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don't smile at me

Chapter Text

Dan had no idea why he agreed to come to the swim meet. His boyfriend, James, had managed to convince Dan to come with him to watch his friend, Charles, swim. Dan didn’t belong with the sporty jocks; after all, he was the school’s biggest theatre nerd. This year, Dan was starring in the school’s musical: Robin Hood. He had been intrigued by acting since a young age. His grandmother loved to remind him of the fact he loved to dress up when he was younger and even had videotape recordings to prove her story.

Dan began acting at a local theatre when he was in elementary school and became very close with his theatre group. Sadly, he had to move and started middle school without the comfort of his old friends. Luckily the middle school had a performing arts program and Dan was able to make new friends. Many of these friends moved up with him into high school and with every play that passed, Dan grew more addicted to drama and acting. Yet he was here watching people swim when he should be in the theatre, memorizing lines.

The sharp piercing shrill of a whistle being blown drew Dan’s attention to the direction of a boy climbing out of the pool. He raised his fists in triumph and his teammates gathered around him, cheering and embracing him. Dan was sitting far away but the boy’s beauty seemed to be as clear as the blue spring sky. His hair was shifted upwards and his skinny pale torso made it seem as if swimming didn’t tan him at all. The boy turned his head towards Dan’s direction and Dan nearly fell off the cold metal bleachers. His eyes were sea glass blue and his lips were parted in a half laugh. He seemed strangely angelic for a swimmer and soon, Dan couldn’t find him anymore once more people began to crowd around the star swimmer.

I’ve been watchin’ you for some time, can’t stop staring at those ocean eyes

The crowd dispersed as the coach waved them away, ushering the boys into the changing rooms. Dan lost sight of the boy as the team filed into the changing rooms. He had been daydreaming the whole time and hadn’t had the slightest clue who had won but judging by the way the other team had frowns on their faces, it became obvious the home team won.

“Hey Dan, let’s go congratulate Charles and his teammates,” James pulled Dan’s arm as he stood up.

“Are we allowed to be in the changing rooms?” Dan asked worriedly as James led him to the changing rooms.

“I don’t think anybody cares,” James pushed the door open and the loud noises of people opening and shutting lockers blended in with the sounds of banter rushed towards Dan at once.

“Hey, Charles! You did great today! This is my boyfriend, Dan!” James grinned as Charles went directly for the bro hug instead of a handshake and Dan tried not to cringe at the awkwardness of the situation.

“Charlie, who are your friends?” The champion swimmer casually walked over to Charles and rested his elbow on his fellow teammates shoulder.

“I’m James and this is Dan,” James introduced, an amused twinkle in his eyes. Dan didn’t like the look on James’ face. It was a look he wore when he was challenged and James was willing to do anything to conquer a challenge.

“This is Phil, Mr. Gold Medal Olympic swimmer,” Charles teased as he swatted Phil’s arm off his shoulder.

“Oh screw off egghead,” Phil laughed and the instant his eyes met Dan’s, Dan froze like he was suddenly shot with a freeze-ray gun.

Burning cities and napalm skies. Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes, your ocean eyes

“You’re the guy who always plays the main roles in musicals, right? You were great in Beauty and The Beast last year! I never knew you had a bit of Gaston in you,” Phil chuckled, and Dan’s heart performed an elaborate tap dance that could’ve easily been mistaken for a heart attack.

“Haha, yeah I was! Is your last name Lester? I think your older brother was the director last year. He mentioned having a younger brother named Phil,” Dan attempted to seem collected as he hooked his fingers in the empty belt loops on his jeans, an old habit of his that resurfaced whenever he was anxious. James and Charles seemed to be having a different conversation and Dan was glad he could spend some time with Phil.

“Yep! He really loves directing which is weird since he used to be better at swimming than me. I guess his heart always belonged somewhere else,” Phil shrugged and ran his fingers through his obsidian hair, causing it to stick up like the quills on a porcupine’s back.

“Just so you know, James is my boyfriend,” Dan blurted out of the blue, his brain spiraling into panic once he admitted it.

“Everybody knows. Besides, I’m not going to try to steal you from James. I’m bisexual but I’m not a relationship wrecker,” Phil giggled, swatting at Dan’s arm playfully. James walked over and wrapped his arm around Dan’s waist possessively. He lifted his voice unnaturally high as if to force cheeriness and asked, “So, what were you guys talking about?”

“Drama. As in the acting drama, not gossip,” Dan replied quickly, feeling the jealousy radiating off his boyfriend’s body.

“Don’t worry, I’m not hitting on your boyfriend James. I have to go talk to the coach. See you guys around,” Phil managed one last smile before leaving the changing room.

No fair. You really know how to make me cry when you give me those ocean eyes

The next day, Dan saw Phil exactly 3 times. The first time was brief as Phil turned a corner and disappeared into the crowd before Dan could catch his eye. The second time occurred when Dan stood in the lunch line and his eyes locked with Phil’s. Phil gave him a knowing smile as if he shared a secret with Dan, and Dan’s lunch tray almost leaped out of his hands. If Dan was feeling brave, he would have invited Phil to sit with him but he decided to take the safe route and sit with his drama friends, James, and James’ soccer buddies. The third time was after school when Dan was unloading props from the van that Cara, the head of the set and props management, rented in order to fit the set pieces and props into one vehicle. An hour and a half passed since school ended and Dan hadn’t expected to see Phil bike by the parking lot.

“Hi Dan!” Phil had shouted as he waved and Dan didn’t react quick enough so by the time he turned around, Phil had biked down the street. Fortunately, Phil glanced back and Dan took the opportunity to return the greeting with a wave. Dan felt like squealing like a fangirl at the sole fact that Phil had remembered his name.

I’ve been walking through a world gone blind, can’t stop thinking of your diamond mind

Dan felt guilty to be entranced by Phil when he had a boyfriend. James was handsome and sweet but Phil was something else. He changed the definition for charming and was fully aware of it. While James’ laughter made Dan smile, Phil’s laughter was a melody no musician could ever compete with. James’ hazel brown eyes were warm and reassuring while Phil’s bright blue ones sparkled with enthusiasm.

Phil finally spoke to Dan the following day. Dan had tried to work up the nerve to talk to him but ended up chickening out. Dan had been minding his own business as he walked to his locker to get his backpack as the final bell had just rung, signaling the end of the school day, Phil seemingly popped out of nowhere and tapped Dan on the shoulder.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” Dan yelped and Phil laughed at his shocked expression. Dan’s heart didn’t calm down the slightest bit from when he was scared by Phil because he was talking to the guy who he had been trying to talk to since yesterday.

“Don’t die on me now! Who will replace the star of the play?” Phil dramatically gasped, clinging onto Dan’s arm.

“I’m sure you’d make a great substitute!” Dan sarcastically remarked as he somehow managed to make his way to his locker while Phil was still tightly attached to his arm. Students who walked by gave Dan strange glances, wondering why he was interacting with Phil, who was way out of his league.

“There’s no way I could ever take your place! You set the standard way too high!” Phil complained, finally letting go of Dan’s arm. Dan had to admit, it was sort of comforting to have a really hot guy latching on to his arm and he definitely would miss that feeling.

“Why are you here? I mean, I enjoy your company but you must be here for some reason,” Dan twisted the lock and pulled his locker open to reveal the clusters of papers messily shoved into the small rectangular prism. Phil didn’t comment on his organization skills but he did glance worriedly at the mountain of junk.

“Well, my friend who usually times my laps isn’t coming to the pool after school and I know you have rehearsals but do you think you could stop by the pool to time me?” Phil hopefully requested, looking up at Dan with a pleading expression. It took less than a second for Dan to cave in.

“Fine, I’ll try to come to the pool around 4 after school tomorrow,” Dan answered, suppressing a giant grin as he took his backpack out of his locker.

“Thank you so much!” Phil squealed as he engulfed Dan in a warm hug. Dan was more than 200% sure his whole face was red and Phil gave Dan one last grin before he disappeared into the sea of students roaming directionlessly throughout the hall.

Careful creature made friends with time the left her lonely with a diamond mind and those ocean eyes

During rehearsals later on in the day, Dan daydreamed about Phil the entire time. Everybody surely noticed the faraway look in his eyes and his absent-minded doodles in the margins of his script. Dan was relieved that James was at soccer practice because he knew his boyfriend would suspect he had somebody on his mind.

When Dan finally managed to focus on acting, Phil decided to open the auditorium doors and take a seat in the empty audience. Dan nearly fumbled over his lines when he saw Phil but managed to steady himself. Dan tried to block out Phil but he couldn’t seem to stop glancing at him.

Dan finished the act without forgetting any lines and he was rewarded by a standing ovation from Phil. Dan smiled, feeling a rush of confidence as he bowed. He made eye contact with Phil and at that moment, perfect seemed just within his reach. Maybe it finally was.

I’ve never fallen from quite this high, falling into your ocean eyes, those ocean eyes

Chapter Text

Dan was on his way to his first-period class when James sent him a text, asking him to meet at James’ locker. Dan switched routes to get to James’ locker and was met by a mildly irritated-looking James.

“I heard Phil was at your locker yesterday. Hugging you,” James crossed his arms and frowned. A few people glanced over curiously and Dan was tempted to chuck his chemistry textbook at their faces.

“Who did you hear this from?” Dan questioned, wondering who possibly could have witnessed that interaction.

“I have my sources. Did it really happen? What was he talking to you about?” James invasively probed, refusing to let the subject drop. Dan was tempted to ask if this was an interrogation but his boyfriend didn’t look like he was in the mood to joke around.

“Yes, we hugged but nothing else happened. We didn’t make out, don’t worry. He just stopped by to ask if I could time his laps later today. Why are you getting all upset about this?” Dan rolled his eyes, clearly exasperated. He didn’t understand why his boyfriend was getting so upset over nothing.

“Don’t you think it’s suspicious that he chose you to time him out of all the people in this school? Also, you’re going to see him shirtless. And why was he even hugging you in the first place?” James slammed his locker shut just as the five-minute bell rang.

“I see boys shirtless all the time when we’re changing for P.E. How is seeing him shirtless any different? Actually, don’t answer. I have to go to class now. We’ll talk about this at lunch,” Dan didn’t bother to wait for James’ reaction before heading off to class.

My boy’s being sus, he was shady enough but now he’s just a shadow

Many people wondered why Dan was dating James out of all the people he could’ve chosen from and Dan had a decent explanation as to why. James wasn’t as bad as people imagined him to be. Yes, he could be rude and possessive but he was also really sweet. For Valentine’s day, James bought Dan chocolates and roses and wrote him an extremely thoughtful card. He also treated Dan’s parents with an overload of respect and agreed to go to Dan’s favorite bands’ concerts despite not being the biggest fan of alternative rock.

James loved dogs as much as Dan did and he laughed at all of Dan’s jokes, regardless of how terrible they were. He once woke up at 1 AM to listen to Dan’s insecurities and drove to his house to comfort him. James was an ideal boyfriend… if you took away his bad imperfections.

James was possessive and got jealous easily. It was tiring to have to argue with him about the fact that hanging out with other boys didn’t qualify as cheating unless Dan actually was kissing them. James was also hotheaded and jumped to conclusions before knowing the details.

James’ worst habit was treating people in a way that made him seem superior. He used his “friends” just to get the answers for homework and whenever James’ friends tried to ask him for help, he turned away. If Dan kept a book of records of the people who James cut off, the book would almost be filled with hundreds of names. Dan had talked about it with James more than several times but he couldn’t seem to understand that you were supposed to stay friends with somebody for longer than a few months. James did keep a few friends close but those friends always had to fight over one another for his attention.

My boy loves his friends like I love my split ends, and by that I mean he cuts them off

Despite this bad habit of his, James was still popular due to him being a soccer player and his good looks. James was one of the teachers’ favorites and since he was so smart, he tutored other students when he wasn’t playing soccer. Dan was relatively certain James was doing something else when he mentioned “tutoring” but never looked into it.

During lunch, Dan managed to convince James to let him time Phil. He didn’t comprehend why James was acting so petty about Dan spending a maximum of 20, maybe 30 minutes with another boy when Dan was fine with James hanging out with his soccer buddies all the time. Dan tried to laugh it off when his friend asked why James was being so invasive but he wondered why so too. Even though James had been acting strange lately, Dan did believe he was still a decent person. Or maybe he was just hanging onto lost hope.

Dan was never one to care about quizzes that screamed “Is your significant other cheating on you?” or “Are you really fit for your lover?” The main concept Dan was insecure about was whether James still loved him or not.

My boy, my boy, my boy don’t love me like he promised

Dan forgot about the struggles of debating with James when he stepped into the pool area. The air was moist and the scent of chlorine seemed to suffocate Dan. Sun shone through the glass panes embedded in the roof. Amidst the blueness of the pool, Dan saw Phil swimming in the middle lane, his head bobbing in and out of the pool rhythmically. Dan’s frown brightened into a grin as he walked over to the middle lane and called out, “Hey fish boy!”

Phil swam to the end of the pool where Dan knelt and Dan momentarily lost his breath. He couldn’t keep his eyes off Phil’s bare chest and muscular arms.

“Great nickname. DId you know that I used to eat fish food because my grandma told me I was ‘part fish’ after she saw me swim. Young Philip didn’t understand what a metaphor was so I thought it was my destiny to become a part fish, part human superhero so I ate fish food. Only twice I think and fortunately, I didn’t die. Maybe I’m still part merman, who knows?”

“So, do you need me to time you?” Dan cleared his throat, trying to clear all impure thoughts about Phil’s distracting body from his mind.

“Yeah, if you could use the stopwatch on your phone that’d be great! So I’m going to swim 4 laps which is 2 laps back and forth. Try to stop the time the second my hand touches the side,” Phil informed and got into position as Dan took out his phone.

“Ready, set… go!” Dan’s thumb landed on the start button the moment Phil’s fingers left the ledge. As Phil took off, Dan’s phone pinged with a new text message from Kaden Jones asking about the math homework. It took every nerve in Dan’s body not to block him. Kaden acted like he did nothing to hurt Dan. After all, he only made out once with Dan’s boyfriend.

Dan could never forget the day he walked into James kissing Kaden intensely in the middle of a party with a crowd of people around him, cheering him on. Dan had angrily stormed home and proceeded to yell at James through the phone for half an hour. James apologized and reasoned that he was very drunk and was forced to play spin the bottle. Dan hung up on James when he tried to make the case that he had no idea what he was doing.

James tried to speak with Dan the next day at school but Dan refused to acknowledge his existence. Finally, after a week of the silent treatment, Dan decided to listen to what James had to say. James made a show of crying and admitted how wrong he was to cheat on Dan. He apologized at least a hundred time and promised he would never ever ever do it again at least a thousand times more before Dan partially forgave him.

My boy’s an ugly crier but he’s such a pretty liar and by that I mean he said he’d change

“Time!” Phil yelled as he finished the four laps, his chest heaving as he gasped for air.

“1 minute and 28 seconds!” Dan was stunned at how fast Phil could swim. Instead of celebrating, Phil groaned disappointedly and rested his head against the side of the pool.

“Why are you disappointed? You swam faster than the Flash could ever run!” Dan chose to ignore the message Kaden sent and hoped he wouldn’t be pissed at Dan for leaving him on read.

“No, 1:28 is a slow time. I have to beat 1:20 if I ever want to join one of the top colleges’ swim teams,” Phil fretted, running his fingers through his hair, a habit Dan now noticed seemed to be prominent.

“What’s your best time?”

“1:06. Ugh, I need to practice more,” Phil appeared to be ashamed and almost angry at himself for not meeting his expectations.

“Hey Phil,” Phil finally looked up at Dan, his azure eyes filled with disappointment. “Don’t give up. This sounds really cheesy but I really believe in you. You can beat your record right here, right now because you, Philip Lester, can do absolutely anything you put your mind to.”

The hesitant frown on Phil’s face perked up into an enthusiastic and determined look as he got into position, set to launch. The corners of Dan’s lips lifted as he realized that his pep talk had fueled Phil’s change in demeanor.

“Ready, set… go!” Dan cheered Phil on. Phil shot through the water like a missile, water streaking behind his body as his arms and legs propelled him forward.

“1:02! Way to go Phil!” Dan exclaimed and Phil leaped out of the water and hugged Dan, squealing happily. Luckily, Dan didn’t have his costume on as Phil was dripping wet. Phil was so overjoyed he didn’t he’d soaked Dan’s hoodie in pool water.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I just got so excited that I forgot I’m still wet. Here, let’s go into the locker rooms, you can borrow my hoodie,” Phil grabbed a towel off a nearby rack and draped it on his shoulder. Phil’s giddiness must’ve passed on to Dan because he couldn’t get the stupid grin off his face.

Dan was so tempted to stare at Phil’s beautiful body as he changed but he managed to wrestle down his hormones and look away. Dan pulled his soaked hoodie over his head and Phil handed him a dark blue hoodie with a polar bear on it. The hoodie smelled like cinnamon and was one of the most comfortable articles of clothing Dan had ever worn in his entire life.

“Sorry this was the only hoodie I have in my locker,” Phil apologized sheepishly as he closed his locker.

“Why are you apologizing? This hoodie is amazing!” Dan’s phone began buzzing and he took it out to find James was calling him. “Sorry, I have to take this call. Once again, you did great today!”

Phil waved as Dan walked out of the changing room and sighing in discomfort, Dan answered his boyfriend’s call.

“You’re a cheater.”

“What? No, I’m not! I didn’t do anything wrong! I thought we agreed it was okay for me to hang out with other people!” Dan exasperatedly reason, tired of arguing.

My boy, my boy, my boy, he ain’t a man and sure as hell ain’t honest

“Yes, but you went into the locker room with him! And you’re wearing his hoodie,” James sighed frustratedly at the end of the line as if his logic was clear and reasonable. Dan looked down at his wet hoodie in his hands and down at Phil’s hoodie covering his torso.

“How did you know? You know what? I’m done with your shady business. You either find a way to explain to me how the hell you track me everywhere by the end of tomorrow face-to-face or I’m going to break up with you,” Dan ended the call. He was surprised by how easily he threw out the words “break up” at his boyfriend of 2 months. Maybe James was finally rubbing off on Dan. In a bad way.

You want me to be yours well then you gotta be mine and if you want a good girl, then goodbye

Chapter Text

“Damn it! Dan, you drive a hard bargain,” James shouted at the sky and kicked a pebble. He couldn’t believe his boyfriend had just hung up on him. Dan only ended calls midway whenever he was mad at James. James had hidden his big secret from Dan and if he didn’t tell him the truth by tomorrow, his secret would be safe but his relationship with Dan would be over. It was a lose-lose situation. James took out a pack of gum, unwrapped a stick, and stuck it in his mouth. Chewing gum always released the tension.

Sitting all alone, mouth full of gum in the driveway

The truth really was obvious; James didn’t tutor, he sold drugs. He liked to think of it as “giving the people what they want”. It made it sound more justified than it really was.

Loose gravel skittered across the sidewalk as James dragged his feet across the ground, taking his time. He knew they’d be coming soon but he could take his time. They didn’t know James knew they didn’t know James knew they were coming, but James always found out thanks to his trusty sources.

The benefits of being the school’s biggest drug dealer were the connections. He had most of the student council wrapped around his finger and sometimes even gave the janitor the boost he needed to get through the day. In return, the janitor gave him money, but not as much as James usually charged because he would watch certain people James requested through the school’s security cameras. This was how James kept tabs on Dan earlier in the afternoon and it felt great to be the most powerful person in the school.

My friends aren’t far in the back of my car, lay their bodies

James lifted up the trunk of his beat-up Jeep he inherited from his father and smiled at the body bags covering the weed gummies slowly being consumed by the acid that filled the buckets. The body bags kept the smell contained in the trunk, after all, if they could keep the scent of a dead body covered up it should keep the stench of weed smothered. James closed his trunk and got into the driver's seat, the smile on his face even wider now. The gummies would be put to use soon. All that was left to do was to gift them to a special somebody.

Getting the acid was more painful than James expected. The ones on the black market couldn’t be shipped at such quick notice. James had to be put through the hassle of convincing Cheryl to get high with him so she’d give him the keys to her dad’s (also known as the freshman science teacher) lab so he could steal the bucks of acid. Cheryl usually bought from him but she was reluctant to actually smoke it with him and convincing her was extremely tiring but in the end, he got what he wanted.

They’ll be here pretty soon looking through my room for the money

James had kept his business under wraps pretty well. He made every customer sign a contract that stated they could not tell anybody about James’ business under any circumstances or else they’d suffer from very serious consequences. Cheryl was the first to accuse James of selling drugs and instead of telling her parents or the school counselor, she told the police. The police seemed surprised as James had straight A’s and a record cleaner than a model’s skin. But then again, Cheryl was the daughter of a science teacher so they probably assumed she was more of the tattletale type than a liar, which was exactly why James was going to get rid of her.
No, James didn’t hire a hitman or murder her but he would be the one to cause her social demise. With his plan, Cheryl would be known as untrustworthy and become a pariah in the social hierarchy. Nobody wanted to be associated with an unreliable drug dealer who was caught by the police. James knew he should feel remorse or maybe a tiny bit guilty as he was ruining somebody’s life but Cheryl deserved it. She ratted out James and now she deserved to suffer the repercussions.

“Hey Tyler, studying for chemistry is so tiring,” James laughed as he started the car, the low rumble of the jeep soothing his oddly jittery nerves.

‘It sure is. By the way, the police are coming in 10 minutes. You hid all the lettuce, right?”

“Yep, it’s all hidden. I’m on my way to her house,” James put his phone in his lap as he began to drive out of his neighborhood.

“Got it. Good luck,” James grinned to himself as Tyler ended the call. He wouldn’t need the luck, he had the situation under his thumb.

I’m biting my nails, I’m too young to go to jail. It’s kind of funny

James turned up the radio and his phone in the secret compartment on the inside of his backpack. He only used this phone for business issues and the benefit of owning such an old clunky phone was that his calls were practically untraceable. Only his customers knew he had this phone while everybody else believed he only possessed his fancy touchscreen cell phone.

James’ personal phone alerted him that one of his “friends” wanted to hang out later. James created a mental reminder to block him. Dan hated James’ habit of cutting off his friends but he had a solid reason as to why he always did so. His friends were his customers who tried to get way too close to him in hopes of getting some of the drugs for free or at least a lower price. James knew better than to be manipulated into giving people what they wanted for free.

Where’s my mind? Where’s my mind?

The song “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson began blasting from the radio station and James instinctively switched radio stations. His ex-boyfriend, Logan, used to love that song and played it nonstop. His ex-boyfriend also happened to find out about James giving people the goods they wanted. Logan wasn’t too happy about it and tried to talk James out of continuing to sell drugs. James didn’t listen; selling was one of the few enjoyable aspects of life other than soccer. James was the one to break things off, tired of Logan’s attempts to be a goody-two-shoes.

When his ex threatened to spill the beans, James was forced to take action. He planted a knife inside of Logan’s backpack and filed an anonymous tip to the office, informing them that he saw a knife in somebody’s backpack, specifically Logan. Logan was suspended and knew not to mess with James any longer.

Maybe it’s in the gutter where I left my lover, what an expensive fate

The first time James saw the gummies was when he was looking through his dad’s belongings. Since his dad was moving out of his mom’s house after they got a divorce, James was searching for bittersweet tokens that held meaningful memories but instead, he found weed gummies. He didn’t know what type of gummies they were until after he tried them.

James hit with the idea to sell these as he knew his classmates would be desperate for that boost to get them through the day so he cornered his dad and forced him to give up his remaining stash of gummies in addition to information about dealers who could supply him with more than gummies. James threatened to show his mom his dad’s giant collection of Playboy magazines and he instantly caved. He started off by selling them to his soccer friends and soon he began supplying the entire school with drugs.

Everything I do, the way I wear my noose like a necklace. I wanna make ‘em scared like I could be anywhere like I’m wreck-less

James parked his jeep in the student parking lot located in the back of the school. He carefully parked next to Cheryl’s Chevrolet. James picked the lock and opened her trunk with gloves covering his fingertips so he wouldn’t leave any traces. He had told the janitor to turn off the security camera pointing at the parking lot so there’d be no video evidence to use against him. James quickly transferred the buckets of acid with the weed gummies into her trunk before closing it. He removed the body bags so the stench could clog up every inch of her care. It was the perfect setup.

I lost my mind, I don’t mind

James felt triumphant as he drove out of the parking lot and dropped off the body bags in Tyler’s backyard so Tyler could burn them later. He was in a giddy mood as he sped home, eager to see the look on the cop’s faces. His money was safely stored in a location which James wouldn’t ever disclose, even if his life depended on it. James also kept a book of orders from his customers that he concealed as well. The sight of police cars welcomed him into his house and he was met by the scene of two middle-aged policemen standing with confused expressions on their faces as they explained to his mom why they were there.

“These policemen said somebody told them you were selling drugs,” James’ mom scoffed in disbelief, glaring at the police.

“We didn’t find any. This was all just a misunderstanding,” The policeman with a bushy beard apologized and as they began to leave, James took the opportunity to push the button to send his contraption whizzing forward.

“I was just studying for chemistry with Tyler and he told me that Cheryl Romes, the science teacher’s daughter, was dealing drugs so maybe you should go check her house,” James shrugged before closing the door. Cheryl wasn’t at school the next day and James was the only one who knew why. Technically, he thought he was the only one who knew but rumors spread faster than you think.

My V is for vendetta, thought that I’d feel better but now I got a bellyache

Chapter Text

Dan thought his day had started off badly but it only continued to get worse. He woke up to find a text from Phil, which made him smile but then his eyes landed on a text from James and his heart dropped along with his smile. It read, “I’m not going to be at school today, can you extend the deal to the end of tomorrow?”

James spoke to Dan as if he was a co-worker, not his boyfriend. Dan sighed as he answered with a simple “ok” and got out of bed. When Dan stepped out of the shower, his phone was ringing with possibly hundreds of notifications from his friends that all addressed the same subject.

“Did you hear? Cheryl got arrested for dealing drugs but people think that your bf framed her! Somebody saw him putting a bucket of acid that smelled strongly of weed gummies :(”

“Dude, you’re dating a psycho! I heard James was dealing drugs! Drop him now!”

“Omg, did you hear the rumors about James? All his customers are telling everybody about his shady stuff because he told them he’s not supplying mainstream anymore?”

Dan wanted to believe these were all lies but most of them were from people who cared deeply for Dan. He knew they would never joke about something about a situation as serious as this. Even classmates Dan barely knew texted him, wishing him well and sending him warnings. He got several text messages from people who were asking if James could deal them some drugs and he chose to ignore them.

Instead of taking the bus like he normally did, Dan walked to school. The last thing he needed people confronting him about the situation in real life as texts were already bad enough. Dan received plenty of glances in the halls and he even skipped 3rd period due to being sick of people giving him pity looks.

Don’t be that way, fall apart twice a day. I just wish you could feel what you say

Dan knew he should be in math, learning about parabolas with the rest of the class but he locked himself in a bathroom stall. The boy’s restrooms weren’t as bad as all his classmates and mind-numbing math. Profanity carved into the walls and insults scrawled in permanent ink that stained the ceiling were more welcomed than drug addicts asking Dan to pass a message along to James and his friends peer-pressuring him into breaking up.

It took Dan only 20 minutes to craft a text to James that stated, “I heard you tried to frame Cheryl and now your drug business is exposed. What is going on?”

James instantly replied with, “Those are just silly rumors. Cheryl wanted somebody to blame, try not to worry.”

Dan wasn’t convinced the slighted by his reply. He knew Cheryl was too perfect of a student to be dealing drugs. Plus, some of James’ customers had already contacted Dan and somebody saw James in action. He decided to let it slide for now and deal with it later. Right now, Dan’s headspace was clogged with negativity. It started off mostly directed towards James but by the end of the day, it began to be directed to himself.

Dan had a habit of becoming self-destructive to cope with complicated issues. He hoped that practicing for the play would clear his mind but it made the situation worse. Cast members and crew asked him about James and Dan unstealthily dodged their questions. Luck was in his favor as he only participated in 1 out of all the scenes they were going through today and right after he finished reciting his last line, he bolted out of the back door.

Dan sat on the steps of the back door of the theatre with his head in his hands. He hated himself for being so stupid and not seeing how horrible James was. Dan was so distracted by his intrusive thoughts, he didn’t notice he began crying until he felt tears sliding down his cheeks.

Show, never tell but I know you too well. Kind of mood that you wish you could sell

“Hey Dan,” Dan felt somebody sit down next to him. The person’s proximity annoyed Dan and he had a feeling it happened to be another sympathizer or druggie.

“What do you want?” Dan snapped and turned his head to find Phil staring at him with concerned eyes. “Oh my god, sorry Phil. I didn’t know it was you.”

“It’s okay. You’re probably fed up with everybody bothering you. I can go if you want me to,” Phil began to stand and Dan quickly grabbed his wrist before he could leave.

“Wait! Please stay,” Dan begged and Phil sat down again. Phil didn’t mind when Dan leaned his head against his shoulder. Phil wiped away the endless tears that rolled down Dan’s cheeks and gave him a comforting hug. He began sobbing into Phil’s shoulder, feeling guiltier by the second. They remained in that position for a long time until Dan pulled away, his waterfall of tears finally pausing.

If teardrops could be bottled, there’d be swimming pools filled by models

“This is a stupid question to ask but what’s wrong?” Phil wrapped an arm around Dan’s waist as they stared at gloomy houses lined across the street. His presence was so comforting, the words that fell from Dan’s mouth arranged themselves in order without the help of his nasty brain.

“I never thought James was this horrible of a person. I knew he was doing some shady business but I had no idea he was dealing drugs. I kept convincing myself he was the good person I knew during our first month of dating. You know, I really believed he was still the James that would leave romantic poems in my locker and send me dog photos to make me feel better,” Dan bitterly chuckled, shaking his head at how naive he was. Despite his mind’s protests, Dan continued to ramble on.

“Am I blind? How did I not see it coming? I guess I just believe in empty words. God, I’m so gullible. I bet James never cared about me in the first place. I was probably just a clown to laugh at,” Dan felt tears welling up in his eyes again and gulped down the rest of his words that didn’t escape his lips. The weight on his heart had been lifted a bit but he still couldn’t bat away the persistent feeling of sadness.

If I love you was a promise, would you break it if you’re honest?

“Don’t blame yourself. James has a way of convincing everyone,” Phil offered.

“I just… don’t know what to do now,” Dan began fiddling with his sleeves, looking down at his shoes. The empty feeling gnawed at his insides as uncertainty clouded his brain.

“If you aren’t happy being in a relationship with him, break up. I know it’s easier said than done,” Dan stared at Phil, surprised he would suggest such an idea.

Hands getting cold, losing feeling’s getting old. Was I made from a broken mold?

“It’s not as simple as that,” Dan reasoned, brushing his loose curls away from his eyes.

“It is. If you’re not happy with him, you’re no longer in love and if you’re not in love, you shouldn’t be dating him,” Phil explained, wondering what could possibly be complicated about the situation. Dan was struck at how clear he made it and he realized that he just needed to let go.

“I’ll think about it. You have a point,” Dan attempted at a smile and Phil gave him another hug.

“Here’s my number. Text or call me anytime if you need to talk. I have to get going. See you at school tomorrow!” Phil wrote down his number before biking away. Dan wondered what he ever did to deserve the help Phil was offering and glanced down at the slip of paper with his number on it. Maybe life was giving him a second chance.

Hurt, I can’t shake. We’ve made every mistake. Only you know the way that I break

When Dan got home, the full force of the problem hit him. He had to break up with his boyfriend of two months. Even though Dan had been tired of James constantly lying, he couldn’t bring himself to break up with James easily.

Breaking up through text was one of the worst options and breaking up in person would be terrifying but maybe it was the best choice. Dan practiced in front of the mirror as if he was rehearsing lines. He ended up stuttering or tripping over words on every attempt and ended up becoming frustrated.

Dan looked at the mirror and saw his own dismal reflection. Suddenly, he couldn’t recognize himself anymore because he had changed so much, just because of one person. Was it really time to say goodbye to that person or had he already lost James?

Tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before.
I don’t wanna be you
I don’t wanna be you
I don’t wanna be you anymore

Chapter Text

Hey, leave a message

Dan groaned as the voicemail played for the second time. He had decided to initiate a phone break up. Dan just couldn’t bring himself to tell James what he wanted to say to his face. James hadn’t shown up at school the day after the rumors had set fire in everybody’s mouths. Dan almost hid in the bathroom for the entire duration of the day but having Phil by his side made it slightly more bearable.

Dan had started with just texting Phil, joking about how everybody was staring at him but when the looks began suffocating him, Dan ran to the bathroom to call Phil. James would never be willing to skip class to comfort Dan but Phil agreed to cut class to join Dan in the bathroom without hesitation. Phil listened to him stress over what to tell James and offered break up advice. It turns out, Phil had experienced a very messy break up when his girlfriend at the time found out he was bisexual. Phil even walked Dan home after drama practice, giving up a day of practicing at the pool to secure Dan’s happiness.

But now, Dan was on his own. He didn’t create a script but he had a basic idea of what he wanted to tell James. So he took a deep breath and began.

Hey call me back when you get this or when you’ve got a minute, we really need to talk

Dan paused and considered his words. Would James really call back? He never answered voicemails with calls; he’d listen to them and respond through text regardless of how many times Dan told him it was courteous to call back.

Wait, you know what? Maybe just forget it, ‘cause by the time you get this your number might be blocked

Dan’s mind pulled up the memory of how he almost blocked James’ number. A few days after Dan came out, he received a text from a number he didn’t recognize. He almost blocked the number as it seemed like the person was a creepy stalker. To be fair “hey you’re cute. Can we go on a date sometime? x” seemed very strange.

When Dan demanded to know who sent the text, the person had explained that he had asked his friend for Dan’s number and was too shy to reveal who he was in fear that Dan would turn him down. Dan agreed to go on the coffee date with this mysterious admirer just to see who was messaging him. He was surprised to find it was James but James acted so kindly, Dan thought another date wouldn’t hurt.

One thing led to another and now Dan was in the middle of this mess. He should’ve blocked James’ after he read the first text.

Stay and blah blah blah. You just want what you can’t have

If James miraculously wasn’t angry at Dan, he might ask Dan to give him another chance. But Dan had already given him too many chances and every single time, James broke his promise. Dan would bet all his money that James was at Kaden’s house, kissing him until his lips fell off.

Dan kept every promise he made to James to the best of his abilities. He watched every one of James’ soccer games and replied to his texts and calls. If Dan could keep promises, why couldn’t James?

No wait, I’ll call the cops. If you don’t stop, I’ll call your dad

Dan decided to throw in a threat to make sure James wouldn’t be out for his blood once he listened to the voicemail. Dan was sure other people had already reported him to the police as the rumors had spread like wildfire and stuck to people’s lips so they could pass it on. Dan could guarantee the police would be willing to listen to what James’ boyfriend knew. Wait, ex-boyfriend after this message.

The part about James’ dad was more of a risky territory to step in. Dan didn’t know much about James’ dad other than he was homophobic, didn’t know his son was gay, and divorced from James’ mom pretty recently. James had given up on keeping in contact with his dad so James’ mom gave her ex-husband’s number to Dan in case James wanted to call his father (James refused to even look at the number when his mother first offered it to him). Dan knew this was an unfair card to play but he was terrified James would try to frame him as he did with Cheryl.

And I hate to do this to you on your birthday, happy birthday by the way

As Dan paced around the room speaking on the phone, his eyes landed on his dog calendar. Today was May 19th, James’ birthday. Dan had drawn a heart and balloons under the reminder with colorful gel pens. He must’ve been so wrapped up in dealing with the drama James created, he forgot about getting James a birthday present.

Dan picked up a thick black sharpie and drew a giant X over the reminder. He nearly burst out laughing when he realized that James’ birthday present was this voicemail. After this, James wouldn’t have to deal with Dan anymore but it was more of a win for Dan.

It’s not you, it’s me and all that other bullshit. You know that’s bullshit, don’t you babe?

Dan initially wanted to drop the cliche “it’s not you, it’s me” lines but decided against it because it wasn’t Dan fault James turned out to be a douche. It wasn’t Dan’s fault James decided to watch him wherever he went and kept dealing drugs a secret from him. It wasn’t Dan’s fault James cheated on him and no longer treated like Dan his boyfriend. And it wasn’t Dan’s fault James’ actions forced Dan to stop loving him.

Look, now I know we could’ve done it better, but we can’t change the weather. The weather’s come and gone

Looking back at their relationship, Dan wondered what went wrong. The first few weeks were a paradise to Dan. It was when James still treated Dan like a prince. He took Dan to the fair and they shared popcorn and cotton candy as they rode the Ferris wheel and watched the sun fall behind the city lights. James would text Dan 10 times a day and they’d talk over the phone whenever they could.

The second month was when things began falling apart. James became distant and they didn’t talk as much, which was partly Dan’s fault as he was engrossed in memorizing lines for the play. James stopped watching Dan’s rehearsals and spent more time “tutoring” or dealing drugs. James had mentioned that he wanted this new video game so maybe he was trying to earn more money to buy it. Dan had considered getting the game as his birthday present but judging by the amount of time James ha spent “tutoring”, James probably owned 30 copies of it. Around this time was when James began getting more jealous and whenever he opened his mouth, it was only to argue with Dan. Somebody must’ve flipped a switch and turned James into a nasty person.

Books don’t make sense if you read them backwards. You’ll single out the wrong words like you mishear all my songs

Dan couldn’t believe how easily the words were falling out of his mouth now. His thoughts were free and James couldn’t contain them any longer. Dan didn’t have the burden of being in a toxic relationship with an even more poisonous person. This was the end and the moment Dan had prepared for days to say.

“We’re over. Goodbye James.”

I’m not your party favor

Chapter Text

Dan had anxiously waited for an hour before James replied through text of course. The first text was a paragraph composed of all the swear words in the English language and possibly some from other languages too. The second text was James apologizing and then saying his goodbye.

Although James seemed calm in the second text, the first text implied that Dan should start sleeping with one eye open. The realization that he was no longer in a relationship only hit Dan a few days after. Dan avoided James and anybody who was associated with his ex-boyfriend. Not many people noticed Dan’s distance from James as Dan didn’t spend much time talking to people. Most of the time, he hid in the bathroom and the only time Dan spent socializing was during rehearsals. Without James’ restrictions, Dan often timed Phil’s laps when he wasn’t at drama practice.

When Phil found out that Dan was cutting class, classes, he made Dan promise to try to stay in class for the rest of the week. Dan reluctantly agreed and the next day, Phil showed up during 2nd period right before he had to change for Physical Education. He pretended to be an office aid and the P.E. teacher allowed Phil to take Dan to “talk with the counselor”. Instead of leading him to the office, Phil forced Dan into his car and drove him to a mystery location.

Along the way, Phil allowed Dan to blast his “emo music”. The music was playing so loud, Dan could feel the bass rattling his bones. The mystery location turned out to be a local lake. Dan was confused as to why Phil would bring him to here and his face burned red when Phil began taking off his clothes.

“What the hell are you doing?” Dan hissed, embarrassed that he was watching Phil strip and that he was actually enjoying it.

“I’m taking off my clothes so I can swim. You should too, that’s why I brought you here,” Phil casually answered, tossing off his t-shirt.

“You brought me here to… watch me strip?” Dan’s face was about melt off due to the amount of heat rising up his body. He tried to avert his eyes away from Phil’s lower body, his raging hormones preventing him from doing him so.

“No, I brought you here to teach you how to swim. I’m not taking off my underwear, don’t worry,” Phil laughed when he saw Dan’s skin invent a new shade of red. Dan avoided eye contact as he quickly and awkwardly stripped down to his underwear. The lake was freezing but Phil immediately waded deep into the lake until the water level reached his ribcage. Dan joined Phil after he adjusted the coolness of the water.

Phil demonstrated how to do the basic stroke that was nicknamed the “freestyle”. Dan attempted to imitate the rhythm that Phil had shown and while his swimming started off at an uneven pace, Phil helped him stay steady. When Dan got the hang of it, they began playfully racing against each other. Of course, Phil won every time but with each round, Dan progressively grew better at swimming.

Lips meet teeth and tongue. My heart skips eight beats at once

The pair left the lake to get lunch, drying off so they could change back into their clothes. Dan was certain that if somebody spotted them, they would’ve assumed Dan and Phil were doing something other than swimming. They ate at Denny’s because pancakes were a perfectly acceptable choice for lunch.

With Phil, Dan felt like he was walking on clouds and waltzing with stars. During those hours, Dan was safe and happy, feelings he forgot about long ago. The waiter at Denny’s was eyeing them suspiciously as they shared a milkshake and giggled as they finished their pancakes. He probably wondered why they weren’t at school and was considering whether to force them to go back or not. They left before the waiter could confront them and headed to the movies to watch the new Star Wars movie since they were both giant nerds. Not many people were at the theater so they were free to entertain themselves by throwing popcorn, or attempting to, into each other’s mouths.

Dan didn’t want Phil to leave him but he had a swim meet and Dan had to go to rehearsals. The following day was when the full force of the breakup barreled into Dan’s brain. He was walking to lunch with Phil, who he ran into after his 4th period class, and was met with the sight of James holding hands with Kaden and smiling as if nothing was wrong.

If we were meant to be we would’ve been right now. See what you want to see but all I see is him right now

Phil comforted Dan as he sobbed, sitting on the cold stone stairs outside of the school. He knew that people would wonder why James was with Kaden and news of the break up would spread across the school. Fellow students would question him, asking why they broke up or who initiated the breakup. The split would soon be old news when some other drama occurred later on in the week.

Sure enough, by the next day, the entire school was buzzing about Dan and James’ separation. Phil stuck by Dan’s side the entire day, glaring at anybody who dared to even look in his direction. The teacher bought the excuse that Phil was at Dan’s side because of “medical reasons” because teachers were clueless in that way.

Phil took Dan to Denny’s for lunch almost every day who texted him about James. Kaden had the nerve to text Dan that he hoped Dan was doing okay with all the gossip about him and didn’t mention that he took Dan’s place in James’ heart. Kaden was one of those guys who seem nice to everybody but was secretly Satan. No wonder James seemed to love him so much more; people often fall in love with one of their own kind.

I’ll sit and watch your car burn with the fire that you started in me but you never came back to ask it out

Surprisingly, all the James talk died down the day after the word was spread due to rumors about Amanda cheating on Connor with Jacob. People were arguing about whether the photo evidence of Amanda kissing Jacob was photoshopped or genuine and frankly, Dan couldn’t care less.

Dan hated eating lunch in the cafeteria because wherever he sat, he could clearly see James making out with Kaden. While he was hellfire furious, Dan was also M&M green jealous. Dan’s kiss with James was his first kiss ever with a guy. They hadn’t made out or anything more than a few kisses on the cheek and the mouth. It was strange to see your old boyfriend kissing somebody other than you and not calling it cheating.

Your love feels so fake and my demands aren’t high to make. If I could go to sleep, I would’ve slept by now. Your lies will never keep, I think you need to blow ‘em out

Dan knew it was an unlikely possibility Phil would answer his call at 2 in the morning but Dan had nobody else to turn to.

“Hey Dan, what’s up?” Phil sounded extremely exhausted but Dan had never been so glad to hear somebody’s voice.

“Oh thank god you’re awake. Sorry if I woke you up. I’m just having trouble sleeping because my annoying brain loves thinking about James,” Dan forced a laugh, trying to find humor in his pain to make himself seem less devastated.

“Aw Dan, why do you waste time thinking about that jerk?” Phil yawned and Dan smiled, imagining how he was probably adjusting his glasses and straightening his hair.

“That’s exactly why I called you. Talking to people usually distracts me from my thoughts.”

“Well, I can use a lot more than just my voice to distract you but sadly I’m physically nowhere near you so I guess I’ll just have to use my voice,” Phil deepened his voice and Dan was glad his friend couldn’t see his face flushing bright pink.

“Phil, stop!” Dan complained through humiliation as Phil began making moaning noises. For the rest of the night, they talked about anything and everything. They discussed shallow topics such as video games but also confessed dark secrets. They talked about how they discovered their sexualities and recalled past lovers as well as their favorite breed of dogs and their favorite bands.

Dan wasn’t exhausted the next morning for some strange reason. Despite the many cups of coffee he consumed, Dan felt more energetic than most days. He saw James and Kaden at lunch but he didn’t feel as sad as he used to because Dan was finally falling for somebody else.

Go ahead and watch my heart burn with the fire that you started in me, but I’ll never let you back to put it out

Chapter Text

Dan found his new talent: avoiding people. Two and a half weeks dragged by since the breakup and Dan hadn’t talked to James once. He purposely didn’t insert the “let’s stay friends!” line while breaking up because he knew it would prove to be impossible. They both had strong personalities that violently clashed and if it was shown in their relationship, it surely would prove to be difficult to keep their friendship healthy, Besides, Dan didn’t need James anymore, he had Phil.

Dan had become Phil’s best friend in a short amount of time. They hung out after school every day and spent weekends together. Dan’s mom even knew Phil’s name and she literally forgot everyone’s names. Dan timed Phil’s laps and cheered him on during competitions and Phil supported Dan in the empty audience as he rehearsed.

Dan and Phil were at Denny’s and Phil was quizzing Dan on his lines. It was dinner time and the duo had ordered their regular order of pancakes and a milkshake to share.

“Now we’re moving on to Scene 3 Act 1,” Phil cleared his throat so he could change his voice to imitate Tessa, the actor for Maid Marian. “What might a handsome man like you be doing here out in the woods?”

“Oh you know, hunting and exploring. What might a beautiful maiden like you be doing out here?” Dan stifled a chuckle as Phil fanned his hand, pretending to be a girly princess who was charmed to meet her prince.

“Are you expecting me to conform to gender roles and be at home sewing a fucking dress?” Phil blinked innocently and they stared at each other in the eyes for a second before they burst out laughing.

“I wish that was how the line went. Sadly, this play was written a hundred years ago so yes, apparently you were supposed to be sewing a dress at home,” Dan took a sip out of the strawberry milkshake, wistfully staring at the script in Phil’s hands.

“Hello Dan, what are you doing here?” Dan looked up to see James and Kaden, hand-in-hand, standing next to their table. James sported the grin of a voracious wolf ,seconds away from devouring its prey and Kaden’s emerald green eyes glinted with vicious malice hidden beneath his innocent expression.

Don’t be cautious, don’t be kind. You’ve committed, I’m your crime

“I was helping your ex-boyfriend practice his lines before you rudely interrupted our conversation! What are you doing here?” Phil returned the shady couple’s fake smiles with a peppy tone accompanied by a blunt answer. James appeared to be stunned by Phil’s answer but brushed it off.

“Oh, Kaden and I were here to grab some dinner. Also, Kaden, isn’t Phil on your swim team?” James pulled Kaden closer, lifting the corners of his mouth higher.

“You’re right! Kaden is on my swim team! What’s your best time for your 100 meter by the way?” Kaden’s face reddened when Phil brought up the question. Phil must’ve noticed how uncomfortable Dan was because he grasped Dan’s hand reassuringly underneath the table.

“2:08. What’s your best time?” Kaden uncertainty asked, afraid of hearing the answer.

“1:02. It took so much practice and training to get this time! And guess what? Dan was the one who timed me when I got it!” Phil obviously wanted to stab at James’ weak point and it clearly worked as James visibly flinched, as if the words were physically driving themselves into his flesh.

“Is everything okay over here?” A waitress forced a smile, clearly paranoid a gang fight was about to happen over a plate of pancakes.

“No, everything’s fine! We were just about to take our seats,” Kaden’s attempt at seeming undisturbed failed miserably as he was very ashamed to have a bad lap time compared to Phil. The waitress led them to an empty table and Phil joyfully waved goodbye.

Push my button anytime, you got your finger on the trigger but your trigger finger’s mine

“Hey Dan, you doing alright?” Phil didn’t let go of Dan’s hand as he softly inquired. Dan stared down at the pancakes for a moment before answering.

“Yeah… but can we leave now?” Phil quickly paid the bill before they left the restaurant, not glancing in James’ direction at all. Dan’s emotions were more confusing than the last math test he took. He was outraged James had the nerve to go up to him with his new boy toy and act like nothing was wrong. Yet, he felt sad that he was so easily replaceable. Dan was also thankful he had Phil at his side to fight back when he couldn’t.

Phil didn’t act pushy and didn’t force Dan to talk about what was on his mind. He dropped Dan off and left him alone with his thoughts. The following morning, all the sadness washed away and only anger was left.

Silver dollar, golden flame. Dirty water, poison rain

Dan was attending Phils swim meet and just as Phil was about to leap into the pool when somebody tapped Dan’s shoulder.

“Is that your boyfriend?” Dan turned to find James tauntingly staring at him from the seat behind.

“No, but where’s yours?” Dan flashed a murderously sweet smile as the whistle blew, signaling the start of the last relay.

“Oh, he’s about to swim after Phil. By the way, how often do you two make out?” James clenched his jaw, his nonchalant act slipping away. Dan kept up his act of a calm yet sassy competitor, delighted to finally make James feel challenged.

“We, haven’t made out but clearly, you do it often with Kaden. After all, you two are perfect together! Cheaters belong with cheaters,” Dan resisted the urge to punch James in the face. He decided to enjoy punching his ex-boyfriend with words instead.

Perfect murder, take your aim. I don’t belong to anybody but everybody knows my name

“Did Phil teach you how to fight back now? What a shame you couldn’t seem to respond at the restaurant,” James forced his words through gritted teeth, clearly growing irritated at Dan’s witty response.

“I know, I was just so distracted by what Phil told me earlier. Can you believe he’s got a bigger dick than you? No wonder I broke up with you!” Dan broke out into laughter and the whistle was blown again, signaling the end of the race. He wasn’t surprised to find Phil’s teammates gathered around his best friend. Dan practically leaped off the bleachers and hugged Phil, a tradition they had established.

“What the hell? Move over,” James pushed his way through the crowd and stopped in mid-step when he saw Dan embracing Phil.

“Hi, James! I didn’t know you were coming!” Phil grinned even wider, holding Dan’s hand tightly to remind him he wasn’t alone. James’ face contorted to a furious expression as his eyes landed on Dan’s hand in Phil’s.

Copycat trying to cop my manner. Watch your back when you can’t watch mine

“What is going on here?” James raised his voice and Kaden stepped out of the crowd, about to stop his boyfriend, but backed away when he gave it a second thought.

“Why do you care? We’re not even dating anymore. Plus, you have Kaden now,” Dan spat harshly and the crowd collectively winced at the harshness of his words, throwing sympathetic looks towards James.

Call me calloused, call me cold. You’re italic, I’m in bold. Call me cocky, watch your tone

“You’re just with him to piss me off!” James reasoned and Dan was about to respond but Phil got to it first.

“James, let me ask you a really simple question: why do you think the world rotates around you? Oh look, my ex-boyfriend has a friend that’s not me! He clearly is trying to attack me . Oh no, people saw me framing Cheryl and all my customers are ratting me out! My plan didn’t work so now I’m going to ignore everybody for a few days, even though all my friends have no idea whether any of the rumors are true! Help, all my friends, and teachers now hate me because they found out about who I really am! Woe is me,” Phil fired his words like bullets and James took a few steps back, clearly shocked by his outburst.

I would hate to see you go, hate to be the one that told you so. You just crossed the line, you’ve run out of time. I’m so sorry now you know, sorry I’m that one that told you so. Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry, sorry… sike!

“You’re such a hypocrite James. You got so angry at Dan just for timing me and you’ve been occupied with kissing Kaden’s face off! You wonder why people hate you, and I can speak for literally everybody you’ve met. It’s because you’re a self-absorbed jerk who only cares if he gets money and control. Now, go smoke some weed and cry in the corner, my teammates and I need to change.”

Everybody erupted into cheers and clapped at Phil’s speech. James stormed away and people began chanting “Dan and Phil!” as if they were in a cliche high school movie. Dan smiled, his heart bursting with pride and Joy. Phil carried him to the locker room bridal style with his teammates trailing behind him, cheering him on. Phil’s rant must’ve inspired somebody to call the police because from that day on, James was never seen again in school.

Copycat trying to cop my glamor. Why so sad bunny, you can’t have mine?

Chapter Text

Rain tapped against the roof of the car, drumming its fingers in an uneven pattern. The cloud’s teardrops dragged down the windows of Phil’s car as Dan and Phil giggled at the stories they shared as they sought shelter from the sky’s sadness.

“And then the car started moving back down the hill and we had to run after it,” Dan managed through his chuckles and Phil giggled, leaning against Dan’s body. They were sitting in the back seat, their legs intertwined as they soaked in each other’s warmth. A month had passed since James had disappeared from Dan’s life and in that month, his heart healed the gaping hole James had left. In fact, he had fallen head-over-heels for his best friend.

Dan’s giant crush didn’t change much between Phil and him. He still hung out with Phil and they had grown so close, they were practically glued to each other’s side. Every Friday, they skipped school to swim in the lake and dine in Denny’s but today, the rain kept them inside Phil’s car.

Phil lifted his eyes and Dan’s breath slipped away as he stared into those ocean eyes. Was his face moving closer or was Dan hallucinating? Dan barely had time to understand what was happening but he felt a pair of lips on his and his bodily instincts took over. He slid his hand onto the back of Phil’s neck and he felt crush’s frail fingers wrap around his waist.

Dan imagined Phil’s lips would taste like the sour pool water but he tasted of caramel and buttercream. The taste was more addicting than sugar and it fueled the race car of adrenaline that zoomed and zipped through every vein in Dan’s body. His fingers tangled through Phil’s insanely soft hair and he practically fainted when Phil moved onto his lap, kissing him with more fire.

James never made Dan feel this way. James never kissed Dan as if he was the only person left on this planet. He didn’t pull Dan’s closer despite the small gap between their bodies when they kissed. James had made Dan crush on him but Phil had pulled Dan into his cyclone of endless love and support.

The duo continued to make out for longer than any round of Fortnite Dan had ever played and Dan’s lips were sore as if he had bruised them by biting down on them for a long period of time. By the time they had stopped, the rain had paused and fog clung to the windows.

“That was… wow,” Phil’s face was flushed a faint pink and he looked up at Dan with lovestruck eyes. No more words were spoken until Dan’s phone rang due to a call from his worried mother who was wondering where he was. Only then did they take the cue to drive home.

I wanna be alone. Alone with you, does that make sense?

The intimate kissing session didn’t force things to turn rocky between the couple at all. As a matter of fact, Dan was glad it happened because now Dan could reach for Phil’s hand or kiss on the cheek without thinking twice. As Dan expected, people caught on pretty quickly. He was reluctant to label their relationship status as romantic since dating seemed like a shallow term to use to describe their closeness. Once they were outed by Charles, who caught them kissing in the changing rooms, they were free to do whatever they did in private in public. It was strange to have people staring at them for the first few days but the glances toned down after a week. Dan had caught Kaden enviously glaring at him and offered a smug look. Karma might be a bitch but sometimes she could be kind-hearted to those she once relentlessly beat up.

The teachers were completely oblivious to what was going on between the couple; they always believed that those who were in love were simply the best of friends. This is probably why the 9th-grade language arts teacher was scared out of her wits when she caught Dan and Phil kissing in an abandoned classroom. Phil convinced her not to rat them out to the principal and although she was mortified, the teacher agreed because she taught Martyn, Phil’s older brother, in 9th grade.

I wanna steal your soul and hide you in any treasure chest

“He’s just hallucinating Phil!” Dan exclaimed as they watched Sherlock (specifically episode 2 of season 2), gesturing at the screen.

“No Dan, I’m pretty sure the dog is real! It looks like an actual dog!” Phil argued and they both burst into laughter, unable to take each other seriously. Dan and Phil cuddled as they binge-watched episodes of Sherlock. Or at least attempted to watch the show. They tried to figure out the mystery before it was solved but ended up having their predictions end up being way off. The couple also finished a bowl of popcorn after failing to pop one bag successfully. Phil had his head on Dan’s shoulder and a fluffy blanket was spread across their laps.

“But why would he be hallucinating?”

“PTSD, you spork. He was probably traumatized by a dog when he was younger,” Dan replied and Phil chuckled as he planted a kiss on Dan’s cheek.

“Okay, fine you win,” Phil admitted his defeat and Dan kissed his boyfriend on the mouth to seal the truce.

“What in the name of Bloody Mary is going on here?” Marytn stood in the doorway, gaping at the couple with cartoonishly wide eyes. Phil shut off the TV and Dan quickly scooted away from him. They hadn’t told their parents about their relationship status despite the fact they already came out to their parents.

“Wait is that Dan?” Dan blushed, embarrassed that the former director of a play he participated in had just caught him locking lips with his younger brother.

“So are you two- oh I guess that explains things. Wait, but why are you guys…?” Martyn trailed off, obviously confused. They had to explain that they were dating and Martyn couldn’t seem to process any of the information but he promised not to tell their parents. During dinner, it looked like it took all of Martyn’s will not to spill the beans.

I don’t know what to do, to do with your kiss on my neck

“And they lived happily ever after. The End,” The narrator concluded from the shadows and Dan beamed as the audience broke into applause. He bowed along with all the members of the cast and several people gave standing ovations, one of them being his boyfriend. Phil held up a sign that read “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU! ILYSM <3” in big, colorful letters. Some of the cast members melted at how sweet Phil was and Dan’s face seemed to be frozen with a smile. After the show, Dan was showered with bouquets of flowers and people congratulated him, complimenting him on his spectacular performance.

It was rewarding to be recognized for hours and hours of hard work. His parents had watched the play and even Kaden begrudgingly offered Dan kudos. Dan hadn’t stumbled over any lines and put his everything into each sentence. The cast party was more than amazing and especially for the seniors, it was nostalgic. New theatre members watched as the older ones compared to how previous plays went compared to the one they just performed. Dan was rewarded with kisses and hugs the next day from Phil and he knew that he would remember this show for the rest of his life.

I don’t know what feels true, but this feels right so stay a sec. Yeah, you feel right so stay a sec

Just as Phil as had watched his play, Dan watched Phil’s last swim competition and enthusiastically cheered him one. The other school’s team was more competitive than the others had been but of course, the home team won. Phil won a shiny, gold medal for being the MVP (most valuable player) and Dan took him out to Denny’s for dinner. Phil slept over at Dan’s house and Dan was thankful his parents didn’t ask whether they were going to share a bed because they ended up both sleeping on Dan’s bed.

Instead of sleeping, they ended up talking the whole night. The nights when Dan called Phil, he had wished Phil was with him and now his wish was fulfilled. If Dan hadn’t attended the swim meet on that fateful day, he would have never been as happy as he was today.

Sure, he had to go through a rocky relationship with a cheating drug dealer but in the end, it was worth it if it meant Dan could spend forever with Phil. Yes, he was fully aware high school relationships could be considered nothing but he felt a connection between him and Phil that made him believe they were soulmates.

Let me crawl inside your veins. I’ll build a wall, give you a ball and chain

“What does the root ambi- mean?” Phil held up a flash card with the root on the front and the definition on the back. He was helping Dan study for his language arts final and they had gotten off to a rocky start.

“Many?” Dan guessed as he fiddled anxiously with the hem of his t-shirt. He sat across from Phil and they were on Dan’s bed, their legs weaved together so their feet touched each other’s hips. There were so many distractions when Dan was studying with Phil. He had to focus on not kissing Phil while digging deep into his memory for answers that weren’t there.

“Close. It means both,” Dan groaned as Phil added the flash card to the ever-growing pile of unknown roots. The stack of correctly guessed words was small to Dan’s dismay. There was only one week left until the final and Dan, being a procrastinator, waited until now to study.

“Okay, let’s try a different method of studying,” Phil suggested. “What does agri- mean? Agri- can be found in agriculture.”

“Oh, field right?” Dan pumped his fists enthusiastically when Phil nodded in affirmation. It was only then when Dan realized that remembering words with the roots was the most efficient way to study. So, Phil began providing examples of words containing those roots when Dan couldn’t guess the meaning based solely on the root.

“Aesth-, as in aesthetic?”

“Feeling or sensation.”

“Bio-, as in biology.”

“Human, wait no- life.”

“Last one! Am-?” Phil smiled as Dan pondered, trying to guess the meaning. The stack of known words now seemed to tower above the unknown words pile.

“Am as in America? Uh, stupid?” Dan laughed as Phil shook his head at his wild guess.

“I’m enamored with you,” Phil offered a small grin as he saw the light click on above Dan’s head.

“Love, am means love,” Dan kissed his boyfriend, thankful that in their own little world, love meant love.

Gold on your fingertips, fingertips against my cheek. Gold leaf across your lips, kiss me until I can’t speak

Dan and Phil sat underneath a tree, letting the grass tickle their feet with every exhale of a breeze. They had their college acceptance letter in their hands and all of them were unopened. Dan was wearing Phil’s polar bear hoodie he gave Dan when he first timed Phil’s laps. It was crazy how fast time sprinted past. One moment you’re staring at someone wishing they could love you back and in the next, you’re able to call them yours.

The couple had promised to stay in contact with each other even if they didn’t attend the same college. They both studied intensively while juggling their extracurricular activities (swimming and acting) and applied to the same schools. Dan managed to bring up his GPA despite cutting classes. Scholarships seemed unlikely but they applied for them anyways.

“On the count of 3 we have to open our letters,” Phil paused mid-sentence when he saw Dan’s smile blot with worry. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Don’t smile at me.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I’ll only fall more in love with you,” Dan sighed as he rested his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder, anxiety chewing up his thoughts.

“I know you’re worried that we won’t be accepted into the same colleges and that even if we were, you won’t be able to afford it but trust me, I know everything will work out,” Phil’s fingers slid between Dan’s comfortingly.

Gold chain beneath your shirt, the shirt that you let me wear home. Gold’ fake and real love hurts and nothing hurts when I’m alone. When you’re with me and we’re alone

“1… 2… 3…!” They opened their letters and read it to themselves. Some of the colleges accepted Dan but not Phil while some of the schools accepted Phil, not Dan. Some colleges didn’t accept them at all while many placed them on the waiting lists. But the most exciting news was that some, even it was only a few, had accepted the two of them. And even better, Codable offered a partial academic scholarship to Dan and Phil received a full scholarship for athletics.

No words could begin to describe how overjoyed they were. Happiness exploded through their bodies like bombs detonating as they jumped around, hugging each other and squealing. The couple probably seemed insane but in the end, they were only in love.

It’s not like me to be so mean you’re all I wanted, so let me hold you like a hostage