what I was supposed to do, and if I did it then there was less pain. Less suffering.

“It’s silly really, measuring life choices by the amount of pain they’ll give you. Yet it’s all I know, all I’ve ever known. Coming to this university was the first time I did something for myself, and even then I knew it’d hurt. It’d hurt being alone. It’d hurt being ignored. But I did it anyways because maybe the pain would be bearable.

“And I got here and the pain was bearable, it was okay because it wasn’t the worst. I didn’t have to see the look of disgust and shame in my mother’s face every day. I didn’t have to hear my step-father complain about how much money my schooling cost, or how much my clothes and food cost. Not that he actually paid for any of it, but it didn’t stop him.

“Then I met you, and I was afraid at first. Worried you’d see me, see the real me and you’d stop having lunch with me. I figured you must pity me, or you were just messing with me somehow. Yet you kept showing up, kept responding, and then through you I met Pete, and Ae, and even Can. It still doesn’t feel real. How can I, this person who has known nothing but being unwanted and unloved, suddenly have people that care for him?

“How can I not spoil all of you with the life I’ve lived? I am so afraid that my life will bleed into all of yours and I’ll kill the light that each of you bears.”

“Why can’t we be the light that chases away the darkness?” Can asked softly as he crawled into the bed on Tin’s other side. Drawing close but not touching, just adding his warm presence to their mix of bodies and blankets.

Both boys started not having heard him approach. How he’d managed to sneak up on them they’d never know. The boy was not stealthy.

Good looked at Tin who had frozen at Can’s question, his face filled with fear and shame at Can having heard some, if not all, of what he’d said. He raised his eyes to look at Can and convey some message Tin couldn’t suss out just by observing. Good and Can had their own way of communicating, and he was grateful for it now.

“Oh right,” Can replied as if Tin had responded, “darkness always wins right? I guess you could be right, but maybe I’m right?”

“Mm” Good hummed in reply.

“Black will always be black, no matter what touches it. If there’s enough of it it will always overpower whatever it touches. White can only dilute and never erase what it touches. White will always lose to black because it can never return to what it was if it has touched something else.” Tin sighed resolutely.

“I see,” Can said thoughtfully, “but what if white doesn’t want to erase black? What if it knows that the darkness may always be there, but if it can be diluted then it won’t be so bad? What if white knows that it can never win, but it can make it so black doesn’t either? Doesn’t it deserve the chance to try?”

“But…” Tin started.

“Hush,” Good whispered.

“Tin,” Can started softly. “I know you feel like you are darkness, and that you’ll somehow stain or smudge our lives with this darkness that is in you, but isn’t it our choice? Don’t we get a say in if we want to absorb some of your darkness? We can’t ever make it go away, but we can dilute it and carry its weight with you.

“You say you’re only darkness, and I see that in you, but I also see light. I see the kindness that your life has tried to kill. I see your self-sacrifice when it comes to those around you. I see the trust and caring you pour into your friends. These are all pieces of light that are part of you. You may be darkness, but that’s okay, because you are light too. You are allowed to be both, because they both make you you. That doesn’t mean that the darkness gets to win, and rule everything. It just means you are more than what you think.

“You may think you’re doing us a favour by trying to stay away from us, but you’re not. You’re doing yourself a disservice, and I at least want to have the option to make the choice to stay with you. To help you carry the weights you’ve been given. Please, can I?”

Can looked down at Tin who’d rolled to look at him fresh tracks filling his cheeks as tears fell silently. He hoped his eyes showed the love he felt in his heart. This broken boy who had been raised with such cruelty. He would raze the entire world for him, if he knew it would make the world a better place for this precious boy.

He saw the struggle cloud Tin’s face as he tried to fight the thoughts that were probably screaming in his brain. Telling him that Can was lying to him. That Good was wrong as well. That this was all some giant cosmic joke to bring him the most pain.

“I’ve tainted your lives so much already,” Tin managed to finally get out.

“How so?” Can replied.

“I’ve made your lives complicated by having to find resources so I can stay here. I’ve interrupted Good’s life by having moved in here. My mother has infected everyone with her very presence, and has done her best to get P’No and P’Type fired. This is only the beginning. My father still hasn’t shown up yet, and I know he will now that my mother has failed.”

Can looked back and forth between Good and Tin before responding.

“And have we disappeared? Have we abandoned you to the wolves?”

“No, but…” Tin tried to start again.

“No buts,” Can shushed. “We haven’t and we won’t. I don’t know about Good, but I’m tied to you for life. Even if I wasn’t I wouldn’t abandon you now. You deserve the world Tin. Even if it’s just this little piece of it you want where you can attend this university with your friends and your soulmate.

“You probably don’t think you deserve any of this, but you’re wrong about that, and I’m going to do my best to try and make it so you’ll believe it. I want to walk this path with you, and to carry your burdens. I hope that you’ll help me with mine as well. I won’t let you go just because you think you’ll hurt me. It is a risk I am willing to take.”

“Mn,” Good hummed in affirmation.

Tin couldn’t take it anymore. This was all too much. He didn’t know what to do when his friend and soulmate countered his arguments so easily. He felt so lost the darkness clinging to him and yet its hold felt weaker against this onslaught of truths. Or what he prayed with all his heart were truths. He wanted to trust them. Wanted to let them in.

He buried his head under the blankets. He needed a minute, or two. Too much. He wanted to let the darkness wrap him up. It was comfortable there. He knew it. Knew the pain it would inflict, but even that was a comfort. Reassurance in its continued presence. It never changed. Always there. Always the same. The only change was how heavy and how long it stayed. It was a routine he knew well. It was a part of him.

Yet as the bed shifted as Good and Can moved around a bit he felt anger flash hot in his heart. Anger at the idea of the darkness taking this away from him. Anger at the lies he knew filled his head. It burned white hot. It wasn’t acceptance, but it was something that made him want to fight back. He wanted Can. He wanted Good, and his friends. He wanted all of it.

He’d survived so he could get this. Would be able to find this. To find Can. To find the love that belonged to him. He knew the war wasn’t over. Would never truly be over. Hell even this battle wasn’t over yet, but he could see the end. He saw the light and he saw Can waiting for him. Today that was enough.

Tin would fight. He’d learn to fight alongside his soulmate, and his friends, because he didn’t want to lose any of this. It belonged to him.
He let out a deep sigh just as there was a knock on the door. He felt Good get up and Can hunch down to whisper to him.

“That will be Pete, and probably Ae. I asked them to come so we could have a night in. You don’t have to come out and be with us if you’re not ready, or at all if you don’t want. It’s okay, but we’ll be out here with food and games if you are okay. If you want me to stay with you I will, or I can go help everyone settle in.”

“Stay, please” Tin managed. “I need just a minute. Please stay.”

“Okay,” Can replied as he settled in against the headboard.

Tin slid his hand outside the blanket cocoon and reached around trying to find Can’s. Once he made contact he wrapped their pinkies together. It wasn’t much, but it was all he could take right now. He just needed that small contact to help ground him.

His thoughts were still dark and clamoring to be heard, but through it all he heard a gentle chime. A clear silvery sound that cut through the lies and filled his heart with the hope he’d grown to recognize as Can. Can was his hope. Can was his light.

He knew he’d get out of bed here in a bit. He’d wash his face and probably change into some clean sweats. He’d join his friends as they ate food, watched movies, and played games. They’d turn the whole living area into a giant pillow and blanket fort. All curled up and cuddled together. Eventually all falling asleep in some haphazard pile of limbs and pillows.

They’d most likely wake up the next morning sore and groggy, but they’d be together. They’d feel closer and happy to have had a great night. Tin would hopefully feel like cooking breakfast, and he’d laugh at the cute bickering between Ae and Pete as they tried to decide who would help Tin in the kitchen. Can knowing well enough to stay out of Tin’s cooking zone. Good watching in amusement as he returned the blankets and pillows to their rightful places.

Tomorrow would be a good day. Tonight would be okay, and that in itself was okay. The darkness would never go away, but it could be less powerful. With this thought Tin felt a smile curve his lips as he moved to get up.

Tonight would be okay.

Chapter Text

They had two months of peace before Tin’s father finally made an appearance. The school year was starting to wrap up and everyone was in a panic over final exams and trying to gain those last few points to keep their scores up and within passing levels.

Tin knew his father planned his appearance precisely. He might have said it was because he’d been too busy until now to get down to the school, but Tin knew different. His father was a calculating person, and he knew that by scheduling a visit at this point he was hoping to catch everyone in a weakened state due to end of year priorities.

They’d received word from the dean that Mr. Medthanan would be making an appearance and that his presence was requested at this meeting. Can had scoffed at the phrasing, and mumbled something about there actually being a choice in the matter. Tin knew he was right. While the wording and the official channels this notice had taken made it seem like it was just a business meeting that wasn’t really important, they all knew what it really was. It was a summons that could not be ignored.

There had been a date set and scheduled, but Tin honestly expected his father just to show up and further disrupt their lives in any way he could. Yet each day passed and no one showed up unannounced.

The day finally arrived and Tin was a bundle of nerves the whole day. The meeting wasn’t until the afternoon, another strategy, one to make him nervous and stressed. Sadly, it worked no matter how hard Can and Good tried to distract him. The whole team in fact were doing their best to keep him busy so he couldn’t focus and stress himself into a corner.

“Laps Tin,” P’Type finally yelled at him.

Tin just stared at him like he was crazy. He looked at Can who was looking at Type with a mixture of ‘how dare you tell my soulmate what to do’ and ‘is this really going to work’ before he turned to Tin and gave him a crooked smile.

“I do not believe I stuttered,” P’Type snapped again, “and yet you are still standing there trying to catch flies with your mouth. LAPS!” he finished on a bellow and a shriek of the whistle he wore around his neck.

Tin started jogging, too afraid to even question the madness that was P’Type when he was in full on coach mode. Instead he focused on each foot fall and his lungs trying to piece out why they were suddenly having to work harder. Not that Tin was out of shape, but running laps was not in his routine, or even his wheelhouse, and thus his lungs started complaining. He slowed his pace a bit, but still kept it at what would pass as a jog.

Soon his ears tuned into the sound of other footsteps matching his and he turned to look and saw Good and Can jogging with him. He quirked his eyebrow at Can as if to ask why, or what. Can just shrugged and grinned at him. He tried to get a response from Good, but Good was focused on the track ahead of them. Hmm, well whatever, Type didn’t seem to mind that two of his players had abandoned the practice to randomly run laps with him so he’d just accept it.

They kept going until the practice was over and P’Type yelled at them to stop. They needed to shower and get to the dean’s office. Tin was kind of tempted to show up sweaty and in his gym clothes to make some kind of point, but as he walked off the field the itchy feeling of sweat drying made him reconsider. He was already going to be uncomfortable, no need to add itchy and gross feeling to the equation, no matter how satisfying it would be to show up in a less than proper or professional manner.

After they washed up Good and Can flanked him and they made their way towards the administrative building. Can and Good looking defiant and ready to do battle, and Tin hoping he didn’t look like the lamb headed to slaughter. His knuckles grazed Can’s as they walked, arms swinging gently, and before he could overthink it he snagged Can’s pinky with his own. Can turned that sunshine smile on him before facing forward again and they headed up the stairs to meet Mr. Medthanan.

There was a boy who looked years younger than what Tin knew his age to be them sitting outside the dean’s office looking very much like he wanted to disappear or cease to exist. Tin’s heart clenched seeing him. He knew that look, and that feeling. This must be his brother, or half-brother, and he looked nothing like Tin had pictured. Often assuming his brother would be just like their father - arrogant and constantly looking down on the world.

This boy before them though, he looked a bit like himself, but the way he held himself was something Tin was all too familiar with. He looked at Can, and he could see Can recognizing this boy and everything about him that he’d seen in Tin. Tin squeezed their pinkies before starting forward to stand before the boy.

“Hi nong,” he said softly, trying not to startle the boy whose gaze was solidly on the floor. “I’m P’Tin, and this is P’Can and P’Good, are you Mr. Medthanan’s son?”

At hearing Tin’s name the boy had looked up at the trio standing before him. His eyes had widened looking at Tin before fear and panic filled them and he quickly looked at the floor again.

“What’s your name?” Tin tried again softly. His heart broke seeing the other boy so visibly frightened.

“Tul!” a sharp voice snapped causing the boy to jerk and shoot up out of his chair. “Come here,” the order barked in a way that did not allow for disobedience.

Tin felt his own spine straighten at the tone of voice, but his response wasn’t out of fear for once, it was out of defiance and spite. A resilience settled on his shoulders as he turned and faced the man who’d been part of creating him. He felt his jaw stiffen and knew something flared in his eyes as he pulled his gaze past Can’s, who’s eyes were blown wide in astonishment, and settled a steely glare on his father.

At that moment he did not feel fear. He did not care what his father tried to do, he’d fight it all with every breath he had. He had to show this boy, his brother, that it was okay to stand up against this man. That he did not need to live a life filled with fear because someone dictated that he do so. He’d do it for himself, yes, because he deserved that freedom as well, but he’d do it for Tul as well. He’d prove that his father could be wrong, and that money and bluster couldn’t get you everything.

He spared a glance at Tul who had settled himself behind their father looking on the verge of tears as he tried to hold his head up high in the way he’d most likely been trained to do. His gaze softened at his brother, before turning to ice again as he marched into the now opened office to sit down and get this started.

Honestly, most of the meeting was a blur. Can could, and would, tell you the whole thing in exaggerated details if you prompted him. Telling anyone, and everyone, how his boyfriend had stood up to the head of the Medthanan empire and would not back down. How the man had blustered, threatened, and pretty much threw a tantrum when he realized that his spawn refused to kowtow before him, let alone obey the orders he set down. How the dean had told the man in no uncertain terms that what he was doing was beneath him, and it didn’t matter how much money he offered he would not throw Tin out of the school. How Pete's mum had stood up and told him that she had the backing of pretty much everyone who ran in their circles, and even if he did pull his financial support it wouldn’t do anything.

Can really loved telling the part where at the end, after realizing that he could not win he’d turned to storm out barking for Tul to follow, but how Tin had reached out and grabbed Tul’s wrist before he could. He’d passed something to the younger boy before whispering something in his ear and finally drawing him into a hug. The boy had looked shocked and confused for a moment, and had even froze at the contact before another growl and shout from the office foyer sent him scurrying after his father.

He really just remembered watching his brother’s back retreating before looking at Can and suddenly feeling so very tired. Happy, relieved, free, but oh so tired. Can just looked at him and opened his arms and Tin felt himself pretty much collapse into his boyfriend's embrace.

“I expect that the majority of it is over,” the dean said, interrupting their moment, “but he may still try a few little things.”

“Let him try,” Pete’s mum said with a satisfied smirk.

“Thank you,” Tin managed to get out finally. “For everything. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you or show my gratitude in a way that will fully express how grateful I am to all of you,” he finished with a low bow.

“Tin,” Pete’s mum said, pulling his gaze up as he straightened back up, “you owe us nothing more than being the best you that you can be. I know how hard this was for you, and how brave you’ve had to be, and I for one am so proud of you.”

Can and Good hummed their agreements as they boxed him in a hug. Tin felt lighter than he’d ever even thought possible. This moment was something special, and he promised himself to never forget it.

“I’m hungry!” Can said, breaking the moment in his own way. Good rolled his eyes as he pulled out his phone.

“What are you doing?” Tin asked.

“Letting P’Type and P’Techno how everything went so they can stop worrying.”

“Tell them to gather everyone and meet us at the barbeque place,” Pete’s mum said. “I’m treating you all to a meal to celebrate.”

One look at her and Tin knew there was no refusing or insisting it wasn’t necessary. Tin knew where Pete got his puppy eyes from, and that as bamf as she was she was not above using them to get her way.

Good sent off a few more texts before giving her a curt nod. As they all walked out of the office Pete and Ae jumped up out of the chairs they’d been waiting in asking a million questions as they looked between everyone. Can launched into, what would be the first of many, retellings of the events in the office.

Tin looked around as they all coordinated on how to get everyone to the restaurant and felt himself smile. Coming to Thailand was the best decision he’d ever made, he thought to himself. Not only had it brought him together with his soulmate, but he found a family that genuinely wanted him and cared about him.

As they made their way to various vehicles he felt his phone buzz with a message. He pulled it out and saw a simple message from an unknown number.

[Unknown Number]
Thank you.

He felt his throat constrict as he looked at that simple message. He remembered the words he’d whispered hastily to his brother ‘this is my number, text me call me whatever, you don’t have to be alone anymore’ and with that he’d hugged him and hoped it had been enough.

Next year when his brother joined their campus he’d seek him out. He’d bring him into the fold that had helped him and accepted him so warmly. He’d introduce him properly to his soulmate. He’d show his brother that he was loved and cared about, just as Can and Good and Pete had done with him. He’d pay their love and kindness forward in the best way possible. Ending the tyranny and fear that was held within the Medthanan name. They’d rebrand it and make it theirs.

As he felt Can’s hand slip into his he held on tight and brought their hands up so he could kiss Can’s fingers before turning to him with a gentle smile. He’d made it. He knew they’d be okay. More than okay really. They’d be them.