The next time he saw Can was at lunch two days later. Tin had realised he still didn’t have his number. Seeing Can walk into the food court with Ae had made the heavy weight on his chest lift some. The actual physical need to be close to Can was real. Can had to feel it too. Tin had read that soulmates could be apart for a few days at a time without coming to harm, but that it would always feel like they were being drawn together, like something was missing.
Catching his eye, Can sat opposite Tin and after a couple of minutes of banter with his friends, he slipped his hand onto Tin’s under the table. Immediately Tin felt content.
When lunch was over Can lingered as everyone dispersed and asked Tin for his number ‘to make things easier’.
From that day on there was no mention of schedules. Just Can messaging him to meet up every couple of days or so, the two of them having sex in hotel rooms and Can mostly leaving afterwards. Twice he fell asleep afterwards and one time he seemed to want to talk about how unlucky they were that they were tied to one another. Tin had shut that down fast. He already knew Can resented the situation, resented him, he didn’t feel the need to discuss it. “I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow,” he’d dismissed and Can had flushed and backed down, leaving quietly.
He was lucky his coursework required a lot of attention, he could bury himself in that and not think about anything else. If he let himself think, he might well unravel completely and he couldn’t allow that. His studies were all he had.
“You coming with us for food, Can?” Techno asked as he hosted his bag onto his shoulder ready to leave.
Can shrugged. “I’ll finish up here and be along later.” He rummaged in his backpack and pulled out a clean t-shirt. “You go ahead. I’m on a go slow today.”
Techno hesitated for a moment, eyes narrowed in assessment before he nodded and said, “Don’t be too long. I’m buying.”
“Have you ever known me pass up a free meal?”
Techno rolled his eyes and backed out of the door. Can heard his ascent on the concrete stairs the led up to the field. He slowed down his rubbing of the towel on his head and strained his ears. Techno’s footprints became fainter and vanished and were replaced by a new set, coming closer, descending the stairs.
The door opened to reveal Tin. Not wholly unexpected seeing as Can had summoned him with a text, hoping he’d turn up. Can was fed up of that hotel room.
Can looked him up and down hungrily. “Lock the door,” he said, standing up and throwing his head towel on the bench, moving his hands to his waist where another towel was secured around his waist. He looked at Tin and raised an eyebrow.
Tin’s lips quirked and he stepped forward and placed both hands over Can’s where they rested on his waist. “C’mere,” he half whispered, pulling Can’s hands away from the towel with one hand and using the other to pull it off him. Can moved easily into his arms from there, letting Tin kiss his mouth open, revelling in his own nakedness next to Tin’s state of full dress.
He pulled back, “Don’t get undressed,” he said, working Tin’s zip down. “Fuck me like this.” He slid his hand inside and cupped Tin’s balls, loving the small gasp he made as his cock perked up.
“Jeez, Can,” Tin managed. Can felt empowered. He felt brave. This was new, this was good.
Can’s limbs felt like noodles. He managed to get one foot into his boxers but had to hold onto the wall to do the other one.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” Tin asked from his seat under the hooks, all put together now like Can hadn’t just ridden his dick.
Can probably should feel some shame at his wantoness, but hell if Tin didn’t know how to make him feel good. True, he had nothing to compare it to, and he never would now would he? If he’d known actually kissing him would feel that amazing as well he’d have done it from the start rather than avoiding Tin’s attempts to kiss him before. This time it just felt right. Spontaneous and unplanned, not in the impersonal hotel room, expensive though it was, it might as well have been a by the hour shitty motel.
“Can’t tonight. Techno’s waiting for me.”
He looked at Tin then, apparently surprising him because in that moment his expression was unguarded. He looked like Can had never seen him before. Not cold like normal, just broken. It was gone in a moment though as he nodded and said, “See you soon then.”
He was on his feet and unlocking the door before Can could even process. He found himself staring at the closed door for far longer than necessary before he jumped back to life and yanked on his clothes. He didn’t want to miss out on that free food!
It was becoming increasingly difficult for Tin to spend time apart from Can. Meeting up with him every few days for sex and touching whenever they were near one another at college wasn’t enough. It was nowhere near. Oh, he pretended everything was fine. Pretended he didn’t care that Can treated him like a booty call and nothing more. Pretended he didn’t feel the separation acutely by the second day.
Can nodding off after the sex gave Tin a chance to study him as he slept. His pre soulmate reveal infatuation with him had likely been his subconscious connecting to the bond, but that didn’t make Can any less perfect to him. Tin felt like he could look at him forever and never get tired of him. He was in love. He loved. He wanted. Needed. Can was made just for him.
Can didn’t love him. Can didn’t even like him. Can did like it when Tin kissed him. Loved it when he fucked him. Then, usually, Can couldn’t get away fast enough. Falling asleep like this was irregular.
Snuggling into his side was also new. Of course, that only happened when he was asleep. Tin liked it. More than like. He loved it. He wanted Can to be like that around him all the time, unreserved, uninhibited – not just when they had sex, Can had zero inhibitions on that front it seemed.
Of course, Can would wake soon and once he realised he’d been snuggling Tin he’d be out of the door like a speeding train. Therefore Tin had to be the one to leave first. Despite the heat outside, Tin felt cold when he carefully extracted himself from Can and dressed himself. He couldn’t help kissing him lightly on the forehead before he left.
He was in the car before he really let himself really breathe, head on the steering wheel as he fought with himself. He couldn’t go on like this. Was this how it had to be for the rest of their lives? He honestly couldn’t see how he would survive it.
He wasn’t even sure that he wanted to.
When Tin was called into the head of department’s office on Monday he didn’t think anything of it. He worked hard, his grades were always top of the class. He found the subject dry and mostly uninteresting but as it was easy he was able to get through it. The ease of his day-to-day coursework allowed him to spend more time on the architecture modules he’d signed up for. His father didn’t know about them, probably wouldn’t care anyway as long as Tin continued to do the international business course he’d chosen for him.
“I’ve called you here today, Tin, to give you a chance to explain yourself before I take things further,” Professor Chaiwong began, the stern tone of his voice alerting Tin that something was very wrong. “Professor Thawon has advised me of concerns that he has around the few assignments that you have submitted for Professor Shi’s class. He claims that they are plagiarised from assignments your older brother submitted when he attended here a few years ago.”
“I— Sorry, but he’s mistaken.” Tin’s head began to spin. Plagiarise? Tin would never be so lazy, nor would he ever cheat! Plagiarise from Tul? Like he’d even be able to access any work his brother had completed anyway. “Sir, I don’t need to cheat. I’m more than capable of writing my own assignments.”
The professor nodded. “Knowing you as I do, Tin, I’m inclined to believe you. However, as you know, I cannot ignore such allegations. There’s going to have to be an investigation.”
As the professor said the words Tin knew this was Tul’s work. He was being set up by his brother. Again.
“You seem different lately,” Ley observed through narrowed eyes, causing Can to pause with the spoon almost at this lips. They were eating alone while both parents were still at work. “Care to tell your little sister?”
Can shoved the spoon into his mouth and made a show of chewing before saying, “No!”
Ley raised and eyebrow and levelled him with a glare and that was it. The woman had some kind of magic mind. He caved. “Fine,” he huffed, pushing his plate away. “I met my ‘soulmate’.” Then he told her about Tin, leaving out who he was. She’d love that way to much.
The hearts in her eyes soon faded when he told her their arrangement. “You what?” she screeched and Can was certain if there had been a knife close by she would have pointed it at him. “You can’t do that! Don’t you know how privileged you are to be marked? You have a person made just for you, who will always be there for you, will always love you, whose touch is just more than between non soulmates… and you’re rejecting it?”
Can shovelled some rice into his mouth. “I’m not rejecting I’m coping,” he muttered with his mouth full, knowing it annoyed Ley.
“That poor guy,” Ley whispered turning burning eyes onto him. “He must be heartbroken.”
Can shook his head. “He’s fine with it. He doesn’t even like me anyway.” Tin had gone along with everything hadn’t he? He’d always gone out of his way to pick on Can. He wasn’t ‘heartbroken’. Cue the image of Tin’s face after the time in the locker room when Can had rejected his offer to eat together. Did he care?
“Unbelievable,” Ley huffed, shaking her head and pushing her plate away. She stood and stomped out, calling behind her, “You can wash up!”
“No, he hasn’t asked again but I think he’d biding his time.” Can balanced his phone between his shoulder and cheek as he tried to do up his jeans and naturally the phone fell to the floor and a huge cracked formed down the centre of the screen to join the small spider web cracks in two of the corners. “Fuck!”
“Can? What are you doing?” His cousin’s distant voice beamed out of the speaker where the phone lay on the floor. “Can!”
Can picked up the offending phone, realising he’d need a new screen at the very least. He couldn’t afford a new one. “Sorry, Hin, dropped the phone.”
He could almost feel Hin rolling his eyes. “Maybe it’s time for a new one, one with a working camera so that we can FaceTime. I miss your stupid face.”
Even though Hin wouldn’t see, Can obliged by pulling a face before sobering and asking, “Why is he only coming to me about this now? And, well, he’s mega rich so why hasn’t he found you with surveillance or something?”
There was a short silence and Hin sighed. “It’s really complicated. I’m not sure I can explain it over the phone. Can we meet this weekend - Saturday? We can make a night of it. Usual place.”
Can was supposed to meet Tin on Saturday. Tin had said he preferred to be more organised about meeting rather than waiting around for Can to text so they had their meetings down to every three days now. Any longer and it started to get uncomfortable. Ideally they would spend almost all their free time together, but the situation was as was far from ideal as it could get. Can could bring it forward, Friday night instead of Saturday, Tin probably wouldn’t care either way, Can knew their bond was an inconvenience for him too. “Okay. I can be there early afternoon.”
The last thing he wanted to do that evening was meet with Can. Except conversely, it was the only thing he wanted to do. He wanted to feel the comfort of his soulmate’s arms around him around him. Can had asked to see him Friday instead of Saturday. Tin found saying no to him impossible. He wanted to give him everything.
As soon as he entered the room he could tell that Can was distracted. He was almost passive when Tin approached him and brushed his hair out of his eyes before kissing his neck.
“What’s wrong?” Tin asked, pulling back and looking into his troubled eyes. Can was working his lip.
Can closed his eyes as if drawing strength. When he opened them again he said, “I heard a rumour.”
Tin dropped his hands to his sides and took a step back. He didn’t need to be a mind reader to work out what that rumour was. “Let me guess. I cheated on my assignments?”
Can’s expression morphed in an instant from curious to furious. He nodded, folding his arms in front of his chest. “What happened? Cos I know you wouldn’t cheat.”
Tin blinked in surprise. “You believe that?”
“Why, are you saying you did?” Even as he said the words Can was shaking his head. “You’re far too clever ever need to copy someone else’s work. You’re also too honest. You don’t give much away, but when you do it’s real. So—what happened?”
Tin stared at Can. Overwhelmed. He couldn’t form a sentence! Can believed him. No interrogation, no doubt. He reached out and pulled the smaller man into his arms, burying his face in his neck. He didn’t let the tears that were forming beneath his lids fall free, instead he turned the hug into a kiss and from there they fell to the bed.
Afterwards Can stayed, both of them silent and staring at the ceiling. “I’m visiting Hin this weekend,” Can said eventually. “S’why I asked to change the day.”
“Give him my best.” His relationship with Hin had been fractious. He hadn’t always been nice to him, his brother’s influence again. It was something he felt bad about now that he was older and understood how his actions had consequences.
“You’ll be able to prove you didn’t do anything wrong,” Can said, flipping the subject abruptly, still staring upwards but threading his fingers into Tin’s. “They can’t accuse you without proof.”
“I admire your optimism,” Tin said, hyper aware that the hand in his when it didn’t need to be, was more intimate than anything else, even if the sex they’d just enjoyed had been the most intimate it had ever between them.
Can squeezed his hand. “I have faith.”