Phil takes Dan’s hand as they enter the party, already in full swing, pulling him through the crowd. It’s a reasonable thing to do, something they’ve done before, even, later into more private parties, but Dan can still feel his hand start to sweat. He registers surprised looks from a group of acquaintances as they brush by, studiously ignores it.
“Your hand hadn’t been that sweaty in mine since 2009,” Phil says, wrapping an arm around Dan’s hips and leaning in to murmur in his ear as they reach the bar.
“Fuck off,” Dan says lightly before Phil can go on. “Yeah, of course I’m still sure, don’t be stupid.” He places a hand over Phil’s on his hip, briefly intertwines their fingers again.
Phil rolls his eyes. “Alright, just checking.” He tugs Dan closer to drop a kiss on his cheek before releasing him.
Dan blushes, shifting on his feet, jumps a little too high when Louise sweeps up.
“Look who I’ve found!” she exclaims from behind them, clearly trying to shock them. Dan plays into it, exaggerating his natural jump and bringing a hand up to his chest, choosing to stumble into Phil rather than away.
“Louise!” Phil grins, resting his hand on Dan’s hip again - probably below the camera’s view, Dan can’t help but assess.
“Some warning, Louise? You nearly killed me!” Dan lowers his hand from his chest, moves more naturally to Phil’s side. Phil’s hand drops away, again, but Dan allows the backs of their hands to brush.
“I know, I know, you need warning for my glorious presence,” Louise turns to get all three of them in shot, flicks her hair.
“It’s your overwhelming beauty,” Phil tells her earnestly. “We need time to prepare, or it just...”
“Overwhelms us,” Dan supplies helpfully.
“Exactly,” Phil beams at Dan, and god, Dan wants to kiss him. And he can. There’s no reason he can’t. Except - he paused, couldn’t help it, and Phil’s looking to Louise, still talking. “As you can see, it limits our vocabulary too,” Phil goes on, and Louise nods.
“Totally understandable,” she smiles. “Now, I see you two are at the bar already, has the party been that bad?”
“We’ve only just arrived,” Dan tells her, “We’re preparing for the horrors of socialisation to come.”
“And on that note,” Phil interjects, “We should probably actually get our drinks,” he nods to where the bartender is now waiting. Dan hadn’t even noticed them, wrapped up in the camera and Louise and how close he was standing to Phil. (Too close? No, no, it can’t be, that doesn’t exist anymore.)
“Oh, of course,” Louise moves away to sign off to the camera and Dan allows Phil to order for them both, just nodding when Phil looks over to check his order.
They take their drinks and head over to where Louise is waiting, pushing out of the tight crowd around the bar.
“What a lovely surprise to see you here, Louise!” Dan greets her again.
“Yeah, I had filmed sneaking up on you from across the room-” she gestures to where Jack and Hazel are standing, where she’s now leading them “-but then you were surprisingly affectionate, so I can’t really use that now.”
There’s no question, and yet there is. Dan takes a sip of his drink, looks to Phil.
“No, you can,” Phil says casually, as if it’s nothing.
Dan nods when Louise looks to him to confirm. “It’s starting to limit our actual lives and I’m getting uncomfortable with feeling like I’m hiding something, so we’re saying you can.”
“That’s great,” Louise exclaims. “Still, if you guys aren’t going to make some kind of announcement I might not risk the storm of hate for outing you, if it’s all the same to you.”
It’s not all the same to Dan, not at all, but Louise has got a good point, something he can’t believe they hadn’t considered. They’d got so wrapped up in making the decision, considering every angle of reaction to their behaviour, that how they’d actually be coming out, and possible reactions to the method, had almost been forgotten.
They arrive at Hazel and Jack then and the conversation is effectively derailed, but Dan keeps thinking about it all night, can’t not. Every time Phil’s hand brushes his, every time he stops himself from leaning in close to talk then presses through anyway, every time someone gives them a look with just a hint of surprise, he thinks about it.
They - Phil especially - don’t want to make an announcement. It’s not their style, their private life is private, it still will be, and an announcement just gives people the space and a feeling of entitlement to ask questions. But maybe just ‘being out’ behaviourally won’t work either, not if they want to stick to being out by the end of this weekend, not if no one is willing to vlog them doing it. They can’t place their friends in the position of outing them and facing the fallout, but what can they do?
Dan’s still mulling it over as Phil calls a cab to take them home, is too tired to think about it by the time the taxi pulls up. Instead, he tucks himself under Phil’s arm and dozes on his chest the whole journey home. Dan grumbles all the way up the stairs, eyes still half closed, drops face first onto their bed before even taking his shoes off. He groans when Phil turns the bedroom light on, turning reluctantly onto his back when Phil sits beside him.
“What it is, and why can’t it wait until morning?” Dan asks, pushing himself upright and fumbling at his shoes.
“Was thinking about posting this,” Phil says nonchalantly, tilts his phone towards Dan to show a picture Phil had apparently taken of them in the cab, Dan half lying on Phil’s chest, hand just holding on to the edge of his shirt, a small smile the only thing visible of Phil’s face. Dan pauses, blinks.
“It was just an idea,” Phil explains. “We can’t make our friends out us, Louise is right, but the plan was to be pretty much out by the end of the weekend, and I’d like to stick to that. This is the same relaxed behaviour really, just actually shared by us rather than putting the responsibility on someone else.”
Dan pauses for a moment, eyes flickering over Phil’s unsure expression. “Have I told you recently how much I love you?” he asks. Phil’s right, Louise’s reaction had made it clear that they needed to take the responsibility on themselves regardless of how they were trying to come out. Dan hadn’t been sure exactly how to do so, or what Phil would be willing to share, but he should have known that they would be on the same wavelength.
Phil smiles. “I could always stand to hear it more,” he says, pulling Dan in for a brief kiss.
“Post it quickly and come to bed,” Dan invites, pulling his shirt over his head and standing to pull off his jeans.
“I actually wasn’t too sure how you’d feel about amping things up,” Dan says leadingly, deciding they might as well have a conversation now he’s no longer on the verge of falling asleep again.
A noncommittal hum is Phil’s only response as he frowns down at his phone. “Is this okay?” he asks, handing his phone over to Dan and starting to change himself.
Dan grimaces a little at the picture, his cheek squished against Phil’s chest, but ultimately has to admit that he looks pretty cute. Phil’s sweet half smile certainly isn’t hurting the cuteness levels either, and Dan finds himself almost laughing imagining the internet’s reaction.
“Send it if it’s alright,” Phil invites, leaving the room, presumably to take his contacts out. Phil’s captioned it ‘Social interaction proved very tiring for @danisnotonfire tonight’, with a few sleepy emojis, and Dan can’t argue with that either. He sends the tweet before he can overthink it, picking up his own phone to retweet and like it before climbing into bed.
“Talk to me,” Dan prompts as Phil re-enters their bedroom, a glass of water in each hand. He smiles and accepts the drink gratefully, but doesn’t let it distract him from the way Phil hadn’t responded to his earlier question. “You’re okay sharing this, okay pushing things and sharing a bit more?”
Phil sighs, flopping onto the bed and staring up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I just... Now we’ve decided to do this I want to get things done. I don’t want this dragging out, overthought and overanalysed, for months on end, so it needs to be pretty clear. I just really want that dog,” Phil smiles, half joking, but Dan can see the sincerity there.
“We need the house first,” Dan reminds him. “But you’re okay with us sharing this, with whatever questions we might be inviting in response?”
Phil groans, closing his eyes. “I’m definitely not looking at those until tomorrow,” he insists, and Dan’s with him there. Mildly drunk isn’t the best time to be doing any of this, really, but there will definitely be no responding to tweets tonight. “I don’t know what I’m okay with sharing,” Phil shrugs, waving his arms expansively. “I’m alright with sharing specifically this now, to get this done and be more relaxed and get it out of the way, but maybe I won’t want to later, maybe what I’m okay with will change, I wouldn’t want to predict it.” Phil sighs in seeming frustration, pushing his hair up off his forehead.
“But you’re sure you won’t regret it tomorrow?” Dan queries, a little concerned and now wishing he’d checked in with Phil more before he’d pressed send.
“Absolutely as sure as I can be right now. I’m not worried about that,” Phil assures him. “It’s just that I don’t really know where or on what I’d draw a line, I’m feeling everything out.”
“Okay,” Dan nods his understanding, feeling more than a little relieved. “I mean, of course, we’re both going to be feeling things out for a bit, I think. It’s going to be a lot of trial - and hopefully less error - on what exactly we want to share, and how, but we’ll get there.”
Phil smiles, turning onto his side to face Dan and running a hand down his arm. “You’re happy with this?” he checks.
“Yeah, of course,” Dan says. “You know I’ve felt more strongly about disliking feeling like we’re hiding, or lying - I’d just so fed up of it, of having to assess every little thing I do around you. I want to be able to relax. I couldn’t really settle tonight, but I want to get there - for both of us.”
Phil hums in seeming agreement, and that’s that.
There are a few mutters and more than a few eyes following them around backstage the next day, but they’re kind of used to it, so Dan doesn’t let it stop him from propping his feet up on the same stool-come-footrest as Phil, nudging against Phil’s ankles, as they sit down in what serves as the main green room a good half hour before their panel is due to start. Dan instantly takes out his phone to continue checking twitter; they’d been in a rush that morning and he’d only really managed to start catching up with online reactions in the cab on the way to the venue, while Phil was dragged into conversation with the cabbie.
“What’s the consensus?” Phil asks, leaning over Dan’s shoulder to peer at his screen.
“A lot of capslocked key smashes, it’s hard to tell,” Dan says wryly, smiling when it makes Phil muffle a brief laugh into his shoulder. “But seriously, about equal happiness and confusion by now, no real direct questions or anything to us.”
“I guess people know by now that we’re unlikely to answer,” Phil muses, and Dan hums in agreement.
“Tumblr’s probably a better place to check, but,” Dan trails off, waving a hand to indicate the unsuitability of their location.
“After the panel?” Phil proposes.
“Sounds good,” Dan agrees absently, locking his phone before he gets too deeply involved in backreading through an argument in which someone is still questioning his sexuality, rather than specifically his relationship with Phil.
“Nice picture last night, I see you two haven’t become any less disgustingly cute since I saw you last,” is PJ’s greeting of choice as he flops down on the sofa next to Phil, Sophie following with a more polite greeting in his wake. As with Louise last night, there’s no question, and yet there is.
“We’re not that bad,” Phil protests, laughing a little, and Dan’s sidetracked by wondering if Phil’s words are actually true. He’s never been so aware of their behaviour as he is now, now they’re choosing to expose it to people who don’t know them, for all he wanted the exact opposite to be true. Are they that bad? They’re used to each other, he supposes, used to casual touch, and no longer trying to limit it. Perhaps they are a bit much, he thinks, allowing himself to smile at Phil as his knuckles tap along Dan’s thigh between their bodies, a response to his thoughtful silence.
“Disgusting,” PJ repeats, laughing, having apparently caught the motion. Dan carefully doesn’t flinch at the thought of people saying that more seriously, taps his foot against Phil’s ankles in quiet reassurance instead.
“But seriously, are you doing this?” Sophie asks, flicking her gaze between them both. There’s no need to specify what ‘this’ is.
“Yeah,” Dan answers for them both, inexplicably having to fight back a smile, when he’d only been nervous last night. “Yeah, we are.”
That’s the end of the subject, partly PJ and Sophie are just as aware of their urge to settle down as their viewers, probably more, and partly because Dan realises there’s only five minutes before their panel is due to start, and they should show their faces near the stage before some poor organiser has a heart attack. PJ has his own panel appearance immediately after theirs, so they leave them in the green room and walk swiftly backstage, where someone does indeed look faint with relief to see them.
The panel goes in a blur, as they can do sometimes, throwing out ideas and strategies for expanding beyond YouTube in all manner of formats. People seem to be conceding authority to them, which is a little scary, and the fact that they have the experience to back it up is almost scarier. They’ve never been exactly small in YouTube, but having your colleagues - even those with millions more subscribers - defer to you is always a little unnerving. They may not have earnt it time management-wise, but otherwise none of the questions really phase them. Dan’s surprised when panel is over, hadn’t been keeping an eye on the time, and suddenly his underlying awareness that all of those people staring out at them had seen what they’d posted on twitter last night, that half of them are probably obsessing over what it means, lifts from a quiet buzz to a deafening roar.
As the moderator signs off Dan is half stuck inside his own head, wondering how he can turn this into another opportunity to push them coming out, or even if he should. ‘Acting natural’ has never seemed like such a foreign concept. Dan ends up scrambling to follow everyone else as they stand, a few steps behind Phil as they leave the stage. He jogs to catch up, leaning in to tell Phil he did a good job on the panel, because it’s true. Something clicks into place in his head as he reaches out to get Phil’s attention, and he lets his hand come to rest on the small of Phil’s back, rather than the safer zone of his shoulder.
There’s no reaction as far as Dan can tell, but that doesn’t stop him from being hyper aware of the contact even as they get backstage. Phil’s surprised expression - quickly wiped - suggests that he’s overly conscious of their behaviour too, and Dan has to suppress a sigh. He tries to focus fully on what he’d wanted to tell Phil, then congratulating the other panel members, but as during the end of the panel there’s a buzz in the back of his brain that just keeps getting louder. He can’t stop thinking about that ‘click’ moment, the choice to place his hand on Phil’s back, nowhere safer. It’s nothing, really, one touch and one split second that it’s very possible no one saw, but Dan’s not sure why he did it. He doesn’t know if it was a genuine part of not holding back from physical affection in public spaces - or no more than they would with family or friends - or if he was just trying to push the image of them as a couple, as they used to the image of them as best friends, and it bothers him more than he thinks it should.
Dan’s grateful when Phil makes excuses both of them rather than go hang out in the green room once more, but suppresses the urge to squeeze his hand or knock casually into him as thanks, not knowing where it comes from.
The taxi ride home is quiet, Dan on twitter again and Phil not trapped in conversation with the taxi driver this time. It turns out some people did notice Dan’s choice of hand position, and film it, but there are just as many people shouting them down as wondering if this really is significant. Dan sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face and shoving his phone back into his pocket.
Phil reaches out to take Dan’s hand as he lowers it to the seat between them, and Dan jumps, having been entirely engrossed in his own thoughts.
Phil tugs his hand away instantly, starts talking softly. “Dan, If you’re regretting our decision-”
“No, absolutely not, not at all!” Dan hurries to reassure him.
“Good,” Phil relaxes, smiling with relief. “I didn’t think so, but you’ve been so tense all day.”’
“It’s just,” Dan begins, then stops, unable to verbalise what exactly it is. “Okay, let me think about it,” he says as the taxi pulls up outside their door, taking the journey into their flat as a chance to organise his thoughts.
“Okay,” Dan says firmly as the two of them settle in their usual places on the sofa. “You know how I started to dislike, like, ‘performing’, friendship, and us pretending to be something we weren’t, well before I actively want to come out?’
“What we’re doing now, or what I did onstage, and at the party, it’s just... it feels like it’s the same thing, almost,” Dan sighs. “Like, I definitely want people to know, but this has been... I have, I’ve been putting on a ‘look at us we’re in a relationship’ show, y’know, as much as there was ever a ‘platonic bffs’ show. I’m so hyper aware of every little thing I do around you in public, I don’t know how to just relax and be normal with you, like we intended, I don’t know what that is in public, I don’t know what it should be, what it should feel like, and I hate it.”
Phil’s shifted to face Dan more fully as he talked, and now looks him over thoughtfully. “You done?” he checks, and Dan nods, almost instantly feeling ridiculous for how worked up he’d just got, but knowing that Phil won’t judge him. “Okay then, two things,” Phil begins, and Dan finds himself shifting to pay attention. “Firstly, yes, this weekend is to some extent a show. I think we were kidding ourselves that it could ever not be if we wanted to get the point through. For this weekend, we’re making an effort to make people see us as a couple, but that’s not the same as trying to make people see us as something we’re not, which was the issue you had the first time. This is fundamentally honest.
“Second thing - of course you don’t know how how to act in public. We’ve never really not been hiding our relationship in that kind of setting, of course it’s going to take some time to settle in to and understand how to behave, it’s exactly what you said to me last night about not knowing how much to share. We’ll get there,” Phil reassues Dan, reaching out to rub his leg where it’s pulled up on the sofa.
Dan can feel himself winding down listening to Phil’s words, has to acknowledge the truth of them, though they can’t entirely erase his worries. “It’s kind of different from last night,” he says slowly, trying to figure out how and why Phil’s second point hadn’t reassured him quite as well. “It’s... last night was about how much we wanted to share, and were choosing to actively put out in the world, not just how to behave as us, how to interact. I wanted this - and maybe stupidly, and you are right, I think - but I wanted this to just let us relax and be normal, but I’m if anything even more aware of how I interact with you than usual.”
“Was that not normal though?” Phil asks. “You’d act like that in front of our families, friends who know, wouldn’t you?”
Dan nods, though he’s not entirely clear on where this is going.
“Nothing we’ve done has felt wrong to us, has felt like not a normal part of our relationship. Does it really all feel like a performance to you?” Phil asks, and Dan can tell he’s trying not to look worried.
“I don’t know,” Dan bursts out, a little stronger than he might have meant to. “That’s it, that’s what I really hate, like when I was following you off stage, I don’t know if it was normal or to make a point, and I hate that. It doesn’t all feel fake, not at all, but it’s the doubting I can’t deal with.”
“I think that’s just going to have to be something we get there on. I don’t exactly instinctively know exactly which behaviour is making a point to the people we’re talking with and which is just that I want to, that it’s how we are,” Phil points out, and Dan relaxes more to hear that they’re on the same page, that Phil doesn’t magically know how to deal with this any better than he does. “It’s just something we’re going to have to get through, and getting to the end of this weekend, stopping making a deliberate point, that’ll help. We just need to do whatever feels most comfortable in the moment and move on. We’ll get there.”
“Okay,” Dan says, relaxing back into the sofa. “Yeah, you’re right, I just need to stop overthinking it.”
“Well, I’m not sure I put it exactly like that, but...” Phil trails off, grinning as Dan swats at him.
“Yeah yeah, fuck off,” Dan fights back a smile. “You’re still good with everything?” he checks
“Yeah, you know I don’t overthink stuff as much as you,” Phil teases.
“Well than, shall we see if we can shake that up by finding out what everyone’s got to say online?” Dan asks, picking up his laptop from the coffee table.
Phil groans. “I suppose we’d better,” he sighs, resigned.
Despite checking online reactions being just as stressful as they had anticipated, Dan and Phil find themselves back in a taxi a few short hours later, heading across London to meet Sophie, PJ, Felix and Marzia for dinner before the closing party of the convention. It’s a wonder they’d managed to miss Felix and Marzia over the weekend so far, but thankfully Marzia had whipped them all into shape and made an effort to arrange a meal before they went back to Brighton.
Marzia is vlogging her drink when they arrive, so they hang back a little to let her finish before coming up and exchanging greetings, and, more surprisingly, hugs.
“We haven’t seen you in too long,” Marzia insists as they scoot into the circular booth. “We have so much to catch up on, how was the tour, tell us everything!”
Dan laughs, glancing across at Phil. “Well, we won’t bore you, but-” he launches into one of the funnier anecdotes, and the meal flies by in a whirl of catching up, excellent food and better company, with a few equally enjoyable cocktails. Dan is surprised but pleased to find himself relaxing into Phil’s side, as he would at home, without really considering their location. They had deliberately met up a little way from the venue, and Dan had done a scan when they entered and not seen anyone they might expect to recognise them, but the fact that Dan had found himself so close against Phil without any of the hyperawareness of the morning still gives him a mild thrill.
With a few drinks inside him, the warmth of Phil pressed up against his side and his hand heavy on Dan’s thigh, it feels like an insight into how their future could go. For the first time he really believes Phil’s words, believes that they’ll get there and it isn’t just a fundamental flaw in his ability to relate to others, and the last catch of tightness in his chest dissolves.
“You alright?” Phil asks lowly, leaning in and squeezing Dan’s thigh gently.
“Perfect,” Dan grins, letting all that happiness show on his face, and impulsively leaning in to give Phil a quick kiss on the cheek, as he’s right there. Phil doesn’t startle, but his eyebrows do shoot up in surprise before his expression softens, his own smile growing as he leans out of Dan’s space. No one had even noticed.
“Good,” Phil says, squeezing Dan’s thigh again as the waitress approaches their table. “Me too.”
They’re still grinning at each other like idiots when the waitress announces their sundae orders, but turn away quickly to the serious business of food.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Marzia calls as they lift their spoons, ready to dig in. “These all look too good, we need a picture!”
“No, take your own picture of your own food, let me eat mine,” Felix protests, and there’s a brief scuffle before Marzia manages to wrestle his spoon away.
“You don’t get it back until I have the perfect picture,” she says, handing the spoon along with her own over to Sophie for safe keeping and sticking her tongue out at Felix as everyone else puts their sundaes together in the middle of the table - Phil had been lucky enough to find a vegan option that was lactose free, and for once wouldn’t suffer for his food.
Even Felix has to admit that the picture looks pretty amazing when Marzia posts it, and she’s apparently awakened the urge to preserve the evening in PJ too, as he flags down their waitress the next time she walks past and asks her to take a picture of them all. She is, of course, obliging, and they all lean in towards the centre of the booth for the picture, Phil’s arm coming to rest over Dan’s shoulders.
They thank the waitress as she hands PJ’s phone back, but he frowns down at the screen.
“What’s wrong?” Phil asks.
“Nothing, nothing, it’s a great picture,” PJ says. “It’s just that I was thinking of tweeting it, and you two...” he trails off, tilts the screen to show Felix and Marzia paired up, Sophie and PJ, and the two of them looking equally like a couple on the end. Phil has a tendency to touch, in photos, always ending up looking like he’s either dating or the older brother of people in the vast majority of them - Dan’s seen the term ‘accidental husband Phil Lester’ floating around the internet - and now he actually feels able to touch Dan it’s clearly transferred to him.
“That’s fine,” Phil accepts for them both, glancing quickly at Dan, who nods. “I mean, you might not want to post it for the sake of your mentions, but we’re fine.”
PJ laughs a little, shaking his head, clearly having forgotten, but is interrupted by Felix before he can speak.
“Hey, how come they get to veto the picture and not us?” Felix demands. “Marzia could look hideous!”
Marzia slaps Felix on the arm, but laughs as PJ hands his phone over, pretending to concede the point.
Felix’s eyebrows shoot up as he gets a good look at the picture. “You guys look like you’re dating,” he says bluntly, looking up at Dan and Phil across the table.
“We are,” Dan points out, grinning cheekily.
“It’s gonna make your fans even more ridiculous than usual,” Felix points out in return, and Dan just rolls his eyes.
“We’re intimately familiar with how ridiculous they are right now, don’t worry about it,” he assures Felix.
“I still say that it can’t be worse than the first reaction to the book,” Phil says, bringing back a point he’d made to Dan earlier that day. “At least most of them were expecting this.”
“Well, if you want to play into those weirdos I guess that’s your choice,” Felix concedes, handing the phone back to PJ.
“Hey, we wouldn’t be here without those weirdos,” Dan defends.
“And you wouldn’t just play them like that,” Marzia cuts in perceptively. “It would be cruel.”
Dan shrugs, allowing himself to grin a little. The deeper they get into this the more excited he is, the less frightened, for all their viewers will likely just get more ridiculous for a while. Glancing across at Phil Dan sees him smiling too, and wonders if he’d had the same view of their relaxed future playing out in this meal. He’s glad to see Phil looking pleased and a little excited about their decision, given that his initial motivations came entirely from not wanting to limit their future than an actual drive to come out. It’s good to see actual confirmation that he didn’t feel in any way forced into a decision he didn’t want through circumstance, for all he had endlessly reassured Dan he was happy with their choice before they began the process.
“You know they’re going to read into this,” Felix warns. “You keep letting pictures like this out they’re gonna figure it out,” Felix says, likely thinking back to pictures from the TATINOF afterparty that the internet never saw, apparently behind on the undercurrent of the situation.
“I guess they will,” Phil replies, still grinning a little. Dan takes his hand under the table, pleased to see him happy at the idea.
“I mean, eventually,” Dan interjects, rolling his eyes. “They’ve been a bit slow so far, but y’know, some of them are getting there.”
PJ and Sophie, sat in between the two couples and fully aware of the choice Dan and Phil have made, are watching the conversation like it’s a particularly amusing tennis match, heads snapping back and forth.
“You know, I thought the point of doing things like this was to avoid having to talk about it,” Dan says lightly when Felix appears to have no response, turning to Phil. “It’s not worked out particularly well.”
“No, it hasn’t,” Phil agrees with a chuckle.
“You’re doing a pretty good job talking around it,” PJ says wryly, returning to his sundae having presumably finished sending his tweet. And yes, Dan’s phone buzzes in his pocket as if to confirm. He takes it out to like and retweet, seeing Phil doing the same next to him in his peripheral vision.
“Well then I suppose congratulations are in order,” Marzia suggests, raising her glass.
“We’re not engaged yet, just coming out,” Dan jokes, smiling.
“Yet?” Marzia arches an eyebrow and Dan can feel himself start to blush. He glances over at Phil and sees him smirking.
“Yet,” Phil says lightly, catching Dan’s eye, and Dan only blushes harder, starting to grin.
“Anyway,” Marzia continues, apparently happy to let them off the hook. “This is a big step too, so we congratulate,” she gestures for everyone to raise their glass, and they all clink them together in a gesture kind enough that it leaves Dan biting the inside of his cheek to avoid tearing up.
“Thank you,” Dan says sincerely, accidentally in sync with Phil, glad when it breaks the suddenly heavy atmosphere.
“Right, can I get back to my ice cream now?” PJ asks. “It’s half melted, and I’m blaming all of you.”
“Hey, it was your photo that started this whole delay,” Phil points out, laughing.
They do focus on their food after that, eating quickly but lingering over their drinks until it’s an appropriate time to leave for the party.
Dan and Phil end up in a taxi with PJ, leaving the others getting into their own cab and planning to meet outside the venue. After a whole evening of conversation they seem to mutually agree to check their phones for a moment of quiet.
“How did I forget about my mentions?” PJ laments a few short seconds after opening twitter. “Everything is capslocked, nothing is words, how do you deal with this?”
Dan just laughs, still scrolling through his own, similar feed.
“Normally it’s not this bad,” Phil points out, though he puts his own phone away to keep PJ company. “And it’s only excited yelling, right, nothing worse?”
“I mean, I couldn’t tell,” PJ admits. “I don’t know how you’re making any sense of this,” he says to Dan.
“I’m not, that’s the issue,” Dan frowns. “I feel like I’m missing something, and-” he pauses, clicking onto a two second twitter video with a few thousand likes. “Ah.”
“Ah?” Phil inquires, concerned, putting a hand on Dan’s thigh and leaning in to see the screen.
“Nothing bad,” Dan assures him, tilting the screen so Phil could watch the video too, see a blurry version of them standing together, Phil’s arm around Dan’s hips as he leans into his ear to talk. “We were apparently in the background of literally two seconds of someone’s vlog last night,” Dan explains to PJ.
“D’you think they’re getting shit for it?” Phil asks, worrying his lower lip.
“I don’t even who it was,” Dan admits. “I’ll try and find out and we’ll talk to them tonight, but people are mostly arguing about what it means, if it means anything, if it’s insulting us to assume it means something-” he’s aware of his tone getting gradually more bitter and doesn’t necessarily want to get into it in a cab with PJ, so tries to lighten it up a little “-if everyone’s suffering a mass hallucination, you know, stuff like that.”
It works, in that PJ and Phil both laugh and start speculating about what else might be part of such a mass hallucination, but the nudge of Phil’s foot against his shows him that his tone hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’m sorry, Peej, I really should figure out who that was,” Dan grimaces apologetically after a few rounds of adding to what is quickly becoming its own fictional world.
“And we’re about ten seconds from the expo hall, so you better do it soon,” PJ points out, laughing, the cab stopping before he finishes his sentence.
Dan ended up not needing to figure out who had inadvertently caught them in the background of a video, as she hurried up to apologise approximately the instant he and Phil entered the venue. They receive apologies and give their own back for the drama she’s ended up in the middle of, along with permission to keep the video up if she wants, and full understanding if she doesn’t. They’re lucky that that’s the end of it, Dan thinks, but the video seems to have gone up recently enough - and the inclusion of them was minor enough - to avoid the notice of everyone at the party.
They lose a little of the relaxed atmosphere from dinner nonetheless, but that was always bound to happen with the larger, louder setting, so Dan tries not to mourn it too much. It certainly helps that his awareness of Phil morphs from tension over his own actions to anticipating Phil’s touch after about the fourth cocktail. The way his stomach tightens as Phil’s fingers brush his on the stem of his glass, the flare of heat as Phil tips his head back to drain his drink, and the flicker of excitement as Phil catches his eye and smirks, just a little, just enough to show they’re on the same page. This awareness is familiar, though just as intense. This awareness, Dan can handle.
It becomes a game, throughout the night, calculating touches for an entirely different reason than the night before. Dan’s foot wrapped around Phil’s ankle below the table, anchoring, tapping gently to remind him of his presence. Phil’s arm over Dan’s shoulders, warm and solid, fingertips trailing light patterns along Dan’s upper arm. Dan’s palm on the small of Phil’s back, fingers massaging slowly lowering circles right down to his waistband. Phil’s hand solid on Dan’s shoulder as he leans over to pick up his drink from the table, to help maintain balance, just happening to run his fingers down the side of Dan’s neck as he places it. Dan’s hand skirting up to Phil’s hip, dipping fingers below his shirt to touch warm skin. Phil leaning in to whisper in Dan’s ear, Dan doesn’t even know what, warm torso against his side and a brief brush of lips on his neck before he pulls away.
Dan was wrong, he can’t handle this. They’re on their own by now, as they somehow always end up, so Dan makes no attempt to cover his intent as he pulls away from Phil, drags him up by the hand, and starts stalking towards the exit.
“Does this mean you lose?” Phil asks, warm in his ear, hands heavy on Dan’s hips as he has to slow to navigate a mass of people.
“I always lose,” Dan admits, voice rough, gratified when it makes Phil’s hands tighten on his hips.
They hurry into the first taxi in the rank, Dan stumbling out their address before turning to pounce on Phil. They kiss, frantic, for a few seconds, until Dan skims a hand up Phil’s back under his shirt and Phil pulls back.
“We’re not embarrassing ourselves in a taxi,” Phil states.
“I’m not fucking sure about that,” Dan challenges. “Might be too late, anyway,” he points out, glancing forward to the cabbie reaching to turn up his music.
“We’re not embarrassing ourselves in a taxi,” Phil repeats, firmer this time, and Dan sighs but retreats to his side of the backseat.
Within five minutes Phil’s ankle is hooked around Dan’s, and Dan’s hand is creeping ever so slowly up Phil’s thigh.
“Fuck, cool down and maybe do something productive, check twitter,” Phil instructs, pulling his own leg and Dan’s hand away as his composure snaps before his willpower.
Dan huffs but obeys - partially caving to his own constant curiosity - blinking at the glare of his screen and burying himself in his mentions. It takes all of two minutes for him to follow a conversation thread to the end, the point where he’s stopped being mentioned, and feel himself start to fill with what could become of a kind of burning, boiling rage.
“I don’t think twitter was the best idea,” Dan says, voice low and monotone enough to surprise himself, considering how quickly and consciously he’d bailed.
Phil turns from the window and frowns, eyes flicking over Dan’s face. “Do I want to know?” he asks.
Dan shakes his head. “And I don’t want to dwell,” he adds. “Distract me?”
Phil hums thoughtfully. “Did you hear much about Hazel’s new film?” he asks, and Dan gratefully shakes his head, sinking into his seat as Phil’s ankle hooks around his once more and he starts up a slow, detailed explanation.
Dan’s a little sore when he wakes up, conversation in the cab having been derailed again before the night ultimately left him with what feels like a good set of scratches and possibly a whole array of love bites, not that he’s complaining. He stretches to take stock and notices that while Phil’s spot in the bed is empty, the scent of coffee is drifting through the open door. He’s just contemplating moving when he hears Phil coming down the hall, and quickly feigns sleep to try and encourage him back into bed.
There’s an odd clatter of Phil’s side of the bed before it dips as he climbs in, immediately leaning over Dan and shaking his shoulder lightly.
“Hey, there’s food,” Phil calls lowly, and Dan abandons the faked sleep at once, rolling over to face Phil.
“You made me breakfast in bed?” he asks, grinning up at Phil before pushing himself into a matching sitting position.
“Might have,” Phil smiles, and Dan grins impossibly wider as he spots the tray resting on Phil’s bedside table, piled high with pancakes. “Why, what would it get me?” Phil asks, smile slipping to a smirk.
“You already get whatever you want,” Dan grumbles, but leans in and gives Phil the kiss he’s clearly angling for, glad they’d both taken the time to brush their teeth - and down water - last night.
“I brought ibuprofen, too,” Phil says, revealing the painkillers he’d been holding in his hand.
Dan’s head isn’t too bad, actually, but he kisses Phil again for his consideration, before spotting a slight flaw. “Did you bring water?” he asks.
“You can take them with coffee?” Phil offers.
Dan shakes his head, laughing. “I need to pee anyway, I’ll go,” he says, and stands to do so.
He’s halfway back up the stairs when a thought hits him, and is still turning it over in his mind as he clambers back into bed, rolling his eyes but deeming it not worth a fight when he sees that Phil’s chosen to put on their Buffy rewatch over any new episodes.
“Can I tweet this?” Dan asks, figuring it’s worth seeing if he can before deciding if he wants to.
“Sure, if you want to play the hungover card,” Phil almost laughs, lifting the tray from his bedside table on to their laps.
“No, I mean, with a picture,” Dan elaborates. “Me, having breakfast in bed made by you, with you, in your bed. Can I tweet that?”
Phil’s quiet for a moment, considering. “Why?” he asks, perhaps sensing that there’s more Dan wants to say.
“So,” Dan begins, gathering his thoughts. “I know we agreed not to make an announcement-”
“But...?” Phil interjects expectantly.
“And,” Dan continues pointedly, “I still completely agree with that-”
“But,” Phil interjects again, and this time they’re in sync.
“The thing on twitter last night....” Dan trails off, shaking his head. “It was nothing really, stupid, I overreacted to one biphobic, homophobic idiot, but... they weren’t the only one thinking they were defending us by violently denying that we could ever be together. And that side of things isn’t going to calm down, and might only get more and more aggressive, until we do something totally undeniable, something that can’t reasonably be interpreted in any light but romantic.”
“And you think tweeting about this would be that thing?” Phil asks.
“I don’t know,” Dan freely admits. “I don’t know if it would, and it almost definitely wouldn’t be a total solution.”
Phil hums, considering. “Things would calm down anyway, like they did with you talking about guys.”
“They would,” Dan agrees. “They would, but there’d still be that undercurrent, there’d still be small arguments, I know there still are about me. It wouldn’t totally die, still might not, but I think this would help. And... I want to,” he says in a rush, figuring he’d better be totally honest. “You know I like to share more than you, I want to share this, I want to show off my wonderful boyfriend being sweet and brag about the best wake up of the... well, the month, at least,” Dan smirks.
“I would quite like things to calm down,” Phil says thoughtfully, and Dan wonders if he’d been on twitter while cooking breakfast. “Yeah, go on then,” he concedes, “but we watch at least three episodes of Buffy before leaving this bed.”
“Deal,” Dan grins, leaning over to kiss Phil again, sinking into it for a long moment. “Thank you,” he says seriously. “I know we’re different on this but I need you to tell me, I want to know, if I’m ever pushing what you’re comfortable with. I won’t do anything without your permission.”
“I trust you,” Phil returns, equally serious. “I trust you to know where I stand and not push too far, I don’t think you’d ever do anything I couldn’t bear even if you didn’t check in. I am fine with this,” he continues, realising Dan’s specific worry even though he’d technically got his way. “Hearing that you want to brag about me helped, I’ll admit,” he smiles.
“I love you,” Dan sighs, leaning in for another kiss before picking his phone up to photograph their breakfast tray. He quickly picks a filter for instagram, aware that their food is rapidly cooling, and Phil is starting to devour it while he tweets, and lets the words trip straight from his head.
The tweet he shows to Phil reads ‘my favourite angel bean just brought my hungover ass breakfast in bed. think he just wanted pancakes, but still sweet’, with the black heart emoji to finish it off, and the picture of the tray on Phil’s bedsheets attached.
Phil nods his permission to avoid sacrificing his mouthful of pancakes, and Dan hits send, trying to pretend that his heart is in no way beating twice as fast for doing so. Phil picks up his phone, Dan assumes to like and maybe retweet, as Dan picks up a fork to finally tuck in, glad that the pancakes are still warm.
Dan frowns in surprise when his phone buzzes three times, picks it up to a reply from Phil.
‘all part of my plan to trap you for a half-day Buffy marathon! *evil cackles*’ Dan reads, and smiles across at Phil.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he says.
“Wanted to,” Phil shrugs. “Now, are you done with twitter, can I start the episode?” he asks.
“One sec,” Dan responds, typing out a quick ‘i knew you were up to something’ followed by a broken heart emoji to send in response, then getting caught in his mentions before he manages to put his phone down.
“Can I send this?” he asks, showing Phil one of his first replies, from someone saying ‘i’d kill to have a bf that sweet’, with his own ‘i’m a lucky boy’ response, complete with blushing emoji, already typed out.
Phil just nods, his face already filled with pancakes once again, and Dan hits send before finally placing his phone at the very edge of arms’ reach, where he won’t be tempted to pick it up. “I’m yours,” he smiles, picking up his fork once again.
“About time too,” Phil mutters, hitting play on the remote.
“Phil, I was talking to the food, not you,” Dan says apologetically, trying to muffle his laughter.
Phil just grunts in response, eyes glued to the TV screen, but Dan can see the beginnings of a blush creeping up his neck.
“So this is it?” Phil asks, when the title sequence starts. “The weekend’s over, no more active trying, just... us.”
“Yeah,” Dan agrees, smiling softly. “I mean, I don’t know how we’ll get through these liveshows, or how and when or if people who only watch our main channel videos will figure stuff out, but yeah, let’s try that relaxed, natural behaviour attitude we were talking about on Friday for those ones.”
“Perfect,” Phil sighs, though Dan had felt him tense at the mention of liveshows.
“And no more trying to figure out online responses,” Dan adds, suddenly. “We obviously can’t avoid it totally -” Dan inclines his head in agreement when Phil mutters ‘liveshows’ under his breath “ - but no more tracking what’s going on, how many people have figured it out, how many are still arguing, when it’s not literally shoved in our faces.”
“Trying to stop overthinking?” Phil suggests, and Dan rolls his eyes.
“I guess the guy who told me that might have some idea of what helps me relax,” he accepts, nudging Phil lightly with his shoulder as an excuse to lean into his side.
“I guess he cares about you and happens to think that advice might suit him too,” Phil responds, and Dan can feel the smile in the kiss he presses to Dan’s temple.
Dan can’t help but smile to himself in response, sitting upright again just to remove the empty tray from their laps and move right back, shifting down until he can lean his head against Phil’s shoulder. He feels his smile widen as he recognises the beginning of one of their favourite episodes, and Phil drops another kiss on his forehead. Pancakes sat heavy in his belly, the solid warmth of Phil along his side, Dan can’t imagine being anything but relaxed. They’ll get there.