Dan Howell sat down on Phil Lester’s bed and glanced over at the pile of supplies on the floor.
“No peaking!” Phil scolded, pushing the pile under his bed with his legs.
“Come on”, Dan said, giggling, “I volunteered for this, so I should at least get a sneak preview of what I’m in for!”
“Then you won’t be authentic” Phil said, over-enunciating the word ‘authentic’.
Dan rolled his eyes. “Alright, let’s get this over with!”
Phil brightened up and looked into the camera. “Hey guys!” he began with a wave at the camera.
“Hi,” Dan said with a small wave.
“So when I’m trolling through Tumblr, the one thing that I see a lot is ‘Punk Edits’…”
As the video intro continued, Phil explained to the viewers what to expect: a real life transformation of Dan and Phil into ‘Punks’. Dan played along and even got in a word about cultural appropriation before the content began.
Later, sitting on his bed and editing, Phil itched at the tattoo on his neck.
“I didn’t realize it would be so itchy!” he complained.
“Well, I didn’t realize I’d be contaminated by ‘Tina48’ so we both learned something, didn’t we?” he said, leaning into Phil’s personal space with a silly grin.
“Stop it!” Phil said, laughing and pushing him away. “I think I have it. Ready to watch it from the top?”
“Let it roll!” Dan commanded, leaning back in the broken office chair and nearly falling over.
The two young men cringed and laughed their way through, and then Dan gave Phil a few notes on the beat of a few of the edits, one of which Phil agreed with and immediately implemented.
“Now I just need to make the thumbnail and this part will be done!” he said.
“Good. Because I’m starving,” Dan said, “I’ll go start lunch. What do you want?”
“I have to take a shower and scrub all this off because I’m headed to the dentist in two hours, remember?”
“Haha, you should leave it all on! You look cool, Phil. Just take out the piercings and you’re all set to hit the train!”
“No!” Phil protested, grinning and hitting Dan on the shoulder, “I’m not going out like this. People will stare!”
“People always stare at you because you’re huge,” Dan teased, “At least this time they will have a better reason!”
“Go downstairs and fix me food, Howell,” Phil said, as he stood up and headed for the shower, “I’ll be down in a bit.”
Phil scrubbed and lathered and scrubbed some more and was nearly raw before the tattoo came off. He had no idea how to remove eye liner, so he just kept washing his face until it seemed less pronounced. When he came downstairs, his face and neck were shiny and pink.
Dan pointed and laughed. “You look like you were just born! What have you done to your skin, mate?”
“It wouldn’t come off!” Phil declared. “It’s still there if you look closely. I just hope the hygienist focuses more on my teeth than on my skin!”
“It’s fine, Phil. You’ll be fine. Here, have a sandwich. I made ham and turkey, hold the cheese, extra lettuce for you.”
“Thanks.” Phil stood at the kitchen counter gobbling down the sandwich. He only had forty-five minutes left to brush and floss his teeth and then get to the dentist.
“So,” he said, “will you do the annotations and upload it for me?”
“Yeah,” Dan said, “when are you publishing it?”
“When I get home,” Phil answered, washing down the last bite of sandwich with a Ribena. “I’ll do the links and description when I come back.”
“Dan…” he began.
“I won’t!” Dan said, crossing his fingers behind his back.
Phil sighed. “You’re going to re-add it aren’t you?”
“Phil, it’s funny! You moaning about the water hitting your nipples is hilarious!”
“Fine,” Phil said as he put his plate in the sink and headed upstairs to clean his teeth.
Dan cackled and rushed upstairs behind him to re-edit the video.
On the train, Phil got a few looks from some of the younger children and he slouched down a bit and turned to the side. Apparently, in the lighting of the train, his neck tattoo was still showing a bit.
At the dentist, though, the hygienist was very professional and did not mention the mostly faded tattoo. Instead, she scraped his teeth and made his gums bleed as Phil white-knuckled the arms of the chair and tried to be brave.
Back home, Dan was putting the finishing touches on the scene he had edited back into the video. Phil was moaning, “Ooooh, my nipples,” and Dan played it over and over again. He thought about making that the thumbnail, then thought better of it. YouTube was getting weird about demonetizing things, and he didn’t want that to happen to Phil. He finished the annotations at the end screen, then hit upload.
Phil raced upstairs and saw that the video was eight-three percent uploaded. They really needed better internet, but none was available in their area. Just another reason they needed to move, he thought.
After the video finally finished uploading and processing, Phil went through the tedious process of inserting all the text and links and finally, an hour later, watched the video one more time before hitting publish. Dan had been right: the nipples part was pretty funny.
Exactly two years and one month later, he approached Dan with another request. “Let’s do another edits video, but this time, let’s make it a pastel edit!”
“How on earth are we going to do that?” Dan asked.
“I’ve bought some pastel clothes and props and some nail polish and I think we can do it. Please???”
“I mean, yeah, I’m up for it, but I don’t know how it will work!”
“It will be fine,” Phil reassured him, “They’ve been asking for it so I think we’ll be alright.”
“Just ‘alright’?” Dan asked, taken aback, “That’s not usually our goal, just ‘alright’!”
“I know, but I think we can make it funny, even though it won’t be as dramatic as the punk edits. It’s more like a way of life than a person.”
“Sounds interesting,” Dan said. “Let’s do it!”
Three hours later, Dan sat down on Phil’s bed and the camera rolled. They ended up forgetting to do the nail polish, but by the end, they sat in a zen state of mind—though not zen enough to forget to sling zingers at each other—in pastel clothes and flower crowns.
Of course, the fans ate it up and Tumblr exploded with gifs ad and artwork after Phil uploaded it.
“You really look good in pastel, Dan,” Phil said, rewatching the video. The fans seem to love it. You should wear it more.”
“Nah, mate,” Dan said, “it doesn’t match the color of my soul.”
“You said you don’t have a soul, Dan.”
“Right. But if I did, it wouldn’t be pastel pink. It would be black, like my heart.”
The rain began to softly fall outside and Dan leaned over Phil’s office chair, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. “You, on the other hand, look cute, little Phily,” he said softly.
“Aw, thanks!” Phil said, blushing a bit, “I do kind of like the soft colors, though I’m not sure I project a pastel vibe.”
“Hmm,” Dan contemplated, “You have more of a frantic vibe I think.”
“Frantic?!” Phil said, turning around in his chair to face Dan.
Dan took the opportunity to give him a quick peck on the lips. “Mmm. Yes. You taste of frantic.”
“Stop!” Phil said, laughing. “I do not!”
Dan spun Phil’s chair back around and together, they watched the comments appear under the video.
A year later, as they were reviewing their stats, Phil looked up from his computer screen and said, “Punk Edits has over nine million hits, while the Pastel Edits has just over four.”
“You know why, don’t you?” Dan asked.
“Because in the Punk Edits video, I made the comment that your personality was too adorable for that look. Which it is, by the way.”
Phil laughed and shook his head, “No it’s not! And that one comment did not bring in nearly five million extra views!”
“You’d be surprised!” Dan said, looking back down at his own statistics. “And you are adorable,” he added, “Never forget that.”
Phil blushed and went back to work on his channel analytics. A few moments passed, and then Dan said, without looking up, “I think it was the nipples clip, my saying you were too adorable, and the contrast of the look to your personality. That’s what drove the views. The pastel look, while cute, was too close to who you actually are. You’re just a sweet lad, Phil. You’re going to have to get used to that.”
Phil looked over at Dan who was busy typing something into Notepad. He grinned. It was nice to have a boyfriend you could trust and who truly admired you.
Very nice indeed.