When he woke up he had no idea if it was ten minutes or ten hours later. Checking his watch revealed it was probably only about half-an-hour. He was laid out on the sofa in a position he surely didn’t fall into, obvious by the blanket that was pulled over him.
Can was nowhere to be seen.
Tin lowered his legs to the floor and rubbed his eyes. How on earth was Can his soulmate? They’d touched before. Hadn’t they? He closed his eyes and replayed all their encounters. The punches that never landed, footballs shoved into chests, the grabbing of sleeves, knees touching through cloth under the table that one time.
Obviously amidst all of that, skin had never actually made contact.
Tin groaned at the realisation. The burgeoning feelings he’d refused to act upon finally made sense. Had his subconscious had known what his logical brain did not?
He’d found the one person in the world that was meant to love him. Tin picked up his phone then realised he didn’t have Can’s number. Of course he didn’t. Can hated him.
He could hear the sounds from the party downstairs. Can could still be there. They needed to talk. Soon they’d need skinship. Then consummation. They had time before that though. The talk was the most imperative.
Tin went to the bathroom to pee then checked himself in the mirror, flattening down the hair that was sticking up following his unplanned nap. The man he saw staring back at him didn’t look any different from the man he saw every single day. Outwardly he looked like someone in control, confident and attractive, but inside he loathed himself. His good looks were a lie. He was rotten, unlovable.
Even his own soulmate had run.
The party was still in full swing, but a quick search had not revealed Can. He wasn’t holed up in a side room with his brother – whatever that had been all about – because Tin could see Tul in conversation with Pete’s cousin. No, Can was missing, and so was the football team captain.
Tin decided against asking Pete or Ae for Can’s number. Instead, he returned to his room alone.
Can was good at avoiding people when he really put his mind to it. Short of quitting college and moving to Mars, he just kept away from all the places he knew he’d be likely to run into Tin. That included football practice. Luckily Techno knew why and allowed it without complaint.
Techno had been the first person he’d run to on the night of the party when everything had gone to shit and Tin Medthanan had been revealed as the soulmate he never wanted. It seemed that the feeling was mutual if the look on Tin’s face had been anything to go by before they’d both lost consciousness. Luckily for Can he had come to first and had left before Tin came round.
He’d stayed at Techno’s that night on the sofa in his bedroom, but he hadn’t been able to sleep, his busy mind wouldn’t allow him any peace. His nightmare had become a reality. His soulmate was someone that hated him. Not that Can could blame him really, he had tried to hit him twice, but it had been ages and Can had stopped that battle, but still Tin kept deliberately trying to rile him up, seemed to take pleasure in making him angry.
Tin was the man he would have to lose his virginity to soon if he wanted to avoid a lifetime of pain. Would have to regularly sleep with. There was no way around it. Documented cases of soulmates not consummating, for a variety of reasons – the bond was ignited when they were in a big crowd and they didn’t find one another for a long time, family kept them apart, situation kept them apart…the list went on – those involved would experience increasing levels of pain that medication could not touch, pain that would eventually kill the sufferer if the bond remained unsatisfied.
Techno had tried to reason with him, pointing out that at least Tin was attractive, that he was rich, and Can would never have to worry about money with him as his soulmate… Even Techno had given up at those two reasons, admitting they were superficial. He’d hugged Can tight and despite Can’s state of numbness, his heart had broken at Techno’s tears because he knew they were not just for him but for himself and the finality that he and Can could never be more than friends.
By morning he had formulated a plan. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that he could avoid the inevitable. He had choices even if right now those choices were just limited.
Still, plan or not, he did not want to face Tin until he absolutely had to.
Now he was in a situation where he was avoiding both Medthanan brothers. Tul wanted to know where Hin was, Can was not going to tell him. Ever. The most he could do was speak to his cousin about it directly. If Hin knew Tul wanted so badly to see him maybe he’d agree to it. Can had no clue what was between the two of them, just that they couldn’t be soulmates. No soulmates could exist apart for as long as Hin had been away from Thailand.
In the end he only managed to avoid Tin for four days. When he got home from college on Thursday evening there was an expensive car parked outside his house and that could only mean it was one of the brothers. It was Tin who unfolded himself from the driver’s side at Can’s arrival, glaring at him with folded arms.
“We need to talk.”
Can had struggled to tear his gaze away, blaming it on a soulmate connection thing, but was able to glance at his house and ascertain at least one family member was home. He had no desire to have the ‘talk’ with Tin there, where he would easily be overheard. Now Tin was right in front of him he knew he couldn’t avoid it.
“Not here,” he said, scuffing his shoes on the tarmac. He felt tired, hungry and sticky. “I— You can buy me dinner. Let me go and change first, I’ll be fifteen minutes.”
Before Tin could argue Can and slipped in through the gate and was running into the house. He shouted a quick greeting at his father who was reading a book on the sofa and ran upstairs. A quick shower and a change of clothes later and he was on his way out again, calling that he was meeting a friend for dinner as he exited.
He slid into the passenger seat and reached for the seatbelt silently. He didn’t look at Tin. Couldn’t.
“Where would you like to go?”
“Somewhere quiet,” Can said, thinking that the last thing they needed was people overhearing this particular conversation. Unusually for him, his appetite had deserted him in favour of anxiety around the conversation they needed to have.
They drove in silence until Tin parked outside what looked like a high-end French restaurant. Can let Tin usher him inside and it was only when they were seated in a corner booth did he look at him again.
“I’ll start,” Can said when they had ordered and had been served drinks. He didn’t look at Tin, apparently finding the bubbles in his coke fascinating. He took an audible breath and finally raised his eyes to meet Tin’s. “I don’t want a soulmate. I don’t want you.”
Words held so much power. Words could cause unparalleled pain and tear your heart into two.
Can shook his head slightly, and Tin prayed his expression wasn’t showing how felt. Hopefully years of practice could conceal his his internal trauma. “But I want to live and I’m sure you do too. So—” He shrugged like it was all no big deal. “I propose we get the consummation out of the way and set up a schedule of regular meet ups so we can satisfy the…soulmate bond thing.
“I don’t want any fake romance or bullshit like that. We just fuck, and maybe spend some time holding hands or something in between to fend off the withdrawal stuff, yeah?”
Tin didn’t know what he’d expected from this inevitable conversation but it definitely wasn’t this. I don’t want you. Of course. He’d known Can didn’t like him, but this was something else. His soulmate didn’t even want to try to make a go of it with him. He really must be something heinous.
“If that’s what you want. We can consummate tonight. Where do you want to do it?”
Before Can could answer the waiter arrived then with their order. Can didn’t even look at it when he said, like he was asking Tin to pass the salt, “Hotel. I don’t want my folks to know and I don’t want to encounter your brother at your place so—”
That momentarily distracted Tin. “What did he want with you that day?”
“He wants to know where my cousin is. You remember him? Hin?” Can stabbed at a piece of meat with a fork and began to eat.
Tin couldn’t hide the surprise at that. “Hin is your cousin?”
Mouth full, Can nodded and swallowed. “I’m not telling you where he is either.”
“I wasn’t asking.” Tin had only found out that something had gone on with his brother and the housekeeper’s son after Hin had left. He’d heard Tul begging the housekeeper, Joy, to tell him where Hin had gone but she’d sworn she didn’t know. He’d heard his brother crying in the privacy of his own room when he’d walked past. Hin was his Achilles heel.
“Good,” Can said, eyes scanning the dishes in front of him before putting his fork down with a sigh. “It’s no good. I’ve lost my appetite. All I can think about is the fucking. Could we just get it over with?”
“You really weren’t joking when you said no romance, were you?” He flagged down the waiter. “Something’s come up and we have to leave. Can we get the bill please.”
The walk to the car was silent. Once Can strapped into the passenger seat and Tin had started the engine he blurted, “I’ve never done it before so…”
He faded out and Tin filled the space he’d left with, “We can go slow.” He pulled away from the parking space, aiming for a hotel in the city centre owned by Pete’s family.
“No! Not slow. Slow is ‘romantic’, yeah. I don’t want that.”
“You’ve made that perfectly clear. We will go slow because it’s your first time and you could get hurt.”
Tin could see Can’s pout from the corner of his eye before he huffed, “Fine.”
Tin sat propped up against the pillows in the large hotel bed, the not quite slam of the door still sounding in his ears from Can’t departure.
They’d fucked. Tin had never had sex like that before. True, he’d never been anyone’s first, but it wasn’t that. On paper it hadn’t even been that good, because despite his apparent nonchalance about the whole thing, Can had been quite obviously nervous to start with, and yes, Tin had gone slow. He’d wanted to be gentle with it but Can would have read that as romance. Tin’s orgasm though, fuck, it had never been like that. It made all that had gone before fade into total insignificance.
He’d read that soulmate sex was something else, but he hadn’t really understood what that meant. It was like every touch, every thrust, was ramped up. Even with Can barely looking at him, with the lack of kissing, with the lack of anything that said intimacy.
He’d managed to hold out, make sure Can came first, and what a sight that had been…if Tin had thought him pretty before that had magnified tenfold.
His soulmate was otherworldly.
The moment it was over though, he crashed down to earth with frightening speed as Can sprang from the bed and began to dress. Tin watched him, making doubly sure his expression was unreadable, the churning in his stomach making that almost impossible.
“Let’s talk tomorrow and set up a schedule,” Can had said, not looking at Tin as he wedged his feet into his trainers. He glanced up at Tin for one brief moment before glancing away again, seemingly looking around on the floor for something. “Keep this between us though, yeah? I don’t want people to know.”
He was out the door before Tin could formulate a reply. Keep this between us.
Even his soulmate wanted nothing to do with him beyond the necessary. Sure, Tin hadn’t made Can’s life easy before they actually touched and discovered the truth, but now he knew, he didn’t even want to try to get to know him. Tin wanted to know everything about Can. Everything. His soul was screaming at him to go after Can now, never let him out of his sight and Can wanted to talk about schedules.
Tin took his time dressing and exiting the hotel room to return home. Tul pounced on him the moment he tried to walk past him on his way up to his room. “I want you to find out from your little friend where Hin is.”
Tin snorted. “All the money and resources at your disposal and you want that stupid little Thai Program to tell you something you should have worked out for yourself.” A sharp pain stabbed at his heart. Fuck. Even words he didn’t mean, when against his soulmate, had the power to harm.
Tul actually sounded human when he said, “You think I haven’t tried everything?”
Tin halted at the base of the stairs and turned to face his brother. “Everything? You apparently knew that Can was his cousin but you’d never approached him before. Why?”
Tul didn’t respond, so Tin continued, “You know what? Never mind. Just stay away from Can.” He could feel Tul’s gaze on him as he walked away.