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Swimming through your stereo

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Since Dan made his Spotify private he’s taken to making playlists for everything. There are playlists for when they are aimlessly scrolling, chilled and slow. There are playlists for Sunday mornings, for their bleary eyes peering over coffee cups, that one is mostly acoustic. There are playlists for when Phil can’t sleep and comes to find Dan, still awake and on an epic Wikipedia quest. He won’t say anything when Phil enters the room, will simply select the playlist from his extensive collection and let Phil curl up on the couch next to him. These songs are only instrumental, though Phil suspects that is more for his preference than it is Dan’s. Still, the tinkly sound of them soothes him, one song running into another and his eyes go heavy, and it lulls him to sleep finally.

They’re specific too. The playlist for breakfast is different depending on whether they’re eating cereal or pancakes. Phil isn’t sure what the distinction is, but Dan looks so intent on it he doesn’t like to ask.

He names them. The exact purpose of each playlist must be defined in it’s title, Dan is adamant about this. ‘For when Dan is procrastinating’ for example, full of rousing and motivating tunes designed to spur him into action. It rarely works, but the sentiment is there.

Phil isn’t good at playlists. Never really has been given his own choices in music don’t reach as wide as Dan’s. He attempts it a few times, but he can’t get the mix right. He settles for suggesting the odd song every now and again. Mentioning it to Dan in passing when they hear something.

“This would be good for when it’s raining” he might say and Dan will nod, making a mental note to do it later or pulling out his phone instantly and adding it to the playlist he already has entitled ‘For when it’s raining’.

Phil doesn’t usually pick the playlist either. Dan is firmly in charge of those things, because he’s the one with the musical knowledge. But also because it’s his Spotify account and because, well, Dan likes to make decisions about these kinds of things and Phil is happy to leave him to it. As such, he’s never quite sure how extensive the range of playlists is, but there is always one for any given situation, and it’s always perfectly fitting despite whether or not Phil has heard any of the music before, so he’s happy to go along with it.

This is the sole reason why, when he’s home alone one day and feeling particularly restless, he assumes Dan will have a playlist designed for such a situation. ‘For when you are home alone’ perhaps, or ‘For when you feel so bored that you’ll claw your own face off’. Or maybe just ‘For when you miss your flatmate way more than you should considering he’s only been gone for two days’. Maybe not. But he goes looking anyway.

Dan’s spotify is logged in on the smart TV obviously. Phil has one too but it has much fewer playlists so Dan’s seemed the obvious choice. Dan won’t be listening now, it’s the middle of the night where he is. At least, he hopes not.

Phil opens the app on the television and locates the ‘playlists’ screen. He’s shocked to see that the list is much bigger than he thought it would be.It might take some time for him to find something, but it’s not like he’s doing anything else.

He scrolls past ‘For when you want to dance’ because, no matter how alone he is, or how bored, he’ll never subject himself to that. He considers ‘For when you want to be nostalgic’ but moves on when he finds it’s full of things he used to listen to when he was much younger and for some reason that makes his chest ache even more than it already is.

‘For when Phil is sad’ is there, surprising him, but it’s a different one to ‘For when Phil can’t sleep’. In fact, there are quite a few with his name in them, each of them containing songs he recognises as ones he likes, some older and forgotten, ones he isn’t even sure he’s mentioned to Dan as liking. He smiles at that, and feels more lonely that he did before.

He eventually reaches the bottom of the list. These are the ones created the longest ago, just after Dan made his account private.The final one is the one that makes him gasp out loud. He clicks into it and sees the a list of songs he might have chosen had he had to make a playlist of songs that repeat in his head when he looks at Dan. If he had to give music to the history of their friendship.

He pauses, tv remote in his hand, staring at the title which seems to glare in white writing in the black background of the screen. ‘For when you want to tell your flatmate you’re in love with him’. He clicks play.

It’s perfect, of course. Some are lyrically resonant, others evoke a memory of a time or a place. There are songs they’ve listened to together back in Phil’s bedroom at his parent’s house, ones they enthused about over Skype, ones that brought them together in the first place. There is one that they were obsessed with for one week back in 2011 that somehow Dan has remembered and added to this list, this narrative of their timeline. There are ones he has never heard before but upon listening knows exactly why they’re on this list, because it’s perfect, it’s so perfect.

He listens to it through twice, contemplates calling Dan to discuss it, but remembers the time difference and tells himself it isn’t a good idea to wake him up and let him know that he’s been snooping through his private playlists.

Instead, he decides to click ‘create playlist’ he adds one song to it, names it, and clicks save. That’ll do, it is an eventuality that will play out whenever Dan finds it. He takes a breath and leaves it be.

Dan arrives home when Phil is out. He hadn’t planned it that way, but PJ had asked if he’d pop over and help him with a video and ‘Dan is arriving home from holiday today’ didn’t seem like an adequate excuse for not going. Not when they’re friends. Not when Phil knows he shouldn’t be looking forward to it as much as he is. But then, he’s also as nervous as he ever remembers being so perhaps he agrees to go as an excuse to avoid it for a few hours.

He gets back to the flat in the late afternoon. His key is stiff in the lock as usual, and there are too many stairs for the giddy way his heart is beating in his chest. He reaches the flat with sweaty palms and a weird sort of expectation that sits awkwardly considering he’s only coming home to the same person he has for years now.

He hears it as soon as the door is open. That one song filtering down the stairs, volume up so that it resonates in the whole flat. Dan found the playlist then.

When he enters the living room Dan is standing in the middle of it. Not knowing what to do with his feet, or his arms, or his hands Phil settles for shuffling on the spot.

“It’s a little on-the-nose” is the only comment Dan offers. His face isn’t giving away anything, which Phil knows shouldn’t irritate him, but it’s just so Dan to be all calm and stoic in this situation. Meanwhile, Phil is feeling the weight of the moment pressing on his chest in a way that makes it difficult to breathe.

Phil shrugs. He’s trying to look normal, he really is. “I don’t know that many songs.”

“It’s fine. This one is good.”

Dan takes half a step forward but then seems to change his mind. The song plays and Phil hears it echoing around his head, knowing that it means something, it has to mean something, a shift, a change.

“You have a playlist for everything,” Phil says, encouraged by the way Dan is looking at him in wonder as the song fades to a finish.

It starts again, the only song on the list and Dan has set it to repeat.

“But you didn't have one for this,” Phil says, stepping into the room finally, moving closer.

He watches as Dan realises they are moving. He steps forward too and they are in each other’s space and yes, this does mean something.

“Do you mean it?” Dan asks timidly, his hands are fiddling with the hem of his shirt which is ridiculously endearing.

Phil nods, reaching out an arm to rest his hand again Dan’s cheek. “I mean it. I’m not good at putting music to things like you, in creating the best mood for any time and place. But this? This I know.”

“Okay.”

And then they are kissing. Its sweet and fiery and just a little bit awkward all at once. It’s new, but not unexpected really, if you really look at everything that’s gone before. Phil wonders if there will be kissing playlists now, ones for when he gets to hold Dan close. He wants a playlist for just sitting curled up with him on a couch, or for the way his heart is beating wildly in his chest when Dan’s arms come up to encircle his waist.

He knows Dan will create them, and they’ll be perfect. He’ll spend the rest of his life surrounded by the perfect soundtrack. For now though, Phil is content with this one song on repeat, too occupied with the way Dan feels in his arms, the breathy noises he makes into Phil’s mouth.

It is the start of something, this playlist, the last one Phil will ever attempt to create, it is the start of it all. They kiss, and let ‘For when I love you too’ play in the background.