“So, how’s uni?” Lewis says when he picks up. There’s no hi or hello, but Dan’s so happy to hear Lewis’s voice that it doesn’t even matter. Dan’s parents had dropped him off at school, his mom crying a little bit when he’d hugged her goodbye, his dad looking so proud and sad at the same time that Dan had felt more than a little melancholy and nervous when they’d finally driven away.
Lewis had said his goodbye the day before, an awkwardly short, “Well, I’ll call you,” as they stood outside of the train station. Dan had wanted to reach out and pull him in for a hug, but he’d settled for briefly resting his hand on Lewis’s shoulder. Lewis had leaned into the touch for a moment before Dan dropped his hand.
“Yeah,” Dan had said, feeling stupid and lost, and then Lewis had turned around, disappeared into the shadow of the station.
Despite the promise, he hadn’t called though, so Dan had texted him once he’d arrived at his college, just to let him know that he’d arrived. They’d texted back and forth, bits of their day, although it had been like describing the outside of an ice cream container rather than the actual ice cream underneath.
But it had felt weird—even just describing his college. Dan felt this guilt over it, like he didn’t want to make it sound too posh or too fun, so he’d settled for texting his small thoughts like his bed being too small or the fact that there was no such thing as privacy. But it wasn’t the same as talking to Lewis, hearing the pauses in-between the words. With Lewis it was always as much of what he wasn’t saying as what he was, so three days in, Dan finally bit the bullet and called Lewis.
“It’s good to hear you too,” Dan said dryly. Lewis huffed out a laugh on the other line and something eased inside of Dan. “It’s a complete mess though. No privacy but the people are alright. And the rowing looks like it’ll be good.”
“Of course, that’s what you would care about,” Lewis said, but he seemed a bit more at ease.
“I know that you like the results of it,” Dan said, smirking.
“Can’t argue with that,” Lewis said, and then they were both silent for a moment. At first, it felt charged, like the prelude to something more, but then it went on too long, turning awkward, so Dan cast about for anything to talk about.
“How’s Wayne?” he said.
“Oh, total shit,” Lewis said, and then launched into a story about Wayne getting thrown out of a pub when he apparently started a fight with some arsehole.
They moved on from Wayne to Lewis’s job, skirting carefully around Lewis’s mum and Jerry, before meandering over to freshers week. Gonville and Caius’ was as rowdy as it got for the Cambridge freshers, so Dan told Lewis about the three solid mornings of hangovers.
“Oh, I feel terrible for you,” Lewis said.
“It’ll be my last one for a while,” Dan promised. “I’m going to go out for rowing and it’s all early mornings.”
“You’re mad,” Lewis said.
Eventually Dan looked down and realised that they’d been talking for almost an hour. “Shit,” he said, jumping up and starting to look for his sweatshirt. “I’ve got to run, I’ve got an obligatory consent meeting.”
“You’ve got an obligatory what meeting?” Lewis said, laughing.
“Consent. You know, don’t have sex with girls without them saying yes. Et cetera et cetera.”
“Should I be worried about you having sex with girls?”
“Fuck off, wanker,” Dan said and then lighter, “Thanks for talking.”
“Course,” Lewis said just as lightly. “It was—it was good. Bye.”
“Bye.” And then Lewis was gone.
The adjustment to uni went pretty well, in spite of everything. Dan had slotted into the majority of lectures, labs and supervisions that he wanted—a lot of English ones, much to his dad’s chagrin , but he’d also signed up for a philosophy paper, and he’d joined the film club which had promised the use of actual film cameras. He also went out for the rowing team—they accepted everyone, but he could tell that they were impressed with his conditioning. He obviously had some stiff competition, but he’d felt like he had a reasonably shot at getting in one of top five crews. It was good. It was busy. And more often than he would have guessed, he still found himself missing Lewis.
They texted, but it wasn’t the same, just words on a screen, and Lewis was careful not to let too much of himself come through, so sometimes Dan felt like he was talking to someone he’d just barely met, rather than Lewis. And they talked on the phone when they could, but between Lewis’s work schedule and Dan’s classes or friends dragging him out, that left the odd fifteen minutes at 3:30 p.m. or a hurried half-hour in the morning, while Dan tried to get ready after rowing.
“Hey Dan, you’re joining, right?” Anna called from down the hallway. Dan dumped his pack on his bed and thought about lying down on it and taking a glorious nap right on top of the blue patterned duvet cover.
“Where are we theoretically going?” Dan said. Anna poked her head into the room. She’d managed to corral Brian and Kirsty behind her, and they were talking loudly over each other, probably already arguing.
“Just over to Spoons,” she said.
“Come on, Vassa,” Vinny said, coming out into the hallway and giving Dan a challenging smile.
“Yeah, alright,” Dan said and grabbed his wallet before following the group as they make their way down the hall. They picked up a half a dozen or so other students along the way to Spoons, so by the time that they arrived, the group was already pretty rowdy.
“I’ll get first,” Brian said and Dan got up to help him, chatting about their classes as they ordered enough pints and made their way back to the group’s table. Brian took the seat next to Kirsty, so Dan grabbed the next open one in between Jen and Harry.
“Dan,” Jen said, once Dan was situated on the wooden bench. “One of the girls in my history class was asking about you today and I think I see her over there—want me to introduce you?”
Dan coughed a few times, beer going down the wrong way. He had thought about this exact scenario. Anna and Brian turned at the coughing and Dan felt like pretty much the whole table was staring at him.
“I’m, uh,” Dan started. Seeing this guy, his name is Lewis. I’m kind of crazy about him. Everyone kept staring at him. “I’m uh, sort of seeing someone, I guess. Hey, I think I’ll go get the next round.”
Dan stood up before anyone could stop him and the barman gave him an odd look at coming back so quickly, but Dan ignored it and felt the shame sinking deep into his skin. When Dan got back to the table, the conversation had moved on, but for the rest of the evening, Dan couldn’t shake the guilt creeping over his shoulders.
Lewis texted him throughout the evening, which made it worse. His boss wanted to move Lewis to a permanent contract, which was good, except for the fact that Lewis hated working there. When Dan finally couldn’t take it anymore, he made his goodbyes to Anna, Kirsty and Brian—Jen and Harry having disappeared somewhere into the crowd—and headed out to head back to his room.
As soon as Dan stepped outside, he pulled out his phone, trying to ignore the cowardice from earlier. He checked the time—quarter past eleven, so Lewis was probably on his way home from the pub—and then pressed call.
“Hey,” Lewis said, his voice soft with trying to not be overheard.
“Hey,” Dan said back. “You out with your mates or at home?”
“Home. Jerry’s here, so you know,” Lewis said.
Dan didn’t really—he loved his parents wholeheartedly and knew that they loved him. He knew that they weren’t perfect—who was? But, they always had his back. He didn’t understand how Lewis’s mother could date someone like Jerry. But Jerry and Lewis’s mother were a completely off-limits topic, so Dan just made a noise of agreement.
“I think I might stay with Harry for a few days,” Lewis said after a long pause.
“Yeah?” Dan said. He wanted to say that sounded good—that getting away from Jerry was a great decision—but he asked about Harry, who lived with his older brother, who were both in construction, and Lewis idly talked about trying to get a job in construction.
“It’ll pay better,” Lewis said.
“Big difference?” Dan asked.
“Enough to at least think about it,” Lewis said, but it sounded like Lewis had already thought about it and decided that he didn’t want to work in construction.
“Fair enough,” Dan said and then they both went quiet again. Dan wanted to reach out and hold Lewis from wherever he was. He needed to feel Lewis next to him, his body pressed tight. They were both so terrible with words, but when they were together, Dan could make him understand. Dan could see the things that Lewis left unsaid rather than having to guess at them.
“Why don’t you come up for a visit?” Dan said suddenly.
“I—I can’t right now,” Lewis said.
“Well not at this exact moment, but maybe on your next day off,” Dan said.
“I don’t really have the time right now,” Lewis said, his voice tight and aggressive, and it hit Dan like a train that Lewis didn’t have the cash for a ticket.
“Come on,” Dan said and then as casually as he could. “I’ll send you the ticket and you can just pop up, visit the uni, get naked.”
He’d tried to stick it in there unobtrusively, but Lewis saw it for what it was. “No, you’re not buying me a ticket.”
“Stop,” Lewis said in a tone that says this was final, so Dan dropped it in defeat. Lewis didn’t hang up though, so Dan took it as the gift that it was and changed the subject.
After they hung up, Dan lay on his bed, feeling intensely sorry for himself and lonely. i miss you. x he texted.
Lewis texted back, i miss you too. x
It wasn’t quite the same, but it made Dan feel a little better before he fell asleep.
this professor is ttl shit, Dan texted the following morning even though he wasn’t supposed to use his phone in lecture.
higher education, Lewis reminded him.
fucker, Dan texted back.
So they settled into a pattern: texts that barely scratched the surface of what Dan wanted (but that Dan would gladly take over the alternative) and phone calls every couple days when their schedules aligned just right. Somedays it felt like everything that Dan did was wrong—all of his other friends had been spending the term getting drunk and hooking up with each other—little bits of drama flaring and fading—that Dan perpetually felt left out of. It wasn’t like he wanted the drama, but it seemed like some essential part of school experience that brought everyone else together, leaving Dan on the edges.
On the other end, he missed Lewis so much that it felt illogical—they’d barely known each other before Dan moved away—but Lewis was so much more than—Lewis was—Lewis was so hard to define, but he made Dan happy. He made Dan feel whole.
By early November, Dan was beginning to feel the stresses of school catch up to him. “I am going to fail all of my papers,” Dan said, slumped on his bed, his laptop and books spread out all around. “Although at least the sessions with my supervisor are going better.”
Lewis made a mmhm-ing noise that he indicated he was definitely not listening. “And Tite just got promoted to head wizard at the ministry of magic,” Dan said, picking up one of his books and flipping through it idly. Lewis made another noise of agreement.
“Lewis,” Dan said in exasperation.
“Hey, so I’ve got two days off this weekend,” Lewis says and he sounds almost nervous.
“Yeah? You and the boys going to do anything exciting?” Dan asked.
Lewis made an aborted sound of frustration and Dan wasn’t sure what he was missing. “I was thinking of coming up.”
Dan closed his book with a decisive thump and sat up straight. “You’re what?”
“Visiting—you had mentioned,” Lewis said and there was a ring of defensiveness in it.
Dan couldn’t stop the sheer rush of excitement. “Yes, yes. Definitely.”
“Definitely, yes, you want me to come?”
“Fuck off,” Dan said, unable to keep the giddiness out of his voice. “Of course, I want you to come.”
“Alright,” Lewis said, and then Dan could sense the relief in his voice.
“You know that I always want you to come,” Dan said without thinking. “I mean—I always want to see you.”
“Oh, well, that’s—that’s good,” Lewis said and then they both went quiet, but it wasn’t as awkward as their usual silences.
Dan met Lewis at the train station, late Friday night. Lewis had texted him when he made the train. Dan had made sure his room was clean, feeling oddly concerned about how Lewis would see it, and then biked over to the train station.
Dan arrived with thirty minutes to spare and spent the rest of the time messing around on his phone, texting Titan about some girl that Titan was trying to impress. Based on the increasing amount of typos, it seemed like Titan’s assessment of his performance may have been less than accurate, but Dan appreciated the distraction.
When Lewis’s train finally arrived, there were butterflies crowding in Dan’s stomach and he forced himself to keep leaning casually against the wall, not willing to give up the pretense of being cool. He scanned the crowds until he saw Lewis separate himself out from a large group. Lewis gave a small wave and Dan couldn’t help the big smile that came out on his face. So much for being cool.
They both stood there, bodies tense with uncertainty, and Dan wanted to step forward and pull him into a hug—actually feel Lewis—but wasn’t sure of how it would be received. So he settled for a hand on Lewis’s back and a half press of their shoulders together.
“Hey,” he said, Lewis echoing it. “Shall we go?” Lewis muttered yes and Dan instinctively reached for the small duffel that Lewis had thrown over his shoulder. Lewis glared at him, so Dan glared back, but left it.
They didn’t talk much on the way out—half small talk about the train and the weather and the distance between them felt large. Had they become strangers again so quickly? Dan wondered if Lewis regretted his decision to come.
After they collected Dan’s bike from the rack and started the trek back to Dan’s college, Dan thought, fuck it. He laid his bike down on the sidewalk and turned towards Lewis. Better to know now than later, anyways.
“Hey, I’m going to hug you,” Dan said and then put his arms around Lewis. Lewis tensed up, but after a few seconds, he surged forward and wrapped his arms around Dan, pulling him tight.
“I’ve missed you,” Lewis said into collar of Dan’s coat.
“Me too,” Dan said.
When they finally pulled back, Lewis looked more relaxed, smiling even, and Dan felt brave enough to ask, “Want a ride on the back of my bike?”
Lewis raised a skeptical eyebrow, but said yes, so Dan grabbed his bike and they rearranged themselves with a minimum of jostling, Lewis putting his arms around Dan’s waist, warm even through his coat.
The college was quiet when they got back—most everyone out at the pubs—but Brian caught them just before they reached Dan’s room.
“Who’s this?” he asked, sticking out a hand. “Brian, I live down this hall.”
“Lewis,” Lewis said. “I’m—uh—” He turned to Dan looking for a cue.
“Visiting for the weekend,” Dan said, copping out of the easy pass, deliberately not looking over at Lewis. Brian nodded and threw his chin down the hall.
“You joining at the pub?” Brian asked.
This time, Dan turned to Lewis for the cue. Lewis shrugged. “Maybe,” Dan hedged. “We’ll try and meet you there.” Before Brian could commit them to anything more definitive, Dan pushed Lewis into his room.
Once the door was closed, Dan lifted Lewis’s bag from his shoulder and gently set it on the ground. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” Lewis said and he pressed his lips to Dan’s. Dan kissed back, the low-level arousal from the train station kicking up and spreading through his body, and then deepened the kiss, his hands coming to rest at the small of Lewis’s back just as Lewis’s hands reached up to pull at Dan’s hair.
“You’ve got a bed somewhere in this place, yeah?” Lewis said and Dan took that for the hint that it was and pushed Lewis back towards his bed.
They got out of their clothes in record time and Dan didn’t even have a chance to appreciate the gorgeous expanse of Lewis before Lewis went down on him. Lewis’s mouth was wet and perfect, so tight, and none of Dan’s dreams or fantasies for the past few months could even compare. Dan wasn’t even embarrassed when he came quickly, his body going boneless on the bed.
Lewis moved up next to him and they kissed sloppily for a few minutes, Dan trying to capture his breath and Lewis’s lips at the same time, only marginally successful at either. Dan could feel that Lewis was hard, pressed against his thigh, but Lewis seemed content to let Dan take his time.
That wasn’t to say that Lewis didn’t groan gratifying loud when Dan positioned himself below Lewis’s hips, leaning down to take Lewis into his mouth. Lewis placed his hands into Dan’s hair and Dan lost himself in the search for cut-off noises, the hitches in Lewis’s breath, the tightening of Lewis’s fingers. Dan could tell that Lewis was close when he yanked on Dan’s hair hard enough to hurt and then his body went loose all at once as he came.
Afterwards they both lay there, Lewis petting Dan’s hair occasionally as Dan buried his face in Lewis’s neck and let himself be surrounded by everything Lewis.
“I like the room,” Lewis said after a few minutes.
“What do you like about it?” Dan asked.
“Mainly that your mum and dad aren’t right next door,” Lewis said, making Dan laugh.
“Yeah, I like that too,” Dan said. “Although it’s weird not having them around—I kind of miss my dad’s bad jokes and my mum’s cooking. I can’t just turn a corner and ask for something.”
Lewis laughed and Dan could feel himself smiling as he guessed at the cause of it. “Oh, piss off,” he said. “How’s it going with you?”
Lewis shrugged so Dan pulled back to actually look at him. “Come on, I can tell that something’s been going on.”
Lewis sighed. “I’ve moved out.” Dan’s eyebrows raise involuntarily. “I’ve found a place with a friend. It’s total shit, but it’s fine.”
“Why did you move out?” Dan asked.
“I had a fight with Jerry—wasn’t worth living there anyways.”
“What was the fight about?” Dan was really asking if the fight was about Dan or Lewis being gay or both of those things at once.
Lewis flicked his eyes up which was answer enough, but when he looked back at Dan, his face was serious until a small smile broke out on his lips. “You look so fierce right now, like you’d fight Jerry about it.”
“I would,” Dan said, meaning it, and Lewis laughed, but Dan didn’t move.
“You would,” Lewis said and he looked almost fond. “Thank you. But don’t. He’s seriously not worth it. He’s a fucking idiot and I should have moved out a long time ago.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Dan asked.
“I’m telling you now,” Lewis said.
“Ok,” Dan said. “Ok.”
The bed was small, even smaller than his bed back home, but Lewis turned onto his side and let Dan press in behind him, and they managed to make fit. When Dan brought his arm over Lewis’s stomach, Lewis reached up and intertwined their fingers.
“So, not going out?” Lewis said just as Dan was starting to doze off.
“What?” Dan said, momentarily confused. “Oh, I mean if you want…” Although it was the last thing that he wanted.
Lewis snorted. “Go to sleep,” he said. And Dan did, just let the warmth of Lewis lull him under.
Dan had rowing in the morning, so he left an unfairly attractive-looking Lewis behind in the rumpled sheets, nearly succumbing to the urge to skip the session after Lewis pressed some loose kisses to Dan’s bare shoulder and let his hand linger down over Dan’s ass as Dan climbed over Lewis to get out of bed.
“Stop that,” Dan said. Lewis just looked smug and buried deeper under the covers.
Rowing was torture, but Dan was full of energy when he made it back to his room, smelling sweaty and gross and so excited to wake Lewis up. Just like Dan had expected, Lewis was grumpy about getting up, making faces at Dan’s smell but letting Dan manhandle them down to the bathroom, where they took a quick and hushed shower together before striking out for breakfast.
Dan had classes, so he left Lewis to his own devices for a few hours. Lewis then met Dan after his last class ended and was even accommodating enough to join Dan in the library for a few hours while Dan did some much-needed studying. With Lewis pressed up against his side, making occasional snippy comments about the other people studying in the library, Dan probably wasn’t as productive as he normally would have been, but it was entirely worth it.
When they got back after dinner, there was a quorum of people beginning to assemble in the front hall. “Vassa!” Vinny called out. “You joining?”
Dan threw a look at Lewis, who gave a small shrug and then a nod. “Yeah, alright, we’re keen, just let me drop off my stuff.”
When they returned, the group was already on their way out, so they walked at the end of the pack, hanging with all the other late-comers. Dan tentatively reached out to his side, feeling the edges of Lewis’s hand next to his. Lewis didn’t even move his hand away and Dan was delighted when Lewis moved his hand over so that their fingers were actually overlapping.
“Who’s your friend?” Kirsty said, turning around, and Lewis started to move his hand away fast, so Dan grabbed hold as Lewis went tense but didn’t pull away.
“Um,” Dan said, looking quickly at Lewis. “This is my boyfriend, Lewis.”
Lewis went faintly pink just as Kirsty looked slightly surprised, but she pulled her face together and played it cool. “Brilliant,” Kirsty said. “Nice to meet you, Lewis.”
Lewis mumbled something back, but he had a smile on his face and he held Dan’s hand tightly, and that was the only thing that mattered.