Sometimes it was all too much.
The meet and greets, the eager fans adorned with rainbow flags or cat whiskers or merch, the pictures, the autographs, the thousands of people packed into an auditorium calling out their names.
It weighed on both of them despite heavy grins and enthusiastic welcomes directed toward all of their beloved Phandom members.
It would weigh on any individual that had to travel around the world and perform an entire show every night with the same level of energy and motivation.
But now it was June.
They were soon departing for the rest of their European tour and would no longer be in close proximity to their home, nor have the familiar comforts that went along with it.
As Dan zipped his disorganized suitcase, he picked idly at the fringed edge of a soft, rainbow blanket that was gifted to him by one of his followers he had met earlier in the day.
Unsure of what to do with it, he laid it across his luggage and studied it carefully.
It was the most colorful thing he had ever possessed in his 26 years of living on Earth.
And it perplexed him.
“Dan, can you come here,” Phil called from their en-suite.
He sauntered down the narrow hall to see his boyfriend styling his rather dark, thick hair into a neat quiff.
I’m never going to get used to that, the brown-haired boy thought. After almost ten years of Phil’s morning ritual including at least a 20-minute hair straightening session, the site of seeing Phil do otherwise was always odd.
Welcomed yet odd.
“What is it?”
The blue-eyed man dressed in a spotted Topman T-shirt and a denim jacket eagerly jumped on the counter of their bathroom.
“PJ, Chris, Louise, Hazel, and Zoe are meeting for lunch.”
“Oh.” he couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice. It was a rare occasion for the group to gather due to rampant schedule conflicts, and the fact that they were unable to attend made him slightly disheartened.
The tour was proving to be larger than just taking the stage to sing songs or complementing fans on their whisker-drawing skills.
It was a continuous cycle of wake up, dress, eat, practice, meet fans, perform, travel, sleep repeat. All while maintaining their individual channels, social media feeds and balancing their relationships with friends and family.
This was not a job.
It was not even a lifestyle.
It was a choice.
And both of them made it knowing the consequences.
“That’s great,” Dan lied.
“Stop moping, Bear. They’re meeting so they can FaceTime us and give us a send-off together.”
With that comment, Dan was revitalized.
A new energy surged through him.
“They should be calling any minute now.”
Several minutes later they received a FaceTime request from PJ. They immediately accepted and after what felt like an eternity, the call connected and five smiling faces were shown on the screen.
Phil clutched the iPhone and shifted on the counter so Dan could be seated next to him.
A chorus of greetings ensued on the other side.
PJ must have been using his laptop to initiate the call because all faces could be seen in the frame.
He wore a blue jacket and his iconic circular frames and behind him stood a brown-haired Chris looking wide-eyed at the camera, his hand situated on PJ’s shoulder.
Louise, with her blonde hair, sat on one side of PJ, while Zoella complete in her oversized frames sat on the other side.
The red-haired Hazel stood with Chris in the back, occasionally nudging him in excitement.
“Hi, guys! Thank you so much for doing this!” Phil beamed.
A few seconds of lag later PJ replied with, “We had this planned months ago, couldn’t have you leave without wishing you good luck and saying goodbye.”
Louise laughed and jabbed a finger to the camera, “But, boys just because this is goodbye doesn’t mean I don’t expect updates, consistently. Just because you’re on tour doesn’t mean you can’t ring us.”
Her maternal instincts were always something the couple found endearing.
“Seriously, guys. When I can only know where you are in the world based on the geotags of your Tweets; there’s a problem,” Zoe affirmed giggling.
Louise outstretched a hand to Zoe who took it in earnest as if to strengthen the point.
“We promise we’ll update you. As long as I get pictures of Pearl in return,” Dan negotiated.
“Of course,” Louise reassured.
“And boys, remember that the time goes by fast. It may be long, and tedious but just enjoy it as much as you can, and also drink as much as you can,” Hazel explained her ginger hair standing out in the sea of blondes and browns.
“Hazel!” the blonde mother exclaimed shocked at such a suggestion.
“No, Hazel’s right. Drink as much as you can,” Chris teased.
The rest of the conversation flowed easily. The group acted as if there weren’t hundreds of miles separating them.
It was almost as if Dan and Phil weren’t looking at an iPhone camera or talking through a speaker. The moment felt everything but electronic and distant.
At last, it was time to finish the conversation. The group said a strained goodbye, and the couple thanked them once again for the kind act before PJ, at last, ended the call.
Phil powered the phone down and slid off the counter.
Dan’s phone chimed.
“Louise already sent me pictures of Pearl.”
He showed the pictures to Phil who smiled sadly. He looked through every photo almost robotically.
His face grew more solemn.
“Something wrong?” Dan asked worriedly.
Phil shook his head and raked a hand through his hair, forgetting it was styled.
“Look, if it’s something I did—which it probably was—you can tell me.” he persisted.
“No. No, you’re perfect, it’s just…” his voice trailed off.
Dan took the phone out of Phil’s grip and placed it in his back pocket. The raven-haired man’s face was tilted downward as if he was still looking at the other man’s cell phone.
“Is it the tour? If it is I know what you’re feeling.”
“It’s not the tour.”
Dan was certainly confused.
“What is it?” he asked gently.
Phil sighed heavily and turned to exit the bathroom. Dan followed him. Phil sat in the office chair of their hotel bedroom leaning on his hands and rubbing his temple.
“I miss my friends.”
“No, I mean I want my friends. I want to have a life with you. With them,” he pointed to his phone. His thoughts were jumbled making his words vastly ineffective.
Dan stayed silent, it wasn’t often that his boyfriend made these types of statements. He was the logical one, the one who—despite his style choice—was more sophisticated and adult. While Dan tended to lean more toward the emotional side of things.
“I want a family. I want no more secrets with our fans. I want transparency.”
Phil gestured toward the multi-colored blanket covering Dan’s black luggage.
“That’s what I want.”
It was a choice.
And both were willing to make it.