Chapter 1: I
Soft jazz plays, when Philip enters the shop through the back door. He leaves his jacket and bag in the room reserved for the employees and picks up his apron. The coffee shop is one on the fancier side, jazz being its major theme, drinks not too crazy like you get them at Starbucks and the likes. Philip likes its atmosphere; the main room is filled with plush armchairs, bar stools and a chandelier. You can smell the imported types of coffee even back here. Clothed in the dark green apron, which matches the wall behind the bar, he steps up to his spot behind it.
He got assigned to do the morning hours now, a welcome change. Philip likes to have time for himself after work. With a ready smile he greets Lettie, the waitress. She usually works the bar in the afternoon, but is a lovely helping hand on some crowded mornings.
“Welcome, Phil. Too early for you?”, she asks with a grin. Philip likes the people he works with and they all know each other quite well. Apparently too well as Philip now stops to try and stifle his yawn. He likes being done early with work, but that doesn’t mean he actually likes to start early.
“Just a bit. Let me have my first coffee and I’m ready.”, he says.
They only open in ten minutes, enough time to swipe some dust from the cookie jar and make an espresso for himself and a simple black coffee for Lettie. Lettie then proceeds to switch the handwritten “closed”-sign to “open” and unlock the front door.
Phillip quickly moves his emptied espresso to the sink and clips on his name tag. It took him too long when he started working at the shop last year, to decide on a version of his name, so Lettie chose for him. She likes to call him ‘Phil’, so that’s what his tag reads. Philip grew kind of attached to it.
The first costumers are people in a hurry, like it is often the case. Business men who need the caffeine to start their work day, stressed women with the same issues. Occasionally some hipster college student who then realises they don’t serve decaf soy lattes with an extra shot and cream.
When the shop empties after these people, who can’t stay for long, Philip sways to the music and looks up songs and their instruments just for fun. He found out, he really enjoys the soprano sax.
“Excuse me?”, Philip freezes, half turned away after his slowly circl-y dancing.
“I’m sorry. You didn’t listen the first two times.”
Philips eyes widen and he snaps his head around, followed by his body, to face the costumer. In front of him stands a tall man with a wide, somewhat apologetic, smile on his face. As he sees the mischievous twinkle in the man’s eyes, Philip decides the smile is not apologetic at all.
“I apologize. What can I get you?” He sticks to the polite rules of a barista.
When the man takes his time to look at the neatly written card on the bar, Philips allows himself a moment to really look at him. The maroon coat and black walking stick give him an exotic, eccentric flair. Apart from that, Philip catches him studying that still smiling face from the corner of his eye. Dark hair, which appears effortlessly styled, gentle brown eyes. Not like the piercing gaze Philip knows he has without his intention.
“Do I have to return to calling you sweetheart?”
Philips gaze flickers hastily back up from the man’s lips, he came to admire right then. He feels his cheeks warm and hopes he doesn’t blush. He must have let his mind wander too long. Again.
“Uh, sorry, sorry. You decided?”, he asks.
“Yes, I’d like a cappuccino, please.”, the man orders and slips his coat off his broad shoulders. His shoulders.
Philip nods and musters a small smile himself. He goes to carry out the order and sees the man take a seat at one of the huge armchairs in front of the window. He stands in front of the coffee machine, when Lettie pops up out of nowhere.
“What a nice gentleman, right?”, she muses. Philip shoots her a questioning look and regrets it instantly. On Letties face a cheeky grin appears and she puts her hands on her hips.
“Do you want to know something about him?”
“No. His order is nearly finished, you can take it to him.”
“Oh, sweetie. I’ll tell you anyways. When you hadn’t had this shift, he came by too. For about two weeks now, I think, most mornings. And he is always nice but quickly orders and then takes his seat. No teasing or that many smiles.”, she tells him and wiggles her eyebrows. Philip sighs.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because he likes you, Phil. And we all can admit he is handsome. Charles and Anne agree.”, she states. Philip doesn’t know how that makes the situation any better. Charles, the young owner of the shop, is hardly even here, although he is nice to talk to. Anne is something different.
“Just give him his order.”
“No.” With this as her final word, Lettie takes off to the back room. Having no other choice, Philip picks up the drink and makes his way over to the sole costumer.
“Here you are. Sorry again for being so absent.” He carefully places the mug on the wooden table. His costumer grants him another cheerful smile and waves the matter off.
“There is nothing to apologize for.”, he catches sight of the name tag. “Philip.”
Philip doesn’t know why his face heats up again. He nods his thanks and returns to the bar.
When the man pulls on his coat and picks up the walking stick, Philip collects the mug. And because he crosses the door, he spontaneously opens it for this not at all special costumer. The man leaves promptly, but not without a wink at Philip.
The next morning, Lettie greets him again.
“What are you even doing here, don’t you have the morning off?”, Philip asks.
Lettie just shrugs and hands Philip his apron. They have a coffee before they open the shop for costumers, like they did yesterday. Lettie doesn’t wear her apron yet, which leaves Philip sceptical.
“Okay.”, Lettie starts and points a violet painted nail at Philip.
“You spill now.”
“I spill what? Excuse me.”, Philip jokes and looks around, as if he spilled coffee.
Lettie doesn’t have any of it. She crosses her arms and steps closer. Although the woman is at least a head shorter than him, Philip has a ton of respect for her. He warily gazes down and shakes his head.
Lettie huffs annoyed and presses her pointing finger against Philips chest.
“You ‘Sweetheart’. What happened after I left the scene?”, she interrogates. Philip groans and slumps against the bar. He had an idea, but he had hoped Lettie didn’t want to talk about yesterday. Especially when there is nothing to talk about.
“Nothing? I mean. Listen. How can you be more invested in my private life than I am?”
“I can.”, she states. Then her tone grows softer. “Philip, I’ve known you for a year and if I was sure you were perfectly happy, I wouldn’t bother you. But you hardly go out, you always work – yes, I know you still work at the theatre. You need to take care of yourself and spend time with people.”
Philip wants to be mad at her for this close and exposing analysis. As it is, he can’t be angry.
“I- I don’t know.”, he admits. “I don’t know how. I don’t like my old friends. I don’t want to go ‘out and party’.”
Lettie nods and pats him on the shoulder. She offers him a reassuring smile.
“You don’t need to. Just be yourself and maybe, if you like someone, be a bit more than the polite barista. You do know, small talk exists, right?”
Philip rolls his eyes. “Thanks, Lettie.”, he says. It won’t be that easy, he thinks. But maybe he can try. Was that wink and pet names from the man yesterday just his usual behaviour? Or might Philip really be interesting to him. He wouldn’t understand that, but would he argue it?
Yes he would. With a groan he puts on the coffee machine, places the mugs correctly and broods.
Maybe the man won’t come back. And even if he would, could Philip really start small talk? And even if he could, why would this beautiful man be interested in him? He was probably straight. Married. Successful in his career, sweet children. Living the dream. Also, way older than Philip. But who counts. Philip does, of course.
The door swings open and Philip greets a woman in a sharp suit, briefcase in hand. She gets her Latte Macchiato to-go and vanishes as quickly – or rather efficient – as she came in.
Philip is left alone once again; Lettie finally accepted her free time and went off grocery shopping.
It didn’t take long for the early-morning-rush people to stop by and disappear. Around 9.30 that rush abates and Philip is back to listening to the playful jazz. Today he took a script with him. He doesn’t participate in the play as an actor, but he helps out at the theatre and gets glimpses at the productions every now and then. He tries to not get in too deep into the story, to not miss any costumers like yesterday. After all, he wasn’t a rookie any more.
Right after he finished the second page, the door opens again and carries a chilly breeze inside. A man with a maroon coat and a remarkable device – a walking stick – enters. He seems to carry the walking stick mainly for fun or the looks he gets, because Philip doesn’t see him limping.
“Good morning, Philip.”, he greets with that grand smile, as if he were to welcome a huge audience.
“Morning, sir. What can I get you?”, Philip answers. There was no small talk. When does one start small talk? And how? And, for God’s sake, why? At least he wasn’t lost in thoughts this time.
“Oh God, don’t call me sir. I’m Phineas.”, the man – Phineas – introduces himself and offers Philip his hand. Philip nods reluctant and takes the hand. Might have been a mistake.
The man – Phineas – does not continue to shake it, but pull him a bit closer and place a kiss on his fingers, casual as if he did it a hundred times. Philip is stunned into silence. Might have not been a mistake.
“Okay.”, Philip croaks. If he wasn’t sure yesterday, now he is definitely blushing.
“Could I get a cappuccino?”, Phineas carries on and only now let’s go off Philips hand. Philip hasn’t noticed. He nods vigorously and turns to comply. He swears he hears the lightest chuckle.
Phineas once again removes his coat and places it, along with the black stick, on one of the armchairs and sits down in the remaining one. He pulls a news paper out of the stack, they provide at the coffee shop and makes himself comfortable. Philip completes the order and on a second thought adds a small design into the foam that lingers on top of the drink. He once tried numerous little ornaments out, but thought it not worth his time, when most of the costumers didn’t stay long enough to really see his creations.
“Okay here you go. Uhm, yeah.” So much as to ‘easily make some small talk’.
“Thanks.”, Phineas doesn’t even take a look at his drink. Philip feels himself tense up a bit and quickly returns to his designated spot behind the bar. This was a stupid idea. Why does he bother with people? He lays down the script again and reads some more. When Phineas – the man – wants to pay and leave, he will come here.
Philip finished three more sites before anything happens at all. Then a shadow darkens the white paper he has still trained his eyes on. Slowly he lifts his head.
“That flower was beautiful. Thank you.”
Well, he didn’t expect that. Philip rises from his slumped down position and sets the script sheets aside. He bows his head a little.
“Eh, you’re welcome?”, that wasn’t a question. Why does he make it sound like one? Philip nearly scoffs at himself there and then. Phineas seems to have a similar train of thought, because he offers him a warm smile.
“Sweet. I have to go now, how much do I owe you? Oh doesn’t matter, the change is for you. See you, Philip.”, he says his good bye and leaves, once again letting a cold breeze inside the shop.
Philip watches him, until the long strides carry him out of sight. Then he realizes what Phineas has left him on the counter. $10, which leaves Philip with about six dollars as a tip, and a tiny origami flower made out of a piece from the news paper. A warm feeling buzzes through Philip and he can’t contain the smile that spreads over his face.
The rest of his shift flies by and when Anne arrives to take over for the afternoon, Philip is still in a good mood, occasionally grinning like an idiot. The occasions being every time he catches a glimpse of the fragile flower, resting on the script he finished reading.
Anne is surprised to see Philip beaming. They are cautious around each other, although they still have a pretty strong bond. After a few weeks of dating Philip had to admit his crazy-college-bi-phase might be over. At least for now, girls don’t seem the right partners for him. Or maybe he isn’t able to have a relationship with whomever. However, who knows what the future might look like. Anne accepted Philip perfectly fine, it wasn’t his fault that he didn’t have the feelings for her she wanted him to have. But it definitely clouded their relationship afterwards.
Philip notices Anne’s curious attitude instantly. It only takes him a moment to decide, whether he wants to talk to her about something so private. The last months they stuck to light topics and work.
“Hey. How are you?”
“I’m good, but you are downright radiant. What’s the reason?”, she answers.
“I got a gift.”, Philip grins. He doesn’t care, really, who he talks to now, he just has the urge to share his story. There isn’t a whole lot of story, but once again, he doesn’t care. Proud, and a tad embarrassed now about his behaviour, he shows Anne the flower.
“Oh, that’s cute.”, she states. They look at each other, unsure. Then Anne smiles, genuinely. Philip laughs relieved and nods. He’s glad to talk to Anne a bit more like they did before they were dating. And failing.
“Now, tell me about him!”, she prompts and takes a seat right on the counter. Philip guesses he can hang around a little longer then.
“Nothing much, really. Maybe you have seen him before, tall, with a long reddish coat?”
“Oh my god. And that’s maroon, you twit. Don’t tell me you get wooed by Mr Barnum!”
“Pretty gentleman vibes, about twice my age, carries a walking stick?”
“Yeah, that’s Phineas.”
“Oh my god.”
“What? And wait, twice your age? Come on, he isn’t that…okay, maybe he is older than us.”
“He totally is. And don’t ‘what’ me, he introduced himself to me when I had your shift, friendly and all, as ‘Mr P.T. Barnum mylady.’ Which was odd. But he is charming.”
“Oh.”, Philip is not sure how to react. His cheeks take the hint and heat up again, along with his ears. Although Anne is obviously teasing him, Philip can’t find it in him to stop the giddy smile developing.
“You are so smitten. This is adorable, but let me warn you. He is a showman, all drama and amusing. I just don’t want you get hurt.”, she says more serious now.
Philips smile drops.
“I met him twice, don’t worry. I’m not one to get my hopes up.”, he reassures defensively.
Anne sighs and hops of the counter, her hair already falls out of her loose braid. She pets his hand and smiles.
“I know. And I want to see you happy, okay? I just don’t want to have to go on a man hunt, because this, this…flatterer hurts your feelings.”, she says light heartedly but Philip would believe her to do exactly that. She is fierce as a lioness and just as beautiful. Philip thinks he might have loved the idea of them being together. Turns out, they are a better couple as friends.
“Thank you, Anne. I’ll be careful.”
She nods and ushers him out of the coffee shop. New costumers already fill the place and Philip has places to be. Namely, behind the scenes at the theatre. On his way there he reflects on his day. He is glad to have such great friends, he knows he can always rely on Lettie and Anne. And to sweeten the day even more he got the most thoughtful gift he ever received from a handsome man. This is going to be a great week.
Chapter 2: II
Philip catches a cold. Phineas is a tease.
Welcome back to chapter two!
I just wanted to quickly thank everyone and hope if you enjoyed the last chapter, you will
also enjoy this one.
Hit me up with critique/ideas/whatever!
It was not a great week.
Philip caught a cold two days ago. Today it is Friday and he should stay in bed. Of course, he doesn’t. First of all, he needs the money, the coffee shop provides. Secondly, he is not a fan of lying around and being unable to do anything. After his first two sneezes he got practically banned from theatre. Now he is on his way to the coffee shop. He persuaded Charles to let him work, as he felt so much better than before. He really didn’t.
Once in the shop, he feels relieved. The cosy room makes him feel at ease. He is greeted by Lettie, who twists her entire face in one of concern and disappointment.
“Why aren’t you wrapped up in a blanket, with a ginger tea and some nice tv show on?”
“Because I need to be occupied. My mind drives me crazy when I’m sentenced to ‘rest’.”
“Well, stay away from me with your germs.”, Lettie banters.
Philip snorts. And promptly has to pull out a tissue. Being sick is truly awful. He is relieved when Lettie goes to fix some armchairs into their right order. He does not need to be interrogated more. It is true; he can’t stand to not do anything. There might also be another reason to him coming back early. This has obviously nothing to do with a certain costumer.
He snatches his apron from the small wardrobe and puts another script beneath the counter. Before he was kicked out of the theatre until he was healthy again, he took a copy of the next contemporary play with him. Lettie and he share another short coffee break before his shift starts and talk about Letties last performance at a small club, which often offers unknown artists to take the stage.
Lettie shows him a video W.D. recorded for her. Her talent awes Philip every time and he promises her to come to her next performance. She tells him to ‘better do so’ and then she is out of the shop.
Philip takes a deep, content breath and turns the music a bit louder. He has a good feeling about today, he couldn’t have dealt with another useless day at home. It felt like staying at home made him even more sick and desperate. Not that he was desperate. For what would he be desperate?
The door opens.
Ah, for this, Philip thinks. And immediately bites his tongue. These thoughts are not helpful.
He dares to look at the man that approaches with confident strides.
“Philip! I missed you the last two days.”, Phineas states. For a second Philip thinks he might lean over the counter again to greet him with another kiss to his hand.
“Yeah I got sick, so…”, Philip explains suddenly. He wants to hold Phineas’ gaze but these eyes make him all fluttery inside. He forces himself to dim down to a more polite than exited smile. No hand kisses, no over-exitement. He wouldn’t ‘get his hopes up’.
Phineas’ eyebrows shoot up, nearly to his hair line. Anne was possibly right about him being a ‘showman’, he is very expressive. Philip’s smile becomes shyer.
“That’s terrible, do you feel better then? If not, you shouldn’t be here.”
“Oh, it’s fine. But thank you.”, Philip says. He hasn’t expected such a strong reply from the man.
“Now that you mention it, you look a bit pale.”
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Well if you say so. Get well soon. And maybe get me a cappuccino too.”, Phineas grins.
Philip sighs exasperated and mockingly bows. It might be his sickness, but he feels more able to chat freely today. He hopes he isn’t impolite while doing so, but Phineas doesn’t seem to be someone who is restrained himself.
“Do you come here so frequently because you are a friend of routine, or are you just really fond of our cappuccino?”, he asks amused.
Phineas takes off his coat, but doesn’t move over to his usual window seat. Instead, he stays at the bar, pulls a stool closer to sit right in front of Philip. He props his elbows up on the counter and rests his face in his hands. This gives him somewhat dreamy vibes, Philip can’t really place. He imagines himself looking a bit like that when he gets nostalgic. Or generally happy.
“Neither. Or both, if you want. I came for the caffeine and stayed for the barista.”, he has the nerve to wink at Philip, like he did when they parted the first day.
“Corny. Cheesy. Absolutely unacceptable. Although I get that Anne is pretty amazing.”
Philip teases. He knows how to joke, after all. He always felt safer playing the funny, flirty guy. It wasn’t usual for him to be on the receiving end. Fair enough, a lot of times when pretty women talk to him he tends to be a little blind, mainly, because he doesn’t care. He adores his co-workers and the people at the theatre, but there is no one who gains his attention for long.
“Oh, I agree. Although I’m more of a guy for the other side.”
“That’s good. I mean. Uh. Whatever floats your boat.”, Philip doesn’t bother to stifle the groan at his absolute stupidity. Silently he puts the cappuccino on the counter. It is again decorated with an ornament, this time it shows a swan.
“To whatever floats my boat.”, Phineas quotes gleefully and toasts his mug to Philip.
“I am almost afraid to drink that, this thing is too precious.”
“No, please. Besides, I can only do the flower and this swan, so you can get them again.”
Philip shrugs and avoids looking at Phineas. The compliments are nice, but if he can’t think fast to water them down with a joke, he is a bit lost.
“Don’t sell yourself short, it takes attentiveness to do small, lovely gestures like that.”
“Thank you.”, Philip answers honestly.
Phineas finally takes a sip and nods satisfied. Right then two new costumers enter the shop. Philip shoots Phineas an apologetic look and shuffles over to his checkout. The two women place their order to take away and Philip takes onto them. After the women paid and left, Philip returns.
“The redhead was flirting with you, sweetheart.”
Philip sends him a questioning glance. Whether it refers to the pet name or the statement itself? Who knows, Philip doesn’t. Thinking about it, the name doesn’t annoy him too much.
“Nah, she wasn’t. Was she?”
“Huh, inconvenient for her.”
“Is that so?”
“Yup. But I wasn’t accidently harsh, was I?”, Philip asks. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone because he can be with his heads stuck in the clouds. He looks around the shop and decides, as he puts some cash into the register, he can take one of the blueberry muffins.
“No, you were delightfully nice and polite. Maybe that’s what she liked.”
“Maybe.”, Philip repeats carefully.
“Yes, that or she thought you are ravishing.”
Philip nearly dropped the muffin.
“Sorry, this might not be the right word for you. Do you like captivating better? Or, no. You are more classy that way, aren’t you? Your word is of course gorgeous.”
“Shut up.”, Philip mutters, but he feels an awkward smile on his face regardless.
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, forgive me.”
Contrary to his statement, Phineas looks greatly satisfied with what he’s done. Philip once again doesn’t know what to think. This man asks too much all at once from him and his poor, sick mind.
“Yeah, sure. But you know what, that’s okay. I can deal with gamblers.”
“I’m not a gambler. I am an honourable, self-employed gentleman.”, Phineas answers and salutes with an imaginary hat. Somehow it is not hard for Philip to picture this man with some imposing piece like a top-hat. It would match his look. Although Philip could see this fooling around could go on and on, Phineas’ answer makes him curious now.
“What do you do then? If I may ask.”
“Of course you may. I got the best antique store in the city.”, Phineas states prideful.
“That’s actually pretty cool.” And something that fits this strange man, Philip thinks. He imagines him in a crowded shop, filled from bottom to top with old, used, strange and unique things. There’s probably one unbelievable story after another hidden.
“It is. You should come over one day; I bet you’d find some interesting objects.”
“Without a doubt.”, Philip agrees. He tries not to think about meeting the man outside his safe place, which is the coffee shop and what would be different. Probably nothing. Or everything.
“Then that’s a deal. Here, take this.”, Phineas reaches into the breast pocket of his shirt and hands over a filigree worked business card. Philip thumbs over the writing, he can feel the stamped letters. It reads: ‘Barnums Antiques – Fortune always favours the Brave’ followed by an address and a calligraphic signature: P.T. Barnum.
“Okay. I’ll definitely stop by.”, oh you will? Philips speaking is apparently faster than his thinking. Regardless, he plans to go through with this. Even if it wasn’t for Phineas, an antique shop promises to be fascinating.
He takes a bite of his muffin just to be occupied. Phineas sips on his cappuccino, but his eyes linger on Philip, he can feel it. Then the shop doors open once again. Philip hastily swallows the crumbly bite down to greet a costumer. Turns out, it isn’t a costumer at all.
“Hello, mother. What are you doing here?”
Mrs Carlyle steps into the coffee shop. Her heavy perfume spreads over the coffee aromas. The long, whitening hair is neatly pulled into an up-do, closed up like her whole attitude.
“Philip. I wanted to contact you. As you don’t answer your phone, or your door, I saw no other possibility to reach you.”, she states clearly annoyed. It reminds Philip why he doesn’t answer her calls.
“Well, you found me. What do you want?”, Philip repeats himself.
He doesn’t want to talk to his mother. She has never been what he wanted her to be – supportive, loving, understanding. She hates his ‘potential’ going to waste. She hates that he quit college. But a mother isn’t angry, no, she lets him know that. A mother is disappointed.
Before she can answer him, he has to pull out another tissue. Right when he thought he might get a bit healthier, feeling positively entertained through his chat with Phineas, his sickness hits him.
“I want you to get your head out of the clouds and bring honour to the family.”
She states with a demanding tone, that leaves Philip stunned. Disbelieving, he shakes his head. Then a sound erupts, which he first thought came from himself. Turns out, it was a thoroughly ridiculed Phineas, who swings the tea spoon around exaggerated, that came with his drink.
“Which century do you think we are in, madam?”, he asks with a challenging smirk.
Mrs Carlyle does not find that amusing. She clicks her tongue derogatory and doesn’t spare the provocative man another glance.
“It’s fine, Phineas.”, Philip soothes. It’s the first time he uses the man’s name.
“Mom, please, we’ve been over this.”, he tries to argue, “I like my jobs and where it might take me. This job gives me safety and working at the theatre is fun. You know fun, right?”
Phineas chuckles at that and gets a sharp stare from both Carlyle’s. Mrs Carlyle clears her throat and presses her lips together. She steps closer to Philip, before she swiftly turns around. At the door she stops again and gives her son a stern look.
“Fine, but you don’t have to come home again. You could have been successful, make money and be a leader. Not spend your time with…these people.”, she leaves.
Philip sighs drawn out and leans against the bar. He doesn’t know why his mother pops up every now and then to remind him, what he could be – should be.
“You know, it’s not fine.”
He looks up to see Phineas already glancing back. His amused, defiant attitude has vanished. Another sigh leaves Philips lips and he shrugs. He places the half eaten muffin next to his stuff under the counter, he lost his appetite.
“It’s not worth the fight. I know she’s disappointed, I am not the striking manager, lawyer, or whatever is ‘appropriate’ for the family.”
“You come from some noble, old family then?”
“Kind of. My father is somewhat important in finances, but who cares? I don’t and for them, that’s the problem.”, Philip explains shortly.
“Yeah, yeah. Traditions and honour, I get it. Poor little black sheep you are.”, Phineas answers. He is back smiling, but Philip sees the sympathy.
“Rebel of the family, woohoo.”, Philip agrees wryly.
Phineas laughs at that and lifts his nearly empty mug to toast to him.
“That’s good. You do like you do, Philip. If they are narrow-minded it’s their own loss.”
Philip likes that conclusion. He smiles and shrugs once again, this time a bit more at ease.
“Thanks. And I’m sorry she kinda insulted you.”, Philip excuses her inappropriate behaviour.
“Don’t worry. Happens to me more often than it doesn’t.”, Phineas reassures him.
Although this doesn’t reassure Philip at all. Questioning he looks at the older man. Sure, Philip saw he wasn’t your inconspicuous average guy you pass on the streets. And he might be pretty bold, but Philip can’t believe being different was still such an issue.
“Uh, sorry for that. You don’t look like someone who get’s pushed around.”
“Well, I’m not 15 anymore, I don’t get pushed around. But you know, people judge. They love to do so and why the hell not, as long as I can live peacefully.”
Philip smirks and tips his head to the side, plainly looking the man up and down. Checking out-no.
“You also don’t look like someone who fancies a ‘quiet, peaceful’ life.”
“Oh, I don’t? What do I look like in your opinion?”
Think fast. Philip bites his lip, unsure, whether to share his first thought. ‘Whatever’, he decides when he leans over the bar, closer to the man who gazes intensely at him with that infectious smile.
“Adventure. Fun. Like nothing is impossible.”
If it was even possible, Phineas’ smile got more shiny and appealing. Appealing? Rather: charming. Wait, what.
“Why thank you, Philip. And may I add, you look, like you could use some fun.”
“Excuse you?”, Philip grins.
“I think you heard me just fine. Drop by.”, he suggests and points at the business card still resting on the counter between them.
“Keep the change. And that attitude, it suits you, sweetheart.”, Phineas lays down another $10 note.
“You need to stop doing that.”, Philip smiles, but puts the money aside.
“Which of it?”, Phineas asks with a sly grin and grabs his coat and walking stick.
“Just get out.”, Philip laughs. Phineas complies with a wink and leaves the door backwards, keeping his eyes fixed on Philip.
When he is out of sight – after a last ridiculous waving through the window, which Philip reciprocates with a heartfelt laugh – Philip closes his eyes.
“Oh god.”, he states and shakes his head at himself. He starts to admit he might be totally falling for this dorky man. There goes his ‘not getting his hopes up’.
Chapter 3: III
Philip panics. There might be a date upcoming.
Part 3, yeay!
(as usual, unbeta'ed and I'm not a native speaker)
Enjoy and if you want, comment!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Philip? Wait a second…okay. What’s going on?”
Philip lies on his leather sofa, half falling off of it. He presses his phone to his right ear and his left arm dangles down, nearly brushing the floor.
“I want to visit Phineas’ shop.”
“Oh. Okay. Uh, do you want me to come over?”, Anne asks.
“Okay, I just have to leave a message for W.D. I am at yours in fifteen minutes. Bye.”
She hangs up and Philip throws himself around so he faces the backrest of his sofa. When he got to work this morning, he was quite energetic, chatting with costumers, way less sick than yesterday. That is until his shift was over and no Phineas had appeared.
Now he knows he is overly dramatic, but Philip can’t deal with stress. That was one of his reasons against college – he hates exams and tests. And it also serves as a reason to not get too attached to people, because he tends to over think. It didn’t work really well.
When there’s a knock at the door, Philip rises from his comfy place and lets Anne come inside.
“Hey. Begin from the start, if you don’t mind.”, she doesn’t waste time. Confident she makes her way to Philip’s kitchen, gets herself a glass of water and then sits down on his sofa. Philip slumps down next to her and flails his arms helplessly.
“Yesterday he said I could drop by at his antique shop.”, Philip hand her the card.
“He didn’t show up today. I mean, I don’t care and he might have had something important coming up, or maybe he just didn’t want a coffee this morning, but…but what if he doesn’t want to see me?”
“Philip, that is ridiculous.”
“I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so upset, we don’t know each other and all that-“
“That’s not what I meant.”, Anne stops him. She lays her hand on his shoulder and offers him a supportive smile.
“He stopped by this early afternoon. About half an hour after you left.”, she explains.
Philip’s jaw drops. He sinks further down into the sofa cushions and lets his mind drift off. Why would he come to this hour? Maybe he wanted to avoid Philip?
“No, not ‘oh’. Relax for once, Phil.”, she says. Philip sheepishly shrugs and stays quiet.
“He came to ask me something. About you.”, she slowly reveals and grins, when Philip perks up at this new information.
“I won’t tell, don’t even try to interrogate me. It’s a surprise.”, she says smugly.
Philip feels a smile unfold on his face and releases a little laugh. That wasn’t what he expected, certainly not. But now he wasn’t nervous anymore. He eyed his friend curiously and hugged his legs to his upper body to stop them from the exited fluttering he started doing unintentionally.
“So maybe I shouldn’t go to his shop right now?”
“Or today at any time, maybe?”
“Philip, I won’t say anything.”
“Or is it a surprise for tomorrow? Or what? I want to know, please.”, he rambles.
Anne laughs and lightly pushes him back into the sofa crease. She stands and takes finally a sip of her water. After a calculating look, she goes and turns on the TV.
“Let’s just relax a bit. Hang out like friends?”, she suggests. Philip nods with his mind still elsewhere.
“Yeah, sure.”, he says. They haven’t done that in a while, neither of them addressing why. It is not necessary and therefore they just take their comfortable places. Anne selects a light-hearted comedy show and they fall silent.
“Just wait until tomorrow.”, Anne offers with a knowing smile.
Tomorrow comes with a start. Philip wakes up half an hour early, because some people thought it okay to start road works at 7.30 am. His response manifests itself in lying in bed for twenty more minutes, going through his schedule today and involuntarily drifting off. Anne’s words still resonate in him, ‘a surprise’ – what kind? And when? And where?
He gets up, still early, and takes his time to once drink his coffee before he arrives at the shop. With a sandwich, dripping with strawberry jam, he goes off to work. He knows he is alone today; Lettie meets some guy from the music industry and can’t stop by this morning. Philip really hopes the meeting results in some success for the astonishing woman.
His apron around his neck, he slightly sways to a jazz piece by one of his favourite artists. The few people who order their drinks to go are in a happier mood than the last days, the reason for this is evident. The weather is finally getting better, cool breezes become less harsh and it’s more sunny than cloudy.
“What a beautiful sight on this beautiful morning.”, exclaims Phineas, as he enters the shop.
Philip chuckles and shakes his head. This man is truly something else.
“Good morning to you too.”, Philip answers and begins to make the cappuccino he knows Phineas is going to order.
“Are you free tonight, Philip?”
“Uhm. Yeah?”, Philip says. ‘Don’t get your hopes up’. Besides, he is well informed that Phineas knows he is completely free tonight. He made the effort to ask Anne, after all.
“Fantastic, not anymore.”, he states. As he doesn’t elaborate, Philip rolls his eyes. He places the drink in front of Phineas who decides to once again abandon his armchair and stay at the bar. Philip doesn’t mind it the slightest bit.
“Could you be any more cryptic?”, he asks sulkily.
“Certainly.”, Phineas grins at him. He looks way too pleased with himself if you asked Philip. However he hasn’t got the time to investigate further. The good weather seems to lure out more people than usual and Philip is busy the next minutes. When he served everyone – some people even stayed inside to enjoy their orders – he turns back to Phineas.
“Ready for the great revelation?”, he asks, that cocky smile back on his face.
At that Phineas actually laughs. He then makes a show out of leaning closer and beckons Philip to lean in as well. Without giving it a second thought, Philip complies. Mistake. Abort. Mission. Help. Phineas gets up from the bar stool to place his lips directly next to Philips ear.
“I want to take you out dancing.”, he nearly whispers, but Philip can still make out the melodic, deep voice. It sends shivers down his spine.
“You – what?”, Philip manages to pull back and regain a more professional posture. His pink dusted cheeks might betray him though. Unsure, he crosses his arms and hopes, Phineas would elaborate. Luckily he does.
“You – me – dancing. You can choose a location. I offer you the park near my place, a rooftop of an apartment complex, or the closed theatre two streets down from here.”
Philip is speechless. It clearly is a surprise, like Anne promised it would be.
“Bonus offer would be the botanic garden.”, Phineas adds as an afterthought.
“You can’t be serious.”, Philip finally says, before he glances around the room. A new costumer gives him the opportunity to flee and think about what he just heard. Anne the traitor told Phineas he loved to dance, apparently. Now, don’t get him wrong, he loved it. But he wasn’t a dancer, especially not in public. The thought, that Phineas took that in account and supplies him with multiple secluded, yet evidently romantic places, leaves him with a tight feeling in his chest. This man will give him a heart attack one day.
Phineas stays silent and lets Philip think about his offer.
“I – I’d like – no.”, Philip shakes his head at himself. Phineas raises an eyebrow expectantly but Philip can tell he is not as relaxed as before. Abruptly he registers, why.
“No! I don’t mean ‘no’. Oh god. I mean, I’d love to.”, he specifies his rambling. That instantly puts the smile back on Phineas’ face. It also lifts a weight off of Philip he didn’t know was there before. Flustered, he fumbles at his apron.
“Great! I’m glad that wasn’t a real no.”, Phineas teases.
Philip sighs exasperated. What is he getting himself into?
“When are you finished here?”, Phineas asked.
“Okay, I have to go about some business for the shop anyways. May I pick you up at seven?”
“You may.”, Philip grins. He takes a little note from a stack and writes down his address.
“I’d love to stay longer, but I fear I have a lot to do until then.”, Phineas says and gets up. Philip nods and collects the emptied coffee mug.
“I hope you know you have to wear something you can move in.”
“Uh, yeah, of course.”, Philip answers.
“Good. Don’t want our date ruined by skinny jeans.”
“Are you insulting my pants?”
“No, you look very good in them. But dancing would be better without them. I mean-“
Philip starts laughing. For once it is the older man who looks a bit sheepish at the unintentional innuendo. Of course this look doesn’t last long and he smiles brightly again while closing his coat.
“You know what; I stand by what I said. Make of it what you will.”, he says.
Philip still chuckles kind of embarrassed but mostly amused. He hands the note with his address over to Phineas. The tall man pockets it carefully and slides over the payment for his cappuccino.
“The change is for you, I see you tonight. Be prepared for the best night ever and by that I mean you didn’t pick a location so it’s gonna be a surprise.”
“Thanks. Can’t wait.”, Philip answers softly.
“Stop being so cute, I have to go.”, Phineas jokes, then points his walking stick as a good-bye at Philip and exits the shop.
By six o’clock Philip is thoroughly panicking. He sits on his sofa in front of three bowties, a tie, a note with a question mark and behind that six shirts. And three pairs of pants. And shoes, oh God, shoes. Not to mention Philips hair falls not as perfect as usually. And his finger nails are chipped; he got a small cut from dropping a glass some days ago on his underarm. All in all he is close to a break down.
The only solution lies right besides the second bowtie: his phone, which he picks up now, to call his one hope. It takes some rings before Anne picks up.
“Phil! Hey, how are you?”
“I need your help. Again. I’m sorry…can you come over?”
“Sure.”, he hears her sigh and hopes he doesn’t annoy her.
“Thank you so much, I’m sorry to bother you.”
“Oh shush, you are not a bother. I’m on my way, yeah? Hold on.”, he hears her closing what sounds like the front door and hangs up. Impatient he waits, waits some more, and makes some tea for them. He needs to calm down, he isn’t twelve.
Twenty minutes later Anne has him try on this and that combination, switch bowties and shoes, no one shoe on this foot and the other from this pair on the other to be faster – yes Philip that works – and hold up his button ups to see what matches best.
It is exactly 6.48pm when their tea cups are emptied and Philip puts on his shoes that they are finished. Anne was resolute to ban the tie, along with a blue shirt Philip secretly really likes. But, looking in the mirror that’s next to his wardrobe, he can be content with his outfit. A cream white shirt and his favourite dark blue bowtie match his Chelsea boots. He got them as a gift and never really wore them but Anne ensures him they are perfect. They also feel nice and he hopes he can dance with these. The charcoal dress pants allow him more freedom to move.
“Don’t I look, you know, too formal or something?”, he asks and feels insecurity creep back into him.
Anne crosses her arms, and then walks around Philip one last time. She shakes her head and slaps him firmly on the shoulder.
“You look great. And he is taking you dancing – if this isn’t the best opportunity to show off you can wear bowties I don’t know when it would be.”
“Thank you? I don’t wanna show off…”
“For God’s sake, Philip, pull yourself together!”
“Sorry, I just-“
“Do you like him?”
“I think so.”
“Do you want to go on this date?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Do you think he’s handsome?”
“Does he seem equally interested in you?”
“I – I hope so, yes.”
“Then of course you can show off.”
Anne nods sternly. Philip finally displays a grateful smile and ducks his head.
“I’m sorry I can be such a pain. It’s stupid that you have to deal with me. But I trust you and I am really glad you helped me.”, Philip says. He has feared it would be strange to have Anne help him get ready for a date, but it wasn’t strange at all. It was stressful, but that was his own fault. Regarding Anne’s and his relationship, it was actually fun.
Anne smiles at him and pulls him in for a quick hug. Afterwards she straightens his shirt a little and gives him one last critical glance.
“He’s gonna be stunned into silence. And let’s be real, that’s a good thing sometimes.”
Philip chuckles at that, although he might disagree. He imagines Phineas’ soft, engaging voice and the big gestures that accompany his every word. Why would someone not want to listen to this gift? Okay, he was clearly biased on the topic. The topic being the entirety that is P.T. Barnum.
“Oh it’s only five more minutes.”, Philip notices and smoothes his sleeves out.
“I’ll leave you now, okay? Have fun and tell me how it was – whether we can celebrate or I have to dig out my shotgun.”
“Wait – you don’t really own a shotgun, do you?”
Anne grins innocently at him, shrugs her shoulders and is out of the door. Philip shakes his head about this girl. Amazing, but from time to time terrifying.
His phone tells him he has got two minutes left. He lays the woollen blazer within arm’s reach. Immediately he hears his father from years ago – ‘Every man needs to own a navy blazer. The best fabric is of course cashmere. Are you listening, Philip?’ Philip has to agree on the colour, navy is sophisticated, no doubt. But when he bought his first blazer, he made sure it was not the most expensive one made out of 100% cashmere. From then on he bought his blazers woollen. He likes the cosy feeling it gives him. It’s also pretty warm and he doesn’t feel too posh wearing it.
One minute – the door bell rings.
Philip glimpses at his reflection in the mirror one last time then he opens the door to his apartment. Anne was not wrong, but the stunned into silence-one right now is definitely Philip.
Phineas greets him with a charming smile and – Philip almost doesn’t believe his eyes – a bunch of roses. Not red roses, but white ones, creamy yellows and some pale pink ones in between. He still stands in the door frame, unable to say anything for a long moment.
“You are crazy. Oh my god, come in.”, he eventually laughs and signals Phineas to get inside.
“Hello to you too.”, Phineas smirks and steps past Philip. He hands him the bouquet and a very flustered Philip takes them to the kitchen right down the hallway. He is back a second later and awkwardly fumbles for his blazer. When he is properly dressed, he looks up at Phineas.
“Ready.”, he murmurs. Following a spontaneous idea, he steps closer and places a quick peck on Phineas cheek. The older man looks surprised for a split second, thereafter he laughs quietly.
“Was this your ‘thank you’? Because if it was, you’re getting flowers every day.”
“Different ones every day?”, Philip jokes.
Phineas nods seriously, before he smiles and steps out of the hallway into the night. As it is still wintery, although spring is right around the corner, it remains getting dark early.
Chapter 4: IV
it's their first date
Welcome to the next part!
(unbeta'ed, I am not a native speaker)
I hope you enjoy it
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Phineas arrived at Philip’s with an old, fascinating car. And what a car it is, but Philip figures it matches the whole extravaganza-antique aura, Phineas has. The car is an Oldtimer, a Dodge, as far as Philip can tell. He is not an expert of cars.
“Mr. Carlyle,” Phineas snaps him out of his thoughts. He opens the passenger door for him and Philip takes a seat. Phineas walks around the car and pulls out of the driveway in front of Philips flat.
“How do you know my last name?”
“Anne told me, of course.” Phineas grins at him and shows perfect white teeth.
Philip wonders why he has even asked. Anne has played matchmaker before and here she goes again. Perhaps Philip could buy her favourite chocolates tomorrow and thank her again.
But as for right now he doesn’t want to think about Anne Wheeler.
“Oh come on, I want to know more about you. And now you can tell me yourself.” Phineas grins at him. Philip smiles and looks out the window. Most of the places Phineas suggested earlier today were roughly in the same area, so it was hard for him to make a guess.
“Well what do you want to know?”
“Left or right?
Philip looks at him funnily, when Phineas points at the crossroad ahead. He stifles a laugh.
“Eh, left?” Phineas nods and they take the road down left. Philip gets the game now.
They arrive, after some more crossings, at an ordinary, not too big park. Only a few street lamps illuminate the paths and reveal some birds, but no people. Phineas finds a parking lot and they exit the car. Philip curiously follows Phineas to the trunk, where from the man collects a blanket, a small speakers system and a closed bag that he hands over to Philip. Philip can feel something warm and multiple uneven shapes – it seems to be a thermos jug and glasses.
“Wow, you are prepared,” he states in awe.
“Of course I am prepared. What do you think of me?”
Philip smiles and shrugs his shoulders. He is impressed by all these prearrangements Phineas made an effort for. It’s nice, unusual, but welcome.
“Follow me,” Phineas proposes and what choice does that really leave for Philip. Happily carrying the bag, he does so. They stroll through the park and Phineas tells Philip how much he enjoys this place when it’s quiet. Once they found the right spot ‘ah yeah, there we are’ – Philip carefully sets the bag down onto the blanket.
“So you’re not always the high-spirited, flirty character?” Philip asks. It’s said lightly, but he wonders, whether there’s some truth to it. And whether he would like that or not.
“Oh I am, no doubt. But I don’t always display it like that.”
Philip nods, it’s pretty much the other way around with him. He jokes and talks a lot – sometimes, occasionally, when he is comfortable. Phineas can be calmer, less intense – sometimes, occasionally, maybe too when he is comfortable? Philip would like to find that out.
“I get that.”
“Okay, on with my flirty high-spirited behaviour. Let me set up the music," Phineas says and fetches his phone. Philip grins and opens the buttons of his blazer. It’s not too cold this night, but at least they’re moving on from sub-zero temperatures.
“May I have this dance?” Phineas asks when he selected a playlist and the Bluetooth speakers supply the right volume for the open air.
Philip needs a second before he can place the music and take the offered, warm hand.
“Is that Tchaikovsky? You are so cheesy,” he grins.
“What are you implying, can’t you waltz?”
“Of course I can. Take me.” Now he is definitely blushing.
“That came out wrong, I-“
“Just come here.” Phineas laughs and pulls the younger man closer. They positively sashay over the meadow-like patches around the blanket. The next street lamp a short way down the path barely reaches them. Shadows appear and vanish on their faces and hands, with every turn and twist Phineas directs.
“You know…I like cheesy.”
“I’m glad you do.” Phineas smiles back. They dance to classy pieces from a slow version of the Nutcracker’s Pas De Deux and the waltz from Sleeping Beauty over to the corniest of all – the Waltz of the Flowers. Philip couldn’t dream up a better night.
They turn and sway, sometimes so fast, Philip has to concentrate on his steps and is relieved that Phineas knows how to guide them, but other times so slow and intimate, he doesn’t dare to look at the older man too long.
When the last notes of Mariage D’amoure fade away, Philip has goose bumps all over his arms and incredible warmth in his chest. They stay only a breath away from each other, Philips arm rests on Phineas’ shoulder, his right hand gently enveloped with Phineas’ left.
The arm Phineas has securely wrapped around Philip pulls him even closer. Sneakily Philip places his hand from Phineas’ shoulder to his neck and brushes his fingertips through the short, soft hair on the back of his head. Phineas sighs and drops his head.
“You know what I wonder?” Philip whispers but doesn’t stop his caresses.
“What?” Phineas asks but stays with his forehead touching Philips shoulder, savouring the tender touches. Philip swears he can feel how he closes his eyes and relax.
“I wonder…what you got in that thermos jug of yours,” Philip whispers solemnly.
Phineas lifts his head gradually to give Philip a look that can only be described as the embodiment of ‘are you kidding me’. Philip can’t help the broad grin that takes over his face and jauntily bites his lower lip.
“You are such a tease,” Phineas groans, which send another jolt of goose bumps over his body.
He lets his fingers linger a little longer, before he takes a step back. Phineas shakes his head in a mockingly disappointed manner, but proceeds to take the shorter man’s hand and they go back to the blanket.
Phineas picks up the bag and Philip spreads out the red blanket. They way it’s patterned it reminds Philip more of a circus ceiling than an authentic picnic blanket.
Philip more or less elegantly drops down and pulls his legs closer to sit cross-legged. Good thing he doesn’t wear skinny jeans. Phineas hovers over him and seems to be uncertain whether to sit next to or in front of Philip. It takes some effort for Philip not to point out how adorable that was.
Finally Phineas sits down – across from Philip, but so close that they would touch if Philip stretched out his legs a bit. He doesn’t.
“Be prepared for something amazing.” Phineas grins when he takes out the jug and two small mugs.
“Pff, okay.” Philip smiles back.
However, this smile vanishes as soon as the first scents leave the warm container.
“Oh my god, is that mint?!”
“Uh, yeah,” Phineas agrees. “It’s actually Peppermint Hot Chocolate.”
“What? No, it’s delicious you boor.”
“Excuse me? I might not fit into it anymore, but I come from a very prestigious family.”
“Well, is that so? Then I dare you to try this, because it’s tasty.”
Phineas grins at the younger man and holds a half filled mug out to him. It seems more like a cat offering a mouse a piece of cheddar, if Philip were to judge the situation. He could be a bit biased, but right then he can just focus on the insolent beverage in front of him and its mischievous owner.
“I will not.” Philip states and although he really doesn’t want to, feels a treacherous smile on his face.
“Your loss.” Phineas decides and shrugs. He seals the jug again and keeps the mug to himself. Philip might not want his awesome drink, but he could at least enjoy it. He is leading the mug up to take a first delightful sip, when Philip perks up. Phineas can practically hear the smug grin.
“How so?” he has no choice to ask. The mug dangles mid-air and Phineas glances over to him, he seems torn between a smart remark or rather back down.
“Because~ I don’t want any mint near me.”
“And I mean really near me and also this distance near me. Let’s include, mint at all.”
“Are you attempting to blackmail me?” Phineas starts to grin.
“I would never, this is your choice. Drink that devils product, if you please. I hope you don’t mind sitting about two feet away from me then.”
Philip shrugs and shows his teeth in an innocent smile. He knows he is just teasing by now, but there are some things you could literally chase him away with – mint being one of those. It’s only fortunate Phineas decided on this to carry with them. Or well, maybe something they both enjoy would be better, but as long as it wasn’t some kind of liquor Philip isn’t too sure if he would be this openly funny.
“Alright, no mint today. What a pity.” Phineas sighs into the steaming mug. With overdramatic flair he pours the brown liquid back into the jug and closes the bag around it again.
“You’ll live.” Philip grins.
“Thank you.” For being so kind. For this evening. For caring.
Philip can’t say it out loud. He hears Lettie’s words echo in his mind: ‘You deserve happiness’. Does he? Philip knows he can be difficult, annoying, hard to talk to on long terms. Does he want to burden that upon someone?
“Hey, are you with me?” a slight touch to his knee jolts him out of his mind space. Philip focuses on Phineas’ smile, but instantly spots the concern behind it. He didn’t mean to worry him, he doesn’t want him to worry.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I kinda spaced out.” he hastily reassures a way too observant Phineas, whose eyes grow softer.
“I noticed. Wanna do something fun?”
“Depends on how you define ‘fun’.” Philip grins. He is grateful that he doesn’t need to explain or defend himself. Phineas is easy going that way.
“Did you ever try stargazing in the city?”
Philip snorts and shakes his head. Amused, he lets his eyes wander towards the dark sky. It always seems dimmed at night; big cities don’t allow stars to shine. An assumption creeps up on him.
“Please tell me you haven’t got that idea, because I said I ‘spaced out’. That would be the most horrible pun in history.”
“Takes one to know one.”
“A brilliant pun maker, if you will. But no, I actually had that idea before, you just brought it back to my mind,” Phineas laughs.
“Oh well. Tell you what, the idea is super cute. It’s just not possible, unless you count helicopters as miserable shooting stars,” Philip teases and points out one of the vehicles. It was easy to spot traffic, pollution, adverts. But stars?
“Aw, don’t ruin it.” Phineas groans and puts his hand up so he doesn’t have to see the gyroplane.
Not allowing further complains, Phineas leans back and stretches out his long legs, his feet reaching over the end of the blanket. Philip regards him with an amused smile, then he lies down next to him. Together they gaze upwards, not able to see a single star.
“Please tell me you got a telescope in one of your many bags and cases,” Philip murmurs after several moments of content silence. When he glances to his side, he sees that Phineas has his eyes closed. “What’cha doing?”
“I’m star gazing. I can tell you about them, if you want?” Phineas quietly answers.
“So you’re a hobby astronomer?” Philip asks grinning, although he’s intrigued.
“I actually studied astronomy. But it’s more scientific than fun and magic. So I quit.”
“Hm. Okay, describe it to me,” Philip hums and after one last glimpse, closes his eyes as well. His breath slows down and he finds a comfortable position. Might be a bit snuggled up to Phineas, but the other man doesn’t complain. Philip sighs contently and throws an arm over his face to block out all light. His fingertips brush Phineas.
“When a star dies, it does so with a great explosion. It spreads the stars innards all over space, which creates a gigantic cloud of dust and gas. These are supernovas. One of my favourites is the Crab Nebula, it’s close to ‘Taurus’. It’s bright blue on its centre and is somewhat oval-“
Philip listens to Phineas’ every word and in his imaginations hazes of blue and yellow lights form the most beautiful constellations. Phineas guides him through different nebulas, to galaxies with crazy names and small moons with numbers as names. When his hand tingles and threatens to fall asleep, Philip turns. He puffs slow breathes against Phineas’ shoulder, his eyes still closed. The older man keeps talking as he places an arm around Philip.
“You know how Jupiter’s moons got the names they have today? There’s a beautiful story about Callisto, Jupiter’s heaviest and fourth moon. Callisto followed the Greek goddess – Artemis – but was seduced by Zeus and…”
Phineas falls silent and looks down onto the younger man. A soft snoring comes from him and makes Phineas smile. He feels deep care blossom inside his chest for this unique, blue eyed man. How this might turn out? Phineas looks up at the sky - maybe the stars know.
Thanks for reading!
Leave a comment if you got ideas, suggestions, critique or anything :)
Chapter 5: V
As per usual, this is unbeta'ed and I'm not a native speaker,
I still hope you
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Philip...hey...” Phineas tries to wake the younger man up. He softly nudges him and glances at his watch. It’s getting late and to be honest really cold. Either they move now or they might get sick. He carefully sits up and watches the younger man’s peaceful face. With a slow blink and a yawn, he finally awakens.
“You fell asleep,” Phineas points out with a grin. It falls, when he sees the guarded, confused look cover Philip’s features.
“No, that can’t be. I can’t just fall asleep, it doesn’t happen.”
“Okay, it’s fine, sweetheart,” P.T. says and waits for the younger man to explain it. Or leave it, he hasn’t decided yet. On the one hand he wants to know why Philip thinks he can’t fall asleep, but on the other hand he wants to respect his privacy. Philip rubs at his eyes and pulls his legs closer as he sits up too.
“Uhm, yeah. Sorry, I didn’t think I’d fall asleep on you. I didn’t want to ruin our - the da- the evening.” Philip stumbles through his sentence and nearly rolls his eyes at his own incompetence.
“Oh no, you didn’t ruin anything,” Phineas interrupts him and tries to look Philip in the eyes. The younger man keeps his gaze fixed on the blanket and shrugs apologetic. It makes Phineas’ heart ache and he wants to put a smile back on the handsome man. He could swear the temperature dropped another few degrees during the last moments as he feels a shiver down his back.
Philip takes some deep breaths and collects his thoughts. It has been one of the loveliest evenings he had in his whole life and he turns it into a catastrophe. Phineas doesn’t know him and might not see it yet, but Philip knows it. He gets up, brushes the cold out of his pants and from his arms. Instead of warming, with more and more separation to the other man, he grows colder. He inhales slowly and holds his breath. When he moves his gaze up from his feet, Phineas stands too.
The older man wants to reach out to Philip, but the blue eyes glue his feet to the dark grass they are standing on.
“And I don’t want to ruin it,” Philip speaks. His voice is barely above a whisper and he hates himself for it. The last days were the most fun, looking forward to the visits from Phineas, creating little ornaments into hot cappuccino, receiving real flowers and exchanging flirty conversations. It hits him right then, what Philip can’t have. A perfect relationship, a life, like this. The stormy thoughts cloud his eyes and make his fingers tremble. He crosses his arms and claws at his blazer to keep himself still. He feels Phineas’ eyes on him, although he doesn’t look up once.
“I loved today, thank y-you,” he forces words out, his body wants to keep in. Or rather, his heart. His heart, that desperately trashes and refuses to accept the chains, his mind slings around it.
“I need to go now. Have a- sorry. I need to leave, I – sorry.” He picks up a brisk walk and holds back the urge to turn around. To run back and continue the stargazing. To listen to horrible puns and the purest laugh. To place another chaste kiss on the slightly stubbly cheek, maybe jaw line, maybe more. He buries his hands in his blazer’s pockets and when he is out of the park and walks down the road, allows one tear to escape the corner of his eye. No more. He wipes vigorously over his face, his breath goes rapidly in pace with his heart.
He rounds a corner and bumps into someone. Startled, he looks up, an apology already on the tip of his tongue. It gets lost when glassy, sorrowful eyes meet determined brown ones. Philip is speechless. For a second, he just stares, then he examines the tall man. No picnic bag, no blanket. Only the coat and what looks like a hastily pocketed wallet and phone.
“I’m sorry, I really should-,” he starts again, back to his previous mindset. He can’t have this gorgeous creature that somehow took a different path to catch him. He can’t have someone who runs and leaves everything behind for him, who woos him and makes him laugh. Philip focuses on the pavement and wants to continue his way, away.
“You really should come here.”
Philip is granted no time to argue and two arms pull him into a tight, warm embrace. The coats soft wool brushes against Philips fingers and he closes his eyes, when he presses his face against Phineas. Tucked into a cocoon of homey and calming scents, he exhales. Phineas places his head onto Philip’s, keeping him safe at his chest, one hand on the shorter man’s back, the other slowly passing through the hair at the back of his head.
They stand in the shadows, but get illuminated by a few cars passing the street – no one cares. Philip doesn’t care either. His mind finally shuts up. It calms his body as well, he breathes more controlled and his hands, which previously curled themselves around Phineas’ coat, again trembling with tension, relax. He sneaks them higher up and rests them under his head, over Phineas’ heart. The even beats are like a lullaby.
“...better?” Phineas whispers and Philip feels the words brush over his hair. It makes him smile.
“Y-yeah. I have had some...err” Embarrassed, he looks up at the taller man, who meets his gaze expectantly. “Relationship issues,” he phrases it and cringes. That sounds even worse than it did in his head. And it doesn’t fathom all that comes with it. Insecurities, past experiences, self-awareness.
“Oh sweetheart, and we’re not even there yet.”, he hears Phineas smile. Oh god. The older man is right, Philip talks about ‘relationship’ issues when they are just on their first date. He winces and wants to pull away from the embrace. He makes it for a few inches, before he’s drawn back in. Embarrassed, he grins into the warm coat where he hides his face.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Over there so the ground can open and swallow me up?”
“Nah.” Phineas ends his questioning and Philip smiles. However, he doesn’t dare to look up yet. Hiding at the tall man’s chest wraps him in warm thoughts and provides a safety he was missing for years but didn’t know he needed.
“But I’d like to find out,” Philip hears him continue, “where this is going.”
Philip hums in agreement, but stays where he is. Luckily, Phineas doesn’t seem to mind and slowly threads his fingers through Philip’s hair. They stay like that for what feels like forever and Philip concludes that hugs at a cold night may be one of the most amazing things in the world.
“Me too. And I still have to visit your shop,” he speaks up. Slowly he withdraws from the embrace to look into Phineas’ eyes and to clear his head. If he wants to form coherent sentences he can’t stay huddled against this warm chest.
“Yes, you do. If you like, I could come to get my coffee before your shift is over and take you with me?” he suggests and the optimistic smile makes Philip’s knees go weak. He is so screwed. He nods.
“I’d love that. I mean, sure. Cool.” Damn it. He feels himself blushing once more but Phineas doesn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, he leans down and presses a gentle kiss on Philip’s cheek.
“Great. You want me to take you home?” Phineas asks. He offers a hand to Philip and the gesture is so simple, yet so intimate, Philip is exhilarated.
“That depends...” He hums, but takes the offered hand anyways. Phineas laces their fingers together and Philip’s train of thought slips his mind. He can see it vanish into the dark sky, swallowed by smog and the universe. He wants to be fun to be around. He wants them to laugh and be careless. Phineas seems like the person to offer all of this.
“It depends on what?” Phineas prompts after minutes within sweet, slowing changing to charged atmosphere. Less and less cars pass by, the city stops its fuss for them.
Be polite. Don’t scare him off, he might be flirty, but oh God – what a gentleman he truly is.
“On whose home you’re referring to.” God damn it, Philip Carlyle. He doesn’t look up, but he can feel Phineas’ laugh in the way his hand moves, in the way, his breath changes. It makes his heart jump.
“Your choice, sweetheart. But I need to get my blanket and hot chocolate first.”
"No one needs your minty chocolate," Philip huffs with a smirk. Maybe he can forget his worries, turn off the anxiety. In the back of his mind, anxiety, fear and pain disagree.
Chapter 6: VI
Phil is giddy. It's the day after their first date, after all.
Hey, congrats to everyone who made it this far!
This chapter (for the first time) is beta'ed by the amazing @Em3kitty!
Phineas had brought him home – like a gentleman. And left with a final chaste kiss pressed onto Philips already rosy cheek.
It took Philip a whole hour to wrap his head around the evening and mute his noisy mind for tonight. He had work in the morning and should go to bed before his alarm clock brightly announced “2 am”.
At 8 am his ever persistent alarm chimes. Philip groans and blindly slaps – the lamp. Aim missed. He tries once more and now his hand lands on the clock. The annoying beeping stops and Philip rolls back around on his back. He slowly opens his eyes and rubs his face.
A wide grin spreads over his lips and pushes his whole body in a blissful state of mind. What a lovely day to wake up on. There is nothing special to this particular day, except everything feels different. And a good different it seems. Philip yawns and takes this as his cue.
In no time he gets ready and leaves his flat ten minutes earlier than usually. He hopes to find Lettie at the shop, get his coffee and maybe a cookie for breakfast. Thinking about it, he doesn’t care for food. He just wants to talk to the welcoming, motherly woman.
The shop’s front door is closed and Philip enters through the back. Inside it is warm and the usual jazz playlist already provides soft tunes. Someone has to be here, Philip concludes. He drops his jacket and bag, snatches his apron and leaves the backrooms.
Behind the counter, a magazine in her hands, leans Lettie Lutz. Philip grins and has to stop himself from skipping over to her. The woman looks up with a smile that grows wider, when she sees his elated expression.
“Good morning, sunshine!” She greets him with a heart-warming hug. Despite avoiding physical contact, he loves to be comforted by Lettie.
“Morning yourself. How are you?” he asks and props an elbow on the wooden counter.
“Oh, I’m fine. But we’re talking about you, aren’t we? How was your date?”
“Uhm...well,” Philip starts and feels his face heat up, “It was a bit...okay – okay – it was lovely.”
Lettie positively shrieks at that and Philip tries to contain a laugh. It doesn’t work. He burrows his face in his hands and laughs out loud, when he feels the woman’s hand on his shoulder and hears her excited laugh.
“Lovely? Honey, tell me everything!” She nudges him and Philip brushes back his hair, before he drops his hands and nods. A quick glance at the vintage-design clock tells him they got about ten minutes until they have to open the shop.
He wants to make them their coffees but gets stopped by Lettie. She shoos him to sit down on one of their bar stools and fixes their drinks. She yells over the sounds of the coffee machine: “Spill, Philly!”
Philip gets restless once the afternoon hits. His shift ends in half an hour and Phineas wanted to come here and pick him up. He said so yesterday, didn’t he? Philip hears the smooth words echo in his mind.
“I could come to get my coffee before your shift is over and take you with me?”
He had agreed, of course. So, when was “before your shift ends”? Philip had no idea, but he hoped it meant soon. Not that he was desperate to see the intriguing man again. He was not that far gone.
The playlist for the morning ends. Philip swiftly turns on their more lively music for noon. He chooses a lot of their music and so he knows, what comes up next. He sways with the music, smiles at customers and leaves small milk ornaments on top of coffees for people who stay inside to enjoy their orders.
One doorbell chime after another: comments on people coming and leaving – but no Phineas.
Philip’s gaze is fixed firmly on the clock by now. It’s 1.17pm when he collects dirty dishes from some tables.
It’s 1.24pm when he drums along with a music piece and challenges the trumpet to play faster, faster, faster.
At 1.28pm Philip nearly looses it when the back door swings open. Anne Wheeler puts on her apron and offers him a sweet smile. Philip tries to match it, but his eyes flit back between the clock and the front door.
“Philip, what got you so riled up? You told me your date went well!” She asks concerned. Philip had called her once he got home, afraid she might really have a shotgun and use it. It was also nice to spill all his awfully romantic feels after this evening. And Anne was a good listener, she let him relive the happy moments and provided soothing words when he told her about her fears and his attempt to run off.
“It did, it did,” Philip mutters but doesn’t dare to look at the woman. Anne observes him and once she’s sure, he doesn’t lie, relaxes a bit. She comes to stand next to him and greets an elderly woman.
“...but?” She prompts Philip to continue while making a Chai Latte for the customer.
Anne turns around with the drink and only sees Philip break out into a huge grin and already loosening the apron tied around his waist. She places the hot drink in the woman’s waiting hands and when she looks around her, she is proven right in her assumption. The tall man that has Philip acting like a smitten puppy just entered the shop and quickly walks round two other customers in line. Rude, Anne thinks to herself but without malice.
She pushes some loose curls behind her ear, lets a friendly smile take over her face and tends to the next person in line. When she stands behind the cash register, she discreetly pushes Philip to the side, so he does not stand behind the counter anymore.
“I’m so sorry, I know I’m late,” Phineas breathes and steps close to Philip. He smiles apologetically, his arms raised in defence but carefully so. He carries the black cane as per usual and it makes him look more like a showman directing an act, rather than apologizing, which causes Philip to roll his eyes. A final look at the clock tells him it is exactly 1.31pm.
“Shame on you, Mr Barnum,” he says and shakes his head in mocking disappointment.
“I am ashamed, believe me.” Philip’s lips twitch, the words sound so honest, not like their amused banter. He sighs and raises his head to meet twinkling brown eyes.
“I forgive you, and as it is, my shift is just over.”
With a bit too much force he pulls the apron above his head, it gets almost caught up in Anne’s hair. The young woman huffs out an exasperated breath and gestures for Philip to throw over his apron. Philip chuckles and leaves the apron with Anne. Now he just has to fetch his personal belongings from the back of the shop. As he sees Phineas still way too close to him, Philip makes up his mind in a split second. He hurriedly grabs his hand and pulls Phineas behind the counter, past Anne and through the door to the back rooms.
“Eager, are we?”
“Oh God, shut up.” Philip mutters and is grateful that Phineas walks behind him and can’t see the blush on his face. There is nothing indecent about his actions or thoughts. But he can only speak for himself and Anne’s chuckle from the other room lets him walk even faster.
They leave a short corridor and enter the small room where the staff keeps their belongings locked away. Philip lets go off Phineas’ hand – rather, tries to – but is stopped by firm fingers on his shirt sleeve. He turns around and finds himself nose-to-nose with the taller man. Well, nose to neck, but he decides to not focus on their height difference. Not with Phineas smirking at him like that.
“I didn’t even say hello,” Phineas answers and tilts his head down.
“Me neither. Guess we’re both awful,” Philip grins and holds the intense gaze. Phineas releases his sleeve and instead rests his hand on Philip’s jaw.
“You know what else is awful?”
“Wha-?” Philip asks and excitement catches his breath. Phineas draws his thumb along Philip’s jaw line and pulls him even closer. Their breaths mingle and Philip sees the playful look in the man’s eyes. It tempts him to stand on his tiptoes. Throwing second thoughts over board, he reaches up and lays his arms around Phineas’ shoulders. Kiss me.
Phineas bows his head down the final bit and Philip almost leaps at him. He should have done so.
“What a tease one can be.” Phineas draws back and caresses Philip’s cheek, before he drops his hand. Philip does not groan in disappointment. He does not. A tiny whimper escapes him and he rolls his eyes. If this is supposed to be a revenge act for his ‘advances’ when they danced, he might deserve it.
“I guess ‘one’ is you now and was me?” He wants to clarify and distract Phineas from his way too apparent disapproval. After his late arrival he deserves that kiss.
“Accurate.” Excuse you?
Philip grumbles at that and crosses his arms defensively. It’s no fun to be right about this, so he quickly moves on. He steps over to a closet and pulls out his jacket, followed by the messenger bag that mainly carries theatre scripts and note books.
“We may as well go then,” he mutters and makes sure Phineas sees his pout.
“Great idea, sweetheart.” Phineas smirks, seemingly unfathomed, and Philip feels his resolve grumbling. He is still determined to get that kiss – and have the other man start it – but he can’t be mad at Phineas and his charming nature.
Together they leave the shop through the staff’s entry and find themselves on busy streets. It’s the middle of the day and the sun is shining, causing the city to buzz with life.
Phineas points the black cane to their right, but never starts walking. Philip raises his eyebrows in a silent question. He sees the tall man’s eyes flicker from his hand to Philip’s and back to the crowded sidewalks.
Philip gapes at the offered arm. He takes a tentative step back and shakes his head. Dancing in a deserted park was one thing, but walking down the streets – arms linked with another man – was something else entirely. Philip drops his gaze to his feet; he doesn’t want to see the disappointment in Phineas’ chocolate coloured eyes.
“I- I’m sorry, I-” He starts, but stops confused as he sees Phineas smile.
“It’s okay. It was just an idea, no pressure,” he reassures Philip and gestures towards the street in front of them. Slowly they emerge from the shadowed side street. Philip releases a breath he didn’t know he held, but glimpses cautiously over to Phineas. The tall man seems unaffected by Philip’s behaviour and leads the way with his usual enthusiastic stride.
They pass the coffee shop’s front and Philip sees Anne smirk behind the counter. He hastily waves at her and walks faster when he hears Phineas’ chuckle. Strolling down the busy street, Philip keeps track of their direction, still not sure where they are going. He hasn’t looked up Phineas’ shop yet, although he was tempted to at home multiple times.
Once they reach the next set of lights, he sees the striking car parked only a few feet away.
“Are you even allowed to stop there?” Philip wonders and his eyes widen. He didn’t mean to say that out loud.
“I don’t care, I couldn’t find a parking lot and I was already late.”
Philip’s heart skips a beat and he grins, pleased. He follows Phineas to the shiny green old-timer and clears his throat, when Phineas once again opens the passenger’s door for him.
“Thanks,” he murmurs, slightly embarrassed, and quickly takes a seat. He closes the door with a tad too much haste and hears Phineas laugh. He doesn’t want to look back up, but has no choice to do just that, as a persistent knocking on the window appears. He’s met with a blinding grin and Phineas points down to the door. Philip follows the digit and groans. He reopens the door and frees the coat’s fabric that got caught in the door. He doesn’t look up again, after he closed the door a second time and stares ahead, his ears hot and his hands gripping his messenger back on his lap.
Phineas takes his seat, still with a huge grin on his face, and starts the engine.
“Don’t laugh, this was your own fault.”
“Oh yeah, it sure was.”
“Did I disagree with you?”
“I hate you.” Philip fiddles with the zipper on his bag but no longer tries to contain the smile spreading over his lips. He leans back into the soft leather seat and focuses on the world flashing by outside the windows.
Phineas turns on a radio that seems too modern to fit into this car and soft tunes fill the air. It’s classical music again and Philip blushes. It reminds him of his not-so-elegant run off. Phineas must remember it too, yet they maintain a comfortable silence.
“Here we are,” Phineas states and Philip looks around more closely. They had reached a quieter part of the city, with older buildings, fewer windows and more brick walls. Philip sees a tiny café with pastel chairs outside on the sidewalks, a tailor and a fortune telling shop that looks strangely sophisticated.
Phineas steers the angular car into a backstreet where they come to a halt. When they turned into the street Philip spotted a sign for the shop and an arrow leads people in the right direction. Philip carefully opens the car’s door – the street is so narrow, it’s a miracle the car still passes it without any trouble.
He comes to stand next to Phineas, who locks the car and swings the walking stick with a grin:
“Welcome, Philip. To a world of wonder, hidden dreams and forgotten treasures.”
Philip wants to think he merely exaggerates, but something tells him that this man doesn’t just know how to sell something, but make you genuinely enjoy it.
The store is black, prominent against red bricks framing it, with windows that display clothes, a typewriter and other things, Philip can’t identify from where he stands. Above the head-high windows and the door golden letters tell curious souls:
‘Barnum’s Antiques – Fortune always favours the Brave’