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i thought of angels

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I can’t believe I’m actually writing this. I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea, but here I am. This was your favourite pen when we still lived together. I still don’t know why it’s your favorite. I always thought it was ridiculous that you had favourite pens, but I loved it.

I really don’t know why this happened, or if we can ever patch this up. If we do, it’ll sure as hell leave some scars.

Dan doesn’t remember when it started. He only knows that it’s been happening for weeks, so slowly it’s been almost imperceptible until now, and he doesn’t know what to do. The thing that he and Phil have created between them is fucking falling apart, ripping away at the seams, bursting under their feet, and he can’t think of a way to fix it.

They’ve been off for so, so long. They woke up hours ago today and they still haven’t exchanged a word. It’s been a slow, maddening descent from the easy warm comfort they had around each other just a couple months ago, and Dan wants it back, but he has yet to bring it up, and he’s had so many opportunities. They were sat in the same room for ages earlier, on opposite sides of the couch, with their respective laptops on their laps, and a word hadn’t passed his lips.

Dan had signed out of his email briefly earlier and seen that Phil’s account was one of the other ones saved on his computer, and he was struck with the sudden knowledge that he could delete every single thing Phil had ever posted.

That was trust, he thought―putting the key to your livelihood in someone else’s hands.

Phil had been the only thing keeping him alive for awhile. He’d kept him alive for such a long time while Dan found his footing again, dug himself out of the mess he’d gotten himself into, but it’s nearly 2016 now and those memories are tucked away somewhere deep inside his head and this is different. This isn’t just him and his fucked-up life. He has another person to contend with now, another person with feelings and a fucked-up life and, hopefully, just as deep-seated a confusion as he does.

Maybe, if Phil’s equally as unsure about this whole thing, there’s a chance of being able to snatch the fraying edges of their lives together from midair and stitch them back into one piece.

It feels a bit like this entire thing hinges on Dan’s ability to speak up, and though he’s managed to come to terms with that fact, he’s never been good at actually doing that kind of thing.

He doesn’t know what he’s going to do.

Last night you said it’s not your fault that we fell apart. I don’t believe you, but I don’t think you’re lying either. I think someone started it and we’re never going to remember who it was, and so we’re just going to have to accept that maybe we’ll never know and that we’ll just have to move on, or some shit like that.

I really don’t know why this happened, and I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t know the things you’ve done, but I can guess from the way you looked when you came home at three am. You’re asleep now, and the sun’s kind of up but not really, and your hair’s all curly and it’s making me miss 2009, and your clingy-ass self and how much we were in love.

It starts with a broken mug.

Dan swears and skitters back from the remains scattered across the floor. Phil glances up. “Which one was that?”

“The Daddy mug,” Dan half-laughs, crouching and picking up a couple of the biggest shards. He’s had a love-hate relationship with the piece of kitchenware ever since he’d had to go fetch it from the eight AM postman. It was months ago, but his grudge against early bird Amazon employees still holds strong.

“I liked that one!” Phil groans, setting his laptop aside and standing up to go fetch the dustpan. Dan scoffs.

“Does it really matter?”

“Kind of,” Phil mutters, shuffling over the kitchen floor and tapping him lightly on the shoulder with the dustpan, passing it over as soon as Dan looks up. “Good memories connected with that word, you know.”

“You’re horrifying,” Dan replies. It’s not until that night, when Phil merely kisses the corner of his mouth before bed and doesn’t try to pursue a thing more, despite the fact that they haven’t gotten off together for nearly three days, that he starts having second thoughts. He can’t remember having second-guessed anything he and Phil have said to each other in a long time, and yet here he is lying in bed beside his best friend wondering if they’re still in love.

He’s a fucking mess with things like this. He always has been, if he’s being perfectly honest with himself, a mess that doesn’t deserve the kind of love it’s been given and had questioned literally everything good in his life for years on end and has fallen down several terrible times and just. Doesn’t fucking know what to do.

He wants to roll over and cuddle Phil until he falls asleep, but he doesn’t, why doesn’t he, because he’s blown everything bad up into terrifying disproportions and he always does this but he can’t stop the shadows bouncing off the inside of his skull and he can’t stop himself from spiraling down for the first time in months and fuck.

He barely sleeps that night.

People say you fall into love. I think that’s accurate, but it feels a bit more like flying because you’ve usually got someone else to fall with. When you fall out of love, you’re falling on your own and it’s terrifying and I had hoped that I’d never feel this way about you.

I’m falling on my own now.

He hasn’t spoken to Phil all day, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, so he goes out and drinks.

He’s always fluctuated between preferring to nurse a single drink for an entire night and throwing back as many shots as he can possibly stomach. Tonight he starts somewhere in between, but it’s definitely careening towards the get as hammered as you can as fast as you can kind of night.

The first time he took shots they tasted like dreams. Tonight, they really don’t. They taste like wasted kisses and forgetting and he’s downed enough that everything in the pub is starting to look rosy round the edges. He orders another round and savors the salt on his tongue.

He doesn’t need Phil. He never needed Phil. That’s a lie, he’s lying to himself, he needs Phil desperately, he’s needed Phil for a long time, but he can pretend and he can take his own shots and pay for his own drinks and chat up his own people. There are women and men aplenty here, and he’s drunk enough that the possibility of rejection just forgets to cross his mind.

He runs into some girl on the dance floor―she’s tall with her heels and short without, dark hair and lips alike―and goes back to her house. She pushes him up against the inside of her door and bites down on his lower lip, and he can’t help moaning when her hand slips between his legs and squeezes.

He hasn’t fucked a girl in a long time. He’s nearly forgotten what it’s like, but he remembers his way around fairly quickly. She’s wearing some kind of lacy lingerie that he gets out of the way fast enough and goes down on her in a fairly perfunctory manner, bringing her to her first orgasm in a minute or two. He’s never really liked the taste of pussy, and he wipes the back of hand roughly across his mouth before he clambers back up and kisses her.

Nothing sparks, not like it does when Phil kisses him. He ignores it and guides her hand down again and she gets the hint quickly enough, yanking his stupid tight jeans and pants off over his arse at the same time and wrapping slender fingers around his dick, giving a series of short tugs and coaxing him all the way up.

“Condom?” he asks, his voice thick with arousal and alcohol, and she grins and fishes a box of them out of her bedside table, her cleavage even more apparent when she twists to the side. She pushes him down onto his back and rolls the rubber on carefully, ducking down and pressing a couple of open-mouthed kisses to the underside of his cock, and he twists his fingers in the bedsheets and thinks briefly about a different head with much shorter dark hair bobbing between his legs.

When she swings a leg over his hips he tenses, and when she sinks down onto him he gasps, and she splays her fingers against his ribcage and rocks back and forth in the cradle of his hips. At some point, he rolls them over and fucks into her as hard as he can until they both come. It feels good, but even through his drunken thoughts, he can tell that something’s not right, and he doesn’t meet her eyes as he pulls out and tosses the condom before yanking his clothes back on.

“You’re not staying? I can pay for a ride back to your place in the morning,” she says from the bed―he never asked her name―hope tinging her voice, and he shakes his head.

“I’d better―I should probably just―”

“Okay,” she replies, a little downcast maybe, but not upset. “Stay safe, honey.”

He doesn’t reply as he hurries out of the door, pulling his jacket back over his shoulders and tucking his chin into his collar as he escapes into the frigid nighttime London air. He wonders briefly if he should bother trying to catch a taxi―but he’s positive he still looks drunk, and probably sounds like it too―and walks until his feet are sore.

This sounds a lot like poetry and it really isn’t. I’ve never been a poet and I never will be. All I can do is edit in awkward segues and tease you on camera and once upon a time I could tease you off-camera too, but there’ve been days when we don’t say a word to each other and it’s breaking my heart.

Actually, no. It’s already broken my heart. I’m in a whole lot of pieces right now. I’ve been this way before, and I hate it and getting out of it never works the same way twice. I don’t know what I’m going to do, much less what we’re going to do.

Phil leans over and kisses him spontaneously on the sofa, Adventure Time playing in the background, and Dan makes a surprised noise against his mouth and giggles slightly, tugging him in closer. He’s warm and heavy and insistent, his hands sliding under Dan’s shirt before wandering south and groping at his arse.

The broken mug is nearly a week in the past. It’s managed to make itself a home in the back corner of his mind, but Phil’s got Dan’s bottom lip in his mouth and is sucking slowly and he’s kind of forgotten how to think.

“You up for this?” Phil breathes, breaking away to feather kisses over Dan’s face, and he hums an affirmation.

Phil glances up and grins at him, pressing a brief kiss to the corner of his mouth. His lips wander a bit, sneaking down the line of his throat, pausing at his collarbone. Dan buries his fingers Phil’s hair and pulls him down, and Phil takes the hint and latches on. There’s a hint of teeth and Dan gasps, unsure whether to tug him closer or push him away.

Phil doesn’t stop at one, but sucks two more bruises onto Dan’s collarbone. Dan’s melting by the time he’s finished, and can’t help but gasp when Phil rucks his shirt up to his chest and lays a trail of kisses down his stomach.

“Okay, Dan?” he murmurs, his bottom lip brushing the waistband of Dan’s boxers. Dan swallows and nods and Phil undoes the fly of his jeans, mouthing at him through his boxers. It’s hot and damp and gentle and absolutely fucking torturous, but they do this often enough that he thinks he can handle it a little longer.

Phil’s fingers sneak up and under and he grips Dan’s arse, pulling him down. Dan’s knees settle over Phil’s shoulders, and he whimpers. He has a deep love-hate relationship with this position―it’s so fucking vulnerable and so fucking hot―but, for now, he closes his eyes and tips his head back.

Phil takes his sweet goddamn time getting Dan’s pants thoroughly damp with saliva and arousal. When he finally pulls them down, Dan sucks in a sharp breath at sudden chill of the air on wet skin before choking back a moan when Phil’s lips close over the head of his cock.

It’s quick enough, he’s worked up and Phil is patient and stoic and builds up a flawless rhythm until Dan bucks into his mouth, thighs trembling, pulsing on Phil’s tongue. As he comes down from his high, still shivering slightly, Phil pulls off and touches his lips with his fingertips.

“Come here,” he says, gesturing Dan into a sitting position, and once he’s in reach they’re kissing, sloppy and warm with hands all over. At some point, Phil tugs Dan’s hand between his legs and Dan jerks him off hard and fast and lets Phil bury his face in his shoulder when he comes over his knuckles.

In 2009, they would have cuddled until they fell asleep despite the mess between them, but now Phil leaves him with one last kiss and disappears into the bathroom to clean himself up. Dan slumps back onto the couch, physically satisfied and practically syrup, but something cold and heavy and nauseating is still lingering in the pit of his stomach.

He wants to scream, or possibly punch something, but he doesn’t. He just sits there and grips the sofa cushion until his knuckles are white with tension and when Phil returns, in a clean shirt and his hair back to normal, Dan lets himself be held, and tries not to think.

You were always better at this sort of thing, articulating your thoughts so people can actually understand you. Your liveshows were always better than mine. I watched them a lot, probably too much. You always comment on how you end up “waffling”, but from what I’ve heard, it’s anything but.

Sometimes I can watch you, but sometimes I can’t, and I don’t know the things you’ve done, but I can guess, and none of those guesses are anything good. You went out drinking so often back in 2012. This almost feels worse than that because neither of us has any idea why this happened. We’ve both made a lot of mistakes.

Dan’s clothes feel filthy against his skin, and he keeps tripping over the undone laces of his right shoe. It’s just past three in the morning, according to his phone, as he stumbles up the stairs and fumbles with the door,

He’s still a bit tipsy as he tries to open the door quietly, but it sticks for a second and he shoves it with his shoulder and it flies open and bangs against the opposite wall, and he freezes in the doorway, listening hard.


Phil shuffles out into the hallway in a pair of pajama pants and an old stretched-out, faded T-shirt that Dan remembers from six years ago and stops. They’re seven feet apart and Dan can feel the tension and the prickling heat.

“Did you have fun?” Phil asks, and it sounds so fucking forced that Dan has to stifle a laugh.

“No,” he replies coldly, and strides forward, pushing past Phil and heading for the kitchen. He resists the urge to punch the glass door and watch it shatter, landing in glittering pieces on the carpet like a barrier so Phil can’t get to him.

He leans against the counter, running his hands through his hair before letting them drop, and Phil props himself up on the doorframe and doesn’t say a word. They’re silent for a long time, Dan staring at his fingers and wondering what to say before Phil says “I can’t do this anymore.”

“Oh, you’re just telling me now, are you?” Dan half-laughs, his voice dripping with sarcasm and incredulity. Looking up is suddenly the easiest thing in the world because anger is burning away the sticky horrible feeling that’s tightening his throat and his chest and his fingertips. Phil looks haggard and needs a shave and his shoulders are concave in a way that looks more like hopelessness than bad posture, and Dan wants to scream his anger and confusion and hug him at the same time.

“What happened? Dan, what the hell happened to us?” Phil chokes out, and Dan clenches his fist.

“I don’t fucking know!” he yells, his voice tearing at the inside of his throat. “I don’t know who started this and I don’t know how to fix it, and I can’t do it anymore either!”

“Is it my fault?” Phil asks, suddenly so fucking quiet and pitiful and sad that Dan wants to hit him.

“Maybe it fucking is, okay?” he says, almost shouting, taking half a step towards Phil, clutching the hem of his jacket. His fingernails are digging into the meat of his palms. He doesn’t care.

“What did I do?” Phil bursts out, halfway to shouting, and Dan buries his face in his hands again.

“This is such a fucking mess. This is such a mess, I don’t―”

“What if it’s not my fault, Dan?” Phil hisses, his tone turned low and vicious. “What if it’s yours? What if you’re the reason it feels like we don’t know each other, the reason you never touch me or talk to me anymore? What if this is all in your head and I’m just trying to work through it and you’re the reason we’re not us anymore?”

Dan lets out a strangled noise and resolves not to cry. He won’t shed a tear in front of Phil, not tonight.

“I don’t know what I fucking did, Phil. I don’t know. I don’t know whose fault this is, but it isn’t fucking mine, and―”

“I never wanted this to happen, Dan. I never did a thing.”

“That’s exactly it!” Dan screams, slamming his right hand down onto the counter. It sends a jolt up his arm and jars his bones in their sockets, and he bites his lip before glaring down at the floor and continuing. “You never did a fucking thing, Phil. You never even tried because you didn’t want this to happen, and I really―” he swallows viciously, the pressure of anger and hate and honest, raw grief in his throat nearly making it nearly impossible. “I really can’t blame you.”

There’s a moment of silence before Phil manages a sound. “Why?”

“Because I did the same damn thing.” He swallows again. It’s not any easier this time. “I thought about it nearly every day and I tried to say something, but I never did. It’s not your fault. You were just as confused as me. This is why I can’t keep the good things.” He looks up and locks eyes with Phil, the wavering, faltering intensity of it making his throat tighten yet again. His voice is almost swallowed by a sob when he speaks again.

“I don’t fucking deserve this, Phil.”

Phil’s mouth opens slightly, and he lets out a clipped breath, his shoulders dropping like he’s forgotten how to stand up against anything at all. He looks as if he wants to reach out and also as if he needs someone to reach out to him, and Dan does nothing to encourage either.

“I’m sorry, Dan,” he says, his voice in pieces, sharp and bruised around the edges like broken glass and broken hearts, and he holds out a hand. It hovers in the air between them like a one-sided promise. “I’m so sorry.”

“No―” Dan slaps his touch away, taking a step back. Their eye contact shatters and Phil’s voice heats up, rising in volume.

“You always do this. You always reject me when I try to help you, when you’re all vulnerable and you can’t do anything but pity yourself―”

I reject you? You wouldn’t even have me!”

“I would have if you’d just said something before it got this bad!” Phil’s arms are tight and straining, the harsh overhead light throwing the lines of his tendons, stretched taut with anger, into sharp relief. “I tried!”

“Oh really?” Dan coughs up a laugh from some mirthless place in the back of his throat. “I didn’t see you trying at all, actually! I didn’t see anything from you! Face it, Phil, you failed. You can’t fix this.”

“You fucking hypocrite,” Phil snarls, taking a step closer. His tone’s gone dark and frightening. “Projecting your own problems onto me, like you always do. You’re the one who didn’t try, Dan. You work through your shit by going out and drinking your worries away for one useless night, and you always have.”

“Well, guess what?” Dan says, his voice bordering on maniacal now. He can see, from some quiet, removed place in the back of his mind, how far he’s taking this, and that he should end it right now, but he keeps going, the words spilling from him, uncontrollable. “You’re the one that fucking taught me to!”

“What did you even do tonight?” Phil asks, his words disdainful now, melting into scorn. It’s almost enough to scare him away. It’s certainly enough to make him feel unsafe. He can’t remember ever having heard that tone of voice from Phil before. “I bet you were alone in a back alleyway twenty minutes before you showed up here, puking your guts out on the ground. I’ve seen you, Dan. I know how bad you are at this kind of thing.”

It stings more than anything he’s said yet, the derogatory way Phil spits out his name, so Dan lets himself scream for the first time.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I CAN DO!” he shrieks, the violence in his voice tearing at his throat. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID!”

“WHY DON’T YOU FUCKING TELL ME THEN, IF I NEED TO HEAR IT SO BAD?” Phil returns, with equal intensity and volume. The anger in his voice almost sends Dan staggering backwards. His mind and vision are hazy around the edges, and caution flew away in the wind a long time ago.


The silence that follows is stone-cold, resonating down to his core. Dan pauses and plays back what just flew out of his mouth, and his heart drops to his toes. He feels a bit like he’s floating, or free-falling, and Phil’s eyes have gone wide and shocked. Thunderstruck.

“You what?” he asks, a glare starting to seep into his gaze. He sounds like a predator, like he’s been betrayed and hurt and he’ll hunt him down for as long as he needs to just for revenge, and it’s fucking unsettling and it scares Dan. He hates this. He hates this so much.

“Dan, what the hell―you can’t be serious.”

Dan doesn’t reply. Phil’s presence now is less collapsed and hopeless and more some kind of terrifying, and he doesn’t know what to do.

Phil’s voice starts out low, raging under the surface. “I didn’t think it would come to this,” he says, his voice hovering just on the wrong side of controlled. “I thought―fucking hell, Dan―”

He buries his face in his hands, rakes his fingers through his hair, and then he’s shouting. “I thought we could at least stay faithful even if things were falling apart!” His voice tears down the middle, breaking something that feels a lot like Dan’s heart, and he doesn’t stop. “I THOUGHT I COULD FUCKING TRUST YOU! YOU’RE SUCH A GODDAMN CHILD, DAN―I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’D DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT, I―YOU JUST LET PEOPLE DOWN, DON’T YOU, THAT’S THE ONLY THING YOU KNOW HOW TO FUCKING DO―”

Something like fire roars at the base of Dan’s throat, licking the insides of his mouth, and so he lets the words in his mouth fly out, rough and raw and broken.


There’s barely a pause before Phil steps forward, the muscles in his shoulder bunching as if he’s winding up to punch him. Dan flinches away, bringing one arm up to protect himself. Is he going―he would never―

Phil’s arm stops halfway there and suddenly he’s folding in on himself again, as if he wants to curl against the cold of the kitchen tiles and disappear.

“Fucking hit me, then, if you want to,” Dan hisses, his teeth clenched around all the apologies he’s holding in. They’re bitter on his tongue as he bites them back, swallowing every bit of visible remorse as harshly as he can. Phil doesn’t meet his eyes, and when he speaks, his voice is as fragile as spun sugar.

“I could never hit you.”

Dan gapes for a second, speechless, and steps away. “Why the fuck not, then? Aren’t you angry with me? I’m ‘a goddamn child’, after all, and the only thing I can do is let people down, apparently. I thought that’s who you thought I was. That’s someone you can hit without regrets, right?”

He’s going to cry. He’s not going to cry. He bites his tongue again and fixes his eyes on the top of Phil’s bowed head. He’s not going to cry, but he might just throw up.

“This is my fault.” The nausea doesn’t fade as the words pass his lips. “I don’t deserve this―I never fucking deserved this.” He swallows again. “I need to go.”

He turns to leave the room and strides out into the hall. Phil follows him. “No―Dan, stop.”

Dan looks back at him, and Phil’s got one arm outstretched toward him like he’s going to grab Dan by the shoulder but had second thoughts. Dan scoffs, even though it burns the inside of his mouth, and he keeps walking, turning away.

“Dan, we need to talk!”

He keeps his gaze fixed firmly forward as he takes the stairs two at a time. He has to pause halfway up, his head spinning, and it clicks somewhere in the back of the fog of his mind that he’s still drunk, at least a bit, and just as unfit as he was earlier that day.

He doesn’t reply to Phil’s words, instead heading for the closet that they keep their suitcases in and wrestling the door open. Phil’s still behind him, trailing and lost. “We need to sort this out, Dan, it’s been way too long since we’ve just talked.”

“Do I look like I’m in a fucking state to talk?” Dan half-laughs, wrenching his suitcase from its place beneath about five of Phil’s. “I’m getting the fuck out of here.” He turns and starts down the stairs again, heading to his bedroom. Phil follows him there, and his voice is slightly panicky when he speaks up again.

“You need to stay, at least for tonight,” he says, almost pleading now. “It’s not safe out there.” When Dan doesn’t pause from emptying his wardrobe, Phil pipes up yet again. “Where do you think you’re going to go, then? You don’t have anyone else to stay with.”

Dan zips up the suitcase and stands up, meeting Phil’s eyes one last time. “Why do you fucking care?” he practically sneers, and thunders down the stairs, slamming the front door behind him.

I know we should have talked, and I know I never tried, and that’s my fault and mine alone, but you were pushing me away with every step like you hated me, and then you show up at midnight empty-handed and tell me you want me and you’ve always loved me and you’re sorry and I took you back, but I’m so confused and I can’t decide if I still love you or not.

Even if I do, this isn’t the kind of love I want to be in.

He slams his bedroom door behind him, and Phil is pounding on it within seconds. “Dan, fucking hell! Open the door”

“No!” he half-shouts back. “Leave me the fuck alone!”

“Why are you so angry over me using your laptop? What’s so important on there that even I can’t see it, then?”

“I just want you to respect my fucking privacy, alright, Phil?” Dan yells back.

Phil wrenches the door open and takes a step in. Dan turns, opening his mouth to say something, but Phil’s already there, clasping his face in both hands and yanking him into a kiss. It’s rough and slightly painful and Dan tears himself away before sucking in a sharp breath and kissing back, wrapping his arms around Phil’s waist and tugging him closer.

They’re tripping backwards, their legs tangled together, and the edge of Dan’s mattress hits the back of his knees and he’s flat on his back. Phil pulls away and leans up, yanking his shirt off by the back of the neck, and Dan takes the opportunity to do the same.

Phil grabs his arse, and pulls him forward just far enough that Phil can grind into him. Dan gasps, gripping the duvet under his hands, rolling his hips up into the friction, and then he’s being pushed away.

Before he can figure out what’s happening, he’s been manhandled onto his stomach and Phil’s tearing his jeans off, discarding them somewhere on the floor. “Lube?” he asks, and Dan coughs out a bitter laugh.

“Like you don’t fucking know where it is.”

“Watch your fucking mouth,” Phil growls, smacking Dan’s arse with an open hand. Dan gasps and ruts against the bed as Phil leans away, returning seconds later with cold, wet fingers and an open mouth pressed against the nape of Dan’s neck.

“You like this, don’t you?” he growls, biting at Dan’s shoulder softly, and Dan moans into his mattress, lifting his hips up as Phil slips two fingers in, pushing relentlessly until he’s buried to the knuckle. Dan has to bite the heel of his hand to stop himself from making a seriously undignified noise when Phil finds his prostate.

“Fuck, you―” he gasps as Phil adds another finger, dragging the pads of his fingers against Dan’s rim as he draws out and pushes back in. He can’t remember them ever having gone so quickly during this step, and he can properly feel the stretch for the first time in years.

“Okay?” Phil murmurs into his neck, pausing with his fingers half-in, half-out, and Dan bites his lip, squeezing his eyes shut. It’s not entirely comfortable, but he’s not going to fucking break.

“I’m fine. Keep going, goddamnit,” he snarls, and Phil latches onto his neck, obliging. The suddenness of it makes Dan’s entire body ripple with sensation, and it doesn’t take long at all before he’s bucking up into the pressure.

“Shit―Phil, fuck me,” he gasps, and Phil tugs at his earlobe with his teeth before pulling away and hiking Dan farther onto the bed.

The crinkle of a condom wrapper makes him bury his face in the duvet again, pressing his toes against the mattress in anticipation. The bed creaks as Phil climbs on, and he pulls Dan up so they’re both upright and on their knees, his back pressed to Phil’s front.

“Relax,” he breathes against the nape of Dan’s neck, and then he’s pushing in, his fingers long and trembling slightly between them, and fuck that’s a stretch, and a burn. Phil’s flush against him when he finally pauses, clasping Dan against him, mouthing absently at his neck. Dan reaches back and grips Phil’s hip, breathing, trying to relax.

“Okay,” he whispers after a while. “You can move.” Phil presses a proper kiss to his shoulder and grinds into him, his hands firm on Dan’s chest, holding him upright. It builds up until Dan’s gasping, whimpering with every movement, and Phil’s breathing’s gone heavy and irregular.

Then Phil’s hand is on the back of Dan’s head and he pushes him down so he’s belly-flat on his blankets, and an unintentional moan punches out of him because the angle’s completely different and so much better and Phil’s pounding into him, groaning somewhere far above him with his fingers tight in Dan’s hair, and it doesn’t take long at all for him to come all over his bed, the duvet clamped between his teeth and utterly failing at muffling the noise that’s trying to escape from his throat.

Phil comes inside him three strokes later, and collapses on top of him. His cheek is pressed against Dan’s shoulder blade, and his hand is absently stroking up and down the side of his rib cage.

It’s a minute before Phil murmurs “I’m sorry,” pressing a soft kiss to the shell of Dan’s ear. “I won’t use your computer if you really don’t want me to.”

“It’s fine,” Dan replies, reaching up and back over his shoulder so he can run his fingers through Phil’s hair. It’s really not fine. He doesn’t know why he blew up like that, and he feels terrible, andGod does he wish that it had never happened.

He turns his head so his cheek is pressed against the blanket and closes his eyes, letting out a long, shuddering breath. It’s been over a month since he broke that mug. Things have been wrong ever since.

The heart of the matter is that I really don’t know if I can trust you now. What happened was just one of God-only-knows how fucking many things you could have been doing, and I don’t know. It feels like it’s been ages since we last talked, had a real conversation, actually communicated like we’re meant to. Like we promised we would always do.

I want to fix this, but I can’t see how. I don’t want to hear your ideas either. I’m past that. I just want to move past this. I’m making a decision here. This is me deciding to move past this.

The walls of the hotel are bleak, cagey, and make Dan want to stick his head in the ground like a sad imitation of an ostrich and just wait it all out in the dark. He takes full advantage of room service, blatantly abusing it in fact, and doesn’t go more than a few hours without a fresh alcoholic beverage in his hand for the first day.

The second day he wakes up with a pounding headache, a mouth that tastes like cobweb and thistles, and his clothes practically glued to his skin. He get out of bed and strips out of everything, leaving the remains of one of his favourite outfits in a pile on the floor, and gets in the shower, cranking the tap over to the very hottest setting.

The cheap hotel’s water is scalding, the pressure abysmal, and the sound the shower head makes is reminiscent of the echoes of a dying banshee. Dan stays under the spray until it turns lukewarm, and then he gets out and towels himself dry, unable to do so without thinking of Phil’s ridiculous towel habits. Minutes later, he’s sat on top of the toilet, naked as the day he was born, his face buried in his hands and his throat raw and aching from tears.

He’s so fucking pathetic.

He’s so fucking stupid, too, if he’s being honest with himself. His brain is running wild, and it’s just now that he’s registering how foolhardy he’s been. What are their subscribers going to say? How are they going to explain this fuck-up to their multi-million-strong armada of fans? Do they have to come out only to say that they’ve fallen apart?

How is he even going to face Phil about this? This is their brand, Dan and Phil, their book, their tour, their gaming channel, their following, we, ours, us, together.

They have the radio to think about too, and the flatshare, and fuck. He’s such an idiot, a quick-thinking, shallow, petty, pathetic idiot who’s completely and utterly overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do.

In the back of his still-hungover mind he thinks that he should apologize to Phil, but the thought’s washed away quickly enough by yet another tide of tears and he spends the rest of the day in his pants, curled up in the depressingly deflated feather blanket on the bed and drowning his sorrows and his headache in a series he’s never seen before on Netflix. There’s literally nothing else he can watch without being reminded of Phil in some way.

Hours later, he turns it off, not really having absorbed any of the plot, and lies back on his bed. The curtains are half-open, and the room smells like cheap soap and depression and stagnant sadness. Gray London dusk-light is streaming across the floor, over his feet. He wiggles his toes. He thinks of socks. He thinks of Phil.

This really isn’t going to do.

He misses Phil. Something in the center of his ribcage, just below his heart, is aching and he’s just now realizing that it’s been that way for a long time now. God, he misses him, he misses Phil so fucking much but he can’t go back. He just can’t. He hasn’t a fucking clue what he’d say, what he’d do.

Unbidden, his mind wanders down a different path. Maybe―just maybe, he can.

He goes to sleep the second night with some kind of half-born hope in the pit of his stomach, something that reassures him you can always apologize. Everything can still, somehow, turn out okay. He dreams a lot of things, but when he wakes up they all filter out of his head like sand through parted fingers so he just splashes his face with the coldest water he can coax from the bathroom tap and gets dressed.

He leaves around noon on the third day, a plan to apologize and ask for forgiveness barely formulated in his head, hands shoved in his pockets and all his things still in his room. For whatever reason, he’s decided to walk, and it leaves him far too much time to think about what’s happened in―fuck, only the past four days. They’ve been spiralling down for months now, but he took it to a dramatic new low that night he decided to go out without Phil.

It’s slightly less cold today, but still gray, and foggy, and dismal. Dan walks until his feet are aching, and then a bit more. Even if he had the money on him to catch a taxi, he’s not sure that he would. Forcing himself to keep going despite the pain almost feels right, like he should be putting himself through this, in a really convoluted, fucked-up way. Eventually, he just goes numb, his fingers and toes and the tip of his noise frigid as the daytime fades away and the real cold sets in. The door to their building opens with a creak, like it always does.

The warmth of the inside starts to thaw out his thought process as he climbs the stairs, and he hesitates countless times on the steps, and stops completely in front of his―(Phil’s)―front door. It takes what feels like forever to work up the courage, but he finally manages to lift a hand and knock.

Phil opens the door roughly thirty seconds later and stops dead. Their eyes lock, and Dan wants to cry yet again. Phil looks like a fucking mess, half-asleep, scruffy and exhausted and drained. He looks at Dan blankly, as if he can’t really draw up any specific thoughts at the moment, before standing aside, motioning Dan inside.

Dan obeys, pausing once he enters. Phil leads him into the kitchen, and he follows, glancing around. Everything looks almost exactly the same. It’s throwing him off. They haven’t spoken a word.

Phil opens the glass door for him, and Dan wants to take it from him and pull him into a hug that lasts forever, but he just props himself against the counter and watches as Phil fills the kettle.

The silence lasts until Phil hands him a mug that’s nearly too full and leans against the counter opposite him. Their eyes meet again, and Dan inhales a lungful of steam. The clock on the wall says it’s after ten pm already.

“I know I’m bad for you,” Dan says, and his voice sounds far too loud in the silent room. He pauses, swallows, wonders if he should continue. He nearly has to gag the next words out. “But―fuck, please. Just. Give me another chance.”

Phil doesn’t say a word, but doesn’t look away from him either. The only thing Dan can think of to do is just to keep talking, so he does. “I’m fucking wasting away, Phil, and you are too. You’re a mess. That much is obvious. I really―I just, I want another chance. Please. That’s all.”

Dan stops, choking back a multitude of words―tears―that want to escape, and just looks. Phil is stony-faced, and when he finally speak, it’s flat, and quiet, and expressionless, and it’s breaking Dan all over again.

“I can’t.” He pauses, looks down at his mug, sets it aside. “That’s not a good idea. We’re both far too hurt, doing anything more would only make things worse. This is so fragile, Dan, can’t you feel it? This is so fucking fragile and it’s falling to pieces, and being near each other is toxic as hell right now. I know you see it. I just want you to hear it as well.”

Dan puts his mug down too. His voice is escalating already, and he wants to stop it, but he can’t. “I don’t care, okay? I don’t care about what’s happened. I promise, Phil, I promise, I only want what’s going to happen. Please.”

Phil’s head drops and he pushes his hands through his hair, spiking his fringe up in six different directions. “Oh, my God,” he whispers, his voice utterly hopeless, and his shoulders are folding in again, and it’s just like before, he’s collapsing inward like an inverted origami figure and Dan doesn’t know what the fuck to do, so he steps forward, eyes downcast, until their toes are nearly touching. Phil’s socks are still mismatched. It gives Dan some kind of messy, barely-there courage.

He looks up and reaches out, hesitating with his hand halfway between them, before finally letting his fingertips brush against Phil’s wrist. The hands covering Phil’s face fall away, and Dan lets himself tilt his chin upwards. His fingers are freezing against Phil’s warm skin.

He swallows, pressing his lips together. His mouth is dry. His throat is tight, painful. He manages to speak regardless.

“I only want you, okay?” he whispers, rasping slightly. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just want you.”

Phil’s eyes meet his again and it clicks, suddenly, that they’re both on the verge of tears. Right now, if he wanted, Dan is positive he could reach out and pull Phil into his arms and hold him tight and he’d be held in return and they could cry themselves out on each other’s shoulders and maybe figure things out afterwards.

He lets himself think those thoughts, and then he leans forward and kisses Phil instead.

It’s soft and slightly wet and they’re both kind of crying, and Dan has to pull away to choke down a sob. “Please,” he gasps, “please. I need this. I just want you back.”

He doesn’t need this, but he needs Phil, he needs him, he needs him. His hand is still cradling Phil’s cheek, and their eyes meet again after a moment of quiet sniffling. Phil shakes his head slightly, in a very hopeless way, not breaking the eye contact, and kisses him again. His arms slip around Dan’s waist, and they’re pressed together, and the warmth would be good if it didn’t feel this wrong.

They break apart, unsure and shaky, and Dan involuntarily grips two handfuls of Phil’s shirt. A second or two passes. He bites his lip, hard.

Phil exhales long, trembling, and doesn’t meet his eyes. “Fuck it,” he breathes out, barely loud enough to be heard, and then his hand is cradling the back of Dan’s head, and they’re kissing again, and mouths are open and tongues are in places they haven’t been in a long time, and Dan’s a little swept off his feet―a lot swept off his feet, swept into a hurricane, a storm―and he clings as Phil tugs him closer.

The fingers in his hair tighten, and his jaw falls slack. Phil tilts his head back, kissing with lips parted down the side of his neck. He pauses halfway down and bites, and Dan lets out a thoroughly undignified noise. He’s half-hard and there are tears drying in the corners of his eyes and he’s grinding against Phil, pushing him harder into the counter.

Their mouths connect again, and Phil’s hands go to Dan’s arse, tugging him closer. They connect, and Phil is just as hard as him; they have to break apart and gasp, nearly simultaneously, at the rush of feeling.

“Bedroom?” Dan murmurs, and Phil presses a kiss to his chin and takes his hand. For a second, Dan forgets that his hair smells like cheap hotel shampoo and Phil hasn’t changed his clothes in three days, that they’re still in love and this is just another night together.

Phil stops and turns to face him in his bedroom doorway, crowding Dan up against the frame, sucking on his lower lip and digging his teeth in. Dan gasps, grips Phil’s shoulders, relishing the way the wall is pressing almost painfully into his back. It feels more real, more immediate than the past four days of his life. He can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

“Lie down,” Phil growls against his jawline, and Dan gulps, and obeys. The room is nearly completely dark, lit only by the second-hand illumination from the kitchen down the hall and the purely aesthetic glow of the fairy lights beside the dresser. Surprisingly, the lack of visibility isn’t doing anything to kill the mood.

“Clothes off,” Phil orders, and Dan wrestles his way out of his jacket and shirt. By the time he can see again Phil’s stripping off his socks, jeans already on the floor, and Dan hurries to mimic him.

“Hands above your head.” Yet another command, and Dan can do nothing but comply. He shifts over on the bed so he’s slightly more centered, and wraps his fingers around the top edge of the rumpled duvet beneath him.

“Don’t you fucking move,” Phil hums, voice low and dangerous, leaning over latch onto the tender skin over Dan’s left collarbone. Dan gasps and angles his hips up against nothing, nearly overwhelmed already. He’s fully hard now, and helpless, as Phil draws away before the bruise can set in.

He leans over the side of the bed, reaching underneath the ugly-ass wicker frame, and straightens up with what’s probably a bottle of lube in his hand. Dan can’t help but squirm as Phil crawls up his body, sitting up with his knees on either side of Dan’s hips, balancing with his fingertips against Dan’s sternum.

He sits back, pinning Dan’s thighs to the mattress with his arse, and slicks up the two first fingers of his left hand. The breath vanishes from Dan’s chest as the realization of what’s going to happen hits him, and he has to close his eyes, tight.

“Look at me,” Phil orders, and he does, his mouth falling open once his vision clears. Phil’s body is twisted around in a single flawless curve, one hand resting on the mattress, the other behind his back and reaching between his legs. The muscles in his shoulder are bunched and visible, softly outlined by the faint light.

Dan’s going to have a coronary. He bites into his lower lip, trembling, and when Phil’s head drops, he knows that the tips of his fingers have slipped inside. He wants to touch, to take Phil’s place, but instead he clutches the pillow like a lifeline and doesn’t look away.

Phil puts his hand on Dan’s hip bone, tightening his grip every time he pushes a little deeper inside himself, and then his nails are biting into Dan’s flesh and Phil’s gasping, letting out tiny whimpers, wriggling his hips farther down on his own fingers. Dan’s body jerks involuntarily upward―it’s been so long since Phil had been willing to do this―and he can feel the bones of Phil’s wrist when they make, the lines of his hand, but only two fingers.

“Fuck,” Phil gasps, his voice shaking, and Dan lets out a whine in response. He can’t tear his eyes away from the tension in Phil’s arms, the way his hips are jolting at irregular intervals. What with the way his hair is falling over his face, the only feature Dan can make out is his lower lip, sucked into his mouth and probably trapped between his teeth.

“Fuck,” he repeats, his voice breaking, and he slips his fingers out of himself, reaching down and gripping the base of Dan’s cock. “Condom,” he adds, hoarse and raspy, and Dan hesitates before twisting himself towards the bedside table and opening the drawer to hunt one down.

The slick warmth of Phil’s hands on him makes a long, low noise glide from his throat, and he squeezes his eyes shut, rolling back to his place in the center of the bed, tipping his chin back and returning his hands to their place above his head. Then the warmth of soft inner thighs are brushing against his hips, and then Phil is bearing down, and he’s slipping inside, and he’s choking on sensation, the urge to press up and get off almost unbearable.

Phil is inching himself down, one hand between his legs, guiding himself down with tiny searching touches, the other pressed flat against Dan’s chest. Dan is holding his breath, the better to hear the faint, flawless noises Phil is emitting. He’s clearly not stretched himself as thoroughly as he probably should, and he has to pause and let up countless times.

What feels like an eternity of torturous, undulating, snail-paced minutes later, Phil blows out a long breath that flutters the tips of his fringe, puts both hands on Dan’s shoulders, and rolls his hips in one fluid circle that bottoms him out, leaving them flush against each other. Dan tosses his head from side to side, fitful and unsure what to do, because it’s so fucking hot and tight and fuck

Phil pulls off a tiny bit and slides back down, barely a baby movement, but it sends thrills through Dan’s body, makes him arch up and his legs jerk uncontrollably. He flexes his shoulders, straining upward even as he tries with all his might to keep his hips on the bed. Phil isn’t making it any fucking easier, shifting his hips from side to side like that, obviously trying to get used to the stretch.

“Phil, fuck, Phil―”

Phil lets out a soft, breathy laugh, digging his nails into Dan’s chest. “You like that?” he asks, his voice low and barely above a whisper. Dan lets out a faltering sound, and Phil chuckles again, before clenching around him.

Uh―fuck,” Dan grunts, unable to stop his hips from bucking upwards. Phil reacts instantly, reaching back and slapping the outside of his thigh hard enough to sting. He flinches away. A broken moan rips from his throat.

“What a fucking whore,” Phil growls, grinding down again. “Lying there with your hands above your head―just because I told you to put them there, and you still can’t control yourself.”

Dan keens, turning so the side of his face is pressing against the pillow. Again, Phil reacts immediately, his hand darting up and gripping Dan’s chin, forcing his head back to its original position.

“Look at me, Dan,” he growls. Dan obeys, but the strength of Phil’s glare is enough to make him snap his eyes shut again.

Look at me,” Phil repeats, his voice louder, harsher this time, and he punctuates his words by tightening around Dan again. It’s flawless, and absolutely agonizing.

Dan lets out a desperate sound, meeting his gaze for a second. Phil circles his hips, and this time he doesn’t stop, but his hand squeezing Dan’s chin finally lets up. His finger trails down the line of Dan’s throat, stopping to rest just above his collarbones. He’s not pressing down, but Dan can tell that if he does, he’ll be finding it a bit harder to breathe.

“You’re such a slut for me,” Phil purrs. He lifts himself up, the muscles in his thighs flexing, and presses down again with both his hips and his hand. Dan’s mouth falls open in an instinctive response to try and draw a breath, and a bolt of static courses into the pit of his stomach. He can feel himself throbbing. Phil’s mouth is open too, almost absentmindedly, his eyes fixed on Dan’s face like it’s the only thing he can see.

He lets up on the pressure after a few moments, leaning down and letting his lips brush against Dan’s earlobe. “All right?” he whispers, and Dan lets out a long, breathy, high-pitched noise.

Phil sits up again, not moving, ramrod straight, and back in character, almost. “Verbal consent,” he says, gripping Dan’s chin again, and Dan gasps in a lungful of air.

“Please,” he chokes out, “yes, please, fuck―”

It only takes those four words for Phil to start riding him in earnest, muscles in his legs taut and breath huffing out of his lungs with every movement, both hands resting on Dan’s shoulders now. He never gives any warning before he adds pressure to Dan’s throat, and Dan is on the edge of orgasm in record time.

“Close,” he mewls as Phil lets him breathe unrestricted again―for the fourth time maybe? He can’t think, can’t comprehend anything but movement and pressure and heat―and Phil leans down, sliding his hands out of the way so he can bite into the side of Dan’s neck.

“Tell me I’m the only one,” he groans hotly against the skin just below Dan’s ear, “fucking admit that I’m the only one you want.”

Dan sucks in air, trying not to come instantly. “You,” he manages, his voice broken and breathless and almost like a sob, “it’s always been you.”

Phil goes rigid against him as his orgasm hits, his legs trembling and his grip on Dan’s shoulders nearly painful. Dan can feel his cock pulsing between their bodies, Phil’s muscles flexing around him. He’s shaking like he’s the one who’s coming, not Phil, and on every exhale he lets out a thin, involuntary, desperate whine.

Phil takes a moment or two to pant into his neck, recovering the strength to sit up. Dan whimpers, hips jerking, and Phil flinches slightly, but doesn’t pull off. “What’s that?” he croons, tracing a single finger from Dan’s clavicle, dancing the divide between the two halves of his ribcage to his navel. “You want to come? Hmm?”

Dan turns his head into the pillow again, breathing out something that resembles a yes. He’s shivering, burning up, can barely think.

“I don’t know about that,” Phil says, letting both hands come to rest on Dan’s rib cage, splayed out across the bones like a pair of wings. He pauses, like he’s considering, and then sits up, pulling nearly completely off.

Dan chokes out a needy, confused noise, bucking helplessly upwards. His mind is going hazy around the edges, his thoughts muffled under a layer of overwhelming need. Phil smacks the side of his thigh for the second time, in the same place as before, and he flinches away again, moaning.

“Should I give it to you?” Phil demands, pressing down on his windpipe again, and Dan loses his last shred of conscious thought. He’s aware, distantly, that he’s making noise, maybe even words and that he can barely breathe, and he needs to come so much it’s bordering on agony.

“What’s that? You’re begging now?” Phil’s voice cuts through the fog in his mind like a knife. Is he begging? He can’t stop, whatever he’s doing, and he’s faintly aware of trying with all his might to bury himself in Phil’s body again, and at the same time the command to stay where he is burning behind his eyes and in his bones like a brand.

“You want it so bad?” Phil taunts, bearing down an inch or two, not going any farther than that. Dan’s throat is raw now, he’s sobbing, and then there’s hot breath washing over his cheek and Phil is growling in his ear, “Fucking take it then,” propping himself on Dan’s chest with his elbows and squeezing.

The permission is all that it takes for him to start moving. The friction almost hurts, it’s so good, and his thighs are burning and suddenly, he’s through the heat and the fog and he’s in some cold, empty place where the only thing echoing through his head is the fact that this is wrong. This is wrong. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

Dan’s orgasm rips him back into reality, roaring through him. There’s sound tearing from the lining of his throat, uncontrollable, and he’s digging his nails into Phil’s back and he’s trembling uncontrollably and when he finally crashes down from his high he feels much too cold, and far away, and doesn’t move as Phil sits up and lifts himself off, wincing as he does so. Dan only distantly registers the sensation of the condom being removed.

He’s alone, almost freezing, for a second or two, and then Phil’s hands, warm and tender, are smoothing over his chest, cupping his face, gripping his wrists softly and pulling him up so he’s sitting upright. There are fingers brushing his fringe out of his face, lips pressing against his forehead, a warm, relaxed body nestling against him.

Dan curls into the touch automatically, burying his face in the crook of Phil’s neck and shoulder. Hands rub across his back, pressing just hard enough to coax him back to reality. He breathes, the air shuddering in his chest, and tries not to cry. He clings to Phil, and wants to push him away at the same time.

“Come here,” Phil murmurs in his ear, his breath warm and soft, and pulls him to his feet, leading him carefully into the bathroom. Dan leans against the wall once they’re both inside, mildly sticky and with a bad taste in his mouth. After a minute or two, during which Dan can do nothing but stare at the back wall of the shower, Phil presses a wet, warm cloth against his lower stomach, and Dan sighs and tips his head back against the wall, letting himself be cleaned.

Phil gentles him through it, like he’s always done, but once Dan’s clean he only touches him when he needs to, leading him back into the bedroom by his wrist. Dan’s stomach is roiling with unhappiness, and he hesitates before climbing into bed.

He falls asleep with Phil pressed against him, a bitterness on his tongue and his chest tight with the horrible feeling of regret, and unshakable, terrifying dread.

If moving past this means breaking up, then so be it.

Someday, if we figure out why we’re like this and can reach out to each other again, then that’s fine, I’ll welcome that, but for now, you’re pushing me away and I’m tired of fighting against something I don’t even understand. This is over. It hurts me to say it, God it fucking hurts, but that’s my decision and it’s true and it’s what I’m doing, and I don’t want you to chase after me. I’m done with that. I’m done with this.

Dan wakes with the blanket bunched up around his ears, alone. It takes a moment for the fact that Phil’s gone to register in his sleep-heavy brain, but once it does he sits up so fast his vision goes spotty.

The blanket falls away from his shoulders and he looks around. The room nearly seems the same, but something feels off, feels empty. There’s a glass of water on the bedside table, and he crawls over, swinging his legs down to the floor to sit on the edge of the mattress and gulp it down.

He sits there for a moment with the half-empty glass in his hands, listening hard. The house is still and silent in a muffled, dusty kind of way. A lonely way.

He goes to put the glass back on the bedside table, and his eyes land on a piece of paper, folded roughly in thirds and weighed down by his favourite pen. He reaches over, and pauses, his fingertips tingling.

He doesn’t want to pick it up. He doesn’t want to touch it, doesn’t want to read what’s almost definitely Phil’s handwriting.

He swallows. His throat is dry again. His lips feel raw, chapped.

He takes the note.

The words feel distant, cold. He reads them, and reads them again, and realizes that there are tears, dropping from the end of his nose onto the paper.

He wipes them roughly away, and falls back onto the bed, closing his eyes.

This is goodbye, Dan. I’m signing off Skype for now. I hope you can be alright without me.

I really hope I can see you again one day.