There is no hell like being in a convention center full of screaming teenagers when your skull feels like it's actually about to split in two. This one's been slow coming on, starting with the feeling of waking up exhausted and followed a short while later by spots in his field of vision. He's taken every precaution he can afford to try and head it off but the medicine isn't holding up against the crowd and the lights and the sound level.
Dan's being amazing. He always steps up in moments like this, making sure Phil's remembering to take his medicine as often as he's allowed, getting him water or whatever Phil decides might help, finding the quietest place in a room for Phil to sit, accepting it in stride when Phil snaps at him.
There's not much he can do right now when they've got three hundred people left in line, though. Phil's smile is tight and he can feel the sweat prickling along his forehead and the back of his neck. His hugs are halfhearted, but no one seems to mind. (They're still a sight better than Dan's, after all.)
"You all right?" Dan leans in to check every ten or fifteen people.
Phil's stopped responding in words, just a terse nod. He's never been so grateful to see the last people walking forward.
"No," he finally admits. "But we're almost done."
If the girls notice Dan taking extra time with them to keep them from crowding Phil, they don't seem to mind. By the time they walk away, he's got one hand on the table as if he needs it to support his weight.
Dan doesn't touch him until they're safely behind the curtains, then he puts a hand on the small of Phil's back. Phil sighs deeply, eyes shut for a blissful moment, leaning into Dan's weight. "I need to go to the room."
"Of course," Dan says, and the next twenty minutes are a blur to Phil. Later, he'll distantly remember some people stopping them to talk, but not what was said. He just knows that by the time they make it to their room he could cry with how relieved he is.
Dan keeps the lights off and walks over to the curtains right away, drawing them as firmly shut as he can. The room is cast in relative darkness. Phil goes straight to the bed, curling up in fetal position without his head even on a pillow.
It's not that the dark and the quiet make the pain any less, but it stops spiking worse and hits more of a level sort of ache. He feels like he can breathe again.
He feels a warm grip on his ankle, squeezing reassuringly before Dan starts to remove his shoes. "Shower or sleep?" Dan asks while he goes about undressing Phil.
A cold shower can help sometimes, but right now Phil isn't sure he could even make it there. "Sleep," he says. "Or try to."
He feels like he's talking through molasses.
His stomach has been rolling for the past hour and he may end up having to relocate to the bathroom anyway, if the nausea doesn't relent before he manages to fall asleep.
"Dan," he says. He's not even really sure why.
"Right here. Can you sit up for me?" Dan talks in a low whisper as he guides Phil into a sitting position. He tugs Phil's shirt over his head and tosses it aside. "Want a clean one?"
Phil shakes his head. The air feels good on his clammy skin. He feels Dan get off of the bed and go into the bathroom, shutting the door firmly before he turns on the light. The sound of water running is muted through the walls and when Dan comes back it’s with a damp, cold towel he lays over Phil’s head. Phil moans a little at at the relief it brings.
He'd make a joke about Dan being a good husband after all, if he had any strength to use his voice. It's true, though; they're inching that way but moments like this where Dan's care and concern and love shine through in his actions convince Phil even more that he's going to marry this boy and never let him go.
"Do you want me to stay or go?" Dan asks. "We're supposed to meet Joe and Louise at the restaurant in a half hour. I can cancel completely if you want some company, or I can get out of your way for a bit."
He'd like Dan to stay, but he also knows what a punishment that would be for Dan, forced to sit in a dark silent room while Phil sleeps the worst of this off.
"Go," Phil says, finding Dan's hand on the bed. "But come back."
Something about that doesn't quite make sense, but Dan understands it all the same. He squeezes Phil's hand back, then leans over to kiss him on the cheek. "Always do, don't I?"
“Phil?” Dan calls out.
Phil cringes. He was somehow hoping he might escape the next half hour or so without Dan actually coming out of the office. But, no. Of course not. Dan’s out of his office and looking for phil and Phil is… indisposed.
“Phil?” Dan shouts again, voice more concerned - and closer - this time.
Phil sighs and shouts back, “In here.”
Dan’s footsteps come to a stop just outside the door. “Oh - you all right? It’s been a while.”
“Ah… no,” Phil admits, and leaves it at that. Because… well. It’s not the first time.
Dan proves what a heartless soul he is by laughing.
"What was it this time?" Dan calls out through the closed door that separates him from Phil. "What dastardly dairy-laden deliciousness caused this?"
"Shut up," Phil whines, perched on the toilet. His arms are crossed over his knees and he's leaning forward miserably. "I hate you."
"No, you don't," Dan happily responds. "But your stomach hates lactose and yet you insist-"
"Dan." Phil's voice trembles halfway through. "Not now, okay?"
Dan sighs. "Fine, but when you're feeling better I'm going to remind you of your misery at this exact moment."
Ten minutes later, legs wobbly and stomach still cramping, Phil leaves the toilet and walks straight into the lounge. He lays down on the sofa with his head against a cushion and his legs across Dan's lap.
"I was using that spot," Dan says, even as he relocates his computer to the arm of the sofa.
"I feel awful." Phil moans, squinching his face up. "I had a milkshake when I went out to meet with Martyn earlier. Why doesn't this ever happen to him? We have the same genetics."
"Ah, but he got to them first," Dan says. He scoots himself over until he's closer to the middle of the couch, his lap a prop for Phil's thighs. He tugs Phil's shirt up, rubbing his hand in slow, soothing circles over Phil's tummy. Phil has to take a moment to figure out if it feels good or not, but in the end he decides it isn’t hurting and he likes the affection. "And he took all the good genes, like the milkshake-drinking ones."
"I hate him," Phil whines. As a sign of slight gratitude for Dan's coddling he adds, "Feels good."
"Hate the game, not the player." Dan tells him. "I say this as a certified older brother who definitely got the better looking genes."
"I'm telling your brother you said that," Phil says.
"No, you won't," Dan says. "Because it's too true and you wouldn't want to hurt his feelings."
“Someone’s awfully smug.”
“I might be nicer if you’d brought me back something earlier.”
“Dan, you’re not a five year old. You don’t need a present every time I’m away from home for more than a few hours.”
“Says you.” Dan sulks. “I like presents. And you’re a meanie who deserves his pain.”
"You're a poohead." It's not Phil's finest comeback, but this is also not his finest hour so he can't be bothered to try harder.
"Do you really want to talk about poo right now?" Dan smirks.
Phil scrunches his face up again. "Ugh."
Phil keeps his glasses off for sex, but sometimes he suggests just blowjobs or handjobs so he can leave them on. He doesn't like wearing his contacts when they fool around, because he gets headaches after sex sometimes and the contacts just make the pain worse. (And yeah, it's a mood killer for sure, but the silver lining is that Dan usually feels guilty enough that he'll spoil Phil rotten for a day afterward.)
It's double-edged goodness; he can see Dan, which is nice for him, and it's nice for Dan because Dan makes no secret of thinking Phil looks hot when he wears them.
Dan asked him once what it was like to have sex without being able to see.
"Colorful," Phil says. "And blurry."
Which is true; but there's also something else about it, something almost fascinating in the way he focuses more on his other senses when he's not distracted by looking at Dan's face. Dan's noises are certainly worthy of his full concentration. His hands, his mouth, the tactile experience is more than enough to satisfy Phil.
But sometimes he just wants to see, too. Sometimes he wants to be able to roll over and have a go with Dan first thing in the morning and not have to fumble for glasses that won't stay on his face properly anyway, or get out of bed to put his contacts in. It's digging at him more the older he gets, the more he feels like it's an inconvenience.
Dan probably doesn't know that about once a month, Phil opens a specific set of bookmarked websites on his computer. It's usually when Dan's not around, because as much as Dan's opinion matters Phil sometimes likes to have a handle on something before he brings it up. He's thinking of laser surgery for his eyes. It's been almost a year and Phil still hasn't decided. He can't quite talk himself into giving up the idea, but he can't bring himself to commit to it either.
So, he waits until they're in bed one night and opens the website, pushing his laptop into Dan's lap to show him. "What if I did this?"
Dan looks at the website for a second and then says, "Send me the link?"
Phil knows exactly what Dan is going to do, because he knows how Dan works inside and out. Sure enough Dan takes the link and comes back a day later a virtual expert on the subject because he’s done nothing but read about it, and look at forum posts and articles and learned the everything the procedure entails and all the possible outcomes and side effects.
They talk about it, and Phil gets all the perspective he hasn’t been able to find lost inside his own mind. Dan points out that there’s potential for Phil’s vision to get worse if it goes wrong. He points out that most of the time Phil seems okay with contacts. He points out that Phil doesn’t need to rush into it either way, that he’s fine with whatever Phil decides but he doesn’t want Phil to have any regrets.
(He also asks Phil if if they can do that one thing he’s always wanted to do where he comes on Phil’s face while Phil is wearing them before Phil ditches them totally. Phil has never actually let him do that before, always claiming it'd be way too hard to clean them after and he'd feel weird wearing them around knowing they'd been defiled.)
In the end, Phil decides to wait, for a lot of reasons but mostly because he wakes up one hazy morning and to Dan asleep beside him, mouth open and hair curling a little from night sweat, messy and imperfect and beautiful. And Phil realizes that the way he sees right now might not be perfect but as long as he can open his eyes to moments like this, he can live with it.
"We don't have to do this," Dan says for the eleventh time since they signed on to host another pet adoption segment for BBC radio. "You can just say you're allergic, they'll understand."
"I want to," Phil insists. "I took medicine, I'll be fine."
"You took medicine last time, too, and you still sounded like you were Darth Vader's asthmatic cousin for an entire night after." Dan shrugs, giving a very shoddy pretense of being casual about it. "I just think it's a bad idea, is all."
"And I think it'll be just fine," Phil says firmly.
"Fine, ignore me. I'll just be the one checking to make sure you're still breathing all night long," Dan grumbles.
"I'm going to blacklist the word 'allergies' from your entire internet," Phil threatens.
He goes through this or something similar at least once a month with Dan. Because Dan, as it turns out, is sort of a hypochondriac - only, for Phil, not himself. Sometimes it's endearing how Dan gives no fucks about his own health but fusses over Phil like a mother hen. Usually it's just annoying.
"There's no way to blacklist something from the entire internet," Dan says. "Trust me, I've tried."
While Phil is mildly curious, he's also aware enough to know that if Dan isn't volunteering more information there's probably a reason.
Three hours later, they walk out.
Phil feels like he's trying to breathe through wool and his eyes are burning and his throat is scratchy. But he is breathing, and he knows it would be ten times worse if he hadn't taken the medicine beforehand.
He's not that worried. But Dan is. They grab a cab back to their flat instead of taking the tube like they normally would.
"Stop that," Phil says for the tenth time, batting Dan's hand away from where it keeps hovering like he's prepared for Phil to fall out on the ground in front of him. "I'm fine."
"You don't know that," Dan says, letting them in. "Asthma-"
"I am not asthmatic." Phil points out.
"But you could be. Allergies can trigger-"
Phil walks past Dan, up the stairs and into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He hears Dan’s footsteps follow him but stop just outside.
There’s an audible sigh then the sound of Dan going into his bedroom.
"How are you going to handle when we actually get a pet?" Phil asks. He stands in Dan’s doorway for a moment before crossing over to his bed. He tried to nap, tried to kill some time on the internet, but when things are tense with Dan - even in these tiny little ways - everything else just feels off. "Are you going to wake me up five times a night to make sure I'm still breathing?"
"You aren't allergic to dogs," Dan immediately responds. He’s sitting at his computer staring at a screen that may eventually contain a scripted video, but right now is just blank. Apparently he’s about as as Phil at being productive when they’re fighting. “I’ve seen you around them plenty of times and you’re fine.”
"What if I wanted a cat?" Phil knows he’s being argumentative for no good reason, except that being around the animals really did make him feel like crap and he hates that Dan was right. He’s just too stubborn to tell Dan he was right, and he’s definitely too stubborn to give in and let Dan fuss a little and get it out of his system. "I might want a cat."
"Then we'll get a hairless one," Dan says.
It's on the tip of his tongue to say that maybe he was talking about himself getting one, not them. But he holds that in because it would be spiteful and untrue, and he knows those are the little things that cut Dan deeply. Phil might be in a bad mood but he never enjoys hurting Dan like that. He does it often enough when he doesn't mean to. So he goes with an affronted, "They look like aliens!" instead.
"You look like an alien, it's a good match.” Dan finally looks over at Phil. He’s joking, or trying to, but he looks wary about it.
“Dan…” Phil sighs.
"I just get mad at you," Dan turns in his chair. "When you do things that you know are gonna hurt you."
"That doesn't even make any sense." Phil lays his head down on the pillow. He really is so tired. Fighting with Dan makes him tired. “I know it won’t hurt me that much, and it’s my decision to make.”
"Maybe I have issues with things I can't control,” Dan says.
Phil almost laughs. He kind of does. "You don't say?"
"And there's a lot that I can't- I can’t control.” Dan is still looking at him, Phil can tell, but Phil isn’t looking back. “I can't stop you getting ill, I can't stop a bus from hitting you on the street, I can't stop a plane from crashing or-"
"Dan." Phil interrupts him. "That's depressing."
"My point is, I can't stop any of those things, and they fucking terrify me. But there are some things that could be stopped, like you dying of a fucking asthma attack because you can't resist cuddling kittens when you know what it does to you."
"I won't die from that, Dan." Phil rubs his eyes. They still hurt. "I can handle a little bit of discomfort."
"Well, maybe I can't."
"It's not your discomfort to handle. Why can't you just-"
"Just what?" Dan asks. The bed dips beside Phil and he turns toward Dan, because even if Dan's suffocating him with worry and Phil feels like being a little bit of a prick about it, he'll always turn to Dan.
Phil sighs. "I don't know." He feels Dan's head rest against his shoulder and reaches a hand up to stroke through his hair. "I'm tired. Can we just take a nap?"
Dan's arm snakes over Phil's waist. Phil turns to kiss his forehead. "Please."
Phil's just about to drift off when Dan says, "Your breathing sounds better."
He feels his annoyance rise again, realizing that Dan probably only wanted to lay this way just to check it. But he's drowsy and he can breathe easier and Dan's room is nice and dark in just the way Phil loves, so he decides to let it go.
"Did you know that some doctors think motion sickness is really a sign that your body is more advanced in an evolutionary way?" Dan says. He's reading straight off of Wikipedia in an attempt to make it look like random knowledge he carries with him.
Phil is unamused by the trivia. There’s a headache prickling behind his eyes and his stomach is rolling, a steady lowgrade upset that has him breathing shallow and careful. He’s trying avoid this car ride becoming as unpleasant for everyone else as it is for him.
His problem, he thinks, is that he slipped into a false sense of security somewhere along the way. The van proved so doable that he thought he might have somehow overcome this issue. He was naive, and the universe is making sure he knows that now. Maybe he and the van did strike up some kind of spiritual bond, but the van is currently sitting on two flat tires and this rental feels no such connection to him.
“Would laying down help?” Dan asks quietly. The vehicle they’re in is still a roomy one meant to seat eight, though only six of them are actually in it. Martyn and Cornelia are in the seats in front of them, with the tour manager and one of their assistants in the front. Everyone else is in the second rental car behind them.
“I don’t know.” Phil can barely get the words out without clamping his mouth shut. He closes his eyes too and he can hear Dan moving around beside him. When he opens them again Dan’s positioned a bag by Phil.
Phil’s still holding out some hope that he won’t actually have to use it. He leans his head against Dan gratefully. He’s also considering Dan’s offer, something he’d normally never do. But sitting upright feels like a losing battle and he must show the defeat in his eyes because Dan moves as far over as he can and grabs Phil’s pillow, putting it on his thighs. Phil lays down, turning so that his face is pressed into Dan’s stomach and his eyes are closed again.
Dan’s fingers start to stroke through his hair. “You’re okay,” he whispers.
He must not be as quiet as he means to be, because Phil can hear Cornelia ask, “Is he all right?”
“I sincerely hope so or I’ll have a brand new story about how my jeans got wrecked,” Dan jokes.
Phil pokes him weakly in the side. Dan goes back to petting his hair in apology. “‘m ok,” Phil says. “Down is better.”
And it is. He still feels wretched but the nausea abates and he thinks as long as he can stay just like this he’ll make it through okay.
“Anything we can do?” she asks. “Phil, you need anything?”
"This one time when we were kids on a family trip, he got sick all over-" Martyn starts to say.
Phil starts to turn green at the memory and shoots Dan a pleading look.
"Uh, ix-nay on the omit-vay stories, please?" Dan quickly says. It's really in his best interest now, too.
Cornelia must pinch or hit Martyn because he yelps. Then she asks, “Phil, you need anything? Us to pull over?”
He’s trying to work up the energy to respond when Dan does it for him.
“Shout up that we need to stop at the next store,” Dan says. “He does better with something ginger in his stomach, and some headache tablets.”
Phil grabs Dan’s other hand, pulling it to his mouth and kissing his fingertips. He hears Cornelia aww and is embarrassed because he hadn’t thought she’d actually been looking, but decides he doesn’t really care anyway.
Once they’ve made their stop and he’s swallowed a few sips of something fizzy and ginger along with medicine for his head, he lays back down. “Just your human pillow, am I?” Dan asks fondly.
“All you’re good for, really.” Phil’s face draws into a wince as the car starts back again. He closes his eyes and turns into Dan again, pressing closer this time, winding one arm around Dan’s waist and under his shirt to touch bare skin.
Nothing is more soothing to him than just this, feeling all wrapped up in Dan. He manages to fall into a proper sleep, not waking up until Dan’s shaking him gently. He sits up blearily and realizes they’re in the car park of the hotel they’ll be at for the night.
“Wow,” he says, rubbing his eyes. “How long-”
“Two hours.” Dan gets out of the car, leaving the door open for Phil to follow. He stretches his long body and then stumbles, grabbing at the frame of the car. He uses one hand to rub at his thighs while the other keeps him steady. “Legs fell asleep about an hour back.”
Phil frowns. “You should have woken me, I could have moved.”
“You were better off sleeping,” Dan says off-handedly, like it’s just nothing at all that he’ll sit in discomfort to spare Phil the same.
If they were alone, Phil would answer in a different way. He’d tell Dan he loved him, give him a kiss, a great big hug, maybe a blowjob. But there are a dozen people milling around and most of them have probably picked up a few suspicions from the one hotel room and general closeness, but none of them know and that makes a difference. So, he doesn’t do any of those things, just gives Dan a smile and squeezes his arm briefly as he stands, resolving to make it up to him later.