Phil yawns, rolls over and stretches his arm out. He’s cold and he’s looking for more blanket or more Dan, whichever his fingers find first.
What he finds is hair, long and smooth and definitely not Dan’s. His eyes fly open, heart kicking against his chest in bleary confusion.
Then he remembers: he and Dan are not at home. They’re not in the moon room in London, but a guest bed in a guest room in Manchester, and Ian and Lauren’s seven year old daughter has cozied herself in between them like she belongs there.
Phil smiles when the momentary panic melts into fondness. He props himself up on his elbow to get a better look, and sees that she and Dan are both sound asleep, her little body curled up and Dan’s long arm holding her to his bare chest.
Phil twists around backwards to grab his phone off the bedside table, and snaps a few photos of the heart meltingly adorable scene. He knows Lauren will appreciate it just as much as he does.
Then he checks the time. It’s early, much earlier than he’d have chosen to wake up if left to his own devices. But he sits up and rubs his eyes of the last remnants of the night’s dreams and decides to be a good boyfriend and go make Dan some coffee.
He throws on a hoodie before he goes to the bathroom to wee and brush his teeth, then heads to the kitchen. The house is quiet; everyone is asleep except for old Lola, who wanders in to keep him company as he puts the kettle on.
There’s a peace in this house that never quite settles over his own back in London. He’s quite sure he’d never like to make his home anywhere quite so suburban permanently, but he loves getting to live in his mate’s space for a few days every now and then.
He’s sat on the floor stroking Lola’s head and holding a cup of coffee when he hears footsteps padding down the hallway. Emily appears in the doorway in her Peppa Pig pajamas followed closely by Dan, whose hair is curling wildly all over the place and whose sleepy morning face never fails to inspire a little flight of butterflies in Phil’s stomach.
“You made coffee?” Dan croaks.
Phil smiles at him. “I did. Reckoned we’d need it.”
Emily gets down on the floor and lays her head on Lola’s belly. “Can I go wake up mummy?”
Phil pats her head like she’s a dog, too. “Thought maybe we could let your parents have a lie in this morning. What d’you think?”
“I’m hungry,” she says.
“Lucky for you Dan is very good at pouring cereal.”
After breakfast, they relocate to the lounge. Emily takes Dan’s hand and quite literally drags him over to the big box of toys in the corner of the room, and Phil isn’t too shameless to let Dan do the work of entertaining the child while he gets to sit on the couch with another cup of coffee and more time with the dog.
He rubs Lola’s ear. It’s so soft it feels like silk. Her head is warm in his lap, and he’s reasonably sure that unless someone makes him get up in the next five minutes, he’s definitely going to fall asleep right here on Ian and Lauren’s sofa.
He can see from where he’s sat that Emily has gotten out her rather extensive collection of Pokémon cards, and that makes him smile. She couldn’t have chosen a more perfect activity to partake in with Dan. He can hear her pointing things out and him expertly filling in the gaps in her knowledge. It’s nerdy and adorable and Phil drifts off feeling utterly content.
His eyes are still closed when he floats back into consciousness, but he’s aware of the sound of their voices again, Emily’s small one and Dan’s much deeper but still soft and gentle.
He hears her say: “Dan?”
“Are you and Phil married?”
Phil opens his eyes. They’re still sat on the floor, but now she’s in his lap with a book open in hers.
“No, we aren’t.”
“My mummy and daddy are married.”
“I know,” Dan says kindly. “I was there when it happened. Phil was too. You were just a tiny baby.”
“I wasn’t a baby!” she protests, turning around in his lap so she can look at his face.
He laughs, tucking a strand of hair behind her ears. “Okay, you weren’t. But you were very little.”
“Why aren’t you and Phil married? Isn’t that what grown ups do when they love each other?”
Phil’s heart beats nervous and quick. Children have this way of speaking that just cuts straight through all the pretense. It unnerves him, but Dan is utterly cool.
“Sometimes,” he tells her. “But not always.”
“Is it different when two boys love each other? Mummy said it’s not.”
Phil smiles. He can see that Dan does too.
“It’s not really different, Em. Your mum is right about that. Some people think it is, but those people are confused.”
She seems to think about that very hard for a moment, then she asks, “When will you get married?”
Dan takes time to think about that particular question. Phil’s stomach is squirming. He almost wishes he was still asleep.
Dan looks over at him and sees that he’s awake. They exchange something in the eye contact they make then, and Dan smiles a tiny little smile that Phil knows is meant just for him. He never smiles like that for anyone else.
“I’m not sure,” he says softly. “I don’t know if we ever will.”
“Don’t you love each other?”
“We do, very much.”
Phil’s smile just keeps growing.
“So why don’t you do it?”
He sighs. Not in frustration, but like he wants to choose his words carefully. “Can I tell you a secret?”
She nods gravely.
“You won’t tell anyone?”
“Me and Phil like not being married.”
Dan nods. “It’s fun. And we still do everything married people get to do.”
She frowns. “Do you get to make a baby?”
Phil snorts. He can’t help it. Emily turns around. “You’re awake!” She leaps up from Dan’s lap and bounds over to jump into Phil’s.
Lola is barely phased. She simply resettles herself a little further down the sofa.
“I’m awake,” Phil says. “Thanks for letting me nap.”
“Dan told me a secret,” she says proudly. “But I can't tell you because I promised.”
“Good girl,” Dan says. He leans back on his hands and stretches his long legs out in front of him.
“Phil, are you and Dan going to make a baby?”
Phil looks over at Dan helplessly. Dan is smirking so hard his cheeks are patched with red.
“Have your… Do you know how babies are made?” Phil asks awkwardly.
“In a mummy’s tummy,” she says confidently.
Relief washes over him. “Right.”
“Are you the mummy or is Dan the mummy?”
This time Dan snorts. “You’re lucky you’re cute, kid.”
“Neither of us are mummies,” Phil says. “Because we’re both boys.”
“Cis boys,” Dan interjects.
Phil represses the urge to roll his eyes. He knows these things are important, even if they aren’t directly affecting him or what he’s talking about. So he tries again. “Dan and I don’t have all the right… parts, for making a baby.”
She frowns, clearly confused.
“Not all grown ups have babies anyway,” he adds, and she seems to be satisfied with that.
She hops down from his lap and looks down at herself. “I’m still wearing my pajamas.”
Phil laughs. “That you are.”
“I’m hungry again.”
Dan says, “I think you should go wake up daddy and tell him he has to make us all pancakes.”
She positively beams. “Can I?”
“Yep. Do it. I’m hungry too. And get some proper clothes on, young lady.”
She sticks out her tongue at him, but walks in the direction of her parents’ bedroom.
Right before she’s about to disappear out of the lounge and down the hall, she stops, turns around and looks at Phil. Her face has gone serious again.
“Will you and Dan still love each other forever even if you never ever get married?”
He smiles and looks over at Dan. “That’s the plan.”