More often than not, depression was viewed as an excuse to stay in bed all day, an excuse to avoid life’s daily chores, and to continuously procrastinate upon waking. It was a hard concept to grasp for a few people, because how is it that sadness can cripple a person to the point of it being nearly impossible to complete normal, every day tasks? How is it even possible to be completely void of happiness most days?
But that’s not it, either. The truth is that a person living with depression can smile, can laugh louder than anyone else in the room. They can wake up and eat breakfast and look their best for the outside world, seemingly able to take on the whole day with wide arms.
Behind that bright grin, however, is the feeling of breaking, of a hole in your heart where happiness is supposed to be present. And even though you may wake up and look more than presentable, it doesn’t hide the fact that your eyes hurt from exhaustion and your bones are being worn down with each forward step.
Dan didn’t have any specific reason as to why he was depressed. In fact, his life was near perfect with his parents who love each other, a job that paid well, friends who cared, and a pretty little apartment that held memories of laughter. There were people who would kill to have a life such as Dan’s, and yet there was an emptiness present in Dan’s body and every breath he took fucking hurt and he couldn’t handle it anymore. He couldn’t handle the fact that he was unhappy with a perfect life, couldn’t handle living with his lungs being filled by water as his head submerged under the surface, choking him with responsibilities and feelings that he should have, but didn’t.
It became a chore to even wake up in the morning and it had been years since he’s felt alive, years since he could breathe properly without concrete pressing down on his chest. He was tired, so tired, and the decision had been made long ago that he would no longer be confined to the cages of life. He would be free, the air fresh and blissful, and nothing would hold him down anymore.
He didn’t know how it’d gotten to this point. He was pathetic for not being able to push through as the rest of the human population did, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. After this, Dan would just be another memory buried six feet in the ground.
Dan shivered against the biting cold, icy rain drops beginning to slither down his neck and cheeks. His hands were shaking, but not because of the wind, and not because he was scared. Because he was filled with this need that overpowered all other thoughts, a need to disappear into a void.
His feet were teetering on the edge of concrete, a 100 foot drop looming before him, calling him in with welcoming arms and the kiss of grass on his skin. He took a deep breath that came out more as sigh and closed his eyes, little droplets of rain forming on his eyelashes. His foot edged closer to the void in front of him, hands raising to rest where his heart was beating erratically in his chest. One more step and his tortured soul will be released to the sky.
“Wait!” A voice called, and Dan’s eyes flew open because it was two in the morning and there’s no way, no fucking way, that someone would come to the abandoned bridge at two in the fucking morning. But then the voice came again, scared and panicked. “Please get down from there!”
Dan swallowed thickly, glaring down at the expansion below him. He could ignore the man and jump anyways, or he could see who the hell wanted him to stay alive.
He turned around.
Blue eyes, bright and shining in the silver moonlight, stared back into Dan’s with a frightened look in them. A slender hand was extended, the skin soft and pale, unblemished. “Come down from there. Please.”
Dan’s head shook of it’s own accord. He couldn’t give up on this part of himself. He couldn’t go back home to an empty apartment and the same fucking emptiness inside of him. He couldn’t.
The man, however, didn’t waver and his arm stayed outstretched, fingers quivering slightly. “Give me thirty days,” he said, and Dan stared at him. “Give me thirty days and I’ll give you thirty reasons to live. If after that month is over and you still feel the same, I will leave you alone. But just give me a chance to do this. Please.”
And Dan’s eyes were beginning to water because a stranger was willing to waste thirty days to make sure a suicidal kid didn’t throw his life away while Dan’s own family wasn’t even aware that he had such emotions. Or lack of them. So perhaps that was why Dan found himself reaching for the extended hand, the warmth of the stranger’s skin heating his own.
The stranger’s lips pulled into a relieved smile, and they were so close that Dan was sure the man could hear his heartbeat. “I’m Phil,” he said and dispelled his jacket, putting it over Dan’s shoulders despite his protests. It was warm and smelled slightly of lavender and aftershave.
“Dan,” the brunette whispered and allowed Phil to start pushing him away from the bridge with a hand placed firmly on the small of his back. Dan didn’t know where they were going but he didn’t care because he was soaked to the bone and water was trailing down the contours of his body and all he wanted was to sit in front of the television with a cup of hot chocolate and a stuffed animal.
There was complete silence between the two men as they walked, the pitter patter of rain surrounding them, soothing the voices in Dan’s head. Dan didn’t understand why Phil was okay with being in a short sleeve shirt in the cold. There was a gut-wrenching guilt in Dan’s stomach at the realization that Phil sacrificed his own comfort to ensure Dan’s.
Who even was this man?
After only a few minutes of walking, they came to an apartment complex, which Phil led them through until they reached number 2124. The air inside was slightly warmer, but the wet clothes clinging to Dan’s skin made him feel no heat. “I have some clothes you can change into in my room,” Phil murmured, leading Dan through the building with ease. “You can pick whatever you’d like. Would you like some tea when you’re done?”
“Do you happen to have hot chocolate?” Dan surprised himself by asking and watched the corners of Phil’s mouth lift into a fond grin.
“Of course.” And he disappeared, leaving Dan with a pile of clothes and angry thoughts. He couldn’t believe he let a stranger just waltz into his life and change his night already.
He tried not to think about it, though, as he slipped on a pair of sweat pants (no boxers because his were soaked) and a green University of York jumper that immediately made him feel safe. Dan couldn’t help but think about Phil’s words from earlier, the thing about thirty reasons to live, and he shook his head. There was no way a single man could change Dan’s way of thinking and the idea of doing it in thirty days was a bit far-fetched. Dan had been this way for about ten years now. He would be astonished if Phil could change his mind in a whopping thirty days.
Phil grinned at him lightly when he emerged from the room and passed him a Hello Kitty mug that had steam rising from the liquid inside. Dan stared at the steam in awe, watching it swirl and curl before disappearing into the air and he wished he could be as free as the steam. “You’re welcome to stay here for tonight if you’d like,” Phil offered, taking a sip of his own beverage. “I’d hate for you to have to walk in the rain again.”
Dan nodded and carefully perched himself on the edge of the couch, trying not to think about the fact that his eyes were watering from an indescribable burn and he had only spoken one sentence to the ebony haired man stood before him in the whole hour they’ve known each other. “Thank you for this,” Dan answered, brushing a hand through his brown hair that was curling majorly from the wetness. He collapsed into himself, bringing his knees to his chest, arms wrapped around them. The hot chocolate was smooth and slid down his throat like silk, making his entire body heat up.
“How old are you, Dan?”
In response, Dan blinked and looked down at his hands, noting that they were still quivering, the hot chocolate forming tiny waves. “Twenty-three.”
And Phil looked sad at that, his eyes darkening and his eyebrows creasing slightly. Dan didn’t want him to be sad because of him. But Phil didn’t ask Dan why he was standing on the edge of a bridge at two o'clock in the morning, didn’t ask why Dan was barely speaking. Dan was grateful for that. “Making new friends.”
Blinking, Dan gave him a confused glance. “Excuse me?”
“Your first reason to live is making new friends. Because we’re friends, yeah? And friends care about each other.”
There was a blush that spread over Dan’s cheeks and he hid his face in his knees so Phil wouldn’t see. Friends. They were friends and Phil cared and his heart stuttered a bit in his chest.
A chuckle floated through Dan’s ears and he heard movement from the other side of the room. “It’s late, though, so you should probably get some sleep. I’ve got work tomorrow morning but feel free to help yourself to anything and stay as long as you’d like.”
Something soft draped around Dan’s shoulders and he looked up to find Phil putting a soft blanket over him, an absolutely gentle nature to his entire being. His eyes flickered down to meet Dan’s and Dan could feel that he was flustered once again.
“Good night, Dan,” Phil said when he straightened once again.
Dan uttered back a stuttered reply, watching as the man gave him another long look that seemed quite melancholy before disappearing behind a closed door. Dan let out a long sigh and set his mug on the side table so he was able to lay on the couch, making himself into a burrito with the blanket.
He couldn’t believe how the night turned out. He was supposed to be free by now, but no, he had to wait an extra thirty days until he could feel alive again. Ironically, of course.
Dan didn’t know if he could make it that long.
* * *
Light was filtering through Dan’s closed eyelids, making him squint against the unwanted sun. He let out a loud groan and buried his face back into the duvet, trying to sheild himself to no avail. He was already woken up.
His eyes flickered open and he groggily reminded himself that he was in Phil’s apartment, not his. The clock showed that it was 4:17 in the afternoon, meaning he’d slept for nearly 13 hours. There was the faint smell of coffee, and Dan wrinkled his nose in confusion. Didn’t Phil say he had work?
“Ah, finally awake. Good morning, sleeping beauty.”
Dan sat up at the voice and ruffled his curly hair. He gave Phil a look through his fringe, cringing at the nickname, but kind of finding it endearing at the same time. “I thought you were going to be at work?” He asked quietly, noticing how Phil was wearing a nice blue button up with small hearts on it. It brought out the blue in his eyes and made Dan immediately think of the ocean.
“I got off at four. You’ve been sleeping all day!”
It wasn’t unusual, nor particularly strange that Dan slept the whole day, but he still felt rather embarrassed about it, only because he had allowed himself to sleep so late inside a man’s house whom he’d only known for a total of thirteen hours, more or less. It wasn’t every day that you found a kid about to jump off of a bridge at two in the morning who came back to your flat to sleep the day away. Great first impressions. “What do you work as?”
Phil handed Dan a mug of coffee that looked absolutely wonderful along with a plate of pancakes with golden syrup before answering in a bright tone. “I’m a Psychologist.” Dan could have rolled his eyes as he choked on a bite of his food. Of fucking course he’s a psychologist.
He should have bolted right then, but he didn’t, instead taking a bite of the food and sighing as the sweetness filled his mouth and soothed his taste buds. It was delicious. “This is very good.”
“Maybe it can be your day two,” Phil joked, but there was a serious tone to his voice. “Good food is worth living for.”
Dan couldn’t help the small smile from forming on his face upon hearing that. How did Phil manage to keep such a positive attitude? He noticed Phil staring at him and blushed, covering his smile with another mouthful of pancake.
Phil took a seat across from him, eyes still trained on the brunette, who waffled uncomfortably. “You should smile more often.” Now it was Dan’s turn to stare, but Phil’s eyes only contained sincerity. “It makes your eyes light up and your whole face changes. It’s rather beautiful.”
“I- um-,” Dan tried but no words would form on his tongue and he could feel an annoying heat cascading on his cheeks. He decided silently that he should get going, realizing that he didn’t want to overstay his welcome. Besides, making conversation made him exhausted. He didn’t like the feeling. “I should probably head back. I’ve got a dog who’s probably starving.” He felt bad for lying, but it slipped out of Dan’s mouth before he could fully think about it.
Dan couldn’t get over the feeling that Phil knew he was lying, watching as the corner of Phil’s lips rose slightly to a smirk. “Right.” Phil snatched a black biro from the coffee table and took Dan’s right hand, scrawling something down on the tanned skin. Dan pressed his lips together at the coolness of the ink but let it happen. “There’s my number for whenever you need me. I hope to see you again soon.”
When Phil let go of his hand, Dan looked down to see slightly bubbled numbers with a slopping drawing of a guy with fringe next to it. Cute. He was an awful artist. “You too.” Dan’s reply was automatic as he stood up. “Thank you again for everything. You’re a good person.”
Phil showed him out the door with a large grin and a wave.
It was only when Dan got home that he realized he was still wearing Phil’s clothes and he forgot his own there as well.
* * *
A knock resonated throughout Dan’s flat the next day, making him startle from the dent in his couch where he was binge watching American Horror Story. It was two days after the bridge incident and he felt completely the same: empty. His heart was pounding in his chest as he walked over to the door, thinking that it could possibly be Phil, which was stupid because A. Phil didn’t know where he lived and B. Dan hadn’t talked to Phil since he left yesterday.
But that didn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed when he opened the door to find his best friend, Louise, staring back at him. “Dan!” She exclaimed, throwing herself at the tall man and making him stumble back with the impact. Her head came up to his chest so he buried his face in her blonde hair to hug her back. “How have you been?”
“Pretty good,” he lied, pulling back so he could smile at her rather convincingly. She didn’t need to know about his 2am aspirations. “How about you?”
“Great! I just missed my best friend is all,” she whined, pouting a lip. “I haven’t seen you in days!” He smiled at her and watched as her eyes flicked down to the hand on her shoulder, widening when she saw the thick writing. She grabbed Dan’s hand roughly to observe it, making him roll his eyes. “Who’s Phil?! Did you finally find a decent man?”
Dan snorted and gently took his hand away. “No, definitely not. I haven’t even contacted him yet.”
“Dude!” Louise yelled, glaring at him. Her face was flushed and her hands were bunched tightly into fists. She looked as if she could commit homicide. “Text him you stupid jerk! You can’t just leave him hanging like that!”
“I don’t want to seem too eager,” he muttered. Why was it even such a big deal?
Louise rolled her eyes at him, clearly annoyed by his lack of motivation. She had her hands on her hips and her eyes were squinting up at Dan, filled with fire. “Call him. Or text him. Now. Ask if he can come chill with us and watch Netflix and eat pizza. You are literally so fucking lame, Daniel Howell.”
He knew that she didn’t mean what she said, but depression is funny and makes things mean something that they weren’t supposed to. He felt the words wrap around his half-dead heart and constrict it, making it hard to push away the sting. But he didn’t mention any of it. “Whatever,” he instead hissed, reaching over to the couch where his phone laid untouched for hours. Biting his lip harshly, he entered the numbers slowly before pressing the green call button.
It rang four times, and Dan was about to just hang up just as a tired voice cut off the shrill rings. “Hello?”
Dan swallowed, trying to ignore the nerves in his stomach that were trying to explode from his mouth. “Hey. It’s Dan.”
“Dan!” Phil’s voice sounded a tad more upbeat at the mention of his name, leaving Dan to wonder why Phil even bothered with him. “So glad you finally called. What have you been up to?”
Dan shrugged before remembering that Phil couldn’t see him. He flicked his eyes over to Louise, watching as she made a ‘hurry up’ motion with her hands. “Good. I actually called to ask if you maybe wanted to come over and chill? My friend Louise is over and she wanted to meet you.”
“Of course, that sounds lovely.” There was the undertone of a smile in Phil’s voice that made Dan’s cheeks grow slightly red as he relayed his address to the older man before hanging up.
Louise congratulated him with a kiss on the cheek and an apple flavoured beer in his hand, which he sipped at thankfully. He didn’t tend to drink alcohol much because he always started to get a tad overdependent on it, but he figured that one wouldn’t hurt tonight. Besides, it calmed his nerves and made his head feel light.
They were twenty minutes into an episode of Parks and Recreation - courtesy of Louise - when the second knock of the day came through Dan’s door. He shot up faster than he ever remembered doing before, opening the door as quickly as possible. “Hey, Phil,” he mumbled breathlessly, trying not to look at the way Phil’s black hair glimmered in the light or the way that his galaxy jacket clung to his arms and made his blue eyes stand out.
Phil grinned, his tongue poking out of teeth and his eyes crinkling. “Hey, Dan.”
The brunette moved to the side to allow his elder inside the flat, trying his best to sound welcoming as he said, “Louise and I have just been watching Parks and Recs. We’re going to order pizza in a little, so help yourself to anything you find. It’s an alcohol friendly zone tonight.”
Phil raised his eyebrows and gave Dan a look when he mentioned alcohol. “You sure alcohol is a good idea?” He asked quietly, following Dan into the lounge, who promptly ignored his question. Dan knew very well that alcohol and suicidal tendencies typically didn’t end well, but he was a twenty-three year old man. He didn’t need anyone to tell him what a bad idea this was.
Louise looked up the moment the two men walked into the room, and Dan swore that her eyes grew ten times as large at the sight of Phil. “Hi,” she breathed, very much sounding like a pathetic school girl. She glanced over at Dan and bugged her eyes at him, making him roll his own. She could be so immature. “You must be Phil. I’m Louise, it’s very nice to meet you.”
Phil took a seat on the other side of the couch, leaving Dan to cuddle down next to Louise. It was sort of their thing, cuddling, that is. Dan was one of those people who lived off of other’s body heat and enjoyed the feeling of innocently cuddling up to his closest friends. He didn’t think of how it would look to anyone else though, which is why he was taken so off guard when Phil blurted out, “So are you guys dating?”
The question made Louise burst into laughter, shaking Dan so hard with her giggling that he felt as if he would get motion sick. “Hell no,” she burst out between gasps. “I’m married with a daughter and Dan is about as straight as a fucking circle.”
The claim made Dan’s face heat up and Phil didn’t answer, but his lips twinged up slightly and his eyes were glittering so Dan knew that he wasn’t freaked out in the slightest. Not like Dan wouldn’t be used to it, though, if he ended up walking out right then. But he didn’t, and Dan felt warm, and it wasn’t just from Louise’s arms wrapped around him.
So they watched a bit more of Parks and Recreation and Dan laughed at all of the appropriate parts, trying not to react when he caught Phil looking at him every time he cracked a grin. When the pizza got there, they decided to turn on an actual movie and put in Guardians of the Galaxy while Dan’s head spun from the amount of alcohol he’d consumed. It had started out with just one, then it went to three and now Dan was on his sixth and he was starting to forget why he didn’t drink in the first place.
Phil leaned over to Dan, who was curled with his toes tucked under Phil’s thighs and his head on Louise’s lap, and Phil’s breath tickled Dan’s ear, making him giggle while Louise ran fingers through his hair. “I’m sure they don’t have Netflix in heaven,” Phil breathed and Dan wondered why Phil wanted to be suffocated by darkness because he was the stars on a clear summer night while Dan was the clouds that covered them from view. Phil had everything in his life figured out and Dan was a mess who had accepted that he was going to die in less than thirty days.
So Netflix was Dan’s reason number three, and maybe it wasn’t anything worth living for, but it was a small, enjoyable activity that made smiling a little bit easier and the days go by a bit faster and Dan’s certain that these thirty days will speed by and he’ll finally be on his way home.
* * *
Dan woke up at five in the morning and he was surprised that he didn’t have a hangover because the amount of cans littering the table suggested that he’d given into the temptation of intoxication. His eyes were heavy, though, and his throat burned and his muscles ached and he kind of, really had to piss, but sleep was now an unwelcome friend. Louise was murmuring something in her sleep and Phil was snoring softly beside him with an arm over his face and his lips slightly open and five in the morning was the worst because Dan’s thoughts destroyed him at times like these.
As quietly as he could muster, Dan slipped off of the couch and padded over to the bathroom to take care of his business. The mirror was taunting him, the reflection accentuating the dark circles under his eyes and his cracked lips and his eyes were empty so he took a towel and draped it over the mirror to make it all go away.
His heart was beating a hundred miles per minute, his hands shaking under running water as he washed his hands, trying to stop fucking thinking. Dan knew there was anxiety medication in his cabinet that he barely used, but Hydroxyzine had the side effect that impaired thoughts and actions so it made him really fucking tired, but sleep was better than reality and he ended up doubling his usual dose of two, hoping that it would silence his mind.
The tapping of his feet against the floor panels were too loud and his lips were bleeding from tearing at them with his teeth. He ended up in the study, sitting on the couch by the window and watching as the skies turned to pink and orange because he had spent over forty minutes in the bathroom and he hadn’t even realized.
The stars were disappearing and he got a twinge of sadness, thinking about Phil and the little orbs that littered the sky and how the moon and sun would never be able to be together because they were too different.
“Isn’t it pretty?”
Dan startled and gave Phil a wide-eyed look, mouth open slightly. He noticed the way Phil’s dyed hair had stuck up in little tufts from the way he was sleeping and there was the outline of facial hair on his chin.
The man came to sit down next to him and Dan could feel the heat wafting from him, making him shiver. “I woke up and you weren’t there so I was worried. Were you just watching the sun rise?”
Dan nodded, not trusting his voice this early in the morning and rested his head on the window, watching condensation form on the glass from his hot breath.
“What’s on your mind?” Phil asked in a soft voice.
“The sun and the moon.”
“What about them?”
Dan reached up and drew a star in the condensation with his index finger, pursing his lips together to try and formulate his thoughts, knowing he was pretty shit at explaining himself. “They’re just so different. The moon thrives during night and the sun thrives in the day. But they can never touch because they’re so different that it would just never work out.”
They sat in silence, Dan could hear Phil’s breathing, soft and calm in the lightening room. “But they also realize that they have to allow their other half to live, because that’s what you do when you love someone. So even if they never get to be together, the fact that the sun dies every day to let the moon shine says a great deal.”
“I want to die,” Dan breathed, closing his eyes and continuing to see the various oranges behind his closed eyelids. He hears Phil’s breath hitch at the words but he didn’t look at the ebony haired man, not wanting to see the look of pity on his face. “It’s stupid because I have great parents, wonderful friends, a job, a house, but I can’t look at myself in the mirror and I can’t stop thinking about how it’d feel to finally stop breathing. It doesn’t make sense and I’m tired and I- I don’t know if I can make it thirty more days, Phil.”
Dan held his breath, listening to the way Phil stilled beside him. “Dan,” Phil choked and his voice was full of raw emotion that made Dan exhale loudly. Phil moved forward so that he was holding the younger man in strong arms, trying with everything he could fathom to hold together the broken pieces that made up Dan Howell. Dan was shaking and Phil was warm, so warm that Dan couldn’t help but bury his face into Phil’s pale neck. “Please don’t ever say something like that. I know that it hurts and I know that it feels sometimes like you’re drowning, but there will come a day where your lungs will grow flowers instead of thorns and you’ll wake up feeling like you can take on the world. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow, or ten years from now, but I promise you, Dan, that I will help you see the good things in life, one day at a time.”
But Dan couldn’t help remembering the words that his last psychologist told him, the deciding factor for why he stopped seeing her.
Maybe life isn’t for everyone, Dan.
Phil didn’t know the words haunting Dan’s mind, though, and instead told him that the sunrise and sunset was reason four for living, and Dan couldn’t stop thinking about how Phil was like the sun, and Dan was the moon because Phil brightens the world while Dan turns everything gray.
* * *
It was day eight when Dan decided to write down Phil’s reasons to live. He didn’t know what propelled him to do so, but it made him feel a hundred times lighter when he saw the words scrawled on white paper with blue lines, and then he hung it on the fridge so he would see it every day.
Reasons to Live:
1. Making new friends
2. Good Food
4. Watching the sunrise/sunset
6. Beautiful people
7. Learning new things
It was early on Saturday morning, about half seven, and Dan was doing his best to push aside his procrastination, knowing that if he didn’t leave right now, he was going to be late at the little bookshop he worked for. But his hair just wouldn’t straighten today and his self esteem was already pretty low so he refused to leave until every curl was put in it’s place.
Fifteen minutes past the time he was supposed to have left, Dan finally yanked on his bag and bolted out the door, anxiety already heightened at the thought of being late yet again and he couldn’t be late, not anymore. Getting fired would be just one more reason why Dan was a complete failure.
Dan smelled strongly of smoke and sweat when he reached the little bookshop, his second home, known as Fully Booked. With a heaving breath, he took one last drag of his cigarette, feeling the small embers in his chest, before smashing it into the pavement with the toe of his black shoe and swung open the cherry-red door.
PJ, his boss, raised a single eyebrow at Dan’s flushed face and slightly curling hair from running. “I thought you were going to be late again,” PJ quipped, but he had a slight smirk on his face that let Dan know he was kidding. PJ was a strange character, to put it simply. He wasn’t much older than Dan, only about a year or so, and was typically cool and collected. But he had this strange liking for lame puns, as most could tell by his bookstore. Inside of Fully Booked, one would find various framed photos of puns about - well, books. For example, a cartoon drawing of an oddish pokemon yielding a sword and helmet with the words 'The Oddishey’ in thick letters above it.
Dan hit himself when he first saw it.
But besides all of the stupid puns, the little bookstore was Dan’s home away from home, his comfort if he ever needed to unwind a bit. More often then not, he would sit in one of the bean bag chairs during a less-than-busy shift while tucking into a good book, like The Count of Monte Cristo or perhaps even The Alchemist while PJ rolled his eyes at him.
PJ never usually said anything about it; not anymore at least. Not since the time a few months ago when he found Dan curled around an old copy of The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood , tears leaking down his face for no other reason except for it being a good book. That, and the fact that it made Dan feel something other than crippling emptiness. PJ ended up telling Dan to take the damned book home with him, a soft look in his emerald eyes. Dan read it twelve times since then and he cried every fucking time.
“What’s on the agenda today?” Dan asked, ignoring PJ’s comment about his being late.
“We got a shipment of newly released books in the back. If you could stack them with the rest of the new releases, that would be wonderful.”
Dan nodded and headed to the back, feeling his shoulders sag when he was out of PJ’s view. He needed a cigarette and some sleep. Not to mention that he hadn’t heard from Phil today and was getting particularly antsy about it for some reason.
But he pushed that out of his mind to pick up the cardboard box and bring it back up front. It was heavy and he was a mess by the time he dropped it to the floor beside the correct shelf. PJ was attempting - and failing - to contain his laughter while Dan shot him a venomous glare. “Go to hell, Peej.”
It only made his boss laugh harder though, in booming chuckles that made it hard for Dan to ignore him. He focused on the task at hand, tearing open the box to reveal about twenty copies of a brand new book with a baby blue cover and a feather on it, complete with the title, The Art of Happiness. It seemed a bit pretentious and boring for Dan, and he couldn’t help but roll his eyes at it as he stacked them with perfect symmetry on the shelf.
“This any good?” Dan asked, raising his voice over PJ’s receding giggles.
PJ nodded, resting his arms on the counter. “Yeah. The author wrote a few books before that one. People have been referring to him as the next John Green.” He cocked his head, squinting, deep in thought. “I think his name is Philip? Philip Lecter or something like that?”
Dan’s eyes widened and he choked on his own saliva, finally noticing the name printed on the novel. “Lester,” he breathed. “Holy fucking hell, Phil writes books.”
PJ looked surprised, to say the least. “You know him?”
“Yeah. We’re… friends.” Dan cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the initial shock while putting the last of the books - Phil’s books - on the stack. “Do you mind if I…” He waved his hand to the corner of the store where his usual reading chair sat.
“Of course, you absolute twat. We aren’t busy yet so as long as you take care of the customers when they start coming in, you can read.” And Dan grinned because PJ was actually a very good friend of his as well as his manager and always seemed to know when Dan needed a good read to catapult him into a different universe.
He’d been reading for hours. He didn’t know how long, but time seemed to be moving slowly around him and Phil’s book was so poetic that it made his heart ache in just the right places. Phil was a work of art and the book seemed to reflect all the darkest areas of Phil’s brain and highlight them into something beautiful. The booked revolved around a depressed man seeking to find happiness in things that were not important, things that actually destroyed him instead.
Dan found that he got emotionally attached to the character, but he didn’t really want to admit the reason may have been because the character reminded him of himself.
“I see you like my book?”
Dan jumped out of his skin at the sudden voice, having not noticed the author himself observing Dan with bright blue eyes. “Jesus Christ, Phil,” Dan muttered, bookmarking his page and looking up at the man with mock annoyance. He could feel a blush raise to his cheeks and stood up to hide it. “What are you doing here? Do you need help finding anything?”
Phil shook his head and grinned and Dan could see the blue sky contained in his eyes. “I came to find my book, but I found you instead.”
If it were possible for Dan to die from blushing too much, now would be the time to do it as he was positive he looked like the equivalent to a fucking tomato. “I need a cigarette,” Dan announced in a grumble, heading towards the back exit. He called out to PJ that he was taking a smoke break, feeling rather than seeing Phil following behind him.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Phil said quietly, watching as Dan pulled a cigarette from the box and lit it between pale pink lips.
Dan took a long drag, his chest filling with the bittersweet fumes. “There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.”
“Smoking is said to kill you, you know.”
Eyebrows raised, Dan threw him a look as if to say, 'so what?’ because it was only eight days ago that he’d been about to throw himself off of a bridge. It’s not as if anything had changed since then.
Phil cast his gaze down to his hands, lip between his pretty, white teeth. “Right,” he muttered, leading into a cease of conversation while Phil was lost in thoughts and Dan sucked poison into his own body.
Dan’s voice, gravelly and hoarse from the fumes, broke the lapsing silence with a question. “Why do you even bother with me?” He waited a moment, surveying Phil’s face before speaking again, “I mean, surely you have better things to do, right? You’re Philip fucking Lester, part time psychologist, part time famous author. All I am is a twenty-three year old suicidal man who would literally jump at the chance of never breathing again. Why bother?”
Phil didn’t answer for around three minutes, leaving Dan to finish his cigarette and to smash it into the ground before speaking. But when he did, his voice didn’t waver and diamond blue eyes were gazing into cinnamon ones. “Everybody deserves a chance at being happy, Dan,” he started and Dan wasn’t sure he wanted to hear this anymore. “Sadness is only temporary. There is happiness all around us, waiting to be found, and I want to show you how to experience them. I want to be there when you experience them. You’re not hopeless, Dan. I look at you and I see galaxies in your eyes and potential that was hidden away. I’ll prove it to you someday. I promise.”
Dan couldn’t help but feel a pang at the kind words, although Phil was kidding himself. Dan was nothing special. Not anymore, at least. “Maybe good books can be my eighth reason.”
He watched a grin grow on Phil’s face, trying to return it but failing. As Phil turned to go back inside the shop, Dan added, “And Phil?” He watched as the man froze, hand on the door handle.
“Promises are hard to keep.”
* * *
Days nine and ten were extremely uneventful, Phil texting Dan between his busy work schedule to stay alive because there were always more dogs to pet and tea to drink. Dan had stayed in bed as late as possible those days and so the eleventh day came before he could even blink.
At around ten in the morning, Dan’s phone began buzzing, making him groan in frustration. He snatched it up harshly, knowing that if it was Louise, he was going to bitch her out for waking him. “Hello?” He hissed.
“Hey, Dan. Sorry for calling so early.”
It was Phil and Dan sighed because he really couldn’t be mad at the guy after everything he’s been trying to do for him. “S'alright. What’s up?”
Phil’s voice was soothing when he answered, like pleasant honey. “Well, I was wondering if you were busy tonight?”
“I’m not. Why?”
The man cleared his throat and Dan could imagine Phil’s adam’s apple bobbing along pale skin as he did so. “Would you like to go on an adventure?”
His voice was now mysterious and it caught Dan completely off guard, making him blink and squint his eyes against the sun streaming through his room. “Uh… Sure, yeah. Where?”
“It’s a secret,” Phil whispered before the phone went dead and Dan was left in a bed full of befuddlement. A few seconds later, he received a text that told him Phil would pick him up at half five.
Dan cursed under his breath and decided now would be a good time to wake up.
Ten minutes before the time Phil had mentioned, Dan was trying to pay attention to the current anime on the television, but was too full of nerves to actually realize what was going on. He was fully cleansed and hair straightened, and was wearing his favourite white button up with moths on it and black skinny jeans. Ironic since he’s rather afraid of moths.
It was the knocking that made Dan’s stomach do a flip. He scrambled to his feet, legs feeling like jelly, and opened the door to Phil’s grinning face, tongue stuck out slightly from pretty pink lips. “Ready?” Phil asked, eyes shining, and Dan forgot how to breathe for a moment when he imagined going swimming in Phil’s eyes.
He couldn’t fathom any words, feeling a tad light-headed, so he just nodded and locked the door behind him, following Phil away from his flat. The air was quite warm, but Dan shivered against the breeze anyways, even though he wasn’t sure if it was because he was cold or the nerves racking underneath his skin.
Phil looked at him, skin a gorgeous porcelain in the setting sun. “Do you want my jacket?” He whispered, and Dan didn’t know why they were whispering, but he whispered back all the same.
An eyebrow raised in disbelief, Phil began shrugging off his jumper, ignoring Dan’s protests. Dan ended up with the jumper on anyways, relishing in the warmth - still cozy from Phil’s own body heat - and the faint smell of aftershave and lavender.
“Adventure number one,” Phil said abruptly, stopping in front of a building. “You mentioned you liked sushi a few days ago.”
Dan stared at him in disbelief. He didn’t recall ever telling about his secret guilty pleasure, and why is it that Phil remembered such a miniscule detail anyways? Not like he was complaining, but still. A sushi adventure. Dan kind of just wanted to hide Phil away from the rest of the world because of how absolutely fucking precious the man was.
With a slight upturn of his lips, Phil gave Dan a smug look and started heading inside the little shop. Dan couldn’t help but stare at the back of his head in awe, an unfamiliar gnaw wrenching at his gut. He gaped at the way the setting sun glinted in his hair, little rainbows in the blackness, the way it kissed the nape of Phil’s neck like a star-crossed lover.
Phil was a gorgeous human being and Dan wondered why he was still here with him.
But even though Dan was still slightly awkward with the man, he could feel himself begin to relax as soon as the beloved sushi touched his lips, bits of rice and soy sauce sticking to his skin until he licked it off. Phil told Dan about his favourite movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and how he’d watched it three times in a row until his eyes hurt and he knew almost every word. In return, Dan told Phil about how he’d illegally downloaded Wristcutters: A Love Story and watched it every first monday of every month, and how the book, Robin Hood made him cry.
Dan ended up quoting the book, a small section that merely described a person, but when he looked at Phil, it seemed to be the most prominent in his mind. “'Much like myself, and in height and build and age night the same; and he hath blue eyes, too…’” He trailed off while he took another bite of sushi, trying his hardest not to notice the small smirk on Phil’s lips or the way his eyes were almost silver in the lighting. So instead he said, “Robin Hood is my favourite because it makes my chest constrict wonderfully.” And maybe it was a strange thing to say, but Phil understood that Dan didn’t often have overwhelming feelings.
The topic had gotten a tad too deep, too emotional, and Phil let it drop after telling Dan that he should read the book to him. Dan agreed quietly, thankful when Phil brought up a different subject about his allergy of cats.
Soon enough, Dan was following Phil back through the busy streets of London, stomach filled with fish and soy sauce. They were both quiet, but Dan certainly didn’t mind. Phil had allowed him to keep his jumper on for the moment, so he tried to indiscreetly walk closer to Phil as if his body heat would seep through the air between them. If Phil noticed, he didn’t say anything.
“Adventure number two,” Phil murmured, finally. The sky was now completely dark, lit up by only the buildings around them. Dan knew where they were before Phil even had to utter a word, and his mouth dropped in a gasp. “It’s hard to be sad when you’re on a giant ferris wheel.”
The London Eye. Phil was taking him on the London Eye.
“How-? Why?” Dan managed to gasp, allowing Phil to put his hand on the small of Dan’s back to push him forward.
Phil chuckled, his mouth close to Dan’s ear, causing shivers to spiral down his spine. “I wanted to do something special for you.” A pause. “And like I said, it’s impossible to be sad on a giant Ferris wheel.”
Once inside one of the many capsules, Dan pushed past the dozen other people and pressed his face against the glass, watching as they very slowly ascended into the air. “It’s beautiful,” Dan breathed, his breath forming clouds on the glass. He drew a smiley face in it.
Phil came to stand beside him, so close that Dan could smell the cologne wafting from his skin. His eyes were alight with the hundreds of lights outside, and Dan found it hard to conjure enough oxygen. “I’m glad I could do this for you.”
“I’m glad it was you who I met,” Dan whispered before he could stop himself. His cheeks turned fifty shades of red, and he slapped both hands over his face in embarrassment. Why did he say that? Phil was probably going to leave him now. God, he’s such an idiot.
Then a warm pair of hands engulfed his own, bringing them down so he was staring straight at Phil, who looked about as red as Dan felt, except with a blinding grin on his lips, tongue stuck out between his teeth. “I’m glad I met you too, Dan.” And he leaned forward, brushing Dan’s fringe to the side and pressing his lips to Dan’s exposed forehead.
Dan added a few more reasons to his list, even if he didn’t tell Phil: Sushi, the London Eye, and forehead kisses.
* * *
It was late, and Dan was drunk, the world ceasing to exist for a little while. He vaguely remembered texting Phil, but didn’t recall why, and all he could focus on was the body beneath his, writhing in pleasure on Dan’s bed.
The man moaned a little as Dan nipped at the sensitive areas of his neck, yanking off both of their shirts as if it was essential to living. The man was attractive, that much Dan could tell, with blue eyes and black hair splayed over the pillow, but Dan wasn’t very into it as much as he seemed, grinding the guy into the mattress messily. Dan kind of just wanted to curl into a ball under the covers. But he didn’t.
Instead, he trailed open-mouth kisses over the stranger’s chest, fingers fumbling with his belt, and-
“Dan? I came to- what the actual fuck?!”
Dan’s head snapped towards the voice like he was struck by lightning, blinking in confusion at the blue eyes and black hair that matched the man under him. Wait. That was Phil. “Phil?” He rasped, pushing the other stranger away from him. He didn’t feel very well anymore.
Phil glared at Dan, making his stomach clench painfully. But maybe it was the alcohol. “Save it,” Phil snapped. “I don’t want to hear it.”
The door slammed closed and Dan ended up puking on the stranger’s trousers.
* * *
Two days since the incident. Day fifteen.
Dan hadn’t heard from Phil for two days.
* * *
Dan called Phil twenty times, but he never answered. On the twenty-first call, the phone went straight to voicemail. It’s been four days now since Dan has talked to Phil and he can’t remember why he decided to live in the first place.
* * *
“'In Merry England in the time of old, when good King Henry the second ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood. No archer ever lived that could speed a-”
Dan stopped reading with a frustrated scream, clutching the book with white fists. He couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and there was the outline of grey over everything. Where Robin Hood used to make him feel, he now felt an empty hole.
He let out another sob and brought the book up to his mouth. He didn’t feel a god damn thing when he bit the cover and tore it to shreds. So, he took the book between two hands and tore it in half, watching as the pages ripped into shreds, hundreds of words that now meant nothing.
It was satisfying, ripping up a book until there was nothing left except for broken words, but then he looked around him, noticed all the shreds of his favourite book, noticed how it didn’t tell a story, and he let out a strangled, “Oh my God” when he realized there was nothing left for him, no more reason to be alive.
Because Phil was ignoring him and Robin Hood was slain by his own hands.
With shaking limbs, Dan stood, brushing off the little rips of paper. He felt void of all emotion when he grabbed the bottle of vodka stashed under his bed, and he could barely see when he grabbed a bottle of thirty painkillers waiting to kiss his lips.
He took the pills two at a time, washed down with a swig of vodka, until both bottles were empty and he was blindly reaching for his phone, typing out a single message, and laying down in his bed, comfortable at last.
* * *
Phil never meant to stop talking to Dan for five days. He was feeling guilt gnaw at the walls of his stomach to the point where it was almost painful. He didn’t quite know what his emotions were, why he reacted in the way he did. When he saw Dan on top of that guy… he just snapped. He saw red and everything became shaky and there was vomit raising in his throat.
But today it would stop and he would suck up his emotions and actually talk to Dan.
He listened to Dan’s last voice message, sighing when he heart the southern accent through the speaker. “I once read a book called The Lover’s Dictionary and it had a quote in it that I’ve not been able to get out of my head for days. It said, "The proper verb for depression is sink.’ I think about that often. And then I wonder when I allowed myself to sink past the point of being able to swim, because I’m not treading above water anymore. I’m sinking. I’m fucking drowning, and I can’t breathe. Call me back, Phil.”
Phil felt a pang in his chest, knowing that it was childish what he was doing, but he decided right then that he would call Dan back. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, there was a Dan shaped space next to him that was missing.
As he went to dial the number, a ping alerted him of a message and he smiled when Dan’s name popped up on his phone. But that smile quickly disappeared when he regarded what Dan had written.
A single word, no subtext, no explanation. Just one word that turn Phil’s blood to ice.
Did that mean…? Phil bit his lip harshly, trying to hold back sudden tears. His hand shook, trying to dial the correct numbers to Dan’s phone, but failing give times. This was taking too much time.
His heart pounding ferociously in his chest, Phil shoved his shoes on and sprinted out of the house towards Dan’s, completely forgetting a jumper to shield him from the cold. He didn’t notice though, the fear overtaking all feeling in his body. He was numb as he yanked open the door to Dan’s flat, void of emotions as he ran to Dan’s room, flicking the light on almost mechanically.
The very first thing he noticed was the torn pieces of paper littering the entire carpet, printed words and black and white pictures broken apart on most of them. “Dan,” He whimpered upon realizing that the book was, indeed, Robin Hood, the book that meant more than anything to the brunette.
And now it meant nothing.
That was when he finally noticed the body curled up on the bed, an empty bottle of vodka and pills scattered next to him. Phil choked on his own breath, all the oxygen knocked out of his body at the sight of Dan, all pale and beautiful. And dying.
Phil launched himself at his friend, hand gripping his phone, shaky fingers typing out the number for 999. The ringer was too long before someone picked up, and Phil was shaking as he sat on the bed, dragging Dan towards him so his back was pressed against Phil’s chest, head lolling onto Phil’s shoulder. “My friend-” Phil gasped into the speaker, “My friend overdosed.” It was then that he realized he was sobbing, Dan’s address catching in his throat. He got it out eventually, taking large breaths in an attempt to calm himself until he hung the phone up and flung it to the side.
I have to get some of that out of his body, Phil thought, adjusting Dan so he was hunched over. And then he shoved his fingers down Dan’s throat.
Dan gagged and puked up some clear liquid, but nothing else, so Phil tried again. Nothing.
“Oh God,” Phil cried, burying his face in Dan’s neck. “Please live, Dan. Please. I promise to never leave your side again. I can’t lose you. Please stay alive.”
Dan didn’t respond.
* * *
Dan’s throat burned, and his stomach felt as if it was on fire. There was a strange smell in his nose, kind of like rubbing alcohol and burning plastic. Was he dead?
But then he felt the scratchy texture of blankets over his body and a pulsing warmth on his hand (was someone holding it?) and he knew that his wish was not granted.
“God damn it,” he whispered, voice hoarse from disuse, tears beginning to prick behind closed eyelids. He was so sure that he would finally be done with the world, that he’d taken enough medicine and alcohol that he would be six feet in the ground by now. But it looks as if he’d failed again.
The hand on his own was moving then, jerking Dan’s arm so hard that he was afraid his shoulder had popped out of place. “Dan? Are you awake? The other voice was low, slightly northern, and sounding on the verge of tears.
Dan managed to yank his hand away despite how weak he was, and opened his eyes into a hard glare. Anger was balled in his gut, so harsh that he was afraid he would detonate right then and there.Why is it that Dan tried to contact him for days, but as soon as Dan nearly takes his own life, then he cares? Fuck that.
The older man looked a mix between shocked and hurt, which Dan had to hold in a scoff at. Phil wasn’t the one being ignored for five days. Dan was betrayed and Phil had the audacity to look hurt? "Dan…” Phil began in a whisper.
“Why are you even here?” Dan’s voice was sharp, like nails screeching down a chalk board. He tried his damnedest to look venomously into his eyes, but it was hard to see the blue with that much pain contained inside of them. “You ignore me for what, five days? Don’t return my calls or texts despite my telling you that I’m not doing well? But as soon as you hear I may kill myself, you come rushing to my aid. What kind of psychologist are you? Hell, what kind of friend are you?”
He didn’t mean for it to come out so harsh, but the tears running down Phil’s face made him feel both satisfied and guilty. Satisfied because Phil was finally realizing just how deeply he had hurt Dan. Guilty because Dan didn’t think he could stand to see Phil cry.
But then Phil was opening his mouth to talk, bottom lip quivering slightly. “I never meant to hurt you, Dan,” he whispered, withdrawing his hand from where Dan smacked it away. “I just- when I saw you and that guy together, I just felt like there was a part of my stomach that was ripped in half. I was shaking so hard that I could barely walk home. I didn’t mean to ignore you for so long, I just couldn’t handle it after seeing you with that guy.”
Dan was completely silent, staring at Phil with eyes so wide that the whites were like saucers. If what Phil was saying is true… “It sounds like you were jealous I had another guy in my bed.”
At that, Phil’s entire face flushed bright red. He didn’t answer and Dan found himself smirking, sitting up in the hospital bed to move closer to him, taunting. “Do you like me, Phil?” He giggled, unabled to hide the grin on his face as he caught Phil’s gaze with his own. Dan moved closer, his heart pounding in his chest, and he could feel Phil’s breathing speed up at their close proximity. “Do you want to kiss me, Phil?”
Now, Dan wasn’t one of those people who had a lot of self-esteem. He usually didn’t do things without another person initiating them. But as Dan searched Phil’s face, noticing the way he looked away from Dan’s gaze and how Phil’s face was a literal cherry, he found himself leaning in to press a quick, chaste kiss to Phil’s lips.
Phil let out a noise of surprise, before it flowed into one of content. Dan didn’t allow himself to linger on the perfection that is Phil’s lips before he pulled away, settling back into the bed while running a hand through his hair, trying to hide his own blush. “You’re an asshole,” Dan grumbled, “but I guess I can forgive you if you make it up to me someday.”
Phil’s blue eyes brightened considerably, looking the happiest he’s been since Dan awoke. “Actually, I got something for you. Well- more like I made it I guess you could say, but same thing, I suppose.” He ducked over to the side of his chair, fumbling with something that sounded suspiciously like a plastic bag. Then something was being placed on Dan’s lap, something with a green cover that made him gasp, hands flying up to cover his mouth. “I know that it meant a lot to you and I didn’t want you to have to live without something that helped you so much, so I taped it all back together.”
Right in front of him was the exact same Robin Hood book that he’d torn up before overdosing. The green cover had been perfectly taped back together with clear tape. As he flipped through, Dan realized that Phil had found ever fucking piece of paper and repaired the book so that, although it was still obviously ripped, was completely readable.
“I mean this much to you?” Dan whispered, running his fingers over the pages as if he was caressing a tiny bird.
“Of course. There’s a note in the back as well.”
Flipping to the last page, Dan regarded the scrawled handwriting with watering eyes, unable to even fathom someone wanting to do such a thing for him.
There is nothing more important in the world to me than you. Your smile is the only thing I need to see to keep me going these past few weeks and you have unknowingly become an essential part to my everyday life. I’m so grateful to have had the pleasure to meet a wonderful person like you. Five more reasons to make up for the five days I wasn’t here:
1. Warm baths
5. Beautiful smiles
Much love, Phil x
Dan flung himself at Phil, ignoring the tug on his arm from the IV, and burying his face in the crook of Phil’s neck. He breathed in heavily, pressing dozens of kisses to Phil’s shoulder. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Phil squeezed his arms harder around Dan’s waist, pressing his own lips to his cheek. “And since there were only five in the book, your day nineteen is obviously Robin Hood.”
Dan couldn’t stop sobbing even as the nurse came into the room, confused at the sight of two grown men clinging onto one another.
* * *
Lucky for Dan, there were no signs of liver failure, only slight nausea in which the doctors gave him a few pills for to help. He was released the next day with a pat on the back and a pamphlet on drug and alcohol abuse. How ignorant, thinking that he had any sort of abuse other than his own self-destruction.
Because his parents were too busy with work, they were unable to see him in the hospital, but Dan’s mum called and sobbed for thirty minutes while Phil rubbed the back of Dan’s hand with a warm thumb. Then they kissed and Dan didn’t quite understand when he got so infatuated with the man, or why his heart flew to his throat each time Phil touched him.
He’d been in love once before, with a boy named Kyle in year ten, but that ended with Dan being completely obsessed and Kyle taking advantage of that fact. Only Kyle didn’t make Dan feel like he was on fire, or like he was surrounded by a thousand excited dogs.
But there was absolutely no way Dan was in love only after twenty days of knowing Phil. Love took time, which he didn’t really have with Phil yet.
He ended up summing it to complete infatuation and emotional dependency because depressed people attach to things that make them feel good, right? Phil definitely made Dan feel good.
As of now, the men were heading back to Phil’s flat, Dan occasionally sucking on the lit cigarette in his left hand, letting the fumes fog his mind. In his right hand was his favourite book, open so he could read to Phil while they were walking. And what do you know? They were only on page ten and he was already crying a little, the crystalline tears beginning to dwell in his eyes. “'Then taking up his own good stout bow and nocking an arrow with care he shot with his very greatest skill. Straight flew the arrow, and so true that it lit fairly upon the stranger’s shaft and split it into splinters. Then all the yeomen leaped to their feet and shouted for joy that their master had shot so well. 'Now by the lusty yew bow of good Saint Withold,’ cried the stranger, 'that is a shot indeed, and never saw I the like in all my life before! Now truly will I be thy man henceforth and for aye. Good Adam Bell was a fair shot, but never shot he so!’”
Dan looked beside him to find Phil grinning widely at him. “What?” he asked defensively, although he was actually trying not to laugh at how dorky Phil looked like that.
Phil reached out and ruffled his hair, making Dan scowl through his messed-up fringe. “I don’t understand how you even understand what they’re saying,” he chuckled, eyes bright under the sun. “Old English is a bitch.”
“I just read a lot,” Dan muttered, glaring at him until Phil leaned over to press a small kiss to his cheek, making his expression melt into a blush.
“You smell like smoke.”
Dan snorted, rolling his eyes. “I wonder why.” Despite his sarcasm, he smiled a bit at the scrunched nose Phil wore, taking another drag of his cigarette for emphasis. Just as he threw it on the pavement, stamping it out with his shoe, Dan’s phone started shrilling loudly, making him grimace. His grimace only intensified when he looked at the caller ID to find that it was, in fact, Louise. “Fucking shit nipples,” Dan groaned, but answered anyways. Ignoring her would only fuel her more negatively than positive. “Hello-?”
“MISTER DANIEL JAMES HOWELL YOU BETTER EXPLAIN TO ME RIGHT NOW WHAT I’VE BEEN HEARING ABOUT YOU OVERDOSING.”
“DO YOU KNOW HOW WORRIED I’VE BEEN?”
“Louise!” Dan yelled over her, twitching from the annoyance of her screaming in his ear. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. I was really drunk and ended up taking too many painkillers for a headache.” It wasn’t like she would know any different.
Louise sighed on the other side of the line, and it was somewhat shaky as if she was trying to hold tears in. It made Dan’s stomach drop unpleasantly because he didn’t realize… just how much he meant to her. Or Phil. Or his parents. “Is there any way I could see you?” She asked quietly.
Dan bit his lip and glanced over at Phil, unsure. “I’m actually with Phil right now.”
“Don’t be a loser, you know Mister Philip is always allowed in my home.”
With that, Dan agreed and started to lead them over to Louise’s flat, which he just let them into without knocking. He actually quite enjoys her place for some reason, loving how warm and comforting it was, welcoming anyone to walk through the threshold with a friendly embrace and the scent of vanilla.
As soon as Dan stepped through the door, a body flung itself at him, nearly knocking him over like every other time he saw his best friend. It was the blonde herself, sobbing into his chest so violently that it reverberated through his entire body. He put his hand on the top of her head, entangling his fingers through the golden locks to pull her closer, burying his nose into her hair. Seeing her so upset made every nerve in Dan’s body flame with a certain pain.
“I love you, Dan, you asshole,” she whimpered, voice muffled from Dan’s chest. “Don’t fucking scare me like that again.”
“I won’t,” Dan murmured, but the words clogged his throat, choking him because he still wasn’t sure what would happen ten days from now, when the thirty days had finally passed. He liked to think that the absolute longing for death would be less overpowering and easier to deal with, so he wouldn’t act upon those feelings. But Dan was still tired, and depression didn’t go away in only a month, if ever. Hopefully it became a tad more manageable, though.
After a few more minutes, Louise backed away, wiping the tears from her face. Her eyes were red and puffed slightly, but they’d known each other for years, so Dan had seen her at her worst, even naked. “Matt took Darcy to his parent’s house for the night so we could talk and relax. It’s going to be a complete bro night with Netflix and Cards Against Humanity and pizza. No alcohol!” Dan rolled his eyes at her pointed look, but nodded anyways, lips curved upwards.
Phil, who’d been silent nearly the whole time, brushed his hand over Dan’s, electricity flowing through his skin at the touch. Dan had the sudden urge to grab Phil’s hand in his, so he did very quickly when Louise turned around, squeezing tightly and then letting go.
Netflix was on in the background, American Horror Story, to be precise, and the three were playing Cards Against Humanity. Dan was laughing so hard he was crying, eventually having to excuse himself as to not wee himself.
The mirror faced him in the bathroom, and he stared at his reflection, blinking in surprise at the sight of himself. There was still a faint smile on his lips, and although pale, Dan’s skin was glowing and slightly rosy, and his eyes had this light in them that he’d never seen before.
And all he could think was, I made it.
A knock sounded at the door, snapping him from his trance. “Dan?” It was Phil. “You okay?”
Without answering, Dan opened the door to a concerned Phil, who immediately changed his expression to one of confusion when Dan threw his arms around him and dragged him into the bathroom, closing the door behind them. “Dan…?”
Dan hushed him, resting his head in the crook of Phil’s neck despite how they were basically the same height. “Just shut up and hold me,” he whispered, enjoying the warmth of Phil surrounding him. Not only was he warm, but Dan enjoyed feeling Phil’s breathing against his skin and how he could hear his heartbeat faintly like they were echoing through the halls.
Phil obeyed, wrapping his arms around Dan’s waist to press them closer together, and Dan felt him bury his nose into his hair like Dan had done with Louise only hours ago. “You’re wonderful,” Phil murmured.
Dan looked at him, nearly getting lost in the blues and yellows and greens of Phil’s eyes. They were so warm, as if he was looking at a beautiful painting instead of Dan, but he liked the way Phil made him feel important.
And then they were kissing, completely getting lost in each other. Dan forgot that he was even at Louise’s house, instead focusing on the way Phil’s hair felt like silk under his fingertips and how Phil’s lips pressed gently but firmly into his own as if he was trying to drown himself in Dan.
Phil didn’t even have to say anything for Dan to know that kissing was the twentieth day.
* * *
Waking up in someone’s arms is something that Dan could definitely do for the rest of his life, especially if that someone is Phil. He didn’t understand how he could have gotten invested in someone so quickly, but Dan didn’t particularly mind, instead just nuzzling his head back into Phil’s neck, relishing in the way that Phil’s arms were wound tightly around his waist like a teddy bear. Not that Dan minded.
He rather enjoyed it, listening to Phil’s steady heartbeat and the soft breaths that tickled Dan’s skin slightly. It made him feel… alive in a sense, made him notice how Phil’s exhales were in time with his, and how Dan was as alive as Phil is, hearts beating in time together, skin warm against skin, and Dan didn’t feel as lonely anymore. Sighing contentedly, he pressed a small kiss to the base of Phil’s throat, loving the feel of Phil’s smooth skin under his lips.
It was then that Phil awoke, shivering and pressing Dan closer to him, so that Dan’s naked chest was flush against Phil’s clothed one. “Good morning, gorgeous,” Phil breathed and his voice was husky with sleep, his blue eyes blinking open to reveal tiredness, a thin layer of facial hair making him look undeniably attractive.
“Morning,” Dan whispered, face turning red because seeing Phil up close like this was definitely somewhat erotic. He pressed his lips to Phil’s for a moment, body melting into the older man’s, and then buried his face into his chest. “Snuggle the fuck out of me,” Dan muttered, smiling a Phil chuckled and kissed the top of his head.
“You’re needy. I like this side of you.”
Dan rolled his eyes. “Shut up,” he mumbled, but he wasn’t really mad because what Phil said was true. Dan wasn’t usually clingy, but he enjoyed cuddling and Phil felt safe, arms strong around Dan’s waist, fingertips brushing on the bare skin of his back. He made a contented noise as goose flesh arose on his arms at the small touches.
They laid like that for a while, and Phil had turned some music on at one point, the sound soft and pleasant in Dan’s ears. He could stay here forever in Phil’s arms, glad that PJ gave Dan time off from work to recover, and that Phil called off his own work for the next two days for an 'emergency,’ so he could make sure that Dan was okay.
It was pretty much perfect.
“Oh my God!” Dan exclaimed loudly at one point, the beginning notes to one of his favourite songs coming through the speaker of Phil’s iPhone. It was Wolf by Now, Now and Dan was unaware that anybody else listened to them. “I love this song!”
He untangled himself from Phil to catapult himself off of the bed, then proceeded to yank the older man off the bed into a standing position in front of him. “Dance with me! He giggled, pretending not to notice the overwhelming fondness in bright blue eyes or the slightly pink cheeks on pale skin. He couldn’t believe that someone like Phil, someone so kindhearted, would want to be associated with a person like Dan, who hasn’t really been alright for a very long time.
He tried to shrug away the bad thoughts by grabbing Phil’s hands and yanking them so they were clasped right over his hipbones, and then he placed his hipbones, and then he placed his arms around Phil’s neck in a somewhat intimate gesture. Dan didn’t care that Phil was slightly shorter than him by about an inch, he enjoyed the way Phil’s fingers squeezed his hips, feeling like golden fire.
"You’re hyper,” Phil commented, beginning to sway them in time to the music. His eyes were so intense that Dan felt almost faint.
“I’m just hap-,” Dan cut himself off with a bitten lip, the unspoken words ringing off the white walls of Phil’s room. Happy. Phil’s eyes softened and he touched his lips to the tip of Dan’s nose. Happy.
But he wasn’t really happy, was he? Sure, he felt better than he had in a long time, and Phil made his stomach fill with butterflies instead of wasps and his blue eyes chased away the demons screaming in the back of his mind, but depression doesn’t just go away. Despite all the blushing and laughing, Dan’s heart was still chained tightly, a dog tied to a tree, but it would be okay someday, wouldn’t it?
And then they were kissing, Phil’s hand cupped on Dan’s cheek as if he was afraid Dan would disappear, and Dan’s fingers were tangled in soft ebony locks of silk, trying to drink this moment in until he was suffocating. He sighed in content when Phil gently bit down on his lip, letting their tongues explore every inch of the other’s until Dan’s heart was stuttering and his breath was harsh.
They pulled away and Phil’s hair was sticking up everywhere, and Dan knew he would rather be here, kissing and dancing with Phil, than to be cold in the ground.
* * *
A few more days passed, making it the twenty-fourth day since he’d met Phil. Day thirty was approaching fast and Dan’s anxiety was heightening with each passing day. The past few days were uneventful, with his only reasons to live being stuffed animals and pokemon, uneventful to the point that Dan was getting antsy about staying in one spot, especially since Phil had gone back to work yesterday morning, leaving after a quick kiss and an assurance to call if Dan needed him.
The thing is, Dan needed Phil and his hands were shaking as they clutched onto the fabric of Phil’s York jumper, breathing hitched, but he can’t call Phil, he can’t, because Phil had already missed too much work because of Dan’s unsteadiness. He needed to talk to someone though, or else this day was going to be very, very bad and he wasn’t sure what, exactly, he would do.
Louise wasn’t an option. She didn’t need to worry about him any more than she already did. He wasn’t going to kill himself, he still had six more days until the deal with Phil was up, but even then he wasn’t sure if he would. Yeah, he still wanted to die, but he’s felt better than he ever had before and he’s not positive he really wants to give that up.
So he called his mother.
She picked up on the fifth ring, voiced hushed as if she was in church. “Daniel? Is there any way I could call you back? I’m with a client.” Did he mention that she was a very well-paid lawyer?
“Mum,” he gasped, immediately silencing her with the absolute panic in his voice. “I’m sorry to bother you at work, I just- I need you?”
Dan could hear her breathing, and his hands were having difficulty holding the phone because he was shaking so bad. “Of course, let me just tell them that it’s an emergency.” He then heard his mum whispering to someone, voice quiet and calming, before she was speaking to her son again. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”
Thus began his long speech, telling her everything from his almost jumping off the bridge to Phil’s deal to him overdosing only last week. She listened quietly, the occasional sniff or sob leaking from her throat when she realized just how destroyed Dan truly was. “I felt better for a few days,” he finished, “an Phil really helps, but now I’m alone in Phil’s flat and I’m having bad thoughts again.”
“Dan,” his mother whispered, and he could imagine her wiping her eyes on her very fancy blouse. “You’re so strong for telling me this. I didn’t even… Can I see you? Tomorrow? I want to hold my baby boy.”
Despite Dan’s constricted chest, he let out a choked laugh at her comment, heart warming because of how much his mum adored him. “Of course you can come, and if you don’t mind, I’d like you to meet Phil?”
“Yes, yes, of course. I’d love to meet this man. He seems wonderful.”
The sound of a door shutting alerted Dan, making him cut off his next words. The ebony haired man appeared in the doorway, white button-up making his hair stand out against pale skin. He gave Dan a questioning look, crossing the room to pull him into a hug without a word.
“Mum?” Dan breathed, his shaking having ceased a bit with his mum’s voice and Phil’s warm embrace. “Phil just got home from work, so I’ll let you go, okay?”
“Alright, Dan. I love you.”
“Love you too, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hung up and immediately relaxed into Phil’s grip, breathing in the special lavender scent of Phil. He pressed his lips to Phil’s neck, drinking in the older man. “My mum is coming over tomorrow. Would you like to meet her?”
“Of course,” Phil replied, tightening his arms a bit before letting go to survey Dan’s face carefully. “Are you alright, though? You look a bit…?”
“I’m fine now, I just had an anxiety attack, which is why I called mum.” He let out a contented sigh when Phil brushed away Dan’s fringe to press a kiss to his forehead, the thing that he absolutely adored. “You make me feel better.”
Phil only smiled, kissing him and telling him how proud he was of Dan before dragging him to the lounge, stating that video games were another reason for living.
* * *
Soon, it was the twenty-fifth day and Dan was nervously wringing his hands whilst waiting for his mum to knock on the door. Phil tried to soothe him by making him tea and massaging his shoulders gently, but it didn’t really do much for his nerves other than making him crave Phil in every way possible.
Not exactly the kind of thing to be thinking about when about to see your mum.
The doorbell range, and Dan opened it to catapult himself into his mum’s arms. Her familiar scent of raspberries overcame him, making him let out a shaky breath at the realization of just how much he missed her.
“Daniel,” she murmured, kissing his cheek, having to stand on her toes to even do so. “I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too, mum,” Dan replied, letting her out of his grip with a final squeeze. He turned to Phil, gesturing for him to come over, getting lost in his beauty once again. “This is Phil. My… my…” He trailed off, unsure of what they were exactly. Friends with benefits? Boyfriends? Although he preferred the latter, he wasn’t sure what Phil wanted out of this. “My Phil,” he finally settled with, feeling his cheeks flame with the claim.
Phil was absolutely beaming, eyes crinkling at the sides, tongue peeking out between his teeth. Dan had the feeling like he was falling off of a cliff. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs Howell,” he said, shaking her hand, squeaking a bit when she yanked him into a hard embrace.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for my boy,” Mum breathed, and Dan could see the tears begin to well in her eyes. She winked at Dan behind Phil’s back, mouthing 'he’s cute’ with a huge grin, making Dan blush even harder.
He freaking loved his mum.
Phil padded over to him after breaking away from Dan’s mum. When she disappeared into the lounge, he leaned up to whisper in Dan’s ear. “Is family enough reason to stay alive?”
Dan snorted, but gave him a smirk. He supposed family was a good reason.
* * *
“Let’s go on a date,” Phil said on the twenty-seventh day, after claiming that smelly candles and pretty flowers were better than dying.
Dan choked on his coffee, sending it spurting onto his pants and chin, nearly shattering his mug at the proposal. Still trying to clear his lungs from the inhalation of liquid, he squeaked, “Excuse me?” while giving Phil a wide-eyed look.
Phil chucked and rubbed his back as if he could held dispose of the liquid in Dan’s lungs, pressing a kiss to Dan’s neck that made him shudder. He didn’t normally like people touching his neck, but Phil was an exception, he supposed. “I mean, we are already basically dating and I really like you, so do you want to go on a date? Today?”
“I- er… Yeah, when?”
Phil grinned, looking like an excited child. “Five, maybe? I was thinking about going on a picnic in the park and then to a movie?” He laughed lightly, sounding like chimes. “Cliche, I know, but you seem like the type of guy who enjoys romance and cheesy dates.”
Dan snorted, pushing him in a teasing way with a glare and a pout. “I do not,” he whined, crossing his arms over his chest, miming a temper tantrum. “Must you always antagonize me, Philip?”
“It’s what I’m here for, Daniel,” Phil teased back, winking before tackling Dan to the ground, pining him underneath Phil’s body. Dan let out a squeak of surprise, face growing ever red as Phil kissed both of his cheeks, forehead, nose, eyelashes, and finally his lips.
He was warm on top of Dan, and Dan let out a whimper as Phil trailed kisses down his chin and over the sensitive skin of his neck, biting and licking in just the right places, making Dan squirm. The brunette locked his fingers into onyx hair, an attempt to pull Phil back up so they were kissing properly again, Dan taking Phil’s bottom lip in his teeth, letting it ping back into place with a satisfying groan from the older man.
“We better stop,” Dan breathed between kisses. He felt lightheaded, his eyes holding stars in them from kissing Phil, and there was no doubt in his mind that he would be sporting hard on if he didn’t quit right now. “I don’t want to ravish you before our first date.”
Phil pulled back and grinned, helping Dan to his feet, smoothing his fringe out. “You should probably get ready for that date, I suppose.” He wrinkled his nose, looking like a cute mouse. “You smell.”
Cuffing Phil on the side of the head, Dan muttered playful insults under his breath until he made his way to the bathroom, starting up the shower. It was strange, honestly, how Phil’s house seemed more like home than Dan’s ever did. Where Dan’s flat was filled with dark furniture and bad memories, Phil’s was like a rainbow had puked in every corner, making the place welcoming and homey in a way that Dan’s never was.
Dan tried to remind himself as he rinsed his hair that growing attached to someone this soon was an awful idea, especially when dealing with depression as bad as his. He could feel himself growing more and more dependent on Phil with each passing day. Dan had a generally addictive personality in the first place, and Phil was the drug he couldn’t seem to wean himself off of. He didn’t particularly mind much, however, if he drowned in all that Phil was.
Three hours later, both men had finished getting ready and Phil was packing his finishing touch into a bag with a cat on it - the picnic 'basket’, apparently - complete with a bottle of sparkling grape juice because Dan should technically still not be having any alcohol.
They headed out and it was considerably warmer today than it had been in the last month, the sun warming Dan’s skin until he felt as if he were tingling all over. Phil’s own skin was absolutely glowing, making him look like a vampire prince with his shocking blue eyes.
Dan told him this, making him laugh loudly and reach over to take Dan’s hand in his own. “You don’t mind holding hands, do you?”
“Not at all,” Dan squeaked back, his skin warm where Phil’s was pressing against his own. It was nice, holding Phil’s hands like this, and Dan felt safe in his tight grip. He was so fucked.
They came to the park soon enough, and Phil set down a blanket under a large willow tree, gesturing for Dan to sit. He did, and watches as Phil began to pull out different types of sandwiches, a case of strawberries, some bananas, carrots, and finally the grape juice with little plastic Adventure Time cups.
“Look at us,” Phil mused, setting up the cups and pouring in the drink. “Being all romantic and crap.”
Dan snorted at him and rolled his eyes, although he was unable to stop the smile that edged its way to his lips. He hid it with a large bite of a ham and cheese sandwich, which admittedly tasted better than it normally would have. He didn’t stop to think if it was because Phil had made it.
“This is nice,” Dan commented, sighing as he sipped at his grape juice. “I’ve never been on a picnic date before.”
Phil smiled, reaching over to grab Dan’s hand, his heat seeming to flow into Dan’s body. Gingerly, Phil pressed kisses to each knuckle, making Dan feel light-headed. “Glad to be the first.”
Dan couldn’t deny how much he actually enjoyed Phil’s nerdiness and humor. It was refreshing to actually have someone be genuinely funny without being crude. Perhaps that’s why they were so dynamic together, because they were complete opposites.
Nobody really disturbed them, the breeze blowing through Dan’s hair and cooling his face, and all was quiet despite the occasional teenage girl that was a huge fan of Phil’s writing. Dan didn’t particularly mind though, especially when the girls eyed Dan quizzically until Phil introduced him as 'my Dan,’ throwing Dan into a fantasy cloud where the sky was screaming 'Phil’s Dan!’ in a high pitched voice. It made Dan want to stand up and shout, “SENPAI NOTICED ME” like a high school girl, but he figured that wouldn’t be very appropriate during a date.
After packing up, Phil brought Dan to a movie called Big Hero 6 that turned out to be one of the best films he’s ever had the pleasure of seeing. He didn’t know whether that was because of the fact that Phil’s arm was draped around his shoulders, fingers occasionally tangling into his brown hair, or because Phil had snapped a photo of them to tweet afterwards, typing out a message about how movies were better when seeing them with cute boys.
Either way, Dan would much rather be going on dates with Phil, eating crappy ham sandwiches and kissing in the back of the movie theater, than to not have lived to see it at all.
* * *
There is one more day left before Phil’s deal is over and done with, but Dan couldn’t care less at this point. He was instead focusing on the silky hair gripped between his hands, and the slender fingers cupped over his cheeks, lips against lips, teeth against skin. Dan couldn’t breathe.
Phil trailed open mouth kisses down his chin, tongue tracing the contours of Dan’s neck like he was some sort of food, biting down on his collar bone to leave a harsh red mark while Dan writhed beneath him, gripping at his shirt to pull over Phil’s head. Once both of their shirts were discarded on the floor somewhere irrelevant, Phil’s hands trailed delicately over Dan’s chest, leaving a trail of goose flesh behind at the gentle touches. Dan was sure he was on fire when Phil kissed down his bare chest, biting down on the sensitive skin of his stomach while Phil’s thumbs gently massaged his hipbones.
“Phil,” Dan moaned, pulling him back up to crash their lips together again. He needed Phil. He wanted this man with ever fibre of his being, with everything inside of him, and he was quivering with the want. “I need you.”
Kissing Dan’s forehead, Phil backed away to stare down at him with blue eyes filled with lust. It was the single most sexiest thing Dan’s ever seen. “Are you sure?” He asked, cupping Dan’s cheeks and kissing his jaw in a loving manner, like he was caressing a fragile object.
“Yes, oh God yes. I’ve never been more sure of anything else.” And he didn’t care that they were escalating too quickly, because they’ve known each other for nearly a month and things like time doesn’t matter when you’re in a choice between life or death. All that mattered was that they were both ready, feeling no doubt as to whether or not they wanted to take this next step together.
Phil grinned, burying his face into Dan’s neck while he trailed his hands down his torso, ending up at the waistband of Dan’s jeans. He dipped a thumb under them, somewhat teasing, before pulling back out and fumbling with Dan’s belt, his hands shaking so hard that Dan had to help him undo it.
“Are you alright?” Dan whispered, rubbing his hands over Phil’s shoulders, trying to soothe him a little bit.
“Of course,” Phil replied, smiling at him, and his hair was sticking up everywhere due to Dan running his hands through his hair. “I just want this to be perfect.”
“It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Dan was going to cringe later for letting something so cheesy come out of his mouth during such an intimate moment, but, “Every moment with you is already perfect.”
Phil absolutely beamed, kissing Dan’s stomach while he struggled with pulling off Dan’s jeans (thank you, skinny jeans, for the 'easy access’). When Dan was completely naked underneath him, Phil took a moment to look over him, his eyes grazing over the curves and dips of Dan’s body. “You’re so beautiful,” Phil breathed, taking off the rest of his own clothes and crawling back on top of his lover, making both of them groan at the skin on skin contact. He kissed Dan’s lips once more, his thumb grazing Dan’s cheekbone, before descending downwards. “I’m going to write a book about you.”
His hot breath on Dan’s thigh made him let out a sigh, feeling dizzy. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Phil rubbed his hands over Dan’s chest, his stomach, and his thighs, and Dan fucking needed him more than ever. “I’m going to call it 'Ethereal Joy,’ because you are my perfection.” And with that, he took Dan’s length into his mouth, forcing Dan to let out a literal squeal and to pull at his hair, making Phil chuckle around him, the vibrations tingling through Dan’s entire body.
Dan didn’t understand how Phil could feel this good, and he could hardly refrain himself from coming right then and there, so how would he deal when Phil was actually inside of him? “Oh my God,” Dan groaned, trying not to thrust into Phil’s mouth. Instead, he entangled his fingers into Phil’s black locks, entranced by Phil’s pretty lips stretched around him, blue eyes gleaming into his. “Enough foreplay, I want you now.”
Phil laughed, pulling off of him with a satisfying 'pop’. “Didn’t think you’d play the roll of a bossy bottom,” Phil snickered, reaching over to his bedside drawer and pulling out a small bottle of cherry lube, pouring some of the liquid on his fingers. “I’ve got to stretch you first.” Dan let out a groan because he just wanted to feel Phil inside of him already, but that turned into a moan as Phil pushed in the first finger.
“Fucking shit,” Dan hissed, enjoying the strange pleasure it brought him, thrusting down on Phil as he curled and uncurled his finger before putting in another. This one brought a bit more pain, but he adjusted quickly when Phil started to scissor his fingers, pressing small kisses to the inside of his thighs. “Okay, I’m ready,” Dan ordered when Phil finished putting in the last finger, making sure he was completely stretched and ready.
He saw Phil smirk a bit as he pulled out his fingers, slicking himself up with the perfect amount of lube that would assure Dan the least amount of pain. He leaned up to kiss Dan on the lips, tongues tangling together, when he began pushing in slowly, eliciting the girliest moan to spill from Dan’s mouth because holy fuck Phil was so big oh my God. It made Phil snicker above him, continuing to push in while nibbling on Dan’s collar bone. “Shut the - ah! - fuck up,” Dan hissed, his fingernails biting into Phil’s hips in an attempt to pull the older man closer.
Soon, the initial pain melted into pleasure and Dan was a panting mess underneath Phil, throwing his head back and letting out strings of curse words as Phil pounded into him, hitting his spot nearly every time. “Harder,” Dan moaned, enjoying the little grunts of pleasure spilling from Phil’s mouth. The bed slammed into the wall but neither really cared as Phil was already in far too deep. Literally.
There was that familiar feeling pooling in the pit of his stomach, so Dan’s hand stretched around himself, pumping in time with Phil’s thrusts. “Oh God, Phil!” Dan screamed as he spilled over, his eyes closing out of pure ecstasy while Phil continued to pound into his sensitive prostate. He barely noticed when Phil came inside of him until he let out Dan’s name in a choked voice, making Dan open to eyes and watch in awe as Phil dropped his head slightly, his lips parted, looking completely blissed out.
“Ugh,” Dan groaned when Phil collapsed on top of him, but he buried his face into Phil’s neck, not really caring that they were both sweaty because this was Phil and Dan could be himself around him.
They took a moment to restore their strength until Phil reached over to get a tissue to start cleaning their chests off. Phil curled into him after he threw away the soiled tissue, arm tightened over Dan’s torso. “Wouldn’t you rather have sex with me than be a ghost?”
Dan snorted and pinched Phil’s stomach. “Shut up,” he laughed, but Phil was right. He would choose this over death any day, as long as it was Phil he had beside him.
* * *
The sky was dark, the moon shining pleasantly overhead, showing off the stars that it adored so much. There were shadows casting on the ground, over Dan’s shoulders with the illumination, and it made his skin pale, but it was beautiful. In front of him was a 100 foot drop, which he sat on the edge of to allow his feet to dangle over, staring down into the abyss. He knew he should be afraid, but there was no fear in him, and he was not shaking.
It was exactly like that day one month ago, where he was planning to throw himself over the edge, prepared to end his life. Everything was exactly the same, except this time there was no rain and there was a beautiful man beside him with eyes that looked like the ocean and hair as dark as the night sky above them who made Dan feel like he meant something to the world.
“It’s been thirty days,” Phil murmured, sitting beside him and casting his face to the sky. Their fingers touched ever so slightly, just a ghost of a caress on the pavement where they sat.
“It has,” Dan commented, following Phil’s gaze to the moon, but immediately flickering back to the older man’s face, instead watching the stars in his blue eyes, how they sparkled with life and fire. “I’m still depressed, Phil. I don’t think that’s going to change for a while. It’s been like this for ten years and there are days where I would rather die than to live another day.”
Phil’s lips curved down into a sad smile, and his eyes were glimmering and Dan didn’t want Phil to be sad. He opened his mouth to go on but Phil beat him to it, his voice soft in the darkness between them. “When people typically kill themselves, it’s usually because they don’t think anyone would care for them if they were gone, or because they think they don’t deserve to live one more day. They think their story is over right then, but that’s not right. Just because that chapter of you life is over, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your story.”
“You changed me, you know,” Dan continued, his words ringing in his mind. He locked their fingers together, relishing in the warmth of Phil’s hand in his. “A month ago, I didn’t see any reason to live. I was tired all the time and I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t even smile without feeling like I was lying to myself. And this past month, it’s been really fucking hard but I was able to do it because you were beside me, leading me and giving me stupid reasons to live. But if I had to do it again and choose whether to jump off this damn bridge or to let you show me why it’s worth living another day, I would choose you every time. Because even though I’m still depressed, I know I’ll be happy one day.”
Phil turned to him, and there were tears falling down his face, the biggest smile gracing his lips. He lunged forward, wrapping his arms around Dan so tightly that it was hard to breathe. Dan let out a small sob, burying his nose into Phil’s neck. Phil’s fingers reached under his chin to bring his face up, locking their lips together almost immediately. “Hey, Dan?” Phil breathed against his lips, his breath tickling Dan’s face.
“I think I know what your thirtieth reason is.” He pulled away to look Dan in the eyes, and his face was slightly pink under the moonlight and he was so beautiful. “Falling in love.”
Dan’s eyes widened, his mouth falling open. “What?”
“I know it’s been a short amount of time, but it’s true.” He looked sheepish and Dan didn’t like that look on him because he should always be confident in what he was saying. “I’m falling in love with you and it’s a wonderful feeling so that’s your thirtieth reason to be alive.”
Dan reached up and cupped Phil’s face in his hands, kissing him hard. He could feel Phil’s heartbeat in time with his own, and they were both shaking slightly, but that didn’t matter. His chest felt like it was constricted with beautiful flowers and Phil was right in front of him and everything was alight around them. “I’m falling in love with you too, Phil.”
And so maybe Dan wasn’t okay, and he probably wouldn’t be for a while because happiness takes longer than thirty days to find, but he would get there eventually. As Phil said, that chapter of Dan’s life was done and he was only preparing for the next. Dan’s story isn’t over yet.