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could've knocked me out with a feather

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Dan rubs his temples and stares at the plastic container of Lindt chocolates nestled beside the till. He’s balanced with his elbows on the countertop and it fucking hurts but he can’t really be bothered to move.

He picks up one of the milk chocolate truffles and looks around, toying with the ruffly wrapper. The only other person in the candy shop is thoroughly hidden in the back aisles, puttering around. Avril Lavigne is crooning about her innocence through the speakers, and the headache that’s been plaguing him all day has reached its peak. Fuck this.

He returns the truffle to its place and rubs his eyes, glancing around for a bottle of water. There’s an empty one balanced atop the till, and he remembers bringing it in this morning and finishing it off before his lunch break.

“Fuck,” he mutters, running his fingers through his hair. He’s positive it’s stuck up in fifteen different directions, but he can’t be bothered to care. He wheels the single, rickety office chair that lives behind the counter over to him and sinks into its ratty embrace, leaning back and smearing both hands over his face in a futile attempt to stop the pounding in his brain.

“Hello,” someone says, and Dan shoots to his feet so fast that the spinny chair goes rocketing off into Neverland. It crashes into the wall behind him and he sways dizzily on his feet, both hands landing on the edge of the counter.

“Hi,” he gasps, wiping his hair out of his face again and meeting the eyes of the man across the counter. The guy looks pretty exhausted, his dark hair swept messily to the side and eyes not quite focused. He’s balancing an impressive collection of chocolates and lollies in his arms and Dan kind of wants to ask him how his day’s been.

“Hello,” says the guy, glancing at his nametag, “Dan. All of this, I guess.” He dumps his armful on the counter between them.

Not only does Dan want to ask how his day’s been, he also wants to sit there and listen to everything he has to say and then probably give him a hug after. He cracks a weak smile and rings it up. Even his tired fingers work easily through the routine motions of counting out the money the dark-haired bloke hands him. “4.50 is your change,” he yawns, sweeping the collection of impending type-two diabetes into a plastic bag and holding it out over the counter.

“Thank you, love you,” says the guy, reaching out to take it, and freezes. Dan’s smile suddenly feels a lot more genuine.

“I think I should at least buy your candy before you start saying that,” he says, unable to squash the giggle rising through his voice, and the dark-haired guy kind of buries his face in one hand.

“Gah,” he groans, his voice muffled. “Oh my God it’s so late and I’m so tired. That was cute of you.”

Dan is suddenly not only smiling genuinely but trying very hard not to blush. His grin is ear-to-ear and he watches the bloke out of the shop, leaning over the counter in a pathetically dreamy fashion.

The bell on the door has barely rung him out when he lets out a huge sigh and sits down again. There’s a moment of helpless turmoil and mild flailing and then he’s on his arse on the floor, the chair still five feet behind him, and he lays back and covers his eyes.

Fuck this.

“I covered for you all of yesterday, you owe me some free time,” Dan shouts as soon as Amelia walks in the door. She flips him off casually, her nails freshly painted, and takes her sweet-ass fucking time meandering over to the till.

“Fucking. Fuck. Goddamn you. Take this.” Dan forces his uniform apron onto her and rolls the office chair away with him.

“Give that back!” She half-yells, messing up her hair as she pulls the apron on over her head. She makes grabby hands at him and he sits himself down, grinning and spinning around. There’s something crinkly and chocolate in his pocket and he pulls it out, gnawing on a corner.

The bell tinkles again and they both glance up, Amelia knotting the apron strings behind her back with nails painted a colour that, knowing her, is probably named something like The Blood of My Enemies.

The sunlight shining in through the glass front of the shop sweeps over a dark head and broad shoulders, and Dan spits out his chocolate and runs his hand reflexively through his hair. He’s sitting up very straight all of a sudden.

The guy from last night looks around, meets his eyes, and his face cracks into a smile bright enough to light up something very dark. Dan can’t quite formulate thoughts. He’s such a pretty person.

“Can I help you?” Amelia says, her voice patronising and sweet as fucking honey. She’s half the guy’s size, and she’s bristling like an offended cockatoo. The guy glances at her, his smile wilting slightly, and the light catches his eyes. They’re so blue they look unreal.

“I think I’m all right,” he says, his voice low and polite and just a little bit rumbly. He gives Amelia the barest of nods and shifts his gaze back to Dan. Amelia’s glaring daggers at him but Dan just flashes a sweet smile in her direction and turns back to the dark-haired guy, who’s leaning against the counter now.

“I’m Phil,” he says, raising one hand in a kind of wave and shit, he’s adorable. Dan grins and spins the chair lazily back and forth.

“Dan, but you know that,” he replies, standing up and attempting to look casual as he strolls over to the counter and leans against it, posing a bit like a mirror-image to Phil’s own ridiculously flawless person. Amelia hip-checks him, and he stumbles, but ignores her, holding out a hand to shake. He realizes that it’s the hand currently occupied by a chocolate bar half a second too late.

Phil takes it from his hand and breaks off the already-bitten corner, slipping it into his mouth. The way his jaw is working as he sucks it down to nothing is kind of mesmerising, and Dan jumps when Amelia jabs him in the ribs with her fucking talons-for-elbows.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Phil says once he’s swallowed, sounding not-sorry-at-all. He glances down at the chocolate in his hand. “How much is this?”

Dan gapes for a moment. “Ah. I.” He coughs. “Don’t worry about it, it’s on me.”

Phil grins and takes another bite. Dan wants to kiss the flavour out of his mouth.

Amelia steps on his toes.

The third time Phil comes into the candy shop, it’s a cloudy day and the weather can’t decide whether it’s raining, sleeting, or just fucking weeping. Robin, curvy gorgeous Robin with her perfect lipstick and low-cut blouses and Monroe piercing is at the counter and Dan walks in, late for his shift, just as Phil’s leaving. They actually run into each other, and Dan stumbles back, stepping on his own toes.

“Oh!” Phil gasps, darting forward and catching him by the waist. Dan reels back and then his hands are on Phil’s shoulders. Their faces are inches apart.

The door swings slowly shut behind them, bell tinkling softly like it’s been left behind. There’s a packet of gummy worms on the pavement beside them.

“Hi,” Dan breathes. Phil is pressed against him, and he feels very unfairly warm and nice even through the layers of clothing separating them.

“Hi,” Phil replies, voice a bit of a blur, and lets him go. He bends down, picking up his candy, and ruffles his hair. He’s blushing, pink and cute as a motherfucking button.

“Can I get in there?” Dan says tentatively, glancing over Phil’s shoulder through the glass at the till. Robin is leaning over the counter, showing a small buttload of cleavage. She raises an eyebrow. He shrugs.

“Yeah,” Phil responds, obviously flustered. “Sorry.” He steps aside, the plastic of his gummy worms crinkling. Dan opens the door again and glances over his shoulder.

“Come in,” he invites, and Phil’s shoulders relax. He grins and follows. Robin’s sceptical expression doesn’t shift in the slightest as she pulls on her coat and leaves the shop, and Dan watches her down the block.

Phil is sat on the counter when he turns back around, the gummy worm packet caught in his teeth. He raises his eyebrows and tears it open, and Dan swallows.

“C’mere,” Phil says, and Dan obeys without really thinking, leaning against the counter beside him. He reaches out, fingers landing on Dan’s shoulder and coaxing him even closer.

“Are these any good?” He asks, his voice riding the line between arousing and. Yeah. Arousing. He holds up a gummy worm, his other hand still resting on Dan’s shoulder. His fingers are playing absentmindedly with the collar of Dan’s shirt, dangerously close to his skin.

“I mean,” Dan begins, and kind of forgets to finish when Phil meets his eyes and makes a little gesture with his chin like he’s asking permission. Dan swallows, slides sideways so he’s stood between Phil’s legs, and lets his mouth fall open.

Phil grins and dangles the gummy worm above his face. It’s a mildly unattractive visual, the bright pink candy wobbling around in the air and nearly brushing his nose, but Dan rises on tiptoes and stretches up for it anyway. Phil lifts it just out of reach, eyes still fixed on Dan’s mouth, and Dan huffs out something akin to a laugh and reaches up, his fingers closing around the bones of Phil’s wrist. He pulls the candy closer and traps it with his lips, sucking it diligently in and letting it slide nearly all the way back out again, clean of its sugary coating.

He lets the moment linger, trapping the end of the sweet with the barest hint of teeth, and then lets it and Phil’s wrist go, sticking his tongue out. “Tastes like cough syrup,” he says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Phil looks a little shell-shocked. Dan pushes away, goes around the till and sits down in the chair. He hooks his foot around one of the wheels, runs his fingers through his hair.

Phil twists around, the gummy worm still in his hand. He tilts his head back, lays it on his tongue, chews. Swallows. Dan forgets how to breathe.

“You’re right. Cough syrup.” Phil slides down off the counter, leans on it and looks at Dan. “Can I get your number?”

Dan coughs and manages a yes.

The clock on the wall says it’s nearly 11 pm and Dan can’t help but take a short break to bury his face in his hands, just so he can stop looking at the actual mountain of Halloween candy on a makeshift table (constructed from a cardboard box) in front of him. Someone had fucked up the fucking packaging and now he has to sort out everything from Reese’s peanut butter cups to special orange-and-black Skittles and he’s going to tear his fucking face off. This is ridiculous.

He stands up without a real purpose in mind and takes several aimless steps before going over to the iPod plugged into the store’s speakers and ceasing Lana del Rey’s pleas for attention. Fall Out Boy is in order. The opening chords of The Phoenix give him a burst of energy and he sits back down with a renewed vigor.

Twenty seconds later he’s spinning around and around on the office chair, hands clamped on the sides of the seat to prevent a crash from occurring.

Someone knocks on the glass front and Dan jumps, stops himself involuntarily and skids sideways, crashing softly into a wall regardless of previous precautions and teetering for a second. He leaps to his feet, the chair toppling to the floor behind him as he stares out at the harshly lit form of none other than Phil.


“What are you doing?” Phil asks through the glass, his voice muffled and full of laughter. Dan ducks his head.

“Working, clearly,” he responds, hurrying over to the door. “Being a productive human being.”

He lets Phil in, trying and failing to dodge the cold air that sweeps into the shop alongside him. Phil’s wearing a leather jacket tonight and looks tired, but happy.

“Why are you here so late?” he asks, looking around.

“Sorting out this shit,” Dan says, following Phil’s gaze. He crosses the room and rights the poor chair, sitting down and rolling himself back over to the candy mountain explosion. Phil follows him.

“Want a hand?”

Dan looks up at him, physically unable to not smile.

They work straight through to the end of Save Rock n Roll. Phil sings loudly along to Young Volcanoes, which makes Dan laugh a bit too much and probably stare even more. They move on to American Beauty/American Psycho after that and get into a heated for/against debate over Centuries, and by the time Fourth of July rolls around they’ve kind of given up on sorting and are just sharing a chocolate bar and talking. It’s absent-minded and soft and Dan can’t stop glancing at Phil, and he really can’t stop letting his gaze linger a bit too long.

Phil holds up something that looks like it’s minty but the packaging doesn’t specify, and raises an eyebrow. “What do you think this is?”

Dan takes it from him. Their hands brush during the transaction and he decidedly ignores it, except his fingertips are burning as he flips up the fold of cellophane to read the ingredients list.

“No idea,” he says, not really paying attention. Instead, he opens it and gives the chocolate-coated exterior a thorough examination. Nondescript. Unsuspicious. Baffling.

“Let me try it,” Phil says, reaching out a hand and giving Dan a magnificent pleading look. Dan meets his gaze faux-haughtily. His heart is pounding against the inside of his ribs. He pops the entire candy in his mouth.

It is mint, and not too bad either, but he doesn’t tell Phil that, only slides it back and forth over his tongue until he can’t taste anything but. “Hey!” Phil protests, tilting forward. He steadies himself with a hand on Dan’s knee and glares half-heartedly up at him.

“I wanted a taste.”

“I’m not stopping you,” Dan replies, leaning closer and letting his breath fan out over Phil’s cheek. That shell-shocked look is back, but it melts into a snarky little smile quick enough.

“Oh? How am I supposed to do that?”

Phil’s voice is a low, barely-audible rumble. Dan returns his little smirk.

“I think you know exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

Those ridiculously blue eyes, now a bit grey under the fluorescent lighting, flick down to Dan’s mouth and back up again. There’s a hand on his shoulder, playing with his collar again.

Phil’s mouth lands on his like a clumsy butterfly, sweet and tender and a little fumbling. Dan kisses back and then mouths are slipping open and against each other and Phil’s tongue curls softly into his mouth and recedes and everything is minty and a little bit perfect. They break apart from each other reluctantly, and nearly buzzing. Dan feels a bit like he’s floating.

“Any good?” he asks, his voice barely hoarse and quiet as a feather is light. Phil smiles, presses a tiny kiss to the corner of Dan’s mouth. His fingers are curled around the nape of Dan’s neck, and it’s delicious.

“Not bad.” He thumbs over Dan’s cheekbone, draws away to drink him in. The smile hasn’t left his face. “But I’ve got to say you’re better.”