Anyone under so much pressure would have already cracked, yet the Swedish born was still fighting against caving inward even though constant reminders rendered him from completely blocking out the noise. While he did not necessarily care when it came to this little game with being ahead in numbers of subscribers versus T-Series it was still quite a feat since he was fighting for all individual creators who had come to this platform to, more or less, express themselves to an audience. Not to mention he was still grinding out one video everyday once Brad returned the edited versions, monitoring the comments section like he used to without as much interaction and designing the upcoming 90 million club merch and updating Tuber Simulator to make it relevant again.
“I fucking swear…” he muttered loudly while working out mechanics for the new minigame that would go alongside Puggle, brows furrowing behind thin-rimmed, round glasses before being startled by a shrill bark at the opening front door, “Is your mom home, Maya?”
Met with a deeper woof from his own pug in answer he glanced over and watched in amusement as curled tails wagged in greeting as the two grew louder, giving a polite greeting to his roommate and best friend as he returned attention to the monitor. Carrying on small talk as usual, he listened to what new projects Marzia had been working on in her studio not noticing that all the while his jaw had clenched, not wanting to interrupt by letting out a string of Swedish swears when he was startled by a dainty hand resting on his shoulder. Looking up again he was caught off guard by a gentle look that seemed to be all knowing, feeling guilty for some unknown reason even though there was only a calming nature behind those soft, brown eyes.
“Fele, come here please?”
“I gotta fix this one little glitch before I send it-”
“Felix,” she stated in a stern voice that would not accept any excuses, leading the man over to a charcoal grey couch where she settled in the crook of an arm, helping the man to lay a weary head onto her half folded lap, “What’s got you so wound up, love?”
“Well, the usual for one. This whole subscriber battle is still goin’ strong, still uploading once a day, all that.”
“D’you think a break would do you some good? Your viewers have always said they understand if you needed it.”
“I don’t want to suddenly stop posting like Dan or Cry… I mean, I’m ahead of schedule and Brad’s got all the footage.”
“Even more reason!”
“Mar, I can’t just leave!” he argued, cheeks flushing slightly as he felt the already losing battle, arm dangling off the side and occasionally scratching behind Edgar’s ears, “Can’t afford to stop now.”
“If you don’t you’re gonna go mental.”
“Maybe so, but I can’t just hand it off to my editors.”
“I’m sure they won’t mind when you explain. If it makes you feel better, I’ll invite PJ and Sophie to come along.”
With that final point made the Swedish born decided it would be worth the effort especially since the argument had been rigged from the start to end up in Marzia’s favor, pretending to be annoyed when her painted nails patted naturally blond hair as the two stayed in the same position for a while to let calming energy replace earlier tension, air punctuated by tiny snores from the one eyed dog curled on the other side of the sofa. After a while he begrudgingly left the comfort that had been built within the last few minutes, climbing up the lone flight of stairs to his room as the first of many phone calls were being made to arrange everything. Quickly scrolling through his contacts he typed out a short text that he was going on a spontaneous holiday trip and would explain further when he knew more details to both editors, shoving the cell phone into a denim pocket without another glance before gathering a duffle bag and needed necessities.
Leaving toiletries for last he considered grabbing his laptop bag to go along with their luggage, yet that would defeat the purpose of going away for however long this venture would last and only packed a phone charger. Straps digging into a slender shoulder, Felix fetched his car keys and returned to the living room where he was met with a familiar, curly haired man talking with Marzia as if he had been here the whole time, raising an eyebrow as if to ask what was going on.
“Came over as soon as Marzia called,” Brad stated simply with a shrug, adjusting his glasses after getting his face assaulted by two excited pugs with their tongues lolling out, “And then I got your text, so figured you needed someone to pet sit.”
“Damn, if only you were that quick with other things…”
“Careful man, I am the one who’ll be taking care of the PewDiePie channel while you’re off doin’ God knows what.”
“Got me there, thanks bro.”
“C’mon Fele, we’ve got friends to meet up with and a plane to catch!” Marzia interrupted, knowing that the two would continue to banter if she did not intervene when the chance arose, grabbing her purse and leading him to the front door, “Keep us updated, please!”
“Will do, have fun.”
Bidding a final farewell the pair busied with loading belongings into the backseat before the Italian woman took to the driver’s seat; she refused to reveal where they were going, a knowing smile on her face with every incorrect guess the other gave the closer they got to their first stop. Going through the mundane mess of checking in and filling out forms they decided to visit the small Starbucks kiosk located near their gate to grab a drink before boarding.
“A coffee,” they heard a familiar voice closer to the counter utter, clear confusion in his voice as the words came out as the barista asked for specifics, “...Latte?”
“Well, looks like we found one of ‘em, hey Peej!”
“Felix, you loudmouth…” Marzia sighed softly, shaking her head disapprovingly as he waved overenthusiastically when the person in question looked toward them with an amused smile.
“Didn’t take you for a coffee guy.”
“I’m not… Stupid, sleep-deprived brain.”
“Not you too!”
“For different reasons. Not as much as Felix, am I right?”
Sticking his tongue out at PJ in jest, the Swedish man and his closest female companion continued to the front of the line as patience began to dwindle, ordering a drink with four extra shots of espresso despite the disapproving look it gained him. Not paying much attention after paying, he was caught off guard by a chuckling that came directly from his right side, blinking rapidly, “What’s so funny?”
“My name’s definitely not Pedro, but I’ll take it.”
“How do you mean?”
“Look,” the British boy suggested, moving the cardboard sleeve to show that the label was completely wrong, “Don’t remember ordering a green tea, but it’s what I meant to get.”
“Sounds like she read your mind,” the woman accompanying him finally spoke up upon returning from securing a seat that was not surrounded by many people, “Not just anyone can do that, y’know?”
“If she did then why is the wrong name on it?”
“In that jumbled mess of a head you’ve got? I’m surprised she got a clear reading on anything.”
Trying to hide his snickers at the teasing that went on for a while longer, Felix followed the three once everyone had their orders called out, feeling a refreshing jolt of energy at being reunited with his other best friend even though he had seen PJ recently since they made a habit of having game nights at each others homes. There was something different about the others, yet an easily preoccupied mind did not chase that line of pondering for long once they reached the designated rendezvous point, sipping slightly at the steaming cup in his hand as chatter came and went, chiming in whenever his interest was peaked.
Long after drinks had been emptied the four were finally able to board, luckily staying close to each other aside from the separating aisle; hurriedly he typed out a Twitter update that alerted everyone who was not aware of the situation that he was leaving and videos would still be uploaded before having the device switch over to airplane mode as the first announcement came. Hopefully the fans would not go too wild within the three hours or so it would take to reach their destination, hell if he could remember the specifics…
Giving out a grumpy grunt when he felt a firm nudge press against an unprotected side, Felix tried to blink away the encrusted liquid stuck between light eyelashes in response to the blinding cabin lights. Had he slept the entire time? He could not recall when last he was able to pass out without being interrupted by an anxious thought process, no wonder his surroundings felt strange, turning to Marzia to ask what was happening.
“Where at, exactly?”
“Oh right, you don’t remember,” she stated smugly at being able to keep the secret going for so long, “Welcome to Iceland!”
Quirking a slender brow in a similar fashion out of confusion he simply nodded, letting that knowledge alone seep in while they collected belongings and made a way into the connecting terminal. Mostly keeping to himself the whole while it took to claim remaining luggage, his shot nerves at being somewhere entirely new were settled by a simply touch to his shoulder from the Italian, letting her take the lead once again.
“Are we ready to go?” she asked, getting a little sidetracked as Sophie started mentioning that they would need to find food soon enough and agreeing, “Figured we can do that after we check into our rooms.”
“Better hurry then, or Felix will turn against us for not letting him eat.”
“I’m so hungry! Peej, can I eat your hair?”
“Um, no… We’ve been over this, it’s weird dude!”
“Come on!” he pleaded a bit too desperately despite the revived joke from a previous collab, “You act as if you wouldn’t do the same.”
“Hair isn’t in my diet,,,”
“You know that’s not what I meant!”
“No wonder they’re besties.” Sophie stated, sharing in a giggle with Marzia as the other two blushed at being called out for their behavior.
Wanting to recreate a vlog he had done in this exact location shot for shot, Felix tried convincing the other man to side with him in allowing some sort of contact with the internet although it would end in vain; Marzia had already made a pact with the others to only allow him on Twitter and Instagram to update for the sake of the fans because, of course, the King of YouTube would not let weaknesses be shown in the fight against a corporate enemy. Anger taken out on everyone with a round of snowballs, a war went on between both boys well until their hands were freezing even underneath pairs of gloves, rushing inside for fish stew and sweets when they could no longer withstand the weather. While their days were filled with sightseeing and window shopping dips in the hot springs made the bone chilling cold bearable, knotted nerves dissolving from the warmth that would be carried with them all on the way back to Brighton.
Reset from the impromptu getaway, Felix was already anticipating the return to the platform he had dedicated so much time and effort in the eight long years of uploads. If it had not been for the combined voices of reason that advised him not to rush right into work when settling back in then the holiday would have been for not, the Swede sticking with the developing progress to schedule earlier times to film rather than last minute so as to prevent running his channel into the ground. Yet there still seemed to be a missing factor in this newly written equation though he could not pinpoint the variable.
“Marzia?” he asked one evening while waiting for the edited video to be completed, “I still feel… Off?”
“Maybe someone is supposed to be part of your rhythm.”
“I’m not sure who…”
“Well, why not use your free time to try finding out!”
“I guess. Where would I be without you?”
“Six feet under, surpassed by T-Series for not taking care of yourself.”
Sharing in a short-lived chuckle at the possible scenario that could have come true had he not heeded her warnings, exchanging good night pleasantries once Maya finished eating with her brother. Lost in thought for what seemed endless when a certain video came onto his feed; many followers had asked him to play Night in the Woods, but that had conflicted with when his channel changed from gaming to different varieties of looking at memes, but he kept up with Sean and Cry’s playthroughs respectively, clicking on the first of eighteen episodes from the latter. Oh, those had been the days when they were both in each other’s lives on a consistent basis, but of course life had other plans that caused them to go separate ways; nostalgia was a cruel mistress, reminding one of how much the past seemed even though there were many accomplishments amidst the hardships to also be proud of.
“Wonder what’s happened to you, old pal?” he asked aloud in the room, technically alone since Edgar was tucked into his designated dog bed near the couch, “If anything, hope you’re doin’ alright…”
Trying his hardest to fight against drooping eyelids and an oncoming attack of yawns, Pewds mistakenly got comfortable in the Italian leather armchair with his head propped up for easy access to the videos playing on the personal computer. Not realizing he had easily fallen asleep to the lull of that soft, raspy voice the dreams he was subjected to seemed to carry on as if memorizing the whole series. Dried drool crusted along his bottom lip and recently shaved cheek he awoke with a start from the dual barks that signaled they were ready to be let back inside after having a potty break, wiping at blurry eyes as he got up to do just as the pugs were requesting.
“Good mornin’ to you too, are we ready for some kibble?” he asked as if expecting an answer, chuckling quietly as the two swarmed around his feet all the way to the kitchen, “Yes, it’s breakfast time!”
“You’re certainly in a good mood.”
“I have you to thank for a lot of it. PJ and Sophie too.”
“Is that all?” Marzia asked in a seemingly innocent tone over her shoulder from in front of the oven where a stack of pancakes were quickly growing higher.
“Well, I did get a full night’s rest for the first time in a while!”
“Cos of Cryaotic, I assume?”
“Uh, maybe…” Felix remarked, flushing at the fact that he had been caught reliving a part of his life that could not be captured in the same way ever again no matter if their relationship was repaired or not, “It’s been a while, but seems like Cry’s not posting on YouTube anymore.”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to find him somewhere else.”
“Do you know something I don’t?”
“No, just wishing the best if you go looking for him. How ‘bout we eat together in here?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Gathering around the dining room table the pair continued to share each other’s company as silverware scratched against sky blue, stoneware plates as excessive syrup pooled around the light brown disks. Eating heartily especially after securing a glass of chocolate almond milk, for even famous entertainers had to take care of themselves, becoming captive to a coughing fit as he became aware of a sudden realization and catching Marzia’s attention during the outburst.
“Was Cry part of my rhythm, is this part of why I’ve been so off?”
“...I didn’t want to say anything ‘cos you’re Mr. ‘Big, bad, independent YouTuber’, but probably. You’d always gush over him especially when you collabed, and how his voice would calm you.”
“It was that obvious?”
“Love, your computer was still playing his videos while you were asleep.”
Falling silent once more the Swedish man let all of these points that had been brought up sink in, he excused himself from the meal for a moment as he blindly keyed in a familiar phone number and counted the ringing until the call was answered, “PJ!”
“Aw, you remember my name!” the Brit exclaimed, only letting the humor subside when he realized how serious the matter was for Felix to be reaching out so early, “Is everything alright, did Edgar get stuck in the bushes again?”
“Luckily, no. Is Cry a part of my rhythm?”
“What are you on about?”
“I haven’t talked to him in so long, that has to be a part of why I’ve been off kilter!”
“Most likely. Hell, there’s probably a compilation video of every time you’ve said his name.”
“Sounds… I don’t even know what it sounds like, helvete.”
“To be honest? It’s adorable that you miss him, you just need to try reaching out and seeing if you can rekindle that old spark.”
Thanking his long-term friend and discussing plans to collaborate together soon the conversation came to a close, returning to the other room and giving the soggy, half-eaten cakes to Edgar before relaying the recurring revelation to the Italian all the while. After taking out an apple from the refrigerator to replace the emptiness that would soon return from not completely eating he reclaimed a seat in front of the monitor and brought up another video of the two when they decided to read fanfiction; if only he had realized then that the fictional scenario hit closer to home than he expected rather than now, seven years later, they probably would not have separated. What if Cry rejected him, or let alone refused to answer at all?
“C’mon Felix, you can do this! It’s Cry, your friend, your-”
“Just do it already!”
“Jeez, I am…” he retorted playfully, sticking his tongue out at Marzia as she walked past to scoop up the silver pug and take him upstairs, Maya following close behind. Finger hovering over the left mouse button the click echoed louder than the dial tone, his ears muffled by a heavy heart beat, mouth opening and closing with a hundred different greetings ranging from casual to apologetic when the other man accepted his call.
Jaw slack, Felix was immediately focused on every feature that came into view from the opposite screen, noting the dark circles that seemed permanently etched under deep blue eyes had decreased significantly. Continuing on, the expansive dusting of freckles led him all over the familiar face taking in untamed, curly auburn hair, his skin seeming to glow as if a result from better lifestyle choices, which was more than he could say for himself except for when Marzia intervened, and a slack jaw covered in lighter stubble. A corner of his mouth perked up in a forming half-smile at a red plaid zip-up hoodie covering his arms accompanied with a black shirt covered in red, Russian lettering that was crossed out until the last sentence ‘80 Million Club, coming soon” was reached, touched at the fact that Cry had kept up with him; perhaps this confrontation would not be one-sided like he had feared, swallowing softly as he tried again to force out words.
“Is the audio messed up on your end?” the deeper voice asked with a note of concern, eyebrow raising curiously as the silence continued to a point of intensity that only caused the optimum amount of tension to catapult over the edge it teetered on, “Hello, Pewds? Ya there, friend?”
“Uh, ye-yeah, it’s just… been so long.”
“You can say that again.”
“Sorry, I guess I got carried away with everything? ‘Course I did, the subscriber count keeps goin’ up, I couldn’t catch a break until recently, and-”
“Breathe,” Cry interrupted in a stern, yet still gentle way as the Swede’s pale skin darkened in embarrassment, “I didn’t exactly keep up with you either, so you’re not to blame.”
“Heh, tell that to the media…”
“Well, it’s true! Hell, we haven’t spoken in forever and I still know you better than they do.”
“‘Cos no matter what happens our hearts are compatible.”
“Even when you disappear from YouTube without a trace?”
“I moved to Twitch,” the other stated simply with a small shrug, which gained him an eyeroll, “Thought Brad would’ve noticed and let you know.”
“You think we’re that close?”
“Eh, you got me there. Looks like things haven’t changed too much.”
“Is that so bad?”
“In this case, not really.”
Putting all other responsibilities aside for the rest of the day, Felix felt more at home than he had in a long while as they took turns rambling on about what was going on personally, behind the cameras that captured their individual creativity. Hours melted away and no longer mattered as comfort came back once footing was found, letting it be known how much impact being back together, even if it would only be one time until the next long conversation, carried for the two had been partnered in the mess called life and they had gotten each other through; how was he to know that happiness could come so fast? Felix had been afraid of failing the one man he had held closer than on a friendly basis, yet he did not have to say it out loud for that to translate between the two that love so long denied had come full circle.