I'm Not Going Anywhere
“Oh, come on.”
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
“What is going ON?!” Dan yells, screwing his eyes shut tighter as more loud explosions fill the air.
BOOM BOOM BOOM!
“Bloody Americans and their fireworks,” Dan complains.
“Oh, for fuck sake, I’m trying to SLEEP!” Dan shouts, and he opens his eyes, expecting to find himself lying in bed.
Instead he finds himself in the middle of a dark forest.
It’s a place he knows all too well; a place that fills him with dread.
“Oh, god, no,” he whispers. “Please, please, NO.”
He starts running.
Dan has no idea where he’s running to, only what he’s running FROM.
The thing he always runs from but can never escape.
He can feel the darkness following behind him; a heavy presence devouring everything in its path. He feels it growing with each step he takes, though he doesn’t dare turn back to look at it.
“Please, please, please, not again,” he begs as he continues running.
But it’s no use.
It never is.
Finally the trees give way to a wide open field, and Dan takes a long, deep breath. He knows what's coming next, but he runs anyway.
He only makes it a few steps before the dark, shapeless form hits him hard in the back, knocking him to the ground. He tries to get away but the force is too strong. It presses down on him, threatening to crush him, and Dan gasps, fighting for air.
“No!” he shouts, but the heavy darkness only pushes down on him harder, leaving him struggling for air. “H...help!” he gasps. “Help! Someone...please.”
“I’m here,” a familiar voice responds, and Dan sobs; a mixture of relief - because it’s HIM - and agony, because he knows what’s coming next.
“You deserve this, you know,” Phil says.
“Ph...Phil,” Dan cries, the force pressing down harder. Tendrils of darkness descend in front of him, obscuring his vision, and he twists his head to the side in order to see his boyfriend. “Phil, please, I-”
“You’re broken, Dan. You always have been,” Phil tells him. There's no anger or sadness in his voice; he might as well just be telling him that the earth is round.
“Don’t,” Dan begs him. “Please, Phil, don’t.”
“You like the darkness, Dan. And I get it, I do. But I can’t be with you. Not with THIS.” Phil points at the dark form crushing Dan’s body, and Dan thinks that if his heart could actually break it would have just shattered in his chest.
“Phil, PLEASE. Please don't leave me.” The darkness flows in front of his face again, and Dan moans in anguish as his heart beats painfully in his chest, his lungs yearning for air.
Phil shakes his head.
“I’m sorry, Dan. I can’t stay. I deserve better than this. I deserve better than YOU .”
Dan sobs, and a broken whisper of Phil’s name is the last thing he can say before the darkness covers his mouth.
The last thing he sees is Phil walking away from him.
The darkness continues to crush him, to suffocate him, and Dan screams for help, but the screaming is only in his head now because there’s no air left in his lungs.
As the last of his breath leaves him, so does the last of his will to fight. He lets the darkness take him.
And then he hears a voice.
A familiar voice.
A comforting voice.
It’s calling his name.
It can’t be.
Phil’s come back for him.
But Phil never comes back for him.
So that must mean….
“NO!” Dan screams, and a rush of air into his starved lungs brings tears to his eyes. He thrashes violently, desperate to escape; desperate to get to-
“Phil!” he shouts. “PHIL!”
Dan, wake up. Wake up!
Dan shouts Phil’s name one last time.
And then -
He wakes with a scream, shooting up in bed, and he almost topples out of it before a pair of strong hands grabs onto his shoulders and pulls him away from the edge.
“Easy, Dan, easy. You’re all right.”
He’s in Phil’s hotel room, in the bed they fell asleep in. He tries to speak but he can’t because it feels like there’s a band around his chest that’s cutting off all his air. His breathing is harsh and ragged, and he tries to calm himself down but the band pulls even tighter and now he’s hyperventilating.
He tries to say Phil’s name but he can’t get it out between gasps for air, and he knows he’s on the verge of a panic attack. It’s been a long time since he’s had one, though he’s been there to help Phil through his own fair share, especially recently with the added stress of their tour. Luckily, he and Phil have a pretty good system for dealing with moments like this, so Phil knows exactly what he needs.
“It’s all right, love, I’ve got you,” Phil assures him, running his hands soothingly along Dan's shoulders before squeezing them tightly. “I’ve got you. You’re going to be fine. Let’s try the breathing exercises, okay?”
Dan can’t find the strength to say the word ‘yes,’ so he nods instead. Phil moves his right hand from Dan’s shoulder and grabs Dan’s left hand. Phil squeezes his fingers tightly, grounding him, and Dan nods again as he squeezes back, taking what strength he can from the simple gesture.
Then Phil moves Dan’s hand to his chest and places it over his heart. He knows that Phil’s heart is beating faster than usual out of concern for him, but it’s nothing compared to how quickly Dan’s own heart is beating.
“Oh, god,” Dan gasps, feeling the band around his chest tighten again at the thought of it. His heart is pounding so hard . What if he really is dying this time?
Phil presses Dan’s hand tighter against his skin.
“I’m here, Dan. I’m right here. I’ve got you, okay? I’ve got you.”
Dan tries to focus on the feel of Phil’s heart beating against his palm, but visions of the Phil from his dream fill his head.
You deserve this.
I can’t be with you.
I deserve better than you.
But Phil - his Phil - must know exactly where his mind has gone, and he’s not having any of it.
“No, Dan, stay with me. Stay with me, Dan, come on.”
Phil lets go of Dan just long enough to reach up and cup Dan’s face in his hands. Carefully, he turns Dan’s head until he’s looking Phil straight in the eyes. Dan's hand trembles against Phil’s chest, but he doesn’t let go.
“Look at me, Dan,” Phil says firmly, and Dan couldn’t look away even if he wanted to. “Look at me and breathe.”
Dan whimpers softly, unable to help himself. He wants to do as Phil asks but he doesn’t think he can; not this time. Tears of frustration leak from his eyes, but Phil brushes them away with his fingertips. Then he leans up and places a soft kiss against Dan’s forehead.
Dan gasps as warmth spreads through him, and the band around his chest loosens ever so slightly.
“I love you,” Phil whispers against his forehead, pressing his lips to the same spot again.
Suddenly, Dan’s chest hurts just a little bit less.
“You’ve got this,” Phil assures him. “You’ve got this.” He pulls away, but Dan doesn’t have enough time to miss his touch, because Phil’s left hand is suddenly on top of his own, pressing it against his chest, while his right is resting over Dan’s rapidly beating heart. “Breathe with me, Dan. Breathe.”
And finally, Dan thinks maybe... maybe ...he can do it.
He nods, ever so slightly, and when Phil takes a deep breath in, Dan follows suit.
Breathe in through the nose for three seconds. Hold for three seconds. Breathe out through the mouth for three seconds.
In through the nose, hold for three seconds, out through the mouth.
In, hold, out.
“That’s it, Dan. You’re doing so well.”
Dan nods, focusing all of his energy on his breathing.
The band around his chest begins to loosen, and as Phil leads him into five second breathing, Dan feels himself inevitably falling into rhythm with Phil.
In through the nose, hold for five seconds, out through the mouth.
In through the nose, hold for five seconds, out through the mouth.
“Easy does it,” Phil says encouragingly. “That’s it. You’ve got this.”
Dan nods, and he focuses all of his energy on following Phil’s lead as they move on to seven seconds.
The band loosens even more, and Dan focuses on the feel of Phil’s heart beating slow and steady under his palm.
Focuses on the calm, even movements of Phil’s chest as he breathes.
Focuses on the familiar presence of Phil’s hand on top of his, and the comforting weight of Phil’s hand over his own heart.
He focuses everything he has on Phil.
And somehow, some way - just like he always does - Phil grounds him.
Suddenly, Dan doesn’t need to focus on his breathing at all anymore. His breathing and heart rate have fallen in line with Phil’s.
“I’m so proud of you,” Phil whispers softly.
Dan’s heart clenches in his chest, but it doesn’t hurt; not anymore.
The band is finally gone, and he feels like he can breathe on his own again.
But he’s also tired.
Oh, god, he’s so tired .
Phil must sense it, because as Dan slowly lets out that last long breath, he collapses forward….
...and Phil catches him.
Dan rests his head against Phil’s chest and groans. He’s drenched in sweat and his whole body aches, but Phil’s wrapping his arms around Dan’s back and holding him tight, and in this moment nothing else really matters because he’s home .
“ Phil,” Dan moans as he wraps his arms around Phil’s lower back, pulling himself in closer. “ Phil.”
“I’m here, Dan,” Phil replies soothingly. He rubs one hand along Dan’s back as the other moves to run through Dan’s soft, sweat soaked curls. “I’m here, love.”
Dan sobs once, but he doesn’t cry; he’s too tired to cry. Instead he closes his eyes and rests.
When he opens his eyes again, he’s not sure how long he’s been out for, or whether he actually fell asleep, but he’s right where he remembers being.
Safe in Phil’s arms.
He can feel Phil’s breath against the top of his head, warm and comforting, and Dan tries to sit up. His muscles protest the movement, and he groans in pain, but with Phil’s strong hands against his shoulders he manages it.
As Dan takes in the hotel room around him, his mind wanders back to his nightmare.
The soul crushing darkness.
The helplessness and fear.
...the incomparable agony of watching the man he loves walk away from him.
It’s a nightmare he’s had many times; more times than he can count.
But he’s never woken up in the middle of a panic attack before.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Phil’s gentle voice asks, and Dan turns toward him. A sliver of moonlight peeking through the curtains is just enough to illuminate Phil’s face, and there's a look of concern in his best friend’s eyes.
Dan shakes his head, because he really doesn’t.
He's already told Phil about this dream, and they’ve talked about it to death.
They’ve talked about the formless, dark cloud crushing Dan’s body (Phil thinks it symbolizes Dan’s depression and self-doubt, and yeah, it doesn’t take someone with a PhD to figure that one out).
They’ve talked about some of the things that Not Phil says to him (“You’re not broken , Dan, no matter what that thing says. You’re not.”).
They’ve talked about Dan’s fear that Phil is going to leave him (“Never gonna happen, mate. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”).
...there’s one thing Dan's never told him about the dream.
It’s not something he’s ever wanted to share; not something he’s ever wanted to say out loud.
...something about tonight feels different.
Maybe it’s the mixed emotions he’s been feeling every day of this tour.
Maybe it’s the stress.
Maybe it’s the uncertainty of being in a different country.
Maybe it was the simple joy of watching the fireworks from their little towel on the beach.
Maybe it was the chance Dan took when Phil said he was scared and he immediately put down his phone and reached for Phil’s hand.
Maybe it was the excitement he’d felt when he’d snuck out of his own hotel room and into Phil’s through the door connecting them and climbed into his bed.
Maybe it was the slow, passionate, sort of sandy and definitely sweaty sex they’d had, or the blissful calm he’d felt when they'd come down, or the comforting familiarness of falling asleep in Phil’s arms.
Dan’s not sure what it is, but as he stares into Phil’s clear blue eyes, something prompts him to say it.
“You deserve better than me.”
Phil’s mouth falls open, his hands tightening around Dan’s shoulders, and he sputters.
“Wh...what are you talking about?”
“That’s the last thing you said to me, in my dream,” Dan explains. “You deserve better than me. And you’re ri-”
“ Don’t ,” Phil practically growls, and Dan bites his lower lip to stop himself from saying the word “right,” because he wouldn’t dare to argue with the look Phil’s giving him right now. “Don’t you dare say I’m right, because I’m not. Dream Me is an idiot.”
Dan smiles slightly despite himself. “Dream You isn’t real, Phil. I know that. But-”
“But the things he says still hurt you, don’t they?” Phil questions.
“Because you’re afraid they might be true.”
Dan gulps, a shudder running through him, and he knows he doesn’t have to say the word for Phil to understand him, but he says it anyway.
“Well, they’re not.”
“They’re not , Dan. None of them. You’re not broken, and you don’t deserve to feel like you are, and I’m not going to give up on you, or walk away from you, or leave you to drown. I’m not going anywhere. I love you, Dan. Please tell me you know that.”
And he does. Deep down, he knows that Phil loves him just as much as he loves Phil.
“I know you do. I know. It's just that...you’re amazing, Phil.”
Phil laughs, smiling slightly, and when Dan realizes what he’s done he shakes his head.
“I didn’t mean that as a joke, Phil,” Dan chides him. “I’m being serious. You’re brilliant, and funny, and a huge dork - but in an obnoxiously endearing way, you know? - and you’re charming and loyal and caring and ridiculously attractive and I know I’m rambling but the point is you’re amazing and I’m just-”
“Sarcastic,” Phil suggests.
“This isn’t helping, Phil.”
“Well…I mean...sometimes, I guess,” he admits.
“I can be,” Dan agrees, and he frowns slightly, confused about where this is going.
Phil just smiles, and Dan’s heart skips a beat as Phil trails his hands down his arms.
Dan feels himself blushing.
“Intelligent,” Phil interrupts, gripping Dan’s hands in his own. “Thoughtful. And selfless. Always thinking of others before yourself.”
Dan gulps, his throat suddenly wet.
“ Strong ,” Phil interrupts. “And brave. So, so brave.” He squeezes Dan’s hands tightly, and Dan finds himself squeezing back on instinct even as he tries to argue.
“I don’t feel brave,” he admits, and his voice sounds small even to him.
Phil squeezes his hands again, smiling at him fondly. “Dan...our tour is called ‘Interactive Introverts.' We spend almost every day meeting and entertaining our fans and making them happy. We literally face our fears every time we step on that stage.”
Dan opens his mouth to disagree, but when he realizes he can’t he closes it.
“You’re amazing, Dan.”
“Hmm, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?” Dan jokes, and Phil’s the one shaking his head this time, but he’s still smiling.
“I’m being serious, Dan. We both have our good qualities and our bad qualities. I’m constantly eating all your cereal.”
“I overthink everything to the point where it sometimes drives you insane.”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“My point is I’m not perfect either, Dan.”
“I beg to differ,” Dan huffs, but Phil shakes his head.
“I’m not . And neither are you. No one is. But….” Phil squeezes his hands once more - tighter than he has before - and when Dan looks down Phil lets go of him and puts a hand under his chin, lifting his face up. Dan gazes into the eyes he knows better than his own, and there’s a fire in those blue depths that he’s only seen a handful of times. “But you’re so much more than your darkness, Dan.”
Dan’s heart clenches in his chest, and he gasps softly at the utter certainty in Phil’s voice and the sincerity of his words.
“It’s true, Dan,” Phil continues, cupping his cheek. “You might not believe it yet, but I think someday you will, and I...I want to be there for you when you do. I want to help you believe it.”
Dan's tears fall silently and without warning, and as Phil brushes them away once more, Dan feels his heart swell with love for his best friend.
“I want that, too, Phil,” he says, voice trembling. “I want you .”
“You have me,” Phil assures him. “You’ll always have me.”
They move to hug each other at the same time; both knowing - as always - just what the other needs.
They take time to take comfort in each other, and when they pull away, Dan feels like he can finally breathe again.
“I’m sorry I freaked out,” Dan says, and Phil shakes his head.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
“Still, I...I don’t know why I always let that dream bother me. It’s just a stupid nightmare. I feel like a fucking idiot sometimes.”
“Dan, please. That’s the man I love you’re talking about.”
Dan laughs; a soft, quiet laugh that tugs the corners of his mouth up into a smile, and he knows his dimples must be showing because Phil’s giving him one of those special smiles: the one that makes his face light up and his eyes shine bright with emotion.
“You’re such a sap, Phil,” Dan teases him, reaching up to stroke his fingertips gently along Phil’s cheek. Phil smiles wider, and Dan’s heart soars.
“But I’m your sap,” Phil assures him. He grabs Dan’s hand and pulls it away from his face, squeezing it hard before resting their entwined hands against this chest. Dan can feel Phil’s heart beating strong against his skin, and he smiles as he leans up and kisses him gently.
“You’re my sap,” Dan agrees, brushing his nose against Phil’s and relishing the soft giggle he receives in return. “And I love you very much.” He presses his lips against Phil’s again, kissing him longer and a bit harder this time, and when he pulls away they’re both left panting for air.
“I love you, too,” Phil tells him, pulling him in for another kiss.
They fall asleep ten minutes later, warm and safe and wrapped around each other.
A few fireworks go off in the distance, but Dan sleeps peacefully through them all.