Part one, September 24th.
Tonight never meant to become a beginning of something so special to Dan, who's never really believed anything he can't see.
Sure, he'd looked forward to his older friend staying over at his newly rented, barely sustainable studio apartment at the top floor of a sad pre-war building. Sure, yet he'd never believe his ears if someone were to reveal how exactly his future changes tonight.
No, they didn't kiss between uncomfortably warm sheets in the middle of the night, moonlight creeping in through the window. Not a single peck was shared between a morning coffee and a shower to wash away the peculiar disgust one tends to snatch after sleeping away from home. Not even a forehead kiss, if you're bravely assuming.
Tonight Dan would jerk up at the buzz of his door bell, shutting his laptop and spilling some juice on his pants as he, knowing his clumsiness far too well, pushes the glass a safe distance away from his beloved device with Dan's whole life - starting from kid photos of chocolate covered mouths to, well, snuggling classmates at sixth term parties - on the dozens of its password secured folders. Dan prefers to keep his past private. He isn’t one to brag and reveal his story like a book left open on the shelf for anyone to interpret.
Then again, it's Phil. Phil is painfully aware of Dan's awkward phases – yes, plural-, his rather nauseating first time - during mentioned phase, therefore described in detail, how embarrassing, - and his habit of using up all the tissues when watching Wall-E. Given Phil's disadvantage of, well, knowing him, Dan even considers opening his laptop back again, but he can't be bothered when, this time, his best friend knocks on the door, so heavily that a cap, hanging at a cat scratched wallpaper, descends on the doormat. Dan hears Phil chuckle from the other side of the wall as he, at last, clumsily approaches the door.
"I would shake your hand but, minding how long opening the door took you, I wouldn’t trust it." Phil adjusts his umbrella against the entrance's wall once Dan's unlocked the door and let his shorter friend in. He’d listened to the rain pouring down his window, drowning out the city sounds, with his favourite classical music playlist on earlier. Autumn might be the season he values most yet he prefers to cuddle up inside when the sky is crying.
"Jesus Christ." is all he mutters at this mistaken confrontation. Then there’s the hello. Dan can't tell if hugging a man whose hair is dripping - did he forget to use his umbrella?! - and checkered coat soaked when he, apart from the juice stains, is very much dry, thank you very much, is the best idea. Besides it's kind of strange, jumping on someone when they've just entered an apartment.
"Who's on your mind?" Phil mutters delicately, this curious smile that screams either i'm trying to make conversation or i'm jealous of them exposed for all to admire. He looks great, yeah, even with the wet hair he's attempting to sort out in the metal reflection of my clothes stand, which, to be fair, makes you look the opposite of charming anyway.
"What are you so focused on? I can hear your brain processing files from here." Phil checks for a hanger when one’s in front of him. His friend giggles for more than one reason.
"Processing files? Phil, you do remember that a human's brain isn't a microchip?" Dan finds it necessary to guide the pale man out of his bubble.
"Slipped my mind." finally, Phil hangs the coat and dries his arms against his jeans. Both of them are matching now. Or, at least, their pants are.
Phil, quite obviously unfamiliar with his surroundings and tiptoeing around the carton boxes Dan hasn’t bothered organizing, scans the small studio and its current minimalist set up – an unpolished kitchen, a double bed and a sofa beside a see-through table with Dan’s laptop and cranberry juice on – fearfully. He’d visited his younger friend in his parent’s house enough times to call it his second home, yet this. This is fresh. This is a place of Dan’s own. Phil might be only two years older but at this very moment he comes to a conclusion that Dan is grown up, like him. Dan is the boy who rather cried through nap time in nursery and who awaited him with a bright smile spread across his face in his parents car’s backseat before their way to school at stupid hours in the morning no longer.
"Well, anyway, I'm quite conflicted whether to hug you or if it's awkward when you're dripping and not even properly walked in." Phil forgets his own question by the time Dan confesses.
"So you were thinking about me. The non-existent person I imagined to be on your mind can suck my dick." he’s relieved.
"I believe you can mark this moment down as the first time hearing you want your dick to be sucked by, it seems, anyone. Pretending to be inappropriate doesn't suit your personality, Phil." with a hand gesture, Dan shows him to the kitchen for some tea.
When Dan puts the kettle on and fishes a floppy teabag, which seems to be stolen from one of those hotel room sets, from the bottom of a jar, Phil, amused by the view, returns to their conversation.
"Then I guess you don't know me." he teases.
“You, my friend since nursery school?” Dan scoffs, placing a hand on his chest as he twirls around to give a disapproving smug to the man with his back pressed against a kitchen counter. “Try me with my 50 minute presentation on all the people Phil Lester has crushed on in his life.”
Phil opens his mouth to say something but ends up rubbing his neck. Dan doesn’t think much of it, only continues checking the warmth of the kettle, although a screeching noise will inform him in a while anyway.
"I bet you actually have it. My number one fan." Phil laughs contently.
"It's true. I was your first subscriber when you'd just started posting those frightening music videos with the hair and teeth." Dan feels Phil’s stare on his neck. "Yeah, teeth. You really liked showing off your teeth to the camera, it was quite concerning. Really, I subscribed out of pity."
"At least I study editing now, my content is not as random as our first video together." Phil excuses the bad editing as the kettle’s shrieking sound blasts through the studio, echoing from one wall to another.
Dan recalls the previous time they had tea together. Late June, Phil’s kitchen, his brother Martyn offering some after Dan’s graduation. Chamomile with that extra honey, yet nothing tasted sweet when tears salted his mouth. He’d just said a final goodbye to his life. It’s like Dan invented crying during the graduation ceremony, choking on tears as his name was called.
"Listen, pinof is meant to be random. It's why the viewers love it." Dan pours the boiling water inside two glasses with determination.
It isn’t until Phil begins to protest actively, a cracking noise and so much water everywhere when Dan realizes that you aren’t supposed to pour hot liquids in glasses.
Thankfully, Phil warns him about a piece of shattered glass on the floor before he’s stepped on it in shock. Dan picks every piece up and prays to any possible god there is that mum never asks about her special glass set.
"Why are we like this?" rather sounds like a statement when Phil utters it under his breath, exhaling quietly.
Dan shrugs, finding it hard to laugh, and Phil helps him clean up the brown liquid that is now running down the counter drop by drop and forming a puddle under the washing machine. Once finished, they are no longer in the mood for tea and flump down on Dan’s grey sofa he’d borrowed from his room back home.
Home. Dan soon finds that he’ll have to let go of such word when referring to his parents’ house in the suburbs of Manchester. He’s on his own, graduated sixth term and off to university in a week. In a week, he’s taking his first step to becoming a lawyer. He’s got the grades, his fellow lawyer mum’s support and a slight wish to actually work life changing cases, supporting criminals and wrongly accused ones in need. To improve the future he seems to have figured out, the man beside him on the sofa is going to be a five minute stroll away from him at all times as he studies at the same university.
“Do you want me to show you around?” to Phil’s disappointment, Dan disturbs his peace and quiet with a proposal. “It is your first time here after all and you haven't complimented the boxes in every corner once.”
"If you insist. I'd rather stay here, though, because you kept the sofa and I was afraid the crease was gone forever. Thank you. Her and I are like best friends." Phil rubs the space between him and Dan, staring at the sofa like crazy.
"You like to put your bum on your best friends?" Dan winces in disgust for his friend’s behaviour. "I'm happy we haven't reached that level of friendship yet. You know, I might have to guide you to the way out." Perhaps he should let Phil have his new best friend because, henceforward, Dan would fancy dropping him, along with his bizarre sofa fetishes.
"Show me around, you dick." Dan has to laugh when Phil cusses. In fact, so much, his dimples pop out and, wrinkles, formed like an older man’s, around his eyes remind Phil of his earlier realization. Phil stares, wondering how much longer this boy, no – man, is going to continue being in his life. Sure, they didn’t fall out when Phil went to university, like any other best friends he’s known have, which could determine a hopeful future alone but he has his doubts. What happens after this childhood fairy tale is over? They are no kids with distant dreams of a shared future. Not anymore.
"Again, sounds adorable rather than offensive." Dan admits, and something, something in Phil’s eyes says he’d imagined his best friend revealing such thing in different circumstances. Like over morning coffee, he’d accidentally get milk mustache and Dan would find it adorable. Or, perhaps, when Phil would summon the courage to cuddle Dan in the middle of the night and he’d squeeze him an extra time before falling asleep together.
"You find me adorable now?" Phil mutters quietly but Dan doesn’t hear it. Instead, he’s busy ignoring him by getting down on the brown, fluffy carpet and stretching out his arm just to struggle reaching one of the boxes. His fingers graze the carton slightly yet he can’t get a good grip of it.
While Dan exhales and gets back to his seat, given up, Phil pushes himself up and grabs the box with year 1-4 written on it in a black scribble himself. Dan exhales something that sounds like a thank you if he’d just run a marathon.
"Is this why you actually invited me over? To unpack boxes?" as Dan rips the box open to have a brief look and closes it when he discovers nothing remarkably interesting inside, Phil questions, sensing it’s the truth.
"...maybe." he hides his smirk with his palm covering his mouth. Phil grabs the sofa’s only pillow and throws it Dan’s way as he screeches in well-deserved pain. Only when he returns the punch, Phil manages to get around it and the grey cushion hits a lamp – the only source of light in the studio. The lamp falls with its plug bolting out the socket. Twilight embraces the apartment and dusty windows aren’t much help on dark late September days like this.
"I am not your personal slave, Dan." Phil commands in the dark, not actually seriously. Of course he’d help. He would’ve come over out of pure instinct even if Dan hadn’t mentioned it.
“Fine, but can you please pick up the lamp? I’m scared of getting attacked by a spider or something.” the begging tone in Dan’s voice is all Phil needs to turn his phone flash on and get to the lamp.
In moments like these, Phil figures he’s willing to do anything for the friend he gets so flustered around. Small things, like getting a chocolate bar at a funky 24/7 store down the street when Dan even slightly mentions craving some before their nightly goodnight messages. Bigger, like talking to the university board about a friend who desperately needs the scholarship to apply for the law program. Nothing he wouldn’t do for Dan at any hour of the day, even three in the morning when he has his early lecture.
When Phil’s successfully plugged the lamp back in, he spots a tiny box on the floor, matching the colour of the carpet, beside the plug.
“Are you missing a small box with a hole? Like a piggy bank but a box?” he takes it in his hands to examine it, noticing a poorly written 4yunivercite on, and shakes it to his ear to discover there’s nothing inside.
“What? Oh, it must have fallen when I dropped a box this morning. It’s quite silly.” Dan smiles shyly, yet content with brightness flooding the room again.
“Tell me.” Dan shifts in his seat, moving his leg up to get comfortable as his eyes wander around Phil, arms crossed on the floor.
“When I was a kid, I made it for my university savings.”
“As a kid?” Phil chuckles, momentarily forgetting that not everybody is as lucky to have a wealthy family.
“Listen, my dad is obsessed with money. After he explained to me that universities are expensive and the family should start saving now, I decided to keep every given coin to myself. And I was packing the other day and I found it in the garage, empty, because, really, why would I have any money anyway? Out of pure nostalgia, I took it with me. You know, I’m actually starting university now and it seemed appropriate.” Dan divulges into the story.
“That’s adorable.” in fact, Phil finds it more than adorable. “Why is it so small, then? No more than fifty bank notes can fit.”
“You can figure that a 6 year old has no idea coins bigger than 50p exist.” Dan’s eyes glow as he smiles blithely, remembering how any money seemed like a fortune when you’re young and beg for some peppermint ice cream with chocolate crisps from the nice lady in the ice cream truck. Dan swears he can hear the jingles of the truck with eyes closed.
“What if you used it now?” Phil proposes.
“It’s not like I’ll be able save now that I have rent and instant noodles to buy so I don’t starve. Besides, what would I need a 13 year old junk with 4yunivercite written on for?” despite the heavy topic, Dan jokes.
“You can use a box like this for anything! Imagine writing something down about your days at university, filling it up with notes and reading them at the end of a semester?” he squirms in his seat.
Phil’s proud of his idea, yet his best friend can’t seem to care less.
“If you want it to be used so badly, use it yourself.” Dan deadpans, placing his laptop on his legs and opening it. As he waits for it to load, he runs his fingers across the stickers at the back, circling every single one and lingering on a pink one, given by a subscriber at a YouTuber convention a while ago, with glittery D&P on.
“Fine. I’ll write you notes.” Phil pretends to be hurt over Dan paying attention to something other than him, shifting the box in his hands.
“Me? What would you write me?” Dan is genuinely interested this time, so the other boy mentally pats on his own shoulder.
“Not going to tell you.” Phil decides to add more flavour to the idea. “You’ll only be allowed to read them after the box is full.”
No reaction, only the sounds of Dan entering his laptop’s password. He has the same focused glance as before, and it’s not that he struggles remembering the 8 digit code.
“What’s the point in this?” he asks rather curiously, scraping the remains of black nail polish off one of his fingers. “Proving that an ancient box doesn’t belong in the bin? Phil, you either have a hoarding problem or you should’ve studied history.”
So Phil wonders, why would he so thrilled to start this, anyway?
He supposes no one can deny the sweetness of leaving secret messages to your friend that they’d read when it’s time. He imagines the things he could reveal, as if he’s talking to nobody. Maybe even confess.
“The point is hopefully seeing you happy whenever you read this. I’ll make sure to avoid talking about how much I actually despise you.” Phil attempts to sound less smitten. “Every time I’m here, alright? I’ll leave you one.”
“Shut up.” Dan puts his laptop back on the table, eyeing Phil like he’s got a dirty spot on his nose. “That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. Need a pen?” he offers, ripping a page out of the planner on the table, tossing it and a pen over.
Stiffly, Phil spends a minute or two wondering how to make the first note special. He’s grateful that Dan, although immensely curious, doesn’t distract him, only glances at the paper while he’s rolling the pen around his palms.
Remembered something Dan admitted earlier, he writes down today’s date and number one, as well as a short message in low caps on the other side of the paper and folds it in half.
“So, unboxing?” Dan speaks as soon as Phil squeezes the note inside the poor – quite literally -, piggy bank; he must have been watching him.
“Time to be your slave.”
So they waste the night away, inspecting mementos of shared memories together, managing to unbox one of the smaller cutlery boxes. Nostalgia creeps into their bones whenever they come across a photo of them as kids, a cinema ticket to a film considered ancient now or even a shiny green rock, likely a former piece of glass, from the time they visited the Brighton pier with Phil’s family. They even tweet some of them for their viewers to feel sappy over.
Happy memories, times neither of them will ever forget, created together. The two of them always preferred each other’s company, after all.
Part two, October 10-11th.
The following time Phil visits Dan’s apartment, the boxes are fewer.
Been a while since laughter echoed in the studio, filling Dan’s lungs with the familiar joy he can’t escape around his best friend. His chest aches.
It’s not that Dan doesn’t find Phil attractive, no, he’s aware of how effortlessly good looking his friend is and how his presence can bring pure happiness to anybody in a room with him, but the thought of being with someone he’s known his whole life alone makes him reconsider any possible feelings. If nothing’s happened yet, is it meant to be?
Dan isn’t one to believe in silly things such as destiny, but he does believe that tiny Phil approaching him at the kindergarten’s fence after both their parents couldn’t pick them up on time and fifteen years later still having each other is the definition of fate. Dan understands how things as such don’t happen to just about anyone.
Yet he cannot ever see him kissing Phil, not to mention dating him.
So when Phil pops the question, lying side by side at 2 in the morning with Queer Eye on the laptop placed between their hips, Dan has no clue what to say.
“Have you ever thought how it’d be like if you and I were a couple?”
To no one’s surprise, Dan momentarily loses his reflex to breathe.
“Oh, you know, our viewers. Claiming there’s chemistry and what not.” Phil talks so carelessly, fixed on Tan dancing around with Karamo on the screen like the conversation is casual and often discussed.
“If I loved you like that, you’d know.” Dan pretends to be calm.
He, indeed, doesn’t see Phil ever becoming his lover but because of their connection, he feels rather obliged to. Like a responsibility one wouldn't put at the top of their list.
“Did I make you uncomfortable?” Phil’s concerned now, full attention on Dan’s fearful browns like he’s asking for approval.
“No, I’m-” he pauses. “I’m simply confused because I haven’t thought about it.”
What an utter lie escapes his lips. You would not believe how his mum would pick on him one time too many with all of her 'you spend so much time with Phil, is there more to it’s and 'you know I’d support you no matter what’s. Joining the YouTube community, where they’d earned a rather speculative audience a few years ago surely was no help.
“Me neither. I just saw something on Tumblr earlier.” Phil glances at his phone on Dan’s nightstand. “Based on this one subscriber’s astrological comparison, I think we’d make the perfect couple.”
Me neither. Me neither? Dan is torn between considering it a relief or disguise. In all these years of mixed signals and misunderstood actions, Phil’s never thought about them as an item?
“So you believe in astrology now?” Dan’s forgotten about Queer Eye at this point. He has no idea when he’d unconsciously paused the show.
“I always have!” Phil protests, making an effort to sit up and turn to Dan.
He swears something about Phil’s pout tells a different story. Curiosity, maybe? A longing? Nothing but a tad of awkwardness at all? Go figure.
“Daily horoscopes posted on Twitter isn’t what you’d call astrology. The real thing’s quite fascinating, actually. Not that I believe any of that crap.” Dan prefers shifting the focus to the wonders of the universe rather than their freshly befallen relationship debate.
“You keep telling yourself that. One day aliens will come to obtain the non-believers and you’ll be the first in line for their alien-y weapon experiments on humans.”
Phil, arms crossed under the sheets beside Dan, most sincerely, is a wondrous person.
He is one to ponder about the unknown, yet down to earth in a level that belongs to no one other than himself, Dan assumes. Often mistaken for a weirdo, he’s bright minded and perceives the ordinary as something to be ashamed of. Oh, how many times, he’s fumed up, excessively raging about the singularity of each individual upon this planet – how billions are all a part of something bigger but there’s no one alike another.
So when Phil mentions the alien apocalypse in a regular one-to-one, Dan regards it nothing unusual.
“Let’s make a deal.” just like that, Dan’s back to continuing their previous discussion. “If we ever, for some unknown reason, suddenly realize we’re in love with each other, I’ll believe in our planetary placements.”
Phil’s face brightens up. He chuckles so genuinely, it’s like the room lit up to win him over.
“I’d tweet about this to remember just in case, but the people would go insane.”
“Jesus, Phil, there are about a billion ways to remember something but Twitter is first that comes to your head?” Dan’s eyes widen so greatly at Phil’s words that he wouldn’t be surprised if they popped out.
“It’s where I read my daily horoscopes!” he hides behind his palms as soon as he realizes.
“So you admit it.” Dan grins like a child that’s just received a lollipop for good behaviour. He’s looked over at Phil, catching him reading such horoscopes in the morning one time too many.
“I’m not talking to you.” Phil pretends to take an offense, facing laptop and only ever glancing Dan’s way once as he presses play, Karamo and Jonathan’s giggles filling the room with warmth.
“Impossible. You can’t go a minute without trying to overpower me with your wanna-be quirky comments.” Dan challenges his best friend, intrigued, despite knowing he’d break the silence a moment after.
Only he doesn’t. At least not so soon. It offers Dan a brief second for staring into the laptop screen as if it’s see-through and the most curiosity inducing item’s exposed on the other side. Soon Dan notices Phil’s reflection spread across the screen’s surface, his mouth slightly hanging open as he attempts to stay still and quiet.
“You’re right.” soon he speaks, voice thick of self-disappointment and something else Dan can’t put his finger around. “You know me so well.”
Dan isn’t sure. His and Phil’s friendship is mostly based on assumptions. True, sometimes they’re joined at the hip and, seems, no borders separate their minds. Other times, like when Phil is painfully awake next to him after a few shots and whispering goodnight at a stupid o’clock, the rhythm of his breath shallow and uneven, Dan wishes he could get a peak of his friend’s thought carousel.
“I’m kind of tired.” Dan isn’t exactly telling the truth. He just wants a break. “Want to go to bed?”
Neglecting Phil’s questioning glance, Dan shifts his focus to the warm light from the bedside’s lamp reflecting on the worn wallpaper. The little light dots dance around the orange paint, connecting and separating. Dan assumes he’s hallucinating until a realization hits. He might actually need some sleep.
“You go. I’ll get my earbuds to continue watching the show.” Phil stirs around in Dan’s bed, attempting to snatch his earbuds from the pocket of his jeans under the covers.
“Now that you put it this way..” Dan reconsiders, tempted to, perhaps, shed another tear while catching up with Queer Eye. It’s the only time Phil ever allows him to cry in his presence. He might as well use the opportunity.
“Yeah, right. You’ll fall asleep in seconds.” Phil chuckles, shifting Dan’s laptop to his lap. And he isn’t wrong.
Dan has no time to protest when, all of a sudden, his eyelids are heavier than usual and mind wanders off to a less fragile and problematic scenery. A peculiar dream, in which the curly boy attends a lecture on dog breeds, only to discover that in this very universe, only corgis exist.
The following morning Phil opens his eyes before the sun’s fully risen, awoken by Dan’s alarm. Though thankfully, as he’d forgotten to set his own and he’d be very much late to work if not for the irritating signal.
Phil doesn’t quite get up from the bed to rush his way through this Saturday just yet, he stops and stares down at the silhouette beside him, head buried between sheets warmer than light from Dan’s window and chest moving up and down, breathing rhythmically, so eased and peaceful.
If only Dan were as untroubled awake.
“Dan? Hey.” Phil would rather keep studying the sunlight falling on Dan’s skin, dust dancing in the air around him, than wake his best friend up, but disappearing without notice isn’t like him either.
It takes a while and a mild poke in his cheek, but eventually Dan shows off his browns, leisurely gaining consciousness and squinting when the bright light startles him.
“Go to sleep.” he tugs his blanket over Phil’s lap to prevent him from leaving. Only Phil throws it right back.
“It’s eight. My shift starts in 2 hours and I need to get home to snatch my uniform first.” he examines an eyelash fallen on his baffled friend’s nose and leans over, quickly snapping it away. Lazily, Dan rubs his eyes and looks up at Phil, still leaned over his face, intently.
“The Burger King uniform looks shit on you. Wear something else.”
“Dan!” Phil squeals, pushing his friend away too aggressively as he falls over the edge of his bed, heavily on the ground.
Attempting to hide a deserved laugh, Phil covers his mouth and cautiously climbs over to Dan’s side of the bed to check if the boy’s alive. Discovered he’s perfectly fine, only with a growing bump on his forehead that Dan so desperately rubs and a face like he’s preparing to attack, Phil ascends from the bed and offers him a hand.
“I hit my head and I hate you.” Dan, though unwillingly, accepts the offer and intertwines their fingers just to abuse Phil’s help and cast him over the bed. Dan gets on top of him, trapping Phil, who’s failing to catch his breath, between his legs. Phil quits fighting back within seconds, though with one hand still tightly pulling the collar of Dan’s shirt and exposing his chest.
“What now?” he pouts his lips at Dan, who’s, admittedly, far more baffled now.
Maybe it’s the daylight setting, maybe the gifted rose on his bed stand, maybe the way Phil’s eyes glitter and skin seems so inviting, but, for a tiny second, Dan reconsiders his refusal to ever kiss him.
The moment’s gone as fast as he’s realized he’s in his boxers only and perhaps a bit hungry for any pretty boy’s lips at his hour and state. Dan hastily detaches his body from Phil’s and clumsily straightens up, eyes on anything but the disappointment in Phil’s blues.
“OK, I’m awake.” Dan heads for a cup of coffee to the kitchen, blowing the brown curls from his face as Phil picks up his belongings, stopping every second or two, locked up in his thoughts.
It’s not long until Dan’s pouring the brown liquid into two cups and Phil approaches him, fully dressed in comparison to his cross-legged friend.
“One of these better be for me or I’m breaking the best friend contract.” Phil tries to lighten up visibly embarrassed Dan’s mood. And successfully, when he grins, passing a cup over to where Phil sits at the wooden bar.
They sip the scorching drink in the quiet, Dan mindlessly scrolling his Twitter feed, ever so often sharing knowing glances. Phil’s body’s filled with unease, a rarity around someone as close to him as Dan and he, no matter how hard he tried, can’t forget Dan’s questioning glance down on his lips as he leaned over his chest.
Phil wouldn’t have minded if Dan had kissed him right there and then, even despite their morning breath and unrequited feelings. If Phil had doubted his brain’s ‘he doesn’t like you back’s before, after their last night’s conversation, he’s convinced that, to his very deep disappointment, Dan doesn’t see him that way.
In a way, perhaps, he’s relieved. Lesser chance of a painful heartbreak and a ruined friendship, and an easier way to keep their online presence restricted to creative content and friendly banter only. It may hurt Phil’s chest sometimes, but at least they can’t destroy what they don’t have.
Phil’s phone buzzes in his pocket and he rushes to check it.
Tweet notification from @danielhowell:
my curls will be the death of me. literally, one day i’ll forget to check my morning cup of coffee and choke on a hair floating in it. #norightsfordanscurls
“Hey, your curls have all the rights!” Phil objects, typing out his own tweet with a different hashtag.
“Name one reason. Because they just make me look like a poodle.” Dan rolls his eyes, putting the cup to his mouth as he leans back in his chair.
Phil hesitates, searching for an answer that wouldn’t give away how smitten he is. Dan almost speaks up, ‘I knew it’ spread across his face, so Phil says the first thing that comes to his mind.
“When you’re asleep, they fall over your forehead and you just look so peaceful and innocent, and I wish your body wouldn’t stop you from being like that all the time.” he’s said too much, the small laugh to cover the seriousness of Phil’s confession is just more proof of how much exactly he likes Dan.
He murmurs something along the lines of ‘so you’re watching me sleep now?’ under his breath, which - and Phil’s fragile heart is grateful-, slips through his ears as he notices the time.
“Shit. I have to go.” the black haired man speedily finishes his coffee, burning his throat, and heads to Dan’s lobby.
“Hey.” Phil’s struggling to pull on his coat when Dan surprises him with his silent arrival next to him.
“You forgot something.” Dan bites his lip in the way one would when they’re nervous to reveal something.
“Huh? I have everything with me.” Phil checks his pockets just in case.
“No. You know, the note.”
Phil slips into his sneakers, confused as to what his friend is referring to until Dan points a finger into the direction of the carton piggy bank he’d found on Dan’s floor no more than a couple of weeks ago, placed on the bar.
“Oh.” he exhales. “So we’re actually doing this? I assumed you’d read it already.”
“If you want to.” Dan offers patiently, his elbow pressed against the wall for balance.
Phil wavers, pausing in the middle of tying his shoelaces. Him leaving Dan secret notes he won’t be able to open until the box’s full? Yeah, what could go wrong?
“Why not? Give me a pen.” Phil doesn’t give himself time to change his mind to avoid probably, accidentally revealing too much in one of these notes. “I don’t have all day.” he adds when Dan doesn’t move a muscle.
Within a minute or so, Phil’s finished the note, quickly hugged Dan goodbye with one hand, the other he ran through his curls, and found himself on the other side of Dan’s apartment’s door, head pressed against it and holding back his emotions to avoid breaking down there and then.
In another way, Phil wishes his best friend could return his feelings.
Part three, October 26th.
Towards the end of October, Dan’s first month of university, the secret note box is proud to capture four entries, written in Phil’s scribble.
They don’t mention it by now. On this specific vodka night, the two friends pay no attention to the piggy bank but either of them know that when the morning comes, Phil will find any piece of paper, let it be an abandoned candy wrapper, and write down whatever he chooses to.
The urge to just tear it open and read every note written so far overtakes Dan occasionally but he gains control back over, settling down for a simple staring competition – the box VS Dan -, during which Dan comes up with the craziest possible scenarios about the stories told in Phil’s notes.
“You have your morning lecture tomorrow. Take it easy.” Phil advises after Dan’s choked down another shot.
He’s lied across the floor beside a half full bottle and a sheep plushie Phil had gifted him on his 9th birthday. Dan still keeps it close as a reminder of a time he felt truly content – his childhood.
“I have nothing to lose.” Dan sips some cranberry juice he takes from the couch to drown out the bitter beverage. Phil watches his neck muscles tighten up as he swallows it down, lips shining. He clears his throat.
“What?” Dan throws the juice box back on the couch, sitting up, his full attention on his friend, who’s sitting rather stiffly between the pillows.
“I’m just concerned. Are you good?” Phil rests his arm on the closest pillow, studying the warmth that creeps into Dan’s cheeks as the alcohol poisons him.
“Better than ever.”
Dan hands his best friend a smile that even a stranger could recognize is forced. The one you’d give your auntie when she’d welcome you with a ‘you’ve grown so much since I last met you’ and freshly baked goods into her home but you’ve no clue what to say in return.
“Dan, I’m serious.”
“Really want to know?” Phil nods. “Fine.”
Roughly, Dan climbs up the sofa with the help of Phil’s hand and flumps on it, clutching the bottle of vodka with his fingers.
“I think all this,” he lazily waves his hand around the studio, then places it next to Phil’s on the pillow. “isn’t for me. I assumed I was ready for university but every day I wake up with this troubling thought, what if-”
“What if I should’ve stayed home. Taken a gap year or two. Or travelled around, gained some real work experience. Paid more attention to this YouTube thing we have going on. Chosen something other than law.” Dan plays with his fingers anxiously. “What if I really fucked up and made the wrong choice?”
“Then I’d say it isn’t too late to change your mind.” Phil adds, wondering what if he put a hand over Dan’s in hopes of calming him down.
“You’re wrong.” before Phil could do so, Dan straightens his posture, tensing his muscles as he scoots forward, closer to his friend.
“You’re right but you’re wrong. You’re right because every person on this fucked up planet deserves a solution that leads to their happiness but you’re so fucking wrong because we assume that the choices we make will result in finding our happy place and we should follow the path we set initially.”
That being said, Dan gasps for air and Phil watches his furrowed brows and pink cheeks, concernedly.
“You’re not making any sense.” Phil unconsciously scoots closer to Dan.
“We’re not making any sense.” the younger boy confesses, stroking the bottle like. Um, something else.
“Which part about us?” Phil’s curious, quite awkwardly paying attention to anything but Dan’s strange bottle jerking off performance.
Knowing Dan all too well, he expects the following – a silence after an uncomfortable confrontation. What he doesn’t, however, is Dan staring down at his fingers like he’s ashamed or bothered, plucking his nails and having that one specific look on his face you notice during a movie when a character’s unsure whether their observations are, indeed, correct or if they’ve been imagining another person’s opinion of them.
“Did you mean it?” finally, Dan speaks, though, it leaves Phil confused.
“When you-” Dan stutters. “- said you never considered ‘us’? As an item?” he’s looking anywhere but at his friend beside him on the sofa.
“Where are you going with this?” Phil worries. If only Dan knew how fast his heart is beating, sounding in his rib cage like he’s about to die.
“Just answer the goddamn question, Phil.”
With that, Dan leans in close to his older friend’s face and breathes down his neck, anticipating an answer, but all Phil can focus on is his overly masculine cologne, freckles hidden behind the crimson in his cheeks and lips red from anxious bites and too much of the transparent, poisonous liquid Dan keeps chugging down his throat. All too distracting and distressingly forbidden like candy left on a shelf with its owner nowhere in sight.
“No, I didn’t mean it. I didn’t’ want to seem..” Phil struggles to finish his statement and rushes to change the topic. “But how is that relevant to anything?”
Phil’s pulse seems to adjust to this new speed, even when Dan bolts back and steals the pillow away from him, hugging it to his chest.
“I just want something in my life to be clear. To feel like I’m in control about a single aspect of it.” he sways back and forth, holding onto the pillow as in seeking moral support from the soft thing.
“You’re not secretly in love with me or something, are you?” the chuckle that leaves Phil’s lips is, oh, how pushed.
“Would that be so bad?” Dan drones.
It’s so quiet then. All the two friends can hear, if they concentrate enough, is Dan’s refrigerator’s humming, the kitchen’s tap leaking and silenced shouts from the street.
“Don’t worry. I’m not.” Dan comforts Phil before the boy’s had a nervous breakdown because of his inability to decide how to properly react to something he’d hoped for, well, his entire life.
“Are you?” with Dan’s following question, Phil faces internal freak-out yet again.
Does he laugh and lie? Should he tell the truth to his drunken friend and regret in the morning as he isn’t so sober himself? Or pretend he didn’t hear and move on?
“Sometimes.” Phil chooses the middle ground. He tells a little twisted truth.
Of course, Dan, who, apparently, as of tonight, only settles for a definite answer, isn’t satisfied with how his friend had managed the opposite.
Phil wonders what lead his best friend to this confusion. Had he imagined university to be all fun and games with a tad of work and parties on weekends he’d never recall five years from now?
Surely, Phil considered Dan to be more reasonable.
“We’ve been friends for fifteen years, I’m allowed to fall for you a little.” he crosses his legs on the sofa, one brushing against Dan’s thigh. “Like when you score second in Mario Kart but I’m first and you threaten to toss my parents’ TV out the window.”
The frown on Dan’s face quickly turns into wrinkles around his eyes, forming a passionate smile and the previously tense atmosphere – hardly a burden at all. Dan laughs, pushing Phil’s legs away from him but ending up getting stuck between them in a battle for more space on the sofa.
“You’re funny, Phil. I like that about you. So effortlessly funny.”
They fight some more until Phil’s quiff transforms into a fringe, his glasses tilted and Dan’s fully lied on top of his friend, shouting in victory.
“Is this the part where we kiss?” Phil ridicules kissing noises, placing his hand over his heart, doing so pushing Dan an inch away, to which he responds with an offended glare.
Dan and Phil are the close kind of friends. They hug when they meet and leave each other, share a bed when there’s two, waltz to their favourite songs next to the kitchen counter and cuddle up more than necessary. So it isn’t peculiar for them to lie on top of each other. Until.
“What if we did?” Dan proposes, and to Phil’s absolute terror, seriously.
Phil chuckles, suddenly aware of Dan’s weight on him and his own arm wrapped around his waist, which he quickly detaches from Dan’s striped shirt.
“Dan, you’re drunk. Go get some sleep.” Phil continues to try to get away from his friend’s warmth and undeniably inviting embrace.
But Dan simply pouts, afflicted for such rejection.
A part of Phil hopes his proposal was, indeed, profound and these years of longing were, perhaps, requited and kissing for no reason is just an excuse but, swiftly, he remembers how Dan had just confessed of having no feelings for him whatsoever.
“No, no, I mean. Really. What if it changes anything?” Dan proceeds to confuse Phil, pulling his fingers through Phil’s hair to straighten out the quiff.
“I will punch you unconscious if that’ll do it. We can become mortal enemies for that change.” nervously, Phil objects and gives Dan a final push. For that, Dan pulls away from his friend’s chest and sits back up on his legs, paralyzing Phil.
“You really don’t want to kiss me, huh? I thought we were friends.”
“In my world, friends don’t kiss.” Phil snaps, though jokingly. “Think of our subscribers. What if any of them has a secret camera planted in this apartment? Think of the drama that leaked footage would cause.”
“Don’t be such a pussy, Phil.” Dan looks down at the boy sideways with a teasing grin. Something about it, though, that reassures Phil that the boy is too drunk to not want to have a little fun.
Wouldn’t be so selfish to kiss him, would it?
“Fine.” Phil agrees and hides his shaking hands behind his head. “Remember that if you fall in love with me, you’ll have to believe in astrological placements.” he reminds right before Dan pushes himself up and takes a long sip of the vodka.
“Liquid courage?” he offers the bottle to Phil, who doesn’t think twice before chugging down the beverage. As he sits up with Dan still sat on his legs, he throws the bottle on the rug beside the sofa.
“How do we do this? Yes or no t-” Dan relocates so that his own legs were around his friend’s, sending a panicked signal to Phil’s brain, which he so desperately tries to keep shut.
“No talking.” Phil corrects him before he could finish, moving in close to, their both surprise, caress Dan’s cheek.
Dan jumps slightly, not expecting the touch and, truth is, when Phil woke up this morning in his dorm bed, surrounded by pictures of them both in the playground, school’s cafeteria and YouTube cons, he couldn’t imagine himself doing so either.
Phil can’t tell where he mustered the courage, though, anyone sane person would blame the alcohol, but, leisurely, he runs down his fingers to Dan’s neck and closes the no longer forbidden distance between his and Dan’s lips.
It’s too quiet. No more of the refrigerator hums, broken tap and strangers' quarrel sounding from the street.
There’s no appropriate music ringing in their ears as they share short, meaningless kisses and chuckle after the first. Rather the sound of Phil’s heartbeat in his and Dan’s mind vibrating with toxicity and either have no absolute clue what they’re doing.
Dan’s hand runs across Phil’s back roughly, probably leaving nail marks within his skin, but the older boy doesn’t mind, in fact, he leans fully across his best friend’s chest, his weight pressing down on Dan as he’s forced to lie on his back.
“Not how I imagined this night to escalate.” Dan stops kissing his friend to giggle, nervously even, and offers Phil a big eyed smile, lazily holding onto the collar of his shirt. The black haired boy takes a mental picture.
“Regrets?” despite wanting to so badly, Phil chooses to keep his distance from Dan’s mouth. What if he does?
“Not really.” Dan shrugs it off, wrapping his arm around Phil’s neck to bring him back. Closer.
And they kiss again. They don’t know for how long, yet long enough to remember the next morning, when each spends an extra minute in front of Dan’s bathroom’s mirror, checking for marks on their necks.
Long enough to wonder why. And for what. And, most importantly, what if.
Part 4 - December 17th. [COMING SOON]