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“I hate you,” Phil says to his parents, for at least the tenth time in the past hour. “I really mean it this time.”

His mum says, “We know, dear.”

His dad just hums an acknowledgement.

Phil falls back into his sulk, staring out the window. It’s like they don’t even really believe him. It’s like they don’t get how shit it really is to be yanked out of the school you’ve gone to for years with mates you already at least mostly like who finally stopped calling you names like highlighter head, and to be sent to a whole new school where people will come up with all new mean nicknames and he’ll have to go about making new friends again and it’s just not fair.

“Almost there now,” his mum says.

She sounds so excited. Of course she’s excited. What’s she got to be sad about? All she’s talked about for weeks now is how she’s going to do up the back garden and boring stuff like what kind of sofa she’ll get to match the ‘natural wood flooring.’

She keeps trying to get Phil excited by telling him how he can decorate his new room however he’d like. He doesn’t care about his stupid room. He liked his room in Manchester. He only got the green carpet a year ago!

It’s just… it’s not fair.

Five more minutes pass, turning down smaller streets until they roll to a stop in front of a large house with pale cream paint and brown accents. Even the house doesn’t look as special as the one that’s still home in his mind. His own mum and dad built that one. There were pictures on the walls of Martyn ‘helping’ when he was just a toddler, before Phil was even born. That house was practically part of the family.

“Come on, now,” his mum says, when Phil doesn’t get out of the car. He wishes Martyn were here now. Stupid Martyn being older and off at uni already.

He pushes the car door open and steps out. At least he’ll stop feeling queasy from the car ride now. He leans out and takes a breath and looks up at the sky.

Across the street a door slams. He jumps and his eyes shoot over. A boy who looks his own age is standing there staring at him. He’s got a long dark fringe swept across his forehead, he’s dressed head to toe in black and he’s looking at Phil with too much intensity for a perfect stranger.

Phil lifts his arm and holds up his palm, fingers spread apart by way of hesitant hello. Who knows, maybe they’ll be going to the same school. Maybe he could make a friend. Maybe this move doesn’t have to suck quite as much as he’s been fearing it will.

He’s getting ahead of himself— way ahead— but stranger boy flicks his fringe out of his eyes and gives Phil a polite nod. So that’s something at least.

Then a car drives up and stops in front of stranger boy, a pretty girl sitting behind the wheel. She gives Phil a quick, uninterested glance before Phil’s probably-neighbour climbs into the passenger seat and the car drives away again.

“Come on, Phil,” his Dad shouts from the front doorway. “This stuff isn’t going to carry itself inside.”

-

Dan’s not thinking about his brand new neighbour, some lanky-looking guy about whom he knows absolutely nothing. He’s not.

“Who was that?” Evie asks.

“What?”

“That guy.” She glances away from the road for a moment to look at him.

He looks back blank-faced.

“The guy across the street? The guy you were having a staring contest with?” She sounds annoyed, looking away again and Dan is glad they’re driving.

He’d prefer if he was at home playing Halo in his underwear, actually, but anyway. He’s glad at least for the minimal face to face, no matter how brief. He’s not really got the energy for her today. It’s an awful thought to have even inside his own head, but it’s one that makes itself known to him as soon as he hears her voice.

“Dunno. New neighbour I guess,” Dan mutters, turning his own head to watch the red-tinged leaves of the trees that line the road. He’s definitely not thinking about his new neighbour and how his brown hair had been tinged with red in the late afternoon sun too.

She gives him a look like she’s deciding if an argument is worth it or not, but she must come to the conclusion that it’s not because she starts to talk about the trip she’s taking with her family and Dan is given a reprieve from responses that don’t involve nods or occasional prompts to prove he’s still halfway listening.

“So you’ll be fine with it, then?” She asks, looking over at him.

He has to replay the last few bits of conversation in his head to catch onto what she’s asking. ‘Oh, I mean. Yeah.”

It’s the wrong answer. “You’re fine with me being gone the last few weeks before school starts back?” It’s not just annoyance - it’s hurt.

“I’ll miss you,” Dan offers. It’s true… sort of. Mostly. “But we’ll talk on the phone, yeah?”

Two weeks just doesn’t sound like a lot. But he doesn’t say that to her. He’s got enough self-preservation within him to know to at least not do that. He also doesn’t say that she’s going to uni in a year anyway, while Dan’s only just starting sixth form, and that it’ll be a whole lot longer than a few weeks apart.

She’s not entirely appeased. “I don’t know,” she says. “I’m not sure what the mobile rates will be.”

“Oh,” Dan says. “Well, we can try.”

He probably won’t try at all. It’ll be easy to let two weeks go by without talking to her. If he thinks of her, it’ll be nice thoughts but he won’t wallow in misery. It’s only two weeks.

She sighs and eases the car into a spot in the cinema car park, then sits back with her hands on the wheel. She’s got nice hands, dainty little fingers. Her nails are painted something glossy and just a touch darker than what they’d normally be. “Sure,” she says. “I guess.”

He opens the door, glad to be here and eager to go in and spend the next two hours pretending he’s not the type of guy who hurts his girlfriend without even trying.

-

Objectively this room is alright. Phil can’t deny that. It’s not quite as big as the last one but it’s also a little brighter, a little less lived in. The window is enormous and it looks out on a big tree with branches made for climbing. It would have been a good room to grow up in.

But this room has none of the character of his old one, none of the memories. No pencils marks on the door frame documenting his height with every birthday, no lime green carpet, none of his posters on the wall.

At least one of those things can be remedied. He digs through three boxes before he finds it, his beloved home-made mural of Sarah Michelle Gellar. It takes him another twenty minutes to find enough blue tack to affix the giant blonde monstrosity onto the ceiling above his bed, but once it’s there he feels instantly more at home and knows it was worth the effort.

He flops back onto his unmade bed, springs creaking under the weight of him. He stares up and Buffy stares back down and a strange kind of calm washes over him. Her pretty face is such a comfort to him.

He hears Ian’s voice echoing in his ears, mocking him, asking him how many times he’s wanked one out while staring up at her face. He hears himself laughing back awkwardly and saying ‘you don’t wanna know, mate.’

It’s not technically a lie. Ian probably wouldn’t want to know that the answer is zero, because then his next question would probably be something along the lines of ‘where are you hiding your poster of Angel?’

Ian’s not even mean about anything. Ian’s his best friend, and Phil misses him a whole lot already. Ian just… he makes the same jokes all the other boys make.

But it’s not Ian’s fault that Phil doesn’t do the same things other boys do - or if he does, he doesn’t apparently do it the same way. Phil wanks, he wakes up sometimes hard and he takes care of himself, but there’s never really anything specific in his head. Nameless shapes and faces, disembodied touches.

He sighs. Maybe he could have a wank now. That’d give him something to do besides lay here staring up at Buffy’s understanding eyes.

But he doesn’t really want to. He’s bored, and he wants to have friends he can go hang out with or play video games with. He doesn’t even know where anything is in Wokingham. They probably don’t have any of the cool stuff Manchester had. It’s a stupid town where they talk in stupid voices and-

And he’s having another tantrum. The fight goes out of him before he’s even really worked it up in his head. There’s no one here to listen to him, it’s just not as fun.

He sits back up and starts to unpack some more. His XBOX has to be here somewhere.

-

Her mouth tastes like popcorn. Or maybe that’s just his own mouth-taste. Maybe they both taste like popcorn. Should he be thinking about this? Does it matter? Her tongue is in his mouth and her hand is rubbing his dick through his jeans, he probably shouldn’t give a flying fuck whose mouth tastes like what.

He really should be focusing on trying to enjoy said rubbing. It’s not like she’s not doing a good job or anything. It’s not like he doesn’t want to, it’s just…

He can’t focus on it. He can’t concentrate on her long enough to trick his stupid brain into registering that sex is imminent and it needs to send some blood down to his useless cock. She’s going to start noticing soon that they haven’t really done it in weeks, if she hasn’t already.

He thinks he’s done a pretty good job of distracting her so far, getting generous and liberal with his mouth and his tongue and his fingers anytime she so much as reaches for his crotch, but there’s only so long he can keep that up. She hasn’t complained yet, but it’s probably suspicious for a sixteen year old boy to avoid getting his dick out for someone who actively wants it.

It’s not about her. She’s gorgeous. She’s warm and attentive and lovely and he wants more than anything to be what she deserves. So he puts his hands on her body in all the places that are curved and fleshy and licks against her tongue and tries to convince himself that he’s into it.

It doesn’t work.

He doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t know why he gets like this, why there are days he just feels completely empty inside, like all his nerve endings are dulled and the world is just a million different shades of grey.

It feels like there’s a band around his chest just squeezing tighter and tighter. He wants to ignore it so he kisses harder, slides his fingers up her rib cage to cup her breast. It’s so nice, she feels so nice, and surely if he concentrates hard enough the niceness can outweigh all the other stuff.

There’s a burst of music between them, something Dan doesn’t recognize but knows must be coming from her phone. He flops over onto his back immediately while she digs around underneath her to fish it out.

“It’s mum,” she says, frowning her disappointment.

Dan closes his eyes and listens to one side of the conversation. He can hear petulance in Evie’s voice, but Evie’s the nice sort of girl who doesn’t talk back to her mum. Even when she disobeys there’s an air of dignity about it. It probably helps that Evie actually fucking likes her parents.

Dan can’t relate to that. His barely know he’s alive at the best of times. His mum doesn’t ever call him to come home for dinner. She doesn’t even make dinner half the time, too busy with clients.

He’s nothing but relieved when she hangs up and says, “I’ve got to go. Martha and Bill from down the street need a babysitter, and mum told them I wasn’t doing anything. It’s so rude of her. A date with my boyfriend isn’t nothing.”

It sort of is, Dan wishes he could point out. They weren’t likely going to end up doing anything.

“That sucks,” he says anyway, and then helps her find her shirt.

He walks her to the front door like a gentleman. He may not be able to get hard for her, but he can kiss her goodnight, especially when he won’t be seeing her again for a fortnight.

She’s just sliding her feet into her flip flops when a voice right behind them says, “Evie, love, leaving so soon?”

She and Dan both whip their heads around, startled to see Dan’s grandmother stood right there. Dan’s stomach twinges nervously at the thought that she may have heard them making out earlier. He’d been under the impression they’d snuck in rather quietly.

“I have to babysit, nana,” Evie replies sweetly.

“What a lovely young lady you are.”

Evie beams. She’s always loved Dan’s nana, and his nana has always loved her. Everyone loves Evie, even Adrian. She’d slotted right into Dan’s family seamlessly, with nearly more ease than Dan himself. A year later and he’s still not even sure how he feels about that.

She and nana chit chat for a couple minutes and Dan tunes them out without any awareness that he’s doing it. His head is full of nothing but static, a buzzing white noise that drowns out all the details of life all around him. Somewhere in the crackle though is the image of a guy with mousy brown hair and long legs, waving at him from across the street.

“Dan,” Evie says, with enough insistence that he knows she’s been trying to get his attention for awhile.

“What?”

“Walk me to my car?”

He does, trying to stay present for her. It’s only a few more minutes, he tells himself, and then he can shut himself up in his room and lose himself in some corner of the internet until 4am when he can pass out without any effort.

She stands on her tiptoes and puts her arms around his shoulders and squeezes. He buries his face in her hair, breathing in the scent of her shampoo and her perfume. She smells nice. Her arms around him feel nice. She’s just so nice.

He’s not nice. He just wants her to get in her car and drive away so he doesn’t have to pretend he’s holding anything together.

“I’ll miss you Danny,” she hums. “Sorry we got interrupted. I wanted to make it good so you wouldn’t forget me while I’m gone.”

He chuckles emotionlessly. “Right.”

She pulls back abruptly. “You’d better fucking not.”

“I won’t. I won’t. I’m laughing because… it’s so ridiculous.”

“You’ll call me.” It’s not a question.

“Course.”

She kisses him before she gets in her car, long and lingering and slightly too wet. His skin crawls just a little and he hates himself for it. He tells her he loves her before she drives away.

-

Phil’s mum wakes him up much, much earlier than should be allowed, especially with so little time left before he has to start at a brand new school.

“You need to get back on some semblance of a proper sleep schedule,” she says, opening his curtains.

He hisses as sunlight burns his retinas. “Mu-um,” he whinges.

Maybe the room being brighter wasn’t such a good idea after all. Right now he wants nothing more to live in a dark cave where he can sleep for sixteen hours straight in total darkness and silence.

“Come on now, come on.” She won’t stop, no matter how much he tries to will her away. “I’ll make you some eggs, protein for the growing boy.”

“I want cereal,” Phil says. “Can I have cereal instead?”

“If you get out of bed, you can have both.” She pats his foot through the blanket.

Both is a good compromise. “Fine,” he says, and waits until she’s walked out of the room to throw his blanket back. He’s a bit too old to only be wearing pants in front of his mum, but he hates sleeping with a shirt on now.

He stands in the middle of his room and rubs his hands over his face, trying to wake himself up. He realizes from his bedroom window he can see down the street. No one seems to be around but he’ll have to remember to shut the curtains when he’s changing. The whole of Wokingham doesn’t need to see his bits.

It takes him a minute to find the box with most of his clothes. He’d lost motivation for unpacking once the xbox was out. Since he doesn’t have to share with Martyn, his mum’s let him have the extra television set and all the gaming systems for his room. She’s most likely trying to appease his upset over moving, but he’ll milk it for all it’s worth.

In fact, he thinks, she might let him just bring his breakfast back up here. She’s long since banned food in the bedroom since he had that nasty habit of never bringing his dishes back to the kitchen, but if he looks like he feels extra sad today…

He puts on pajama pants and a t-shirt and clomps down the stairs. “Muuuuum! Can I-”

He stops at the last step. His mum isn’t alone. There’s an older lady standing there, just past the doorway in the foyer.

“And there’s my youngest now,” Phil’s mum says. “Phil, come say hello to Veronica, won’t you? She’s come to say hello and invite us to her church, isn’t that nice?”

Phil politely sticks a hand out to shake hers. “Lovely to meet you,” he says, well rehearsed from all the functions and groups and gatherings his mum’s always a part of.

“He’s a polite one,” Veronica beams. “Looks about the same age as my grandson, Daniel. You’ll probably meet him, he lives just across the street.”

Daniel. So stranger boy has a name.

“Awesome,” Phil says. “I’d be glad to.”

“Phil’s not quite been thrilled to leave all his friends behind in Manchester,” his mum explains.

“Oh well, that’s perfectly understandable, love.” She reaches out and places a hand gently on Phil’s shoulder. “I’ll be sure to send Daniel over a little later. He’s a late sleeper, to say the least.”

His mum chuckles. “I had to drag this one up.”

“He must be a good boy.” Veronica looks at him with kind eyes and smiles. “The house could be on fire and Daniel would just grunt and pull the blanket up over his head.”

“Phil’s a good boy,” his mum agrees. “We got lucky with him.”

Phil bristles a little on the inside and he has no idea why. Maybe it’s just weird to be discussed like he’s not stood right there.

“Well, if you wouldn’t mind excusing me Veronica, I need to see a man about some cereal,” he says.

“Of course, dear.” She smiles again. “Growing boys need their breakfast. It was lovely to meet you.”

“And you,” he says.

His mum beams. Phil really does know how to act the part of a respectable young man.

He goes to the kitchen and pours himself an enormous bowl of Shreddies, managing to sneak it up the stairs without her noticing. She’s rather deep in conversation with Veronica at this point, and he’s glad. He feels curiously sad now and would like nothing better than to sulk by himself in private. Maybe he’ll have eggs later.

-

The whole house smells like cinnamon as Dan drags his sorry ass down the stairs. He’s slept in way too late, even for him and his legs feel like cinder blocks.

“Morning,” he croaks to his nana’s back as he enters the kitchen.

“It hasn’t been morning for many many hours, young man,” she tuts. She’s stood at the counter above a tray of cinnamon rolls, drizzling glaze overtop of them.

He yawns. “I guess. But you still made breakfast for me.” He walks over and wraps his arms around her narrow shoulders.

“This isn’t for you. I’ll make you some eggs. Go have a shower and I’ll have them ready when you’re done.”

Dan pouts. “Why?”

“Because you’re taking these over to introduce yourself to your new neighbours. They’re lovely people and I won’t have you looking a mess.”

Dan groans. “You can’t be serious.” The thought of introducing himself to Mr. Long Legs because his grandma forced him to, of ringing the doorbell while holding a tray of baked goods is too mortifying for him to even fathom.

“Of course I am,” she says, oblivious to his horror. “Now go get cleaned up. You smell.”

He makes a face behind her back. She probably knows exactly what he’s doing, using her magical grandmother senses, but she lets him get away with a lot because in the end he always listens.

Just like now, when he trudges back upstairs to take a shower. It’s quick and methodical until he starts to soap up his balls and his body reacts the way it tends to always do. He sighs down at his cock with almost a sense of impatience. So a perfunctory shower and a soapy grip can get him going but topless groping with his girlfriend can’t?

He thinks about ignoring it, knowing it’ll go away quickly if he does, but… well, he’s got time. He starts to work a hand over himself with more purpose.

Ten minutes later he steps out of the shower feeling pleased and flushed from more than the hot water. All he really wants to do now is go crawl back into bed, but he knows his grandma will be around all day and she probably won’t let him get away with it.

If it were just his mum or dad here he could. They don’t give a shit what he does during the summer time. But they’re both out working and they don’t trust him to watch his brother - not that he blames them, considering what a fuss he’d kicked up when they’d insinuated he should stay home with Adrian instead of going out with Evie - so it’s been a Nana-filled summer.

(Secretly, Dan kind of likes it. She’s always baking something nice, and watching Coronation Street with her in the afternoon reminds him of his childhood.)

True to her word, she has a plate of eggs and toast on the table waiting for him when he comes back down, and a big steaming mug full of tea.

“Eat up,” she says. “I don’t want Kathryn to think I’ve forgotten my promise to send you over there.”

He pulls up his chair and tucks into his food. It’s not a cinnamon roll but it’s good and he’s ravenous, having not had much of a stomach for anything last night. He tries not to think about the fact that he feels so much better today. Surely it has nothing to do with knowing he has two weeks before he sees Evie again?

Surely it must be because of the epic lie in he’d been allowed. Sleep heals all, even a brain so foggy he can’t act like a functional human being. Surely.

“Why would you promise such a thing?” he asks with a mouthful of yolky crust.

“Manners,” she scolds, sitting next to him with her own cuppa. “Because they have a son who’s exactly your age. You’ll be going to the same school and he doesn’t know a single soul here yet. I imagine it would be a comfort for him to talk to you.”

Why should that make Dan’s heart thump nervously? Most likely they’ll grunt a hello to each other and he’ll fuck off back home to play Halo for the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of the summer.

Is it because he suspects the guy is kind of cute? He’d thought he’d gotten over being weird about that. He’d thought he’d accepted that it didn’t mean anything. He can acknowledge when another person is objectively attractive, regardless of what bits they’ve got between their legs.

“What’s his name?”

“It’s Phil, and he’s lovely. You could do with letting him teach you a thing or two.”

Dan just rolls his eyes. “Ok nana.”

She kicks at his leg under the table and gives him a smile. He loves her so fucking much that he resolves to actually put in effort when he meets this Phil character.

Chapter Text

Phil’s parents are out shopping for homewares when the doorbell rings.

Phil’s not really sure why everything has to be all brand new; they had perfectly nice stuff at their old house. He’s not so fond of this whole thing where they’ve just decided to change up everything about the life he liked quite well enough for the past sixteen years. They’re even going to get new spoons. He likes his spoons! But his mum only laughed when he defiantly told her he was only going to use the old spoons. She even patted him on the head and told him he could keep a special drawer for his spoons if he wanted. They just don’t take his pain seriously at all.

Then he opens the door and suddenly he’s not thinking about spoons anymore. The boy from next door is standing there with a cake tin held awkwardly in front of him.

“Hi,” Phil says, eyes going straight to whatever he’s holding. “That smells really good.”

“Yeah.” Dan clears his throat, then holds it out. “It’s for you. Or, I dunno. Your mum and dad. Whoever. My grandma made them. And uh, told me I needed to bring them over.”

The last bit is mumbled so low that Phil barely understands the words. It takes his brain a few seconds after hearing them to actually catch up.

“Your grandma’s nice,” Phil says, reaching out to take it. Their fingers brush and Dan yanks his hand back, but Phil barely registers it. “She was over earlier, I think. I’m Phil, by the way. You can come in if you’d like.”

Phil turns, assuming Dan will follow him. He hears Dan step inside and then the door shut. “I’m Dan.”

Phil puts the platter on the island in the kitchen and immediately starts to unwrap the layers protecting it. “Oh my gosh, cinnamon buns!” He dives right in for one. They’re even still warm!

“Did you just say ‘oh my gosh’?” Dan asks, incredulous. “Who even says that?”

Phil stops, sticky fingers clutching a bun halfway to his mouth. He puts it down, feeling a wash of sudden embarrassment. Of course the very first person he meets from his new school thinks he’s stupid. Was this ever going to go any differently?

“I dunno,” he mutters. “Me, I guess.”

“Is that a northern thing?”

Phil’s index finger is stuck to his thumb. He wants to stick them in his mouth and suck off the sugar, but that would probably make him look even more dumb and childish. Really what he wants now is for this guy to bugger off so Phil can climb back into bed and have a little cry. “Who says I’m northern?”

“Your ridiculous accent, that’s who.”

“You’re one to talk,” Phil retorts.

“You live in the south now, mate. This is how we talk.”

Phil can’t tell if this guy is actually an asshole or just trying to be funny. Either way, the reminder that Phil’s not in the place he wants to be anymore stings. He stares down at his mismatched socks and feels stupid again. “Don’t remind me.”

When he looks up again he’s almost startled by how intently Dan is looking at him. Dan seems startled too, averting his eyes quickly. He nods his head in the direction of Phil’s abandoned pastry. “You gonna eat that? Nana will be cross if I don’t report back with a review from you.”

“Nana?” Phil asks. This time it’s his turn to be incredulous. “You call your grandmother nana? And you were taking the piss because I said ‘oh my gosh’?”

Dan cracks a smile, the first real one Phil’s seen. He takes note of a deep dimple in one cheek.

“Alright,” Dan says, and his tone is warm in a way it wasn’t before. “Fair enough.”

Phil is cautiously optimistic. “Do you want one too?”

Dan bites his lip. “Don’t tell my nana? They’re supposed to be for your family only.”

“Oh my gosh, I definitely won’t tell your nana.”

“Shut up,” Dan says, laughing.

Phil goes to get some kitchen roll before realizing he has no idea where the kitchen roll actually is. It takes three different tries opening cabinet doors before he manages to find it. He rips two sheets off and turns to hand one to Dan - who has two fingers in his mouth and is sucking the icing sugar from them, while he holds his cinnamon bun in the other hand.

The sight makes something in Phil’s stomach plunge downward.

“Thanks,” Dan says, taking the napkin from Phil. “These are fucking good, by the way. My nana’s the best at baking.”

“My mum’s pretty good too,” Phli says, taking his first bite. “Oh, wow. It really is good.”

“Maybe we can get them to have a bake off,” Dan suggests.

Phil can guess where this is going. “And we get to eat everything they bake?”

“Exactly,” Dan says.

It doesn’t sound like the worst idea to Phil. “I think we’ve got a plan in place.”

Dan gives him another one of those smiles, halfway to being a real one. It’s close enough at least to give Phil a boost of confidence. “So what’s it like around here?”

“Boring,” Dan says. “Well boring. Reading festival is a good time but besides that there’s not much to do unless you really like getting wasted off your tits in the park.”

“I’ve never been to Reading,” Phil says. Or any festival, but he’s afraid that sounds too lame.

“It’s soon,” Dan says. “In a few weeks. I usually go with my… I go with friends.”

“Sounds fun.” He’s not really sure that it sounds fun, but he can tell that Dan thinks it’s fun. Maybe he’s fishing for an invite but like, it’s fine. It’s fine. Of course he’s not going to get invited out somewhere by someone he just met who probably just thinks he’s a nerd.

Dan shrugs. “It’s what we’ve got.”

“Well all I’ve got right now is my XBOX. My XBOX and a tray of cinnamon buns.”

“That honestly doesn’t sound too bad to me. I don’t have much more than that at the moment either.”

“You have friends,” Phil says somewhat petulantly.

“Sure. But none of them want to play Halo with me.”

“I mean, I will,” Phil offers. “I’m rubbish at it but maybe that’s better than playing alone?”

Dan shoves the rest of his bun in his mouth. It wasn’t a small piece and Phil can’t help but notice that he fit it in there easily. The bloke has a big mouth.

“We could play something else, if you want,” Dan says, licking his fingers and Phil feels that odd swirling sensation in his gut again. “Something you’re good at.”

“You don’t have to. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do.” He’s remembering what Dan had said about his grandmother sending him over and suddenly feels keenly embarrassed about this whole thing.

“Do you have any coffee?” Dan asks, apparently completely disregarding the last thing Phil had said.

“Uh, yeah. Definitely.”

“Can we make some? I require proper caffeination before gaming,” Dan says. “Also my nana won’t let me have any.”

“You can’t have coffee?” Phil is horrified at the thought.

“She says it’ll stunt my growth,” Dan says.

Phil stares at him. “Really?”

Dan’s at least Phil’s height, and Phil’s been a head taller than most of his peers for a couple years now.

“My nana,” Dan says, “Is a massive troll. But she still won’t let me have any coffee.”

Phil pulls out the jar of instant and two coffee mugs. The kettle’s unpacked already, at least.

“Ew,” Dan says. “Is that instant? What kind of pleb are you?”

“A pleb who is making you coffee,” Phil says. “There’s nothing wrong with instant. Is there anywhere around here that does good coffee?”

“There’s a Costa about half a mile away,” Dan says. “It’s alright, I guess. And a weird snooty tea place that doesn’t do coffee in any good flavours.”

“I like flavours,” Phil says, waiting for the kettle to boil. “Sometimes I just put chocolate syrup in my coffee to make it taste better.”

“You know why? ‘Cause instant tastes like shit.”

Phil’s midway through spooning out the coffee powder into their mugs. He tries to concentrate and not spill any grains as he speaks. “Listen, if we’re going to be friends you have to know that I’m a stubborn person, just like, by nature. Even when I know for a fact I’m wrong. So you’re probably right, instant probably tastes like shit. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to admit it.”

“Who said I wanted to be your friend?” Dan asks.

Phil turns to look at him. Something in Dan’s tone had been— off. It hadn’t sounded mean like the actual words would imply, but more… teasing? Suggestive in some way that Phil just has no experience with decoding.

He ignores Dan’s last statement as Dan had ignored his a minute ago. “I’ll agree to a compromise and say next time we can get our gaming fuel at Costa, yeah?”

Dan nods. “For now I’ll take you up on that chocolate syrup, though. Anything to mask the flavour of ass.”

“To be fair, anything would taste like ass after those cinnamon buns,” Phil says, and then drops his voice down to a nearly unintelligible mumble, “Not that I would know.”

“Is that the official review, then?” Dan asks, smirking. “They make everything else taste like ass?”

Phil shoots him a look. “You’d better not tell Veronica I said anything even remotely like that. She thinks I’m a lovely young man.”

“Trust me, I know. She wouldn’t shut up about it earlier. You made me look bad, mate. Do a little less.”

The button on the kettle pops up and Phil sets about pouring steaming water into their mugs. “I didn’t really do anything. Just shook her hand and smiled at the appropriate times.”

“Maybe that’s it. I need to smile more.”

“You should. After all, you do have that dimple—” he cuts himself off abruptly. Did he actually just say that out loud?

“Dimples are just genetic abnormalities,” Dan says. “I’m deformed. It’s like a dead pixel in my cheek.”

“Are pixels the muscles of a computer?” Phil muses out loud. “That’s weird.”

“Your mum is weird,” Dan says.

Phil is not overly bothered. “You haven’t even met my mum.”

“Don’t need to,” Dan says. “She gave birth to you.”

The words are mean but Dan’s voice isn’t mean at all. Dan’s grinning at him so it can’t be that bad. Phil just laughs. “You’re awful.”

“Not awful at Halo, though. Come on, I’m ready to kick your ass.”

-

Dan definitely had every intention of spending all day at home in bed, wanking and scrolling the internet and watching youtube and maybe playing some ddr if he had any bursts of excess energy to burn off.

He did not at all plan on his day involving the guy from across the street, or Dan spending three hours in the bedroom of the guy from across the street playing Halo until his ass is numb.

“You need chairs,” Dan says.

“I had a couch in my old room,” Phil says.

It’s at least the sixth time Phil has mentioned his old room. Dan would make fun of him for it, but the truth is that Phil actually sounds sad and Dan’s not that much of a dick. Being sad sucks. He would know.

“So get a couch in this one too.” Dan shifts again, unfolding his legs out from under him when one of them starts to go all tingly with pins and needles.

Downstairs a door slams. Dan’s heartbeat skyrockets. He should have left when they finished the last game. He fucking hates meeting new people.

“Oh,” Phil says, sounding happy. “That’s mum and dad, I bet they brought food home! You can probably have some. Mum always gets too much, and she loves feeding people.”

“Uh, I.” Dan tries desperately to think of a way to say no.

“Come on,” Phil says, standing up before Dan can think of anything even remotely convincing. “I’m starving.”

Dan’s stomach is in knots, but he has no choice but to follow Phil down the stairs. He’s still mentally scrambling. He could probably get away with saying his nana is expecting him for dinner.

“Mum, did you get food?” Phil bellows, even though he’s rounding the corner into the kitchen and he definitely doesn’t need to be shouting.

Dan wipes the sweat from his palms onto his jeans, still reluctantly following Phil though he’d like nothing better than to just— bolt. He could do it. The door is right there.

“Hello to you too, Phil,” a woman who is undeniably Phil’s mother says. “Oh, and hello Phil’s friend.”

“Hello,” Dan says awkwardly. “I’m—”

“Daniel, right?” she asks.

That’s weird, he thinks. He knows his nana had been here earlier, but still. Weird. He wonders what secrets she already knows about him.

“Yeah. You can call me Dan.” He holds out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

She smiles and slips her palm into his and gives it a little shake. “And you, love. I’m Kath, this is Nigel.” She gestures to a man putting groceries into the fridge, who turns around and gives Dan a wave. “Are you staying for dinner?”

Dan opens his mouth to say he has to be off but Phil speaks first. “He’s staying.”

Dan turns his head to look at Phil, who’s digging into the tray of buns they’d left out on the counter, ripping off just a chunk of one and shoving it into his mouth.

He should be annoyed. He hadn’t really wanted to stay, like, at all, and he still feels uneasy and out of place, but something about Phil’s casual assumption that he’d be staying makes him feel… something. He’s not really sure what. Something nice.

“Those buns Phil is massacring are actually for you as well,” he says to Kath. Sometimes talking is easier than not talking when he feels this anxious. Besides, it’s a good way to earn points without really having to do anything. And his nana will be pleased that he’d made a good impression here. “My nan— my grandmother made them.”

He hears Phil snicker, but unfortunately Dan can’t give his leg a kick or flip him the bird without Kath seeing.

“So that’s why it smells so nice in here!”

“It’s certainly not him,” Phil says, still snickering.

But it’s nice. Like earlier, like for the past few hours, it doesn’t feel like Phil’s actually having a go at him. Phil’s weird like that, even when he’s saying something mean he just looks nice while he does it. He looks friendly and… open. Like he couldn’t be properly mean to anyone.

“Or you,” Kath says, poking Phil in the shoulder. “Smelly boy.”

“Mum!” Phil protests.

They have such an easy back and forth. It’s not as though Dan’s mum doesn’t have a sense of humor - she does, actually, and one quite similar to Dan’s own. But Dan hasn’t done much joking around with her in… a while.

Mostly they just fight. Mostly he just fights with everyone, when he even has the energy.

He wonders if Phil fights with his family that much? Evie certainly doesn’t with hers.

Phil’s mum is laying out food, fish and chips. Phil gets out plates and hands one to Dan, who stands awkwardly behind him only reaching for things once Phil already has.

“Can we-”

“Not in your room,” Kath says. “We’ll take it to the table like civilized people.”

“Mum,” Phil says. “We haven’t got any chairs yet.”

The van from the removals company that's handling most of their furniture won't be arriving until tomorrow.

She pauses. “Well. Well, then. You’ve got me on a technicality, I suppose. Just this once, and you’ll bring every single plate back down.”

“Yes, mum,” Phil says quickly, then looks over his shoulder. “Come on, before she changes her mind.”

Dan laughs even though he’s not really sure if he’s supposed to laugh at that or not.

Once they’re upstairs and safely tucked in Phil’s room Phil says, “Oh, crap. Forgot something to drink. Do you like Ribena?”

“Sure, mate,” Dan says. He sits on the floor, in the same spot where they’ve been playing games.

With Phil gone, he actually takes his time and looks around. The room is still mostly boxes, but he can see a towel on the floor and what looks like a pair of pants sticking half out from under it. The bed isn’t made, bright blue and green duvet crumpled up.

When his head tips back Dan sees a pretty face staring down at him from the ceiling, something he hadn’t really noticed before. His stomach does a funny turn.

Guess he’s into blondes, Dan thinks.

-

“He seems nice,” his mum says as she fixes two glasses of Ribena for him.

He’s leant against the counter watching her do it, vaguely aware that it’s a bit weird that she still does those kinds of things for him. He hadn’t even had to ask. She’d asked him why he was back so soon and he’d said they’d forgotten drinks and she’d gone straight to the cupboard.

He’s not really given it much thought before now, but it does make him feel a little strange. Like he’s still just a helpless little child.

“I think he is,” Phil replies, never one not to tell his mum the truth. “It’s kind of hard to tell.”

She nods. “You did only just meet today.”

“Yeah.”

“It seems like you’re getting on, though?” She turns around and hands him the glasses.

“Thanks. Yeah, I mean. We’ve just been playing video games and drinking coffee, but. I dunno, he’s different.”

“From what?”

Phil shrugs. “My real friends?”

“Phil,” she says in gentle reproach.

“You know what I mean.”

“You have to try, love. You have to try to make this new place home. I know you’re not thrilled about being here, but pushing people away will only make it harder.”

He bristles slightly. “I’m not pushing.”

“Well good. Go on up and eat before your food gets cold. And be nice.”

“I’m always nice.” He’s not sure if she registers the hint of sadness in his tone.

He walks up the stairs slowly, careful not to spill on the cream-coloured carpet that covers the steps. It looks too new, this carpet, like maybe whatever had been there before had been ripped up and replaced by this. It doesn’t look lived in it all.

It’s silly, but it makes him feel like shit. It feels like a glaring reminder that everything is new now, everything is different and he feels suffocated by it. This isn’t his carpet and this isn’t his home and that boy upstairs sitting on his bedroom floor is not his friend.

He kicks the door closed behind him when he enters his room and the slamming sound it makes is a little too loud. He sees Dan jump.

“Jesus Christ,” Dan croaks, hand clutched to his chest. “Good thing I’ve not started eating yet, bloody hell. I’d have choked to death for sure.”

“Sorry,” Phil mutters half-heartedly, handing Dan one of the glasses and sinking down to sit next to him. “Why aren’t you eating yet?”

“Waiting for you.”

“Oh.” That’s nice. That is unexpectedly nice.

Dan points the fork in his hand up at the ceiling. Phil’s eyes follow and he’s already cringing before Dan’s had a chance to say anything.

“Kinky shit, mate.”

Phil picks up his plate and places it in the center of his folded up legs, stabbing a piece of fish harshly with his fork. “S’not. I just like Buffy.”

“I can see that,” Dan says.

“It’s how I had it at home. I just wanted one thing to feel familiar.” He can hear how whiny he’s being, how defensive, but he can’t seem to help himself. He wishes he’d never put the damn thing up.

But Dan surprises him by saying, “I’ve never seen that show. Is it any good?”

“How have you not seen Buffy?” Phil says, incredulously. “It’s the best show ever.”

Dan shrugs. “Just never did.”

“I’ve got the whole box set,” Phil’s slightly more hesitant this time when he speaks. “Like, all seven seasons.”

“You’re dedicated,” Dan says.

“Yeah.” Phil’s friends always made fun of him for how much he loves Buffy, but they got used to it and it just became another thing that made him weird but they still liked him. He has no idea if Dan will be the same. He’s not even honestly sure if Dan likes him now. Maybe Dan’s just really bored. “We could watch it. If you want.”

“Sure,” Dan says. “We can watch it.”

“Wait, really?” Phil’s surprised.

“Don’t you want to?” Dan asks. “It was your idea.”

“Yeah, just, I didn’t think you’d say yes,” Phil says. “I think you’ll like it, though. It’s so great, it’s got vampires and like, sexy love triangles, and Willow’s the best-”

“Is that Willow?” Dan asks, pointing up.

Phil shakes his head and laughs. “No, silly. That’s Buffy.”

“Oh.” Dan’s smiling a little. “Right. Okay, well. Put it on.”

“What, like - right now?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs, still smiling. “You have better things to do?”

Excitement bubbles up in Phil’s stomach. He pushes his half-finished plate out of the way and goes to find the first disc.

When he turns back around he sees Dan shifting on the floor. “Oh, we could um. If you want, we could sit on the bed? It might be more comfortable.”

Dan glances over at the bed like he just noticed it’s there. “Sure.”

-

They make it through two episodes before Dan’s phone rings. “Fuck,” he grumbles. “It’s my nana. I’m supposed to tell her if I won’t be home before she leaves.”

She always wants her hug and kiss goodbye.

“It’s not nice to worry an old woman, Daniel,” she says.

“You’re not old,” Dan says. “But I’m sorry. I’ll be home in a second.”

“That fast?” She asks, curious. “Where are you?”

“I’m, uh. Phil’s house. Still.”

“Still!” She’s clearly delighted. “That’s lovely.”

Dan doesn’t want to say anything. He can tell Phil is listening while trying not to sound like he’s listening. “I’ll be home soon,” he says again, and hangs up.

“We’re almost done with this episode anyway,” Phil says. He sounds disappointed.

“I liked it.” Dan shifts off the bed. He’s been sat at the end while Phil reclined near the headboard. It’s been a comfortable couple of hours of chatting back and forth only during slow moments of the episode and mostly just watching. “If you’re free we can watch some more soon.”

“I’m always free,” Phil immediately says, then laughs. “You’re literally the only person I know here.”

“Oh, right.” Dan shoves his hands in his pockets. “I guess. Tomorrow, maybe?”

“You know where to find me.” He’s trying to be cool or something. Probably didn’t work.

Dan gives him a look. Maybe Phil’s imagining it but it looks like a look that says ‘you’re weird, but I kinda like it.’ A curious mix of smirk and frown with a tiny appearance of that dimple.

It’s a look that makes Phil feel something in his guts. It’s a look he wouldn’t mind seeing again.

-

Dan has a flash of brilliance before heading out the door. He can hear Kath and Nigel talking quietly in a room nearby and follows their voices to find them sat sipping tea in a lounge-type room.

His insides are twisted up anxiously but he clears his throat and they both look at him. “Hi, sorry,” he says. “Just wanted to say thanks for dinner and letting me hang out. I’m heading out now. It was nice to meet you.”

Their responses are enthusiastic and gracious and he leaves feeling like he’s actually done something right today. It’s a nice feeling. Maybe his nana had been right, maybe being around Phil is going to teach him a thing or two after all.

“So you had a good time, then?” his nana asks not two seconds after he’s stepped inside the house and kicked his shoes off on the mat.

He shrugs. He's not going to admit that her forcing him to be social and neighbourly had resulted in the best day he’s had in recent memory. It’s his obligation as a teenager to keep up the appearance that he’s not bothered about anything.

She rolls her eyes. “Fine, don’t tell me. I know the truth anyway.”

Dan ignores her. “Phil liked your cinnamon rolls a lot.”

“Oh, I’m glad. He’s a lovely boy isn’t he?”

Dan nods before he has a chance to think better of it. Fuck.

“You were gone a long time. It’s long past this old bird’s bedtime.”

“Is mum not back yet?” Dan asks, pulling out his phone to check the time.

“She is. I wanted to hear about your visit before I left.”

He doesn’t actually want to talk about this, but apparently he’s got no choice. She’s just too sweet, he never seems to be able to keep up the angst when she’s around. “It was nice, nana. We just played games and watched tv. His parents came home and gave us dinner. They’re really nice.”

“That sounds wonderful. Thank you for doing that, Daniel.” She opens her arms for a hug and he goes without hesitation. “Kathryn said he’s taking the move hard. I’m sure you helped a sad boy feel a little less lonely today.”

Dan squeezes a little tighter round her shoulders. “I could kind of tell. He talked about his old house a lot.” He doesn’t want to say that Phil had done the exact same thing for him.

“I hope the two of you will be friends,” she says.

He just nods.

She pulls back and smiles at him. “I swear you get taller every day, young man. Seems like only yesterday I was changing your nappies.”

“Nana!” he squawks.

“Well, time for me to be off,” she chuckles. “See you tomorrow love.”

He wanders into the kitchen after she’s gone, smiling to himself a little. He opens the fridge and rummages around it half-heartedly. He’s not even really hungry so he gives up after finding nothing but some half-eaten microwave Indian food.

His good mood is flattened when his phone starts ringing in his pocket. He already knows who it is and he knows he doesn’t want to answer. He doesn’t even know why he doesn’t want to answer, really. It’s just a phone call. Really it’s the bare minimum of effort to put into maintaining his relationship with Evie.

Evie, his girlfriend. His lovely, beautiful, thoughtful girlfriend. The girlfriend he’s very fortunate even gives him the time of day.

He doesn’t answer. He climbs the stairs to his room and tells himself he’ll answer if she rings again.

Chapter Text

Phil is sleeping, face pressed to the pillow and mind lost in a dream world where there are hands stroking down over his hips, over his cock, up his thighs. Those hands push him down with their weight and pull him up with their touch until he feels like he’s floating, warm and cloaked in delicious feelings right down to the tips of his toes. His body moves into it, both in his dream and out of it.

There’s something there - the barest flash of something familiar and then he’s dreaming that he’s kissing, hot wet kisses the kind of which he’s only really seen on television but he imagines it’d feel quite nice if he ever found someone he wanted to kiss like that.

He hasn’t, of course. In reality it just seems like it’d be awkward and a bit gross with most people he’s ever met who might have let on that they’d like to kiss him. But in the dream - in the dream, it’s fantastic.

It’s so fantastic that he doesn’t want to leave it. He’s wound up and aching and when he starts to wake slowly he refuses to really accept that he’s got to leave the dream behind. His only concession is to grind his hips with a little more purpose, humping the mattress underneath him.

He’s so hard. He thinks about turning over and taking himself in hand, but he’s close enough that this will get him there just as well and there’s something nice and satisfying about driving his body down against something. He imagines it’s another person, a warm body to rub against. His mind doesn’t think to curves or muscles or what kind of body, just anyone. Someone who wants to make him feel good.

His arms stretch over his head to clutch the pillow more tightly and his breath goes louder and harsher. Fuck, he thinks, sucking in a breath just as he starts to come. He grinds into his sheets as his cock pulses out warmth and wet beneath him, thighs clenched and toes curled.

He humps a few more times once the intensity has started to level off, rubbing the over-sensitive skin of his head against his pyjama bottoms and whimpering into his pillow. When it starts to hurt a little he rolls over and stares up at the ceiling.

At Sarah. Fuck. Buffy just watched him come in his pants and for some reason he hates that. He closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to think about Buffy in the euphoric, boneless aftermath of his orgasm.

Another face is waiting behind his eyelids once they’re shut. He reaches down and squeezes his spent cock, shuddering at the shock of sensation it elicits even as he’s halfway back to soft. He opens his eyes again quickly.

It makes sense that his brain had supplied him with that face. It’s the last face he’d seen before going to bed. He’s just thankful he’d been too lazy to get up and say goodnight to his parents last night before passing out.

-

“Are you… are you doing laundry?” Kath asks, catching him at the bottom of the stairs with his soiled sheets balled up as tight as he could get them under his arm.

“I… spilled Ribena on my sheets. Last night,” he scrambles. “When Dan was here.”

“Of course you did.”

His stomach unclenches. He hasn’t been caught out. Everything is fine.

“You also didn’t bring down your dishes,” she adds.

“Shit. I mean shoot. Sorry mum. I’ll get them in a sec.”

“Mhm.”

He tries to escape to the laundry room but she continues talking. “Don’t forget, the movers are delivering our things today. You’ll have to help out.”

“Oh, right.” There’s a sinking sensation in his chest and he doesn’t understand it until he remembers he’d told Dan he’d be free to continue their Buffy marathon today.

It’ll be nice to have more of his stuff, for this place to feel a little more like him. He should be happy.

“I will,” he adds.

“I just wish your brother was here. It’d be nice to have someone strong to lift the heavier things. Your dad’s back isn’t that great, you know.”

And there it is. His voice is flat when he says, “Gonna go put this in the wash.” He walks away before she can say any more dumb shit.

“There’s breakfast on the table,” she calls to him.

He takes a rather deep satisfaction in not saying thank you.

-

Dan sleeps until half ten, when his grandma wakes him up just like clockwork.

“Come on now, up up,” she says, putting a cup of tea by his bed. She even goes so far as to throw open his blinds so the sun hits him.

She’s the only person that still strolls into his room like she’s got every right to be there. His mum and dad stopped bothering him when he’s in his own space years ago. They don’t even care enough to stop him spending twelve hours alone in his cave of solitude.

Which is exactly what he’d like to do. He curls into a ball in fetal position and groans. “Nana, whyyyy.”

“Stay your lazy bones in bed if you want,” she says. “But I’m taking your brother shopping. He needs new shoes and school trousers. He’s growing like a weed, that one. He’ll be tall as you before you know it.”

“I don’t wanna go,” Dan says.

“We don’t always get what we want, little bear.” She pats his head, then yanks his duvet down. He’s really glad he wore pants to bed.

“I can’t,” he says suddenly, pulling the duvet back up. “I’m hanging out with Phil again today.”

She gives him a suspicious look, like she’s trying to decide if she believes him. He’d be hurt, but he is at least able to acknowledge his own habit of little white lies to get out of situations he doesn’t want to be in. “You really did get on, didn’t you?”

“Guess so,” Dan says.

“Fine then,” she says. “I’ll get socks and pants for you today, but remember you’ll need a proper suit in September so we’ll have to get that fitted sometime. You can’t get out of shopping forever!”

She’ll probably try to make a proper day trip of the suit-shopping and get him stationary too. But he knows to take the win where he can, so he just nods and says, “Okay, nana.”

As soon as she’s gone, he turns over and goes back to sleep for another hour.

The house is quiet when he wakes up again. He goes downstairs half-naked and grabs a box of cereal, pouring himself a bowl full and eating it so quickly that milk dribbles down his bare chest as he eats it standing at the worktop. He wipes it off with a dish towel then puts the towel back where it had hung before.

He’s about to go get dressed when he hears the sound of a loud vehicle outside. He pulls the front curtain back and peeks from the side, not wanting to be spotted. It’s a moving van and it’s parked right across the street, right in front of Phil’s house.

So maybe Phil is busy today. It doesn’t stop Dan from climbing the stairs to his room and taking a little too long trying to find something kind of nice-ish to wear. He looks in the mirror and tries to fix his fringe a bit. He should probably shower but that would add at least an extra half hour to the getting ready process and he feels inexplicably antsy. He wants to get out of this house and into the one across the street.

He’s doubting his decision pretty much immediately after stepping foot outside. Phil’s drive is bustling with activity, with people unloading things out of the truck and into the house. This is stupid. He’s just going to get in the way.

He’s stood there at the edge of Phil’s garden with his hands shoved in his pockets feeling about as awkward as he possibly could when Phil walks out through his front door.

“Dan?”

Dan waves, awkwardly of course. “Hi.”

“What are you doing?” Phil asks as he walks across his yard towards Dan.

Good question, really. What the fuck is he doing? “Trying to decide if it was worth asking if you still wanted to hang out today?”

“I do,” Phil answers, stopping on the edge of the curb right in front of Dan. “I still do for sure, but I have to do this first.” He makes a little pouty face.

Fuck. That’s cute. He’s cute. Dan doesn’t really know what it means that he finds that so cute, but he does know that he doesn’t want to go back home and spend the day alone. So he shrugs and asks, “Want help?”

Phil grins. “Really?”

The thing about this guy, Dan’s coming to realize, is that when he smiles, he smiles for real. His whole face lights up with it and it’s honestly kind of infectious. Dan finds himself forgetting he’s supposed to be an edgelord when Phil smiles like that, and all because Dan just wants to hang out with him enough that he’s willing to lug around some boxes.

So Dan smiles back. “Course.”

-

Two hours later, Phil is a sweaty mess but he’s got a dresser and his computer desk back in his room, and with him and Dan both pitching in they’ve also got a dining room table with every chair accounted for and their sofa and Phil’s favorite overstuffed comfy chair his mum always used to cuddle him in when he was younger.

He’s glad they’re not getting rid of that, at least. He’s too grown up now to cuddle with her in it but it’s nice to see some familiar stuff in amidst all the new things she’s bought. It makes the house feel just a bit more like home, even if it’s still a pale imitation of the house they left behind.

“Alright then,” Kath says, wiping sweat off her own brow. “You boys have done your fair share, I’d say. Why don’t you get yourselves a nice treat?”

She finds her purse and hands them each a fiver. “Nice!” Phil pumps his fist.

Dan immediately starts to protest it, but she barely lets him get a word out. “You did more work than my own flesh and blood did, so I won’t have it any other way. Go for an ice cream.”

“Or a coffee,” Phil says, grinning at Dan. “Think you can show me where the Costa is? We can bring it back here and watch some more Buffy?”

“Oh, child.” Kath grimaces. “You aren’t making him watch that, are you? I ought to give him more just for that.”

“I like it,” Dan says. Phil can’t really tell if it’s polite or not, but it makes him happy.

“See, Mum?” He says, then sticks out his tongue. “Dan likes it. Because it’s the best show ever.”

Kath just makes a noise of disagreement.

“Better run for it, lads,” Nigel says, walking in. “Before she takes it back and you end up unpacking more boxes.”

Phil jumps like it’s a genuine threat and grabs Dan’s wrist, tugging him along. “Come on! Coffee awaits!”

He doesn’t let go until they’re in the street and he realizes it’s weird that he’s still clutching Dan’s arm like he’s going to disappear. “Sorry,” he mumbles, feeling suddenly self-conscious. This. This is why people think he’s weird. Because he is.

“That was a close one. I’m glad we made it out alive,” Dan says. “I could really use some caffeine.”

“To endure my shitty taste in tv shows?” Phil asks. He can still see the face his mum had made just at the mention of it.

Dan looks at him, a frown creased between his brows. “What? No. I told you I liked it.”

“I thought maybe you were just trying to be nice to the weird kid your nana forced you to hang out with.”

Dan chuckles, reaching up and pushing at a strand of his fringe that’s fallen into his eyes. Phil notices that it’s gone curly at the ends.

“I like it. For real. And you’re not that weird.” He jabs his elbow into Phil’s arm.

“Gee, thanks mate.”

“Look, your mum buys me coffee and feeds me dinner that didn’t come frozen, you’re willing to play Halo with me for hours and you’re obsessed with a show that’s full of hot people and vampires. Trust me, I’m not complaining.”

Phil doesn’t know what to say. His stomach feels a little funny. Almost like he’s happy or something. He hadn’t expected to feel that so soon in this place, this place where everything looks different from what he’s known his whole life.

They each get large coffees with too much sugar and pool the remainder of their money to get a giant biscuit which they split in half and eat on their way back to the house.

“This doesn’t compare to your nana’s cinnamon buns,” Phil says.

“You don’t have to suck up to her, she can’t hear you from this far away.”

Phil shoves him hard in the shoulder. “I’m serious. I snuck downstairs in like the middle of the night last night in my pants just to steal one.”

Dan cocks an eyebrow. “Should I tell her that?”

“Do you think it would convince her to make me another batch? Because if so then my answer is yes. Definitely yes.”

Dan just laughs, shaking his head a little as he takes another bite of his biscuit. “You’re right though. This is mediocre at best.”

“The coffee is good though,” Phil says.

“Any coffee is better than that swill you made yesterday, Phil.”

“If I recall you drank it all and even asked for seconds, Daniel.”

“Only because you put in enough chocolate sauce to drown out any actual coffee-esque flavour.”

“Well you better get used to it. It’s not every day my mum just gives me free money,” Phil says. “We’ll be drinking swill again tomorrow.”

Dan smiles. “Tomorrow?”

Phil looks over sheepishly. “I mean. You’ve probably got other stuff to do.”

Dan snorts. “Not fucking likely.”

“You don’t have like - friends and stuff? That you hang out with and stuff?”

Dan does a half shrug. “I’ve got - I’ve got friends.”

He doesn’t volunteer any more information, though, and Phil feels too awkward to ask. “Well, I’ll probably spend tomorrow playing Halo and watching Buffy.”

“Cool,” Dan says, which also tells Phil nothing.

Phil tries to convince himself he shouldn’t feel antsy about not seeing Dan tomorrow when he’s actually still seeing Dan right now, today. “But you do want to watch more today, right?”

Dan rolls his eyes at Phil. “Didn’t I say that like three times?”

“Oh,” Phil says. “Right.”

“You were right, by the way,” Dan says, wiping a crumb from his lip. “Willow is the coolest so far.”

“I told you,” Phil says. “She gets even cooler, you’ll see.”

“No spoilers!” Dan says immediately.

“I won’t spoil anything.” Phil breaks off another bit of the biscuit. “I just want to make sure -
season one is great, but it has some bad episodes. It’s just worth it to keep watching through it.”

Dan grins. “I think you’ll see to it that I don’t give up.”

Phil doesn’t really have a name for the kind of warmth that floods his chest at the way Dan’s voice sounds when he says it.

-

They make it through four episodes back in Phil’s bedroom. Dan mostly sits on the bed and watches, while Phil tries to start unpacking some more of the boxes in his room.

He says he’s eager to get his computer set up so he can go back to working on his video game.

“You’re making a video game?” Dan asks, surprised.

“I started on it at the beginning of the summer,” Phil says. “I wanted to have it done before we moved, but… well, I didn’t finish it in time. It’s loads of fun, though. My friends back home were helping me so I put a lot of them in the game.”

“You know you have to show it to me now, right?”

“Oh,” Phil says. That’s all he says.

Dan frowns. He thought he’d said the right thing. He’d thought Phil would be keen to show it off.

“Do you not want to show it me?”

Phil crawls under his desk then, fiddling with the wires of his computer. “Yeah, sure. I will, if you want. Just - it’s… y’know.” He pauses a moment, crawling a little further under the desk.

“What?” Dan asks impatiently.

“It’s pretty nerdy....”

“So?”

“So, I dunno. Don’t laugh at me, I guess?”

Dan’s glad Phil can’t see him right now. Phil’s words are like a punch to the gut.

“Hey Phil, have I mentioned that I tried to learn to play the piano a few years ago?”

Phil crawls back out from under his desk and sits back on his heels, looking at Dan quizzically. “No…”

“Well I did. I saved up money from mowing people’s lawns and stuff like that until I had enough to pay this scary old lady who lived down the street to teach me.”

Phil looks confused, but he doesn’t interrupt.

“Anyway, that’s not the point, really, my point is… do you wanna know what inspired me to want to learn?”

“What?” Phil asks.

“Arthur.”

“Arthur?”

Dan smiles sheepishly. “Yup.”

“Like… the cartoon? The cartoon about the anthropomorphic animals walking down the street with original points of view?”

Dan bursts out in surprised laughter.

“See?” Phil asks. “I knew you were going to laugh at me.”

Dan studies his face, but he doesn’t look like his feelings are hurt.

“I was trying to tell you that I’m a nerd too, Phil. Arthur the anthropomorphic aardvark is one of my biggest inspirations in life. Also I think can probably name all 150 original pokemon just from memory.”

“Ok.”

“So you’ll show me?” Dan asks.

“If I can ever get this bloody thing set up,” Phil grumbles.

-

“Here,” Dan says, getting up off the bed and walking over to him. “Let me help.”

It’s a tight fit under the desk, where Phil’s trying to connect all the wires up. Dan’s shoulder ends up pressing right against Phil’s, their heads bent low together. “Are you good with computers?” Phil asks.

“I guess,” Dan says. “I mean, I can’t build one just from parts or anything. But I spend enough time on them, I’d be a fucking waste of space if I didn’t know anything at all. Though if you ask my dad, he’d probably say I am anyway.”

There’s a dark twist to Dan’s voice. Something about it makes Phil uncomfortable, maybe the honesty of it. “Mine too,” Phil says quietly. “I mean, he’s not impressed that I can make a video game because I can’t put a car engine together. Or even change a tire.”

“But you can’t drive.?” Dan says. He looks annoyed. “Why would you need to change a tire?”

Phil smiles. Dan is annoyed, and he’s annoyed for Phil. It’s a nice feeling.

“Yeah,” Phil says. “That’s true.”

Dan reaches past him, their arms brushing, and unplugs one of the cables from where Phil had it then moves it up a bit and plugs it into a different spot. He leans back, hands braced on his thighs and says, “Try now.”

Phil pushes the power button and the computer screen brightens instantly, and the Windows logo appears. “You did it!”

“Lucky guess,” Dan says, but he looks pleased with himself.

“How long can you stay over today?” Phil asks, pulling his desk chair over. He’s only got one, but it doesn’t seem to bother Dan, who just pulls over one of the boxes still filled with books and sits on it.

“I dunno.” Dan starts to bounce his leg up and down, but he doesn’t even seem to notice he’s doing it. “My nana’s out with my brother, but she knows I’m here so she probably won’t mind if I’m gone all day.”

“You’ve got a brother?” Phil types his password in. He’s momentarily embarrassed that his desktop background is also Sarah Michelle Gellar, but Dan doesn’t comment this time. “I’ve got one too.”

“Younger one,” Dan says. “He’s a brat.”

Dan doesn’t volunteer any more information than that, so Phil just starts to talk.

“Mine’s older. He’s cool, though. He just started uni last year, so he didn’t move with us. But he’s still got a bedroom here. I’m gonna hide rubber snakes in his sheets the first time he comes for a visit.” Phil makes a triumphant sound. “Okay, it’s loading now.”

He’s nervous. He wants to believe that Dan had been telling the truth, that he doesn’t judge Phil for being so deeply uncool, but he can’t shake a whole lifetime of proof that doing stuff like making your own rpg and being obsessed with shows about the supernatural just give bullies more fodder to make your life miserable.

Dan really doesn’t seem like a bully. But he does project an air of something that Phil just - doesn’t. And that’s probably unfair of Phil to think, because really it’s just another form of judgement, but he can’t help it. He’s nervous. He’s grown quite fond of Dan already and he likes having a mate. He doesn’t want to screw it up by coming on too strong with all this stuff that he knows make people think he’s weird.

It takes a while to load, long enough for Phil to really work himself up, so that once it finally opens he’s chewing on his lip and shaking his own leg anxiously.

“The Mark of Oxin,” Dan reads out in a dramatic voice as the bright green title screen appears on his computer. “Nice. Is that… Final Fantasy VI?”

Phil beams. If Dan knows that, maybe he really is a fellow geek.

-

“I know this is like, a game you made for fun with your friends or whatever but it’s like, actually really fun?”

He says it because it’s true and not just because he wants to put Phil at ease, but he sees Phil grinning in his periphery and realizes he’s managed to kill two birds with one stone. It’s a nice feeling.

“Thanks,” Phil mumbles, some combination of pleased and embarrassed. “We had fun making it. I’m still kind of gutted we never finished.”

“Do you still have the rpg maker?” Dan asks.

“Yeah.”

“I could help you finish it,” Dan offers. “If you want.”

Phil doesn’t say anything and Dan thinks he’s crossed some kind of line. “Sorry, nevermind. I know I’m not—”

“Would you actually do that?” Phil asks, turning his whole body to face Dan’s.

“Purely for selfish reasons of course,” Dan says. “I need to know how it ends. I’m a completionist. I need to be able to say that I beat The Mark of Oxin if I’m going to uphold my pristine reputation.”

“Isn’t it kind of cheating if you already know what’s coming?” Phil asks. Dan can tell he’s trying not to let it show how pleased he is that Dan’s showing interest in his game.

“Maybe I secretly just really want a character named after me.”

Phil smiles even wider. “We’ll see what we can do.”

They work on the game for the next few hours, until Phil’s mum comes and knocks on the door. “My child, I’m told it’s that time of day where I’m legally required to make sure you’re fed. Will Dan be staying tonight as well?”

“I shouldn’t,” Dan says, those nerves fluttering up in his stomach again now that he knows it’d be a proper sit down dinner with Phil’s family. “Nana was cross I was so late coming home yesterday.”

“Of course,” Kath says, smiling at him. “Well, you know you’re always welcome.”

It’s a very polite parent thing to say, but something about her smile makes Dan think she actually means it. “Thank you,” Dan says. Once she’s gone, he looks back at Phil. “Uh. I guess I’m gonna have to head back home now.”

Phil’s obviously disappointed. “We only got half a level done!”

“Perfection takes time,” Dan says.

“No, you having to rearrange everything ten times to make it symmetrical is what takes time!”

“That’s what makes it perfect,” Dan argues.

Phil reaches out and shoves him. “Fine. Well, it just makes… it makes you have to come back tomorrow so we can finish the whole level.” His chin juts out like it’s a challenge.

“Well, fine then,” Dan says casually.

Phil looks surprised when he says, “Really?”

“Are we gonna go through this whole thing again?” Dan tries to sound annoyed. “You’re like, I dunno, fun.”

“We’re definitely watching more Buffy tomorrow too, then.”

Dan shrugs. “Whatever.”

They stand there staring at each other, both trying not to smile, for a few seconds. It’s the first time they’ve properly just looked at each other right in the eye for more than just a stray glance or two, and it’s secretly, sweetly thrilling in a way Dan just can’t let himself think about too hard.

Kath calls out for Phil again from what sounds like halfway up the stairs.

“Okay,” Dan says. He finally breaks away from the gaze. “I’m out. Bye, Phil.”

“See you tomorrow, Dan.”

Chapter Text

Dan’s mum is in the family room when Dan walks in.

“And where’ve you been?” She asks, looking up from the book she’s reading. There’s music playing too, but he doesn’t hear anything else.

Dan just shrugs. “Out.”

“Mm.” She looks him up and down. “Your nana said you were with the neighbor boy.”

“I was,” Dan says, walking past her and into the kitchen. He pours a glass of milk and brings it back into the room, sitting down on the couch in a half sprawl. “That okay?”

She half-shrugs, one shoulder lifting. “As long as you’re not getting up to any trouble.”

“Just drugs and hookers,” he says.

“Sounds like a lovely wholesome time,” she says. “Though I’m surprised you can afford those sorts of habits since you’ve still not found another job since you stopped your paper round.”

It’s a prompting question, but he doesn’t fall for the bait. “Sold some organs on the black market.”

“Bad long term plan,” she says. “It’s a finite resource. Perhaps ASDA?”

“I don’t wanna work at bloody ASDA,” he says. “Those shirts they make you wear are gross.”

“Focus, then,” she says. “Your dad knows someone there, he’ll put in a word for you.”

“Why are you making me get a job when school starts?” Dan whines.

“Because it’ll do you good to learn how to schedule your time.” She doesn’t sound like she plans on taking no for an answer. “We’ve given you all summer to find your own job, Dan. It’s not as though you didn’t have time to find something you’d enjoy more.”

He scowls into his milk. He doesn’t want a fucking job. He doesn’t want to have to go out and be around all those strangers talking down to him because he’s a teenager stocking shelves. He gets treated like shit enough in his life without adding that to it.

Phil’s parents probably haven’t made him get a job, Dan thinks. They probably let Phil spend every day playing video games if he wants to. They probably trust Phil to actually make decisions for himself.

“Dan,” she says sternly when he doesn’t answer.

“Jesus, fine.” He stands up again because the air is thick with tension and he hates it.

“Where’re you going?”

“To my room, obviously.” He’s already halfway out the door.

“Daniel.” Her voice is soft this time, conciliatory, something he was not expecting.

He turns around. “What?”

“Look, I’m not a monster, ok. I don’t like being the bad guy. I was a teenager once too, I know how much it sucks. But the fact of the matter is that you’re too old now not to be making your own money.”

He can hear that she’s trying to meet him halfway, but he doesn’t care. “Whatever. I guess you’re giving me no choice.”

She sighs. She’s always sighing at him. “You’ll pick up an application tomorrow?”

“I’ll apply online since it's not bloody 1987. No one actually fills out applications anymore.” He heads out of the room and up the stairs before she has a chance to shout at him.

He’s in his room and kicking his door shut before realizing he hasn’t eaten anything and he’s actually pretty hungry. It’s too late now though. He’d rather starve than go back down there and have to face her again. He’ll wait. He can wait until everyone else is asleep. He’ll go down and scrounge something. Maybe nana cooked earlier.

A small part of him regrets declining Kath’s offer to stay over. He could be sat next to Phil eating good food right now if he wasn’t such a fucking idiot about everything all the time. He makes himself a promise that next time he’ll say yes. Anything is better than this.

He takes off his jeans and climbs into bed, ready to find something to lose himself in for the next three or four hours before it’s safe to venture back downstairs. He hadn’t even taken his phone out of his pocket. His laptop is already waiting for him under his pillow and there is quite literally no one who could be calling him right now that he’d even remotely want to talk to.

Phil doesn’t have his number after all.

Why does that make him feel so weird? He’s just spent the better part of two days in the guy’s bedroom, does he really need to spend his entire night talking to him on the phone? Is he really that lonely?

And if he is - isn’t there a person he’s meant to want to talk to, to drive that loneliness away? He turns over onto his stomach and groans into his pillow, an unhappy sound.

Maybe he’ll just try and sleep.

-

Phil wakes up early the next morning - well, if half nine can really be called early. It is for Phil, at least. He talks to his mum while he eats cereal and then spends approximately an hour wondering if it’s too early to go knock on Dan’s door, or if it’s bad etiquette and he needs to wait for Dan to come over, and if Dan’s even going to come over at all because maybe he forgot, and…

There’s a knock at the door. Phil jumps up and answers it before anyone else can, grinning hugely when he sees Dan standing there. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Dan says, glancing behind Phil. “Are you home alone?”

“Am now,” Phil says. “My mum and dad left. My dad bought a company here - that’s why we moved, actually - and they’re off looking at the new offices today.”

“Your dad owns a company?” Dan asks.

“A few,” Phil says, then steps aside. “Come in.”

“My mum runs her own business,” Dan says, following Phil up the stairs and into Phil’s bedroom. “But she started it herself, she didn’t like, buy it.”

“I guess buying companies is kind of what my dad does. I don’t know. He alway says I ‘don’t have a head for business.’ Not like my brother Martyn, he’s actually studying business at university.” Phil’s voice goes a bit tight. He loves his brother, but there is something a bit exhausting about constantly having to face the fact that Martyn is everything his dad wants in a son… and Phil really isn’t.

He feels self conscious when he realizes Dan is looking at him with an intensely curious look. “I guess my dad would say the same thing,” Dan says. “Though he’d more like, say I just wasn’t trying. According to him I’m never trying.”

Phil frowns. Dan sounds upset, and he doesn’t like that, but he doesn’t really know what to say.

“Anyway,” Dan says, with a smile that’s obviously forced. “What are we doing today, Pinky?”

“Same thing we do every day, Brain,” Phil says automatically. “I don’t know, though. We could work on the game?”

Dan rubs his hand over his mouth, and looks between Phil’s computer and his tv. “Can we just watch more Buffy? I, uh. I didn’t sleep too well last night. Sometimes I don’t… sleep well. Kind of just want to veg.”

“Sure,” Phil says, turning and grabbing the box set to put the right disc back in. He looks over his shoulder at Dan. “Go on and get comfortable.”

When he turns back, Dan’s shed his shoes and his socks by the foot of Phil’s bed and stolen one of Phil’s pillows, curling up on his side horizontally across the bed. His body still barely fits, feet hanging over the side.

Phil has no explanation for the way it makes his heart race a little. He grabs the remote and settles on the bed nearer to the headboard before he hits play.

Dan’s asleep before the end of the episode. Phil notices when he turns to tell Dan some random fact about the scene they’re watching and instead finds Dan’s eyes closed and his breathing deep and steady. He looks completely and utterly peaceful, and Phil reaches for the remote again to pause the show.

He just sits there for a while and— watches Dan sleep, for lack of a better description. He looks so different when he sleeps. Younger. Maybe a little happier or something.

Phil stops when he realizes it’s mostly just weird to stare at your friend when they’re asleep. He inches off the bed slowly so it doesn’t creak or bounce, then reaches for the box of bedding his mum told him to put away. The soft blue throw his grandmother gave him last Christmas is at the bottom, so he pulls it out and gently drapes it over Dan.

He decides to be productive with his sudden free time, so he sets about very carefully unpacking the last few boxes shoved into the corner of his bedroom. He folds all his clothes and puts them away and organizes his video game and dvd collection. At the end of all that Dan is still asleep, looking so blissfully unaware that Phil doesn’t have the heart to wake him.

He leaves the bedroom door open when he goes downstairs. There’s no one here to make any noise, after all, and it feels less like he’s abandoning Dan that way, even though he has every intention of returning as soon as the coffee is made.

-

Dan wakes to the scent of coffee and chocolate. His head feels heavy and full of fuzz and he doesn’t even remember where he is or why he’s there until he opens his eyes and sees Phil sat at the head of the bed smiling at him.

“Morning,” Phil says cheerily.

Dan grunts. He’s not woken up enough to form coherent thoughts let alone words. He swipes at his mouth with the back of his hand, panicked he’ll find spit there and relieved when he doesn’t. He forces himself to sit up and it’s then he notices he’s been lying beneath a blanket he’s sure hadn’t been there last time he checked.

“You weren’t kidding about wanting to veg, huh?” Phil asks.

“Sorry,” Dan croaks.

Phil doesn’t say anything, just twists around to grab something off his desk and then reaches out to hand it to Dan. It’s a giant Mickey Mouse mug and Dan understands now why it smells like a poor man’s mocha in here.

“You made me coffee?” he asks thickly, accepting the warm mug gratefully, a little disbelieving that Phil is actually this nice.

“I made you swill. Pleb brew, if you will,” Phil muses, taking a sip from his own mug.

“Thank you.” Dan doesn’t have any snark in him at the moment. He still feels a little disoriented, but he’s happy and a lot more well-rested than he’d been before. “How long was I out?”

Phil shrugs. “Maybe like an hour and a half or something.”

“Shit. My bad.”

“S’ok, you looked c— like you needed it.”

Dan feels that one in his chest but he was probably just imagining it anyway so he takes a big swig of his coffee. It’s not quite hot enough and it has that distinctive instant taste but it’s still better than the inside of his mouth after an impromptu nap so he hums contentedly and crosses his legs underneath himself and rests his elbows on the insides of his knees.

“I did. I mean, I didn’t mean to do that, but I’ll probably be better company now.”

“You’re always good company,” Phil says, sounding far away somehow. Dan watches his expression change though, maybe with the realization that he’s being too nice for a teenage boy. “I guess,” Phil adds.

Dan smiles a little smile into his mug. He’s not convinced at all. Phil’s even less good at staying properly distant than he is. “Can you start the episode back over?” He asks sheepishly. “Unless that’s just well boring for you to have to watch again.”

“I can watch Buffy episodes over and over,” Phil’s voice is completely sincere. “We can definitely start it over. This one’s ridiculous anyway-”

Phil keeps talking while he describes what he likes about the episode, and Dan keeps listening as he sips his coffee. He knows he doesn’t want to lay back down, doesn’t want to risk falling asleep again, so he takes advantage of Phil’s bed being tucked into the corner of the room and he scoots until his back is against the wall. The blanket Phil gave him is still wadded up at the end of the bed so he grabs it and tugs it over his lap. Everything feels murky and nice and pleasant in his head, somehow inspiring coziness.

“Anyway,” Phil finishes his little speech, finger hovering over the play button. “Hopefully you’ll like it.”

“I will,” Dan says quietly, eyes on the screen.

-

The episode ends, and the one after that, and the one after that.

“I’m fucking hungry,” Dan says, now sprawled out on Phil’s bed on his back with his head propped up on a pillow and his legs dangling off the edge. “Are you gonna feed me or what?”

“Demanding.” Phil takes the pillow he’s been holding over his own lap and bops Dan on the face with it. “We could order a pizza? My mum always leaves me some money when she’s out for me to order food.”

“Ugh,” Dan groans, disgusted and jealous. “Lucky.”

“Or we could go out and get something to eat,” Phil says.

Dan makes a face. “That sounds like effort. Order the pizza.”

Phil grabs the phone and dials a number, then approximately thirty seconds later his eyes go wide and he stammers out a, “Never mind.” and hangs up.

Dan gives him a quizzical look.

“I probably shouldn’t order a pizza from Manchester,” Phil explains. “See, this is why moving is the worst. I had the number to my favorite pizza place memorized! And they always put just the right amount of pepperoni on it! Pizza places here haven’t earned my trust.”

“I’ll order it then,” Dan says, grabbing his own phone. “You like pepperoni, eh? What else?”

“Sausage,” Phil says. “And chicken.”

“Should I just tell them to slaughter the whole farm and call it the Phil special?” Dan asks. “Do you like barbecue?”

“Yes!” Phil looks more excited at the prospect of food than Dan has seen him, save for maybe the first bite of his cinnamon bun the day they met.

Dan places the pizza order and then hangs up, staring down at his phone. He looks over at Phil, and Phil’s phone, which is resting by Phil’s knee. “Give me that,” he says.

“Okay.” Phil looks confused, but hands Dan his phone.

“Wow,” Dan says. “You’re trusting. I could fill your camera roll with dick pics and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”

Dan has no idea why that came out of his mouth. But now he’s thinking of Phil looking at his dick and - avert course, avert course.

“Please don’t,” Phil squeaks, face going bright red.

“Um.” Dan feels awkward suddenly, but tries to push through with a more cutting tone. “Well, watch who you just hand your phone to then.”

He quickly sends himself a text from it, then shoves it back at Phil.

“What did you actually do?” Phil asks, picking it up.

“Gave you my number.” Dan tries to still sound casual. He’s given plenty of mates his number before.

“Oh!” Phil smiles like he can’t quite help it. “Do you want mine?”

“Nah.”

Phil’s face falls.

“Phil. You nutter, I’m joking. Just send me a text and I’ll add you to my contacts.”

“Should I send you a dick pic?” Phil asks.

It’s Dan’s turn to get all flustered and weird.

“Dan, you nutter. I’m joking.” Phil is laughing. It’s just a joke to him, after all.

Why does Dan feel like it’s not a joke? His phone buzzes in his pocket. He doesn’t need to but he pulls it out and gives it a look anyway.

*insert dick pic here*

Dan looks up at Phil who’s biting back a laugh like a fucking twelve year old.

“I hate you,” Dan mutters.

“Oh, you love me,” Phil says, waving his hand in the air dismissively.

Dan’s stomach feels twisty and weird. He hopes that goes away by the time their barnyard pizza arrives.

-

It kind of doesn’t, but he eats the pizza anyway. It’s way too much meat but it’s worth it for the enthusiasm it inspires in Phil.

“Not but seriously, do you think tomorrow we should like, actually go outside? Get some vitamin D or something?” Phil asks through a mouthful of cheese and dough.

Dan just groans.

“My mum said I should try to get to know my way around a little and you’re kind of like a built in tour guide, no?”

“There’s really nothing here worth seeing, mate.”

“Do you have a cinema?”

Dan gives him a look. “Yes, Phil. We have a cinema.”

Phil shrugs. “Just a thought. Don’t want you to…”

“What?”

Phil clears his throat kind of nervously and tosses his half eaten slice of pizza back in the box. “Just don’t want you to get bored of me, I guess.”

Dan doesn’t answer as emphatically as is probably truthful. He already feels like he’s coming on too strong as it is so he just reaches his leg out and pushes his toes into Phil’s hip. “You’re fine.”

“Well,” Phil says. “I want to see that movie Skinwalkers that’s about to come out. Doesn’t that name just sound creepy? Skinwalkers.”

“You like scary movies?” Dan asks.

“Yeah, don’t you? Me and my best mate Ian used to see all of them when they came out.” Phil sighs.

Dan immediately hates Ian, whoever he is. He hasn’t really thought much about the fact that Phil probably had loads of friends back where he moved away from. “I like scary movies too,” Dan says, even though the truth is that he jumps far too easily and sometimes has to sleep with the lights on for like a week after he’s seen something particularly creepy. He doesn’t even really believe in ghosts or monsters or whatever, it’s just… the dark makes his mind do all sorts of weird things.

“Maybe we can go see it,” Dan says.

“But for now,” Phil says, grabbing the remote. “More Buffy.”

-

It’s verging on twilight when Dan makes his way back home. He can hear his brother playing video games as he passes the lounge, but he manages to slip all the way upstairs without anyone noticing he’s even inside.

He’s glad. He feels good, like properly in a good mood, and he doesn’t want anyone in his family to ruin it just yet. He drops his phone onto his bed and changes into joggers.

He’s not sure if it’s too soon to text Phil, but he can’t help but want to. They’d only called it a day because Phil’s mum needed his help with something and Dan felt too awkward to stick around. He wants to cement plans for the next day, even though they’ve discussed half a dozen things to do already - check out the cinema, show Phil around town, work on the video game, more television…

Dan can’t actually recall the last time he so enthusiastically agreed to do so many things. Enthusiastic for him, at least. But Phil wants to do all those things - so Dan decides that Phil probably won’t think he’s weird for texting and grabs his phone.

Just as he goes to find Phil’s number, it starts to ring. His stomach drops when he sees Evie’s face on the screen, smiling sweetly at him.

He hasn’t spoken to her since she left. He knows he can’t ignore the call, but he still lets four rings happen before he slides his finger across to accept it. “Hey,” he says.

“Finally.” She’s laughing. “Thought you were ghosting me.”

“Never,” Dan says. He lays back on his bed. “How’s… the trip?”

He can’t admit that he doesn’t even remember where she is. Greece, maybe? Italy?

“It’s alright. It’s nice here and all, I just wish you were here with me.”

“Me too.” He doesn’t, not really.

“There isn’t even wifi here. Mum told me not to text or it’d cost a fortune. That’s the only reason you’ve been spared like a hundred texts a day.”

He laughs unconvincingly, at least to his ears. He’s glad he only has calls to dodge and not messages too.

It’s quiet on the other end of the line for a while before it registers in his thick skull that it’s his turn to talk. “I miss you,” he says, because he knows it’s what she wants to hear and he can’t think of anything else.

“I miss you too, babe. Two weeks is too long.”

“Yeah.”

“What have you been up to?” she asks. “Hiding in your room?”

He chuckles humourlessly again. “Pretty much. Although…” he hesitates a moment before deciding fuck it. It’s not like she’d have any reason to mind. “I made friends with that guy.”

“What guy?”

“That guy that just moved in across the street.”

“Oh, yeah?” She sounds like she really doesn’t give two shits at all.

“Yeah. He’s our age.”

“That’s cool. I’m glad you have someone to talk to while I’m gone, I guess.”

He fidgets uncomfortably against the mattress. It feels weird to talk to Evie about Phil and… yeah he’s not gonna let his mind wander down that path right now.

“I haven’t made friends,” she says, mercifully distracting him from having to try not to think about why it’s weird. “But someone has been trying to make friends with me, that’s for sure.”

Something about her tone grabs his attention right away, in a very ugly way. A possessive way that doesn’t make sense given how distant he feels from her, both literally and figuratively. “What does that mean?”

“Just some guy.”

Annoyance and jealousy flare hot in chest. Is that really all she’s going to say? She knows how he gets. She might even be doing this on purpose just to get him to give a shit for a minute. “Some guy is trying to make friends with you?” he asks, trying, really trying not to sound like an asshole but he can already feel that irrational green eyed dickhead taking over inside.

“Yeah. He’s just like, been perving on me at the beach a lot, you know. I dunno. I guess my bikini is like pretty tiny so he’s just being a bit of a creep. He asked me today if he could put suncream on my chest because it was looking a little pink.”

“I hope you told him to go fuck himself.”

She laughs. She’s enjoying this. He hates it but he can’t stop it. And now he does wish he was there.

“I didn’t say that. I told him I had a boyfriend, though.”

“And?” Dan asks impatiently.

“And he said, ‘What, you can’t have friends?’ I told him I could put on my own suncream.”

“Good,” Dan says. “Tell him your boyfriend will come down there and rip him a new one if he tries that shit again.”

She giggles. “He wasn’t wrong though. I have like a massive sunburn on my tits now.”

“Show me.” He’s officially let the dumb caveman side of his brain take over now.

“I’m not supposed to text, remember?”

“And you’re not supposed to be blow me in your mum’s car when you drop me off at home but you sometimes do it anyway, right?”

“Fuck, Dan,” she murmurs. “Don’t get me all turned on where you’re not here.”

“Maybe I want to,” he challenges.

“Why do you even want to see my tits now?” She says. “You didn’t seem like you wanted to last time I was over at yours.”

“I was just in a bad mood. My mum and dad are on me to get a job again.”

“You should do it,” she says. “You need money to take me out.”

Irritation starts to flare up, but he smothers it. “Send me a picture of your tits and I’ll fill the application out tonight.”

“Maybe you should send me a picture instead,” she says, voice going coy.

His mind immediately jumps to the conversation with Phil earlier, but that feels like something he needs to smother, too. “Why? That cunt on the beach not sending you enough of them?”

“He doesn’t even have my number, Dan,” she reassures him. “And I’m sure his - thing - isn’t as nice as yours anyway.”

“You think it’s nice?” He asks.

Her voice drops lower. “I think it’s very nice. I miss it a lot right now.”

He lets a hand drop and lazily rub between his legs. “It misses you. And your tits.”

Her giggle is sweet, and so close right in his ear. He can’t deny how his ego feels soothed hearing her talk about him and all the parts of him that she knows so well. He doesn’t want her talking about any other guy’s dick. He doesn’t want any other guy’s dick anywhere near her.

“What would you do to my tits if you were here?” She asks.

“Kiss them,” he says. ‘Touch them. Kiss your stomach. Lick and kiss you everywhere.”

The words feel clumsy but he can hear rustling on her end of the line. He imagines her fingers slipping into her knickers and his own fingers squeeze around his dick as it starts to plump up under the combination of touch and mental image.

He does love her, he thinks. If talking to her can make him feel like this, he must still love her. Those other thoughts he has sometimes, the ones about flat chests and broad shoulders… they don’t mean anything.

Evie means something, even if he sometimes forgets it. Even if sometimes he can’t actually feel it.

“Would you eat my pussy?” Her voice is breathy and the memory of what her face looks like when she talks like that has Dan’s cock filling with blood with an intensity he hasn’t felt in a while.

“Yeah,” he grunts, tugging back his foreskin so he can rub his thumb across the tip of the head. “God yeah.”

“You’re so good at that,” she says. “I miss that.”

“I bet beach cunt wouldn’t eat you out like me.” He’s instantly worried that was a step too far but she moans very quietly.

“He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t.”

Her voice eggs him on, has him jerking his cock in a way he won’t be able to withstand for very long but it feels too fucking good to stop. “He doesn’t know how to lick your clit the way you like.”

“He doesn’t,” she agrees and he wishes so badly he could see her now. He wonders why he’d been such a fucking idiot to let her go last time without tasting the inside of her.

“And he never will.”

“He won’t baby. It’s only you.” Her voice has a little whine to it that goes straight to his balls.

“Are you wet?” He asks, squeezing his fingers around the tip and thrusting up a little into his own grip. He jerks short, sharp little jerks at the same time. He’s close - barely started, but already so close. “Are you gonna come for me? Thinking about me licking you?”

He hears her sudden gasp. She never comes that fast when he’s the one getting her off. Sometimes she gets impatient with him and just does it herself, and sometimes it bothers him or makes him feel offended but right now he likes how well she knows her own body. Her orgasm feels like permission for him to not try and hold out longer.

“Sent you something,” she says, breathless.

His phone buzzes in his hand. He opens the picture and sees a slightly blurry, off center shot of her - soft full breasts and shell pink nipples right at the top of the screen and spanning down across her flat tummy to her hand still visible between her legs, underneath a pair of sensible gray cotton pants with one small spot of wetness darkening the material.

His digs his heels into the bed and groans, probably too loudly considering his family is home, but he’s got no sense of mind to be quiet about it when he’s coming his brains out. It streaks up his t-shirt and then across his stomach, before dripping down his knuckles. “Fuck,” he says, panting.

As soon as he’s caught his breath she says, “You have to delete that now.”

“Sure.” Dan makes no move to delete it.

“Did you delete it?” She asks.

“Mhm,” he says. His mind is pleasantly blank, heart still racing and dick softening against his hip. “Deleted.”

“That was nice.” Her voice is a soft giggle. “Bet you really miss me now, don’t you? Miss your cuddles.”

Dan has always liked being close to her physically after sex. At least - usually. The last few months… well, most of their sex happens in parked cars or while covertly listening for stray parents to return home so he’s been spared having to explain why sometimes he just feels weird and like he wants to be alone.

Kind of like he feels now. He is alone, of course, but that coldness is already creeping back in around the edges. He wishes the blankness lasted a bit longer.

“Dan?” She asks. “Did you fall asleep?”

“Oh,” he says. “Almost, sorry.”

“I’m wearing you out even when I’m not in the same country.” She sounds proud. “I should go now, though. My sister has us dinner reservations. I’m glad we got to talk, though, Dan. I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” he says, because what else will he say. He tacks on a quick, “Love you,” then waits only long enough for her to say it back before he hangs up.

He thinks of the guy on the beach again and it still makes his blood boil a bit, but it’s an emptier feeling now. Why does he even care?

He rolls onto his side. Because she’s his girlfriend, he thinks. That’s why he cares. She’s his girlfriend and he loves her.

Chapter Text

Phil’s finally been allowed to go upstairs to his room after hours of helping his mum with various chores around the house and then eating dinner with his parents. He’s happy the house is starting to really come together, but he’s also glad for the chance to be alone again.

For about two minutes, after which he’s bored out of his skull. It’s too early to go to sleep but too late to go out… not that he would even know where to go if it wasn’t.

He flops back onto his bed and pulls his phone out of his pocket. He’s pleasantly surprised to see a message from Ian. He must have missed the vibration when he was helping his mum arrange the bookshelf in the lounge.

He opens it eagerly, realizing he hasn’t actually talked to any of his friends since he left. He’s hoping for a ‘hey, mate, how’s Wokingham, we’re missin’ ya up here in the north’ or something but instead what he sees is a picture of every single one of mates from back home sat around a campfire with marshmallows on sticks and smiles on their faces.

Ian hasn’t even written anything, no ‘wish you were here’ or even ‘it’s not the same without old highlighter head.’ Just a picture of all the people he’d grown up with on a camping trip without him. All his friends, all his old friends just… carrying on. Living their lives and having fun as if Phil had never taken up any space in those lives.

looks fun he texts. He can’t bring himself to say anymore. Some kind of rather terrible feeling is washing over him, the feeling that he’s alone. He’s all alone in a weird new place and life goes on for everyone else. His world has been turned upside down but no one really cares.

This strange place is his home now, this place where he knows nothing and no one.

Well. Not no one. He does know one someone. One kind of brilliant someone, he can admit to himself.

He’s holding his phone to his ear and waiting for Dan to answer before he’s even really had time to think about what he’s going to say.

He doesn’t have to wait long; Dan answers on the first ring. “Do you have telepathic abilities or something?”

“Hello to you too,” Phil says. “And yes actually, yes I do.”

“So you knew I was about to text you?”

“You were? Oh, I mean— yes. Yes, of course. Wanted to save your fingers the trouble. Talking is easier.”

“I hate talking,” Dan says.

“Oh.”

“Usually,” Dan clarifies.

Phil’s stomach does that weird thing it’s been doing lately and he doesn’t know what to make of it. It’s never done that before. “You like talking to me?”

Dan chuckles quietly. “Yeah. You’re alright.”

“What were you gonna text me?”

“Just… wondering what you wanted to do tomorrow. We never really finalized anything.”

“We can do whatever you want,” Phil says, and it’s the truth. He doesn’t care what they do, as long as they’re doing it together. He’s certainly not about to say those words out loud, but Ian’s text still smarts somewhere deep down, reminding him that he really is starting over here. He’s going to cling to this feeling he feels when he’s with Dan.

“I want whatever you want,” Dan says, and then quickly tacks on, “I don’t have any money though. Sorry.”

Phil laughs. “We need jobs.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. I’m supposed to be applying to Focus as we speak.”

“But you’re not going to?”

Dan makes a noncommittal kind of grunt that Phil can perfectly visualize being accompanied by a shrug. “I’m sure I will eventually. I’m like, the worst procrastinator on the planet.”

“If we cut the grass in my garden and pull out the weeds my mum would probably give us enough to go out,” Phil offers. “If that’s something you wanted to do.”

“Do you?” Dan asks.

“I mean, could be fun, right? Do you still maybe want to go see Skinwalkers?”

“Only if we pull enough weeds to get popcorn.”

“Of course. You can’t go to the cinema and not get popcorn, Dan. That’s just like, against the rules.”

“I’m glad we agree on that,” Dan says.

-

They’re on the phone for almost an hour before things start to lapse into silence.

Dan kind of likes it, though. The quiet is comfortable when it’s with Phil. It doesn’t feel like pressure or like Phil is waiting for him to say something.

“So what’s Forrest School like?” Phil asks. “I knew what to expect back at my old school because my brother went there, but it’s going to be strange starting somewhere I don’t know anyone. Except you.”

Somehow it’s only just occurred to Dan that Phil will be going to school with him. Mentions have always been offhand and hastily brushed aside but now he’s realizing that Phil will actually be meeting all his other… friends.

All of Evie's friends.

And Evie.

She doesn’t actually go to his sixth form, but her school is so close by that the students always mingle together.

Why does he hate that so much?

“It’s fine,” Dan says.

“Just fine?”

“It’s a school. I dunno. It’s okay.”

“Are you popular?” Phil asks.

“I’ve got friends. But also a lot of people probably just want to like, punch me in the face. I’m kind of fucking obnoxious if you hadn’t noticed.” He doesn’t want to talk about the ones that call him names. He doesn’t really want Phil to think he’s someone that gets bullied… especially because he doesn’t, always. Just… sometimes. When someone looks at him and sees something in him that they don’t like. When they pick up on that thing that Dan’s not gonna talk about, not gonna think about.

“I don’t think you’re obnoxious,” Phil says.

The warmth from his words immediately drive some of the burgeoning misery out of Dan’s chest. “You’re not sat next to me during a maths test,” he says.

“I could be,” Phil says. “Would you let me sit next to you?”

The warmth surges again. “I guess,” Dan says. “What subjects are you doing?”

“Art, english language, media studies and psychology,” Phil says. “Do we have any together?”

“Oh.” Dan frowns. ”Only one, I think. I’m doing psychology as well.”

“Oh.” Phil sounds just as disappointed as Dan. “What else are you taking?”

“English literature, geography, and law.” His voice turns sour on the last word. “My dad thinks I should take law so I have something to challenge me.”

“We can still do our homework together even if we’re doing different things,” Phil says. He sounds so sure of it, like it’s just fact in his head that it’ll happen just like that.

Dan feels like he’s leeching confidence, like he can absorb it through the phone lines. He likes feeling like in six months Phil won’t have gotten tired of him or made new friends that he likes better. “Yeah,” Dan says. “You really will want to punch me, though. I get bored a lot and end up talking until someone has to tell me to shut up.”

“It’s okay,” Phil says. “I’m bad at it as well, I always put it off til the last minute and then mum yells at me.”

“So we’ll just be failures together then?” Dan grins, turning and resting his head on his pillow.

“And when we fail at everything and end up homeless on the streets we can be cardboard box neighbors!” Phil declares.

“Neighbors?” Dan says. “I mean, you’re assuming we’ll even be able to afford two separate boxes. Might just need to both move into the same one.”

“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be a homeless box flatmates with,” Phil says.

“Were you popular at your old school?” Dan asks. The warmth inside is only getting warmer and he’s actually slightly worried he’s going to say something that pushes this whole thing one step too far, so he plows on ahead and asks the question he’s not even really sure he wants the answer to. He likes the Phil he knows, the one who’s kind and dorky and maybe just a little bit childish in all the nicest ways. He doesn’t want that illusion shattered by the knowledge that he’s actually the kind of guy who’d laugh at Dan along with all the other assholes.

Phil snorts, actually full on snorts. “Uh, no.”

“But you had mates.”

“Mhm. Mates who spent the entirety of the summer sat in my bedroom helping me make a video game called The Mark of Oxin.”

Dan giggles, but Phil continues, sounding suddenly a lot less thrilled by the particular turn their conversation has taken. “Turns out probably they were just waiting for me to leave so they could do the properly fun stuff. I reckon they were indulging my dumb nerdy stuff because they knew they’d never see me again.”

“What are you talking about?” Dan asks, frowning. Phil sounds upset which is just about the last thing Dan was trying to achieve tonight.

“Sorry,” Phil mutters. “Nothing. I’m just being emo.”

“That’s ok. You can be emo about your shitty friends to me. My friends are mostly shitty as well.”

“Really?” Phil asks.

“Yeah, why?”

“I dunno, I guess you just… seem like the popular type.”

Dan hates the popular type. He hates the popular kids at his school, hates the whole idea of popularity in general which is why he doesn’t understand why Phil saying he seems that type makes him swell up with pride. “Is that a compliment or an insult?”

“Um. I dunno,” Phil says, sounding decidedly uncomfortable. “Neither? Definitely not an insult. I don’t really think being like, a cool kid is actually necessarily… cool, so like it’s not really a compliment. But…” he sighs. “I don’t know what I’m talking about. This is why my friends hate me.”

“I’m sure they don’t hate you,” Dan says softly.

“They all went camping without me, like two days after I moved away. We had nearly the whole summer. They could have gone when I could have gone too but they didn’t. Ian didn’t even tell me they were going.”

“Ian,” Dan repeats, feeling that all too familiar weird tightness in his chest. The same one he’d felt earlier when Evie had mentioned the guy on the beach.

Fuck. Not going there. Not thinking about it.

“Yeah, my best friend,” Phil replies, oblivious to Dan’s threat of internal meltdown. “Or maybe ex best friend. I dunno.”

“Do you like camping?” Dan asks.

“Uh. Not really, I guess. I did when I was kid.”

“Maybe they were just trying to be nice,” Dan offers. “Maybe they knew you wouldn’t wanna go.”

“Maybe,” Phil says, but he still sounds sad. Dan hates it.

“Fuck ‘em,” Dan says. “You’ve got your cardboard box buddy now, you don’t need them.”

“Yeah,” Phil says, and that warmth is back and stronger than before at how genuinely happier Phil sounds.

-

“This is gonna be so great!” Phil says, almost walking into a streetlight in his excitement.

“Oh my god.” Dan laughs at him and yanks him over. “Do you even know how to walk?”

“Nope,” Phil says. “Just like I don’t know how to pull weeds.”

“I know you were faking that, by the way. You just wanted me to do all the work while you poked at bugs in the dirt.”

“Was not!” Phil protests.

“There it is,” Dan says, pointing ahead at where the cinema’s in view.

The walk hadn’t been bad. Since Evie started driving lessons as soon as she was 17 and had got her licence a few months after that, he hasn’t had to walk in a while. But with Phil to talk to the minutes had a way of just disappearing. He’s almost sad that they’re actually here, but he reminds himself he’s spent most of the morning with Phil in the Lester’s garden and he’ll get to spend the afternoon with Phil after the movie as well.

Why is that so important? Why does that matter so much?

He nudges Phil. “You’ve got the money, right? Didn’t leave it back home?”

“Shush,” Phil says, cheeks going pink. He’d forgotten it the first time and they’d had to walk halfway back to Phl’s house and get it.

They pay for two tickets and Phil has no problem finding the popcorn counter. “We’ve got enough money to each have one. You’re nice and all, but I’m not sharing my popcorn.”

“Fiiiine.” Dan acts out, though he doesn’t really mind. It’s kind of nice how Phil is pulling the money out and paying for them both.

It’s not like Dan didn’t work for the money too. And even if he hadn’t, Dan’s had friends cover him before when he was skint. It’s not like it’s weird. It’s just… nice.

“I wish we had enough for the pik’n’mix too.” Phil stares longingly at the wall of sweets.

“Next time,” Dan says, feeling bold.

He’s rewarded with another one of those big grins.

They each get their popcorn and a soda, and Phil uses the change left to get one bag of Maltesers. “You like these, right?” Phil asks.

“Oh, so you’ll share sweets, just not popcorn?”

“I’m nice like that.” Phil shakes the box at him. “But you do, right?”

“They’re my favorite,” Dan admits.

“Okay then I’ll be even nicer and you can have three.”

Dan elbows him and makes Phil stumble just a little. “Hey! I dropped a kernel!”

“Oh no,” Dan mocks. “Your precious popcorn.”

“My popcorn is very precious.” His voice drops to a whisper as they walk into the room. The theater’s half full. “Where do you want to sit?”

Dan’s got his favorite spot. He comes to this cinema once a week at least, sometimes more. It’s close to his house and it’s nice and dark, and… well. There are reasons a teenage boy would appreciate taking his girlfriend somewhere nice and dark.

He avoids that spot in the top right corner and leads Phil to almost the exact opposite, up high but a couple rows down from the very back. It also happens to be a good place left where no one’s going to be directly by them. “This okay?” He asks.

Phil’s already settled into his seat and has a handful of popcorn. He shoves it unceremoniously into his mouth before nodding and talking as he chews. “S’great.”

As soon as the lights dim and the first trailer starts, Dan sticks his fingers in his ears and screws his eyes shut before he remembers Phil’s not accustomed to this particular idiosyncrasy of his. He opens them again to see if Phil’s noticed.

He has. He’s staring at Dan with his head cocked to the side, a little smirk playing on his lips. Dan unplugs his ears sheepishly.

“What’re you doing there, mate?” Phil asks in an amused tone.

“I hate spoilers.”

“These aren’t spoilers, they’re trailers, no?”

“Amounts to the same thing,” Dan says. He’s already itching to close his eyes again.

Phil is properly smiling now. Dan feels like a moron, but when Phil asks, “Want me to tell you when they’re over?” he nods. Something about Phil just makes Dan feel like he can be his weird self and it’ll all be ok.

-

True to his word, Phil nudges Dan’s leg with his knee when the trailers have come to an end. “You’re in the clear,” he whispers.

“Thanks,” Dan whispers back, taking a giant handful of popcorn and cramming it into his mouth.

Phil is still smiling. Dan is weird sometimes, just as weird as him and there’s something just so incredibly endearing about that to Phil.

The theatre gets darker still as the film starts and loud ominous music fills the near empty space. Out of the corner of his eye Phil sees Dan slump down in his seat a little. It looks like a nervous movement but he can’t be sure.

He’s sure ten minutes later, when Dan jumps near out of his seat at the film’s first cheap jumpscare. There’s a scattering of popcorn kernels laid out at their feet and Phil hears Dan curse under his breath.

He resists the urge to laugh. Not everyone is as immune to this stuff as he is after all. He digs his hand into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out the bag of Maltesers. He hands them to Dan, leaning in to whisper in his ear, “I have a feeling you’re going to need these more than me.”

“Shut up,” Dan mutters, but accepts the bag without argument, ripping it open on the spot and popping at least three in his mouth in one go.

As the movie progresses, Phil finds it harder and harder to concentrate on the story unfolding on the screen. His eyes keep shifting to the side, trying stealthily to take in the reactions of the boy next to him. It’s rather plain to see that the guy is terrified.

It should be funny, right? Phil reckons he’s probably supposed to find something like that funny, and he does, but there’s something else as well. There’s another reason Phil finds himself studying Dan’s expressions and the nervous bouncing of his legs more than the actual film.

It’s just… cute? Is that the right word? He’s not sure. Dan just looks so helpless and vulnerable, twitching at every loud noise, gasping every time there’s a quick movement on the screen.

It’s funny and something like cute and also Phil feels a little bad, so he shuffles his leg to the side a little and lines his foot up so it’s pressing against Dan’s. He’s not sure if it’s a conscious movement or not, but Dan instantly moves his leg a little too so that his knee is touching Phil’s.

Neither of them acknowledge it, but neither make any move to pull away either.

The next time something scary happens on screen, Dan still jumps a little but mostly he just shoves his leg more firmly against Phil’s. He relaxes it back once the scene is over but they stay touching.

Dan looks sheepish as his eyes meet Phil’s during a moment of calm in the action. He hands the Maltesers back and their fingers brush as they pass the bag between them.

It happens again, though, and again after that. It happens every time there’s a scary scene until by the end Dan is just leaning his whole body against Phil’s for a few seconds at a time, shoulders tense and plastic chair arm surely uncomfortable where it digs into his side.

For the last few minutes, Dan doesn’t even move his shoulder away. He only lets out a noisy sigh of relief then relaxes back properly into his seat once the story is clearly wrapping up.

Phil finds himself sad the film is ending, and not just because it was a good one.

-

They linger in town after the film, because Phil was serious about his mum wanting him to learn where some things are and because Dan… just doesn’t want to go home.

It ends in coffee, as it seems to usually do with Phil. They get small coffees, and Dan thinks that the one benefit of actually getting the job at Focus will be that he can buy Phil proper drinks to pay him back for Phil (or Phil’s mum) covering so much for him.

And Evie, of course. He’ll buy Evie things too, and take her out on dates. They haven’t been on a real date that wasn’t her buying him a cinema ticket or them just driving somewhere in her mum’s car to park in… ages, really.

He’s shaken out of his guilt by his phone ringing. “Ugh,” he groans. “It’s my mum.”

“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Phil asks. “My mum would murder me if I ignored her ringing me.”

Dan shrugs, but the guilt starts to seep in. When the phone rings again he sighs and grudgingly accepts the call. “Hey, mum.”

“I need you to come back home and watch your brother,” she says, obviously frazzled. “Your nana has an appointment and we didn’t get our schedules straight. I’ve got a client coming in half an hour.”

“Mum!” Dan whines. “He’s ten, can’t he just watch himself? Or like - get dad to, shouldn’t he actually parent once in a while?”

It’s the wrong time for snark but he has no sense of self-preservation with his tongue sometimes. “Daniel,” she snaps. “Home. Now.”

He hangs up on her.

Phil is staring at him, slightly shell-shocked. “That was your mum?” He asks.

“Yeah,” Dan mumbles, staring at the table. “I have to go home and watch my brother for a while. Apparently.”

Phil is quiet for a second then says, “My brother always hated when mum and dad left him in charge of me. But we’re only a few years apart so they usually just let him take me places with him and I’d tag around talking to all his cool friends or girls he fancied. He hated it so much.”

Dan laughs a bit. “Your brother must have been well behaved. I don’t think my mum wants me taking Adrian ‘round to the park at midnight getting pissed off cheap vodka.”

“Is that the sort of thing you do with your mates?” Phil asks, voice gone a bit quieter.

“Uh. I guess sometimes, yeah.” Dan’s stomach drops a little with the feeling like he’s said the wrong thing. The look on Phil’s face tells him he’s definitely said the wrong thing.

It was only a matter of time really. He shouldn’t be so surprised. It shouldn’t feel this awful. Putting his foot in it is just par for the course that is Dan’s shitty life. He can’t even think of anything to say to salvage the moment because he doesn’t know exactly why Phil is looking down at his feet like that.

“I reckon I should go before she loses her shit,” Dan says.

Phil lifts his head and gives Dan a flat-lipped smile. It’s empty and devoid of all warmth and Dan honestly would have preferred anything else. “Yeah, ok. Good luck.”

“Oh, uh. Are you not walking back with me?”

Phil shakes his head. “Think I’ll just hang out here for a while. If I go back mum’s just going to make me do more chores.”

“Right,” Dan says, stomach sinking down a little further. “Ok. Well. Thanks for today. It was fun.”

“It was,” Phil agrees. Dan hates that he can’t trust anymore if Phi is being sincere.

“I’m-” he cuts himself off. Probably best just to leave it alone. “I’ll see you?”

“Course.”

Dan shoves his hands in his pockets as he turns and walks away. He’s still got the half eaten bag of Maltesers in there and he wraps his fingers around it like a lifeline.

-

Phil watches Dan walk away, feeling all at once like he wants to leap up and join him and say he changed his mind and also feeling like he’d like very much to be sat in this chair forever and never have to face anything again.

Perhaps he’s being a tad dramatic. It’s not like he doesn’t know people their age drink. It’s not even like he’s never had alcohol with his mates when maybe he shouldn’t have. He’s not a child.

It’s just that… it doesn’t fit. That image, it doesn’t fit with the Dan he knows. He can’t- or perhaps more accurately, doesn’t want to picture what Dan might get up to in said park with too much cheap vodka in his system. It strikes Phil somewhere viscerally that maybe he’d been right when he’d said Dan seemed like the popular type.

Maybe the Dan he knows isn’t actually the real Dan.

He sits with that thought for a few minutes, staring down into the dregs of his coffee and feeling kind of sad and empty before deciding that he’s being an idiot. He’s being the kind of judgemental asshole that he hates. Just because getting pissed in the park in the middle of the night makes his mind jump to the worst case scenario doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

He’s spent the better part of every day for almost a week with this guy. He’s not an asshole. He’s Dan. He’s the guy who curled up at the foot of his bed and fell asleep watching Buffy with him. He’s the guy who helped him finish his dorky video game and pulled weeds all morning so they could go see a film together. He’s the guy who jumps at cheap scares in run of the mill horror films and teases Phil about his bad taste in coffee. He’s not an asshole.

He may not be as big a nerd as he’d said, though, Arthur and Pokemon or not. He may not be as a big a nerd as Phil is, and that still gets Phil’s insides all twisted up with anxiety. Phil will be going to school with Dan in a matter of weeks. It’s likely he’ll meet those drinking in the park mates, and it’s possible they won’t all be as non-asshole-y as Dan is.

Phil looks up from his coffee and catches the image of himself reflected off the window. He may not be highlighter head anymore, but he still looks so… plain. So mousy. He looks exactly how he feels, just so incredibly, deeply uncool.

He hates it. Maybe for the first time in his life with any real conviction he looks at his reflection and hates what looks back. He wants to be different, or at least to look different. Maybe if he looked different he’d start to feel different, start to feel like he was cool enough to be friends with someone like Dan.

He digs his hand into his pocket and pulls out what money he has left, slightly surprised by how much is still there. His mum had been generous this morning- they definitely hadn’t pulled that many weeds.

He walks into Boots with a purpose he’s never felt before. For a moment he stands and looks helplessly around, trying to find signs that point him where he’ll need to go. It’s only the lingering look of a store employee that prompts him to start moving again, darting down the first aisle he sees -

Which happens to be just the right one.

Wow, he thinks. So many boxes. How are there so many? How’s he supposed to know the right one to pick? Definitely not blonde; he’s tried that once before, and no thank you, he won’t make that mistake twice.

Darker brown? Purple? Blue?

Would his mum even let him have blue hair? He picks it up and frowns at it. The woman on the box looks like something out of a science fiction program. Also maybe a little like she’d hurt you.

Phil’s not sure he’s got in him to pull off that shade of cobalt. He puts the box back.

The second one he picks up has a man and a woman on it. They’re making funny faces at each other and he thinks with a soft sort of ache how Dan would probably laugh at it with him. But both of them have hair that’s a soft shiny black and both of them actually look quite… cool.

It’ll be hard to mess up black, right?

Phil takes the box to the till.

Chapter Text

Dan’s in a sour mood from the moment he walks in the door. His mum is stood right there by the coat rack waiting for him, dressed smartly and with makeup on her face. All she says before she leaves is, “Don’t let him watch television the whole time.”

No apology. No thank you. No goodbye.

He doesn’t say anything, and she shuts the door hard behind her. He kicks his shoes off, taking satisfaction in the way they slam into the wall. He only wishes they were muddy or something.

Adrian is in the lounge. Watching television. For some reason that just makes Dan feel even more angry. So she, the parent in this situation, can leave the kid staring at the telly like a lobotomy patient but Dan, the brother, is supposed to take the responsibility of actually entertaining him? What kind of bullshit is that?

He’d never signed up for any of this. He hadn’t even wanted a brother. He can’t remember much of being five years old but he does remember looking at the new alien looking thing in the cot and wishing it would go back to wherever it came from.

Obviously he hadn’t been able to really understand why he felt that way back then, but he does now. Because his parents have never looked at him the same since. They save all their best for Adrian. They got married for Adrian. They moved to a better house for Adrian. They tell Dan not to let Adrian watch too much television.

No one really gives a fuck how much time Dan spends watching television, not as long as he’s also making enough money for them not to have to pay for his shit anymore. He’s really glad in this moment that he still hasn’t even attempted to apply anywhere.

He stands there for a few minutes just fuming at the back of the kid’s stupid head. It’s not Adrian’s fault, but Dan doesn’t care. He kind of hates everyone in the world right now. Everyone except Phil.

Although, it’s possible Phil hates him now too. And he doesn’t even understand why.

Maybe that’s why he feels so fucking awful inside. His mum is always annoying. Looking after Adrian is always annoying. Usually he can handle it a lot better than he is right now. What he can’t handle is Phil suddenly turning distant and cold.

He has enough of that here in this hellhole where no one wants anything to do with him unless they’re getting something out of it.

“Hey,” he grunts.

Adrian turns around. “What?”

“Is there food?”

Adrian shrugs. “Mum was running around like a crazy lady before she left. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

Dan sighs dramatically. Of course he has to be responsible for that too. “Fine. I’ll look for something.”

“Do I have to turn off the telly?” Adrian asks.

“I don’t give a toss. Do what you want.”

Adrian actually smiles at that and Dan feels a twinge of guilt. He’s not ready for that. He’s not ready not to be angry, so he turns around and stalks out to the kitchen.

He’s really trying not to think about Phil’s sudden shift in behaviour. He’s trying not to acknowledge the nagging panic that he’s fucked up the most promising friendship he’s possibly ever had.

His phone sits heavy in his pocket. He could pick it up and give Phil a ring. Or even just a text. Anything. He probably should.

But he doesn’t want Phil to think he’s that clingy. He already feels transparently desperate every time they hang out. He already feels like he’s half smothering the guy. For all he knows that’s part of the problem.

He’ll just have to leave it. He opens the fridge and rummages around for something he can feed his brother. He finds a finds a bag of frozen chips and tosses them on a tray in the oven. It’s the least nutritious option but he’s actively choosing to not give a shit about that either. He’ll smother them in cheese when they come out of the oven and give Adrian half and if someone else wants him to get something healthy then they can fucking feed him themselves.

Adrian doesn’t complain, at least. Chips for lunch is a dream for him. Dan splits them all between two plates and sits watching whatever dumb movie Adrian has on, wallowing in his mood.

He’s still wallowing a couple hours later when his shift tending to his annoying kid brother is over.

The writing is already there on the wall. Nights like this don’t end well, especially not since his mum’s also in a sour mood. She’s cross straight away because Adrian is still sat in front of the tv when she comes into the lounge.

“Can I go now?” Dan asks, from where he’s still slumped on the sofa.

“Out again?” She sounds disapproving. “Don’t you think it’s late enough that you should just stay in?”

He glares. He hadn’t actually had plans anyway. He hasn’t talked to Phil, or anyone else.

Adrian disappears into his room and Dan has every intention of doing the same until his dad comes home. He seems to have been fully informed of Dan’s attitude and approaches him like Dan’s a caged animal that he doesn’t particularly trust or maybe even like.

“It’s not as though you’ve got anything else you’ve committed your time to,” his dad says when Dan complains for at least the fifth time about having to leave his friend to come back home and babysit.

Dan doesn’t know why he’s not in his room yet. He knows staying downstairs with them won’t lead to anything good. But he seems outside of himself, watching his mouth move and words come out and unable to stop the hole he’s in from growing deeper.

“You could at least pay me,” Dan says. “Phil’s mum pays him when Phil helps out around the house.”

“Fine,” Dan’s mum snaps. “We’ll deduct it from what you owe us for feeding and clothing you for the past sixteen years. I don’t think you want that running tally started.”

“Right, because being born was my decision.” Dan crosses his arms. There’s a gnawing hurting feeling in his chest and he knows he can’t talk it away but it does something to the filter between his brain and his mouth, just zaps it right away. “I’m your responsibility.”

“You’re sixteen now,” his dad says. “You’re old enough to start being your own responsibility.”

“Have you even put the application in at Focus yet?” His mum asks. Her voice makes it obvious that she fully expects him to say that he hasn’t.

And of course he’s proving her right. “No,” he says, defiant and completely without any excuse.

Because he doesn’t have an excuse. He just forgot. Mostly because he doesn’t want the fucking job anyway.

“Dan.” His mum sighs, completely put out.

“You’ll go do it right now,” his dad says, crossing his arms over his chest.

“What if I don’t?” Dan asks. He doesn’t have the most mature repertoire when it comes to arguing when he’s upset.

“You’re under our roof-” His dad only gets half the sentence out before Dan latches on with a vengeance.

“Well maybe I won’t be under your roof, then.”

His mum looks almost insultingly amused. “And where exactly will you go to escape the horrors of your awful mum and dad who want you to work ten hours a week?”

The feeling in his chest just grows and grows. It feels bigger than him sometimes and he hates how it just makes him want to scream or cry. He wants this part of his life over already, he wants to move on to the part where he doesn’t feel surrounded by people who make him feel small and worthless.

“Why would I tell you?” Dan spits. “The whole point is to get away from you.”

He knows instantly he’s gone too far when he sees the pain flit across his mum’s face. Technically it had been what he wanted but now that he’s achieved it he just wants to go back.

That is until his dad is getting up in his face with his angry words and his imposing stature, things that had really scared Dan as a child but now just serve to drive his anger deeper.

“You’ll go up and do it right the hell now and you won’t speak to your mother like that again, ever, or you won’t be allowed out of the bloody house until school starts back up.”

“You can’t just lock me up like a fucking dog,” Dan says.

“Try me.”

“Dan.” His mum’s voice has gone soft now. He can’t look at her, knowing she’s just trying to stop him and his dad from tearing each other apart.

That hurts worst of all, knowing he’s hurting her, like really and truly hurting her, and all for what? He doesn’t even remember anymore. He just knows that he feels trapped here with these people who only want to speak to him when they’re telling him what to do or that what he’s doing is wrong.

He wants out so bad. This isn’t a home, it’s a prison cell. Phil’s house is a home through and through. Phil’s parents would never threaten him, make him feel like a stranger in his own life.

“All we’re asking is for you to help us out a little—”

“Don’t coddle him, Karen. He’s got to learn to grow up,” Dan’s dad interrupts her.

Dan would laugh if he weren’t sick with the indignation of it all. They haven’t coddled him a day in his life. A lot of times whole days will pass before they even acknowledge that he's there.

“Oh fuck off,” Dan mutters.

“Dan!” his mum says horrified.

His dad’s face is red like he’s going to blow up. As much as Dan is angry he’s also… he’s scared. He can’t deny that when his dad gets this angry he’s scary. It reminds him of being little and how terrifying it was when his dad would lose his temper because Dan had left his toys on the stairs or spilled Ribena on the carpet.

It’s always been like this. Always him making mistakes and his dad treating him like he could never do anything right and he’s so bloody tired of it. He wants to crawl into Nana’s arms and cry into her shoulder. He wants to run away and forget that this is his life. He wants to be somewhere that people actually give a shit about who he is and what he has to say.

His dad might as well have steam coming out of his ears. “You’d better get the fuck up to your room and put in that goddamn application or—”

Dan doesn’t wait for the or. He grabs his shoes and yanks the door open without even putting them on.

“Dan, where do you think—”

He cuts his mum off. “I told you, I’m getting away from you.” As he steps out the door he hears his mum trying to argue and his dad telling her to let him go, that he’d be back soon enough and then—

Dan slams the door as hard as he can. There’s so much useless rage and sadness in his body that he has no idea what to do with, but slamming the door feels cathartic for a split second, to put all those toxic emotions into something tangible.

He crams his feet into his shoes and stalks down the drive and out onto the street. His body is practically vibrating with anger and adrenaline and he has no idea what to do with it. He has no idea what to do.

He wants to do something he knows he shouldn’t. He wants to scream and cry and maybe break something fragile, smash something on the ground and watch it break into a million pieces. Punch something soft. Stomp on something and watch it crumple or explode.

For about thirty seconds he wants these things, after which he’s stood in the middle of the quiet street in the dark and feeling an overwhelming loneliness wash over him. He’s alone. He just feels so fucking alone.

He looks over at Phil’s window across the street. It’s lit up and he can see inside. He can’t see Phil but just remembering all the time he’s spent in there lately and how he never feels lonely when he’s sat on Phil’s bed kind of makes up his mind for him. He knows what he wants now, and that’s a friend. Someone who actually, genuinely cares. He hopes Phil’s room is still the place. He hopes Phil is still someone who cares.

It’s not that late but Dan can’t bring himself to stand on the Lester porch and ring the doorbell. He’s in no state to talk to Kath or Nigel and he doesn’t know what he’d say anyway, doesn’t even know if they’d let him in. He doesn’t actually even know if Phil is here.

He could text Phil of course, or give him a ring, but he doesn’t really want to do that either. Things gets lost like that and he doesn’t want to risk a miscommunication or— or a rejection.

The only thing for it is to climb the tree next to Phil’s window. He used to do this as a kid, climb so high he couldn’t see the ground anymore through the leaves, so high his nan would shout from the bottom that he was mad and needed to be careful.

Always his nana. Never his parents. They’d be somewhere else, or maybe they just weren’t bothered if he was careful or not.

He’s still good at this. Even though he hasn’t really done anything like this in years it comes naturally to him now with his long limbs and his determination to see a friendly face. He makes his way up onto the ledge of the roof underneath Phil’s window in no time. He doesn’t wait to see if Phil is actually in there or not, doesn’t even check to make sure Phil’s not alone. He just takes as deep a breath he can to slow his racing heart and knocks on the glass before he can convince himself that this is fucking crazy.

Chapter Text

It takes Phil until the third time before he realizes the knocking he hears against the glass isn’t just a really weird bird or something. When he walks over to investigate, the last thing he’s expecting to see is Dan kneeling on the roof by the window.

“Oh my gosh!” Phil says, immediately fumbling his fingers with the lock until he manages to get it undone and pry the window open. “Dan, what are you doing, you’re gonna break your neck!”

His first wild thought is that maybe Dan’s come to apologize for being weird earlier, but Phil doesn’t think Dan really owes him an apology and he can tell as soon as he’s finished talking that something bigger is wrong. Dan barely looks at him as he half climbs, half falls into the room with an unusual lack of coordination. When he gets to his feet his whole body is tense and he’s holding himself awkwardly. “I’m fine,” he says, more of a mutter than anything else. “See? Nothing’s broken.”

“If I tried that I’d end up in hospital.” Phil shuts the window again. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

Dan looks surprised. “How do you know something’s wrong?”

Phil shrugs. He’s not sure what the right answer to that is. “You just don’t look like - you.”

Dan crosses the room and sits down on Phil’s bed. His arms are still wrapped around himself tightly, guarded and defensive. “Fight with my parents. I can fuck off if you’ve got better things to do, though.”

“Of course not,” Phil answers immediately. He sits down beside Dan, but leaves some space between them. “What did you fight about?”

“Usual stuff.” Dan shrugs. “I’m lazy. Worthless. They wish they hadn’t even had me.”

Phil is horrified. “Really? They actually said that.”

“Well.” Dan chews on his bottom lip. “They meant it, even if they didn’t say it. I can just tell.”

“That’s awful,” Phil says. Then he straightens his shoulders and boldly says, “Well, you’ll just stay here, then. Until your parents stop being poops and appreciate you.”

“Poops?” Dan says, a little smile finally emerging. “Really, Phil?”

“Really.” Phil answers the questions Dan isn’t quite asking. “We’ve got loads of Buffy left to watch, and my mum made so much extra for dinner. It’ll be ace.”

“Ace,” Dan repeats. “You’re such a dork.”

The words are too similar to all the things Phil is afraid Dan will think of him, but right now it doesn’t sound like Dan thinks that’s a bad thing at all.

“Are you hungry? Have you eaten?” Phil asks.

Dan shakes his head. “I think mum was gonna order something.”

“You must be hungry then,” Phil decides. “You stay here, I’ll go get food.”

“Wait.” Dan sounds slightly panicky. “Don’t tell her I’m here?”

Phil doesn’t usually keep things from his parents, especially not something like a friend staying over. He doesn’t really think they’d mind at all, but it seems to matter a lot to Dan so he says, “Okay. I’ll just tell her I want seconds. That won’t surprise her at all.”

“Thanks,” Dan says.

Phil doesn’t actually have to tell any lies. His mum and dad are watching television, and don’t deem the sound of Phil rooting around in the kitchen as worthy of investigating. Even though he only ate an hour ago himself he piles two plates up with food and then fetches two Cokes for them, balancing it all precariously in his arms along with the last fat slice of a cake his mum had made the day before. She also won’t have any problem at all believing that Phil finished it off all by himself.

When he gets back into his room, Dan’s taken his shoes and socks off and he’s sat on Phil’s bed - not at the foot like he has all week long but this time up near the headboard, where Phil’s normally at. He’s got his knees bent and tucked to his chest with his head resting on them.

He looks so sad that Phil’s whole body aches with the need to see him smile again.

He puts the plates on his desk and holds a can out for Dan to take. “Drink this. Sugar will help. Sugar helps everything.”

He takes it, but it remains unopened, hanging loosely in his hand as he lays his head back down on his knees. Phil hates it. He hates it so much but he’s really not sure what to do. He’s coming to realize he doesn’t actually know Dan all that well yet.

Does he want to talk? Does he want to be distracted? Does he just want to be left the hell alone?

But no, surely not. After all, of all the places Dan could have gone, he chose to come here. He chose to climb the tree outside Phil’s bedroom and knock from outside his window. It’s kind of… well, whatever it is it makes Phil feel good. Especially after the weirdness of earlier in the day.

Phil grabs the plates and stands beside the bed. “Shove over,” he says, nudging Dan’s arm with his hip. Dan looks surprised, like he’d forgotten where he was for a moment, but he does as Phil says and shuffles over closer to the wall, enough for Phil to squeeze in beside him.

There’s not enough room for this and maybe it’s weird but Phil doesn’t quite care right now. He is weird. He’s a weird kind of lad and so far Dan seems to be ok with that. Maybe he even kind of likes it.

Phil had been doubting that only a few hours ago but it seems fair to assume that Dan finds some kind of comfort in being here with him, or else why would he have shown up? In a low moment he’d turned to Phil in place of all his other friends.

Phil hands him a plate. “Eat. I promise you’ll feel better. My mum’s almost as good a cook as she is a baker.”

Dan accepts the plate, puts it on his lap and Phil does the same and they eat next to each other, in silence for a few minutes before Dan says quietly, “This is really good.”

Phil kind of wants to laugh, because Dan’s voice is so sad when he says it. “Wait til you try the cake, mate.”

“What’s a cakemate?” Dan asks.

Phil almost chokes on his food in surprised laughter. “No I mean like, wait til you try the cake, Dan who is my mate.”

Dan’s lips quirk at the corner. “Oh. Right.” It’s not the smile Phil’s looking for but it’s a start. And then, “Wait— there’s cake?”

Phil chuckles. “Yeah. That’s what I’m saying.”

“Sorry. Sorry I’m like, weird and sad and crashing whatever you were doing. I should’ve like, rung first or texted or something.”

“It’s fine Dan. Whenever you’re not around I’m just kind of. You know.” He pokes at a piece of broccoli with his fork. “Alone.”

“What were you doing?” Dan asks.

“Uh. Like, literally nothing really. Thinking about stuff I guess.”

“That’s always dangerous,” Dan murmurs.

Phil frowns. He’s not doing a brilliant job of cheering Dan up right now, that’s for sure. “Yeah, you know me. Reckless Decisions Lester. Always getting into danger.”

Dan snorts.

“Actually…” Phil spots the bag from Boots still on his desk. “There was one reckless decision I was about to make.”

That manages to capture Dan’s interest a bit at least. “What?”

Phil puts his mostly finished second dinner out of the way and gets up, snagging the bag between his fingers and bringing it back to the bed. He dumps it out and there sits the box of hair dye… along with a bag of Haribo. “Not the Haribo,” he says, though it probably doesn’t need to be stated. “But I was, uh. Thinking of dying my hair black. What d’you think? Would it look awful?”

Dan looks at him dead in the face then, his dark brown eyes studying him intently, like he’s really taking the question to heart. He even cocks his head to the side a little.

“It wouldn’t look awful. It might actually look… really good? I feel like it might bring out the blue in your eyes.”

Phil’s stomach fucking drops in a way he’s absolutely never felt the likes of before. He can’t think of a single thing to say.

Dan looks away suddenly, putting his empty plate down on the bed and pulling his knees back up to his chest. “It’s up to you though of course, I dunno. I’m sure it’d be fine.”

“Yeah,” Phil chokes out. The tension is cracked but not broken. He still feels like something is happening, his heart is pounding like something is happening when really they’re just sat on Phil’s bed. “Maybe I’ll give it a go sometime.”

“I could do it for you if you want,” Dan says.

“Yeah?”

Dan shrugs. “I dyed my fringe purple last year. It’s not that hard.”

“Did you?” Phil asks. “I can’t picture that.”

“It looked kind of stupid but it was fun. Yours wouldn’t look stupid though, I don’t think.”

Phil eyes the box of dye nervously. “My mum might freak.”

“All the more reason then.” Dan’s voice is a little more sturdy than it has been since he got here. “Join me in the bad son club.”

“You’re not a bad son. Hand me that,” he adds, gesturing to Dan’s empty plate.

Dan hands it to him and says, “I probably am, but it’s not like they’re doing any better at being parents.”

Phil turns his back to Dan to put the plates on the desk, and also because it’s easier to ask questions when he can’t see Dan’s face. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asks softly.

“Fuck no. I was told there was cake. Cake is better than talking about stupid shit.”

“It’s not stupid if it’s bothering you.”

“Cake!” Dan insists. “I was promised cakemate!”

Phil laughs, turning around with the plate of red velvet goodness. “We have to share, sorry.”

Dan turns his body so his back is pressed against the wall, his legs criss-crossed underneath himself. “How dare you not serve me my own personal giant slice of cake when I barge into your room in the middle of the night like some weird fucking prowling monkey? Don’t you know it’s my right as a dumbass to have all the cake I desire?”

Phil smiles, climbing back up onto the bed. “It’s not the middle of the night.”

“True. I guess you’re not allowed to have any cake, then,” Dan says.

Phil sticks his tongue out, not unlike a five year old, but it elicits the kind of smile Phil’s been longing to see.

“You’re an idiot,” Dan says, shaking his head.

“An idiot with cake, though.”

“The best kind. Now give me some of that, would you?” Dan says.

It’s then that Phil realizes he hasn’t brought extra forks, so he tells Dan as much. “I don’t have forks.”

“We can just use our dinner forks,” Dan says.

Phil crinkles up his nose. “We’ll get dinner juice on it.”

Dan rolls his eyes, but there’s something fond in it. “You’re well spoiled, aren’t you Phil?” He reaches out and swipes his finger through the icing and pops it into his mouth.

“Oi,” Phil says.

“Spoiled,” Dan counters, sucking on his finger. “Fuck this is good.”

Phil doesn’t say anything. He seems unable to pry his eyes from the way Dan’s lips look wrapped around his finger like that.

“I’m literally gonna eat it with my fingers if you don’t give me some kind of alternative in like two seconds, Phil,” Dan says.

Phil decides to embrace the playful teasing kind of energy that’s flowing between them now and break off a decent-sized piece of cake with his fingers. “Looks like we’re eating this thing like cavemen, then.”

And they do. They eat the whole giant slice with their hands, licking and sucking the sugar off their fingers when they’re done. Dan moans like he’s doing— something else, his eyes closing like he’s never tasted anything better.

It makes Phil feel weird, so he looks away.

“Ok,” Dan says, wiping his hands on his jeans. “Yeah. Your mum is a good baker. I’m even more excited for this bake-off now. We need to get on that shit right away.”

“I’ll tell her you said so,” Phil replies absentmindedly. He’s still feeling a strange heat on his face.

“You can’t! I’m not supposed to be here!”

“Oh. Right.” Phil leans back against the headboard. “What do you want to do now?”

He needs to do something to occupy his mind and distract him from - well, whatever it is he needs distracting from.

Dan grabs the box and gives it a proper look. “Let’s dye your hair.”

“What?” That certainly works to jar Phil out of his momentary haze. “Right now?”

“You bought it, yeah? You want to? And I do think it would look good.” Dan turns his head to look at Phil. “So why wait? Come on. Live a little. Embrace the moment.”

“I don’t… know how,” Phil says weakly.

“To embrace the moment?” Dan asks.

Yes. “No,” Phil says. “To dye my hair. My mum helped me that one time I did and even she bollocksed it up.”

“I told you I’ve done it before. So I’ll help,” Dan says. “Go make sure your mum and dad aren’t in the hallway and we’ll sneak into the bathroom. It’ll be easier to clean up there. Oh, you might want to put something on you don’t want to get drippy and stained.”

It’s a lot of direction in a short amount of time. “What about you?” Phil asks. “Won’t your clothes get ruined.”

“Oh yeah.” Dan glances down. “Fuck. I like this shirt. Do you have something I can borrow?”

“Sure,” Phil says, getting off his bed and going over to his dresser. He’s gotten so far as dumping clean clothes into them, but nothing is sorted yet so it takes him a minute to find a couple of t-shirts that he’s had for so long he wouldn’t wear them out of the house anyway. He grabs a pair of pajama pants too.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” Dan grins. “Nineties kid.”

“Hey!” Phil says. “You’re one too, you know.”

“Mhm. But somehow you seem like, I dunno, peak nineties kid.” Dan stands up and it takes Phil far too many seconds to register what Dan’s doing when Dan reaches down and grabs the hem of the shirt he’s wearing by the corners, arms crossed over each other.

Phil doesn’t even have the sense of mind to turn around and give Dan privacy, not that Dan seems to want it. He can’t do anything but stare at Dan without a shirt on for the twenty or so seconds it takes him to toss down the one he’d been wearing and slide on the one Phil just handed him.

“Uh.” Dan only goes awkward when he notices Phil is staring. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s-” Phil stops. What is it? What does he say? “Nothing. Just thinking.”

“About how ‘ace’ your new hair is gonna be?” Dan grabs the box again. “Come on, you get changed too and we can start.”

Phil’s heart is pounding. He’s changed in front of mates plenty of times, but for some reason right now it seems vitally important that Dan not see how scrawny and pale he is or how funny the six chest hairs he has look or what kind of strange freckles he has.

He turns so his back is to Dan. Dan must not think it’s strange, because he doesn’t say anything, but Phil’s hands are still shaking as he swaps shirts. He clears his throat to make sure his voice doesn’t break or do anything else embarrassing. “Okay. I’ll make sure the coast is clear.”

He pokes his head into the hallway. No one is in sight, so he turns and gestures to Dan. The bathroom is only just down the hall, and not the one his parents use, so he doesn’t think they’ll have any issue getting away with this.

Phil puts a finger to his lips to remind Dan, completely unnecessarily, not to make too much noise. Dan just rolls his eyes and waves Phil forward. They tiptoe down the hall like proper cartoon characters and Phil has the urge to giggle once they make it inside and close the door. He feels kind of breathless and giddy and slightly terrified, but in a good way. He doesn’t really do stuff like this, ever. It feels nice. It feels nice to rebel a little.

His heart hasn’t stopped pounding since Dan pulled off his shirt, and it doesn’t stop when Dan locks the door. If anything he feels it even more. Something about all of this, about being locked in a small room with Dan about to do something that almost counts as rebellious just has him buzzing.

“You sit there,” Dan says, pointing to floor by the the edge of the bathtub. “I’ll mix up the dye.” He opens the box and dumps the contents out onto the counter and Phil’s suddenly very glad he didn’t have to try to do this himself.

In all honesty he probably never would have been able to work up the courage. Even now, his stomach twists up anxiously as he watches Dan squeeze liquid from one bottle into another. “Are we actually doing this?” he asks. The room smells strongly of chemicals now, so strong it burns in his throat. “Is this a thing?”

“It’s a thing,” Dan confirms. He screws the lid on the bottle and shakes it up.

“What if it looks stupid?”

“It won’t. I really think it won’t.”

Phil can’t seem to take his eyes off Dan, who’s pulling on a pair of gloves now and asking, “Ready?”

“I guess,” Phil says weakly.

“Phil. Embrace the moment, remember? You bought this dye for a reason.”

It’s true, he did. He wants to be different. Wokingham makes him feel different. Dan makes him feel different, and he wants to match that on the outside. “Ok, let’s do it.”

Dan smiles his approval and Phil thinks there’s no way this could be a bad decision if Dan is smiling at him like that. He walks over to where Phil’s sat on the floor and looks down for about three seconds before frowning and saying, “This isn’t going to work.”

“Oh. What—”

“You’re too low down like this, it’s gonna break my back.”

“Oh,” Phil says, relieved. “Should I stand up, or…?”

“I think you’ll have to sit on the toilet.”

There really isn’t a lot of space for Dan to work with once Phil’s sat on the closed lid of the toilet. It’s a small room and their bodies are very long. Their legs are kind of squished together and Phil doesn’t know what to do with his hands.

“Ok, try not to move too much,” Dan says, his voice soft and quiet. “Don’t wanna get it on your skin.”

“K.”

“You ready?”

Phil nods. He feels cool liquid on his scalp and Dan’s hands in his hair and— oh. He hadn’t expected it to feel like this.

Dan squeezes some more dye out and Phil’s nostrils tickle with the intensity of the smell but Dan’s fingers are combing through his hair and he’s so gentle. So much more gentle than Phil could have ever been prepared for.

He’s never known a friend to be so gentle. More dye cool on his scalp and the smell keeps getting stronger but Dan’s fingers are massaging into his scalp now.

Dan suggests to him that he might want to close his eyes, but somehow that makes Phil feel even more weird, like he might just end up moaning at how good it feels if he’s got his eyes closed. He loses half the battle as his eyes flutter shut but luckily he manages to keep the vocalizations from escaping.

It dawns on Phil that he hasn’t said anything this whole time and that maybe he should. He can’t think of anything, though. He kind of wants to pause this moment and just live inside it forever.

-

Dan’s not sure if he’s remembered to breathe in the past three minutes. He’s caught in some kind of weird, intense quiet as he stares down at Phil. He’s glad Phil’s eyes are closed, because he’s not sure he could take Phil looking at him right now. He still can’t get the long pale line of Phil’s back out of his mind, and now he gets to look down at Phil’s soft skin and the bump of his nose and the way his eyelashes look against his cheeks…

He’s not sure if he’s ever stared at a person this hard. The dye is worked through Phil’s hair by now, he’s sure, but he doesn’t want to stop yet. He tells himself he just wants this to look good for Phil. He doesn’t want to miss any spots, so he drags a finger across the hairline above Phil’s ear and massages gently against the curve of his skull toward the back, tracing lines and shapes and surely Phil is going to call him a - well, one of those names - and tell him he’s being a creep soon. Surely Phil is going to notice that Dan’s drawing this out and he’ll want to know why.

But Phil just stays sitting there with that serene look on his face and Dan is too much of a greedy bastard to know when to stop with anything. So he doesn’t. He moves his fingers even slower, now just stroking more than massaging. His thumb drags down gently behind Phil’s ear, and he’s got no excuse now, there’s not even really any hair there, but he presses in firm and drags it back up.

He can feel Phil suck in a breath and then he starts to shift a bit, fingers twitching against each other before drawing to clasp over his lap.

Phil’s face is getting a bit red too. Maybe it’s from the fumes, Dan thinks. Surely it’s just the fumes.

He forces his hands to stop their work. “Think it’s in,” he says, hating how weird and scratchy his voice sounds in the quiet of the small room.

“Oh.”

Dan doesn’t think he’s making up that Phil sounds disappointed. “Yeah.”

“How long do I leave it in now?” Phil asks.

Dan steps back and picks up the box again. He already knows the answer, but it’s a relief to have something to do to distract him from how Phil’s still holding his hands over his crotch. Like - like he’s hiding something.

It’s a move Dan has pulled plenty of times, sometimes for no more reason than noticing the swell of Evie’s breasts against her shirt or getting caught in a particularly pleasant memory. He can’t quite bring himself to believe that’s what Phil is doing but he still feels a strange fluttering in his stomach at the idea.

“Dan?” Phil asks. “How long?”

“Thirty minutes,” Dan says, putting the box down. “Sorry. The writing was, uh, small. Couldn’t find where it said.”

“Thirty minutes, eh?” Phil asks. He straightens up on the toilet but his hands stay where they are. “That’s a long time.”

“Yeah,” Dan murmurs.

“What should we do?”

“That’s up to you mate. It’s your house. Should we sneak back to your room?” Even just saying those words makes him feel funny. He clears his throat and adds, “We could watch Buffy while we wait?”

Just then both their heads whip in the direction of the door when they hear footsteps on the stairs. Dan turns his head towards Phil and looks at him in terror. Phil just holds a finger to his lips again.

There’s a knock on the door. “Phil?”

It’s Kath. Duh. Of course it is.

“What?” Phil asks. He’s a bit husky but Dan’s impressed with how normal he manages to sound.

“What are you doing?”

“Mum. I’m in the toilet. What d’you think I’m doing?”

“Oh. Right,” Kath says. “Sorry. I just— I thought I heard something? Were you— are you talking to someone?”

Dan’s eyes widen and all he can do is stare at Phil in fear.

“I was… talking to my friend,” Phil says. Dan nearly has a heart attack before Phil adds, “On the phone.”

“While you’re in the toilet?” Kath asks, clearly disapproving.

“Mum will you just leave me alone, please?”

“Ok, ok, sorry, I’m going. Oh by the way, did you eat the rest of the cake? And the leftovers from dinner?”

“Uh. Yeah. Sorry.”

“By yourself?” she asks.

Phil makes a very convincingly exasperated noise. “No, mum. I’ve got someone here in the toilet with me. I’m stashing them away and that’s what you heard before. Also they ate half the food.”

“Alright, alright, I’ll leave you alone,” Kath says. “Bring your blinking dishes down when you’re done or there’ll be hell to pay, young man.”

“I will. Now let me wee in peace,” Phil says.

Dan notices that Phil’s hands aren’t covering his crotch anymore. He’s weirdly disappointed about that.

He finally breathes a sigh of relief— though a quiet one— when he hears the sound of Kath’s footsteps on the stairs again. “Fuck me,” he croaks.

Phil gives him a strange look. His cheeks are pink again.

“That was close,” Dan says.

“Oh.” Phil smiles in a way that makes him look sheepish. “Oh. Yeah, it was. But I kind of saved our butts.”

“You did,” Dan agrees.

“And technically I didn’t even lie.”

“Technically no, you didn’t.”

“So,” Phil says, standing up from the toilet finally. “Buffy?”

Dan nods, about to turn around and open the door cautiously when something catches his eye. He reaches his hand out before he has a chance to stop himself.

Phil freezes when Dan’s thumb gently swipes a spot on his forehead, just below the hairline. Dan takes his time with it, an unmistakable warmth in his chest at the feeling of Phil’s skin against his.

“Sorry,” Dan says quietly. “There was some dye.” He’s realizing too late that he could’ve just told Phil there was some black on his skin and Phil could’ve wiped it away himself.

But he’s not really too upset about it.

“Thanks,” Phil whispers.

Why is he whispering?

“Buffy?” Dan asks.

Phil nods. “Buffy.”

Chapter Text

The half hour feels like it passes by more slowly than could be reasonably possible. Phil is aware of his body in a way he never really has been before, aware of how awkward it is and how he has no idea what to do with his hands or why his heart kind of feels like it’s stuck permanently beating too fast.

He’s also far too aware of the body of the of the boy sat next to him on the bed. He sees every tiny little movement, every twitch of the finger and shuffle of the leg.

He keeps stealing side eyed glances. Dan looks good in his t-shirt. The ninja turtles really suit him.

“It’s time,” Dan says after what surely must have been several hours.

Phil pauses the show. “I guess the next time I see you I’ll have black hair.”

Dan smiles. “It already looks too black for this universe, Phil.”

“I’m scared.”

“Don’t be,” Dan says. He sounds so sincere. “Do you want help?” Phil just stares at him so Dan adds, “Rinsing out the dye?”

Phil had been planning to just have a full on shower. He figured that was probably easier. But this? This is better. He nods. “Please.”

They sneak back into the bathroom. It feels scarier this time, as it’s starting to get late enough for it to be a conceivable possibility that his parents will be coming up to bed.

He double checks to make sure the door is locked. When he’s sure it is he turns to Dan. “How should we do this?”

Dan studies the setup. “I guess you can kneel by the bath and lean your head over under the tap? It shouldn’t take long to rinse out.”

He starts the water going, adjusting the knobs it until it’s warm enough that Phil declares, “Ready.”

The tile floor is hard and cold against his knees, his pajamas offering almost no cushioning, but the second Dan’s fingers are on his shoulders guiding him forward physical pain is the last thing on his mind.

“Oh,” Dan says. “I didn’t think this through. Um-”

Phil can’t see what Dan’s doing but he understands when Dan’s knees are suddenly bracketing his back that Dan’s essentially straddling him.

“Couldn’t reach before,” Dan explains. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Phil says, though he doesn’t even know if Dan can hear him over the rush of water.

Then Dan’s fingers are in his hair again and he’s watching the water underneath him turn a murky gray. It hits him with a jolt that he’s really done this, he’s really going to have black hair - and for a while, since the box was a permanent dye.

If Phil thought Dan’s fingers in his hair felt nice when they were putting the dye in, he’s entirely unprepared for how vigorously Dan goes at it when he’s rinsing it out. “Does that hurt?” Dan asks, leaned in so close that Phil can practically feel his breath.

He hates how it shoots straight to his dick. It’s just hormones, he tells himself. A stiff breeze makes him hard. He’s never had another person’s hands on him like this before, it’s not - it’s not because it’s Dan. It’s not.

But he’s past the point of denying that he likes it. “It’s perfect,” he says, which he only realizes after the words leave his mouth might be a strange response.

All Dan says back is, “Okay.” Then he goes back to rubbing, pushing sections of Phil’s hair back and forth, fingers constantly moving and shifting with pinpoints of delicious pressure. He uses water cupped in his fingers to rinse the spots the tap can’t get. After what feels like both too short and too long a time later he says, “I think that’s the best it’s going to get. Is this towel good?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, knowing Dan must mean the one hanging on the towel rack.

He expects Dan to hand it to him but instead Dan starts to pat Phil’s neck. “T-shirt’s wet,” Dan mumbles. “Maybe should have taken it off first. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Phil says, shifting upward now that he knows he won’t drip everywhere. His shoulders ache even from just a few minutes in that position. He doesn’t get all the way up yet, though. He - he can’t.

At least the mild mortification serves to kill his boner.

Mostly.

Dan still doesn’t let go of the towel once Phil manages to get to his feet. He stays standing in front of Phil and towels off his hair, grinning when he sees the finished product.

Different nerves swirl in Phil’s stomach now. “Does it look awful?” He says anxiously.

“Phil,” Dan says, pulling the towel away and running his fingers through Phil’s hair. “It looks fucking epic.”

Phil can’t resist temptation to look any longer. He rips himself away from the space between Dan and the toilet and moves to the mirror, jaw dropping when he sees his reflection staring back at him.

He won’t say it out loud of course, but fuck. Dan was right.

It looks epic. It looks cool and kind of edgy and all the things that Phil is not. He looks like a different person, and he loves it. It’s exactly what he was hoping for when he’d bought the dye.

He runs his fingers through it just as Dan had done. He leans in close to the mirror, honestly a little in disbelief that something as simple as a different hair colour is kind of making him feel like he could be the kind of person he wants to be.

“What d’you think?” Dan asks, stepping up behind him.

Right behind him, smiling at him in the reflection.

“It looks. Like it looks kind of good, doesn’t it?”

Dan smiles. “I fucking told you it would.”

-

He knew it wouldn’t look like shit. He thought with some amount of certainty that Phil would suit black hair, but this. He wasn’t prepared for this.

He looks fucking hot. No amount of fear can come close to enabling Dan to repress it, Phil looks fucking sexy with black hair. It’s not styled or even dry, it’s swept back off his forehead and damp and messy and it looks absolutely incredible.

“I was right,” Dan says. “It makes your eyes pop.” He can’t take his eyes off the electric blue in the mirror.

“Does it?” Phil asks. He’s not looking at his own reflection anymore. He’s looking right Dan.

“It does. It works.”

“Well,” Phil says. He turns around and he’s just— he’s just right there, right in front of Dan, their faces so close.

He should take a step back. He should step back and give Phil a reasonable human amount of personal space.

“Thanks for helping me,” Phil says.

“Yeah,” Dan replies. He still hasn’t stepped back. “Of course.”

“Should we—?” Phil gestures to the door.

“Oh. Oh, yeah. We should. The fumes in here might be starting to cook my brain.” That’s good, he thinks. A good excuse for why he’s acting so bloody strange.

They sneak back to Phil’s room again. It’s a little more nerve wracking this time knowing Phil’s parents could come up at any time but they make it back without incident.

Dan pulls out his phone for a moment, just for a way to distract himself. He can’t just keep staring at Phil like a creep. Even though he really wants to because he still can’t quite believe how good he looks.

He can’t do this right now. He can’t have a full on sexuality crisis in Phil’s bedroom in the middle of the night. He just… no. He can’t do that.

“It’s kinda late,” he says. “Should I— d’you want me to clear out now so you can sleep or whatever?”

Phil frowns. “No. I thought you were staying over. Until your parents stop being poops.”

Dan chuckles. “Yeah, right. I guess I wanted to give you an out just in case?”

“No outs. We’re having a sleepover.” He plonks himself down on his bed and pats the space next to him. “What should we do?”

“I think we should do whatever you want to do,” Dan says. “I’ve imposed quite enough for one day.”

“Am I boring and lame if I say Buffy?” Phil asks. “It’s just about to start getting really good.”

“Not boring.” Dan settles onto the spot in bed beside Phil. It’s closer - a tiny amount closer - than they had been before, so that the sleeves of their shirts brush.

He hates himself for noticing that. He forces his eyes ahead while Phil turns the television back on. The show is good at least, he’s genuinely drawn into it - because of the characters and storylines but also because it’s nice to watch something with someone who clearly loves it so much. Phil pipes up during moments of slow action on the screen to fill Dan in on trivia but he’s always quiet when there are important things happening.

Evie likes to talk through things. She doesn’t really get into television shows or movies the same way Dan does. If they’re at his house or at hers trying to hang out and he puts something on she’ll watch for a minute or two just to humor him then want to start telling him about her day. Even when he pauses it to make a point she doesn’t seem to notice.

He always just gives up. It’s hard to share his interests with her when she thinks they’re silly to begin with. It’s why there are so many things he likes that he doesn’t do with her, why they always just end up going to the cinema or just… having sex.

It had seemed great in the beginning. Why doesn’t it feel so great now?

Why does this, with Phil, feel so much better?

He glances over - and to his surprise, Phil’s eyes are shut and his head is slumped slightly back, chest moving up and down at a peaceful rhythm.

They’re only two episodes into Buffy, but a look at Dan’s phone tells him that it’s past eleven pm.

It also tells him that he has texts… a lot of texts. Seven are from his mum, increasingly worried. The last was sent just ten minutes ago, an alarmed plea for him to tell her where he’s at if he won’t come home.

I’m fine, he texts back. Staying with a friend tonight.

He’s not even really mad anymore. Not at her, at least. He just feels like shit and he’s not going home tonight, not so they can just shout at him some more.

She texts him back thanking him for responding. Guilt will settle in tomorrow when he reads the texts back. For now he’s just relieved that she’s not going to push it.

The other messages he has are from Evie. He ignores those completely. His brain can only handle so much in one night, and he sort of just wants to shut the world out right now and… and fucking sleep.

“Phil?” He asks, whispering.

Phil barely stirs.

He reaches out and puts his hand on Phil’s leg, shaking gently. That works - Phil startles awake, blinking over at Dan. His eyes go wide and he says, “I fell asleep.”

“You did.” Dan grins a bit. “It’s okay. I’m tired too. I just wasn’t sure where you wanted me to sleep? I can, you know. The floor is fine.”

The floor sounds awful and like a world of pain.

“No, of course not,” Phil says, rubbing his eyes. “You can… I mean. If you don’t want to, I understand, but you can just… share the bed?”

His voice goes high on the end, a nervously spoken question.

“Sure,” Dan says, pretending to feel a lot more casually about it than he really does. “Yeah. That’s cool.”

“I don’t snore or anything,” Phil says.

“I don’t either,” Dan says. “I think. I mean, I’ve never heard myself sleep before.”

“I have,” Phil says. “I wanted to know if I snored so I recorded myself sleeping once.”

“Did you really?” Dan asks.

“Yeah.” Phil pauses like he’s having a thought. “Is that weird?”

“Kind of,” Dan says. “But good weird. I’d never think to do that.”

“I didn’t snore,” Phil says. “But there were some really freaky sounds on the recording and for like a month I was convinced there were angry poltergeists outside of our house - this was in Manchester, of course, not here, we haven’t even been here a month, but you already know that, uh sorry.”

“Angry poltergeists?” Dan prompts.

“Oh, right. I had maybe just seen Paranormal Activity, and I snuck out my dad’s video camera and my brother helped me tape it in my bedroom. Nothing happened on the tape in my room but we could still hear the spooky sounds, so the next night we turned it facing outside.”

“And?” Dan asks. He hates that he’s got flashes of the movie earlier in his head now. This is the kind of shit that makes him unable to sleep at night. This plus the film about bloody skinwalkers they’d watched earlier in the day. He’d managed to forget about that until this moment.

“Foxes,” Phil says. “They were mating. Just going at it, happy as you please, right outside my window. I don’t know how I had been sleeping through it before.”

“I - horny foxes?” Dan laughs, a burst of loudness before he claps his hand over his mouth and contains the giggles into something quieter.

“Have you ever heard foxes mating?” Phil asks. “I’ll find you a clip on youtube tomorrow. Surely there’ll be one, everything’s on youtube.”

“Youtube is great,” Dan agrees. “I love YouTube. Probably a little too much. Anyway, I can’t wait to watch fox sex with you, Phil.”

Phil laughs, though he remembers at least to do it quietly.

“That came out wrong,” Dan says.

“Sure,” Phil says teasingly. “Are you secretly a furry, Daniel?”

Dan snorts. It’s loud and he claps his hand to his mouth yet again. “How do you know what a furry is?” he hisses. “How would you know unless you’re one too?”

Phil cocks an eyebrow. “Too?”

“Fuck. That’s not—”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, mate. We can make popcorn and watch foxy porn together. It’ll be great.”

Dan hates, like really and fucking truly hates the way his stomach swoops hearing the word porn come from Phil’s lips. He obviously spends too long thinking about it, because when the fog of sudden heat clears a little from his brain Phil is shaking his head.

“Sorry. I think I’m tired. I’m acting like I’m drunk or something.”

“No, no. It’s fine. Sorry, I was just… thinking.” He clears his throat, absolutely gagging to change the subject. “Have you ever actually been drunk, though?”

“What makes you think I wouldn’t have?” Phil asks.

“Oh. I mean, I don’t think that, necessarily. I was just wondering.” He can still see the way Phil’s face fell in the coffee shop when he’d said that thing about cheap vodka in the park with his friends. “You seemed… offended. Or something. When I mentioned it earlier.”

Phil shakes his head, scooting off the edge of the bed. “Sorry. I wasn’t offended. And to answer your question, no, I haven’t. I guess me and my friends were too nerdy for that.”

“Where are you going?” Dan asks, watching Phil across the floor of his bedroom. He feels like he’s fucked up yet again. He should learn when’s a good time to just shut his big stupid mouth.

“Just gonna put on pjs.”

“Oh, right.” The thought crosses his mind that he’s wearing jeans and he’s not exactly keen to sleep in them as they’re about as tight as they could possibly be, but he’s not going to say anything. He does want to say something about the awkwardness that’s befallen again, though. “Hey Phil?”

“Hm?” Phil’s got his back to Dan, rummaging through a pile of clothes in the bottom of his wardrobe.

“Did it make you feel weird what I said about getting pissed in the park with my friends?”

-

Phil’s too tired and fluttery inside to make up a convincing lie. Maybe he doesn’t really know what it feels like to be properly drunk but he imagines it feels something like this. “Maybe a little,” he says quietly.

“Why?” Dan asks.

Phil shrugs, finally locating a pair of pajama pants he’s willing to wear in front of Dan. Blue and green plaid, not unlike his bedsheets, actually. “I guess I just… You don’t seem like… I dunno. I can’t see you doing that.”

“It’s not like I’m out there doing it every night. Obviously. I haven’t seen anyone but you in ages.”

“Sorry,” Phil murmurs.

“I wasn’t complaining, Phil.”

Phil chooses to ignore that last statement. It sounds a hundred percent genuine and Phil doesn’t know what to do with Dan’s sudden frank sincerity. “I’m gonna get changed now so turn away if you don’t wanna see that,” Phil warns. He pulls off his jeans and steps into his pjs, pulling them up quickly.

When he turns around his heart jumps. Not only has Dan not turned around but he’s actively staring.

If it were any other friend, Phil would laugh and call them a perv. But the idea of saying that to Dan - of even calling attention to Dan staring in any way - seems beyond comprehension. Because he doesn’t want Dan to feel defensive. He doesn’t want Dan to reassure Phil that no he wasn’t really looking.

He notices Dan’s still wearing his jeans and maybe he can go ahead and just start blaming the new hair on his boldness but he says, “Do you need something to change into?”

Because if Dan can stare - so can he.

“Yeah,” Dan says. “That’d be nice.”

Phil pulls another pair of pjs out and tosses them over.

Dan doesn’t ask Phil to turn around. He just pops open the button and tugs the zip of his jeans down, then wiggles out of them.

They’re so - tight. How had Phil never noticed how tight they were before? He can’t tear his eyes away from Dan’s skin as he manages to kick the jeans off and then step into the pj pants.

It’s not even as though there’s a whole lot to see. Dan’s wearing pants that are boxer brief style, clinging to his thighs but not really revealing much. But even the insinuation of intimacy, of seeing someone minus one level of socially acceptable clothing, does funny things to him.

He quickly scoots past Dan, tugs the duvet back, and slides under. And if he has to keep his knees bent up then, well, he just has to. Nothing else to it.

Dan gets into bed too, taking up the same position as Phil. “Can we keep the show going?” He asks. “Or did you want to go right to sleep.”

“We can keep watching,” Phil says. He’s definitely not about to fall right to sleep.

After a couple of scenes, he feels comfortable enough to let his legs slump down and to shift back, wiggling his shoulders against his pillow until he feels cozy.

A few seconds later he feels Dan do the same. By the time the credits are rolling on the episode, his eyes are growing heavy again. “Dan?” He whispers, because it’s so late now and so quiet and dark in the room, and whispering just feels right. “Are you sleepy?”

“Mm,” comes Dan’s answer, a soft noise of agreement. When Phil glances over, Dan’s eyes are already closed.

He switches the television off and turns onto his stomach, facing Dan. It’s probably for the best that he can’t really see Dan’s face anymore, because it means the temptation to stare some more is gone and he falls asleep quickly.

Chapter Text

Dan wakes up early. Even though the view through his heavy-lidded eyes is blurry with sleep as he tries to blink then open properly and he can’t quite remember why everything feels different, he knows it’s too early for him to be awake. He can hear birds chirping outside and the light in the room is the weak light of an early morning and the body next to him—

The body next to him. Fucking hell, the body next to him. He’s in Phil’s bed. Phil’s bed that’s not that big. Phil isn’t just next to him, he’s right next to him, lying on his back with his face turned away from Dan but Dan can tell he’s still asleep from the way he’s breathing slow and deep.

Their legs are touching.

Dan’s feels that kind of buzzy feeling he gets when he’s nervous but not quite sure why, like anxiety but maybe a little softer. Nothing feels wrong it just feels…

Fuck, he feels hard. He’s fucking hard. That’s probably why he’s awake right now. He has a raging hard on and he’s all pushed up against Phil in Phil’s bed in Phil’s parents’ house and it’s all so much to take in for a still half asleep brain. He closes his eyes and tries to take some deep breaths, tries to remind his body that everything is fine.

His mum knows where he is. Phil knows he’s here and was fine with them sleeping together— sleeping next to each other. His dick is hard as a rock under his pants but even that is ok. Phil is asleep. He doesn’t ever have to know.

Dan just needs to fucking relax. He opens his eyes again and there Phil is and Dan notices how fluffy and shiny Phil’s new black hair is and how strangely good it looks against his pale skin. Dan’s eyes travel down from Phil’s face to his neck, his long long neck and to the sharp jut in the middle of his throat. He watches it move a little as Phil breathes, still asleep, still blissfully unaware of his new friend who’s actually just staring at him now with no shame.

Dan is only making it harder for himself now— literally. His dick shows no sign of softening and it’s starting to hurt. He can feel the blood filling it fuller by the minute, the uncomfortable swell with no means of relief.

Phil is asleep. It’s early. He’ll probably stay asleep for another good long while as long as Dan doesn’t make too much noise or any sudden movements.

So when he reaches his hand down, he does it slowly, and over top of the pjs Phil had lent him. He’s not going to wank, he can’t fucking wank in his friend’s bed while his friend is in there with him, especially not when he’s pretty sure his friend is the reason he’s so incredibly turned on.

He can’t wank, but he can press the heel of his hand into the base of his cock and drag it down along the hard line of the shaft. The friction is fucking heaven and it takes a considerable amount of discipline not to make any kind of noise. Instead his eyes roll back a little and he grips the head through his trousers.

And that feels too good to resist no matter how wrong it may be. He wraps his hand around himself, still over top of the pjs but he can’t pretend it isn’t still wanking. He tries to keep it slow and measured at least, but it’s still wanking and it still feels incredible.

The pounding of his pulse in his ears is so loud he doesn’t hear it until it’s almost too late— footsteps in the hall right outside Phil’s door and then the knob is turning and there’s a creaking sound.

Dan would swear that his heart stops for a split second before he panics, sliding down under the covers in a jerk and pressing himself up against Phil as tight as he can, in fact kind of lying on top and him, crushing their bodies together. It’s all he has time for, trying to make their two bodies look like one under the duvet.

Phil yelps and Dan hears the creaking of the door stop suddenly.

“Phil?” It’s Kath.

“Mum?” Phil’s voice is nothing but a hoarse croak. It’s— god, it’s really fucking sexy, Phil’s startled morning voice. “What the hell?”

“Sorry love, did I wake you?” Her voice sounds a little muffled and Dan realizes with a profound crashing relief that if she’s not asking about him she must not have actually come into the room, and therefore is not seeing the strange two person-sized lump under her teenage son’s bedsheets.

He stays down just in case.

“Yeah, mum, of course you did,” Phil replies, sounding convincingly annoyed.

“I was just doing some laundry-”

“Can you come back later, mum?” Phil grunts.

“You can just do your own washing later, young man, alright?”

“Yeah, fine mum. Let me sleep please.”

Dan hears her sigh the kind of long suffering sound he’s heard his own mum make countless times and then the door closes.

Dan breathes out in relief. His face is pressed tightly against Phil’s chest and his still hard cock is pressing into Phil’s thigh. There’s no way Phil can’t feel that, but it turns out Dan can feel something too, something firm between Phil’s legs pressing into the arm he has wrapped low around Phil’s middle.

It seems they’d both woken up hard.

Dan rolls off of Phil quickly, heart pounding even more strongly than it had been before Kath tried to open the door.

“Uh.” Phil’s voice is impossibly squeaky. “Good morning.”

“Uh-” Dan’s mind is spinning in a hundred different directions. He can’t even think of what to say, but almost in a blur Phil is out of bed and grabbing a t-shirt off the floor.

“Gonnatakeashowerbebackinaiminute.” The door all but slams behind Phil.

Fuck. Dan feels queasy but also - turned on. Still turned on. Still very turned on.

He slides his hand back down under the duvet. It’s wrong in a million different ways, but he can hear the water started in the bathroom down the hall so he knows Phil won’t walk in again, and he can’t imagine Phil’s mum will be back to fetch his dirty laundry after telling him to wash it himself.

He grips his dick and squeezes.

Is he this depraved?

Apparently so.

Fuck, he’s even wearing Phil’s pjs. And his ninja turtles shirt. He’s dressed head to toe in Phil’s clothes and that just makes the need burn brighter as he slides his hand underneath the elastic of the waistband and touches dry, hot skin. He pumps a couple of times, needing desperately to take the edge off, and he can feel it all the way through his body. His balls are practically aching and he can’t remember the last time he felt this thoroughly turned on, like every touch is electric.

Phil was so hard.

He’s never felt another guy’s dick like that. It was - hot. Hot and hard.

He thinks about what Phil might be doing in the shower right now. He’s also a sixteen year old boy, he probably wanks every time he takes a shower. He probably wakes up hard every morning. It probably had nothing to do with Dan.

Probably.

But Dan can still imagine it did. He doesn’t even need a specific fantasy; just the picture in his head of Phil standing in the shower with his hand wrapped around his dick just like Dan’s doing now. He pictures Phil with his eyes closed, concentrating hard like he does when he’s really into watching Buffy. He pictures Phil’s feet braced apart and one hand flying on himself. It’s nothing like those porn videos he pretends to never search out; Phil’s not dirty like that. Phil would be… beautiful.

Fuck. Phil.

He turns his head to the side - which is a mistake, because the pillow his face is now smushed into smells like nothing but Phil.

Dan’s orgasm comes out of nowhere. He barely even has time to yank Phil’s t-shirt up before come is streaking high up his chest. He grips himself with firm fingers and feels it pump and pump and pump, every delicious twitch another dribble of white until it’s webbing down his fingers and smearing against where he’s holding onto the base.

He thinks fuck again, this time a hollow sense of guilt and panic. He came everywhere, how the fuck will he clean this up? He looks around, wiggles halfway without disturbing the mess on his chest and stomach, and reaches down to see a shirt half discarded under the bed.

He can’t. Can he? It’s like, ten levels of disgusting to use a mate’s dirty laundry as a come rag.

But he doesn’t have much of a choice. Why the fuck can’t Phil be a normal teenage boy who keeps tissues or kitchen roll in his room for this kind of thing?

He uses the t-shirt, wiping up as best he can before walking over to Phil’s laundry hamper and shoving it deep down inside.

Filthiest part done, he lets himself slump back onto the bed. His heart is still pounding and as much as it feels wrong, the orgasm was just… fucking outstanding. He hasn’t come like that in… well. A long time. Possibly ever, but he pushes that thought right out of his brain. He’s not ready for the guilt and the questions that come along with a revelation like that.

-

Phil can’t get his clothes off fast enough. His dick is so hard it hurts and the memory of Dan’s body pressed against him is so fresh he can still feel it. He wants to get his hand on himself before the searing vividness of that memory fades.

He starts the water running and steps in before it’s even had time to warm up properly. It’s a little cold but he barely feels it. He squirts some body wash into his hand and wraps it around his cock, eyes squeezed shut in single-minded focus.

He’s never felt desperation like this, not even close. He’s not even sure what to do with it besides pump his hand furiously and choke back the sounds building up in the back of his throat.

It just feels so good. So good that he doesn’t even have the wits to be scared about what it means. About the fact that he’s feeling things he’s never felt before and he’s feeling them… for a boy.

That’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s not something he’d ever been prepared for, and he still isn’t, but he can’t help the way the memory of his own thigh wedged between Dan’s twists his stomach into knots. He’s powerless to stop the throbbing between his legs knowing Dan had been hard too.

He looks down and lets out a half moan half laugh. He can’t even see his dick anymore for the thick lather of bubbles he’s worked up with his frenzied tugging. He may be well on his way to a panic attack when this is over but at least he’ll be squeaky clean.

The water is warm now as it hits his back, and the steam that starts to fill the room makes this all feel even better. He wants to slow down and revel in the intensity of the sensations but something deep down and primal is refusing to let him. His caveman brain has taken over and he’s picturing Dan’s naked chest when he’d changed shirts last night and Dan’s naked thighs and the shape of his dick in his pants when he’d changed out of his jeans. He’s picturing soft brown hair and big brown eyes and jerking his cock like he’ll die if he doesn’t come absolutely as soon as bloody possible.

He doesn’t have to wait long. It hits him like a ten ton truck, radiating out from his dick and his balls, up into his stomach and down into his legs, tingling and crashing and clenching and— and shooting. Just shooting and shooting, so much come it’s honestly obscene. He feels his cock pulsing in his fist for way more time than should be physically possible. He doesn’t see where it all goes because his eyes are screwed shut tight, but he can just tell he’s getting not only ridiculous volume but also distance.

He’s still rock hard when the pulsing stops and he turns to wash away the soapy jizz that coats him. His legs are wobbly and he has to brace himself against the wall for fear that he’ll just kind of crumple to the floor of the tub.

The task of washing his hair and the rest of his body kind of feels insurmountable now, but he manages it. By the time he gets out of the shower his legs have almost stopped feeling like jelly.

But he’s clearly not back to full functioning brain capacity because he jumps when he sees his own reflection in the mirror, jet black hair wet and plastered everywhere.

Fuck! He did that. He did that. Or, well, Dan did that. But still - Phil Lester is now someone with black hair. It sends a flurry of excitement tickling up his spine. He’s still grinning at his reflection as he towels off and puts his pajamas back on.

But the nerves make a comeback as he pushes the door to his bedroom open. He’s not sure what he’s afraid of. That Dan won’t be there anymore? That Dan will still be there?

Dan’s there. But he’s sitting at the end of Phil’s bed, fully dressed.

“Are you leaving?” Phil asks.

He’s not sure what he wants the answer to be, either. He’s disappointed and relieved at the same time when Dan says, “Yeah. I know my mum’s gonna be royally pissed off, but I’d rather get it out of the way now when I don’t think my dad’s home.”

It’s not the first time Dan’s talked about his dad in a negative way. “Will he be very angry?”

“Yeah,” Dan says.

“Does he - he’s not - like. Does he - hit?” The question comes out sounding weird, and he hopes Dan won’t be cross with him for being invasive but he can’t stand the idea of Dan being scared of someone for that reason, especially not his parents.

“No,” Dan says, to Phil’s relief. “No, he doesn’t like, beat me or anything. He’s just… it’s bad, when he yells. We fight a lot. Mum says we’re too much alike. And I hate it. I don’t want to be like him at all.”

“You’re not,” Phil says, though it’s not even like he knows Dan to really say. But he still feels like he does know. He feels like he’s known Dan since five minutes after they met.

Dan just gives him a smile like he’s grateful to hear the words even if he’s got no reason to believe them. “Thanks. But, yeah. Gonna go… I dunno. Let my mum shout at me some.”

“You’ll ring me later and let me know how it’s gone?” Phil asks. “Or text.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. He stands and walks toward Phil and it’s almost as though he’s going to hug him. Phil goes kind of weird-cold all over at the idea and his hands even twitch upward for a split second before he realizes Dan’s just walking past him - to the window. “Um. Gonna go out this way. Don’t really want to deal with your mum shouting at me.”

“She wouldn’t,” Phil says. Then he laughs. “She’d shout at me, I guess. Might do anyway once she sees this.”

He points to his head.

Dan grins, dimple showing. “Worth it, mate. You look great.”

It’s the best compliment Phil’s gotten… well, since Dan complimented him last night, at least. He mutters a thanks and feels that disappointment rear up again as he watches Dan stick a foot out the window.

“Pray that I don’t fall to my death right now please,” Dan says.

“Don’t even joke.”

“I’m literally not. This feels a lot scarier when I’m not running on pure anger and adrenaline.”

“Be careful,” Phil says, not even bothering to disguise his sincerity. Suddenly he’s picturing Dan falling from the roof and he wants to say fuck it, go out the front door consequences be damned.

“I will, don’t worry.”

“I’ll see you soon?” Phil asks.

Dan grins even wider. “Definitely.”

-

It’s quiet in the house when Dan gets home. He can’t even hear Adrian. He’s cautiously optimistic that no one’s home and somehow maybe he’ll be able to get away without being shouted at until he hears his mother’s voice from what must be the kitchen.

“Dan?” She doesn’t sound as cross as he’d been expecting. In fact she doesn’t actually sound cross at all.

Dan doesn’t say anything back, but he kicks his shoes off and walks to the kitchen. He can’t avoid it any longer. She’s sat at the table with tea and the newspaper. “You’re home.”

Dan nods. “Where’s nana?”

“She took your brother out. I wanted them gone when you got back.”

Fuck.

“Look,” Dan says, “do we have to-”

“Sit.” Her tone is firm and Dan accepts instantly that he can’t get out of this.

He pulls a chair out from the table and flops down into it dramatically. He just can’t seem to help acting like an asshole when she’s around. He’s tensed for the shouting when she asks, “Have you eaten?”

“Uh. No.”

She gets up and walks over to the counter. “Toast?”

“K.”

“Tea?”

Dan can feel his resolve for indignation waning by the second. “Yes please.” He stares at the back of her as she fixes him breakfast. It’s not a sight he’s accustomed to. He likes it a lot, and that scares him.

“Don’t you have work?” he asks.

“I took the morning off.”

Dan pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his heels on the edge of the chair like he can hide from the burning of guilt in his gut. “Because of me?”

She doesn’t answer. “What do you take in your tea?”

He tells her. It feels like shit that she doesn’t already know. She sets the steaming mug on the table in front of him before returning to the toast that’s just popped up.

Dan takes a sip. It’s too hot, but it’s tea his mum made him and he just wants to drink it now without having to wait. He blows across the top and watches his breath push the steam out over the sides of the rim.

She still hasn’t said anything and the knot in the pit of his stomach is tightening to a degree he can no longer tolerate.

“Can you just say something please?” He sounds like an actual child, small and scared.

She sighs. “I’m thinking.”

“Well, think out loud,” he says.

“I don’t want to fight with you, Daniel.”

“Then don’t.”

She walks back over and hands him a plate of toast and marmalade.

“Thank you,” he says quietly.

She sits. Crosses one leg over the other. Reaches up and fiddles with the little gold cross on her necklace.

“You can’t do that, Dan,” she murmurs after an interminable, agonizing silence. “You can’t just leave.”

“Ok.”

“I was fucking worried.”

Oh. He’d not been prepared for that. “Sorry. I just—” he cuts himself off, takes a breath. He doesn’t do this, ever. He doesn’t talk to her about feelings unless he’s screaming them at her rebelliously.

But she’s looking at him, focusing on his face, waiting to hear what he has to say. He wants her to listen. It’s all he ever really wants.

“I just feel like you don’t listen. You don’t care. Dad either.”

She gets a sad, frustrated look on her face. “Do you ever think that perhaps sometimes we feel the same way?”

“I have to listen to you,” he says. “You’re my parents. I don’t have any choice.”

“Do you, though?” She asks. “Because to us all it seems is that we ask you to do things and you don’t do them.”

“You don’t ask me,” Dan says. “You tell me I have to.”

She nods. “That’s fair. Sometimes it isn’t a question. But what would you have us do, then? You know we aren’t made of money. We’ve spent years paying for everything you want to do, but the older you get the more expensive your interests become. You used to want toys from Poundland, now you want us to buy you tickets to Paris for weekend trips with your friends. If you want us to treat you like an adult, you’ve got to start acting like one sometimes. And that means taking responsibility for some of your own financial needs. You know we love you, bear. This is your home and we’ll always be here to make sure you’ve got a place to sleep and you’ve got plenty of food and you’ve got whatever you need for college. But we can only do so much before we need you to start doing things for yourself as well.”

He’s not used to her speaking to him in such an honest tone. He doesn’t really like what she’s saying, but feeling like she’s going to pay attention to whatever he says back makes him choose his words carefully. “I don’t like that you and Dad decided where I should work without me even having a say in it. I’d be shit at Focus.”

“Alright,” she says. “Can we make a deal, then?”

“Okay…” He waits to hear what she has to say.

“We’ll both work on trusting each other more. Your dad and I will try to give you more freedom to make your own choices, but you’ve got to prove to us that you will meet us halfway. We’ll give you until the end of the month to put in at least five applications. If you don’t hear anything back from those places, we’ll have a sit down conversation about where to go from there.” She lets him finish the bite of toast he’s just taken before she adds, “We’re not your enemies, Dan. We love you.”

“Doesn’t feel like Dad does sometimes,” Dan mumbles. He feels childish again, like it’s a childish accusation, but he can’t help the way his heart feels.

“Your dad does get angry,” she admits. “And he shouldn’t. He just wants a lot for you. We both do.”

He could argue that. He’s got the words all ready sitting right on his tongue.

But he doesn’t. Not right now. “Okay.”

“Now,” she says, sipping her own tea. “Can you tell me where you were last night?”

His head dips down. He stares at the surface of his cup, half emptied now. “Across the street,” he says. “At the Lesters’.”

He doesn’t look up, so he can’t tell if she’s surprised or not. “And they didn’t know you were there.” It doesn’t seem like a question. He does look up then, curious at how she’s so certain. “I rang them and asked. Your Nana said you’d been spending a lot of time with their son. But Kathryn told me that you two had gone to the movies and Phil came back alone and had been in his room playing videos since then.”

“I snuck in his window,” Dan says. “And I told him not to tell his mum and dad. I was afraid they’d send me back.”

“We’re not trying to chain you down. But you’re our son and we love you. Of course we’re concerned when we don’t know where you are, if you’re safe or if something’s happened…” He can hear the tremor of genuine distress in her voice, and guilt flares up. Then she squares her shoulders and looks at him. “Alright. Well, it’s not good of you to put me or Phil’s parents in that position, alright? But I’m glad you’ve got a friend you feel like you can turn to, so why don’t we say - if you need a night away at Phil’s, we’ll always allow it. Just as long as you keep us informed, and you have permission from Phil’s parents.”

Would she agree to that so easily if she knew what he did in Phil’s bed barely an hour ago? It makes his face hot to even think about. “Okay,” he mumbles. “Thanks.”

She reaches out and covers his hand with her own, squeezing slightly. She’s got long, cool fingers. They used to feel so much bigger than his own, so safe and comforting. He can’t remember when he stopped holding her hand.

He doesn’t know. He’s not a kid anymore. But he does let her grasp onto his hand and squeeze it. “Alright,” she says. “You can go now.”

He doesn’t really want to go. “I need to have a shower.”

“You’re a teenage boy,” she says. “You always need a shower. Except when you’re in there, taking three times as long as you should doing things that would make your nana blush.”

“Mum,” he says, scandalized. “Jesus Christ. I was gonna ask if you want me to do some chores or help in the garden, but never-fucking-mind.”

“Language, bear.” She grins at him. “And no, that’s not necessary. Just try and not cause World War III with your father when he gets home, alright? I’ll tell him what we agreed to, and he’ll be fine with it, but you might need to give each other a bit of space.”

Dan agrees easily. It won’t be a problem at all. “Thanks for breakfast mum,” he says on his way out of the kitchen.

He really does need that shower.

Chapter Text

It’s evening now and Dan’s spent most of the day by himself in his room, trying to convince himself that space is important. Phil probably doesn’t actually want to spend his every waking (and sleeping) moment with the weird guy across the street.

He has actually managed to spend some time texting with people who aren’t Phil today, so that has to count for something. He’d texted Evie out of sheer guilt for how hard he’d come to the thought of someone else this morning, though he managed to convince her he didn’t have much time to talk. He tries to push away the extreme apathy he has about her right now, but all it really accomplishes is to highlight it. He’s really not ready to examine why things have shifted so far they’re nearly upside down.

The answer is probably obvious. Like really really obvious.

He’d been a few hours into the beautiful distraction from real life that is Halo when he got a text from one of his mates. It was almost jarring at first, seeing a name that wasn’t Phil’s or Evie’s pop up on his phone. The texts had been perfunctory and rather impersonal and he’d been quickly reminded exactly why he’d been finding himself unable to resist spending so much time with Phil.

But he’s got plans for tomorrow night that don’t involve climbing into his neighbour’s window, and he thinks maybe that’s good. Maybe he’s not quite ready for all the changes threatened by Phil’s blue eyes and pale back and broad shoulders and that fucking hair. That fucking hair that makes him look—

Yeah, he’s not ready. He can’t deny it’s a thing after what happened this morning, but at least he’s going to do his damndest not to think about it right now.

And that lasts for all of twenty minutes before he can’t help pausing the game and reaching for his phone and typing out a text for Phil.

so phil

Probably unsurprisingly Phil answers almost right away. so dan

Dan’s smiling at his phone when another message comes in from Phil. are you ok? did your mum like lock you up and throw away the key

no she was well calm actually we kind of talked it was nice

oh that’s good i was kind of worried when you didn’t text me all day

Dan’s just grinning down at the screen like an idiot. How is he ever going to be able to resist this when it makes him feel all warm and happy just seeing the words typed out? Without even the visual of him or the deepness of his voice or the distinct smell like when Dan had pressed his face to Phil’s pillow?

Phil texts again, not that you have to text me all day sorry that sounded weird and stalkerish

chill out mate you’re not the stalker here i’m the one who literally climbed through your window and stowed away in your bed all night Dan texts.

i liked it

Dan has a rather visceral reaction to that. Maybe that hardness between Phil’s legs had been less about natural teenage arousal and more about… well, about Dan. Maybe he had actually liked it in the same way Dan had liked it.

The thought alone threatens to make his own dick hard again.

He jumps when his phone starts ringing.

“Hello?”

“We need to talk like this instead of texting. It’s too easy for me to say weird stuff when I’m just typing.”

Dan’s mind is still reeling slightly. “You didn’t say anything weird.”

“What did you do today?” Phil asks.

“Uh. Nothing. Literally nothing. You?”

“Same. I’ve been hiding in my room so my parents don’t see my hair.”

Dan chuckles. “You can’t hide forever. Are they going to care that much?”

“I dunno. I guess probably not, it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve dyed it.”

“They’ll probably be, like, shocked but in a good way. Like I was.”

There is a rather pointed few moments of silence and Dan wonders if he’s the one making things weird.

“Thanks,” Phil says softly.

Dan has no idea what to say next. Mostly he wishes he was back up there in Phil’s room and not here all alone with all these goddamn feelings.

“So,” Phil says. “I think you had something to tell me?”

“Oh. Oh yeah. I um— do you have plans tomorrow night?”

Phil snorts. “We’ve established the only plans I ever have are with you. Or my computer. Or my XBOX.”

“Do you need a break from me?” Dan asks. “Because I was gonna ask if you wanted to come to a party with me.”

Phil laughs a kind of bitter sound. “Those are two very different questions, mate.”

“Ok. Well. Do you need a break?”

“No.”

“D’you want to go to a party tomorrow night?”

“I… I want to hang out with you tomorrow night,” Phil says.

Dan frowns. “But not at a party?”

“Um. I dunno.” Phil’s voice is doing that weird thing that Dan hates, the same thing it did after the movie theater yesterday.

Dan sighs. “Just tell me what’s going on, okay?”

“I’m just not sure if the hair actually makes me cool enough to go to a real party like that,” Phil says. “With your friends that get drunk at midnight and do… cool kid stuff.”

“You sound like an American after school special,” Dan says. “My friends aren’t that scary. They’re kind of lame too. Plus you’d be with me, right?”

There’s silence that stretches on worryingly long.

“Please?” Dan adds, using the slightly whiny voice he uses on Evie sometimes when they want to see different movies. “I promise I won’t like, abandon you to a bunch of drunk strangers or anything.”

“I - okay,” Phil says. “As long as you promise.”

“Swear on it.” Dan does a dorky little fist pump even though Phil can’t see.

He does have to actually think about the job thing at some point, but even with that… his weekend might be pretty awesome after all.

-

Phil lays on his bed for ten minutes after they end the call, when Dan’s grandmother came back and demanded his presence for family time with her.

Phil should go see his family too, he thinks. He’s starving, and his mum will notice at some point that he never came down for breakfast. It’s not exactly common for Phil to miss a meal.

He’ll have to tell her about the party, too. His mum and dad never minded too much when he hung out with his friends late back home in Rossendale, but his friends there were all people he grew up with. His mum knew all their mums, and they almost always just ended up at someone’s house sneaking beers that never made them more than tipsy and making fun of crap movies or playing video games until far too late.

Those were the kind of parties Phil liked. He doesn’t have any idea what he’s gotten himself into agreeing to this with Dan.

He decides there’s no point in overthinking it and heads downstairs. He hears his mum in the kitchen and says, “Don’t be mad at me, but…”

She turns around before he can even finish. Her mouth drops open. “Well, what have you gone and done?” She puts down the oversized spoon in her hand and walks over, immediately using both hands to fluff and play with his hair.

She doesn’t sound cross, but he hadn’t really expected her to be. It’s funny how he can know that she won’t be really angry, like Dan talked about his dad, but still be scared of new things. “I like it,” he says.

Her expression is appraising, but she slowly nods. “It’s different, I’ll give you that. What brought this about?”

He shrugs. “New school, new start? I mean, I won’t get that many more chances to try out new things with people who don’t know me. Not until uni, at least.”

“Wash your mouth out,” she says, the response she always gives him when he talks about uni and leaving home. He knows it’s just a joke, but he also knows she really does get proper sad when she thinks about not having any kids at home anymore. “Did you do it by yourself?”

“Yeah,” he lies. “Didn’t make too much of a mess of the bathroom, though, don’t worry.”

“If you did, you’ll be the one cleaning it.” She finally stops playing with his hair. “I can’t wait for your father to see it. Might have to explain to him how in this day and age it’s alright for boys to dye their hair, too. He and I had an awful row that first time you did. He said it wasn’t right for little boys to mess about with that.”

Phil’s a bit stunned. He doesn’t remember his dad being upset at all. But his parents aren’t the type to fight in front of him. “Oh. I didn’t know.”

“It all worked out, and that was many years ago.” She cups his cheeks and squishes them a bit. “You look lovely, dear.”

“Thanks.” His smile is tight and distracted. “I have something else to ask.”

She goes back to where she’s mixing something in her favorite baking bowl. “What is it, then?”

“Some of Dan’s friends are getting together tomorrow night,” Phil says, carefully avoiding use of the ‘p’ word - party. “They’re all people I’ll be starting school with in a few weeks anyway, so he’s going to introduce me around.”

“What’s the question?” She asks.

“Oh. I guess. Can I go? And maybe stay out late?” He hadn’t really had a curfew back home, they’d trusted him - mostly.

“That sounds like a lovely idea,” she says. “And Dan’s a nice boy for helping you get settled in so well.”

“He is nice,” Phil agrees. It cheers him back up a bit that his mum likes Dan. “I might hang out with him again today.”

She makes a considering noise. “I thought you might come with me to the shops,” she says. “Your room is a bit sparse, isn’t it? We’ve got new furniture for most of the other rooms, and your dad and I got that nice new bed. Isn’t there anything you might like?”

“Can I have bean bag chairs?” He asks excitedly. “I want beanbag chairs.”

She very clearly thinks he’s ridiculous, but she still laughs. “We’ll see.”

-

Theoretically Dan’s out accompanying his grandmother as she shops for new bushes to plant around the edge of her house. She’d said she needed a strapping young lad to do her heavy lifting, but he thinks she just wanted to make sure that she spent some time with him. His brother’s young enough that he goes everywhere with nana, but Dan had stopped feeling inspired to voluntarily leave the house with any family member years ago.

But when nana asks, he still listens, so he loiters behind her while she chats with seemingly every worker in the garden center about what works best with what she’s already got planted and times of the year and a number of things Dan just does not care about.

Dan’s fine, though. Because he’s been texting nonstop with Phil for two hours now, both of them out shopping and both of them ignoring whatever they’re meant to be doing to keep each other constantly up to date on where they are and entertained.

They even send stupid pictures back and forth, and Dan finds his fingers itching to save the ones with Phil’s face to his camera roll.

His nana catches him taking a selfie against the backdrop of a mildly phallic cactus and corners him. Luckily the symbolism of the plant escapes her, being that she doesn’t have the mind of a teenage boy, but she still gives him a terrifyingly knowing look. Terrifying, at least, until she actually speaks. “I thought that lovely girlfriend of yours would have better things to do on holiday than spend all of her time talking to you.”

His stomach drops. Of course she thinks he’s texting Evie. He feels his face go hot and that must be enough to get her to back off, and it’s a good thing she has done because he really has no idea what to say.

He should be texting Evie. At least, he should be wanting to. She’s the one he should be thinking about.

Then Phil texts him a photo of a beanbag chair and his stomach feels all warm inside again.

gaming is about to get even funner in the lester lair Phil texts.

i literally can’t wait can i come over tonight for a bit?

you’d better. you don’t have to sneak this time though

Dan answers by sending the cactus selfie. He finds himself holding his breath for Phil’s reply. Maybe hoping he’ll— what, flirt? Something anyway.

i love cactuses. when i grow up my house will be full of them

Dan snorts. Whether Phil realizes what that sounds like given the suggestiveness Dan had intended or not, it’s a funny image. His nana turns around again and shakes her head fondly, muttering something about puppy love.

Dan can’t even find it in himself to feel weird about that. He’s just happy.

it’s cacti you dingus

i’ll cacti your mum Phil counters.

“Daniel, put your phone away,” his nana says. “I need your arms, love.”

-

“What should I wear?” Phil asks into his phone. He’s stood half naked in front of his closet, sizing up his rather paltry collection of shirts and trying not to get overwhelmed by anxiety before the night has even begun.

“I dunno,” Dan replies sounding less than interested. “Clothes?”

“But like… what kind? All I have is like, checked shirts.”

Dan chuckles. “Then wear that, mate.”

“But am I like… I don’t want to look like…”

“What?”

Phil sighs. “You know. The weird kid.”

Dan breathes out a sigh of his own. “How many times do we have to have this conversation, Phil? You’re no weirder than me. My friends are alright. They’re not going to judge you for wearing a checked shirt.”

Phil hears the words, he just can’t translate them into anything helpful. He can’t make himself feel any kind of truth behind them. He makes a displeased noise.

“Why don’t you just come over here?” Dan says. “I’ll find you something to wear. Something my mates have seen me wear so you’ll know it’s officially approved.”

A different kind of apprehension kicks up his heart rate then, at the idea of wearing Dan’s clothes. In public. In front of his friends. “Really?”

“Why not?”

“Ok. Thanks.” He puts his phone on speaker and tosses it onto his bed so he can put on a shirt, relieved he doesn’t have to try to find one that makes him look cool. “When should I come?”

“Now.” He hadn’t even hesitated. He quickly adds, “If you want,” almost as if he’d realized too late how eager it made him sound.

“I’ve never been round yours before,” Phil says absentmindedly, walking over to his bedroom window and looking out across the street at Dan’s house. “Would your parents be ok with it?”

“Yeah. I told mum we were going out. Did you tell yours?”

“Yeah, I told my mum. She’s fine with it too.”

“Well you can come over whenever,” Dan says. “I’m not doing anything.”

Phil’s heart is pounding and he hates it and he wants it to stop because it makes him feel kind of out of control, like something big and scary is imminent when in reality it’s nothing, it’s just a guy he likes spending time with, and why should that make him feel so bloody nervous?

“K,” he says over the rising panic. “Be over in a sec.”

They hang up and Phil yanks a random shirt off a random hanger and buttons it up as he stares in the mirror that hangs next to his desk. He’s still not used to the hair. It’s only a different colour but it sort of feels like everything about it is changed, like he has no idea how to style it either, not that he ever really did.

He settles for just kind of pushing it off his forehead and hoping it looks ok. He doesn’t think he’s ever really put this much agonizing thought into what he looks like. It’d never really seemed all that important before.

Why does it now?

He’s not ready to go there, so he picks up his phone and shoves it in the pocket of his jeans and heads for the door.

-

Dan’s never really looked at his room and imagined what someone who wasn’t him would think of it before, but as Phil sits with his long legs crossed on Dan’s bed Dan suddenly wishes the room felt a little more him. The beige and yellow walls, the plain wooden dresser, even his duvet - they’re all things his mum picked out years ago. Dan wishes his room felt like it had the personality that Phil’s does.

The most ‘Dan’ thing about it is the dirty laundry on the floor… and maybe, he thinks, his bear from when he was a kid.

Phil’s holding the bear now, smiling down at it like it’s the sweetest thing he’s ever seen. Evie had the same reaction, but it felt somehow more embarrassing then. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t feel like he needs to impress Phil that way.

“So,” Dan says, holding up two shirts. “These are your options.”

Both are black, but one has a design in streaks of colour… while the other is a faded, well-worn logo. “Smosh?” Phil asks. “Like the youtubers?”

“They’re my favourites,” Dan says.

Phil points to the other one. “Colour, please.”

“Of course.” Dan grins and tosses it to him. “Are you hungry? Tom said for people to show up around nine, but he’s always got shit food, he’s so cheap. It’ll be like, one fucking bowl of pretzels or something.”

“Sure,” Phil says.

“And it’s better to eat something before you drink.” He doesn’t miss how Phil’s smile goes tight. “I mean, you don’t have to, you know? Is it like… do you not drink? Is it a thing for you?”

“No, no,” Phil says. “I’ve - I drink.”

Dan’s not sure if he believes it. “Okay.”

“I’ve just never been drunk,” Phil finishes.

Dan had actually figured that out already, or at least had a strong suspicion. “I promise,” he says, turning away from Phil to swap his own shirt out. “We’ll stick together and it’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”

When he turns back around Phil is pulling the shirt Dan had lent him over his chest. His surprisingly broad chest with its surprising smattering of dark hair and its soft pink nipples—

No. God no. He can’t go there right now. Please, he literally begs his own brain, please. Grant him some fucking peace from constantly discovering new ways to find Phil unnervingly sexy. Please.

Dan manages to avert his eyes before Phil’s head pops through the top of the t-shirt.

“How do I look?” Phil asks, spreading out his arms to showcase himself. Dan really wishes he wouldn’t do that.

He looks good, ok? He looks really fucking good in black, from the hair to the shirt to the jeans.

“Looks good,” Dan mumbles. “Shall we go eat?”

-

The conversation is easy as it ever is with Dan as they walk to wherever it is they’re going. The sun is starting to set and the sky is all vibrant shades of pink and blue, the air warm but cut by a nice breeze that keeps blowing Phil’s hair into his eyes. It’s nice, but there’s an undercurrent of anxiety that thrums stronger beneath Phil’s skin with every step he takes.

Dan seems to notice. He bumps his shoulder into Phil’s. “Hey, man. It’s gonna be fine, I told you. It’s basically gonna be what we always do, just a little louder and with more people. And possibly, like. Drunker.”

Phil forces himself to laugh. He knows Dan’s trying to help, but none of that really makes this feel less nerve-wracking.

“Or not drunker,” Dan says. “I’ll only drink as much as you do, deal?”

Phil wants to be cool and say no, Dan should drink as much as he wants but… he actually really likes the sound of that. “I don’t wanna keep you from having fun…”

Dan just waves his hand in the air dismissively. “Come on we’re almost there.”

They turn off the pavement and onto the drive of a house that’s clearly their destination sooner than Phil is ready, but at least he’s relieved to see that it doesn’t look anything like what he’s seen in films. No one is stood outside making out or smoking anything questionable or being sick into the bushes. He can’t even hear any loud music. Maybe he just needs to relax.

He follows Dan to the front door and stands behind him as he knocks.

Chapter Text

Dan’s friends are nice. Not as nice as Dan, of course, but - nice. Nice and not scary. Maybe not quite as nerdy as Phil’s mates back home, but certainly nothing like Phil had been fearing.

They’re all going to college with Dan and Phil, he’s told, but none of them seem too keen on discussing school all that much. They’re already shouty drunk, the guys at least. There are girls too, off in a group chatting excitedly.

One of them glances over at them. “Oh, hey!” Her face lights up, then she looks around with a frown. “Where’s-”

“Holiday. On holiday,” he calls back. “Just me and Phil tonight.”

Phil wonders who is on holiday, but before he can ask the girl comes up to them, followed by a few of the others. Phil gets introduced all around. Dan still sticks close to him and once the buzz around someone new has died down a bit he leans in and says to Phil, “Okay. Drink or no drink?”

“Drink,” Phil says quickly.

Dan grins. It seems like the right response. “Okay, come on. Tom usually keeps the booze in here.”

Dan leads him to the kitchen. There’s a back door that’s open and at least a few more people outside, but no one bothers them as Dan mixes up a couple of drinks with cheap supermarket lemonade. “I like Malibu, alright,” he says warningly. “No mocking me. It tastes like sugar.”

“Sugar is good,” Phil says immediately. “I didn’t much like the taste of beer.”

“I don’t think anyone does,” Dan says. “Or if they do, they’re lying.”

“I always knew Martyn was a liar.”

Dan smiles and hands Phil one of the drinks. Phil takes it and holds it out for Dan to clink his against. “Cheers?”

“Cheers.”

They clink and Phil takes a tentative sip. “Oh,” he says, surprised by how thoroughly inoffensive it is. “It’s good.”

Dan chuckles. “Yeah.”

“Why would anyone drink beer when they could drink this?” He takes another sip, a longer one this time. He can already feel the beginnings of a pleasant buzz building beneath his skin.

“Good question, mate,” Dan says. “Maybe because it’s easy to get pissed off your tits on this stuff. I’ve been there and trust me, it’s not pretty.”

“I can’t get pissed off my tits,” Phil says solemnly. “My mum will murder me.”

“No tits,” Dan says, grinning.

Phil can’t help giggling. He feels looser already. “Definitely no tits.”

A voice behind them makes Phil jump. “What the fuck are you lot on about, no tits.” There’s a boy there who seems to have come from nowhere shaking his head. “What kind of a thing is that to agree to? Does Evie not have tits now?”

Dan flips the guy the bird and mutters, “Piss off.” It seems to work, as he grabs a drink out of the fridge and wanders off.

Phil doesn’t feel the urge to laugh anymore, but Dan motions Phil forward with his head. “Come on, let’s go find Tom’s copy of Rock Band.”

Evie.

Phil hangs behind. Who is Evie? It’s on the tip of his tongue to ask, but Dan glances around at him with a questioning look and Phil can’t do anything but follow along behind.

-

Dan knows exactly where the Rock Band set up is. He’s spent many summer nights finding ways to escape the people at parties just like this. Video games are always a solid sell; they become more fun the more drunk people get and they stop anyone from trying to have any real conversations with him.

He’s not wrong when he tells Phil that these people are his friends. It’s just a weird, distant kind of friend. He hadn’t even realized how distant until he met Phil and understood what it felt like to find someone that he could get along with so well, without any real effort or having to coax or bribe himself.

He can’t even say that about Evie anymore. Could he ever? It’s hard to remember now.

By the time he’s got the game set up, a couple other people have wandered by and realized what he’s doing. “Four man group,” Dan announces. “Me and Phil get dibs - what do you play, Phil?”

Phil looks startled by the question. ‘Uh, guitar, I guess.”

“I’m on drums,” Dan says. He lets everyone else fight it out while he catches Phil’s eye and tries to smile reassuringly.

Phil meets his smile tightly, and then to Dan’s surprise appears to knock back the whole rest of his drink. Dan’s about to ask if that was a good idea when everyone else seems to have sorted themselves out and started the game up.

-

Phil feels the drink by the time they’re in the third song. He normally has fun playing this, but as soon as he realizes that everyone else is good and that Dan is really good at it, it stops being fun. His friends back home were just as shit as he was.

“Do you want a turn?” He quietly asks one of the people standing around waiting. She grabs the guitar from him with a cheery thanks and he steps back to the side. His drink cup is just where he left it, empty save a few droplets he tries to shake into his mouth.

Dan’s still playing. He hasn’t noticed Phil stopped between songs yet, so it’s easy for Phil to slip out of the room. He heads straight for the kitchen, for where the drink mixers and booze Dan used earlier are. He can’t remember what proportions were right but when he takes a sip of his own concoction, it tastes similar enough to what Dan made. A bit stronger, maybe, but still not bad.

The door to the back garden is still open, but there aren’t voices anymore. He walks out and finds it empty, a lit cigarette still smouldering on the ground and empty beer bottles along the deck railing but devoid of other people.

He loses track of how many minutes pass before he hears footsteps behind him, but it must be a few because his new drink is already half gone.

“There you are,” Dan says. He’s holding a cup that’s freshly refilled as well. “When did you disappear? Got worried I lost you.”

“Who’s Evie?” Phil blurts out.

-

Fuck. Fuck.

He definitely should have known this would happen. Why hadn’t he stopped to think about what to say when this happened?

Why does Phil look like that when he asks it?

“What?” he asks, stupidly, just delaying what is now one hundred percent inevitable.

“Evie,” Phil says. “Who is Evie?” He takes another long drink from his cup. He’s sat on the bottom of the steps leading down from the deck to the grass.

He looks lost and alone and Dan feels guilty in about a million separate ways, but he just… he doesn’t want to have this conversation. Not with Phil. He doesn’t want Phil to know about Evie. He doesn’t want to be thinking about her at all right now.

“Are you-- Phil are you drunk?” It’s a diversion tactic, yes, but he’s also kind of worried. Malibu might taste like sweets but Dan’s been fucked up on it enough times to know that if Phil’s getting down to the bottom on a second cup of it he has to be feeling a little less than sober right now.

“Dunno. Maybe.”

Dan walks down to where Phil is and sits beside him. “Are you ok? I thought we were only going to drink as much as each other. And that we were going to stick together tonight.”

Phil shrugs, looking down to where his shoes are being half swallowed by grass. “I’m pretty crap at Rock Band, apparently.” He lifts his drink to take another sip but Dan stops him.

“Phil, fuck’s sake. You’re gonna make yourself sick.”

“You’ve had just as much,” Phil says.

“I haven’t. And I’m pretty sure I can handle it better than you can anyway.”

“Well catch up, then,” Phil says, looking him square in the face.

Maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe this all will feel less weird and charged if he’s just a little bit drunk. He tips the cup back and chugs until he gets near the bottom. His throat fucking burns and his stomach churns dangerously. “Ugh.”

“Sorry,” Phil says. “I shouldn’t have made you do that probably. Sorry.”

Dan leans back and puts his glass down on the deck before he stands up and walks out into the darkness of the garden.

“Where are you going?” Phil asks.

“I need to lie down so I don’t sick all over you after that.” He flops down onto his back, the grass tickling his ears. Only a few moments later Phil lies down next to him. Right next to him, his shoulder brushing up against Dan’s.

“You’re not actually going to be sick, are you?” Phil asks quietly.

“Don’t think so. You?” It’s not even that the drink was that strong, it’s just how fast he had it and all that sugar and alcohol churning in his stomach along with the queasiness from the conversation.

“I feel alright,” Phil says. “Kinda weird, but not sick. Kind of like, floaty?”

Dan chuckles. “Yeah Phil. That’s called being drunk.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Do you feel like you could say anything and it wouldn’t matter?” Dan asks, turning his head to look at Phil. It’s dark so all he can really see is the outline of his face, contoured softly by the light of the one lamp on the deck.

Phil is staring up at the sky, not seeming to notice that Dan is looking at him. “Maybe not anything,” he murmurs, almost as if he’s forgotten that someone else can hear him.

“Then you’re not drunk. Not full on anyway. Maybe just tipsy.”

Now Phil turns his head, and it makes Dan realize even more how close they really are.

“Do you not want to tell me who Evie is?”

He doesn’t, Dan realizes. He really, really doesn’t.

He takes a breath. The air feels nice in his lungs. It feels cool. Maybe he’s a little drunk, too.

“My girlfriend,” he says quietly.

“Oh.” Phil’s voice sounds - something. Something that puts Dan’s heart in his throat.

“It’s…” Dan’s not sure why he feels compelled to keep talking. He’s not even sure what’s about to come out of his mouth. “Complicated.”

Is it, he wonders? It hasn’t really been until now.

“How?” Phil asks.

Dan doesn’t really have an answer. “Just is,” he says. “We’ve been together a couple years.”

“Where is she?”

“Greece,” Dan says. “With her sister. She’ll be back next week.”

All he gets from Phil is another quiet, “Oh.”

Then nothing. Just silence, and that itches under Dan’s skin until he says, “Phil? What are you thinking?”

“How once she’s back you probably won’t have time to hang out anymore,” Phil says.

The word finally comes to Dan, how Phil sounds: miserable.

“I will,” Dan says immediately. “You’re like, the coolest person I’ve met in ages. I love hanging out with you.”

Phil still doesn’t say anything.

“Phil?” Dan prompts again.

“Yeah?” Phil says.

“I don’t know,” Dan says. He suddenly hates that they ever came to this party. He feels like he’s ruined something nice. Why does he always ruin things?

He watches as Phil downs the rest of the drink.

“Can we go get refills?” Phil asks.

“No.”

Phil makes a little pouty face that’s honestly just way too cute for how rotten Dan feels inside right now. “Why not?”

“Because you’re going to get sick and I don’t want that. I wanted tonight to be fun.”

Phil sits up. “I want it to be fun too. That’s why I want another drink. I want to get to the point where I can say anything and it won’t matter.” He looks down at Dan.

Dan doesn’t know what that means but it makes his stomach jolt. And actually, now that he thinks about it, he kind of wants that too. It might actually be the only thing that can salvage the damage he’s unwittingly caused tonight.

He sits up too. “You have to let me make your drink.”

Phil nods. “Yours tasted better anyway.”

“You have to pace yourself when you drink it. No more chugging,” Dan says sternly. “In fact you can only take a drink when I say so.”

Phil cocks an eyebrow. “You the boss of me now?”

“For tonight, yeah. Yeah I am.”

Phil smiles and shrugs. “Any other rules?”

Dan takes a minute to think. “We have to come back out here. I just want it to be us tonight.” He kind of sucks in a half breath after he says it, not realizing til the words have left his mouth just how strange it probably sounds. Especially since Phil knows about fucking Evie now.

“I want that too,” Phil says quietly. “But if you get all these rules you have to let me make one.”

“Do I?”

“Yes, you do.”

“What is it?” Dan asks cautiously.

Phil is decidedly not looking at Dan when he says, “No more hiding things.”

He feels a bit like he’s been punched in the gut. Phil cares. Phil fucking cares about the Evie thing and there’s no way even Dan could convince himself otherwise. It’s not in his head. There’s something happening here, and it’s not one-sided. Not if Phil is this weird about hearing that Dan has a girlfriend.

God, he really fucking wishes he didn’t have a girlfriend.

“Ok,” he croaks. “No hiding things.”

“Even if you think it’s something I won’t like,” Phil says, staring down into his empty glass, his hair falling down into his eyes. It’s dark and Dan can’t see Phil’s expression and he finds that irrationally frustrating.

“Same goes for you, yeah?” he asks.

“I haven’t hidden anything,” Phil says. “I don’t have a girlfriend. I never have.”

Dan stands up rather suddenly then. He’d like to be properly drunk for this conversation. It feels too much like he’s standing on the edge of a tightrope like this. At least if he’s pissed it won’t hurt so much when he splats face first onto the ground.

“Let’s go get those refills.”

-

Phil is only understanding now what a very real thing liquid courage is.

It’s definitely behind the boldness in his words, and in the way he stands close to Dan once they’re back inside. He watches every move Dan makes as Dan gets them their refills, and then without saying a word takes his cup back and turns to walk into the garden again.

He can hear Dan following him, but he doesn’t stop until he reaches the wooden bench swing near the back fence. He sits and the world tilts a little at how the bench gives underneath him, but he manages to keep his drink upright enough so that it doesn’t spill.

Dan only stands there for a second before he sits down beside Phil. There’s space between them, not as much as there could be but some.

Suddenly Phil smiles. Dan looks at him smiling and seems confused by it, so Phil holds his cup up. “May I take a drink, please, sir?”

Dan laughs and looks relieved. “You may,” he says, and takes a long sip of his own.

There’s more silence then. Phil digs his toes into the ground and starts the swing in proper motion. It’s not built to go far, but he likes how the sky seems to be tilting and turning above him. He won’t be able to stare at it long without it making himself ill, but just for the moment it’s pretty.

“I like the stars,” he says.

“They’re nice.” Dan tips his head back too. “I slept outside one night at Reading last year, but everyone was too loud and drunk so I just spent most of it staring up at the sky.”

“How did it make you feel?” Phil asks.

“Dunno.” Dan shrugs. “Alone. It’s all big and shit out there.”

“Big and shit.” Phil snickers.

“Shut up.” Dan reaches a hand out to shove at Phil’s leg, lightly. Phil’s breath catches a bit at the touch, even though it’s gone right away.

“Can’t make me,” Phil says.

Dan stops looking up and looks over at Phil instead. “Guess not.”

Phil has no idea if this feels so weird because he’s getting drunk or if it’s just… Dan. If all of this is just Dan and what Dan does to him.

“Hey,” Dan says. “You should tell me a secret.”

“I don’t have any secrets,” Phil says again.

“Everyone has secrets.” Dan seems closer all of a sudden, though Phil can’t remember him moving.

“Not me,” Phil quietly lies, because he’s not about to tell Dan things he’s only really starting to face himself. He trusts Dan, but not that much. Not right now.

“Drink,” Dan commands.

“Really?”

“Mhm,” Dan hums and Phil watches him drink before he follows suit.

“Is this how you plan on getting my secrets outta me?” Phil asks, dropping his head back against the swing. It’s starting to feel a lot more floaty now, hazy like everything going on around him is not quite real.

“Maybe,” Dan sing songs.

“Well why don’t you tell me one first?”

“I did!” Dan squawks indignantly.

“What, about your—” Ugh, he doesn’t even want to say it. What is happening to him? “Your girlfriend?” he forces the words out.

“Yeah. That.”

“You didn’t really tell me, I asked you,” Phil argues. “And why was that a secret, anyway?” He watches Dan’s face carefully.

Unfortunately it’s too dark to really make out the minute changes in expression Phil imagines taking place in Dan’s features at the moment.

“It’s complicated,” Dan says again, softly, like he’d rather talk about anything else.

“I don’t know what that means,” Phil says. And he wants to. He kind of feels like he needs to.

“I’m not sure I do either,” Dan whispers.

Phil pushes his toes against the grass to rock the swing again. Gently, because his stomach is feeling a little tender now it’s full of Malibu and butterflies, but enough for a pleasant distraction.

“Is she nice?” Phil asks.

“Yeah.”

“Is she pretty?”

Dan looks over at Phil. Phil pretends he doesn’t see. He’s glad it’s dark and Dan most likely can’t see how red his cheeks must be.

“We don’t have to talk about her, do we?”

“Do you not want to?” Phil asks.

“No.” Dan reaches over and pokes Phil very gently in the arm. “Drink.”

Phil does, without arguing this time. “Can I ask one more thing about her?” he says as soon as he’s swallowed.

“If you must.”

“Why don’t you want to talk about her?”

Phil watches Dan pulls his legs up to his chest and tuck his chin over his knees. “Because I don’t want to think about her.”

“Oh.” Phil hates how much he likes that. He doesn’t even know what it really means but he knows it’s not something a person in love would be likely to say and that… that makes him really freaking happy.

“I only want to think about you.”

Phil can’t form words. He can’t remember how.

“Are you drunk enough for that not to have been like, a super awkward thing to say?” Dan asks after a prolonged and very charged silence.

“Um. I don’t know?”

“Drink,” Dan says. “Drink a lot.”

Phil snort-laughs, but he tips his glass back and lets the sweet courage and escape from all these pesky inhibitions slosh down his throat.

“Ok, fuck fuck, stop Phil, stop. Shit. Bad mate, I am.” He reaches out and pushes Phil’s glass away from his lips. “Stop. Are you going to be ill?”

“Don’t think so,” Phil croaks. “My head feels like a hot air balloon.”

Dan laughs. “Good. Because it’s your turn to tell me a bloody secret.”

“I don’t want to talk about Evie either,” Phil blurts.

“So we won’t talk about her,” Dan says, satisfaction in his voice.

“Then what will we talk about?” Phil asks.

Phil’s head kind of droops to the side, and Dan’s does the same thing.

“Dunno,” Dan says. Their faces are so close - not close enough to touch, just close enough for Phil to see right into the dark brown of Dan’s eyes.

They must look ridiculous. Phil’s glad no one else is out here. He still doesn’t like parties, he thinks. And because the filter going from his brain to his mouth is curiously absent, he says out loud, “I don’t think I like parties.”

“That’s okay,” Dan mock whispers. “I don’t like them too much either.”

“I thought you did!” Phil is affronted. “You made me come!”

Dan’s mouth definitely doesn’t twitch at the corner. But if it does, it’s probably good Phil’s not thinking clearly enough to realize what he said.

“I thought it’d be more fun with you,” Dan says. “Everything’s more fun with you.”

Phil’s not sure how it is that his body can process so many awful feelings and then so many amazing ones all in the same hour. “Can we leave, though?”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “We can leave.”

Phil doesn’t wait for Dan to give him permission to take a drink this time, he just knocks the cup back and swallows it in one long go. It definitely doesn’t help the sloshing in his stomach or the way his legs feel wobbly when he gets to his feet. “Oh,” he says, flailing an arm out in surprise. He didn’t feel nearly as odd when he first sat down. He doesn’t think.

“I gotcha, mate,” Dan says, one hand on Phil’s arm steadying him. “Where do you want to go?”

“Not home,” Phil says immediately. “My mum would be so cross.”

“Come to mine?” Dan asks, without even a moment’s hesitation.

“You don’t have a window tree.”

Dan shrugs. “We don’t have to be sneaky. Mum won’t care. She might not even be there. Just keep it together long enough to get up the stairs if she is and we’ll be fine.”

“Am I like— like d'you mean for the night?” Phil asks. He hopes desperately that the answer is yes.

Dan chuckles. “Yes, Phil. I’m not going to send you home in the literal middle of the night half-drunk. You can sleep with me.”

Phil’s eyes are locked onto Dan’s, his heart racing at that particular phrasing. Dan either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

“Ok. Thanks,” Phil says. “I guess I’ll just ring my mum—” he digs his hand into the pocket of his jeans but Dan stops him, clapping his own hand over Phil’s.

Over Phil’s. High up on his thigh and towards the middle.

He keeps his hand there. “Better not. You— you kind of sound super sloshed, mate.”

“Oh right,” Phil says. He’s kind of leaning into Dan now, whether that’s for support for his wobbly body or just because he wants to, he’s not even sure anymore. “Text?”

Dan fully lifts his hand. “Text is good. Just watch for excessive typos.”

Phil types out a message to his mum about sleeping over at Dan’s, then holds his phone out with a solemn expression so Dan can proof-read. At Dan’s nod, he hits send. He’s slightly afraid she’ll ring him back, but the response he gets a few minutes later just asks him to be home for breakfast the next morning because she needs his help around the house again.

-

Dan’s house is quiet. It’s late enough that his brother will certainly be asleep, and his mum and dad’s cars are in the drive but the house is silent. His parents must be in his their bedroom or in the office working.

He’s glad - it means he can focus on his attention on helping Phil not fall up the stairs. Dan feels a bit drunk himself, but he’s made this wobbly journey enough times that he trusts his own feet underneath him. Phil’s feet - well, they’re barely underneath him at all, they seem to be going everywhere.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, for the tenth time.

There’s no real way for Dan to explain how very little he minds the way that Phil is holding onto his arm and leaning his whole body into Dan’s.

They make it up the stairs and into the hallway. Phil stops abruptly. “Dan,” he says.

Dan claps a hand over his mouth. “Shh. My brother’s room is just over there. He’s a heavy sleeper, just don’t shout or anything.”

Phil’s eyes are still wide. “Dan,” he whispers.

“What?” Dan asks.

“There’s a monster in your hallway.” Phil raises a finger and points to a shadowy lump just to the side of Dan’s door.

Dan squints in the half-light of the hall, then covers his own mouth to laugh. “Phil, that’s just my dog. He’s asleep.”

“You have a dog?” Phil asks. “You’ve never mentioned having a dog! You do not have a dog.”

“Mate, I have a dog,” Dan says. “He’s right there. You can see him.”

“He’s not moving. Is he dead?”

“Fuck off, my dog is not dead, he’s just old and sleeps hard.”

But now that Phil’s mentioned it, Dan frowns and walks over to him. He reaches down and scratches the top of his head. He lifts his head, wags his tail exactly once, then puts his head back down.

“See?” Dan whispers. “He just likes to sleep by my door when I’m not home.”

“Dan.” Phil’s voice sounds a little wobbly. “That’s really sweet. I want a dog. My mum won’t let me have one. Can I pet him?”

“In the morning,” Dan says. “Or like, later or something. When we’re not trying to not wake everyone up.”

He lets Phil into his room. Phil heads straight for Dan’s bed and flops down face first into Dan’s pillow. For a second Dan thinks maybe Phil actually passed right out, but then he realizes Phil’s feet are doing weird things again. It takes even longer for Dan to realize that what he’s doing is trying to get his shoes off, toeing at the back of one shoe with the toe of the other.

Dan steps forward and grabs one of Phil’s shoes in his hands, tugging until it slides off easily. He reaches down and does the same with the other. Phil’s sock comes half off with it, so on pure whim Dan takes both of Phil’s socks off as well.

Phil’s response is a muffled, “Thanks,” into Dan’s pillow. Dan reaches out and grabs Phil’s feet again, one hand on each. He strokes up to Phil’s ankles and then just loosely grips there.

“Do you just want to sleep?” Dan asks.

Phil rolls over. His shirt has ridden up and his stomach is bare from the tops of his jeans to just over his belly button. “I don’t know.”

“Do you want to… get in bed?” Dan asks. He rubs his thumb back and forth against the bony bump of Phil’s ankle.

“With you?” Phil asks.

“Unless you want me to sleep on the floor,” Dan offers.

He really doesn’t want to sleep on the floor.

Phil holds both of his hands out briefly, then stares at them and drops them as if he only just realized he was doing it. He covers his face with them instead and lets out a little whine that tugs at something in Dan’s chest in the sweetest way. “I feel so weird.”

“You’re okay,” Dan says, squeezing his ankles again. “I’m gonna go get some water for you, alright? And um, one for me too.”

He doesn’t think either of them are in sick-territory - but he knows Phil’s never experienced this before, that even if he’s had a drink or two before he’s probably never downed three strong ones in under an hour.

So he goes and fetches them both glasses of water, and when he comes back Phil is sitting up on the bed looking conflicted. “I didn’t bring my pajamas.”

“Drink this,” Dan says. “I’ll get you something to wear.”

When he turns back, pajama pants and a t-shirt in hand, Phil’s glass is emptied. “All gone,” he says, putting it on the table by Dan’s bed. Then he stands and yanks his shirt over his head, exhibiting none of the shyness he’d had when he’d avoided changing in front of Dan the other night.

Then he goes a step further and takes his jeans off too, unceremoniously pushing them down his legs and stepping out of them. He gets dressed, the only indication that he knows exactly what he’s doing in the redness of his cheeks.

“Your turn,” Phil says when he’s done.

Dan still can’t do anything but stand there. He wants to memorize the long, lanky lines of Phil’s body and even more the soft bulge at the front of his pants and the way his dick shifted under the material when he moved to take the jeans off.

It takes Phil laughing a bit to jog Dan’s brain back into functioning. “Yeah,” Dan says. “I - gotta piss. I’ll change in the toilet.”

Rum and all, he still needs the time to calm down before he can get in bed beside Phil.

“Oh. Ok,” Phil is saying but Dan’s already halfway out the door, the first sweats he could find clutched in his fist.

“Be right back.”

Once in the bathroom he splashes cold water on his face and brushes his teeth and tries hard to just— not think. To not think about all the things that have been said tonight and all the feelings swirling around inside his chest.

To not think about the fact that Phil is wearing his clothes and waiting for him in his bed. His very small, one person-sized bed.

He considers just wanking one out quickly, but then there’s a buzzing in the jeans he’s discarded on the floor. He reaches into the pocket and fishes out his phone and there’s a message from Phil saying come back plz i’m lonely

He’ll just have to go back drunk and tense and full of longing for his friend. He’ll have to find a way not to make it weird like he did last time.

Phil is lying on top of the blanket when Dan comes back, somehow with his shirt rucked up on his stomach again. It’s almost like he’s doing this on purpose.

He beams at Dan. “You’re back.”

Dan feels flooded with warmth from head to toe just from that smile alone. “I’m back.”

“Dan I think I’m drunk.”

Dan giggles. “Yeah, Phil, I think you are.” He’s still stood just inside the doorway, his head spinning a little, unsure of his next move. Looking at the bed now it seems impossible that they’re both going to sleep there tonight. They’d have to be absolutely all over each other.

“Are you coming or what?” Phil asks, making the decision for him.

“Are you sure?” Dan asks, shutting the door behind him but hesitating to come closer. “My bed is even smaller than yours.”

“Did you not— did I make you uncomfortable the other night or something?” Phil asks. “Is it because I had like, a little bit of a boner in the morning?”

Dan feels his brain short circuit in real time.

“Oh shit,” Phil says, throwing his head back on the pillow and burying his face in his hands. “Shit,” he mumbles. “Did I just say that?”

“Um. You did,” Dan manages to squeak out. “But like… I had one too, so it’s not— that’s not a problem, like. That’s normal, yeah? It’s totally fine.”

“I knew you did,” Phil says, face still smushed between his palms. “I felt it.”

“Well I felt yours too!” Dan half shouts.

“Dan!” Phil hisses. “Don’t shout, remember?”

“Oops, fuck.”

Phil finally pulls his hands away. “Just come here,” he says. “You know I’m not gonna let you sleep on the floor.” He pats the very small amount of space next to him. “Plenty of room.”

Dan snorts. “Right. Should I like… put something on the telly first, or…?”

Phil shakes his head. “Wouldn’t be able to focus on anything like that right now. Maybe just turn off the light and come here. We can just talk or something.”

Dan tries not to think too hard about ‘or something.’ He turns off the lights and walks over to the bed, half tripping over Phil’s clothes on the way.

Phil has managed to slip under the covers and is holding them up for Dan to slip under as well. He does, and it’s already warm from Phil’s body. They both lie on their backs, their sides pressed together so tightly it’s ridiculous. There’s no way they’ll last the whole night without some overlapping happening.

“Hey Dan, I think I thought of a secret.”

“Really? What is it?”

“I usually sleep without a shirt on.”

“Oh.” Yet again he’s rendered momentarily unable to process rational thought or speech capabilities. “Uh. Did— did you want to—”

Phil cuts him off. “Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you normally sleep with a shirt?”

“Um. No…”

Phil makes a face like this information displeases him greatly. “You didn’t tell me.”

“I mean… why would I? I was sleeping in your bed. You were doing me a favour. I wasn’t about to—”

“Shoot, I shouldn’t have told you that, should I?” Phil interrupts again. “I wasn’t trying to— I didn’t think.”

Dan chuckles. “That’s kind of what happens when you chug a bunch of rum, Phil.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

“Did you… want to like, not? Wear your shirt? Like did you wanna take it off?”

“I was kind of thinking that but like I said, I wasn’t thinking. I guess that’d be weird, right?”

Dan sits up. This is another one of those strange moments where the conversation feels like it’s going places his mind isn’t ready to accept, so he relies on impulse instead and yanks his shirt over his head. “There,” he says, not even sure what point he’s making.

And then rethinking that mystery point entirely when Phil does the same thing and leaves them both shoulder to shoulder and bare chested in Dan’s bed.

There’s silence again. Somewhere else in the house, a door closes slightly too loudly. His mum must be going to bed, Dan thinks. “You remember where the toilet is, right? In case you need a wee in the night?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, then giggles. “Won’t wet your bed.”

“You better fucking not.” Dan’s foot kicks out and connects with Phil’s leg. It doesn’t take much effort; they were practically touching to begin with. “Are you sleepy yet?”

“Yeah,” Phil admits. “I think? I don’t know. My bones feel heavy.”

“Do you hate me for making you go to the party?” Dan asks in a quieter voice, hoping the answer won’t be too crushing.

But all Phil says is, “No. I guess I don’t hate any time I spend with you. Even if parts of it… weren’t as fun.”

Dan turns onto his side. He just wants to look at Phil. Phil turns his head too, and their eyes are staring straight into each other’s. “I’ll make it up to you tomorrow. We’ll do something extra fun.”

Phil’s smile is small and sweet, his words excited. “We’re going to hang out tomorrow?”

“Mhm,” Dan says. “Hang out every day until you’re sick of me.”

“Won’t get sick of you,” Phil promises. Their voices are both low and drowsy now. “Mum wants me to come home for breakfast, but you can come with me.”

Dan can’t remember the last time his heart felt so warm. “Okay.”

His eyes close and stay shut for a long time. When he opens them again, Phil’s are closed too. Maybe it’s not having to look at him that gives Dan the bravery to shift in closer and put his arm around Phil.

He gasps a small sound when Phil’s arm wraps around him too, pulling him in impossibly close. Phil’s chest is warm against his and he can smell that smell that he already knows as distinctly Phil.

“Is this ok?” Phil whispers. He sounds far away.

Dan presses his hand flat against Phil’s lower back. It’s so much more than ok, but words escape him right now. At least ones that do justice to the incandescent happiness alight within his chest. “Mhm,” he hums. “Goodnight Phil.”

“Night Danny.”

Chapter Text

Phil wakes up feeling - warm. It’s the first thought that comes to him, that there’s just warm all over, head to toe.

The second thought is that he really has to wee.

But the third is that he’s not in his own bed, and all that warm is actually Dan. Dan’s arms around him, Dan’s leg against his. The bed is too small and in the night they’ve both twisted and turned their bodies seeking comfort and space, entwining themselves together in a way Phil’s never been with another person. He’s sure if he hadn’t been drunk he wouldn’t have been able to sleep this way.

As it is he’s wide awake five seconds after his eyes open for the first time. Phil’s on his back with Dan’s head on his chest, one of Dan’s arms squished between them and the other across Phil’s stomach, fingers lax against Phil’s side.

He’d probably already be turned on if his head didn’t hurt and his stomach didn’t feel a touch off. The hangover keeps his hormones calmed but it doesn’t stop his heart from racing. He can even feel Dan breathing, each warm little puff of air against his skin.

Because… he’s not wearing a shirt.

Fuck. That memory comes back to him. Why’d he said that, why’d he done those things?

Why… why hadn’t Dan seemed to mind at all?

There’s no way he can extricate himself from Dan’s embrace without waking him up. He doesn’t really want to, but he also doesn’t want Dan to wake up and realize he’s let this thing go way too far.

He has a girlfriend after all. The recollection of that rolls over Phil like a wave of freezing cold sea water. Dan has a girlfriend.

A girlfriend he doesn’t want to talk about.

He doesn’t have time to spiral before he feels Dan’s fingers tighten their grip on his side, his head kind of… kind of nuzzling into his chest. Phil wonders if Dan can feel the way his heart is racing against his cheek.

It’s only then that he realizes his arm is kind of crushed and numb under Dan’s neck. They really are well and truly cuddling, and fear spikes in his gut. The details of the part of the night where they’d come back to Dan’s and gotten into bed without shirts is hazy at best. Had he pressured Dan into an intimacy he was too polite to say no to?

But Dan is gripping Phil’s side and squeezing his arm tighter ‘round Phil’s middle, hitching his leg up higher on Phil’s thigh. He groans a sleepy sound and murmurs, “Mmf. Morning.”

Just like that. Like there’s nothing unusual going on here. Like they’re not half naked and all over each other.

Phil decides to just go with it. Because it’s nice - cutting through the nerves and confusion, it feels really actually very nice to have Dan’s arms around him cuddling into him. He wiggles his arm a bit, not like he wants to move it but just to get the blood flowing a bit, and rubs his palm between Dan’s shoulder blades. “Good morning. I feel like shit.”

He feels Dan laughing. “Yeah. Sorry. ‘S the rum.”

“Curse the rum,” Phil says. “Tasty tasty rum.”

Dan sits up then, propping himself on his elbow. It frees Phil’s arm but they still don’t move the rest of their bodies. “This okay?” Dan quietly asks.

Phil isn’t sure what the question is really meant to encompass, but his answer is the same no matter what. “Yeah. It’s okay.”

Dan’s smile is warm and sleepy. “Good.”

“Hey,” Phil says, reaching up. His fingers tug at a lock of Dan’s hair. “Curls.”

Dan makes a face. “Yeah. Fucking hate my hair.”

“I like it,” Phil says. “It’s cute.”

“You’re…” Dan seems to freeze up, the words dying on his tongue. He does sit up then, extricating himself from Phil. “You’re probably wanting a coffee, right?”

“Sure,” Phil says, immediately reaching up to try and fix his own hair. It’s always a mess of bedhead in the morning and he feels weirdly exposed right now. “And maybe some paracetamol if you’ve got it.”

“Sure.” Dan makes his way off the bed and grabs a t-shirt from the floor. “Be right back. You know where the toilet’s at if you need it.”

Phil does, actually. He finds his own t-shirt in amidst the dirty laundry on Dan’s floor.

He still doesn’t feel fantastic, but having a piss and rinsing his mouth out with the mouthwash in Dan’s bathroom helps. He’s just trying to sort his hair (black - still not used to the black) into something less ridiculous when the door flies open.

There’s a little boy standing there, maybe ten. He stares at Phil. “Who are you?”

“Um. Dan’s friend,” Phil says.

“I gotta pee.” The boy looks half asleep still. “Can you move?”

“Uh. Sure.” Phil heads back to Dan’s room, unsure what else to do.

Dan’s standing there. He’s got his phone in his hands, but he looks up startled when Phil walks in. “Oh. I thought you left.”

“Just needed a wee,” Phil says. “I saw your brother in the hallway. Is he going to tell your mum I’m here?”

“I already did,” Dan says. “She’s fine with it. I told her I was going back to yours but… then you weren’t here and I didn’t… well, never mind. Coffee’s going, sorry, it’ll be a proper cup. Don’t have any of your instant shit here.”

“I’ll forgive you,” Phil says, cautiously finding his way back to normality. “Eventually.”

Dan seems to appreciate the joke. His shoulders slump into something even more relaxed. “We’re… okay?” He asks. “You’re not mad at me for last night?”

If Phil were a braver person, he’d probably ask Dan which part of last night he meant. The things they talked about laying outside at the party? Going to the party at all? Later, in bed, the… the cuddling?

But Phil isn’t that brave so he just smiles and says, “We’re good. Although I slightly feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.”

“If you haven’t been sick everywhere I’d say you should count yourself lucky. You went kind of mental on the Malibu.”

Phil’s stomach turns a little remembering exactly why it was he’d felt the need to do that, but he’s not brave so he doesn’t say anything about that either.

“I’m sorry about that, by the way,” Dan says quietly. “I was supposed to make sure you were ok last night.”

“I was ok.”

“You drank too much. Like way too much in that span of time.” Dan shoves his phone in his pocket and walks over to his his nightstand and picks up the glass of water that waits there.

“I was fine,” Phil insists. “I am fine. Just a little… queasy. A little headache-y.”

“Still,” Dan says. “I fucked up. Here.” He hands the water to Phil and then fishes something out of his other pocket. “This should help.” He drops a sheet of tablets into Phil’s outstretched palm.

Phil pops two out of the blister pack and swallows them, chugging the whole cup in one go. He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and says, “You didn’t fuck anything up. We’re good, remember?”

Dan doesn’t look convinced, in fact he looks kind of sad. “Sure, yeah,” he mutters. “Coffee?”

He starts to walk towards the door and Phil has a tiny surge of the bravery he’s been looking for at the thought that Dan could possibly believe Phil was anything but overjoyed to spend the night with him. He reaches out and grabs Dan’s arm, gently but firm enough to stop him in his tracks.

“Dan. I had fun last night.”

Dan looks down at his arm and then up at Phil’s face with a little frown. “The party sucked.”

“Not at the party, I mean. Like, everything else. Everything after. It’s not just fine. I liked it.”

He shouldn’t say things like that. Dan has a girlfriend.

But then Dan smiles.

Fuck the girlfriend. She’s not here.

“I did too,” Dan murmurs.

“Good. Now let’s go have some coffee.”

-

Dan’s not sure where the day has gone, but ten hours later he’s stretched out on his stomach on Phil’s bed with a belly full of dinner, compliments of Kath, and a game controller in his hands.

Phil’s sitting on the floor with his back against the bed, head just inches away from Dan’s hands. “Take it, take that shell- eat my shells-”

“Mate,” Dan says, bonking Phil on the head with the controller. “You can’t literally shit talk me after I’ve already won.”

“Can too,” Phil says. “It’s a psychological tactic. For… the next game.”

“The next game?” Dan grins. “Assumptive, there.”

“Oh.” Phil’s face falls. “Were you going to leave?”

“Nah,” Dan says. “It’s Saturday, if I go home while my nana’s still there she’ll tell me she wants me to go to church with her tomorrow.”

“Ew,” Phil says. “Definitely stay then. I can go get us some snacks if you want?”

“You had thirds at dinner,” Dan says. “How can you possibly still want food?”

Phil shrugs. “I’m a-”

“Growing boy,” Dan finishes for him. “If you grew at the rate you ate you’d be like ten meters tall.”

“Maybe I’ll have another growth spurt.”

“I hope I don’t.” Dan rolls over onto his back, head hanging off the side of the bed. “They suck.”

“Your mum sucks,” Phil says, shifting around too. Dan watches him get comfortable, smiling at how Phil’s face looks when he’s distracted like that.

He ends up still sat there but with one arm resting on the bed, head against that arm.

“Probably,” Dan agrees. “I think I walked in on it once.”

“Dan! That’s so gross!” Phil manages to be horrified and laugh at the same time. “I’m choosing to believe that my mum was artificially inseminated.”

“That’d just mean your dad wanked in a cup though,” Dan says. “Isn’t that worse?”

“You are such a pervert.” Phil pokes him in the forehead.

Dan pretends to wiggle away from it, but he doesn’t go far. He has that problem with Phil… never wanting to be too far away.

There’s a knock on the door, and then Kath pushes it open. She seems unphased by seeing Dan hanging half off her son’s bed, but Dan still sits up. His face feels red with the rush of blood from being almost upside down.

“Popcorn!” Phil shouts in possibly the happiest voice Dan’s ever heard from him.

“I can’t believe you encourage his inhuman eating habits,” Dan says to Kath, who just laughs.

“Best if I make sure he has snacks, otherwise he’ll just eat everything in the pantry.” She hands them a couple of pieces of kitchen roll as well. She gives Phil a warning look. “I don’t want to find this bowl under your bed a year from now.”

“Yes mother,” Phil says, dripping with fake-innocence.

She looks at Dan. “Will you be staying over, Dan?”

Dan looks at Phil. He’d planned on it. They hadn’t even talked about it. Phil’s looking back at him with a curious kind of expectation. “Do you want to?” Phil asks.

Kath seems to miss how loaded a question that is.

“If that’s alright,” he says cautiously, not even sure who to look at.

“Of course. We’ve got an air mattress packed away in a box somewhere. Phil will find it, won’t you child?”

Phil manages to remain composed. “Sure mum. Thanks.”

“Thank for the snacks Mrs— Kath,” Dan says.

She laughs. “Mrs. Kath. That’s a new one.”

“Ok thanks mum, byyyye,” Phil says waving.

“I guess the day has finally come for Philip to be embarrassed of his mother,” she says looking at Dan. Then she looks at Phil. “I suppose sixteen years was a good run.”

Phil sticks out his tongue and she laughs again as she closes the door behind her. Dan feels a little pang of something sad but it’s gone in an instant as he looks down and beholds the spectacle of Phil shoving the most enormous fistful of popcorn he’s ever seen into his mouth.

“You’re disgusting,” he murmurs fondly. “Is it actually ok if I stay over, though? I didn’t know if you wanted me to—”

“I want you to, dummy.”

Dan smiles. He’s sat up cross-legged on the bed now but kind of wishing he had an excuse to dangle his head off the edge again. They’d been so close like that.

Phil is busy munching popcorn and asking, “What should we do now? D’you wanna keep playing?”

“Mm, reckon we should go hunting for that air mattress, no?”

Phil turns around to look at him. “Oh. Oh, ok. Sure.”

Dan frowns. “Do you not want my help? Digging through boxes sounds like shitty work.”

“It’s not that, I just— I mean I guess I was thinking you’d just…” He turns around so his back is to Dan. He clears his throat. “Anyway. Yeah. We should do that.”

He starts to stand up and the realization hits Dan square in the face that Phil doesn’t want him to sleep on air mattress anymore than he does.

“Phil, can I sleep in your bed?”

“Yeah, of course. I can take the air mattress.”

Dan rolls his eyes. “No you dumbass, I meant like, with you. In your bed with you.”

“Oh.” Phil is clutching his popcorn bowl as if for dear life. “Um. Yeah. I’d— yeah. Definitely.”

“You make a nice pillow,” Dan says softly. His heart is beating a little too fast for it to feel casual, but he’s trying to anyway.

“I’m not very soft,” Phil argues with no conviction whatsoever.

“You’re the softest person I’ve ever met.” Then, because he feels just way too exposed to let the silence drag on another second, “Now gimme some of that before you eat it all. I’m a growing boy too.”

He tugs the bowl over, and Phil comes with it, so Dan just shifts over and makes room for him on the bed.

“Movie?” Phil asks, voice cracking halfway through. “I could put a movie on.”

“That’d be good,” Dan says. He doesn’t have much interest in watching anything specific, but he likes the idea of being sat here by Phil some more. “What have you got?”

“Scary movie?” Phil asks, grinning.

Dan hasn’t exactly forgotten the movie they saw the week before, but… he also hasn’t forgotten Phil’s leg against his. “Okay.”

“I was joking,” Phil says. “I know you don’t like them.”

“I do!” Dan insists. “I do like them.”

Phil’s definitely suspicious. “But it’s dark out.”

“I know,” Dan says. “Find one that’s fucking scary. I can handle it.”

“I don’t believe you at all,” Phil says. “Just for the record.”

“Well.” Dan puffs out his chest as much as he can… which isn’t much at all. “Get ready to be proven wrong.”

-

Twenty minutes into the movie, and Dan is definitely terrified.

They’re in pajamas now, Dan borrowing from Phil. The sight of him looking cozy in Phil’s shirt and Phil’s cartoon patterned bottoms still hasn’t worn off. Is it weird to like your friend wearing your clothes so much? Probably, Phil thinks, and adds that weirdness to the pile of growing weirdness that he’s still mostly ignoring.

“We can turn it off,” Phil says. He can feel every time Dan jumps even more closely than he had in the movie theater.

“Shut up,” Dan says. “This is a good part.”

Phil looks at the screen. He’s seen the movie before, and Dan’s wrong. This is actually one of the boring parts. But even the creepy music seems to be doing its job.

“Fuck!” Dan squeaks, when a branch taps the window onscreen. Then turns his head… right into Phil’s shoulder. When he raises it it’s only a fraction and to glare at Phil and say, “Shut up.”

“I’m not saying anything,” Phil says.

And he’s really not. In fact, is there even a movie still playing? Because Dan’s leaving his head on Phil’s shoulder and it’s gotta be a little uncomfortable but Phil really hopes he doesn’t move it.

After a few minutes, Phil decides to make it more comfortable and slouches down. Dan lifts his head curiously, but Phil just fluffs his pillow up and lays down properly. He looks at Dan and their eyes meet, a silent invitation passed between them.

Dan lays down too, head finding that same spot again as he drapes his arm across Phil’s middle. Phil’s heart is pounding as he lifts his own arm and lets it rest over Dan’s shoulders.

There’s no excuse of drunkenness or being half asleep to blame this time. They’re cuddling, and it’s only because they want to. It’s nice. It’s just so nice and warm and comforting that Phil forgets they’re watching a horror movie.

Until something happens on the screen that makes Dan squeeze around Phil’s middle tighter and push his face into Phil’s chest. Phil chuckles and rubs Dan’s shoulder.

“Shut up,” Dan mumbles again into Phil’s shirt.

“Still not saying anything.”

“I’m gonna have the most fucked up dreams tonight.”

“I’ll be here,” Phil promises.

Dan tilts his head up to look at Phil’s face. “You’ll protect me?”

Phil can’t do anything but nod.

At one point they hear footsteps in the hall and Dan jumps again, but it’s just Kath. Not that the prospect of being caught snuggled up with a boy in his bed is really all that much less terrifying than an axe wielding psychopathic maniac to Phil, but she just gives a soft knock on the door and asks him to turn it down a little and get some sleep soon.

Dan says, “Goodnight Mrs. Kath,” with such cheery innocence that Phil almost feels sad for a moment. Sad that this isn’t really his life, it’s just— a blip. Soon Dan’s girlfriend will come back from Greece and most likely Phil will be alone again, left wondering what it meant that Dan so eagerly and seamlessly fits himself into Phil’s space, both literally and figuratively.

The movie ends and Phil turns it off so they don’t have to listen to the main menu song play on loop. Dan’s still clutching Phil’s waist. Phil is tracing slow circles on Dan’s shoulder. Neither is talking but it feels ok. It feels easy, like this is what they’re meant to be doing.

Phil’s eyes are heavy and he lets them drift closed. He feels a shuffling against his body but it’s just Dan pulling the duvet up over them both.

Someone’s phone starts ringing, somewhere on the floor.

“Is that mine?” Phil asks sleepily.

“It’s mine.” Dan’s voice sounds tight.

“Your mum?”

Dan shakes his head against Phil’s shoulder. “I already told her I was here.”

“D’you wanna get up and—”

“No.”

Phil opens his eyes and looks down at Dan who looks right back up at him.

“What if it’s—”

“I don’t care,” Dan says curtly. “I don’t fucking care. I want to stay right here. Ok? Can I stay right here?”

Phil tightens his grip around Dan’s shoulders and pulls him in even closer. “Stay. Always stay.”

“Yeah,” Dan whispers, gripping tight around Phil. There’s a pause that stretches with the tension of the moment then Dan says, “Might have to piss at some point though.”

Phil laughs so loudly he’s surprised his mum doesn’t come tell him to hush up again. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I think you are for laughing at my dumb jokes,” Dan says. “No one else does. I think most people just find me obnoxious. People literally do ask to be transferred to desks away from mine in school.”

“Well I’ll sit next to you,” Phil says, feeling protective over Dan and angry at anyone who makes him feel bad about himself. “In… the one course we’ll have together.”

“Just come sit with me in all of them,” Dan says. “Say you’re new and don’t know where anything is.”

“Can you imagine me in law, though?” Phil laughs at the idea.

“Can you imagine me in law?” Dan shakes his head. His hair tickles Phil’s chin.

“You’ll be brilliant,” Phil says softly. “And you’ll come over and we’ll do homework together.”

“Play Mario Kart and watch movies together,” Dan corrects.

“Pretend to do homework while we play Mario Kart and watch movies.” Phil likes the idea.

Then he thinks of the mystery girlfriend, and he thinks how it’s probably her house Dan will go to when he needs to after school, and it’s probably her that’s meant to make Dan feel good about himself, and her that’ll actually get to touch Dan in all the real ways and hug him and do - all those other things.

Things Phil isn’t talking about. Things Phil’s barely ever thought about before, much less with any one specific other person. But now he’s thinking of Dan, and thinking of Dan doing those things with her.

His heart aches in a twisty, unbearable way at the thought of her showing back up in Dan’s life and claiming all these bits and bobs and moments that Phil’s managed to somehow snag a few of here and there over only just barely a week of knowing Dan. His heart crawls up into his throat just thinking about it.

It’s not fair, Phil thinks. It’s not fair that he’ll be left to unpack all these things alone.

But Dan misses all the turmoil in Phil’s head, lost in his own thoughts. “It’ll be nice,” Dan says. It’s almost a relief when Dan talks again. It grounds Phil back down to earth and the moment.

“It will,” he agrees. He hopes it will. He doesn’t see how it’ll be possible, but it’s too late to turn back now. Something has taken root in his heart, something that hurts when he pictures someone else beneath Dan’s body in the quiet dark of night.

“Are you sleepy?” he asks Dan.

“I dunno. Kinda I guess. I just wanna stay like this.”

“Should I put on another movie?”

Dan shakes his head.

Phil can’t resist laying his cheek down against the top of Dan’s head. He’s not tired right now, but he’d be happy to stay like this in silence for the rest of the night.

-

Phil falls asleep eventually, after they’ve listened to each other breathe and held each other under Phil’s blanket for what felt like ages.

It’s nice, nicer than anything Dan can really remember, but he’s still not surprised Phil when falls asleep first. Dan’s not the best of sleepers even on a good day.

On a day when his heart is aching with a strange guilt and being torn down the middle by opposing forces, it’ll probably be nearly impossible. He’s glad for Phil’s soft almost snores right next to his ear and the firmness of his chest under his cheek, but it’s confusing. It’s so bloody confusing.

He knows it had been Evie ringing, he just knows. No one else would ring him at this time and he’s been dodging her calls for days. He doesn’t even think of her much anymore, especially not when Phil is around.

He doesn’t want to think of her. He’s exactly where he wants to be right now. He nuzzles his face into Phil’s chest and has the thought that he wishes they’d taken their shirts off and he could see the hair on Phil’s chest and perhaps it is in this moment more than any other that he realizes he’s completely and utterly fucked.

Someone is going to get hurt now. No matter what happens someone is going to end up in pain because of a decision that’s going to come down to him. He feels sick, sicker than he had last night with a belly full of too-sweet booze.

He pushes it away. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly and hitches his leg up over Phil’s and squeezes him tight and forces himself to be present, to think only of what is happening right now. Nothing is going to break tonight. Tonight he has Phil and he’s going to enjoy that.

Chapter Text

Dan wakes up to Phil’s fingertips brushing his forehead, running softly through his fringe. He opens his eyes and tilts his head back to look up at Phil and relief floods through him when their eyes meet and Phil doesn’t pull away. He doesn’t act in any way like he’s embarrassed, or try to pass off the affection with any kind of excuse. He just smiles and murmurs, “Good morning. Sorry if I woke you. Your hair is just so soft.”

“S’ok. Feels nice.”

“Did you sleep ok?”

“Um. Eventually.” He’s not going to tell the truth here. Phil doesn’t need to know about that.

“I’m sorry. D’you want the air mattress next time?”

Dan actually smiles at that. Next time. “No. Definitely not.”

“Are you hungry?” Phil asks, still stroking Dan’s hair gently.

“Mhm, but. Don’t wanna get up yet, that ok?”

“Yeah. I don’t really want to get up yet either.”

“Put Buffy on,” Dan orders. “Please.”

Phil fishes for the remote and starts the episode, letting it drop onto the empty space in the bed beside them that Dan is pointedly not occupying. He’s too comfortable where he is.

It’s even more comfortable when Phil starts stroking his back again. Dan feels like he’s just soaking the touch in, luxuriating in it like a cat stretched out in a sun spot. It’s not as though he’s not got affection in his life; maybe not a ton, but Evie does like to cuddle with him. She likes to sit in his lap when they’re out with their friends, she likes to drape herself over him.

But this feels different. This feels like Dan is the one being pampered, the one being showered in a kind of affection that feels like it’s lighting him from the inside out.

“I like this bit,” Phil says, excited at what’s happening on screen. Dan forces himself to pay attention again, laughing at the moment he’s sure Phil is talking about.

They’re still on the first season. Dan’s seen how many discs are left and he sort of hopes it does take them ages to watch all the way through, if it means that many more excuses to spend their time like this.

-

“Mum wants to take me shopping for school stuff today,” Phil says. They’re sat by each other at the bar in Phil’s kitchen, a bowl of cereal in front of each of them. “She said this afternoon.”

“Aww,” Dan teases him. “Gonna get a new Pokemon backpack? Or maybe Ninja turtles? I hear they have the ones with the shiny foil-”

“Shut up!” Phil laughs. “I don’t know, though. I don’t even know what do I need. I’ve never been to this sixth form before. Or sixth form at all. Or this school at all.”

“Aww, scared?” Dan still sounds teasing, but it feels fond and not mean at all so Phil doesn’t mind. “Need me to protect you?”

“Maybe,” Phil says, kicking his leg out so his foot connects with Dan’s foot. His heart is doing that fluttery-fast thing but he feels more confident now, less nervous that he and Dan aren’t on the same page.

He pulls his foot back when he hears the sound of footsteps. “Hello, boys,” Kath says. She’s dressed nicely, complete with a handbag over her arm. “Daniel, your grandmother says to tell that she expects to see your face some time next week.”

“Did you go to church?” Phil asks. They’re not the sort of family that goes every week, but his mum and dad used to be better about it when he was younger.

That would explain why they got to lounge in bed until after eleven without being interrupted, though. Phil’s not really sure where his thoughts on God land at the end of the day, but he figures he owes the Lord a fist bump for that at least.

“I did,” she says. “Veronica invited me. You’ve got a lovely congregation, Dan.”

Dan scrunches his face up. “Not mine,” he mumbles, too low for her to hear. In a louder, much more polite voice he says, “Thanks. My nana’s pretty heavily involved with it.”

“I should make you lot come with me next time.”

“You wouldn’t,” Phil says.

“Who says I won’t?” Kath threatens. “It’d get you out of bed before midday at least. And Dan would get to see his nan.”

“We did get out of bed before midday!” Phil protests.

“That reminds me, did you find the air mattress alright?”

Phil sees Dan’s face go pink out of the corner of his eye. “Uh no, actually. Couldn’t find it.”

His nerves are for nothing because she rolls her eyes and asks, “Did you look for more than five seconds, you lazy tyke?”

He laughs. “We looked for like, twenty seconds at least.”

“I hope you didn’t make your friend sleep on the floor. I hope I at least taught you better than that.”

“Ian did that to me once.”

“Did he?” she asks, sounding genuinely scandalized.

“Yeah. Gave me a hoodie as a pillow.”

“Don’t worry, Kath, Phil is a much better host than that,” Dan says. “He gave me a hoodie for a pillow and trousers for a blanket.”

“Oi.” Phil hopes this will be the end of it. He doesn’t want to tell her that Dan slept in his bed. He’s not done that with any of his mates since year six. He’s not sure he knows how to be casual about it.

Luckily she just says, “You need to get in the shower young man. We’re going out. Your hair is a right mess.”

“Can I finish my cereal? Which is now proper soggy and disgusting?”

“I suppose.” She drops her handbag onto the floor and ruffles his hair. “You’re getting shaggy, love.”

He pretends to be horrified by her teasing and she laughs and goes to the cupboard. “Have you had coffee yet?”

-

They’re stood looking at backpacks and Phil finds himself wishing Dan had said yes when he’d asked if he wanted to come. Instead he’d said he should probably make an appearance with his family and let Phil have time with his and now Phil is alone with his mum and looking at backpacks and not knowing what the hell he should get.

Kath holds one up. “This one looks nice.” It looks like something a child would wear.

“Mum I’m sixteen, not six.”

She gives him a look but puts it back and wanders around to the other side of the rack. “Does it really matter what your schoolbag looks like? You’ve never cared before.”

He shrugs, also wishing he could run away from alone time with his mum. Which is weird because he genuinely considers her among his best friends, not that he wouldn’t deny it vehemently to anyone who asked. “I’m going to a new school with all new people.”

“Except one,” she reminds him. “You seem to be getting on extremely well with one.”

His stomach squirms. He definitely doesn’t want to talk to his mother about Dan. “Yeah,” he mumbles.

“And surely you met some people at that party the other day?”

“Oh, uh. Yeah. I guess, kind of. We didn’t end up staying all that long.” He can feel her eyes on him but he keeps his gaze steadfast on green and red patchwork-looking backpack that he doesn’t altogether hate.

“You stayed over at Dan’s that night.” It’s not a question. He’d told her he was and it was only a couple days ago.

“Yes…”

“Did he have an air mattress for you?” She sounds like she just means to have a laugh at him for being lazy again. “Or was it trousers for a blanket?”

His stomach still squirms so hard it starts to knot. His skin feels tight. He supposes he could lie, but he doesn’t like doing that unless he absolutely has to. He shakes his head, then picks up the backpack and holds it up to distract her. “What about this one?”

“I think they’re all lovely, Phil.”

He puts it back. “Yeah. I just don’t know.”

“Maybe we should have waited a few days and then your brother could have come with us.”

“Martyn?”

“No your other brother,” she teases.

“I didn’t know he was coming home,” Phil says happily.

“Oh yes,” Kath says, looking rather pleased about it herself. “He wanted to this weekend but we don’t have a bed in his room yet. Which he’ll never let me hear the end of, you know, not having a bed for him. Your dad had to pay the rush delivery to have it here this weekend. Worth it to not have to hear my firstborn wail on about how he’s so unloved his parents don’t even have a place for him in their home.”

Martyn’s room is technically going to be the guest room when he’s not around, which will be most of the time. Once there’s a bed in it, they’ll probably expect Dan to sleep there when he sleeps over.

Phil kind of hates the idea of that. He kind of hates it really a lot.

He reaches out and snags a blue and green backpack. It doesn’t look quite as childish as the rest, but it’s the colors that he likes best. “I’ll get this one.”

His mum insists on opening it up and testing all the zips and making sure it has enough pockets. Phil fidgets while she does it, then grabs his phone from his pocket to quickly check and see if he has any texts.

Three from Dan. His stomach does that warm flipping thing. It’s just Dan telling Phil what he’s been doing in the time since they said goodbye just a few hours ago, but - it’s enough.

He’s about to open them and reply when his mum hands him the backpack. “This one will do. Come on now, off to find you some shoes.” She peers down. “Have your feet grown again?”

His shoes are a little tight, but he glares at her. “No. Shut up. My feet are normal sized.”

She pats him on the head again. “Of course they are. Blame your dad, though. That’s all from his side of the family.”

He manages to text Dan back as he’s trailing after her. My brother’s coming to visit this weekend, he sends.

Martin? Dan writes back.

Martyn, Phil corrects. It’s spelled like my mum’s name, because she said it wasn’t fair that most sons are named after men. But then she gave him my dad’s name as his middle name anyway.

So whose name did you get? Dan asks.

No one’s! I’m an original. Philip Michael.

Phil those are really common names I don’t think you’re original.

Phil sends back a row of angry emojis. Well what’s your name before you go throwing any stones

I never claimed to be original, Dan responds. My middle name is James.

I guess we can be unoriginal together at least.

“Philip? Philip.” Phil’s head snaps up. His mum has clearly been saying his name for a while. “Phone. Away. Or we’ll be here all day and I don’t think either one of us want that.”

He sighs and puts it back in his pocket. He hadn’t even realized they’d gotten to the shoes. He’d just been blindly following her staring down.

She’s right, at least. He doesn’t want to be here all day. Truth be told he just wants to get back home again so he can talk to Dan in peace. Or maybe even hang out with him. He might have to think up some kind of excuse at this point because it seems like his mum is starting to notice that Dan is always around.

“When is Martyn’s bed coming?” he asks.

“Should be here thursday. Friday at the latest. Why?” She narrows her eyes suspiciously.

“Thought maybe like, Dan and I could help. Dad’s bad back and all.”

“Well isn’t that lovely.” She smiles. “But I think the delivery men can probably handle it.”

Oh. Duh. He’ll have to think of something else. He feels his phone buzz in his pocket and everything in him itches to answer it, but instead he reaches out and grabs a pair of shoes he thinks might be passably acceptable. “This is probably going to be even worse than the backpacks,” he warns.

“You’re such a teenager, love, honestly. When did that happen?”

-

are you done shopping yet i’m bored

He should probably let Phil live his life, even just for one bloody afternoon, but Dan only makes it about half an hour before he can’t physically stop himself. There’s just— nothing else right now. He can’t think about anything else.

Anything he can think to do would be about a thousand times more fun to do with Phil. Even what he ends up doing out of sheer desperation for something to pass the time, which is stripping his clothes off and having a long hot shower. Too long and too hot, his Dad will complain.

But yeah, this would definitely be more fun with Phil. If he closes his eyes he can picture how Phil would look stood naked in front of him with his hair wet, water dripping down his neck. If he really concentrates he can imagine how it’d feel to have Phil’s hands on him, running soapy fingers down his chest, down his stomach and lower to wrap around his cock.

It’s only his own hand that really does it, but he can close his eyes and pretend it’s Phil’s. Like he does every fucking time now, every morning and every night and every time he takes a shower. He’s given up on trying to fight it. He hopes he’ll be able to let go of the guilt soon, too.

Surely something that feels this good and this right shouldn’t also make him feel guilty. His cock is so hard it hurts just from picturing water on Phil’s shoulder blades and remembering his fingers in Dan’s hair this morning.

He knows he’s a teenager and this is what his body does, but his cock is so rigid it bounces against his belly every time he moves, and he can’t help but return his hand there with a frantic quickness after just the few seconds it takes him to squirt some hair conditioner into his palm to ease the way.

It’s easy to imagine it’s lube, to imagine that he’s stretched out in Phil’s bed like he had been the night before only they’re not wearing anything, and Phil’s hands aren’t just in his hair… they’re everywhere. Lube - does Phil even have lube? Does he keep it near his bed? Does he use it in the mornings, does he touch himself in the same spot Dan was laying? In the same spot Dan touched himself just last week?

Everything feels hot and it isn’t just the water. He’s whining and biting down on his lip and still just filling his brain with Phil, Phil, Phil. He goes back to the first fantasy, Phil in here with him, and he thinks of Phil pushing him up against the shower wall and how broad Phil’s shoulders are and how Phil’s his exact height right now and what that would make kissing him like, kissing while they touched each other-

It’s the flash of something so vivid it’s almost tangible that brings Dan off, the memory of a hot-wet tongue in his mouth along with the mental concept of it being Phil’s tongue and kissing him open mouthed while Phil touches his dick - Dan doesn’t stand a chance. He whines, head thunking back against the shower wall as his cock pulses come up so high a streak of it lands on his shoulder. The water washes it off almost immediately but it takes Dan longer to recover on the inside, panting and holding his softening cock until the loneliness creeps in to replace the nice things that came before it.

He washes himself off quickly. Maybe Phil has texted back.

-

Dan’s hair is still damp when Phil answers the door. “You didn’t straighten it!”

Phil’s clearly delighted. He reaches out like he’s going to touch Dan’s hair, then yanks his hand back and looks over his shoulder. His mum is standing there, on her phone but within view. Their shopping bags are still piled by the door - that’s how quickly Phil had invited him over once he and his mum and gotten home.

And Dan hadn’t even dried or straightened his hair. That’s how quickly he’d accepted the invitation. He doesn’t want to admit that though so he just shrugs and says, “Lazy.”

He can count on one hand the times in over two years that Evie has seen him with his hair like this. And most of those times were because they got caught in the rain or because she showed up without telling him that she was about to come over. Once he’d even made her wait downstairs talking to his mum while he got ready. She’d teased him for ages over how he took longer to primp for a date than she did.

He shoves that thought far, far away. It’s just different, he reasons. Because there’s already not much with Phil that he can’t imagine being comfortable with.

“I’m going to meet your father at his new office,” Kath says, walking up beside Phil and putting her arm around him to squeeze. “Phil, put your new shoes and clothes away, and you two boys don’t spend all day cooped up in that room. Fresh air is good for you, you know.”

It’s clearly an admonishment addressed at both of them. Dan’s not sure how it’s supposed to feel that Phil’s mum is already treating him like an extension of her son. He kind of likes it.

“Yes, Mrs Kaath,” Dan says, with his most polite dimpled smile.

They both step aside while she leaves, then Phil turns to grab some of the bags. Dan picks up the couple left over and carries them up for Phil.

“Buffy?” Dan asks. “I’m just like… excited to know what happens in the next episode.”

He’s actually just excited to be back on Phil’s bed.

“Let’s… let’s save Buffy as a reward.”

Dan frowns. “Reward for what?”

“For going outside,” Phil says, turning to look at Dan once he gets to the top of the stairs.

“Really?”

“Just hear me out. Mum left me some money so we can do something fun.” He opens the door to his bedroom and tosses the bags on his bed.

“Your mum is a literal angel, I hope you appreciate that,” Dan says. He sits on Phil’s bed and opens up one of the bags and pulls the shoes out.

“Thoughts?” Phil asks apprehensively.

“I approve. A perfectly valid footwear choice. These are bloody massive, are your feet actually that big?”

Phil lifts his leg and holds one foot up in the air.

“Wow,” Dan murmurs. “I’d never noticed.” It takes all his restraint not to make a dick joke right now, but he’s thinking about it. God help him, he’s definitely thinking about Phil’s dick. Again.

“I keep outgrowing all my trainers, it’s annoying.”

“Frequent new shoes is kind of great, though,” Dan says.

“Until mum starts making me pay for them myself.”

“Oh fuck,” Dan says, stomach sinking. “Fuck.”

“What?” Phil moves a bag aside to sit down right next to him, the bed creaking a little under his weight.

“I still haven’t applied to any jobs. I was supposed to do it ages ago. Shit.”

“I can help you,” Phil offers.

“It’s gonna be boring and long and shit and awful,” Dan says. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I don’t mind. It’ll suck when you’re around less, but at least you’ll make your mum happy. Sometimes you gotta make the mum happy, yeah?”

Dan chuckles. “This is why you’re a better son than me.”

“M’not. I just like to make people happy.”

Dan looks at him with something intense and warm and Phil finds himself unable to look away.

“You do, don’t you?” Dan asks, voice low.

“The right people, anyway.” Phil matches Dan’s tone and there’s warmth in his chest too, his hands a little shaky with the sudden tension crackling between them.

“Well that would make me happy. It’ll be less awful with you. Everything is less awful with you.”

Phil can’t even smile. He’s too busy staring at Dan’s lips. They’re full and pink but a little chapped, teeth marks dented into the bottom. He wants to reach out and smooth his thumb over them.

“Would you be willing to do it now?” Dan asks.

“Yeah, yeah, of course.” He shakes himself a little. He has to try harder to keep himself under control, for Christ’s sake. Dan is not his to look at like that. “We can do that, then go out for coffee, then come back and veg with Buffy, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Dan says, nodding again. Then he hesitates. “I might need to go home before we go out for coffee though.”

“Why?” Phil frowns.

Dan gestures bashfully to his head. “Need my straighteners.”

“Noo,” Phil whines. “You should keep it like that.”

“No fucking way,” Dan says immediately.

“Well, fine. I’ve got some, they were my brother’s back when he had his emo phase. I was thinking of letting my hair grow out but mum hates it, she hated it when my brother did it too. But I still kept them.” Phil roots around in a drawer, then brandishes a well worn pair of straighteners. “See? Don’t have to leave.”

Dan grins. “You know you could have just come with me.”

“Oh.” Phil hadn’t thought of that. “Well, still. Come on now, we’ll find some applications online, yeah?”

“Okay,” Dan agrees, while Phil grabs the laptop and opens up google.

-

It’s still not exactly a thrilling idea to Dan, but Phil’s enthusiasm is contagious. Two hours later he’s filled out a grand total of… two. But it’s two more than he would have done on his own, and Phil constantly in his ear telling him that he’d be great for the jobs and suggesting things - even ridiculous ones - to put on the application makes the time go by faster than it would have been.

“What about the cinema?” Phil asks. “My friend Ben worked there in Manchester and it was great, he’d let us sneak into movies sometimes.”

“So I should get a job based on what perks it can get you?” Dan says, grinning. “Got it.”

“I mean… not just… but mostly, yes,” Phil says, pulling on his shoes.

Dan looks away. Fucking… feet.

“I think the cinema has applications there. Like, the old fashioned way.”

“Oh, good!” Phil says. “You can fill it out while we get our coffee.”

“You’re worse than my mum,” Dan says. “Where did you put the straighteners?”

Phil tosses them to Dan, and then proceeds to sit there watching as Dan settles on Phil’s floor in front of the full length mirror that’s just propped against the wall. He doesn’t really need one to straighten his hair at this point, he’s been doing it every single day for almost two years, but he likes being able to see Phil’s reflection behind him.

“How’d I do?” Dan asks when he’s finished, turning. Phil holds one thumb up and one thumb down. “What does that even mean.”

Phil holds the thumb pointed up higher. “It means that you did good, but-” He swaps positions of his hands, holding the thumbs down higher. “I still like it better the way it was before.”

“You’re no help,” Dan informs him, unplugging the straighteners and getting to his feet. “Ready?”

“Caffeine me up,” Phil says.

“How much money did your mum leave?” Dan follows Phil down the stairs. “Costa has pastries too-”

Phil’s whole face lights up. “Caffeine me up and sugar me, pleaaaase.”

“Well, since you said please.” It’s not even as though it’s Dan treating Phil - it’s Phil’s money, via Phil’s mum, but Dan still likes the way Phil’s looking at him right now and it’s better inspiration than anything else to get one of those jobs.

“I think my brother might be spending a whole week here,” Phil says, locking the front door behind him. “His lectures don’t start for a while. We won’t have to walk - he’s got a car, and mum always makes him drive me around places. He hates it.”

They walk in silence for a few minutes, side by side on the pavement while the occasional car passes on the road beside them.

“So your brother’s cool?” Dan asks.

“Yeah, he definitely is.” The admiration is obvious in Phil’s voice. “He’s like, the coolest. He’s a dj and he’s really into music and stuff. I know I annoy him sometimes but he’s pretty good about letting me go along with him places. Maybe if he does any music stuff while he’s here, you can come too? He always finds that kind of ‘scene’ - his word - wherever he goes. It’s like cool people are just drawn to him.”

“So like, the opposite of you then,” Dan says. “You only attract dorks like me.”

“Attract-” Phil looks startled.

Dan immediately fumbles. “You know, I mean, like-”

“I know,” Phil quickly says. Both of them start walking a bit faster.

“Music stuff would be cool,” Dan says. “Is he going to Reading? Like, the festival? That’s next weekend.”

Phil shakes his head. “He goes to Leeds every year, so he’ll probably leave that day. But… you’re going to Reading, aren’t you?”

There’s something to his voice that prickles with displeasure. “Yeah,” Dan says quietly, because there’s really no way around it. He has a ticket, and… so does Evie.

He wishes he could invite Phil. Like, more than anything. At this point it’s starting to feel impossible that he could even fake enough enthusiasm to spend any time with Evie at all, let alone a whole weekend. Let alone sleeping together in a tent and probably with her hands on him…

He’ll have to face it eventually, but not right now. Right now he’s exactly where he wants to be with the person he wants to be with. Sure he has about ten texts and as many calls from Evie that have gone completely unanswered, and that fact is starting to slowly eat away at him, but he’s always been good at procrastination. He’s always been good at avoidance, at hoping things would get better if he just left them alone.

It pretty much never works, but today is definitely not the day he’s going to learn his lesson. He sees the sign for Costa up ahead and he pushes all thoughts of her out of his head violently.

“Well, I hope you have fun,” Phil says quietly. “It’ll be kind of weird to like, not spend every minute with you. You probably can’t wait.”

Dan shoves him in the shoulder none too gently. “Shut up, idiot. Come on, buy me a coffee.”

“And a scone?” Phil asks, smiling rather widely.

“Mmm yeah. Definitely.” He opens the door to the shop and gestures exaggeratedly for Phil to go first.

“Thank you good sir,” Phil says, tipping an imaginary cap.

“You’re so fucking weird, Phil.”

“You like it, though.”

Dan certainly can’t argue with that.

Phil buys them coffees and pastries and Dan saves them a spot by the window. Phil starts drinking his coffee right away and they pick up their conversation like they’d never stopped.

“So you don’t think your brother would be like super annoyed to drag two kids around with him while he does cool stuff?” Dan asks.

“He probably will be, but whatever. I hardly ever see him anymore so he owes me some bro time.”

Dan breaks off a piece of his scone and takes a bite. “You guys are close, eh?”

“I mean, I dunno. I guess. I don’t really have anything to compare it to.”

“Well I avoid mine like the plague, so.”

“He seemed like a cute enough kid,” Phil says. “Martyn tried to avoid me when we were little but I wouldn’t let him. My parents even put us in the same bedroom because I was afraid to sleep alone.”

Dan snorts. “He must have loved that.”

“We had bunk beds. I thought it was pretty cool. I miss that a little.”

“I think I’d murder my brother if I had to share a room with him. Though…” He hesitates, not sure how much he wants to embarrass himself.

“What?” Phil asks. He’s got a crumb of scone on his lip that Dan has to fight not to reach out and brush away.

“Sometimes when I was younger, if I got scared of something in the middle of the night I’d go into his room and sleep by his bed. I always tried to get up and go back to my room before anyone else woke up so that no one noticed, but he caught me a few times.” Dan’s never actually told anyone this before. How is it that when he starts talking to Phil all his secrets just come spilling out of his mouth?

“Dan!” Phil is smiling so warmly. The crumb of scone is gone, but Dan refuses to mourn that tiny missed opportunity for contact. “That’s adorable.”

“It’s embarrassing,” Dan says. “I had to lie to him and say I heard monsters under his bed and just came to scare them away.”

“How old were you?” Phil asks.

Fifteen.

“Like, ten? Twelve? I dunno.” There are some things even Phil doesn’t need to know.

“That’s still cute,” Phil says. “If you get scared at night you can always ring me, you know. I stay up so late anyway.”

“Same,” Dan says, which he kind of likes. Then Phil’s words make him realize he probably does need to go home tonight. Alone. His stomach twists into knots. But… he can’t spend every night with Phil. Surely their parents will start to wonder.

Phil pokes at Dan’s hand. “You’re thinking hard.”

“Sorry,” Dan says, shaking his head a bit. “It’s a thing I do sometimes.”

“Think?” Phil pops the last bit of his scone into his mouth. “Sounds stressful. I try to avoid it whenever I can.”

“Liar,” Dan says. “You think. They’re just super weird thoughts.”

“You like my weird thoughts,” Phil says. “You want me to think them more.”

The tone of Phil’s voice makes Dan want to bury his face in his hands and giggle like a little girl. He can’t do anything but smile back, so hard he can feel the dimple in his cheek deepening. “Fine,” he eventually says. “Yeah. I do.”

When he looks up, Phil’s smiling back just as wide, tongue poked between his teeth.

It’s a Moment. They’re having a fucking Moment, in broad daylight, in front of everyone in this fucking coffee shop, and all Dan can think is that he wants to have this… every day. He wants these moments every single day and he doesn’t want to feel like they’re getting away with something when they happen.

“So I had another thought,” Dan says after a while, after he’s let the moment sink into his skin and settle in a way he’s sure he’ll still be able to feel later when he’s forced to say goodnight.

“I’m telling you, it’s a slippery slope,” Phil says.

“Shut up just listen.”

Phil zips his finger across his mouth and pretend to throw away the key. God this guy is a dork.

“I’m putting in an application at the cinema, yeah?”

Phil nods.

“And you’re gonna like… miss me, maybe? A little? When I can’t watch Buffy all day or mooch of your mum’s coffee supply?”

His heart beats a little faster asking that one but Phil sticks out his tongue a little before he nods.

“And you don’t have a job either…”

Phil frowns for a second and then realization dawns. “Ohhh.”

“Yeahhh,” Dan says.

“That would be… really cool actually, wouldn’t it?”

Dan nods. “I wonder how easy it would be for us to fuck off from actually working and sneak into the same theatre and just like, watch the film.”

“We’ll have to find a way to nick some popcorn too,” Phil says in a hush.

Dan giggles. “We’re the worst employees and we haven’t even been hired yet.”

“We might have to try to avoid horror movies though I reckon,” Phil teases.

Dan drops his voice down. “What, you won’t cuddle me in a room full of strangers? Not even when all the lights are off?”

“I mean… I didn’t say that.”

“I like horror movies,” Dan all but whispers. “When it means I get to be protected by you.”

There’s a long moment then, a long stretch of time where they’re just looking at each other across the table. Dan’s whole body aches to make contact with Phil’s in some way. He wonders if Phil is feeling the same.

“We really are going to be the worst employees.” He brushes his foot against Dan’s under the table.

Dan feels it all the way up his leg. “I can’t wait.”

Chapter Text

They’re sat at the kitchen table in Dan’s house this time filling out the cinema applications when Dan’s mum walks in.

Phil’s pretty certain the timing of it was by design, but he feels a swell of happy pride at how Dan’s mum praises him for actually doing what he’d agreed to do. He gets the feeling that Dan and his parents don’t meet in the middle like this too often, and he’s sad for anything that makes Dan feel so down and frustrated.

He doesn’t really have any advice, though. Phil is aware he lucked out in some ways in the parent department; he’s the baby and he’s spoiled quite a bit, his parents having been exhausted in a lot of ways by raising his brother. Martyn wasn’t rebellious in a typical sense but he’s always done what he wanted to do.

His mum’s said more than once she’s glad that God only saw fit to give them one wild one. He’s not sure if that’s a compliment or not, but it’s still probably the truth; there’s something in him that genuinely distresses at disappointing his parents. So the middle ground is a space they find themselves in accidentally more often than not, with their more lax attitude towards indulging him - especially financially - and his eagerness to be what they want.

And some guilt, maybe, too. Because over the past week he’s realizing that there’s one thing they want - and probably expect - him to be that he’s… really not. There’s one thing about him that might change how they see him forever and he’s really not sure if he’ll be able to handle his mum looking at him like she wishes he weren’t her son anymore.

Phil feels the pencil in his hand vibrate slightly. He looks up and realizes Dan has tapped it with his own pencil. “Earth to Lester.”

“Sorry,” Phil says, re-entering the moment he was in.

“I thought thinking wasn’t your thing?” Dan teases.

“You’re a bad influence.”

“Ouch.” Dan puts a hand over his heart. “I’m wounded. Hurry up and finish, slowpoke. I’m already done with mine.”

“No fair.” Phil peers over. “How did you finish so fast?”

“Because I already knew what to put, I did two of these today. Stop cheating off my paper, they won’t hire us if we answer everything the same.”

Phil pouts. “I just don’t know what to put. I don’t have any work experience.”

“Just put chores for your mum or something.” Dan shrugs. “You’re sixteen and it’s a fucking cinema, they can’t expect you to have that much.”

Phil fills the rest of it out quickly. “My mum’s gonna have a heart attack if I tell her I got a job. If I get the job.” He has a moment of worry that maybe one of them will get hired and not the other. “If I don’t get it, you still have to sneak me in movies for free though.”

“And if I don’t get it, you have to sneak me in,” Dan says. “Even horror movies.”

Phil tries to find Dan’s leg again but kicks the leg of the table instead. Oh well; at least his attempt at smoothness paid off once today.

Dan laughs at him and says, “Don’t worry, horror movies will be at the top of the list.” He winks.

He freaking winks.

Phil forgets that it’s his turn to say words.

“Are you almost done there mate?” Dan asks. “I need my Buffy fix.”

“Are we gonna drop these off tonight?”

“Nah, we can do it tomorrow. I think we’ve earned something fun, don’t you?”

“I’ve been having fun all day,” Phil says.

Dan rolls his eyes. “I have too, but like. Buffy, Phil.”

“Buffy,” Phil agrees. And cuddles. “And snacks, I need snacks.”

“Maybe if you tell Mrs. Kath you’re applying to jobs she’ll love you enough to make us something,” Dan says.

“You have to stop with that.”

“Do I though?”

“Yes, you do,” Phil says. “You’re gonna make her love you more than me and that’s not allowed.”

“You’ve discovered my master plan. I’m just trying to get adopted by the Lesters so I too can have endless snacks and new shoes.”

Phil shoots him a look. Adopted? The word instantly shoots ice water through his veins.

Dan seems to realize what he’s said. “Uh. Not… I didn’t really—”

“One brother is quite enough for me,” Phil says, trying to lighten the sudden drop in mood. “I prefer having a—” He can’t say mate. He can’t physically bring himself to call Dan a friend right now.

“Me too,” Dan says, and his tone is soft and lovely and Phil lets himself believe that Dan is feeling all the exact same things he is in this moment.

“I don’t want to be your brother,” Dan says. “Forget I said that.”

“Forget you said what?” Phil tries to wink, but he can’t really do it. He just ends up blinking messily.

Dan shakes his head, smiling. “Finish this. I’m gonna go tell my mum I’m going to yours for a bit.”

“A bit?” Phil hates how pathetic he sounds, like a wounded puppy. He’ll have to try to get a grip on himself somehow. He’ll have to learn how to be ok with having a normal human amount of time away from Dan. Especially since a lot of this time will soon be given to someone else. Someone who’s allowed to actually do the kinds of things Phil is starting to fantasize about when Dan’s body is pressed up against his in bed.

“I dunno,” Dan says. “I don’t want to wear out my welcome or something. Your mum has been so nice.”

“We just established that she’s gonna love you more than me,” Phil says. “You’re making me be all… responsible.

He feels victorious at how Dan laughs at his tone, like responsibility is something to be abhorred.

He’s not wrong, though. Twenty minutes later they’re standing in Phil’s lounge. His mum and dad are both home now, sitting together watching television. Phil always stops to talk to his parents when he comes home. He likes telling them about his day, he genuinely likes talking to his mum and dad. But right now he’s especially proud that he has something he thinks they’ll be proud of.

“I applied for a job today!” He says, barely getting his hellos out.

His mum does indeed look shocked. Then she looks straight at Dan and says, “Was this your doing?”

Dan half shrugs.

“Well,” Kath says. “You’ve certainly earned your keep, young man.”

“Told you,” Phil says, beaming at Dan.

He hangs out for a few more minutes, snaring Dan an invite to stay for dinner before he tells his parents they’re going to watch more Buffy.

His mum groans. “Should have known that’s what he’s got you doing up there,” she says to Dan. “I’m so sorry. Knock on the floor three times if you need me to come say your mum needs you home.”

“Mum!” Phil says. “I can hear you!”

“Three times,” she says again, in a mock whisper.

-

They only make it through one episode before she calls them down for dinner. They haven’t worked their way up to a full cuddle yet, the promise of interruption looming, but Dan finds it pleasant enough to just be laying beside Phil with their shoulders touching, feeling the motion of it every time Phil gestures emphatically or points out something.

It’s a funny episode, lighter than some. There’s lots of reasons for Phil to laugh. Dan feels like he wants to save each little moment, each sound of delight Phil makes. He’s almost giddy with how happy it makes him to hear Phil happy.

If his phone buzzes once or twice in the pocket of his jeans… well, silent mode exists for a reason. He’ll check it when he goes home. He’ll answer the texts when he goes home. He’ll pick up the phone when it rings… when he goes home.

It feels wrong that anything should invade the happy little bubble that being in Phil’s space puts him in. He feels defiant in a fucked up way; he can have this, this is his.

Dinner with Kath and Nigel is downright pleasant. Maybe it’s Dan’s general good mood - a day spent mostly with Phil, seeing his own mum and not having it go badly at all, a sugary coffee and a scone and now a proper good meal - but he actually finds himself contributing to the conversation. He asks them questions about Manchester, listens to stories about Phil and his brother from their old school, talks about what things are like at his… and it’s all just fucking nice.

But he still feels nothing but abundant relief when they’re done eating.

“You boys should keep the elderly company and play a board game with us,” Kath says.

“Mummm,” Phil whines. “We’re almost at one of my favorite episodes!”

Nigel shakes his head. “When I was your age I had more interest in spending my time staring at pretty girls in the real world, not on a television screen.”

Dan can see Phil go tense, but he doesn’t do what Dan would do in Phil’s place - mouth off back without thinking. Instead Phil just mumbles, “It’s a good show, Dad.”

Kath swats her husband on the arm. “None of this talk of pretty girls.”

“You’re the prettiest,” he reassures her.

While they’re talking, Dan takes the opportunity to nudge Phil’s shoulder with his own. “Come on,” he says in a quiet voice. “Upstairs.”

As soon as they’re back in Phil’s room, he shuts the door and… flings himself on the bed. He immediately holds his arms open.

Phil just stares at him for a second, just long enough for that spike of dread in Dan’s heart that maybe he’s misread everything.

Then Phil hits the mattress with his knees and crawls up the bed, collapsing against Dan’s chest. They haven’t really laid like this before - it should feel more familiar to Dan, but somehow it doesn’t. Phil’s body is long and lanky and it’s a new sensation to have the weight of him pressing Dan down.

They don’t talk about what Phil’s dad said, or why it might be upsetting Phil. They don’t talk at all, just lay there for long minutes that stretch one into the other. Dan starts to play with Phil’s hair just like Phil’s done to him before, and it feels like victory when Phil begins to relax into it.

“We should put the show on,” Phil eventually says, sounding drowsy and quiet. “Mum will wonder why there’s no noise.”

Dan reluctantly lets Phil untangle from his hold. He takes his own shoes off and gets a bit comfier, piling pillows up on Phil’s bed. He already feels like he’s allowed here. He feels at home in Phil’s space.

Phil doesn’t seem upset when he turns back to see Dan’s made a little nest of pillows for them. He settles back under Dan’s arm, seeking that warmth again.

“I don’t watch this show for the girls,” Phil murmurs.

“I know.”

“I didn’t put the poster up to wank to it.”

Even despite the sadness in Phil’s voice, Dan feels it in his dick when he hears Phil say the word wank. Because now he’s thinking about it. He’s thinking about Phil laid out in his bed flat on his back with his pants pushed down to mid thigh and his hand wrapped around his cock. He’s thinking about the way his balls would bounce with every quick jerk, the way his foreskin would bunch up at the tip with every upstroke.

He’s thinking about how far his come would shoot up his stomach and how it might taste if Dan were there to clean it up with his tongue.

Why? Why is he thinking that? Why can’t he control his thoughts from spiraling into dirty fantasies when he thinks of Phil’s body?

This is not the time for thoughts like this. Phil might be having a legitimate crisis right now, he doesn’t need Dan perving on him like a creep.

“No?” Dan asks gently, squeezing his arm a little tighter round Phil’s shoulders.

“No. I just like the show. I like the character.”

“It’s ok, Phil.”

“It’s not. People always say dumb shit and make it about sex or girls and it’s freaking annoying. Like, not everything is about that.”

Dan’s stomach clenches guiltily knowing he’d done just that, made something that wasn’t about sex decidedly about sex. “Yeah,” he manages to say. Phil doesn’t know his thoughts. He’s safe.

“Like I’ve never even—” he cuts himself off abruptly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Anyway. Sorry.”

“Never even what?” Dan asks. He’s not selfless enough to ignore a dangle like that.

Phil shakes his head.

“Never… wanked?” Dan hates himself, he really does. But he can’t let it go that easily.

Phil turns his head in Dan’s direction in a jerk. Their faces are so bloody fucking close Dan can feel the warmth of Phil’s breath on his face.

“What? No, of course I’ve— I didn’t mean that. I’ve done that plenty. Plenty.”

“Sorry,” Dan mutters. He can feel the heat in his cheeks and knows without a doubt they must be red. “It’s none of my business.”

Phil turns his head back to the tv. Dan knows he should do that too, but he doesn’t really give a single fuck right now and he’d prefer to just study the expression on what he can see of Phil’s face.

“I’m really sorry, Phil, I—”

“I’ve never been with a girl,” Phil blurts.

“Oh. A girl?”

“With anyone,” Phil says curtly. “I’m a… you know.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. He’s… weirdly thrilled by this revelation. “That’s ok. That’s fine.”

Phil turns to look at him again. “Are you?”

“Um…”

“Oh right. Girlfriend. I forgot.”

-

He hasn’t. Of course he fucking hasn’t. He hasn’t really forgotten it for a moment since he learned it. Of course Dan’s not a bloody virgin. Who wouldn’t want to—

He has to stop. He has to find a way to stop. He’s not ready for what this means about him, and Dan’s not available anyway.

But Dan’s hand is still stroking down his back and Dan’s still staring at him in a way that makes something in Phil just… burn. He’s never felt like this about any other person before. He’s never met someone who actually made his pulse race and made him feel like he was going to be ill but in a weird, good way sometimes. He always thought tummy butterflies were just a thing you got when you were nervous, but with Dan it’s like that same feeling ramped up to a thousand.

And he’s got no idea what to do about it, except - nothing. Because he can’t.

“It’s not all that great though,” Dan says. “I mean, you’re not missing that much.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “That’s a lie, I’m sure.”

Dan just half shrugs. He doesn’t go into any more detail, for which Phil is intensely grateful. He doesn’t say all the things that Ian or Anja used to say; that it’ll happen eventually. That Phil will meet someone.

He’s never really let himself think about why it makes him so uncomfortable. He’s never felt like he needed to.

He still doesn’t want to think now. So he’s glad Dan doesn’t push it. It makes it easier for him to press his body harder into Dan’s and forget all those confusing stressful thoughts in his head.

This is all he wants right now.

Chapter Text

The next week is spent in a constant state of physical back and forth between each other’s houses. There’s no excuse for them to sleep over during the week but without fail one of them shows up on the doorstep of the other in time for breakfast.

It’s not hard to avoid parents - Dan really does take Phil around to a few of his other places in town, and they spend too many hours sitting in the coffee shop at the little corner nook that has somehow become unofficially theirs. They talk about school and movies they like and stories from their childhoods and it’s surreal to Dan how he never finds himself disconnecting from the conversation when it’s Phil talking. He never finds himself checking the time on his phone or antsy to get up and move around, move away, go back to the safe space of his bedroom. Phil’s the first person he’s met that he’s never wanted to say goodnight to at the end of the day, every day.

But on Friday morning when Dan texts Phil to ask if he should come over, Phil texts back that he’s on his way to the train station with his mum to pick up Martyn.

Dan tries not to sulk at his phone. He’s known all week that Phil’s brother was coming, but he hadn’t actually realized it might cut into his Phil time. He focuses on that, because it’s easier than thinking about the other person who is coming home soon.

His phone buzzes with another text, one that revives his mood. But you can come over this afternoon. I want you to meet Martyn!

Meeting people never exactly sounds like a thrilling time to Dan, but… he’ll take it.

His nana’s in the kitchen when he heads downstairs. She seems surprised to see him still in pajamas. “Not going to see Phil today? Is he coming over, then?” She asks, then peers at the door like she expects him to show up.

Dan would resent her assumptions, except… he knows how transparent he’s been with his time lately. So he just shakes his head and says, “I’ll probably hang out with him this afternoon, but he had some family stuff. His brother’s visiting.”

“Kathryn mentioned that!” She says. “She’s quite happy about it, I’m sure it’ll be lovely for them to have some family time.”

“Sure,” Dan says, pouring himself a bowl of cereal. He turns to take it back upstairs when his grandmother clears her throat.

“Family time is a lovely thing, you know,” she says, eyebrow raised.

Fuck.

He does a half turn right at the bottom step. “Yes, nana?”

“I could use a nice strapping young grandson to help me replant those hydrangeas this morning.” She’s smiling that mildly devious smile she gets that tells him there’s really no way out.

He sighs. Family time it is.

-

Phil really is excited to have his brother around, but it only takes a few hours of helping Martyn unpack the boxes of stuff he’d had in the old house and situate his room before he’s antsy.

Martyn, somehow, picks up on it faster than anyone else has. “So… mum said you’ve been really close with one of the neighbors?” Martyn’s eyebrow is already lifted. “Someone you fancy?”

Phil’s whole body goes cold with shock. “What?”

“You keep checking your phone,” Martyn says. “She must be a stunner if you’re that gone already. What’s her name?”

“What?” This time Phil’s voice squeaks. “No, it’s not - he’s a - he. The neighbor I’ve been hanging out with. His name is Dan.”

“Oh.” Martyn looks surprised. “Mum just said a neighbor you’d been going to the cinema and to get coffee with. Sounded like dates to me.”

“Well - it’s not.” Phil finds his voice, even though his heart is still pounding. Martyn hadn’t even mentioned all the sleepovers. Maybe he mum hadn’t mentioned it.

“Ok, mate, whatever. It’s good you made a friend, I guess.”

Phil’s every muscle is pulled tight. He wants out of here immediately. He wants to text Dan and tell him the plans have changed, that he can’t come over today after all.

He doesn’t really want that though. He still wants to see Dan. He just doesn’t really want to be seeing Martyn anymore.

“Well what about you?” he finally blurts. “Did you meet any girls at uni?” That’s good, he thinks. Divert the attention from himself.

“Uh, I dunno. I mean, obviously there are girls at uni, like, it’s kind of unavoidable, Phil. I don’t have the particular kind of bird repellent that you do.”

“Oh, bugger off,” Phil says, but he feels a little of the tension ease from his shoulders. He can take meaningless digs. “I’ll have you know I went to a party the other night. A proper one.”

“Oh?” Martyn sounds wholly unbothered.

“Mhm. Even got drunk.”

That gets his brother’s attention. “You didn’t.”

“I did.”

“On what?”

“Um. Malibu?”

Martyn snorts. “That hardly counts.”

“It counts, shithead.”

“Oi! Who are you and what have you done with my lovely baby brother?”

“You killed him by being a right shithead,” Phil says, trying not to laugh. He’s still a little annoyed but at least he’s not being awkwardly interrogated about Dan anymore.

“And were there any girls at this party by any chance?”

Phil has to stop himself groaning out loud. Has his brother always been like this? And his dad? Had they always teased Phil about girls and he’d just never noticed before?

“I’m sure there were,” he says coolly, because he can’t bring himself not to be at least a little irritated at this point.

“Was this like, a nerd party? Were there video games involved?”

Phil picks a pillow up off Martyn’s newly made bed and chucks it as hard as he can at his head. “I’m leaving,” he says, over Martyn’s squawking. “You’ve officially used up any affection I’d stored up while you were gone.”

He can still hear Martyn laughing as he walks down the hall to his bedroom. He’s glad someone is amused at least. He kicks the door closed harshly behind him and flops onto his bed, pulling out his phone. It’s earlier than he’d thought and maybe he shouldn’t be texting Dan already, but to be perfectly honest he doesn’t really give a shit.

come over asap please

can’t yet :( forced into gardening with nana

Phil pouts for all of ten seconds before responding with, need some help?

-

“Why is Phil so much better at everything than you?”

Dan doesn’t even dignify that with anything but a massive eye roll. There’s sweat literally dripping from his temples and dirt caked thick under his fingernails.

“Dan’s good at lots of things, Veronica,” Phil chimes. He’s down on his knees but still somehow looks a whole lot more put together than Dan feels right now. “He got me to put in a job application at the cinema.”

“Did he?” She sounds genuinely surprised and delighted.

Phil nods.

“We haven’t heard anything back yet though.” Dan leans back on his heels and pulls his shirt up to wipe the sweat off his forehead. When he drops it down his eyes drift as they always do to Phil and - Phil is staring.

God. Phil is definitely, undeniably staring at the bit of skin that’d been exposed when Dan had yanked up on his t-shirt. And that’s just... it’s too much. It’s too much for Dan to process just feet away from his grandmother.

“We will,” Phil says eventually, after too long a pause. “Who wouldn’t want to hire us? We’re great.”

“We’re something, anyway. Right now I’m just sweaty as f-”

“Daniel,” his nana warns. “Language, please. I bet Phil never curses in front of his grandmother, do you dear?”

“I definitely don’t,” Phil says, looking at Dan smugly. “My brother on the other hand…”

“He’s not younger, is he?” she asks.

“No. He’s older. He just finished his first year at university, and then he went traveling around Europe. He came home today and I’m already ready for him to leave again.”

“I get to meet him today, right?” Dan asks.

Phil gives him a weird look. “I guess I did say that, didn’t I?”

Dan frowns. He wants to ask Phil what’s wrong, but it feels weird in front of his nana. He hadn’t noticed until now but Phil definitely looks a little off. A little stiff maybe.

“Well,” Dan’s nana says, “I hope he’s at least nicer to you than Dan is to his younger brother.”

Dan rolls his eyes again.

“Speaking of, I’d better go inside and check on him. Would you boys like a drink? You look a little- warm.”

Dan grins. “Sweaty as-”

“Alright, young man. I’ll bring a drink for Phil and a bar of soap for you.” She stands up and brushes her somehow dirt-free knees before walking away.

“Thanks nana!” Dan shouts theatrically. “Love you!”

She waves her hand in the air dismissively. Once she’s gone Dan turns to ask Phil why he’s being weird but Phil beats him to the talking thing.

“It’s too freaking hot. Why is it so hot?”

“Mm, probably ‘cause it’s summer, I reckon.”

“Why don’t you have a pool or something?”

Dan snorts. “Why don’t you? Your family is way richer than mine, mate.”

“Guess I’ll tell them we’ll just have to move again.”

“You’d better fucking not,” Dan says, reaching out and shoving him in the shoulder. “There’s a house just a few door down that has a pool in the back garden. We should just sneak in there.”

“I’m too young to go to jail,” Phil says. “But it’s honestly tempting right now.”

Dan immediately thinks of Phil in just a swim costume, and his temperature skyrockets by a few degrees. He clears his throat and says, “So, your brother?”

It must not be the best choice of things to say, because Phil gets that look on his face again, that tense one. Dan’s confused; he knows how excited Phil was for his brother to be home.

“Yeah,” Phil mumbles.

“I don’t… have to meet him,” Dan says, something kind of hollow settling in his stomach. “If you don’t think he’d like me or something.”

Phil’s head snaps up. “It’s not that. No, I - you’ll meet him. Of course.”

“Okay.” Dan isn’t convinced. He hates how kind of awful it feels to think Phil might just not want Dan involved in part of his life. It’s a ridiculous overreaction, but - well, Dan’s known to have those.

He bends back down and starts furiously weeding a spot that doesn’t have any weeds to begin with.

“Hey,” Phil says, dropping down beside Dan. He sits so close their shoulders touch and starts helping Dan not-weed. “Don’t... be cross.”

“Not cross,” Dan says. And it’s the truth; he’s not. Cross isn’t the right word for the way it feels to think maybe Phil thinks he’s… not good enough. Or something.

“Come over when we finish with this?” Phil asks. There’s a faint note of pleading to his voice. “I won’t be weird, I promise.”

Dan glances over. Phil’s got a little smear of dirt on his jaw. Dan tells himself it’d be pointless to try and clean it off; his hands are dirty enough that he’d just make it worse. “Okay,” he says, after a beat.

His nana lets them go half an hour later, stating that they’ve done well enough for the day. She even gives them a tenner each. Dan is convinced she only does it because Phil’s there, too.

“I’m fucking disgusting,” Dan says. He isn’t ready to say goodbye to Phil, though. “Do you want to hang out in my room while I take a shower?”

“Sure,” Phil says, following Dan inside and upstairs.

-

Phil lays down on Dan’s bed, staring up at the ceiling. There’s no familiar Sarah Michelle Gellar staring back down at him; Dan doesn’t have anything above his bed.

He doesn’t have much around his room at all, in fact. Phil’s already got the collage up in his new room that he’d had in his old one, of all his friends from his old school. He’s got some postcards from friends around the world, and a few magnets from his Florida trips with his parents… but Dan’s got nothing. A few books spilling out of a backpack on the floor, a television that looks precarious on top of a set of dresser drawers, and a Rock Band drum kit.

There aren’t even any pictures of the girlfriend. Phil isn’t sure he’d want to see if there were, but he still finds it odd that there aren’t.

He looks back up at the ceiling. Dan’s bed is a single, smaller than his own, but it’s nice. He turns onto his side and tries not to feel like too much of a creep for smelling the pillow. It doesn’t smell like much, really; about the same as the whole rest of Dan’s house. But it’s where Dan puts his head every night and Phil just… likes occupying that space, even just for the moment.

He rolls onto his back again and sits up when he hears the door start to open - and immediately wishes he’d stayed facing away from the door, because Dan’s definitely standing in front of him dripping wet and only wearing a towel.

Even though he’d known Phil was in here. Surely that has to mean something.

Whatever it means Phil can’t really say at this particular moment because he’s staring at Dan’s half naked body with absolutely no shame. An opportunity like this might never arise again, and he wants to catalogue Dan’s every feature in the few seconds he has to study them.

Like how low the towel is sitting on his hips and how sharply those hips jut out, how tight the skin is pulled over the bone. Like how he’s completely hairless on his chest and his nipples are brown and his shoulders are a lot broader than Phil had actually ever noticed before.

“Uh. Sorry,” he mumbles, undercutting the sentiment by continuing to stare. He can’t even bring himself to look away. He wants the image burned into his brain for later when he can get his dick in his hand and wank one out to the memory.

He’s already fucking hard in his pants. Like, embarrassingly hard, the head pushing painfully against his fly through his boxers. He’s glad for the constriction of the jeans but he still pulls up his legs to hide what must be an awkward bulge.

“For what?” Dan says. He sounds strangely… calm. And he’s just stood there, almost like he’s purposely putting on a show just for Phil.

The thought makes his cock throb even harder. His eyes have wandered back down to the line the towel makes low across Dan’s stomach. He stares at it, at the hair that starts there and he can perfectly imagine just pulling that damn towel out of the way to discover what’s underneath.

He has a fantasy then that he’s never had before in such vivid detail. He can imagine pulling the towel out of the way and putting Dan’s cock inside his mouth. He has no idea what it might feel like against his tongue or what he’d actually do once it was in there, but he’d still really like to do it. He has a flash of what Dan’s face might look like and what noises he might make and the pull in his gut is violent.

“Um. Dunno,” he manages to croak. For once he wishes Dan weren’t here. Maybe just for like, three minutes. It certainly wouldn’t take longer than that.

“You’re so weird today,” Dan says, turning away finally and going to his wardrobe. He doesn’t sound as sad as he had outside earlier, but the teasing tone he usually reserves for calling Phil weird is conspicuously absent.

It hurts. Maybe it’s not rational and maybe it has nothing to do with Phil, maybe Dan’s just having a bad day or something but it hurts to have Dan acting differently on top of the shittiness with Martyn.

“Sorry.” He thinks he sounds just as off as Dan does.

Dan notices. He turns around and looks at Phil appraisingly. “What’s— is something wrong, Phil? Did I do something wrong? Do you really not want me to meet your brother?”

Phil shakes his head. “You didn’t do anything.”

“But you don’t want me to meet him.”

“It’s not that. I just… don’t even really want to be around him right now. It has nothing to do with you.”

That’s not true, but Dan doesn’t need to know that part.

“Shit,” Dan murmurs, and to Phil’s horror (and delight) Dan walks over, still dressed in nothing but water droplets and a towel and sits next to him on the bed. “D'you wanna talk about it?”

Phil shakes his head. “I’m mostly just being stupid.”

“Brothers can be real assholes,” Dan says.

Phil laughs. “Your brother is just a kid.”

“Yeah, and he’s the biggest asshole I know.”

“You must not know any real assholes.”

Dan bumps his wet shoulder into Phil’s. “I’m trying to be supportive here, mate.”

“I know. Thanks. Sorry.”

“Why d’you keep saying that? You don’t have to say that.”

“Yeah,” Phil says. He knows he should just get over it now. Nothing had even really happened. He looks at Dan and even through the dark cloud of weirdness he can still appreciate how gorgeous Dan is and how much he wants to just— touch?

“Can you get dressed?” Phil blurts. “I can’t think straight when—”

He stops himself dead. Fuck.

Dan cocks his eyebrows.

There’s really no way to cover that. He said it and it’s out there and he can’t take it back and he almost doesn’t even care anymore. He flops down against Dan’s pillow and throws his arm over his eyes. His cock is still rock hard and Dan can probably see that.

He doesn’t care. He just doesn’t fucking care.

-

Dan’s heart is pounding, just fucking pounding relentlessly against his chest.

He’s so confused. He just wanted to make Phil feel better, give him a little more to look at and hopefully distract him from whatever’s bothering him. He’d caught him staring earlier and thought maybe…

Maybe he’s just a vain narcissistic asshole. But then, Phil had said he couldn’t think straight…

He looks at Phil laid out across his bed and is about to apologize when he sees the tenting in the crotch of Phil’s jeans.

It’s a big fucking tent. Dan is half naked and Phil’s clearly got a boner and there’s just no way that that’s a coincidence.

It’s all he can do not to yank Phil’s jeans open. He wants to see. He wants to see exactly what Phil’s cock looks like.

But Phil only asked one thing of him, and that was for Dan to get dressed. So he rips his eyes away and turns back to his wardrobe, snatching the first black t-shirt and pair of skinny jeans that his fingers touch. He remembers pants last, fingers shaking slightly as he grabs them too. He has no idea if Phil is still looking for not when he drops the towel and steps into them.

When he glances over his shoulder, Phil’s arm is still over his eyes. Dan feels strangely let down by the fact that Phil wasn’t looking, but he knows it’s probably for the best. He’s had mates that would strip down and change in front of him like it didn’t matter a bit in the world, but… Phil’s not one of those mates. Phil’s not like any other mate Dan’s ever had.

He finishes dressing quickly then flops down onto the bed beside Phil, close enough that their shoulders and their legs touch. “Hey,” he says softly.

“Hey,” Phil says back. He still sounds weird and it tugs at everything inside Dan’s chest.

Dan reaches out, heart pounding, hoping this isn’t crossing some kind of line. They haven’t really done this in the light of day before but - he wants to give Phil something. Something to chase whatever’s going on in Phil’s head away. So he nudges his arm under Phil’s neck, curling it around when Phil makes space for him and tugging Phil over. “C’mere,” Dan says, and then continues to guide Phil until Phil’s rolled over almost on top of Dan - hips a careful distance away but head resting on Dan’s shoulder.

This is better, Dan thinks. This is… right. This is the way it’s supposed to be, not awkward tension and hesitation.

After a few more seconds Phil wraps both arms around Dan. “My brother’s just stupid,” Phil says, muffled into Dan’s shirt. “But you can meet him.”

Dan shrugs as best he can with Phil wrapped around him. “If you don’t want to hang out with him, we can just stay here all day.”

It’s not like being alone all day with Phil is exactly punishment. Dan is definitely curious what happened to make Phil go from so excited to see his brother to not wanting to see him at all, but he can shelve that curiosity until Phil is ready to talk.

“Maybe just for a bit,” Phil says. “I know mum will want me home for dinner. But we can stay here for a while.”

His voice is so small and unsure that it takes physical restraint for Dan to not do something stupid and impulsive, like kiss Phil on the head. “Yeah,” Dan says, rubbing a hand in long, slow strokes up and down Phil’s back. “We’ll stay here for a while.”

-

His hard on goes away after a few uncomfortable minutes, and Phil ends up scooting the rest of his body closer in to Dan’s.

He’s already addicted to this, he realizes. There’s just something that feels right deep inside him, at Dan’s arms around him and Dan telling him that it’s okay. It’s not just that Dan’s being nice; it’s that it works. It’s that Phil does feel better when Dan says it.

And he starts to think about Martyn, about the misunderstanding earlier. It wasn’t… that bad, he decides. It just caught Phil off guard. Martyn didn’t mean much by it.

It’ll be fine, he thinks. He won’t let his paranoia and fear ruin his brother’s whole visit. He’ll be fine.

He signs and lifts his head a bit. Dan’s eyes are closed and his chest is moving gently up and down. He’s asleep, Phil realizes - they’ve been laying together in the quiet long enough for Dan to fall asleep. Phil’s chest constricts in a painfully fond way. He wishes he could get out his phone and take a picture of Dan just like this, looking so sweet and peaceful.

But Dan must not be that deeply asleep, because he blinks his eyes open. There’s confusion at first but he sees Phil’s face so close to his own and smiles like it’s just instinct to smile when he sees Phil.

Phil’s about to say something - he’s not sure what, but something - when his phone rings. Dan lets out a little whine and tries to grab onto Phil, but Phil slips away, picking his phone up off the table by Dan’s bed. “It’s my mum,” he says, then answers it while sitting back on the bed.

Dan shifts around, but instead of getting up like Phil expected, he just puts his head on Phil’s lap and stares up at Phil while Phil has a quick chat with his mum about dinner and when he’ll be home. Just before he hangs up he says, “Oh, is it alright if Dan comes over?”

He smiles as she says yes, of course it is, and then puts the phone down. Dan’s still staring up at him. “Verdict?” Dan says.

“I hope you like bolognese,” Phil says.

“I think I’d like anything you mum cooks, but pasta definitely is far from a hardship.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “She can’t hear you all the way over here you know.”

“Maybe I’m just practicing.”

Phil smiles, and when the urge comes to reach down and brush Dan’s fringe off his forehead, he doesn’t fight it. He’s tired of fighting all his urges. This one is ok, he thinks.

He doesn’t stop at brushing. Dan’s hair is soft and his eyes are so big and pretty looking up at him so he lets his fingers sink between the silky strands and stroke through them over and over.

Dan’s eyes float shut and he sighs. “Feels nice,” he says dreamily. “M’gonna fall asleep again if you keep doing that.”

“Should I stop?”

“No. I like it.”

“Don’t sleep though,” Phil murmurs. “I don’t wanna be alone.”

“You’re not. I’m here.”

For now, Phil thinks, and he’s going to enjoy it while he can.

-

Phil plays with Dan’s hair for a long time and Dan forces himself to stay awake. It’s the least he can do. He doesn’t even let himself have inappropriate thoughts about the proximity of his face to Phil’s crotch. That’s not what this is about. Phil is sad about something and Dan owes it to him to be supportive, so he stays awake and doesn’t fantasize, and instead tries to focus on making Phil smile.

Eventually he succeeds. He even gets Phil to laugh a few times. He’s dying to ask again what’s wrong, but he resists that urge too.

Phil is just starting to look like Phil again when Dan’s phone starts ringing on his bedside table. His stomach lurches knowing there’s really only one person it could be. At this point he’s been blowing her off completely for over a week.

His head is still in Phil’s lap. He’s just going to stay here and ignore the call like he’s gotten used to doing.

But then Phil twists around to grab it. He looks down at the screen and his face falls back into the sad expression Dan had been trying to hard to eradicate.

Phil holds the phone out for Dan. “It’s… Evie.” His voice is flat.

Dan just shakes his head, refusing to take the phone from Phil’s hand. “Don’t want her.”

Phil’s eyes go wide.

“Don’t wanna talk to her,” Dan adds quickly. “Just wanna talk to you.”

Phil puts the phone back on the nightstand. “Good. Let’s go to mine, please?”

-

Phi’s stomach feels like he’s on a roller coaster, he’s been through so many ups and downs today.

He’s never been good with roller coasters, either. He hates feeling jerked around and not having the ground underneath his feet, but with Dan he’s finding himself helpless to actually get off the ride. Because he doesn’t want to - not really. He’d probably follow Dan anywhere right now, no matter if sometimes it hurts or not.

It’s better as soon as they’re out of Dan’s room, though. Dan doesn’t even check to see if there’s a voicemail or texts; Phil knows because he’s watching to see. He just tells his nana that he’s off and heads out the front door, walking quickly until the end of their drive then stopping for Phil to catch up.

“Sorry,” Dan mumbles. “Just - wanted some air.”

“We could go for a walk first, before we go to mine?” Phil asks. He wanted to leave Dan’s room, felt claustrophobic by the closeness of the walls and her smiling face as the contact picture, but he remembers Martyn now and… well, trying to convince himself this is all fine is apparently not a linear process.

“A walk, yeah,” Dan says, sounding relieved. “When did your mum say dinner was?”

“An hour,” Phil says. “We’ve got time.”

The end up walking down the street and then down another and another, places Dan is well familiar with. “I used to ride my bike around here,” he says, pointing to a path that veers off into a thicket of trees. “Scraped myself up really well trying to do a wheelie over there.”

“You could do a wheelie?” Phil asks. “I never could.”

“Obviously not well,” Dan says. “Do you do any sport?”

Phil actually laughs. “Sport? Me? Have you seen me move?”

Dan gives him a look, one of those slow up and down ones, before he says, “Yeah. I have.” in a voice that makes Phil’s face go hot. There’s that roller coaster again, climbing uphill. He wishes he knew if it was going to be a short climb or a long one before things drop off again.

“I was alright doing long jump,” Phil says. “Just ‘cause of my legs. I’m rubbish at anything with teams, though. Or anything that needs coordination. What about you, do you do any sport?”

Dan shakes his head. “Used to do drama, though. Was a proper drama geek.”

“Was?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “Stopped being… cool, I guess.”

Phil frowns. “If I stopped doing things because they weren’t cool, I’d never do anything.”

Dan laughs, smile momentarily that bright one Phil loves. “Phil, everything you do is cool.”

“That’s definitely not true,” Phil says. “I have a poster of Buffy the Vampire Slayer above my bed. That’s not cool.”

Dan shrugs. His eyes linger on Phil again. They’re barely walking now, shuffling slowly and closely along. “Just because it’s a good show, right?”

“Just that,” Phil says, nodding. He thinks Dan gets it. He hopes so.

“We’re almost done with season one.” Dan’s voice is quiet. “Maybe we can finish it tonight?”

“I’d like that,” Phil says. “Maybe… maybe you can stay over again?”

Dan starts nodding before Phil even finishes saying it. “If your mum’s okay with it. Since your brother’s there and all?”

“She will,” Phil says, projecting confidence for no reason other than he needs to cling to the idea that he’ll get to have Dan tonight. He needs it to drive her face out of his head. “We should probably go back, though.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “There’s a shorter way back, just follow me.”

And of course… Phil does.

Chapter Text

Phil’s brother seems nice. He’s different than Phil - older with kind of an edgy cool vibe about him. He’s the kind of person Dan would probably want to impress most of the time, the kind of person he’d feel like he needed to seem cool in front of. But sat next to Phil at the Lester’s dining table it’s a different kind of feeling. He doesn’t need to impress anyone with Phil right there, and after listening to him get scolded by his parents and hearing a few childhood stories about Martyn and Phil both… well, it’s hard for Dan to find someone that much above his level when he’s just heard a story about bedwetting that has Martyn turning beet red.

So the dinner is pleasant enough, but Dan’s still ready to jump up when Phil mentions watching more Buffy.

Phil’s mum and dad aren’t keen on letting him go that fast, though. “Games night!” Kathryn declares.

Dan glances over at Phil. “What’s games night?”

“Um.” Phil looks not entirely thrilled about it. “Board games. My family likes them… a lot. Especially when Martyn’s home and it’s the whole family.”

“Oh.” Dan can’t remember the last time he sat down with both his parents and his brother at the same time. “So…”

“Monopoly?” Kathryn suggests.

“No!” Phil practically shouts. “What about - I dunno, maybe - Scrabble?”

“Scrabble’s only four players, you div,” Martyn says.

“Me and Dan can be one team,” Phil shoots back.

Martyn looks at Dan. “You’ll have to spell the big words for Phil.”

It’s exactly the same sort of teasing Dan would do with his little brother, but he still feels a surge of protectiveness. “I think Phil’s a better speller than me,” he says. He’s got no proof of it, but he says it anyway.

“You must be terrible then,” Martyn says.

“He’s just being nice,” Phil says to his brother. “Maybe you should try it sometime.”

“Ok boys, that’s enough,” Kath says, standing up. “Clear the table and start the washing up while I go find the game, please. Nige—” she motions with her head for her husband to follow her.

Phil turns to Martyn. “You clear, I’ll wash, Dan can dry, yeah?”

Martyn nods. Dan is impressed. He can’t imagine himself or Adrian ever agreeing to chores so casually and without a huge fuss. Phil grabs his arm and pulls him over to the sinks. He fills one with hot soapy water to wash and one with cooler water to rinse, and grabs a dish towel out of a drawer and hands it to Dan.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. “No dishwasher. I don’t get it, it’s not like it’s a small house or something.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” Martyn says as he comes up behind them with an armful of dirty dishes. “Mum would make us do the washing up whether we had a dishwasher or not.”

“Well lucky for you you’ll be going back to uni soon,” Phil says. “I’ll be the one left here slaving away.”

Martyn just rolls his eyes and goes back to the table.

“It’s fine,” Dan says, leaning into Phil’s ear to whisper. “Anything I can do to get in your parents’ good books so they keep letting me eat all their food and stay over in their son’s bed.”

Phil’s cheeks go a little pink. It’s a good look. Dan finds himself getting lost in it.

He and Phil both jump when Martyn’s voice is suddenly right behind them. “Get to work, ladies.”

-

Phil hates how hard and fast his heart beats knowing Martyn probably overhead what Dan just said. He wants nothing more than to skip stupid games night and retreat with Dan to watch Buffy. He’s emotionally exhausted and ready for more cuddles and a whole lot less talking.

He grabs the dishes from Martyn and slides them into the soapy water. He can feel two sets of eyes on him, both confused but presumably for much different reasons.

Thankfully his parents come back then to distract everyone from staring at him.

“Dan, would your parents think us awful if we let you drink a glass of wine?” Kath asks.

“No,” Dan answers immediately. Phil giggles and Dan hits him in the shoulder. “They wouldn’t! They let me drink champagne when I was like five.”

“Wow,” Martyn murmurs. “Mum why didn’t you let me and Phil get sloshed as infants?”

“I should’ve,” she says, not missing a beat. “Maybe Phil would’ve slept better.”

“I’m the favourite child,” Martyn says to Dan.

Phil’s heart sinks. Normally he’d laugh, but tonight everything just feels a little too heavy. It feels a little too close to home, because Martyn kind of is the favourite child, and Phil’s never felt that quite as keenly as he does now, stood next to the boy he wishes he was in bed with, with his father’s words about pretty girls still ringing in his ears.

He’s scrubbing rather furiously at a plate while he stews, until Dan bumps into him gently and says, “Think it’s clean mate.” He holds his hand out and gives Phil a little smile as he takes the plate and rinses the soap off.

“Thanks. Sorry,” Phil mutters under his breath.

Dan leans in closer again. “For what?”

Phil shrugs. “Me. This day. Everything. I dunno.” He avoids looking at Dan’s face and instead starts going to work on scrubbing another plate.

“Don’t be stupid please. My days are always better with you in them. Will you tell me what’s actually wrong later?”

“Probably not. It’s really not important. I just don’t wanna hang out with my family today.”

“Well I do,” Dan says. “They’re great. And I’m actually pretty good at Scrabble so I hope you’re ready to kick some ass.”

“Hurry up lads,” Martyn half shouts from his place at the now-clear kitchen table. “This is gonna take forever with five people.”

Phil groans quietly to himself.

“It’s ok Philly. We’re gonna get tipsy the classy way and it’s gonna be fun. Just keep telling yourself Buffy awaits.”

Now Phil looks at Dan’s face. “And cuddles?” He whispers it as quietly as he possibly can, but it still makes his blood pump to say something like that technically in front of his whole family.

“Of course,” Dan whispers back.

The game actually isn’t awful. It does take longer than Phil would like, but Dan wasn’t lying; he is good at Scrabble. They come in second only to Phil’s dad, which is probably good since Nigel Lester isn’t exactly known for taking it well when either of his sons beat him at something. And Kath - well, Phil always suspects his mum just lets his dad win to keep from having to deal with his bruised ego.

Martyn comes in last. Phil would be lying if he didn’t admit that Martyn being the ultimate loser made the game just that much more fun for him.

The wine probably helped, too. True to her word, Kath only allowed them a glass each but Phil still feels it warming in his belly. Nothing like the Malibu from the party, just the lightest little tingle in his skin making his shoulders relax and the knot in his stomach unravel a bit.

“Another game?” Kath cheerfully asks.

Both Phil and Martyn groan.

She pouts, partly pretend and partly a genuine sulk. “You boys used to love nothing more than your father and I to play games with you.”

“That’s because we knew if we did you’d let us play Bubble Bobble for at least an hour after,” Phil says.

“Just a means to an end, Mum,” Martyn finishes. “That’s how the world works.”

“You’re sure not just one more?” She tries to coax them.

Phil jumps up, shaking his head. “Dan and I are gonna go watch more Buffy.”

This time Martyn directs his groan to Phil. “That stupid show? Again?”

Phil bristles. “It’s not stupid-”

He only stops because he feels a hand on his arm. “I haven’t seen it before,” Dan says. “Phil’s being cool to watch it with me.”

“He could just lend you the box set,” Martyn points out.

Dan responds before Phil has time to. “It’s more fun to watch it with someone.”

Martyn looks a bit surprised at Dan arguing back so boldly, but he just shrugs. “Fine. Have fun with your nerd fest, small sibling. I’ve got… things to do.”

He’s clearly trying to sound cool, but Phil can hear his mum questioning Martyn on his things as he and Dan escape the lounge and make their way upstairs.

He thinks Dan is probably still waiting for Phil to explain what the deal with Martyn is, but Phil just wants to revel in the relief of having Dan and being alone for a bit. He immediately goes to his wardrobe and finds himself and Dan something to wear. He wants his cozy clothes and his cozy… Dan.

He thinks of Dan in that towel earlier and then something hits him. Without even thinking too much about it, he pulls his shirt over his head and undoes his jeans, shoving them down to his thighs. He’s in just his pants - and it’s not the first time but this time he lets it linger, stepping carefully out of them.

Dan is looking. He knows because turns so he’s facing Dan and he can see Dan’s eyes glued to his body. He feels charged with how much that look does for him. No one’s ever looked at him, Phil Lester, like that.

He wonders what Dan would do if he didn’t put the bottoms on at all. It’s not like he sleeps in them when Dan’s not there. But it’s not that late, only just gone eight pm, and his second thought is what he’d do if his mum or someone came in and saw them almost naked in bed together, and then snatches the bottoms up and steps into them. Even the thought flusters him.

Apparently as much as him undressing flusters Dan, who still hasn’t moved from his spot sat on the bed. “Come on,” Phil says, pulling his comfy sleep shirt over his head. “Your turn. To change, I mean.”

Dan doesn’t make a show of it this time. He even turns away from Phil, and Phil can’t really prove why but the suspicion of a reason makes his blood race. He has to will his cock to behave and not get hard again. He’s not sure it’s healthy to have so many impromptu erections in one day.

Dan climbs into the bed quickly and burrows down under the covers. They don’t usually start out that way.

Phil’s really not complaining. He turns on the show and walks over to the edge of the bed. “Can I get in there?”

“You better.” Dan lifts up the duvet and Phil slides right in, fitting his head into the space between Dan’s neck and shoulder.

Dan squeezes round his shoulders. “So,” he says softly.

“Mm,” Phil hums. He already feels about a thousand times better. Dan smells nice tonight, kind of spicy and musky or something. In the dark of his room and the with the solidity of Dan pressed against him in his bed Phil feels the warming buzz of the wine a little stronger. He’s just - content. All is right with the world in this moment.

“Your brother seems cool,” Dan says.

“Mreh,” Phil replies. He’s too happy for that to upset him, but he still can’t bring himself to actually agree. Not today.

“But also like a bit of a dick.”

Phil turns his head to look at Dan’s face.

“Sorry.”

“No,” Phil says, the corners of his mouth quirking up into a smile. “No, you’re… yeah. You’re right. He’s being a bit of a dick today.”

“Did something happen?”

Phil shrugs. This is one thing he simply can’t confide in Dan about. It’s one cross he’s just going to have to bear alone.

“Sorry,” Dan says gently. “We don’t have to talk about it.”

“I just want this,” Phil says, letting the wine make him brave enough to nuzzle his face against Dan’s neck.

Dan’s next breath comes in a little sharper. Desire courses thick through Phil’s body, desire to press his lips to that soft skin and wring more noises like that from Dan.

He can’t do that. He absolutely cannot. But he’s rapidly losing the will to give a shit. He can feel that Dan’s chest is heaving. It matches the way his own heart pounds.

He pulls his face away before he can do something he’ll regret. He can’t lose Dan to his own selfishness. He clears his throat and turns more towards the telly. Cuddling is enough. Cuddling is perfect.

His heart leaps up his throat and into his mouth when his bedroom door opens suddenly. His body jerks and so does Dan’s as Martyn is suddenly in the doorway.

“Phil, do you - oh. Shit.” He stops dead, his hand still on the doorknob.

Phil’s whole body freezes. Martyn’s face is just a picture of shock.

He doesn’t move, and neither do Dan and Phil - until something snaps in Phil’s head and he sits up. The duvet puddles around his waist and they’re both clearly wearing shirts, so at least Martyn won’t think they were like… naked, or something.

His voice is shockingly strong when he says, “Did you need something?”

“I just.” Martyn is looking back and forth between them, before his eyes settle on Phil with a kind of curiosity - almost suspicion - that Phil’s never seen from his brother before. “Mum said to tell you there’s cake.”

“Okay,” Phil says. “We might come get some soon.”

Martyn gives one more look between them before he shuts the door and he’s gone.

Phil crumbles.

-

Dan can see it happen, almost. Phil’s shoulders collapse and his face just looks blank.

“Hey,” Dan says softly, reaching out. “That was, uh.”

Phil’s voice is flat when he answers. “Yeah.”

It’s the same tone he used earlier, and Dan is - he’s not the brightest guy out there, but he thinks maybe he’s catching onto something.

He’s just not sure if he should say something. He’s not sure if Phil wants him to, and he’s not sure if he’s brave enough to.

So instead of saying anything he sits up and leans in behind Phil, sliding his arms around Phil’s waist and resting his forehead against Phil’s shoulder blade.

Phil doesn’t do anything at first, then he covers Dan’s arms with his own, like he’s making sure Dan can’t escape the hug. When he does finally speak he says, “Let's finish watching the episode, okay?”

“Yeah,” Dan says, moving back. He’s not sure if Phil’s going to want to lay like they were before and he hates how awful it makes him feel to think that Phil might not.

But Phil curls right back into Dan’s arms just like he was meant to be there. He leans all the way back, and covers Dan’s arms with his own. That’s fine with Dan; he’s not particularly looking for any kind of distance from Phil.

“Come on,” he says, squeezing a bit. “Do you want cake?”

Phil shakes his head. It’s the first time in the weeks they’ve known each other that Dan’s seen Phil turn down something sugary.

“Maybe we can sneak down and get cake once everyone else is asleep,” Dan says. He scoots backwards, tugging Phil with him until Dan’s back is against Phil’s headboard and Phil is cradled in his arms. “This okay?”

Phil nods again and relaxes back. “Yeah. This is good.”

-

It feels so nice to be held that Phil almost manages to forget the excruciating discomfort he feels at his brother having walked in on him and Dan.

He’s sure Martyn will ask him about it. He’s sure he has absolutely no idea what he’ll say.

That they’re just mates? That he cuddles with all of his mates? It’s a lie. Martyn will know it’s a lie.

Even the truth sounds like a lie; that Dan has a girlfriend. That they’re not… anything. Martyn will see right through it and he’ll know that Phil wants things that boys aren’t supposed to want from other boys.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? That Phil doesn’t think he’s supposed to want this. It’s fine for other people to - but not him. Because… what would his mum say? His dad? His grandparents? What would they think of him? How would things change?

He huffs out a breath that Dan can probably hear, but thankfully doesn’t comment on. He hates these thoughts invading his head. He just wants to run away from them. He just wants something else in his head besides fear and confusion and dread.

He closes his eyes and tries to focus in on what’s directly around him. The sounds of the episode playing, Buffy and Angel having some sort of intense discussion. The warmth of Dan all against his back, solid and strong. The weight of Dan’s arms around his middle.

He’s not sure how it is that he feels terrified and reckless at the same time, but he reaches down and covers Dan’s hand with his own, sliding his fingers between Dan’s with a slow stroke of a touch. He’s not trying to hold Dan’s hand, not really - he just wants to feel.

And Dan lets him. He spreads his fingers a little and lets Phil’s rest in between. They stay like that for hours, watching episode after episode until the dread isn’t coiled quite so tightly in Phil’s chest. He even has chunks of time where he’ll forget, where he feels perfectly blissed out on Dan and Buffy. But mostly Dan.

Then he’ll have sinking-gut moments where everything feels kind of awful and ruined and bleak, like he’ll always be a disappointment or he’ll never be able to express himself authentically ever again and the dread will return.

In those moments he clings a little tighter and Dan clings back. Phil thinks back to Dan saying I don’t want her, and though it makes him feel morally bankrupt it’s comforting and he’s also clinging to that right now. He’s clinging to everything that makes him feel like this isn’t just a twisted delusion he made up in his own head. He feels something and he knows it, but Dan feels it too.

He has no idea what time it is when his stomach starts making hungry noises, but he knows it’s late because his eyes are heavy and it’s been dark outside the window for at least three episodes.

“Dan?”

“Mm.”

“Are you awake still?”

“Kinda,” Dan croaks.

“Awake enough for cake?”

“I’m always awake enough for your mum’s cooking, Phil. I thought you’d never ask.”

Phil leads Dan down the too-creaky stairs, turning around halfway down to press his fingers to lips in playful reproach. Dan just sticks out his tongue and motions Phil forward. “Caaaaaake,” he whispers.

Phil snickers and keeps going. He loves this. He loves it with his whole fucking heart.

They make it to the kitchen and Phil cuts them each a decidedly massive piece which they sneak right back up to Phil’s room.

“My mum will be cross we ate like half of what was left,” Phil says, shoving a piece into his mouth with his fingers. He hadn’t even bothered with forks. Finger desserts just feel right when he’s with Dan.

“She won’t,” Dan replies through a mouthful. “She loves me. She’ll be happy we enjoyed it.”

Phil considers that for a moment. “Y’know what, I reckon you’re probably right.”

“I am.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “Alright. But she’ll be annoyed we left the dishes in my room all night.”

“We could take them down when we’re done,” Dan suggests. “We’re kind of a good washing up team now.”

Phil shakes his head. “Too lazy.”

Dan smiles fondly and shakes his head. Phil turns the show back on and they finish their cake while Buffy kicks vampire ass.

“I should brush my teeth before I get too sleepy,” Phil says when his food is all gone.

“I need to buy one to leave here. I hate sleeping with gunk on my teeth.”

“Come with me,” Phil says, standing up. “We’ll find something.”

-

Dan’s not sure if it’s the cake or the Buffy or what but he’s glad that Phil’s smiling again. He’s not sure he’s ever felt so devastatingly helpless as when Phil was sat in his arms with his whole body closed off to Dan.

Part of him thinks he should have really said something, should have actually spoken. But it feels like a wall he’s not ready to climb over yet, putting words to this weird thing. And he’s not even sure if he’s entirely right that Phil’s whole problem with Martyn has something to do with… him. It feels presumptuous to assume, but he also can’t think of anything else it would be.

He tries not to focus too hard on it as he scrubs his teeth with an extra, brand new toothbrush Phil had found in his bathroom. “Mum likes to make sure we change them every three months,” Phil explains. “And then I always forget.”

“Lucky for me then.” Dan grins and loads up his toothbrush.

He likes the sight of them in the mirror, both of them scrubbing their teeth with mouthfuls of foam. He likes how Phil looks especially, hair dark and slightly overgrown, skin pale and eyes so, so blue. It feels quiet and intimate, doing something like this with Phil. It’s not an experience he’s had before - even in Paris, there were so many other people around, he and Evie never had quiet intimacy, never had moments stolen away that weren’t sex or flirtation.

They spit and rinse their mouths out and then creep back through the hall into Phil’s bedroom. A light glowing from underneath a door at the other end of the hall catches his eye; it must be Martyn’s room.

If Phil sees it, he doesn’t say anything, so Dan doesn’t either.

“Do you want to watch more?” Dan asks.

Phil shakes his head. “I’m sleepy. Can we just… get in bed?”

Dan’s heart does a funny flip at that. “Of course,” he says.

They curl up under the duvet - not holding each other this time, but facing each other. Dan finds himself not minding. It feels like he’s got permission to look at Phil right now in a way he never has during the day.

Or maybe he does. Maybe he just feels like he shouldn’t during the day. Either way, he feels like he could just stare into Phil’s eyes forever right now.

Is this how it feels when it’s real? And what does it mean that he never knew the difference before? He can remember feeling a lot of things about Evie, and he remembers with an almost secondhand recollection that they felt intense to him then, but he’d swear on his life it was nothing like what happens as soon as he’s alone with Phil.

“You’re thinking hard,” Phil whispers.

Dan shrugs. “I do that sometimes. And so do you, despite what you claim.”

Phil smiles just a tiny bit, remembering their cafe conversation from before. “You can’t prove a thing, Howell.”

Both their voices are low, like they want to keep their words trapped in the bubble of this bed. “But what if I just want to know like, all your thoughts?”

“You don’t want to know all of them,” Phil says. “Some of them are right weird.”

“I want to know those especially,” Dan whispers.

“Well, then you have to tell me all your thoughts too,” Phil whispers back. “Tell me what you’re thinking right now.”

One thought stands out clear, but Dan just shakes his head. “Too sleepy to think.”

“That’s not true,” Phil softly admonishes, but with a smile.

“I’m thinking…” Dan toes the line of bravery, then backs away from it. “About what we’re gonna do tomorrow?”

It’s a good answer, from the way Phil’s whole face goes soft. He rubs his cheek against the pillow and says, “Whatever we do, it’ll be ace.”

“Ace.” Dan fondly mocks. “But yeah, it will be.”

Dan folds his legs in so that his knees are touching Phil’s. He wants to stay awake, wants to keep talking to Phil, but his stomach is full of sugary cake and Phil’s bed is the most comfortable place he’s ever been in his life. He finally starts to lose the battle with his heavy eyelids, falling asleep knowing Phil is watching him.

Chapter Text

Phil wakes up before Dan, their legs tangled together in a way that’s starting to feel all too familiar. Too familiar because it’s finite, too familiar because it’s going to hurt like hell when he can’t have it anymore.

Instead of snuggling in like he wants to, he climbs over Dan’s body and off the bed slowly, careful not to wake him. He wants to let Dan get as much rest as he can. He still looks so calm and peaceful and Phil feels far too awake to fall back to sleep.

And he just… he doesn’t feel like he can allow himself to spend that time curled up against Dan’s warmth without the excuse of sleep. He can still see Martyn’s wide eyes and Evie's smiling photo and it all just feels wrong.

Coffee will help. Maybe some cereal. Maybe he’ll even sneak in a shower. He closes the door carefully behind him and goes downstairs to the kitchen. He can hear someone puttering around in there; maybe his mum will make him a proper breakfast.

When he rounds the corner his heart sinks. It’s not his mum but his brother, leaning against the counter with a mug in one hand and his phone in the other, looking down at the screen and smiling not unlike a fool until he looks up and sees Phil.

He jumps, which makes Phil jump too. “Phil,” he says, startled.

“Morning,” Phil mutters. “Where’s mum?”

Martyn shoves his phone in his pocket like it’s burning his hand suddenly and says, “Went out with dad.”

“Where?”

Martyn shrugs. “Wasn’t really listening.”

“Right.” Phil walks over to the kettle and brings it to the sink to fill it. He wants nothing more than to run away but that would look even weirder. His whole body is one giant ball of anxiety and tension as he feels Martyn’s eyes burning a hole in the side of his face.

“Where’s your mate there,” Martyn asks after what feels like an eternity of awkward, loaded silence.

“Sleeping?” Phil doesn’t quite manage to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

Martyn holds up his hands defensively. “Alright, sorry.”

“Who’re you talking to,” Phil asks boldly. Two can play at this game.

“Uhh, no one. A mate.”

He sounds uncomfortable. Phil likes that. He puts the kettle on and grabs two mugs and the tin of coffee out of the cupboard.

“Are you making me coffee?” Martyn asks. “‘Cause I’ve already got one.”

“What? No, I— this is for Dan.”

Martyn frowns. “You’re bringing up coffee for him?”

Phil glares. “Yes? Do you have a problem with that?”

“I—” he stops whatever thought he’d been about to vocalize. “No. Course not. It’s just… odd.”

Phil’s stomach is all clenched into knots as he wills the kettle to boil the water faster. He wishes he was the kind of person who could just tell his brother to piss off and leave it at that. But he thinks restrained irritation is the furthest he can push himself.

“I woke up before him and I want coffee. I reckon it’s just a nice thing to do to make him one too,” he says curtly. “Just because you’re an ass to your mates doesn’t mean I have to be too.”

“I’ve never seen you be so nice to any of your other mates before,” Martyn mutters.

Phil hates the way his heart crawls up into his throat. He doesn’t say anything back, just seethes quietly until the water is boiled. He pours the water over the coffee powder then stirs milk and sugar into the mugs hastily and makes a quick, terse retreat.

“Oh-” Martyn says, just as Phil’s about to escape the stifling atmosphere of judgement in this kitchen. “Mum said to tell you family dinner tonight.”

“What?” Phil asks, half turning.

Martyn shrugs. “Family dinner. So no, uh… mates.”

There’s an odd twist to his voice that Phil really, really hates. “Right,” he says in a flat voice, and walks away quickly before Martyn can call him back again.

Dan’s awake and on his phone when Phil steps back into the bedroom. He shuts the door firmly with his foot and walks over to Dan, holding out his coffee.

“What the fuck is that mug?” Dan asks.

“It’s art, that’s what it is,” Phil says. Dan’s mug has messy streaks and splatters of paint in a variety of colors, though in most spots it’s just muddied into a yellow-gray. “I made that for mum when I was a kid.”

“What were you like, two?” Dan asks.

“Hey!” Phil says, sitting back down on the bed. “I was nine, I’ll have you know.”

“And were you like, blindfolded?” Dan grins over the edge of the mug, blowing on it then taking a sip.

“Don’t be mean to me,” Phil whines. He takes a drink of his own coffee. It burns his mouth, but he doesn’t care. “Martyn said mum wants us to have a family dinner tonight.”

It’s gratifying how disappointed Dan looks. “Oh. Okay.”

Phil doesn’t really know how to respond to that, so he doesn’t. He leans his head back and closes his eyes and tries to clear his mind.

“We could go get a coffee first,” Dan says.

If Phil didn’t know better, he’d think Dan was just trying to find reasons not to go home. Or maybe just not to go… where Phil isn’t.

But Phil knows better. He’s got to know better.

“We’re literally drinking coffee right now,” he says, but he must be discovering a masochistic streak because the next words out of his mouth are: “But okay.”

-

They don’t actually stay at the coffee shop long. Phil’s mum calls him back earlier than expected, because she wants him to be home to help bring the shopping in and then she wants him to help her make the dinner and some kind of fancy pudding.

It’s his punishment for eating too much of the cake for them to have it again, apparently. Phil grumbles and complains but, unlike Dan, he’s a good son who actually goes home when his mum wants him to help with something instead of doing what Dan would do and pretending that he didn’t see his mobile ringing and only going home after the threat of impending chores would have passed.

The last thing Phil says to him is, “I’ll ring you later,” and Dan hates how relieved he is to know he won’t actually go a whole night without talking to Phil.

Left to his own devices, he wanders through the video game store to see if there’s anything interesting in the discount bins and then he wanders over to the music store and pretends like he’s going to buy something while he admires how retro the actual records are and then, given his lack of finances and general discomfort being alone and surrounded by people, he gives in and just walks home.

It’s not even half six yet, too early for Phil to have had dinner, so Dan orders himself not to stare pitifully at the phone. He has a nice cordial chat with his dad when they cross paths, makes himself something to eat, and then contemplates taking a nap before opting for Final Fantasy instead.

Phil likes Final Fantasy too, apparently. They’re going to play together some time. It’s on the long, long list of things they want to do. Apparently Dan’s new hobby is making plans with Phil so far into the future that Phil won’t ever be able to escape him.

When the phone does ring, he drops the game controller and reaches around to answer it with reflexes he didn’t even know he had.

But it’s not Phil.

Of course it’s not Phil. It’s too early for Phil to call.

It’s exactly around the time that Evie calls every night, though.

He doesn’t want to answer it. He can at least admit that now. He doesn't want to talk to her, and he’s the shittiest fucking boyfriend in the world for it. It’s only the pure and resounding disappointment in himself that leads him to finally accept her call.

“Hey,” he says, trying to sound casual.

“Wow.” Her voice is a step beyond emotionless, verging into the territory of cold fury. “I can’t believe you remembered how to answer your phone.”

“I, um. I’m sorry.” He doesn’t try to make any excuses. He doesn’t have any.

“You realize you haven’t answered a single call or text in like, over a week, right? Like, you know that?”

“Um.”

“I’ve literally rung you multiple times every single day. I was kind of hoping you were like gravely injured or something but you sound well enough, yeah?”

She’s definitely furious. Dan’s skin prickles with it. “I’m… not injured,” he says stupidly. His mind is racing for an excuse now, anything to release him from this all consuming guilt.

“Yeah. Not hurt. Just a fucking asshole.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m shit.” Maybe that will placate her, admitting just how much of an awful boyfriend he is.

“Do you have literally anything to say in your own defense? Like are you not even gonna try?”

“Look, I—”

“Do you just like, not care? Like you just don’t care about me anymore?”

“Of… course, I do.” He fucking hesitated. He couldn’t even bring himself to admit he cares about her. Which is insane because he does care about her. Of course he does.

Just not in the way he used to. Not in the way she wants him to. Not in the way she still cares about him.

Not in the way he cares about Phil.

Fuck.

“Wow,” she murmurs. “Ok. Cool. Thanks for that.”

“Sorry,” he says, his voice almost pleading at this point. “Things have been… weird. Like, my—”

“Just shut up, Dan. Shut the fuck up, ok? It’s my fault anyway. You’ve been weird for ages and I tried to tell myself it was fine but it’s obviously not fine. And you obviously don’t have the balls to do anything about it yourself so let me save you the trouble.”

“What d’you mean?” Dan croaks.

“I mean mum asked me if I wanted to stay here an extra week and I said no because I wanted to see you but fuck that. I don’t. You don’t want me so I’m gonna stay here and maybe I’ll tell beach cunt that I need help putting on my sun cream after all and you can just… just go fuck yourself.”

It hurts. Dan can’t deny that it hurts a fuck of a lot to hear her say that. He still doesn’t like the idea of someone else touching her, but he knows now that it comes from that sour, dark place inside of him that wants to lay claim without having any of the responsibility of being what she needs.

He knows the difference because he’s got a taste of what the other feeling is like now; the one that’s all the best parts of falling for someone. He’s sure he had those best parts with Evie once, but he doesn’t anymore.

So he deserves this. It hurts, but he deserves it, so he lets her talk and he swallows past the burn of her words and the fear of facing a world where he’s not her boyfriend.

He could beg. He could promise her that’ll he try harder, that he’ll be better. This is his chance.

But he doesn’t do that. Instead he just says, “I’m sorry,” his voice weak. “I’m really sorry.”

“Yeah, I’m done,” she says. “We’re done.”

She hangs up.

He sits there holding the phone. What the hell is he supposed to do now?

She’s been the last two years of his life. She’s been one of his best friends, the only person he could ever come close to being honest with when things felt too hard or too heavy to shoulder alone. And now he’s thrown that away. He’s thrown her away without even giving her a reason.

He lets the phone drop to the ground and pulls his knees up to his chest, face falling between them. His chest hurts, aches. His throat feels thick with embarrassment and regret and shame.

But underneath it all is…

Relief?

Something like relief. Not so clear cut, because nothing feels straightforward right now, but at least there’s no mystery anymore.

He doesn’t have the nagging guilt in the back of his mind anymore that he ought to be something he isn’t. Now it’s just an overwhelming empty panic at the way his world has been changed in a matter of minutes.

He’s not sure what’s worse, honestly. Because the other was bad, but this? This hurts like hell. It hurts more than he ever thought it would.

Maybe it’s more about knowing how much he’s hurt her. Because even now if he’s honest with himself he has to admit that he hasn’t missed her these last few weeks. He really hasn’t missed her at all, not even in the crass, shallow way most boys his age would miss their girlfriends.

He has an ugly realization then, leaning down to snatch his phone up off the carpet. He opens it up with shaking fingers and goes to the photo gallery. He doesn’t have to scroll up far to find the picture she’d sent him. He can barely even bring himself to look at it long enough to delete it. He feels sick.

That was the last proper conversation they’d had, him making her promise there was no one else, him making her think he still wanted her and only her.

In the place where her photo had been a moment before, now there is one of Phil, sat across the table from Dan at Costa with whipped cream on the tip of his nose. It’s almost poetic, really, in a heavy handed kind of way.

Right now it just feels like shit. It’s too on the nose to watch Phil slip into her space like that. It’s fucking terrifying. And wonderful. And exhilarating. And confusing. But really… really not that confusing anymore.

He can’t pretend he’s confused. He can’t pretend he doesn’t want Phil with everything he has. And that’s really what makes this all so bloody scary.

Suddenly it feels like he’s been slammed up against a wall. Or like something heavy is sitting on his chest and he can’t get enough air into his lungs. Like everything is ruined forever.

He’s not brave, he never has been. He’s not brave enough to want a boy. At least not brave enough to let himself act on those desires. Which means now he’s just alone.

He throws his phone back on the floor and lies down on his bed, curling up into as tight a ball as he can force his long limbs to create. He’s all alone and honestly, that’s what he deserves.

-

Phil rings him a few hours later.

Dan just watches his phone as it rings. He’s never not answered Phil’s call right away, but somehow it seems fitting right now that he lets it go to voicemail just the same as all Evie's calls have done for weeks.

Except it’s not really the same at all, because the second Phil’s name disappears from the screen Dan feels a searing desire for him to call back. He doesn’t want Phil to give up; he doesn’t want him to just shrug and move on and do something else with his night.

He gets a text. He can’t read it for how blurry his vision is. He’s not sure when the crying started - some time after the conversation with Evie. The tears weren’t about Phil, not really - they were about Evie and what he lost, what he’s thrown away, and about himself and what a fucking coward he is.

But now he’s crying about Phil. Because he’s a coward who can’t take a step in either direction, even when he really needs to. Even when it’s all he’s been able to think about for weeks.

He sits up and wipes his face off. Phil’s going to end up hating him just like Evie did.

But he can’t just… ring back. Words are useless at a time like this.

He looks at the clock. It’s after ten. He’s not sure where the time’s gone. He remembers hearing his mum and dad come back in, but no one came to check on him.

He gets another text. This time he reads it.

sorry!! that took AGES mum and dad wanted to play more games
dan?
:(

Phil definitely thinks Dan’s ignoring him.

Dan scrambles to his feet. His hands are shaking and he doesn’t even think twice about what he’s doing. It seems absolutely imperative that Phil not hate him like Evie does. Evie's a world away, even if Dan wanted to make things right with her. But… he doesn’t. Not in the right way.

Phil’s just across the street, and Dan… Dan needs him.

No one else in the house stirs as he goes downstairs. It’s a muggy night, the air so thick and humid it clings to his skin. He doesn’t stop to appreciate the view of the stars or the way the moon is full. He goes straight for Phil’s front door… and then stops when he sees a light still on downstairs.

He’s really not thought this through. He can’t deal with Phil’s parents, or his brother.

He stares at the tree he used the last time he’d stolen into Phil’s room in a fit of emotion, and then rubs his clammy palms on his pajama bottoms before hitching himself up to start the climb.

Chapter Text

Maybe he’d messed everything up earlier, somehow. Maybe Dan had grown tired of how weird he’s been since Martyn got here and he just doesn’t have the energy for it tonight.

Because Phil can’t think of a single time Dan hadn’t responded pretty much immediately to his calls and texts. They’d made plans to talk tonight, but maybe Dan had changed his mind.

Maybe he’s talking to Evie. Phil had noticed she’d been ringing a lot in the last few days. Maybe Dan just doesn’t have time for Phil tonight.

He nearly jumps right out of his own skin when there’s a firm rapping of knuckles against his window. Phil frowns and rushes over to let Dan in. This they hadn’t discussed.

“Hey, what’s—” He stops when he sees the look on Dan’s face, the splotchiness of his cheeks and the redness of his eyes. He steps aside for Dan to crawl in. He’s already wearing pjs.

Dan makes a beeline for Phil’s bed. He sits down and says, “I wasn’t ignoring you.”

“Ok,” Phil says hesitantly. “Should I go tell mum you’re staying over?”

Dan looks at him with panic in his eyes. “No. Please don’t.”

“Ok.” His heart is pounding. Something is clearly wrong and Dan clearly doesn’t want to talk about it.

But Phil has to ask anyway. “What happened?”

Dan shakes his head.

“Are you ok though?”

Dan shrugs.

“Can I sit with you?” His voice wavers.

Dan nods. “Please,” he whispers.

Phil sits, making sure to leave enough space so their bodies don’t touch. “Tell me what to do,” he says. “Tell me what you need.”

“I just wanna… be here. With you. Don’t wanna be alone. Can we just… sit?”

“Of course.”

Phil has no idea what to do, really. Seeing Dan like this is scary and it only gets scarier when Dan starts to cry again. Phil’s never felt so helpless in his whole life.

When Dan wipes at his eyes, it’s almost angrily. “Sorry,” he says.

“You don’t need to be sorry.” Phil’s only trying to say what he thinks he’d like to hear. He’s never cried like Dan is in front of anyone else before, though. At least not since he was old enough for his dad to tell him that crying isn’t a thing boys should do. “Do you want to… watch telly?”

Dan shakes his head, another broken sob sounding like it’s being ripped right out of him. He grabs Phil’s pillow and hides his face in it, shoulders shaking.

Phil reaches out to touch without even thinking about it, only remembering belatedly that he’d been trying to give Dan space.

Dan must not want that much space, because he drops the pillow and turns right into Phil, clinging to him. Phil can feel his shirt getting wet immediately where Dan’s face is pressed against it. He holds Dan - not as tightly as Dan’s clinging to him, but trying to inject every bit of reassurance he can into it. “You’re scaring me,” he whispers.

Dan pulls back then. “Sorry,” he says again.

“Stop saying you’re sorry,” Phil orders.

Dan leans back but stays close enough to keep Phil’s arm around him. “I’m a fucking mess, okay.”

“You’re not,” Phil protests softly.

Dan just gives him a look. Bloodshot eyes, tearstained cheeks, pink splotched on his jaw, wearing pajama bottoms and a stained band t-shirt. He is a mess, actually. He’s just a mess that Phil feels very, very fond of… and right now, very concerned about. “Things are just shit. I fucked things up. I make everything shit.”

“You don’t make me shit,” Phil says.

That just makes Dan cry again, face crumpling up with raw emotion and no dignity at all. “I will. Eventually. I ruin everything.”

It sounds so dramatic that Phil would probably laugh any other time, but right now he knows Dan feels like it’s true and that makes it not funny at all. “You won’t ruin me,” Phil says.

But is it even true? He does feel a bit like Dan’s ruined him already. It’s just… Phil sort of likes it. He likes it enough, he likes Dan enough, that he doesn’t plan on trying to be un-ruined any time soon. Even if it’s messy and confusing and hurts sometimes.

Dan goes silent then, resting against Phil but not the close embrace of nights past. His chest stops heaving and his tears dry and his breathing goes back to something close to normal.

Something else hits after that. Dan starts to fidget, to shift his limbs. He talks, but broken words and phrases, and Phil’s not sure if he’s supposed to ask for more context or if he should just let things work their way out of Dan on their own.

“It’s just.” Dan heaves a big sigh. “So fucked up. Doing the right thing. Or like, not. And then it’s too late.”

Phil looks at him so Dan knows he’s listening, but he doesn’t say anything back.

“I’m just so fucking fucked.” Dan’s fingers pluck at Phil’s duvet, pinching the fabric then letting it go. “What do I even tell people. What do… shit. It’s like. I don’t even know.”

That makes two of them. “Yeah,” Phil says.

“What am I gonna do?” Dan mutters, and Phil’s honestly not sure if he’s just talking to himself or if he wants Phil to answer.

“It’s going to be ok,” Phil says. “Whatever it is, it’s going to be fine, I promise.”

Dan looks up then, looks Phil dead in the face. “Evie dumped me.”

Maybe he should have known that’s what was going on here, but he honestly didn’t, and hearing those words shocks through him like lightning. He hates himself for his automatic first thought, which is just shouting itself endlessly on a loop in his own brain: Dan is single.

But he’s also clearly gutted about it, so maybe Phil has been reading everything wrong this whole time. Maybe the cuddles and the looks and the morning wood and the smiles and all the little moments Phil was sure meant something more… maybe they actually didn’t. Maybe they really didn’t mean anything more than friendship.

Maybe he should get his head out of his ass and stop acting like this has anything to do with him. He squeezes Dan a little tighter. “Shit, Dan. I’m sorry. Do you want to—”

Dan breaks out of Phil’s grip and stands up abruptly. “I need to… I need air or something.”

“Ok…”

“Can we get out of here?” Dan asks, his voice just a shade away from frantic.

Relief floods Phil’s chest. “You want me to come?”

“Come on,” Dan says, heading for the window. “Let’s go do… something.”

Phil watches him climb through the window and then follows close behind, adrenaline keeping him from panicking about getting caught or about his clumsy body falling from the roof and breaking his neck or something.

They make it down into the grass with no injuries. “Where should we go?” Phil asks. “Ugh it’s so hot, what the hell. When did it get so hot?”

Dan just gives him a look.

“Sorry,” Phil mumbles. “I just forgot.”

Phil only realizes then that he’s not even wearing shoes. Neither is Dan - they’re both just barefoot in the grass on Phil’s front garden.

Dan’s looking around. He’s still breathing too fast, but he starts to walk with quick, long-legged steps. “Come on,” he says.

He’s not sure where they’re going, and Dan doesn’t seem keen on volunteering information. Phil stumbles trying to keep up with him. “Dan, where-”

“Just, just. Let’s go, okay.” Dan doesn’t check on Phil. He’s practically jogging. A car passes by them and doesn’t slow down.

“Okay,” Phil says, confused and strangely a bit scared. He trusts Dan, he just feels very out of his depth. He doesn’t know what he’s meant to be doing or saying or where he’s meant to be going at all.

Dan stops abruptly outside a darkened house. “Come on. We’re going here.”

“Where?” Phil stops as well, bumping into Dan from behind. “There? Who lives there?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Stonewell,” Dan says. “And they’re on holiday this week.”

Phil watches as Dan reaches around the gate and finds the lock, sliding the bolt free so it swings open. “Why are we breaking into their garden, Dan?”

Dan looks over at him. It looks like he’s really seeing Phil for the first time all night. “Because it’s hot,” Dan says. “And they’ve got a pool. Fix the door back behind you.”

The Stonewells do indeed have a pool, a proper one, dug into the ground and big enough to be deeper at one end than the other.

“They don’t have kids anymore,” Dan says. “They’re grown up and at uni. Sometimes they invite us over to swim.”

“What-” Phil’s mouth shuts with an audible click.

Dan’s pulling his shirt over his head. He looks at Phil again. “Shirt off,” he orders.

“Dan!” Phil’s voice goes squeaky high. “We can’t-”

Dan shoves his bottoms down. He’s still wearing pants, but nothing else now. “We can. Come on. Strip.”

“Dan-” Phil tries again, almost pleading. “We can’t break into-

Dan jumps into the pool. The splash sounds impossibly loud in the otherwise stillness of the night. It rings in Phil’s ear and he stares at the spot where Dan went under until Dan’s head pops back up. “Come on,” Dan says, treading in place. “Your turn.”

Phil closes his eyes. He can’t believe he’s actually doing this. His mum would kill him.

He tugs his shirt over his head, and then before he can second guess himself even more he hooks his thumbs into the waistband of his pajama bottoms and pushes them down. They puddle at his feet and he steps out of them easily, only to stand ramrod straight because he’s just caught a flash of color and realized what pants he put on that morning.

Great. Yeah. He really wanted Dan to see him with Mario and Yoshi all over his bum. Dead sexy impression he’ll make there.

To try and avoid the inevitable laughter and humiliation, he jumps in the pool. He doesn’t make nearly the splash Dan did - no running start, and he doesn’t tuck his legs in. He sinks down and comes up sputtering and shoving his hair back from his face. “It’s so cold!” He gasps.

“Feels good,” Dan says, still treading water a few feet away from Phil. “Nice pants by the way.”

Of course.

“Why were you looking at my pants?” Phil counters.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

That makes Phil’s stomach feel funny, but it probably doesn’t mean anything. He still doesn’t really know how to respond though, so he ducks his head under the water and swims over to the shallow end of the pool. He’s finding his breath a little harder to catch all of a sudden and he doesn’t want to have to tread water anymore.

When he pops his head back up and pushes the dripping wet hair out of his eyes he’s surprised to see Dan there, like right there.

“Are you running away from me, Phil?”

Phil thinks he probably meant it to sound playful but it just comes out sounding sad and lonely, and then Phil remembers he’s meant to be comforting his heartbroken mate. “No, sorry. Just too lazy to do actual swimming.” His legs are bent under the water so just his head and neck poke out from under the surface.

“We can get out if you want,” Dan says. “I probably shouldn’t have made you do this in the first place.”

Phil moves a little closer and makes the bold decision to push his hands against the surface of the water and splash Dan right in the face. Dan shrieks and splutters and gives Phil a look of wounded indignation before splashing back.

Phil splashes back and then they’re just spraying water in each other’s faces and laughing and shouting like twelve year olds, until Phil gets water up his nose. “Truce, truce,” he begs, coughing and spitting.

Again, sexy. But it’s worth it. Dan is laughing hysterically, clutching around his middle, his cheeks so dimpled Phil can see them even in the near darkness. He’s stood all the way up so the water only reaches as high as his hips and Phil finds himself staring.

And not caring that he’s staring, because Dan is single now. He’s single and he’s fucking gorgeous tonight, all tall and wet and lit softly by the pool lights, the ripples of the water reflected up onto his chest. Phil’s staring because he just can’t help it, he wants Dan and not even the knowledge that it makes him kind of asshole to be thinking that when he’d just been crying ten minutes ago can stop him.

Dan’s not laughing anymore, Phil realizes a little too late. He’s staring back, his features focused and intent.

He pretends to shiver a little. “The air feels cold now,” he says, walking backwards until his back is pushed up against the side of the pool. He’s not sure if he’s relieved or terrified that Dan follows as if they’re magnetized or something. Phil doesn’t know what the fuck to do with his hands.

Dan is stood just a couple of feet in front of him, still looking at Phil with something that looks like purpose. The ends of his hair are plastered to his forehead and still somehow hinting at curls. Phil thinks of something he’d like to do with his hands then, but he stops himself from reaching up and pushing that hair aside.

“Evie dumped me today Phil,” he says apropos of nothing.

“I know. I’m really sorry.”

Dan shakes his head. “I was gonna say, she dumped me and… I don’t really… care? Like…” He sighs. “This makes me sound like an asshole.”

“It doesn’t,” Phil says quietly. His heart is hammering but he still takes a little half step forward.

“You don’t even know what I’m going to say,” Dan says.

Phil shrugs his shoulders. The water ripples around his stomach. “Doesn’t matter. Not going to think you’re an asshole.”

“Even if I say I really don’t care?” Dan asks, bold like he’s daring Phil. “Even if I say I didn’t really want to be with her?”

It feels like a test that Phil hasn’t studied for. “That sounds like… maybe it’s good you broke up, then.”

“I mean, maybe. But I was so awful to her, Phil. Like, what kind of fucking boyfriend - I never answered the phone. I never wanted to talk to her. The last time we- I wasn’t nice, Phil.”

“What did you do?”

Dan stares at him, then shakes his head. “I just wasn’t nice. I kept things from her. And I just didn’t talk to her.”

“Did you love her?” Phil asks. He hates the question as soon as it comes out of his mouth.

Dan looks almost shocked that he’s asked. His lips go tight into a line, and he just… shrugs. “I don’t fucking know, Phil. I guess - I used to.”

Used to.

Nothing about this should make Phil feel as happy as it does.

Dan stares at him with that intense look again, then he steps forward into Phil’s space. Phil steps backward just out of instinct, stumbling halfway down and catching himself in the water. He rests a hand along the ledge of the pool as if to ground himself. There’s nothing menacing about Dan, not really, but Phil feels intimidated by the potential of the moment.

He can’t predict Dan. Right now, Dan feels genuinely like someone he’s only known a few weeks of his life. Like an almost-stranger, except for how he feels so much more than he would for someone he didn’t really know.

“Were you happy?” Phil asks, trying again.

Dan looks at him again, then tilts his head. “Was I happy?”

“Yeah.”

“I have been,” Dan says. “In the past few weeks. Just… not with her.”

There it is.

That moment Phil’s been waiting for, and terrified of.

“Oh,” he says.

Dan steps forward again. This time Phil doesn’t move.

“I’ve been happy too,” Phil says softly.

Dan’s so close now. Phil doesn’t shut his eyes. He doesn’t realize he might need to, not until Dan’s right there, not until Dan’s hands are on the pool’s ledge on either side of him, bracketing him in. Not until Dan’s face is right on his, and…

Dan’s mouth.

Is on his mouth.

Phil doesn’t kiss back at first. His mum’s always told him he’s a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to reactions, and - he’s really not going to think about his mum right now, he’s not. Because Dan is definitely kissing him and then… then he’s stopping, and Phil doesn’t want that at all. He surges forward enough that their noses knock and their mouths press together again and he tries to kiss back, very aware he’s probably awful at it, but needing desperately for Dan to not think he doesn’t want this.

He has no idea what the hell to do or how not to make it obvious that he’s never done this before, but he definitely wants it. He wants it so bad he makes a mortifying little whimpering noise when Dan pulls away.

-

Fuck.

Fuck.

“Shit,” he breathes against Phil’s face. He’s pulled back only far enough not to feel the soft silk of Phil’s lips on his anymore. “Sorry.” He’s still gripping the edge of the pool on either side of Phil.

“Are you?” Phil asks.

This can’t be real, Dan thinks. It just can’t. He leans forward so his chest presses against Phil’s. It feels pretty fucking real.

“No,” he croaks.

“Then do it again.”

He definitely doesn’t need any more invitation than that to really go for it this time. He’s never heard Phil speak that assertively and it flips the switch of restraint off in his brain. And his lips. And his tongue. Which is probably not right, it’s too soon for tongue, they’ve only been kissing for about three seconds and he’s already opened his mouth to taste chlorine and Phil but it doesn’t seem to matter. Phil doesn’t seem to mind, in fact he grabs the sides of Dan’s face and matches everything Dan is giving him.

It’s a messy kiss. Phil doesn’t actually seem to know what to do with his tongue even though he’s using it with enthusiasm. Dan doesn’t care, though. It’s still probably the hottest kiss he’s ever hand. Phil’s touching him, hands on his face, and Dan just wants to touch back.

So he does, palms against Phil’s chest dragging down, and then around his shoulders to pull Phil in close. Their chests are pressed together again and Dan feels weak in the knees. The heat of the night and the chill of the water and the taste of Phil -

He’s not sure he’s ever gone from feeling like shit to feeling on top of the world so fast. He’s not even going to think about it, though. His hands slide down Phil’s back, splayed wide over so much soft smooth skin. His lips feel hot now too, smacking together against Phil’s again and again. He tilts his head to change the angle and Phil makes a needy sound, like he’s scared Dan’s pulling away.

Dan isn’t. He doesn’t want to. He could do this for ages. He could do this all night.

He crowds into Phil again. His hands drop even lower, the tips of two fingers touching Phil’s pants. It hits him with a jolt that this is Phil, that he’s kissing Phil, that he’s kissing a boy, and that this is confirmation of every thought he ever tried not to have about who he’s attracted to.

It’s not that it didn’t feel good with Evie. It’s just that this feels right in a way that never had. Maybe he’s thinking with his dick, or his hormones, or whatever part of him overrides his brain on any given night.

“Dan.” Phil gasps in the space between kisses.

Dan pulls back to really look at Phil. Phil’s pupils are blown, wide and black. “Are you okay?” Dan asks.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Phil admits.

Dan laughs and leans in until their foreheads touch and he whispers, “Neither do I.”

“No but like, I really don’t.”

Dan frowns. “Should I not have-”

“You should. I’ve wanted to for a long time.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” Dan asks without thinking.

“Because you had a girlfriend.”

“Oh. Right.”

“And because I’m not brave and this is…”

“Scary,” Dan finishes. “Confusing.”

Phil nods.

“But… great?”

A grin breaks out across Phil’s lovely pale cheeks. “Yeah.”

Maybe he shouldn’t, but he presses his lips to Phil’s again, gently this time, no tongue, no desperation. It’s sweet and Phil kisses back and he feels warm all over. He doesn’t want to think about the parts of this whole thing that are scary and confusing. That stuff can wait. Right now he just wants to kiss Phil until he convinces himself this isn’t all just some kind of wonderful dream.

They’re just starting to get into it again, Phil’s hands wandering down Dan’s chest and stomach to his hips when they hear voices. Dan’s heart stops for a moment thinking the Stonewells are home early but Phil hisses, “Neighbours.”

“We should go,” Dan admits reluctantly. A terrified irrational part of him thinks leaving this pool means leaving the possibility that he’ll ever get to put his hands and mouth on Phil ever again. He doesn’t want to go.

They climb out as quietly as they can and struggle to pull their clothes on over their dripping wet bodies. They’re both holding back giggles, giddy on adrenaline and hormones and the thrill of breaking the rules as they lock the gate behind them and sneak back along the side of the house to the front garden, then onto the pavement.

“What do we do now?” Phil asks. “It’s literally the middle of the night.”

“Come to mine?” Dan suggests. The prospect of sharing a bed with Phil tonight almost makes him dizzy. So many things he’s stopped himself imagining he could have and now…

“There’s no tree to sneak up,” Phil says.

“My parents will be asleep. Also they wouldn’t care, probably.”

“Mine will, if I’m not there in the morning,” Phil says, biting his lip. “Mum said I have to go to church with her in the morning.”

Dan snorts out a little laugh. He just- he can’t help himself. He wonders what god would think of the thoughts running through Dan’s mind when Phil’s fingers had traced the shape of his hip bones just a few minutes ago. Maybe he wouldn’t be that bothered. Maybe god is more chill than people give him credit for.

“Well maybe I’ll come too,” Dan says. “My nana asks me every single time. I could make her day by saying yes. We can sit next to each other on the back pew.”

He has no way to know for sure, but he’s still fairly confident Phil blushes.

“That doesn’t solve the problem of my mum having a heart attack and then rising up from the grave to murder me when she finds my bed empty tomorrow morning,” Phil mumbles, but he’s still smiling sheepishly.

Dan shrugs. “We can set an alarm. Or just text her early and say my nana invited you over super early for breakfast or something, I dunno. We can think of something. I just…” He bumps his shoulder into Phil’s. “I wanna sleep next to you tonight.”

Phil looks wide-eyed again, like he can’t quite believe what Dan is saying.

Dan can’t quite believe what Dan is saying either - but he knows he means it.

-

Dan’s house is quiet as Phil follows him in and upstairs. He’s done this once before, followed Dan through the hall and up the stairs, heeded Dan’s advice to skip the squeaky step and crept past closed doorways into Dan’s room.

The first time he was drunk and he remembers feeling so much, and so confused.

He’s still feeling a lot. He’s still feeling confused. But there’s a lighter than air feeling inside of him too, at the way Dan smiles at him and the way Dan’s hand reaches for his once they step inside the house.

He’s shocked to realize it’s almost two in the morning. It’s been hours now since Dan came in through his window. He wonders with a shivery hot feeling exactly how long they were kissing in the pool. It had to have been ages…

“My hair’s still wet,” Phil whispers. They’re in Dan’s room now, but he still feels like he should whisper.

“Mine too.” Dan reaches up and pushes his fingers through the half-dried ringlets of his hair. He makes a face like he hates it.

Phil doesn’t hate it at all.

“Here,” Dan says, handing Phil a shirt. “If, um. You want it.”

Phil takes it. “Thanks.”

He’s slept with Dan without a shirt before. He’s not sure why right now it feels better to have it on. He does want to be close with Dan, he wants what they’ve already done and more, but -

It’s scary.

He really hasn’t ever done any of this before. Two stolen kisses on a playground don’t really feel like an impressive resume… especially not when he doesn’t know what Dan wants. Dan’s done everything, maybe he expects Phil to want everything too?

It makes his stomach fluttery with the kind of nerves that come from just not knowing. He swaps his damp shirt out for Dan’s fresh one and then shoves his pajama bottoms off before he can think twice.

Only to realize that he does actually have a problem.

“Um.” He clears his throat. “I…”

“Yeah?” Dan’s looking at his phone. He has a slightly distant expression, but then he puts the phone face down on his table and looks at Phil.

“My pants are wet,” Phil blurts out.

Dan’s mouth twitches like he’s trying not to laugh at Phil. “So take them off.”

“Dan!” Phil hisses.

Dan laughs. “Do you want to wear some of mine? Is that weird?”

“Yeah,” Phil says. “I mean, it’s - maybe it’s weird. But yeah.”

Dan turns around while Phil trades his pants for dry ones, and then tells Phil to turn around so he can change. “I did like yours though,” Dan says. He pulls back the rumpled, unmade bedding and slides in. “Very colorful. My mum just buys me black now since she says I got too picky.”

“Black is very you,” Phil says. He suddenly feels intensely awkward. Any other day he’d just climb into the bed and snuggle up, but everything feels different now. Not knowing what to expect has him just standing there rooted to Dan’s bedroom floor and playing with the toggles of his pj bottoms.

“Are you coming?” Dan asks, holding up the blanket.

Phil turns off the light and walks over to the bed. He stands at the edge of it for a moment longer, so nervous he feels a little queasy. He’s not even sure why. It’s not like he doesn’t want to fall asleep in Dan’s arms. It’s not like kissing Dan hadn’t been the single most amazing experience of his life to date. It’s just… everything beyond that that terrifies him.

“Phil, are you ok? Did I fuck everything up?”

That works to snap him out of it enough to slip in under the duvet and snuggle up to Dan like he’s grown used to doing. “No. Sorry. I’m just… you know.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. He sounds sad again and Phil can’t have that.

“I’ve never really kissed anyone before,” he confesses.

“Really?” Dan sounds genuinely surprised. “How is that possible? You’re… you.”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“Well I’m sorry anyway.” Dan sighs. “I reckon I shouldn’t have done it.”

Phil is quiet for a while. He doesn’t answer Dan but he does find his hand and lace their fingers together. They’re both lying on their backs and looking up at the ceiling, the side of their bodies pressed tightly together. Phil shivers and he’s not sure if it’s because of his wet hair or the recollection of Dan’s tongue in his mouth.

“When you said Evie dumped you I was happy,” he says quietly.

Dan is also quiet for a beat before he speaks. “I think I’m only sad because I know she’s sad.”

“It’s scary when things change,” Phil says, thinking of how he felt when his mum and dad told him they were moving, and… well, how Dan makes him feel, like all the time.

“Yeah,” Dans says, voice breaking a bit.

Phil rolls onto his side and whispers, “You make things less scary for me.”

“You make things less scary for me too.” It sounds like Dan might be crying again, but he’s still smiling when he turns his head to look at Phil.

“I’m glad you’re the first person I really kissed, Dan. I…” This is the scary part. Somehow kissing wasn’t, but this is. “I really like you.”

And there it is; out in the open in a way that isn’t accidental or swept up in the moment or some kind of moonlight magic. Just Phil, being honest about the thing that terrifies him most. Because when he’s talking to Dan, he feels brave enough to do that.

Phil’s heart feels like it’s going to burst when Dan says, “I really like you, too.”

Chapter Text

Dan doesn’t really sleep. His brain just won’t shut off, and when he does manage to get a few minutes of quiet in his head he just ends up dreaming about Evie or Phil and jerks himself awake.

He doesn’t even know if he feels good or bad. It’s all fucked up in his head; crushing guilt but then a burst of happiness when he thinks about what he and Phil did.

Phil likes him. Phil really likes him. It’s not all in Dan’s imagination.

But Phil likes him. And that’s terrifying, because Dan still doesn’t even know if he can do this.

His gran says God wants his children to love everyone, but would she still love him if she knew he’d rather be kissing a boy? A specific boy, the boy across the street, the one she made him go and say hello to when he really didn’t want to.

It’s weird that it wasn’t even a month ago. He looks over and sees Phil’s profile lit by early morning sun as it filters in from the window. His chest does that squirmy thing he always does and he remembers how soft Phil’s mouth was and the water splashing against them.

Why can’t he just hold onto that thought? Why does the next thing in his mind have to be Evie's furious voice?

He rolls over and grabs his phone. Nothing from her. He feels pure relief.

It is almost seven, though. He’s not sure what time Phil’s mum wakes up, but he knows his nana will be around to pick up Adrian for church in an hour or so.

He nudges Phil. Phil doesn’t properly wake up, just makes a sleepy noise and scrunches his face up. It’s… really fucking cute.

Impulse leads Dan to lean in, almost close enough for their noses to touch. That’s how Phil wakes up, with Dan staring right at him. Phil’s eyes go wide in surprise at the proximity.

“Your eyes are like three colors,” Dan says. “That’s so weird.”

“Bad weird?” Phil asks.

“No,” Dan says. “Really good weird. They’re like… pretty.”

Phil smiles sleepily at him. “You think my eyes are pretty.”

“I think your everything is pretty,” Dan says. Phil tilts his head slightly and Dan can’t resist. He leans forward and kisses Phil. It’s nothing like last night. Dan’s got morning breath and they need to move soon and he’s so confused and everything is so weird but he still presses his lips against Phil’s for the beat of a few seconds before he pulls away.

Phil looks stunned.

Dan sits up, the duvet falling to his waist. “You need to get up. You can probably sneak back into your room if nana isn’t here yet to see us leave.”

The stunned look turns to alarm. “I forgot,” Phil says, and Dan can see the panic dancing across his face.

“Have you never snuck out?” Dan asks. “That’s cute.”

“Shut up,” Phil says. “She’ll kill me.”

“She won’t if she doesn’t know.” Dan opens his bedroom door and listens carefully.

Everyone’s still asleep.

“I don’t even have shoes!” Phil whispers.

Dan tosses him a pair of shoes. They pinch at Phil’s toes, but he shoves his feet into them and lets Dan lead him outside.

At the doorstep, Dan stops. Phil looks at him with a confused expression. “What?” Dan asks.

“Aren’t you coming?”

Dan has to smile. He has to. “Phil, I think me sneaking back into your house would defeat the purpose of your mum not being suspicious.”

“... oh.” Phil frowns. “Will I… see you in church?”

Dan remembers his words the night before. Phil’s looking at him expectantly, but he feels exhausted and like… he just wants to sleep and not think. “Maybe,” he says.

Dan doesn’t go back inside until he sees Phil successfully make it into his room.

His mum sees him walking back up to his room and gives him a look, but doesn’t say anything. He’s glad. He’s not ready to talk to her. He’s not ready to talk to anyone right now.

He gets back into bed and pulls the duvet over his head.

-

Phil sits in the pew with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

Dan’s not here. He’s just seen Dan’s nana arrive with his little brother, but Dan’s not with them.

He’s itching to pull out his phone and text, to ask if Dan’s okay, to see where he is. But his mum makes him leave his phone in the car every time so he won’t accidentally get a phone call blasting Ian’s embarrassing ringtone halfway through. Just because it happened once...

Martyn clearly didn’t get the same speech. He’s sat on the other side of Phil and he spends the whole service texting on his phone. Once he sees Phil curiously looking over and he glares, angling his phone away.

It feels like ages before the service is over. His mum stays back to talk to people, but Phil makes a beeline straight for the car with his dad’s keys.

Dan hasn’t texted. Phil hates how it feels like he’s swallowed a golf ball.

He doesn’t even know what’s supposed to happen now. What do you do when you kiss someone? Do you wait? Has Dan changed his mind? But Dan had kissed him again this morning and it had been so nice.

He’s telling himself that he’s sixteen years old and he’s not going to cry in a church car park when his phone buzzes in his hand.

It’s from Dan, and it just reads: sorry. I fell back to sleep and nana left without me.

It might be a lie, but Phil doesn’t care right now. He’s just glad Dan texted. it’s okay. church is boringtown.

Dan starts typing, then stops. Then starts typing again, then stops again.

The third time the dots appear, they keep going.

can we watch more buffy today?

He doesn’t think that’s what Dan had been going to say before, but he decides he doesn’t care. He doesn’t even care if his mum is cross or if she wanted him to do family stuff. He’ll pretend to be ill if he needs to, or just throw a tantrum until she decides she’d rather not spend the day with him anymore.

Yeah, Phil writes back. Come over after lunch?

k

-

Dan can hear his mum coming. He hears her open the door and hears her sigh and then hears her walk over to the bed, so it’s not remotely a surprise when she pokes at his shoulder and says, “Up, you lump.”

Normally he’d fuss and whine and complain at her, but right now he just… doesn’t move. “I can’t.”

“Dan?” She asks, voice taking a softer note. “Are you feeling poorly?”

He shakes his head, then stops and nods his head instead. He knows if he doesn’t say anything, she’ll probably just go away, but suddenly he doesn’t want her to. “Mum.”

He rolls over and faces her. She’s definitely concerned now. She sits on the edge of the bed. “What is it, little bear?”

His eyes burn again. He fucking hates how much he cries. “Evie and I broke up.”

“Oh…” She sighs and reaches out, running her fingers through his hair. It feels nice, comforting. “Oh, darling. That’s always a shit time, isn’t it?”

He almost laughs. It’s perfectly her, kind but blunt. “Yeah.”

“Was it your choice or hers?” She asks.

Dan half shrugs. She did it, in the end, but he won’t pretend that it wasn’t mostly his doing. “Both, I guess. I was pretty crap to her.”

She doesn’t argue with him. He likes that about her, that she’s not going to try and lie to make him feel better if something isn’t the truth. “Sometimes people are crap to each other. You learn from it, though, don’t you? Everything that hurts teaches you something. You shouldn’t stay in bed all day, though. It’ll be good to get up and get your mind off things. Why don’t you see what Phil’s doing today?”

“Yeah,” he says. “Maybe.”

He already knows what Phil’s doing. He’s already made plans with Phil. But he doesn’t want to contradict her kindness.

She leans forward and wraps an arm around him, pulling him into a hug. He can’t remember the last time he really hugged his mum but right now it feels so fucking nice. He squeezes her back tight and tries to fight back tears when she strokes her nails through his hair.

“You’re growing up so fast,” she whispers, kissing the side of his head. “This is just part of it.”

“I hate it,” Dan says.

“I know.” She leans back and cups his face in her hands. “But it’ll pass. It always passes. You’ll meet someone new when the time is right. And you’re sixteen, so that probably won’t be long.”

She’s not wrong. That’s part of the problem - he already has.

-

Phil’s still sat at the table with his family when there’s a knock at the front door.

“Phil, would you?” his mum says.

“Yeah, uh. I think it might be Dan,” he says apologetically. He’d been planning to text Dan after lunch but apparently Dan got sick of waiting.

“Oh that’s fine then, ask him if he’s hungry and I’ll set out another plate.”

Phil gives her a clipped smile and makes sure to avoid eye contact with Martyn. He goes to the front door and opens it, his hands so shaky he has trouble turning the knob.

“Hi,” Dan says, just stood on the porch looking gorgeous as ever, if maybe a little sad.

“You’re early,” Phil croaks. All he can see is Dan’s lips and remember how they felt against his this morning.

“Yeah. Sorry. I can leave if you want, I just… got sick of feeling how I feel when I’m not with you.”

Phil can’t think of a single thing to say through the fucking tidal wave of emotion that crashes up against him then.

“I’ll leave,” Dan says quietly.

Phil reaches out and grabs his arm before he can leave. “Don’t. Please don’t leave. Mum wants to feed you.”

Dan quirks an eyebrow.

“And me. I don’t want you to leave either. Obviously.”

“You sure?”

Phil tugs at Dan’s arm to pull him into the house. “Come on. Before Martyn eats everything.”

He’s still avoiding his brother’s gaze when he re-enters the dining room with Dan in tow. Kath greets him fondly and Phil watches Dan beam out a smile that he thinks looks genuine. Dan really is happy to be here with Phil and his family. He fits right in and that warms something fierce in Phil’s chest.

But his hands are still shaking as he picks up his glass of Ribena and tips it back against his lips. He’s still mostly terrified of what comes next, of what happens when they’re alone together again.

Kath tells Dan to sit and brings him a plate of food. “We missed you at church today, love.”

“Yeah, sorry. I guess nana took pity on me and let me have a lie in instead. She made me promise I’d come next week though.”

“Isn’t next week Reading Festival?” Phil asks. He remembers because he’d been dreading knowing Dan would be gone away with Evie, leaving Phil alone to stew with those images.

“Oh. F— shoot. Yeah. It is.”

“Are you still going?” Phil asks, his voice a little quieter than before though he knows everyone can still hear him.

“Uh… I don’t…”

“I’m sure Veronica wouldn’t keep you from something like that just because of church,” Kath chimes.

Dan laughs. “Yeah, probably not, eh?”

To Phil’s surprise Martyn starts talking to Dan about music then and Phil spends the the rest of the meal slowly easing the tension out of his shoulders. Martyn and Dan seem to be getting on, like properly making a connection with each other and Phil is reminded that he actually does like his brother most of the time.

Phil can’t really contribute anything to the conversation as his knowledge of music lies mostly in songs that were popular about a decade ago, but he’s still bursting with something joyous when Martyn promises to invite Dan to one of his shows some day.

When lunch is over Martyn says he’s going out and Dan offers to do the washing up. Phil rolls his eyes when Kath fawns over how thoughtful a gesture that is, but he sets about helping Dan collect the dishes and fill the sink with soapy water.

“So what are you boys up to today?” Kath asks. “And for the love of god, please don’t say Buffy.”

Phil bristles slightly. “You can’t guilt me for Buffy, I woke up early and went to church.”

She clicks her tongue. “I suppose you’re right. If I give you a few quid will you at least go outside for a little while? It’s too nice a day to be stuck up in that room all afternoon.”

Phil hopes his mum doesn’t notice his cheeks go a little pink then. He can’t even help it; thinking of being stuck up in his room just him and Dan sets his mind - and heart - racing.

“That would be really nice of you, Kath. I could use some air, what about you, Phil?”

Phil looks at his mum. “Only if you’ll let us watch Buffy with no complaints after.”

“Who taught you to bargain, hmm?” Kath says, shooting a look at her husband, who just lifts the newspaper up in front of his face. “Alright, then. But I don’t want to see you back inside for at least an hour, alright? Vitamin D is important.”

Phil stands so quickly his chair almost falls over backwards. He grabs Dan’s arm and tugs him to standing as well. “You’re right, sun’s very important. We’d better get out right now - and leave Martyn to do the washing up.”

Kath just laughs. It takes Martyn a few more seconds to register the words. He looks up, startled, from where he’s been engrossed in something on his phone. “Wait-”

They don’t hear the rest of his sentence. Phil’s already got them out the door and is shutting it behind him.

When he looks over, Dan is laughing. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Mum definitely would have made us do the washing,” Phil says. “I rescued you.”

“My hero.” Dan’s smile goes a bit soft. “Coffee, then?”

“Of course,” Phil says. “What else?”

“I feel like you’re a thirty year old man trapped inside a sixteen year old body with that caffeine addiction.” Dan falls into step beside Phil.

“My mum used to give it to me when I was a kid if I ate all my dinner,” Phil says. “And then she’d complain that I’d be awake standing in front of their bed at three in the morning.”

“I stopped going into my mum and dad’s bedroom when I walked in on them having sex once,” Dan says, visibly shuddering.

Phil feels the horror of that. “How old were you?”

“Seven, I think? Old enough to have formed lasting memories.” Dan says, then the conversation falls quiet for a few more minutes. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there this morning.”

“It’s okay,” Phil says. He waits, but Dan doesn’t say anything else. “You can make it up to me by ordering our coffees.”

“Are you still embarrassed about spilling half your drink last week?” Dan asks, grinning slightly.

“Maybe.” Definitely. “I shouldn’t be allowed in public.”

“I won’t argue that,” Dan says, but he’s looking at Phil with a soft expression. “I’ll order your coffee for you.”

It somehow feels like Dan is saying a lot without really saying much at all.

He still feels that twenty minutes later when he’s watching Dan stand at the counter. Dan’s head is bowed and his hands are jammed into his pockets while he waits for his turn to order. He looks… tired, maybe, but mostly just nice with his long legs and the t-shirt he’s wearing.

Phil thinks he should probably avert his eyes. He doesn’t want people to notice him staring. He doesn’t want Dan to.

Or would Dan not mind? Is he allowed now?

He picks up his phone, heart hammering, and sends a text.

you look cute

He watches Dan pull his phone out of his pocket, and then almost drop it when he reads Phil’s message. He looks over at Phil with shock and something that definitely doesn’t seem like displeasure.

Dan looks down to respond, and a few seconds later Phil’s phone lights up. u 2. i like that colour shirt on you.

It’s just a blue t-shirt, but Phil’s pleased.

Dan texts again. can i say something cheesy

yes plz Phil responds instantly. He feels all light and fluttery as he watches Dan grinning down at his phone as he types.

it brings out the blue in your eyes

Phil looks up again and Dan is already looking at him. He’s looking in a way no one has ever looked at him before and suddenly Phil can’t wait for their hour of outside time to be over so they can be properly alone again. He doesn’t actually know what will happen, he just wants to find out.

Dan brings their drinks over a few minutes later, smiling all shy and dimpled as he sits across the table from Phil.

“Cheers,” Phil murmurs as Dan slides the large cup over to him.

“Technically you bought it,” Dan says.

“Nah, that would be Mrs. Kath. I need the cinema to ring me and give me an interview so I can actually buy you a coffee for real for once.”

“What if I wanna buy you one first?” Dan asks, kicking Phil’s foot lightly under the table.

Phil kicks back, not caring who might see. “Fine, you buy the coffee, I’ll buy the pastries, yeah?”

“Sounds fair. They just need to actually offer us the jobs first.”

“They will,” Phil assures. “They will.”

“If they don’t will you just apply everywhere I do?” Dan asks.

Phil chuckles. “D’you want me to?”

“Duh.”

“Well alright then, it’s a deal.” He takes a sip of his drink to distract himself from Dan’s smiling face. He’s afraid this giddiness in his chest is going to cause him to say something that takes him by surprise, and he’s not sure he wants that to happen in a crowded coffee shop.

“Hey,” Dan says.

“Hey.”

“Maybe we should take these to go? I feel kind of bad we told your mum we’d spend this time outside and instead we’re still just… sat inside.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “I’m starting to think you have a thing for my mum. Are you just using me to get to Kath?”

Dan looks right into Phil’s eyes. “Maybe I just want her to like me so she’ll keep letting me sleep in your bed.”

Chapter Text

“I made a mistake,” Phil whinges. “Why did I agree to this? It’s too bloody hot.”

Dan feels sweat forming on his back already. Phil’s not wrong. It’s still muggy as hell, but at least it’s not sunny. He tilts his head up to the sky and points out the darkening clouds to Phil. “I reckon there’s going to be a storm soon. Hopefully it’ll be cooler after that.”

“Ooh, I hope so,” Phil says excitedly. “I love storms.”

“Do you?”

Phil just nods and takes another sip of his coffee. They’re wandering down streets at random just to pass the time. “I do. It’s the best at my grandparents house. They live in Isle of Man, and they’ve got this massive window that takes up almost a whole wall and I love to sit there and watch the storms over the water. When I have a house one day I want a whole wall that’s a window, too.”

“That does sound cool,” Dan says.

“Maybe you can come visit with me one day,” Phil says.

He says it so casually. Dan wonders if Phil really feels that casual about it. “How often do you go visit them?”

Phil shrugs. “Every other month, I guess? My mum’s mum and dad are dead already, but my dad’s live on the island and my parents think it’s important that Martyn and I grow up with a lot of our family around. I like it there, though. My mate Ian used to come with me a lot.”

Oh. So maybe it’s not just Dan, maybe Phil really is that casual. Dan can’t really imagine wanting anyone to come see anyone in his family with him. In two years he never took Evie to any family stuff with him. His nana knew Evie, of course, because Wokingham is small. But they never went on trips together. He never wanted to bring her on those trips.

“I’d like that,” Dan says, after one of those too-long delays in responding.

Phil gives him a smile. “Good.”

Overhead, thunder cracks. Dan looks up just in time for one fat drop of rain to hit his nose. He scrunches up his face and looks at Phil. “Told you it was going to rain.”

“What are we going to do?” Phil asks, face scrunched up in concern. “I can call Mum-”

“Nah,” Dan says. He grabs Phil’s hand with his free one and says, “We’re just gonna run!”

They’re soaked by the time the make it into the entryway to Phil’s house. Kath makes them stand there dripping while she collects towels for them, and they laugh as they mop up as best they can.

“Phil, you give that boy some dry clothes,” she orders. “We won’t have local children catching pneumonia on my watch, that’s not the sort of welcome to the new neighborhood we want to bring.”

“Mum, we’re not children,” Phil whines.

“Clean clothes,” she orders. “And try not to drip along your way!”

Dan immediately thinks of just the night before, changing because they were damp from the pool. It sends a little sizzle through his gut.

Inside Phil’s bedroom, Dan shuts the door firmly behind him and then leans against it.

“Do you want jeans?” Phil asks. “Or something more comfortable?”

“Comfortable,” Dan murmurs, watching Phil. His shirt is darkened with water and clings to his back when he leans over to rifle through a basket of clean laundry.

He catches the clothes Phil tosses him, but makes no move to put them on.

Phil seems hesitant. “What are you waiting for?”

Dan shrugs a bit. “You go first.”

“Dan!” Phil’s cheeks flush. “You’re just going to watch?”

“Mhm,” Dan says. He stays leaned against the door and for once doesn’t try to hide the way his eyes linger on Phil’s body.

“I get to watch you after,” Phil croaks. He’s so adorably nervous it makes Dan’s chest ache.

“Course, if you want.”

“I want,” Phil replies without hesitation, and that does something to Dan’s insides too. He crosses his arms at the base of his shirt and pulls it up. It sticks to him and takes a while to get up and over his head.

Dan’s not complaining. All it really means is he gets a longer look at Phil’s chest all bare and stretched out. He’s pale and lean but still looks soft and Dan has to remind himself that he’s only meant to be looking, not touching. His feet twitch in his wet socks, begging for Dan to let them step forward and run his hands over the hair on Phil’s chest again like he’d done last night.

Was that really only last night?

(It’s probably a good thing the rain wasn’t heavy enough to make their underwear wet this time. He’s not sure he could handle that right now.)

Phil finally gets the shirt over his head and lets it drop to the floor with a wet thump. He crosses his arms shyly over his stomach.

“Keep going,” Dan says, surprising himself with how deep his voice has gone.

“You do your shirt first,” Phil counters.

Dan supposes that’s fair. He pushes himself off the door and pulls up on his shirt before his nerves can get the better of him. He can be good at bravado when need be, but right now he feels exposed and vulnerable in a way he never quite has before.

The way Phil looks at him helps though. It helps a lot. Dan wonders if he even realizes he’s biting his lip a little. They stand there for a stretch of time that’s probably only about ten seconds but feels like hours just looking at each other, taking in the other’s offer of trust to be sharing themselves in this way before they’ve even really decided what it means and where they go from here.

“Still think I’m cute?” Phil asks, smiling sheepishly.

“Uhh.” Dan’s eyes have wandered from Phil’s face down to stare at his nipples. “Cute probably isn’t the word I’d use right now.”

“Dan.” Phil sounds faintly admonishing, though Dan has no idea why.

“Are you sorry I kissed you last night?” Dan asks impulsively. He doesn’t think Phil is, but he still wants to hear it.

Phil shakes his head. “Not at all. It was like… the best first kiss I could imagine.”

“Good,” Dan says, still staring at Phil. “Keep going.”

Phil tips his head up, leaving his neck a long pale line as his fingers undo the button and zip on his jeans. The sight makes Dan swallow hard. It’s not a moment where he feels moved to act, though; he just wants to see Phil. He wants to look, and be allowed to look.

So he does, watching Phil push his jeans down his legs and step out of them. Dan expects him to put his bottoms on immediately once he’s done, but instead he looks at Dan. “Do yours now.”

Dan does without hesitation again, then stands in front of Phil wearing almost nothing. “You like how I look,” Dan says, somewhere between a question and a declaration.

“I do.” Phil doesn’t stop looking. “I like looking at you. And I like kissing you.”

“Kiss me now,” Dan says.

-

He doesn’t move. He wants Phil to come to him this time. Part of him is convinced that Phil won’t, that Phil’s going to come to his senses and realize that nothing about this - or Dan - is really what he wants.

But Phil takes one step forward and then another until he’s in front of Dan, the space between them down to inches. Phil leans in carefully with his eyes closed, like he’s concentrating hard. His kiss hits the corner of Dan’s mouth so Dan turns his head slightly to center it, barely brushing his lips against Phil’s.

Phil moves back, eyes popping open. “That was so bad.”

“Was not,” Dan says, smiling a bit. “You just need practice.”

“Are you volunteering?” Phil sounds like someone trying very hard to be bold, and Dan finds it incredibly endearing.

“I am,” he says, smiling.

Phil looks pleased. “Okay.” He steps forward again, but Dan slides his palm against Phil’s and laces their fingers together.

“Can we…?” He gestures his head in the direction of the bed.

Phil’s eyes go a little wider.

“Not like— not like that, I just…” He trails off. He’s not sure how to say that he just wants to get in bed with Phil without making it sound more suggestive than it is.

“Ok,” Phil croaks.

“I’m not gonna like, do anything,” Dan assures awkwardly.

Phil quirks an eyebrow. “Nothing?”

There’s a pulling in Dan’s stomach then. “Nothing you don’t want me to,” he mumbles.

“Should we… should we get dressed?” Phil asks, when Dan starts to lead him towards the bed.

“Do you want to?”

Phil’s biting his lip again. “Not really.” His voice is barely more than a whisper now.

Dan hates his next thought, which is the memory of Martyn bursting through the door the other day with absolutely no warning. That was bad enough, but imagining it being Kath or Nigel sends a cold chill down his spine. “Does your door lock?” he asks.

Phil’s face falls. “No. I guess we should… put more on.”

“Maybe, uh. For now.” Dan really hates saying it. “Maybe at least until your brother isn’t here anymore.”

Phil laughs a slightly strangled laugh. “I’m not sure he’ll be coming in without asking first again.”

Neither of them move. Finally Dan looks up and sighs. “I can’t believe I’m telling you to put a shirt on, but please put a shirt on.”

Phil laughs and breaks away from Dan long enough to get dressed. Dan quickly does the same, then walks right over to Phil and grabs him from behind in a hug. Phil turns around and wraps his arms around Dan too, hugging back.

“You smell good too,” Dan whispers into Phil’s neck. “How is everything about you so…”

“So what?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m saying, mate. Just ignore me.”

“I don’t want to ignore you.” Phil pulls back to look at him. “You’re like the only person ever I just can’t ignore.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “I can’t ignore you either. I guess that was the problem.”

“Problem?” Phil asks.

“With, uh.” Dan hates this. He hates saying it. He wants to ignore everything that isn’t… this, him and Phil, alone. “Evie.”

“Oh.” Phil immediately looks uncomfortable. Dan does regret mentioning it, but he feels like maybe he needs to say it.

Maybe Phil needs to know, before… well, before anything else happens. “I’m such a shit boyfriend. I don’t know if I know how to be a good one, even when I try.”

“Maybe you’re not supposed to be with someone who makes you feel like you have to try to be good enough.” Phil’s voice is quiet and a little sad.

Dan isn’t sure he has an answer to that, so he grabs Phil’s hand and pulls him to the bed. He tries to pull him into it but Phil lets go of Dan’s hand and takes a step back.

Before Dan can panic Phil says, “Gonna put Buffy on. Just in case.”

Just in case. Dan’s skin burns with the promise laced between those words. He sits on the bed and scootches back, not sure exactly what he should do, if he should lie down or keep sitting, if he should stay above the covers or burrow down.

Phil puts on the show and walks over to the bed. He looks as hesitant and unsure as Dan feels. There’s something intensely comforting about that, that they’re both just floundering through this mess of feelings together.

“Come on,” Dan says softly, making the executive decision to lift up the duvet and slip underneath it. “Get cozy with me.”

Phil smiles and climbs in next to Dan. They both lie on their sides facing each other, hands tucked up under their cheeks. Dan shuffles forward so their noses are millimeters away from brushing. His body aches with all the possibilities, but for this moment he just wants to look.

Because he feels like he’s allowed to do that now. He’s allowed to look just because he wants to. He doesn’t need an excuse to study the tiny little freckles on Phil’s nose or the way his eyebrows are kind of ginger or the flecks of green and yellow in his big blue eyes.

“You’re pretty,” Phil murmurs.

Dan gives his head a little shake against the pillow. “You are. I could… fuck.”

Phil snorts. “What!”

Dan squeezes his eyes shut in embarrassment. “Sorry, no, that’s not— god, I’m so awkward. I was just. Just about to say something daft and cheesy and lame.”

“I think I like daft and cheesy and lame,” Phil says, smiling. “I like it when it’s you saying those things.”

“Don’t take the piss.”

“I won’t. Promise.”

“I just feel like I could stare into your eyes all day,” Dan whispers. “They’re like the sea or something.”

Phil grins.

“Don’t laugh,” Dan warns.

“M’not.”

“You’re about to.”

“I’m not!” Phil insists. “I’m just happy is all.”

“I’m happy too,” Dan murmurs. “You make me so bloody happy, Phil.”

Phil leans in and brushes the tip of his nose against Dan’s. “Your eyes are pretty too. They’re like… chocolate.”

Now it’s Dan’s turn to snort. “Thanks mate.”

“What? Chocolate is great, everyone loves chocolate.”

“Uh huh,” Dan muses, smiling.

“They’re warm,” Phil continues. “They’re like hot chocolate. Or wait no— coffee. They’re like coffee.”

Dan shakes his head fondly. “You’re such a strange person, Phil.”

“Yeah, and you love it.”

Dan answers by tilting his head and pressing his lips to Phil’s. “I do,” he whispers. “I really do.”

Phil kisses back this time, apparently taking the invitation to practice seriously. It only takes a couple minutes for Dan’s neck to start to hurt so he shifts over, settling with his torso half on top of Phil with his weight braced on one bent arm. Phil wraps his own arms around Dan’s neck like it’s second nature to want to hold on, deepening the kiss with the new angle. The first shock of wet tongue against his own kickstarts something in Dan, a wash of hormones battling up against the warm and soft feelings.

He feels himself suddenly pushed back, Phil’s hands no longer around his neck but shoving against his shoulders. He moves back quickly. “What?”

“No, don’t - not so far,” Phil says, tugging him back in. “I just wanted to… like, the other way around.”

He pushes again and Dan lets himself be guided until he’s on his back, with Phil on top of him. Phil actually straddles him, one knee to either side of Dan’s thighs. “Oh,” Dan says, because. Well. That’s fucking hot.

Phil leans in to kiss him again. He stops after far too short a time and says, “Is this good?”

“It’s really good,” Dan says. He’s breathing heavier now, and he can’t stop his fingers from inching down to Phil’s waist and sliding underneath his t-shirt. Would Phil’s parents find it weird if Dan installed a lock on Phil’s door himself? Might be hard to explain but right now he thinks it would be entirely worth it.

“Can I kiss other places?” Phil asks.

There’s a shock of a visual in Dan’s brain as soon as he hears what Phil has asked. He’s sure Phil doesn’t mean… that… but now he’s picturing it. He nods anyway, because right now he’d agree to anything Phil wanted.

Phil starts to kiss Dan’s jaw and down his neck and Dan realizes that he might have made an error in judgement by agreeing so quickly because his neck just… it does things to him. Phil’s mouth on his neck does a lot of things to him. He whines and bares his skin to Phil, head tossing back. It’s a strange sensation of borderline too much but he wants to crawl into it as much as he wants to crawl away from it. His breath is coming in a hard and fast pant and Phil probably thinks he’s a freak for how he’s reacting but he can’t help it. When Phil starts to suck just a tiny bit he actually lets out a desperate kind of whimper.

Phil pulls back. His eyes are wide and his pupils are blown. “Was that a good sound or a bad sound?”

Dan’s really glad that Phil’s still holding his body up off of Dan’s, because if their bodies were touching at all from the waist down Phil really wouldn’t need to be asking. He pulls where his hands are clutching Phil’s waist. “Good,” he croaks. “Really good.”

“Can I keep going?” Phil asks. “Is this like… is it too much?”

Dan shakes his head insistently. He’d rather die than stop now. Maybe that’s a tad dramatic but he’s feeling very dramatic about how fucking good Phil’s soft warm mouth feels on his skin. “More please,” he whispers shamelessly.

Phil lowers his face back down and nudges Dan’s head to the side for better access. It’s confident in a way Dan never would have expected from the Phil he’s come to know. It’s so bloody hot Dan has to squeeze Phil’s waist to keep his hands from wandering anywhere they shouldn’t.

Phil starts back in with the sucking and Dan has to bite down on his lip to prevent any more noises from escaping. He doesn’t want a damn thing to interrupt this feeling again. His chest heaves and his blood is pounding in his ears. Phil’s arms bracket his shoulders, his whole body just hovering heavy over Dan’s and Dan just feels so… taken.

It’s a jolting realization, a strange word to connect with the blistering heat inside him and the rock hard swell of his cock he’s sure is tenting the fuck out of Phil’s ninja turtles pjs. It’s not a word he ever considered when Evie's body was on top of his. This is something entirely different, something entirely down to the fact that Phil is nothing like Evie.

Something entirely down to the fact that Phil is a boy. That his body is bigger and broader and so much more imposing as it - oh god, as it lowers down onto his. Dan spreads his legs for Phil to slot between and whimpers again when Phil pulls his mouth off Dan’s neck.

Dan’s not the only one whose cock is rock hard. They both seem frozen with the realization that they’re both as excited as the other and the evidence of that is now pressed together.

Phil looks downright terrified.

“Are you ok?” Dan whispers.

“I don’t… You’re…”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “So are you.”

“Fuck,” Phil breathes.

Dan’s stomach flips. He’s not sure he remembers ever hearing Phil say that word before. “Sorry. We can stop, if you want. I…” He’s not even sure what to say. He really doesn’t want to stop but he also doesn’t want to scare Phil off.

“You actually…” Phil looks down at Dan with a look of… something. Dan doesn’t even know. “You like this,” Phil says. “You actually… you’re into me.”

Dan laughs, blowing out a nervous burst of air. “Yeah, of course I am you bloody spoon. Were you confused about that?”

“I dunno, I just. You’re so… and I’m just.”

“Wow,” Dan murmurs, smiling. “You’re so articulate when you’re turned on.”

Phil collapses down onto Dan and shoves his face into Dan’s neck. “Fuck,” he murmurs again, right up against Dan’s already over sensitive skin. “Fuck.”

“Are you seriously surprised?” Dan asks softly. He’s still having to work very hard not to push his hips up into Phil’s hardness. He suspects Phil is having a moment right now. They both are, but Phil’s seems to be a little more dramatic.

“I dunno,” Phil mumbles. “Thought maybe it was like, in my head or something.”

“It’s not. I think you’re like, fucking hot, Phil.”

Phil just makes a kind of grunted moan against Dan’s neck.

“Sorry,” Dan says. “Is this all too much? Are you ok?”

Phil nods. “I just can’t move.”

Dan laughs a bit. “Why can’t you move.”

Phil lifts his head. His face is scrunched up. “Don’t make me say it.”

“I wanna hear you say it.” Dan strokes a hand up the back of Phil’s t-shirt.

“I’m too turned on,” Phil says. “I didn’t know it was like… possible to be this… you know.”

“This what?” Dan knows he’s being mean about it, but he can’t help it.

“This…” Phil drops to a whisper. “Hard.”

Another hot spike of want shoots through Dan at Phil saying that word. Maybe he’s playing himself as much as Phil here. He bites his bottom lip and tries to keep his hips from pressing up, though his hand is still on Dan’s back. “Me too.”

“That’s not helping,” Phil says. “You’re touching me.”

“Do you want me to stop?” Dan asks.

“No.” Phil’s voice has a desperate twist. He lifts his upper body again and finds Dan’s mouth, kissing him hard. Dan kisses back like that’s exactly what he’s been waiting for, and it takes almost nothing to fall right back into it.

Except this time when Phil makes a needy sound and moves, his cock presses right into Dan’s and drags against it a bit. Dan arches into it on sheer instinct, a disconnect where his body moves faster than his mind.

“Oh-” Phil stutters, eyes fluttering shut. “Dan.”

“Sorry.” Dan’s voice is tight with restraint. “Kiss me again, please.”

“Is it okay if I- I don’t know if I can stop-” Phil shifts his hips down again a little like he’s demonstrating what he really wants to be doing.

Dan practically sees stars. The pressure against his dick is all he needs right now. He nods frantically. “You can, you can do whatever, it’s fine. Whatever you’re good with.”

Phil goes back to kissing, a little messier this time because he’s driving his hips down now and then. Dan can feel how he’s trying to hold back and it thrills him every time he forgets himself and does it anyway. It’s not a rhythm really, not nearly enough for Dan to come, but there’s something so genuine about Phil’s lack of restraint that everything feels heightened and almost better than actually working toward an orgasm.

The longer they kiss the more frequent Phil’s thrusts down onto Dan’s cock become. It’s torturous, but Dan forces himself not to chase anything for himself. He’s enjoying the kind of pleasure-pain of giving up all control and letting Phil have his way. He’s also enjoying the complete lack of inhibition in their kisses now. It’s wet and deep and desperate.

Dan clings to Phil’s back underneath his shirt. Phil drops his weight down onto his elbows and his thrusts change then into something a little more rhythmic, something a little more like grinding. Something like he’s trying to get himself off.

It’s almost too much for Dan to bear. Any hint of nerves or apprehension have been completely obliterated by the sheer force of their desire for each other. It takes every ounce of willpower Dan possesses not to reach into Phil’s pants and jerk him off right there.

He’s not even sure how to do that, really. It’s not like he’s ever done it to anyone but himself before, and he’s been trying to repress thoughts like that since well before Phil came into his life, but he can’t anymore.

Obviously.

And he doesn’t want to. This feels way too good to fight for a single second longer. He’s not going to waste anymore time denying himself the permission to be who he is. Phil makes him happy. Phil sets off pyrotechnics inside his body whenever he touches him. Hell, whenever he so much as looks at him.

And Phil feels the same way. Somehow, it seems like Dan makes Phil feel just as good as Phil makes him feel.

“Fuck,” Phil pants right against Dan’s mouth. “What am I even—”

“Shh,” Dan hisses and kisses him to shut him up properly. “It’s fine. I told you, you can do whatever.”

“I don’t even know what I’m doing,” he says. “You just— it feels too good.”

“It does for me too.”

“What are we doing?” Phil whispers. Their lips haven’t come apart.

Dan bites down gently and pulls Phil’s lip away from the gum. Phil grinds his cock down the length of Dan’s and back up. Dan’s not sure if that was intentional or just lucky, but it feels so fucking good he lets a little moan escape. Phil chases it with his mouth.

“Sorry,” Dan gasps. “Sorry.”

“Just don’t want my mum to hear,” Phil whispers.

“Wouldn’t she just assume it’s the show?”

Phil laughs softly against Dan’s face. “Yeah. Probably.”

“We can stop,” Dan says, his words undercut tremendously when he finally loses the will not to push his hips up to meet Phil’s.

Phil grunts. “No. Don’t want to. Definitely don’t wanna stop.”

“Good.”

“But…” He kisses Dan deep and grinds down harder. “I might…”

“Might what?” Dan urges.

“You know.”

“Uh uh, I don’t,” Dan teases. “Need you to tell me.”

“I hate you,” Phil groans. “I might… come.”

Just hearing Phil saying it does things to Dan, things that Dan doesn’t think he’s ever felt before. His toes curl up and whole body feels electric. “Yeah,” Dan says, hands sliding down Phil’s back to cup his ass over Phil’s bottoms. “You can, you - you can.”

Phil looks almost panicked by the permission. He attaches his mouth to Dan’s, letting Dan do most of the kissing work. They’ll have to work on Phil’s multitasking ability, Dan thinks. But that’s okay - they can. They’ve got nothing but time.

“Can I come too?” Dan asks, because he’s not far off. He can feel it building in his bones and it feels like it’s going to be fucking epic, like better than the best wank he’s ever had.

Phil makes a face at him like he’s going to reply and then he stops, groaning deep and far too loud as his hips drive hard in against Dan’s in tight little punches. “Oh, oh-” He makes pained noises that feel like they’re being pulled right out of him.

Dan can’t feel anything of Phil’s actual orgasm, not really - two layers of pyjama pants and underwear between them - but he can see it on Phil’s face and he can feel the way Phil’s body shakes. He’s so close himself he can almost taste it, cock aching and hard, but then Phil just slumps down again panting like he’s run a marathon.

He wants to ask Phil to keep going or to put a hand on him or something but the stricken, almost upset look on Phil’s face when he finally lifts his head keeps Dan quiet.

“Are you okay?” Dan asks.

“I - what did…” Phil looks at Dan like Dan might have the answer to a question that Phil hasn’t even asked.

Dan starts to worry a bit. “Phil? Was that - did I do something wrong?”

“No!” Phil says immediately. ‘That was just - I came. On you.”

“Not really on me,” Dan offers. “Like, your body was on me, but you didn’t really like- get it on me.”

Not that Dan would be opposed to that.

“Shut up,” Phil says, finally smiling a bit. “My heart is still pounding. That was so…”

“So what?” Dan asks.

“Amazing.” Phil leans in and kisses Dan softly. “And a little disgusting now that I’m done.”

Dan gives him a confused, concerned look. “Disgusting?”

“Yeah, like.” Phil sits up and gestures down toward his pants. “In there.”

“Oh.” Dan grins. “Yeah, that part’s gross.”

Phil glances down for the first time and then he goes quiet. Dan glances down too, and realizes that his cock is still tenting the borrowed bottoms, and the outline of it is almost obscenely clear against his hip.

“You didn’t come.”

“No,” Dan says, shaking his head. Every fiber of his being wants to, but instead he says, “It’s fine, though.”

“It’s not,” Phil gently insists.

Then as if a chorus of angels have just floated down into the room to soundtrack this moment of Dan’s life, Phil reaches a hand out and softly touches Dan’s dick through the cloth.

Dan’s kind of amazed he doesn’t come then and there - but he doesn’t because they can suddenly both hear footsteps coming up the stairs near Phil’s room.

Chapter Text

Phil’s not sure he’s ever moved so fast in his life.

He rolls off of Dan completely and sits against the headboard while Dan shoves the duvet down on the bed and sits up himself, grabbing a pillow to drape over his lap.

Phil pulls his legs up to his chest, wincing at the cold squish in his underwear but needing to do something to feel less vulnerable.

There’s a soft knock at the door. Phil’s hands are jittery but he calls out as casually as he can. “Yeah?”

His mum opens the door and peeks her head in. “Can you lot not hear me up here?”

“What d’you mean?”

“I’ve been shouting for you. Time to eat.”

“Oh.” Phil hopes his face hasn’t gone as red as it feels like it has. “Sorry. Guess we had the volume up too loud?”

They don’t. It’s not even as loud as it usually is.

“Alright, well. Coming down?” she asks. Phil silently thanks the stars above that she doesn’t sound weird or suspicious. He feels like he might as well have SEX stamped on his forehead in thick black lettering for how exposed he feels in this moment.

But he can’t get up and go downstairs and have dinner with his family with a pantload of come sticking his boxers to his crotch. He just can’t.

“Can we… finish the episode first?” He only stutters a little bit.

She sighs a deep, long suffering kind of sigh. “You have a problem, Phil. You have a right problem. You have five minutes.” She looks at Dan. “We’ll have to come up with some kind of code word, you and I, yeah? In case you ever need rescuing.”

Phil looks over at Dan, who manages to eke out a convincing looking smile.

“Ok mum,” Phil says. “Five minutes, we promise.”

She rolls her eyes and smiles and shuts the door behind her. Phil flops down face first into the mattress and groans loudly into his duvet.

“Fuck,” Dan murmurs.

“Yeah.” Phil sits up again. “Uh. Sorry.”

Dan shrugs. “For what? It’s nice your family still has meals together. And i’m not complaining about getting to eat Kath’s cooking.”

“Yeah, but.” Phil’s eyes flick down to the pillow Dan’s still got tightly clutched over his lap. “You didn’t get to…” He raises his eyebrows suggestively.

“Oh. Yeah. It’s— it’s fine, don’t worry. It’s fine.”

Phil hates that. He really hates that. It makes him feel selfish and shameful. Now that the moment has passed he feels awkward and nervous and like he wouldn’t know the first thing to do to get Dan where he needs to be. He can’t believe two minutes ago his palm has pressed against Dan’s hard dick to rub it through his pjs, but he still feels awful that he’d gotten to come and Dan hadn’t.

Now that he’s thinking about it it makes his heart race with… well, with fear. He can’t deny that it scares him. All of this, the kissing and the humping and the way it all felt so good and so right is kind of terrifying. It feels so sudden and he’s not sure he’s even remotely prepared for any of it.

But then Dan’s hand is on his shoulder and his words are soft and caring. “Phil? You alright?”

“Um. Yeah? I think. I dunno.”

“That was a lot,” Dan murmurs. “I’m sorry. Fuck. I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have let it go so far, I should’ve known—”

“No,” Phil interrupts. He doesn’t know what to say next but he knows he doesn’t want Dan to think he regrets any of it. Because he doesn’t. He just needs time to process, maybe. “I mean, yeah. It was a lot. But I’m glad it happened.”

“Are you?” Dan asks.

“Yeah. Aren’t you?”

Dan smiles. “Of course.”

“Ok,” Phil says quietly, almost more for himself than anything. “Ok, good.”

“Are you freaking out a little bit though?” Dan asks.

“Um. Maybe a little?”

Dan nods. “Ok. That’s— ok. Should I find an excuse to go home and leave you alone?”

Phil’s hand flies out to grab Dan’s, hard, half crushing the bones of his hand in his grip. “No. Seriously, no. Please don’t do that.”

“You want me to stay?”

“I need you to stay,” Phil whispers.

“You need to get changed,” Dan says. “Our five minutes are almost up.”

Phil’s stomach squirms uncomfortably. “Will you stay over tonight?”

Dan looks genuinely surprised. “I mean— really? You want me in your bed tonight?”

“Yes.” He takes a deep breath and pushes past the simmering fear in his gut and says, “We weren’t finished here.”

The way Dan closes his eyes and the expression on his face is immensely gratifying to Phil. “Okay,” Dan says, sounding as dazed as he looks. “You need to leave the room now.”

“What?” Phil asks.

Dan moves the pillow. Phil may have just had the orgasm of his life about ten minutes before but it doesn’t stop his cock from twitching at the sight of Dan, still hard. “I need to not be looking at you for a couple of minutes before I go sit at a table with your whole family.”

Phil’s never wanted food less in his life, and that’s impressive considering food is often what he lives for. But he gives Dan his couple of minutes, taking a clean pair of pants to the bathroom and washing up his mess before he re-dresses and collects a seemingly calmer Dan.

Martyn’s the first person they see. He’s loitering in the kitchen with a stack of plates. “Mum said you have to set the table,” he says immediately.

“Okay.” Phil doesn’t pause to see if Martyn finds the lack of arguing strange. He can’t look his brother in the eye right now. All he hears in his mind are Martyn’s questions from before.

Dan helps him set the table. They don’t talk much, they don’t even really look at it each other. It doesn’t feel bad - Phil’s just not sure he can look at Dan, not without bursting into flames or blushing or doing something weird and hard to explain to the rest of his family.

“Your mum actually makes Sunday roast,” Dan says, looking at the food already spread out on the table. “I thought that was just something families on telly did.”

“It’s the only way to get this lot to all sit down together,” Kath says, clapping a hand on Dan’s shoulder.

“I’m always home for dinner,” Phil says, sulking slightly. It’s a familiar pattern of teasing and response.

“Of course you are, dear, I made my mistakes with that one-” She points to Martyn. “-teaching him how to cook for himself. Never taught you and now you’ll need your dear old mum forever.”

“Mum the evil genius,” Martyn says. “Are we waiting on dad? I want to eat quickly.”

Kath doesn’t seem to love that answer. She fixes a raised eyebrow at him.

Martyn looks down at his plate and shrugs. “One of my mates is in Sweden right now, they’re going to ring at half eight and I don’t want to miss it.”

“Mate,” she repeats, suspicion drenching the word.

Martyn’s spared more of an inquisition by Nigel walking in. Phil keeps staring at his brother though, momentarily intrigued. Martyn’s never been shy about naming his friends - or girlfriends - before.

Nigel starts to talk about work things as soon as they’ve all served themselves and begun to eat. Phil listens with half an ear toward the conversation but mostly he’s in his own head, trying to process what he spent the last few hours doing. He can’t even really appreciate the roast - it’s good, of course, and he clears his entire plate, but when he’s done he can’t really remember how it tasted.

All he can think about is Dan’s mouth on his.

He sneaks a look at Dan… about every thirty seconds, which is probably more conspicuous than he should be, but he can’t help it.

Dan catches him more often than not. Once he even kicks a foot out and nudges Phil’s with his own. They’re both still just in socks, and he can feel Dan’s toes wiggling against his ankle.

That really shouldn’t turn him on, but he has to stare very hard at the peas on his plate for thirty seconds before he feels like he’s averted the threat of crisis and can look at Dan again.

“Mum,” Phil says, interrupting her.

She gives him a chastising look and says, “Child?”

“Can Dan stay over tonight?” He asks, blurting it out.

She looks at Dan. “Would you like me to say no? Do we need to come up with the code word now?”

Dan laughs. “No, Mrs. Kath. I’d like to stay over, if you don’t mind.”

“Well, I suppose you boys only have a couple of weeks before school starts,” she says. She shakes her head and looks at Nigel. “And here I thought we’d see too much of Phil this summer. Couldn’t have guessed we’d barely see him once the move happened.”

“Worse things than a boy making friends,” Nigel says.

Friends. Phil looks over at Dan. Well, Dan is a friend, it’s true. He’s just… a friend that Phil spent two hours kissing today. And also last night. And also, he thinks, he’ll be kissing again as soon as they’re alone.

He really wants to be kissing again. Or just actually watching Buffy. Really anything as long as it isn’t sitting with his family and feeling like he’s got ants in his pants. Too much has happened, too much is going on in his head, for him to be forced to be so still and pretend like his whole world didn’t change rather drastically an hour ago.

As soon as they’re finished eating Phil starts to stand up. “Dan and I-”

“Are going to march your lovely selves right into the lounge,” Kath says. “We’re having a movie night. Your brother’s film choice, since he’s missed the last few.”

“No,” Phil says, a genuine protest to being told he’s got to wait two more hours.

Luckily his reaction is completely misunderstood by probably everyone but Dan. “You know the rules, and you’ve made us watch Speed three times this year already.”

“Speed?” Dan sounds amused.

“I like it,” Phil says, defending his choice. “And Martyn likes really weird films.”

Martyn looks far too satisfied with himself as he says, in a drawn out voice, “French new wave.”

Great. Two hours before he and Dan can be alone, and he’s got to sit through a boring movie.

Phil sticks his tongue out at Martyn like the mature person he is. “Still means you’re gonna miss you mate’s call.”

“Oh bollocks,” Martyn murmurs. He turns to look at his mum but she just shakes her head.

“Sorry lads. This is the price you pay for being my children.”

“Can we have popcorn at least?” Phil says petulantly, settling into a spot at the end of the sofa.

“Are you seriously still hungry?” Nigel asks.

“Can’t watch a film without popcorn,” Martyn says, siding with Phil for what feels like the first time since he got back from uni. He sits on the other end of the sofa, leaving just enough space for Dan to fit in between them. “You’re the one who taught us that Dad.”

“Can’t argue with that,” Kath says, plonking herself down on the old loveseat they’d brought from the old house. “You’re on popcorn duty, Nige. I’ve cooked enough today.”

“Ooh, and wine?” Martyn calls out after his dad.

“Just one glass each,” Kath says sternly. “And Dan, don’t tell Veronica, yeah?”

Dan chuckles. “She wouldn’t be bothered, but I won’t tell her anyway. Promise.”

“Good lad. Sit sit, get comfortable.”

Dan sits right next to Phil. It’s a small enough sofa that they have to sit close, so close their hips are touching and it makes it fully impossible for Phil to even pretend to read the subtitles on the film. He instead focuses all his energy on popcorn and wine and trying not to let his thoughts wander back to Dan’s tongue and the way it felt when their dicks rubbed together.

He’s not having an easy go of it. The wine clouds his brain, eases some of the apprehension and leaves him with more anticipation and excitement than he knows what to do with while he’s sat with his family watching some depressing foreign film with— god, so much sex. So much weird movie sex. Why would Martyn choose this film to watch with their parents? Why are the french so into weird sex stuff?

Then again maybe it’s not weird. Maybe it’s just normal sex stuff and he’s just too young and immature to know the difference.

Whether it’s weird or not, it’s still sex, and it’s making it even harder for Phil not to have… feelings. He doesn’t give a toss about the tits bouncing on the screen or the kind of fat hairy guy the woman is bouncing on but just the nature of what it is reminds him of what he’d done with Dan and what he might do later and he has to hold the bowl of popcorn firmly in place on his lap.

His shoulder is pressed against Dan’s. It’s fairly dark in the room, but not enough for him to do something cheeky like reach for Dan’s hand or even rub his foot against Dan’s and with each passing minute it becomes more torturous.

“Interesting film choice, Mar,” Kath muses.

Phil looks over at his brother and is pleased to see that he actually does look relatively mortified. “Didn’t know it’d be like this,” he croaks. “My mate said it was good.”

“Your Swedish mate?” Phil taunts.

“I never said she was Swedish,” Martyn shoots back. “I said she’s in Sweden.”

“She?” Phil asks.

“Oh, shut up. Birds can be mates.”

“Why is she in Sweden?” Kath asks.

“Mum,” Martyn groans.

She shrugs defensively. “I’m just asking. I like knowing about your friends, love. You used to tell me things.”

“Are we still watching this or…?” Nigel asks, and Phil has to suppress a snicker. He sometimes reckons his dad is as reluctant for all these family group activities as he and Martyn are.

Kath shushes him and looks at Martyn expectantly.

“Ugh, fine. She’s visiting family.”

“So she is Swedish!” Phil exclaims, the wine making his voice a little too loud.

“Whatever,” Martyn grumbles. “Can we just get through this please?”

“Invite her down next time,” Kath says.

Martyn just grunts and Phil thinks maybe this horrendous film was worth it if it made Martyn this annoyed. Dan is staying over after all. They have all night.

-

Dan’s never been so pleased to see the credits to a film. He can’t remember a single thing about the plot, not the character’s names, not even the name of the film itself. He’s spent two excruciating hours watching Phil out of the corner of his eye and knowing that both of them are trying very hard not to act like anything is different.

“Mate,” Dan says, as soon as they shut Phil’s bedroom door behind them. “Your family is way too into bonding time.”

“It’s usually fun,” Phil says weakly. “At least they didn’t want to do board games too?”

Dan feels mildly horrified at the idea of a movie and board games with his own family. “Can’t relate,” he says, and then he sits on the edge of Phil’s bed, because for all that this is what he’s wanted for hours, now that he’s here he’s got no bloody idea what to do.

Phil seems similarly at a loss, still standing a few feet away and just looking at Dan. “More Buffy?” He finally asks.

Dan hates that it feels a bit weird now, just a bit uncomfortable. “Sure,” he says, and watches Phil navigate to the menu. He goes back to the start of two episodes before, back to where they’d been before they put it on and completely ignored it. “Oh.”

Phil turns around and gives him a questioning look. “What?”

“Nothing,” Dan says, shaking his head.

“No, what?”

“I just-” Dan hesitates. “You really want to watch it this time.”

Phil freezes. “I guess. I mean. I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Dan laughs. “Me either. Go on, put it on.”

Phil does hit play but he has a guilty look about him now.

“Come on,” Dan says, settling back onto the bed and holding his arms out.

Phil gives him a little smile and curls up by Dan. It’s easier like this, Dan realizes. Everything feels easier when it’s just the two of them and he’s got his arms around Phil. Phil seems to feel the same, based on the way he relaxes into the touch and sighs after a couple minutes.

“Are you really okay?” Dan whispers, because he’s got to ask. “With what we did earlier?”

Phil takes his time to respond. Dan’s glad - he wants Phil to be honest. But he also hates how the silence that stretches in the moment makes his gut twist violently. He’s not sure what he’ll do if Phil says no.

“I don’t know,” Phil finally says. “I am, I mean. What we did was - I loved it. I want to do it more, but it’s… scary.”

“Because you’ve never done it before?”

Phil shrugs, and then nods. “And because you’re a boy.”

He says the last part like he’s not sure if he should or not.

“Oh,” Dan says. “Yeah. I mean. That’s scary for me, too.”

“I’m not…” Phil hesitates again. “I can’t be… it’s just you, I think. Maybe. It just feels right with you. That doesn’t make me…”

“Gay?” Dan says.

Phil flinches. He’s definitely not relaxed anymore. “Yeah. But I don’t - it’s not like I think it’s… wrong. It’s not. I just… my mum, Dan. I can’t - I can’t be.”

Phil’s voice grows audibly more upset the more he tries to explain himself.

“It’s okay,” Dan says. “I get it.”

Phil stares at him warily. “You do?”

Dan shrugs. “I guess… I feel the same way. I don’t know what I am. I just know that I like kissing you and touching you. So maybe right now we can just… be what we are to each other.”

“And what’s that exactly?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “I don’t know what I’m doing any more than you do, you know? I’ve never done this either.”

“Like, with a guy?” Phil asks.

Dan nods.

“But you want to?”

“I want to be… I want to spend time with you. I dunno what you wanna like, call it. It doesn’t really matter. We don’t have to call it anything, really. I just want this.” He takes Phil’s chin in his hand to turn Phil’s face towards him and then leans in for a soft kiss. He’s still nervous despite everything that’s happened in the last twenty four hours. “If you do,” he adds quietly.

“I do. I really…” Phil leans in for another kiss, slightly less soft this time. “I’ve never felt like this before. For anyone.”

Dan answers by doing what he actually wants for once without restraint, which is pushing Phil down flat on his back and lying down on top of him. “I haven’t either mate.”

“Don’t call me mate,” Phil says. His voice has gone all gruff and deep and it’s just really fucking sexy. Dan wonders when he’ll stop being surprised that everything that makes Phil so decidedly a boy is what really turns Dan on.

“I don’t wanna be your mate,” Phil continues. “Mates don’t kiss.” He slides his hand down between their bodies and cups Dan’s balls and half hard dick. “Mates don’t do this.”

Dan drops his forehead down onto Phil’s chest. “Fuck.”

Phil pulls his hand away. “Sorry.”

“What? No, don’t—” Dan grabs Phil’s hand and guides it back down to his crotch. “That was a good fuck.”

Phil chuckles.

“I mean, not— oh shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Phil says, still laughing a little.

“Are you trying to seduce me or not?” Dan asks.

“Do I need to try?”

“Uhh, well your hand is literally on my cock right now. Does it feel like you need to try harder?”

Dan’s stomach flips when Phil’s fingers tighten around the shape of his dick. “Feels pretty hard to me,” Phil croaks.

“I’m, like, always hard when I’m with you,” Dan admits.

“Same. Remember the first night you stayed over? When you snuck in and then my mum almost came into my room the morning?”

Dan nods. “I was hard even then.”

“I know,” Phil says, rubbing his palm against Dan’s clothed dick, sending heat shooting up into Dan’s stomach. “I was too. Why d’you think I ran off to shower so quickly?”

Dan buries his face in Phil’s neck. “I was doing the same thing.”

“You wanked in my bed!?” Phil squawks.

“Wow, Phil, tell the whole neighbourhood why don’t you?”

“Sorry, I just— that’s really… hot.”

“You’re hot,” Dan counters.

Phil pulls his hand out from between them then and covers his face with his hands.

“Should I not have said that?” Dan asks nervously.

Phil shakes his head. “S’not that.”

“Well what is it? You’re freaking me out.”

“It’s just… You’re hot, like actually hot and I have no idea what I’m doing and I feel like you’re gonna realize you made a big mistake soon and then—”

Dan rips Phil’s hands away from his face and attacks Phil’s mouth with his. He pulls away after a while and they’re both breathing a lot harder when he says, “Shut up. You’re not allowed to talk anymore if you’re gonna say dumb shit.”

“It doesn’t feel dumb to me,” Phil says quietly. “People don’t— I’m not the kind of guy people ever call hot.”

“People are stupid.”

“I bet people call you hot all the time.”

“Not really,” Dan says. “Mostly they call me a like, nerd or gaylord or shit like that.”

“You had a girlfriend,” Phil argues. “You’ve… had sex.”

“Yeah…”

Phil turns his head on the pillow and stares at something on the other side of the room. “I haven’t.”

“I know, Phil. It doesn’t matter.”

“I… I fucking came on top of you. Like,” he bites his lip. “That’s so freaking embarrassing. I came in my pants.” His voice has dropped down to a whisper. “You weren’t even touching me. And I was just… humping you. Like, what the hell. What is wrong me?”

“So you’re not actually ok with what happened,” Dan says, his heart sinking.

“I mean. It felt really good. For me.”

“It felt good for me too, idiot,” Dan says. “I was like thirty seconds away from coming myself.”

“Really?” Phil asks.

Dan stares at him like he’s trying to look right into Phil’s brain or something, and then he pushes Phil into the mattress to get leverage, rolling over and straddling him.

“What-” Phil gasps.

“Is this okay?” Dan asks him, looking down at Phil. He would have stopped before now if Phil didn’t seem okay with anything, but since he’s on top of Phil right now and Phil can’t move it feels important to ask out loud.

Phil nods, still looking slightly stunned.

“Okay, good. Then I’m gonna show you how okay I am with what you did earlier.” Dan kisses Phil again, not a single bit of hesitation in it. It doesn't take long - no time at all, really - before he starts to move against Phil. He’s already so fucking hard and his cock fits right against Phil’s hip and it feels so fucking fantastic to just grind there. He hasn’t done this with any real purpose in a couple of years - and it never felt like this before. “I’m gonna come so fucking fast.”

Phil squirms under him. “Can I touch you? Like… here?” His hands touch Dan’s waist.

Dan sits up. Phil’s door doesn’t lock, and he knows it’s stupid, but he pulls his shirt over his head. “You can touch anywhere.”

Phil palms up Dan’s chest, fingers brushing over Dan’s nipples. They’re not particularly sensitive but right now Phil could touch his kneecaps and Dan would be in danger of blowing his load. He keeps rocking his hips, unable to stop now for anything - unless Phil actually asked him to - and so ready for whatever Phil wants to do next.

Which is apparently just to pull Dan back down. Dan’s fine with that too, he wants to be kissing Phil pretty much always. Phil only wants Dan’s mouth for a few seconds though before he pulls away to kiss down to, oh, fuck, Dan’s neck.

Dan’s fingers clench into Phil’s pillow because he needs to grab onto something to work out the coiling tension he feels that he can’t let himself actually voice. Phil’s fucking sucking on his neck and it’s always been a thing that’s just borderline too much for Dan but with Phil too much feels like normal, like something to embrace and not avoid.

“I’m gonna come,” Dan says, gasping. His face is pressed against Phil’s and he can feel himself starting to sweat.

“What can I do?” Phil asks. His lips still tickle against Dan’s damp neck when he talks.

“Suck,” Dan says. “Right there. Just like… not too hard, but - ah fuck Phil-”

Dan’s humping so hard against Phil that the bed actually knocks against the wall a couple of times. He doesn’t even notice it, he’s too busy trying to delay his orgasm for as long as he can.

“Dan,” Phil whispers again, almost urgently. “Can I kiss you?”

Dan mashes his mouth against Phil’s indelicately. It’s a good move, because he can’t not make a sound when he comes apparently, and he does come - spectacularly, dick pumping into his pants, whole body held tense as wave after wave hits him. He keeps rocking into Phil through it, not even caring that he’s smearing things everywhere and making one hell of a mess of himself. He needs to eke out every single aftershock because he’s not sure he’s ever felt so satisfied by an orgasm in his life.

“Wow,” Phil whispers. “That was cool.”

Dan rolls off of him and laughs giddily. “Cool? Cool. That was cool.”

“It was,” Phil insists, rolling too. He props himself up on his side and looks at Dan. “It was really cool.”

Dan isn’t sure he’ll ever catch his breath again. “Do you feel better now? You lasted longer than me.”

“Yeah but you waited like, hours more than me,” Phil says.

“Worth it,” Dan pants.

“Maybe we could…” Phil shuffles closer to Dan until he’s pressed up against his side. “Do it at the same time next time.”

Dan laughs softly. “Yeah, we just need your mum not to cock block us.” He can feel Phil’s dick pressing against the side of his upper thigh.

“Mhm,” Phil hums, dropping his mouth down to place a kiss on Dan’s collarbone. “Sorry about that,” he murmurs.

It’s subtle, but Dan can feel Phil pushing himself up against Dan’s leg ever so gently. Dan feels completely and totally spent, but that doesn’t stop him wanting to make sure Phil feels as good as he does.

“Maybe we can do it at mine next time,” Dan says. “My mum never checks up on me like that.”

“I like hearing you say next time.” Phil’s voice sounds far away, like he’s not really thinking about what he’s saying, like he’s half here and half somewhere else.

“There’s gonna be so many next times, Phil. So fucking many.”

“Mmm.”

“Phil.”

“What?” His lips are brushing Dan’s neck.

“Do you want to come again?”

“I mean… yeah. That was so—”

“Cool?” Dan offers, smirking.

“Yeah, cool. But also hot. So hot.”

“What can I do?” Dan whispers.

-

Phil can’t help pressing his aching dick against Dan’s leg. He knows he shouldn’t, knows Dan probably has no interest now that he’s had an orgasm of his own.

But then, Dan did ask. He seems to be pretty damn interested and willing to help Phil out.

“What can I do?” Dan whispers again.

God, the things Phil wants him to do. The things he’d ask Dan to do if he was brave enough to let himself have what he wants without this nagging fear that he’s not ready and all of this is wrong.

He’s not brave, though, and he does have fears, lots of them. So he says, “Just kiss me,” and when Dan turns his head to meet Phil’s lips Phil is ready. He frames Dan’s bottom lip between his own and gives it a gentle suck before slipping his tongue into Dan’s mouth.

It’s much gentler than the way Dan had been kissing him earlier, but heat simmers in his gut and his cock is so full of blood he can feel it pulsing with every beat of his heart. He kisses Dan slow and deep and reaches down into his pants to wrap his hand around himself.

He hisses at the relief and Dan pulls back and looks down. “Are you…?”

“Is that ok?” Phil asks, but he doesn’t stop. He’s gripping himself and dragging his fist up and down slow and tight. It feels too good to stop. He’s not going to stop unless Dan asks him to.

“Yeah,” Dan breathes. “Keep going.”

Phil’s about to kiss Dan again when Dan pushes him back against the mattress yet again. He doesn’t climb on top but he does press himself up against Phil’s side and start kissing from his shoulder up to his neck.

Phil sucks a breath in through his nose sharply when Dan latches on just below his jaw. He’d never understood the thing about neck kissing or love bites or any of that until this moment. He hadn’t understood how something as innocuous as a neck could elicit any type of pleasurable reaction but fuck. He does now.

It feels bloody amazing. It feels so good he doesn’t notice his hand on his cock has stilled until Dan is whispering in his ear, “Keep going.”

“You too please,” Phil manages to pant.

Dan laughs breathily. “Always so polite,” he teases, but his lips are on Phil’s neck again in a second.

“God,” Phil groans, his dick hot in his hand as he squeezes around it. “Why does that feel—” He doesn’t finish his thought because Dan kisses him then, with tongue and teeth and an enthusiasm that makes Phil’s head spin.

It’s such a new feeling, to be wanted like this. He’s quickly becoming addicted to it. It feels even better than anything physical they’ve done today, just the knowledge that Dan is here and he wants to be here and he wants Phil to feel good is intoxicating. He’s never felt like the most important person to someone before. Even his parents split their love between him and Martyn.

With Dan there’s no splitting, and Phil can feel it in this kiss.

He starts jerking himself hard and fast then, starts to chase the endgame in earnest because he doesn’t want to prolong this part anymore. He wants to come so his mind can be clear enough to say what he wants to say to Dan. He needs Dan to know what this means to him, that the fear doesn’t erase the fact that he’s never been happier.

His mission becomes a lot easier when Dan reaches down and puts one big hand on Phil’s leg, not touching his cock or even really that close to it but intimate still within the touch, squeezing against Phil’s upper thigh. Phil gasps and comes, catching the spill in his palm. There’s not as much as before and he manages to contain it all with a fist squeezing around the tip. Dan’s hand slides up and his palm presses flat against the shaft through his clothes. Phil’s cock twitches up against it and he grinds out the last few pulses before he slumps back down against the bed. Dan’s hand is gone almost instantly - too soon, Phil thinks - and Phil feels drained of absolutely everything.

Dan starts kissing him again, but softly this time. He never wants to have an orgasm again without Dan’s mouth on his right away.

“Um.” He says, once clarity comes back to him. “Look the other way.”

“What?” Dan looks confused.

“I need to, um. Clean up.” Phil’s still got a fistfull of jizz and he feels sheepish about it.

Dan very clearly laughs at him, but he rolls away while Phil extracts his hand from his pants and grabs a few tissues from the box by his bed. He wads them up and shoves them in an empty cup, then turns back to Dan and flings an arm and a leg over Dan. “Okay.”

“”Nuh uh,” Dan says. “My turn. And I need to borrow some pants.”

“Or just don’t wear any?” Phil suggests, feeling particularly bold in his afterglow.

He really likes how Dan looks surprised in a good way. But Dan recovers fast, and surprises him right back. “But what if I wanted to sleep in only the pants?”

Thinking of sleeping mostly naked with Dan makes Phil feel that shivery feeling again. He gets up and finds Dan some to wear. As soon as Dan’s out of the room, Phil realizes that his mouth is dry and parched. He takes a second to try and make sure his hair doesn’t look like he’s just been writhing around on a bed and then goes downstairs. Maybe there’s still some cake left…

He runs into Martyn in the kitchen. He’s sat at the breakfast bar on his phone, a plate in front of him that has only crumbs left on it. He looks up when Phil walks in. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“I don’t have a bedtime anymore,” Phil says, sticking his tongue out. He knows Martyn’s just winding him up, but he doesn’t feel like being treated like a kid after his first time having sex. Kinda having sex. Maybe he should figure out what actually counts as sex. The internet probably knows. “I wanted cake.”

“Too late,” Martyn says, smirking. “There is cake no more.”

“Ugh. First you make us watch a stupid film then you eat all the cake? When do you leave again?” Phil’s grumbling is mostly just out of habit. He roots around in the fridge to see what else is there.

Martyn apparently takes pity on him. “I saw her put some biscuits behind the tea tin.”

They’re the nice ones, too, the Viennese ones with the nice chocolate filling. He takes four and then pours a tall glass of milk. He and Dan can share, it’s not like they haven’t exchanged enough germs between them for the night.

He momentarily gets distracted remembering all the kissing. When he looks back up, Martyn is staring at him. “What?” Phil says.

Martyn just shrugs. “How’s Dan?”

That’s enough to shake Phil’s euphoria. “How’s your Swedish friend?” He shoots back.

There’s another tense moment where they’re just staring. Martyn seems less belligerent suddenly, and more just… unsure. Confused, even.

It’s too much for Phil to handle. He takes his biscuits and his glass of milk and heads upstairs without saying anything else. It feels different now that Martyn is technically correct, but no less upsetting. He has a fleeting moment of panic that maybe Dan had rocked the bed so hard that Martyn had heard.

He takes the stairs two at a time and closes the door too loudly behind him. Dan is there, snuggled up under the duvet looking startled. “You ok?”

Phil shrugs. He puts their snack on his bedside table and yanks his shirt up and over his head. Apparently anger eclipses his inhibitions in the same way arousal does.

He looks at Dan. “You just wearing pants?”

Dan nods, so Phil goes ahead and yanks his bottoms off too.

“What if someone comes in?” Dan asks as Phil picks up a biscuit and crams it into his mouth before climbing in next to Dan.

“Not bothered,” Phil garbles. He picks up two biscuits and hands them to Dan.

“Gonna get crumbs everywhere,” Dan says, but he still accepts the food and takes a bite. He looks a little unsettled.

“Not bothered about that either.” He picks up the milk and chugs half the glass before handing it to Dan. He starts nibbling on the other biscuit and lies his head down on the pillow. His mum would definitely be cross if she knew he was eating something crumbly in his bed, but that’s kind of the point. He wants to eat biscuits half naked in bed with his legs tangled up in Dan’s and he likes the feeling of rebellion that comes along with it.

“Are you ok?” Dan asks again.

“Yeah. My brother’s just a git is all.”

Dan takes a polite sip of milk and hands the glass and one of his biscuits back to Phil, who puts them on the table. “Phil,” he says weakly.

“What?”

“Are you gonna freak out every time we touch each other?”

Phil’s stomach sinks. “No. It’s not that, I promise.”

“You’re upset because you think your brother knows,” Dan says quietly.

“I…” He takes a breath. He doesn’t think that’s quite it, but he’s not really sure how to express himself. Everything feels all fuzzy and grey in his own head, to spell it out for Dan now feels impossible. “I dunno. I guess maybe, a little.”

Dan nods slowly.

“Does that bother you?” Phil asks.

“Mm… no. I don’t think so. I think I’d freak out if my brother knew.”

“Yeah but yours is a kid. Mine’s an adult. I feel like he should be… I dunno, less immature about it?” Phil crosses his arms over his bare chest. He’s annoyed even just talking about this.

“So does he like, definitely know?”

Phil sighs. “No. I think he… strongly suspects. And he’s been acting weird towards me since he got home and realized the neighbour I’ve been spending all my time with isn’t a girl. Also, you know.” He gestures toward Dan. “He did walk in on us cuddling.”

“Right,” Dan murmurs. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I don’t want you to be sorry about anything,” Phil says, dropping his tone down into something soft and sweet, a voice he saves just for Dan. He opens his arms as invitation for Dan to snuggle in and breathes a sigh of relief when Dan accepts. “This is all just so… new.”

“Yeah,” Dan agrees. “I know. It’s ok.”

“I’m not gonna freak out every time you touch me,” Phil insists. “I’m not even freaking out now. I just wish he’d be a little more… I dunno. Just… wish I felt like I could trust him.”

“It sucks,” Dan agrees. “But at least you can trust me?”

Phil smiles, his heart melting. “Yeah.”

“I don’t have anyone else I can trust either,” Dan says, wrapping his arm around Phil’s middle. “I’m glad I can finally, like. Talk about this… thing.”

“You mean like, us?” Phil asks, frowning slightly.

“Well, yeah, that, but also just like…” Dan sighs, pushing his forehead against the side of Phil’s neck. “I dunno. Feels weird to talk about even with you I guess.”

“Hey, no,” Phil murmurs. “You can say anything to me.”

“Just about… guys, I guess?” Dan’s voice pitches up to a crack at the end. He clears his throat. “Anyway. Doesn’t matter.”

Phil ignores Dan trying to distance himself from what he’d said. “So you knew? Like before me you already knew?”

“Um. I mean… Yeah, I think. On some level. I pretended it wasn’t a thing though. I didn’t… didn’t really want it to be a thing.” He looks up at Phil and then quickly away again. “Sorry.”

“I didn’t either,” Phil says quietly.

“So you knew before, too?” Dan asks. He sounds almost… hopeful.

“I don’t know,” Phil says. “Does that make me a freak? If I don’t know?”

“Nothing makes you a freak, Phil,” Dan says. “Besides your love for instant coffee.”

Phil laughs. “I’ll happily be a freak for that.”

Dan kisses him. It catches Phil off guard in the softest way, because it’s not passionate or purposeful. It’s like a gentle acknowledgement, the way Phil didn’t even know kisses could be.

“Mum always says I’m just a slow bloomer,” Phil says. Somehow whispering it into the dark feels less scary. “My grandma always asks if I’ve got a nice young girl yet, and mum says - she says no, that she thinks I’m going to stay her sweet child forever. And I guess it’s been easy to just think, yeah, I’m a slow bloomer. That made it seem okay that I didn’t really look at girls… or, or boys. But maybe… I don’t know.”

Maybe, he thinks, he just didn’t let himself look - until Dan came along and Phil’s not been able to tear his eyes away since.

Dan stays quiet, just letting Phil talk until he realizes Phil’s used up all the words he’s got in his mind about this just now. Then he cuddles in even closer and says, “I don’t care what you are or who you like, as long as you like me.”

“I like you so much,” Phil says. He sighs deeply and decides to just let the warmth of Dan curled up against him chase all the clouds out of his brain.

Chapter Text

Dan wakes up feeling something wet on his shoulder. It registers as gross until he realizes that it’s Phil, and that the sun has risen hours ago and that they’ve slept in for what is apparently a long time.

Phil’s still sleeping peacefully, but Dan’s bladder isn’t going to let him stay where he is for too much longer. He manages to push Phil off to the side long enough to slip away from him and get out of bed. He isn’t brave enough to walk to the bathroom in his just pants so he finds pajama pants and a t-shirt.

He runs into Kath in the hallway. She’s walking toward Martyn’s bedroom with a basket of laundry in her arms. “Oh, there you are, thought you lot were going to sleep forever.”

“Yeah,” Dan says, voice scratchy. “We were up late… watching Buffy.”

She shakes her head. “That child. He’s like a dog with a bone once he’s got someone watching that bloody show, isn’t he?”

“It’s a good show,” Dan says, stubbornly loyal to Phil.

He knows she isn’t wrong, though. Phil will very likely make them rewatch the same episode they didn’t watch a third time through before they can move on. Assuming they can manage to be in the same bed for an hour at a time without making out.

“Is Phil still asleep?” She asks.

“I think so,” Dan says.

“Tell him he’s left to his own devices to feed himself.” She hefts the basket again. “Nigel and Martyn have gone off for a round of golf and I’m going down to the shops. I imagine your own mum will be wanting you home soon?”

Dan’s not sure if that’s a polite dismissal or not. “Probably,” he says. He’s fairly sure his own mum won’t actually care, but - his nana might.

He’ll just bring Phil with him, he decides, since Phil’s family won’t be around anyway.

When Dan walks back into the bedroom, Phil is still asleep but he’s sprawled out face down with his head somehow between the pillows instead of resting on either of them.

Dan can’t resist crawling up the bed on his hands and knees, holding himself over Phil and then leaning down to kiss Phil’s shoulder.

Phil jumps, and sharp bone collides with Dan’s teeth. “Ow! Fuck!” Dan yelps and rolls away.

Phil looks bewildered. “What was that?”

“You idiot,” Dan laughs, grabbing a pillow and hitting Phil with it. “I was trying to be like, romantic and shit, kissing you awake.”

“... I thought a bug was crawling on me,” Phil says, sheepish. He grabs the pillow that Dan’s abusing him with and lays back down, hugging it to him. “Try not to tickle me next time you want to be romantic.”

Dan drops down onto the bed as well, draping his legs over Phli’s. “Noted.”

After a few seconds, Phil puts the pillow aside and scoots in closer to Dan. “Or you could just try again now that I know what you’re doing.”

Dan grins and leans in, kissing Phil very softly right on the mouth.

Barely three seconds in, Phil jerks back again with a look of horror on his face. “You can not have thought it was a bug on your lips,” Dan says, playing up the exasperation.

“My breath smells awful!” Phil says.

Dan waves a hand. “It’s not that bad. You don’t smoke, at least. I kissed a girl that smoked once. I nearly sicked all over her shoes.”

Phil frowns. “When?”

“I dunno, like, three years ago or something.”

“You were kissing girls when you were thirteen?” Phil looks both jealous and scandalized.

“Can we do less of the talking about me kissing girls and more of the actually me kissing you?” Dan asks, holding his arms out.

Phil shakes his head. “I’m gonna brush my teeth first.”

“Ugh.” Dan crosses his arms over his chest. “Anyway, your mum said everyone’s gone and you’ve got to find lunch for yourself.”

“You saw my mum?” Phil asks.

“Yeah,” Dan says. “When I went to the toilet.”

“Were you awake a long time before me?” Phil frowns. “You should have woken me up.

“Not long,” Dan says. “Don’t worry, I didn’t Edward Cullen you.”

“Wrong vampires,” Phil says. “But that’s good. I guess. I mean you can Edward Cullen me a little bit, if you want.”

“Stay over at mine tonight and I will.”

“Mmm,” Phil hums contentedly. “Ok.”

“Right, if you refuse to kiss me then go brush your teeth, I’m well hungry.”

Phil leans in then and gives Dan one big sloppy kiss on the mouth. “One for the road,” he laughs as he springs up out of bed.

“I’m not going anywhere you spoon,” Dan says fondly, throwing a pillow after him.

Phil manages to dodge it and stick his tongue out at Dan. He’s still wearing just his pants and Dan enjoys the view as he watches Phil rooting around his room for something to wear.

“You’re really messy, eh?” Dan muses as he leans back against the headboard and watches Phil rifling through a pile of clothes.

He pulls out a pair of jeans triumphantly. “Shush. I’m not messy. Maybe you’re too neat.”

“Mmm, pretty sure you’re just a slob.” Dan laughs. “Anyway you saw my room.”

Phil pulls the jeans up his legs and Dan has a moment where he gets lost in watching him zip up the fly, in noticing the faint line of hair that starts just below his navel and wanting to see exactly what it leads to.

“I’m a slob you can’t stop staring at,” Phil says softly.

Dan doesn’t even bother with argumentative banter. “You’re so hot, Phil.”

“Pfft.” He waves his hand dismissively and then leans down to pick up a blue plaid button up t-shirt. “You’re getting me confused with yourself again.”

“You better run before I come over there,” Dan threatens.

Phil squawks and runs out of the room. Dan wonders how it’s possible to feel entirely grown up and completely childish all at once, but somehow he’s managing it.

-

“So what’re we doing today?” Phil asks through a mouthful of cereal, the only thing he could think of to serve them for what is now technically classified lunch. Some milk dribbles down his chin.

“God, Phil. I stand by what I said before, you are definitely a slob.”

“At least I’m dressed. You’re still wearing pyjamas,” Phil points out.

“My clothes are in a wet heap on your bedroom floor, mate.”

Phil smiles at the memory. “Leave them here. My mum will wash them and then you’ll have backup clothes for when you stay over.”

Dan smiles back. “Good idea.”

“But seriously, what should we do today? Still want me to come over?” Phil asks.

“Definitely. I need to show my face so my nana knows I’m still alive but after that we’ll be free to… well, to do whatever we want.” He smirks suggestively.

Phil is unable to respond for a minute because his mind is flooded with the memory of Dan’s palm pressed against his clothed dick and Dan’s mouth on his neck.

“Sorry,” Dan mumbles, shaking Phil from those wonderful, glorious thoughts. “We don’t have to do that. We can do something else.”

“I don’t want to do something else,” Phil says firmly. “Hurry up and finish eating so we can go do not something else.”

Dan looks relieved. “Ok,” he says shyly.

“By the way,” Phil says, kicking at Dan’s foot lightly under the table. “Your hair is really curly right now and it’s frickin adorable and I hereby ban you from any and all straighteners.”

Dan’s hand flies up to clap over his fringe. “Fuck. I forgot.”

“I know. I was trying not to remind you but it’s just too cute not to.”

“Don’t get used to it,” Dan mutters.

Phil pouts. “I was brave with my hair. You should be brave with yours.”

“Not the same,” Dan says. “Yours looks cool. I just look like… a hobbit.”

“Hobbits can be cute,” Phil says. “Who wouldn’t want to snog Mr. Frodo?”

“Wow. Hobbit fetish. I learn more about you every day.” Dan shakes his head. “Sorry, though. No matter how kinky your fantasies, I love my GHDs too much.”

“No matter how kinky?” Phil repeats, raising an eyebrow.

Dan looks adequately thrown. “... shut up.”

Phil sits back and wipes his mouth off again. “Shut me up.”

It’s not at all a surprise - in fact, it’s the exact intended result - when Dan leans in and kisses him.

Phil hasn’t been kissed enough yet that it doesn’t make something exciting flare in his chest. When Dan pulls back, Phil tries to chase it.

“Can’t,” Dan says apologetically. “I won’t be able to walk in and face my nana if I kiss you much more..”

Phil loves that just kissing him do that to Dan. It feels like a power he wants to take advantage of.

Later, though. Because Dan’s right - boners and nanas don’t mix.

Phil gives their cereal bowls a halfhearted rinsing and leaves them in the sink. He loves that Dan’s still in his pajamas as they make their way across the street, letting themselves into Dan’s house.

Veronica must hear the door because she pops her head into the room before they can even make it to the stairs. “Daniel.” Her voice is full of both amusement and curiosity.

“My clothes got wet in the rain yesterday,” he says. “Phil’s mum’s gonna wash them.”

“And you’re paying her for her maid services, then?” Veronica asks. “Phil, it’s lovely to see you, and apologize to your mum for the rudeness of my grandchild.”

“He’s not rude,” Phil says, feeling obligated to come to Dan’s defense.

“Mm.” She makes a disbelieving sound. “Go on and put yourself some proper clothes on. You’ll be helping me in the kitchen today.”

“What?” Dan protests. “But Phil and I had plans. We were gonna…”

Dan flounders, looking at Phil.

Fair enough, Phil thinks. They can’t actually tell Dan’s nana what they plan on doing. “Go to the cinema?” Phil asks, thinking of their applications.

“We were gonna go the cinema!” Dan says triumphantly.

“The cinema will still be there tomorrow,” Veronica says. “I need your extra hands.”

Dan glances at Phil. “Do you need Phil’s hands, too?”

“Of course I do,” she says. “In fact, he can come help me right now while you get dressed.”

Phil follows her into the kitchen. There are ingredients laid out everywhere and the oven’s already on. It makes the room warm, but she’s got the windows thrown open and the breeze is nice. “What are you making?”

“Bit of everything, aren’t we?” She says, laughing. “Testing out a fairy cake recipe for Daniel’s brother’s birthday, cheese scones and a lemon drizzle to take to my church group, and don’t tell Daniel but I thought I’d do up his favorite cake if there’s time enough.”

“Wow,” Phil says. His mum likes to make cakes, but he’s pretty sure Dan’s nana has her beat. “That sounds good. All except the cheese scones. I hate cheese.”

She laughs. “Well, I’ll put Daniel on cheese duty then. You can start zesting some lemons for me, how about that?”

It doesn’t sound too difficult. He ends up sat at the table with a few lemons and a zester, and that’s how Dan finds him when he walks back in wearing a t-shirt Phil’s not seen yet and a pair of tight black jeans.

Dan really does just look… unfairly good in jeans, the way they cling to his thighs… zesting, Phil thinks. Zesting, zesting. That’s all he’s doing. Definitely not checking out the ass of his… of Dan.

That’s so weird, he thinks to himself, even as he’s staring at Dan’s bum and pretending he’s not. It’s weird that he’s staring at it and enjoying staring at it so thoroughly. He’s never stared at anyone’s ass before. He doesn’t even know what constitutes a ‘nice ass’ but he knows that he really freaking likes the look of Dan’s in those jeans.

But… zesting. Yeah. Lemons. Tasty lemons with their pretty yellow zests, little pieces of neon sourness sprinkling onto the cutting board with every grate.

He’s zesting. But he’s also thinking about the fact that he’s definitely going to put his hands on Dan’s ass later. And then he’s glad that he’s sat at a table and his crotch isn’t visible. Boners and nanas, boners and nanas. He chants it in his head over and over to remind himself that they are two fundamentally opposing forces and Dan’s nana is stood just a few feet away.

His hair is straightened now which gives Phil a genuine twinge of disappointment. He looks great either way, but there’s something about the curls.

Dan’s nana notices too. “Oh Daniel, I don’t understand why you insist on doing that to your hair.”

He ignores her completely. “What d’you want me to do?” he asks.

“Cheese,” Phil blurts.

Veronica laughs. “Indeed.”

“Phil hates cheese,” Dan says, plonking down in the seat next to Dan.

Veronica chuckles and hands Dan the supplies he needs. “That’s why you’re in charge of grating.”

“Where’s Adrian?” Dan asks. “Not that I’m complaining…”

“He’s off riding his bike. You know you could learn a thing or two from him. Boys your age should be playing outside more.”

Dan rolls his eyes dramatically. “Nana I’m not a child, god. I’m sixteen I don’t play anymore.”

Phil chuckles. Veronica walks over to Dan and pats the top of his head like he’s a petulant puppy. “Alright, love. You’re all grown up now, are you?”

Phil snickers again. Dan tries to look unbothered. He kicks Phil under the table. “Shut up,” he mutters.

“Abuse!” Phil protests, still laughing. “I didn’t even say anything.”

“Get grating, child,” Veronica says, returning to her station at the kitchen counter. She’s got a lot more going on than Phil or Dan do.

And yet she still manages to surprise them both a few minutes later by placing mugs of hot tea down in front of them. “Fuel for my helpers,” she says sweetly.

Phil’s heart swells. He’d had a much different idea of what he and Dan would be doing right about now, and he won’t admit this to anyone, but he likes this just as much. He likes the smile Veronica gives him when he thanks her for the tea. He likes the way she teases him when he asks for more sugar. He likes spending time in Dan’s space with Dan’s family and feeling welcome. Even feeling like he belongs.

“Dan and I decided on the first day we met that you and my mum should have a bake off,” Phil says, sucking lemon juice off his thumb. He kind of like the way it burns on his tongue. He turns his head in Dan’s direction only to find him staring. Phil’s cheeks flush instantly and he yanks his fingers away from his face, squirming in his chair.

He clears his throat and continues, desperate not to let his thoughts wander to any less wholesome than baking with someone’s grandmother. “Anyway, now I’m not so sure that’d be good for her self esteem.”

She clicks her tongue. “Nonsense. Your mother is a wonderful baker I’m sure.”

“She is,” Dan murmurs. “There’s always cake and biscuits when I go over there.”

“So, every day, then?” she teases.

“Oi.”

“Sometimes I come here,” Phil offers.

“It’s true, love. You do. And it’s always a pleasure.” She smiles at him warmly. Then she looks at Dan. “I reckon you must be keen for Evie to come home so you can introduce her to your new friend, hm?”

Phil’s stomach clenches. He looks at Dan out of the corner of his eye and finds him looking appropriately stricken.

“Nana,” Dan says. His voice sounds weird enough that Veronica looks at him in that way she’s giving him proper attention. “Evie and I broke up.”

Her surprise hits Phil weirdly. Her frown is so genuine. “Oh, dear. When did this happen?”

“Um. Few days ago,” Dan mumbles, going back to grating his cheese with far more emphasis than is really necessary.

It’s weird for Phil to hear Dan say that, because it feels like so much time has passed.

But it hasn’t, really. He looks down and realizes he’s out of lemons to zest. He doesn’t want to interrupt Dan and his grandmother talking, but he also doesn’t really want to hear them talking anymore so he says, “What should I do next?”

“Oh, already finished!” She looks pleased. “You’re a quick worker.”

“Mum trained me well,” Phil says.

He feels Dan’s foot against his under the table and when he looks over Dan is giving him a relieved look.

“I’ll be needing the juice now,” she says, and hands him the juicer already set out and a separate bowl with a knife already in it. “How are you coming along with the cheese, Daniel?”

“Almost done, Nana,” Dan says.

She walks over under the pretense of inspecting him, but Phil sees the way she bends over and kisses the top of his head, squeezing his shoulder. “How does a chocolate sponge with custard sound?”

Dan smiles at her. “It sounds perfect, Nana.”

-

Dan and Phil are on icing sugar duty, each with a bowl and a spoon to blend, when the front door slams. Adrian walks in and his whole face lights up. “Are those my cakes, nana? Can I have one?”

Dan tries to bury his immediate reaction of annoyance. As much as he always wants to be alone with Phil, it’s been really nice making things with his two favorite people.

“No you may not,” she says sternly. “Not with those hands of yours.”

He looks at his dirt caked hands and then sulks out of the room. When he comes back in he’s holding clean hands up. “Now can I have one?”

“You still may not,” she says, “Because they’re not finished yet.”

The lemon drizzle cake is cooling on a rack, looking picture perfect, and she’s got two trays of the fairy cakes in the oven.

“No fair,” he says, then looks at Dan and Phil. “I bet you lot snuck cakes, didn’t you?”

“There aren’t any made yet, you idiot,” Dan says.

“Nana, Dan’s being mean to me,” Adrian sings out.

“I can hear him,” Veronica says. “What do I always say?”

“Just ignore him and he’ll go away?”

She laughs, despite herself. “That is not what I say, and you know it. Now if you want something to do, go pick out what colour sprinkles you want on your cakes.”

Adrian roots through the baking supplies she’s brought with her and then holds up a fistfull of plastic bottles. “I want all of these.”

“That’s all the colours, dummy,” Dan says.

“Daniel,” Veronica admonishes him this time.

“Is not,” Adrian says. “I don’t want pink ones on, that’s gay.”

He’s never wanted the earth to open up and swallow him whole more than he has in this moment, which is really saying a lot considering he’d only just told his nana about the breakup with Evie.

Actually, no. Fuck that. Adrian’s the one who deserves to get swallowed. So what if he’s just a dumb kid? Kids can be assholes too, and Adrian is the biggest asshole Dan’s ever met.

Even though Dan’s definitely said shit like that before.

It just feels different now. Obviously.

But he’s not gay, right? Just because he fantasizes about putting Phil’s cock in his mouth doesn’t make him gay.

Right?

Why does he even care?

Maybe Adrian’s not the biggest asshole after all.

Dan doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t tell Adrian off like he wants to, and neither does anyone else. Veronica says, “We won’t put pink on if you don’t want, love.”

Dan doesn’t look at Phil. He can’t bring himself to. He doesn’t get up out of his chair and run upstairs like he wants to. He sits there like the pathetic coward he is and helps decorate the stupid bloody cake.

He waits until it becomes physically impossible to fake a smile any longer before he stands up and asks if he and Phil can be excused.

She frowns. “Are you alright?” She’s just too caring and observant.

He nods. “Just tired. We stayed up late watching telly.” Not technically a lie.

“Go, go,” she says kindly. “You’ve earned a rest. Thank you boys for all your help today.”

Dan nods and turns in the direction of the door, not waiting for Phil to finish whatever polite young man thing he’s saying to her before heading in the direction of the stairs. He takes them two at a time and lunges into his bed.

Phil comes in a few moments later and shuts the door quietly behind him. He sits on the edge of the bed wordlessly. Dan’s laid on his side and facing in the opposite direction. He doesn’t know what to say but he knows if he continues to say nothing he’s going to fuck things up and this is simply unacceptable. He’s not ready to even think about a word like gay in relation to himself but he’s also not willing to push Phil away for something so stupid.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“For what?” Phil asks, lying down beside him then but keeping enough distance that they don’t touch.

He must be hanging half off the edge, Dan thinks. This bed is fucking tiny.

“Should’ve… I dunno. Said something.”

“Oh, the gay thing?”

Dan nods. He doesn’t even know if Phil is looking at him but he doesn’t trust his voice not to break. He doesn’t want to use it any more than he needs to before he can convince his stupid goddamn emotions that he’s overreacting in a big, embarrassing way.

“It’s not a big deal,” Phil says quietly. “It’s not like, you know. Not like I haven’t heard that a million times.”

“I know,” Dan murmurs. “Just feels…” He doesn’t know how to say it without making it sound like he has doubts. Which he really, really doesn’t.

“Yeah,” Phil agrees. Maybe Dan doesn’t need to say anything at all.

He turns around so he’s facing Phil, who rolls off his back and onto his side to face Dan, shuffling forward so their bodies are touching. They look into each other’s eyes for a while, and Dan feels like he’s communicating more like this than he could ever possibly hope to with words.

“I like you,” Dan whispers.

“I like you more.”

“I don’t think I’m gay.”

Phil chuckles breathily. “It doesn’t matter.”

Dan nods. “You don’t think you’re gay either.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he repeats. “I just want it to be us.”

“Just us,” Dan agrees. He leans in and presses his lips to Phil’s because neither of them are making sense and it’s all a fucked up mess of confusing bullshit inside his head but it’s not confusing when they’re touching each other. Then it’s simple. It’s as easy as breathing.

“We don’t have any Buffy to put on here,” Phil says.

“Don’t need Buffy.” Dan stretches out and presses his body closer to Phil’s. “No one’s coming in my bedroom without knocking.”

“Not even your little brother?”

Dan shakes his head. “Trained him. He knows I’d murder him if he did.”

“Lucky,” Phil says. He reaches down and starts to play with the hem of Dan’s shirt. “My mum only remembers to knock half the time now.”

“Has she ever caught you wanking?” Dan asks.

“Dan!” Phil is clearly scandalized by the idea. “No, ew, that’d be - I’d be traumatized. I’d never be able to wank again. I may not be able to just thinking of it.”

“Never?” Dan lifts an eyebrow then presses his knee between Phil’s legs, just gently nudging his cock.

Phil’s face immediately goes bright red. “Dan.”

Dan doesn’t answer, he just kisses Phil again instead. “Can I do something?” He says, when he detaches his mouth from Phil’s.

“Yeah,” Phil answers immediately, then belatedly adds, “What?”

Dan pushes Phil down until he’s on his back and then grabs the hem of Phil’s shirt, sliding it up and pulling it off. “Just tell me if you want me to stop.”

He just wants to… look right now. He wants to look and touch and revel in how Phil is a boy and how it’s not wrong - what they do between them, in private, it’s not wrong.

He tugs on Phil’s nipples. He’s not expecting the way Phil’s whole body twitches underneath him. “Are you sensitive there?” He asks, rubbing more firmly.

“I guess?” Phil says. “I don’t usually touch them.”

Dan leans down and licks, then sucks a bit. It’s nothing like anything he’s done before, because Phil is not like anyone he’s done things with. He kisses around the nipple, over to the center of Phil’s chest, where the wispy patch of hair tickles his lips.

That’s definitely new. Dan doesn’t even have chest hair himself. He doesn’t know if it’ll happen or not, but he really likes that Phil has it, even if there’s not much of it.

He sits back. He can see the damp places where he kissed too wetly. Phil looks stunned, one hand in his own hair. “Dan,” he says, almost helplessly.

Dan looks down. Phil’s definitely hard. They’re both wearing jeans, and while he trusts people to knock he’s not sure he trusts his nana or his brother to understand why it would take them an unusually long time to answer, so he decides to work with what’s available to them.

“Can I do something else?” He asks.

This time Phil just nods frantically.

Dan straddles Phil and starts to rub against him. Phil catches on right away, wrapping his arms tight around Dan and thrusting up. It’s more difficult to feel things with all the material between them, they both have to work harder at it, but it feels so good. Dan buries his face against Phil’s neck, their bodies impossibly close together, and rocks into it. It feels like he’s trying to fuck Phil through their clothes, like the closest thing to sex without being able to touch.

“Stop,” Phil whispers.

Dan immediately lifts up off of him. “What?” He asks, bewildered. His cock is demanding to know why the good feelings went away.

“I just-” Phil turns his head bashfully and then sticks his hand down his jeans. “The zip was… digging in.”

 

Dan watches, enraptured, as Phil adjusts himself then pulls his hand back out.

“Go on,” Phil says, arms going back around Dan. “Please.”

Dan doesn’t need to be asked twice. The pause was probably good; he was far too close too fast and even just a few seconds to clear his head helped. “Okay,” he says, already back to humping away at Phil.

“Can I do something now?” Phil asks, breath warm and right in Dan’s ear.

“Yeah,” Dan says. “Anything.”

“Okay.” Phil laughs. Fuck, that’s hot too.

Dan feels Phil’s hands on his back, sliding down… still above his pants but under his jeans, sandwiched between the material. Phil grabs on with a solid hold, groping Dan’s butt.

The heat and just being touched so close to where he really wants to be touched is enough to ramp Dan right up again. If they keep going like this he’ll come in less than two minutes for sure. And while every instinct is screaming at him that that’s exactly what he wants, he also… doesn’t. He doesn’t want this to be over so fast.

“Wait, wait,” he pants, forcing himself to stop writhing against Phil.

“What’s wrong?” Phil asks, yanking his hand out of Dan’s jeans.

“Nothing. Fuck, nothing. Just wanna… slow down. Not ready to come.” He catches Phil’s lips with his and breathes heavy against Phil’s face.

Phil pulls away after a few minutes. “Was it bad, the— you know, the… butt thing? Should I not have done that?”

Dan shakes his head. “Wasn’t bad. I actually really— that’s why I needed to slow down. I really liked it.”

“I did too,” Phil says, stretching his neck up for another wet kiss. “You have a good butt.” He reaches back and squeezes it again, this time through the jeans.

Dan’s stomach jolts at the sensation. He’d honestly never given his own ass a second thought, but he likes the way it feels when Phil touches him like that.

But he wants to touch Phil again. He wants to look more, to revel more, because when they’re like this nothing else seems to matter. Nothing feels hard or scary when Phil is underneath him with his chest bare and his lips kissed red.

“Can you take your shirt off?” Phil asks after a little more kissing.

Dan yanks the thing off and drops it next to them on the bed in case he has to tug it back on quickly. Phil’s hands are on his chest the moment it’s bare and Dan forgets that he wanted to be the one doing the touching. Phil’s hands are so soft, so gentle as they slide down, fingers tracing over Dan’s nipples and the bumps of his ribs.

They keep sliding down until they come to rest on Dan’s belt buckle. “Can I?” Phil whispers. “I’m not gonna do anything, I just wanna… want you to be more comfortable.”

Dan would laugh if his skin wasn’t on fire. He nods and looks down his body to watch Phil pull the belt through the buckle and open the button on his jeans with trembling fingers. They stop for more kissing, wet tongues and rogue teeth because it seems to give them both the confidence they need to be ok with taking these new tiny steps forward.

Phil unzips Dan’s fly while their lips are still attached and then slides his hands back under the loosened jeans and over Dan’s ass to cup and squeeze and dig the pads of his fingers gently into Dan’s cheeks. He grunts against Dan’s mouth and pushes his hips up.

“God. I really like your ass,” he murmurs.

Dan puts his hands flat against Phil’s chest and slides them down until he finds Phil’s nipples again. He thumbs over them and Phil inhales sharply through his nose.

Dan grins. “I like that.”

“Would you— could you put your mouth on them again?” His voice is hesitant, like there’s any universe where Dan would say no to such a thing.

“I think you’ll have to let go of my ass,” Dan teases.

“Just for now. I’ll be back.” He pulls his hands out of Dan’s jeans again and Dan shuffles down, walking his knees back until they’re straddling Phil’s knees.

He leans down and starts kissing all over Phil’s neck and chest, too excited to achieve any kind of cohesive strategy. He loves the tickle of hair against his lips, loves how pale and soft Phil’s skin is. When he finally kisses over one of Phil’s nipples again he’s not disappointed. Phil’s breath hitches and his back actually arches up the tiniest bit.

Dan is emboldened. He wants to chase that kind of reaction from Phil more, so he flattens his tongue and drags it slowly across that little pink nub. Phil’s fingers thread through the hair at the back of Dan’s head and he moans. It’s quiet, but it’s definitely a moan.

The sound shoots straight to Dan’s dick, which of course is still rock hard and maybe even leaking a little against his underwear. He’s not sure how much longer he can hold out now without giving himself some relief. He moves his mouth to Phil’s other nipple and works his hand down to start opening Phil’s belt and jeans.

“Ok?” he asks.

Phil nods vigorously, apparently rendered incapable of speech as Dan graduates from licking to sucking.

Eventually Dan gets the fly unzipped and wraps both hands around the waist. “Lift,” he whispers and Phil complies instantly, pushing his hips up enough for Dan to work the denim down. Just a little, just far enough down to rest underneath his ass, and then Dan quickly and impatiently works his own jeans down to the same level.

He’s done waiting. He lays himself flat on top of Phil and rolls his cock against Phil’s shamelessly. They both make embarrassingly desperate noises and Phil grabs Dan’s ass again and pushes so they’re grinding even harder and closer.

Dan buries his face in Phil’s neck and lets Phil do all the work now. It doesn’t take long - for either of them, apparently. Phil starts making those little grunting noises that he doesn’t seem to even know he’s making and neither of them are all that coordinated anymore - if they even were to begin with - in favor of just shamelessly rutting into each other.

Dan comes first. He opens his mouth against Phil’s shoulder and muffles his noises there. He can’t escape the feeling of Phil’s hands on his ass and Phil’s cock against his. Phil starts to come before Dan’s even done, fingers clawing into Dan’s skin. “Fuck-” Phil says, sounding almost panicky. His hand flies out of Dan’s jeans and down between their bodies. Dan’s confused until he gets some space between them and sees white streaking up Phil’s stomach. Phil’s hand is covering his dick but Dan realizes Phil’s pants must have gotten tugged down or something, because that’s… that’s definitely come all over Phil. Phil makes one last keening sound and white leaks from between his fingers.

“Fuck,” Dan says, tone a world away from Phil’s. He reaches down and cups his own dick, feeling it jerk against his touch. He could, he thinks, get hard again right now if he tried. Or like, come again, still hard from the first time. “That’s so hot.”

“I’m sorry,” Phil says, apparently mortified.

“No, Phil, listen,” Dan says. “That’s so hot.”

Phil tucks himself back into his pants. He’s breathing heavy and coming down and he looks so perfectly kissable that Dan leans down and kisses him soft and open on the mouth.

Then he looks down again because he’s fascinated by how it looks against Phil’s skin. He’s only really seen his own come before, and it’s just - different. Not the stuff itself but the way it looks on Phil, and knowing it’s there because Dan was making Phil feel good…

Dan realizes he’s still groping his dick, just lazily pressing and squeezing. He has his own turn of embarrassment, but Phil doesn’t seem to be complaining. He doesn’t seem to have even noticed, eyes still closed as he tries to regain his breath.

The first thing Phil says when he opens his eyes is, “I wonder if your nana’s made the chocolate cake yet?”

“You are literally the most food obsessed person I’ve never met,” Dan says, standing up as soon as he’s sure his legs will hold him. He grabs a dirty t-shirt off the floor and tosses it to Phil. “Use that to clean up.”

He watches out of the corner of his eye and tries to pretend that he didn’t imagine licking it clean before he told himself that might be pushing the line of weirdness. He leaves Phil alone to go change his underwear, laughing at how many times in the past few days he’s had spunk filled pants to deal with.

Worth it, he thinks.

Chapter Text

Phil’s mum calls him just before dinner time and tells him that he needs to come home. He and Dan are sat in his room still, but fully clothed and playing Mario Kart. Dan’s a lot better than Phil, but Phil’s already learning what distraction tactics work best. “I’m just staying at Dan’s tonight,” he says.

“Are you, then?” Her voice has a less than amused note to it. “Are you so grown now that you’re telling your own mum when you come and go?”

Every inch of Phil wants to show some bravado and say that yes, he is, but that wars with an ultimately stronger sense of self-preservation. “No, mum.”

“Alright, you’ll be home in fifteen minutes. And alone - Dan’s lovely but we only have so many proper family dinners before your brother leaves again.”

He hangs up and says to Dan that he needs to go. It’s almost nice how disappointed Dan looks. It tells Phil that there’s really no part of Dan that secretly thinks Phil is around too much. “Come around for breakfast?” Phil says. “If my mum’s home we can just go get coffee instead.”

“Or we can go to the cinema and make out in the back row,” Dan says, with a cheeky wink.

“Or that,” Phil agrees. Then he sighs. “I’ve got to leave now.”

Dan drops his gaming controller with a pout. He looks so good and Phil finds it so hard to leave. He makes Dan stand in front of the closed bedroom door and kiss him three different times before he forces himself away.

“You don’t have to walk me out,” Phil says. “Just… ring me later, yeah?”

“Of course.”

Phil still stands there staring, memorizing every line and freckle on Dan’s face, until Dan laughs at him and gives him a little push.

Walking away from someone has never felt so hard, but at the same time he still feels a bit like he’s floating.

At least until he opens the door to his own home and sees Martyn. Martyn stares at him, squinting like he’s curious about something.

“What?” Phil says, sending the wind up coming a mile away.

“Just wondering where Dan is, I thought you two were actually surgically attached.”

“Sod off,” Phil says, glaring at him. He drops into the chair across from the sofa Martyn’s sat on.

“Testy, testy,” Martyn says. Then he must decide to take pity on Phil because he says, “Mum said someone from the cinema rang about you today.”

“Really?” Phil asks.

“Can’t believe you’re voluntarily getting a job. You know you’re the baby, mum and dad would keep paying for you til you’re out of the house if you let them. And maybe even then.”

“And who is it puts fifty pound a week into your bank account?” Nigel appears in the doorway, looking down at them.

“Same one that keeps telling me it’s just an advance on my inheritance,” Martyn shoots back.

“An advance that can easily be withdrawn.” Nigel seems confident this is the final say, though it doesn’t stop Martyn making a face at him. “It’s good Phil wants to earn some money of his own. Don’t discourage him. You had a job when you were sixteen. Part of being a man, learning what independence feels like.”

Phil wonders if his dad would be so proud if he knew Phil wanted the job so he could be closer to the boy he fancies.

“I’m going up to my room,” he announces, hating how the buzz of being with Dan gets chased away so quickly by the real world reasserting itself.

“No you’re not!” It’s his mother’s voice, distant but stern. “We’re going out to eat tonight. Leaving in ten.”

“We’re going out?” Phil shouts back. Usually his mum prefers to do the cooking herself.

“Yes, Phil.” Suddenly she’s there, like an apparition materialized out of nothing. “I can’t cook every bloody night. I’m tired and your father is useless.”

“Oi,” Nigel protests.

“—in the kitchen.”

“Sweet,” Martyn says. “Where’re we going?”

“I was thinking you could choose,” she says to him.

Phil pouts like a child. He always feels like a child when Martyn is around lately. “No fair,” he whinges.

“Hush,” his mum says. “You need to ring back the person from the cinema.”

“I will,” he grumbles. He’s excited but also slightly terrified. He rather despised making phone calls to people he doesn’t know.

“No, I meant right now. I stuck the number on the fridge for you. We’ll wait.”

He gives her a look he hopes is cutting. She’s not being the chill mum he likes today, she’s being the kind who actually makes him do things and that just kind of sucks after the soaring, grown up feeling of being with Dan. He grabs the number off the fridge and sticks it in his pocket. “Gonna ring from my room.”

She nods. “Good luck.”

-

Dan lies in his bed staring up at the ceiling and wondering how the hell he ever managed to pass time before Phil came along. He’s only been gone twenty minutes and already Dan’s bored out of his mind. All the things he’d usually enjoy doing just don’t feel as fun by himself anymore.

There’s a buzzing in his pocket and his heart lurches when he realizes it’s a call and not just a text. He can’t think of anyone who’d be calling besides Evie.

He’s afraid to look, but he does on the off chance it’s Phil ringing to say Kath has changed her mind. He’s disappointed when it’s not and simultaneously relieved that it’s also not the girl whose heart he’d basically broken.

It’s a number he doesn’t recognize, and he answers it cautiously. What else has he got to do?

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Alice from Showcase Cinemas. Is this Daniel?”

“Oh, hi,” his voice perks right up. “Yes it is.”

“You submitted an application last week?”

“I did.” He has the urge to mention that Phil had as well, but he bites his tongue.

“Are you still interested in working here?”

“Yes I am, definitely.” He’s laying the poshness on thick, the prospect of disposable income making his heart beat a little faster with excitement.

Alice on the other hand, she sounds about as casual as can be. “Awesome. You available sometime soon to come in for an interview?”

“Yeah for sure,” Dan says eagerly. “I’m available whenever.”

“Tomorrow? 2pm?”

“Sounds good.”

“Ok, see you then. Bye.”

The instant Dan’s hung up he opens messenger and send Phil a text. i have an interview at the cinema tomorrow!!!

It feels like an eternity before Phil texts him back, even if it is only five minutes. ME TOO :D

They text back and forth until Phil says he’s at dinner with his parents and has to go. Dan lays back on his bed, staring at the ceiling and smiling. Phil’s interview is half an hour before his, so they’re going to walk over together and then get lunch after.

He’s still sad Phil can’t sleep at his tonight, but he thinks - and hates himself for thinking - that it might stop his own mum and dad from noticing.

Almost as if summoned, his mum calls out through the door. “Dinner soon.”

Dan’s actually hungry. They’d only had the cake for lunch, and whatever his mum’s made smells good. She’s not the best cook, nothing like Phil’s mum, but she can do up a decent pasta bake.

“Guess what?” He says, sitting down at the table. It’s a rare occurrence, but his dad and brother are both there as well. It’s probably the first time in ages that he’s not wanted to just avoid being in the same room with his dad.

“Yes?” His dad asks.

“I have a job interview tomorrow,” he says.

He tries not to take the surprise on his dad’s face to heart. He can’t really blame his dad for doubting him; now that he’s not in the middle of a fight, maybe he can admit that he spent all summer lying to them about applying to places.

“Where at?” His dad asks, passing the pasta around for Dan to serve himself.

“The Showcase,” Dan says.

His dad nods approvingly. “Not a bad first job, there. In the family business, eh?”

Sweeping popcorn bits up off the floor isn’t really like working on an actual film set, but Dan will take it. “Sure,” he says.

“We’re proud of you,” his mum says, smiling at him.

Adrian starts to talk about a footie match he’d had earlier in the day and things actually go okay for about halfway through the dinner, until there’s a lull in the conversation and his dad says: “Your mum told me about Evie. Shame there, she was a nice girl.”

Dan’s stomach drops. “Uh. Yeah.”

He can see his mum giving his dad a chastising look. Dan does tend to come by his foot in mouth syndrome honestly, at least.

“Can I go to Reading with you if she’s not?” Adrian asks, around a mouthful of pasta. “My friend Jaren’s going, if he’s old enough so am I.”

“You can’t,” Dan says immediately, not wanting to get weekend babysitting duty foisted on him. He’d actually forgotten about the festival - and the tickets that were meant to be for her and him, and how one of the last truly good conversations they had was when he bought the tickets, one of the last times he’d been fully engaged with planning anything with her. She’d managed to convince a friend to lie about Evie sleeping in the tent with her, so that Evie could really stay with Dan… in a tent Dan lied and said was for him and his mates. “I already gave the ticket away.”

His mum doesn’t look surprised. “Phil?”

Dan has no idea if Phil would even like the festival, but he still says, “Yeah.”

He excuses himself ten minutes later, promising to come back down and do the washing up in a couple hours. He’s already forgotten the promise by the time he sits down on his bed.

He almost texts Phil first. He almost does that - invites Phil on this trip as though he can just slot Phil into every empty space in his life.

But he can’t. He can’t do that. At least… not without telling her.

He feels vaguely sick as he formulates the text. I know you probably don’t want to hear from me but Reading Fest is this weekend and I have your ticket.

He takes the coward’s way out by not finishing it how he wants, by just leaving it to her to finish.

The first response comes through quicker than he’d expected.

You’re the only person I want to hear from most days.

His eyes burn suddenly, tears showing up hot and fast. They don’t spill over, but he feels them all the same.

I’m sorry, he writes back.

This is probably a moment, the kind of moment where if he wanted to make it right he could. She’s probably missing him, probably over the immediate anger.

But all he can offer her is that apology. There’s no going back, for him.

The second response takes longer.

I don’t care what you do with the ticket. Don’t text me again.

He puts his phone down and has a proper little cry before he wipes his tears away. This is what he wanted. He hates that it hurts her, but it’s still what he wanted.

He wipes his cheeks off with his palms then texts Phil. Got plans this weekend?

yeah i do

Dan’s heart sinks. what

hanging out with this really fit guy

you better be talking about me Dan texts.

i am, dummy

Dan chuckles, relieved. well how would you like to spend three days in the mud with loud music blasting in your ears and two nights sleeping on the ground in a tent with said fit guy?

reading??? Phil asks.

yeah

i guess you
have an extra ticket now

Dan’s chin quivers. He can’t think about that anymore right now. It hurts too much. yeah. you in?

gotta ask my mum but i really really want to. i should actually put my phone away or she’s gonna murder me i’ll text you later yeah?

k :D Dan replies and then shoves his phone under his pillow. He needs to find something well and truly distracting to do.

He lies there continuing to stare at the ceiling and trying to work up the energy to do something else. He’s only laid there a few minutes before his phone buzzes again. He reaches for it, confused.

ok i couldn’t wait i asked her right away and she said i could go!!! but she said i have to be super helpful this week around the house and basically do whatever she tells me

Dan is absolutely grinning down at his phone. i’m so fucking excited

me too!!! ok now i REALLY need to put my phone away i’ll ring you tonight <3

It’s so stupid but that little less than three makes Dan’s own heart burst. He pockets his phone and swings his legs off the edge of the bed. He’s in such a good mood he’s going to go downstairs and do the washing up he’d promised to do without having to be shouted at.

He’s standing in the kitchen with soapy hands humming to himself when his dad walks in. Dan immediately feels himself tense.

It’s kind of weird. He doesn’t feel that way around his mum, mostly. Sometimes when she’s cross with him or had a bad day - or if he’s had a bad day and he’s giving her attitude - but he can exist in peace with his mum.

His dad, though…

He just feels judged every time his dad looks at him.

“This Phil,” his dad says. “He’s not the sort to get you into trouble, is he?”

Dan actually snorts. “Dad. No. He’s not.”

“Don’t know how you’ve not met him yet,” Dan’s mum says, stepping in behind him. Her hair’s up in a ponytail and she’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt like she’s ready to go on her nightly run. She puts her hand on her husband’s shoulder and lets it drop down his arm to his bicep, grasping lightly as she says, “Come with me.”

He gives her a look then shakes his head. “Not tonight.”

Dan’s not sure if they ever go on runs anymore. His mum looks a bit sad, he thinks, but she shrugs and looks to Dan. “Do you need a ride to the cinema tomorrow?”

Dan shakes his head. “I’ll just walk with-”

“With Phil,” she finishes, smiling a bit. “Of course you will.”

Once she’s out, Dan’s dad looks to him again. “You’re spending a lot of time with this kid?”

“He’s not a kid,” Dan says. “He’s sixteen, just like me. And yeah. Nana’s friends with his mum, and he just moved in across the road. He needed a job too so we applied to some places together.”

It’s a lie, but Dan’s long since learned that small lies can just make him feel better, more protected in what he’s saying. (Ignoring how now and then they blow up in his face.)

“Have you seen your other mates?” His dad asks.

There’s no overt suspicion there, but Dan starts to feel uneasy all the same. “Yeah,” he says. “Went to a party last week. And I’m seeing a load of them at Reading this weekend. Then school starts back so, you know. College. I’ll see them all the time. Get sick of them.”

He’s saying too much. He stops talking.

“You’ll need some money for this festival, I gather?”

“Um. A bit, yeah. Just for like, food I guess. We— I already got a tent.” He hates remembering that, how he and Evie had picked it out together, a small thing with just enough room for the two of them.

Then he remembers the thing they hadn’t picked out together— the air mattress. Because she’d said she already had one.

Dan doesn’t have one. Hopefully Phil does.

“You’ll be sharing with Phil, then?” His father makes… some sort of expression that Dan isn’t keen on.

Dan can feel the indignation and defensiveness start to simmer beneath the surface, but he takes a long deep breath in before he even attempts to respond. He doesn’t want this to turn into an argument. He wants to have this weekend with Phil and it doesn’t matter if his dad doesn’t understand. His dad’s a pratt.

“Phil has his own tent,” Dan says quietly. Lying is easier.

“Oh. Good.”

For the millionth time in his young life Dan wonders how the actual fuck half his genetic makeup came from this man. “Yeah,” he says gruffly. “So can I borrow some money? I’ll pay you back when I get a job.” The anger gives him the courage to just ask a lot more directly than he would have been comfortable doing like two minutes ago.

“I’ll make you a deal,” his dad says. Great. Dan’s favorite words. “You get the job, then we’ll see about a loan.”

Dan only has two plates left in the sink. He scrubs quickly, not even caring that he misses dried food on one of them.

“Dan?” His father says expectantly.

“Yeah,” Dan says, stubbornly keeping his back to his dad.

His mum will probably just give him money if he asks. Or Phil’s mum will.

He puts the last dish on the drying rack and walks upstairs without saying anything else. All he wants out of the night now is to ring Phil.

-

Phil picks Dan up the next morning. When Dan answers the door, Phil is holding a freshly baked scone and smiling. “Good morning.”

“I could literally kiss you,” Dan says. Then he glances over his shoulder. “But my Nana’s in the kitchen with my brother, so I won’t.”

“You can kiss me later,” Phil says.

“Later,” Dan agrees. He turns his head again and shouts, “Nana, I’m going to my job interview!”

She steps out to beam at them and says, “Good luck, boys.”

Dan takes the scone from Phil and eats it as they walk side by side. They don’t say much - a departure from the night before, when they’d spent three hours playing Mario Kart at the same time and narrating their wins and losses to each other… before both getting into bed, call still connected, and talking quietly well past midnight.

Phil’s never talked to any one person that long before. Even when he and Ian would be on the phone to each other it was usually just to make plans or one of them to invite the other over. He can’t imagine being able to talk to anyone the way he talks to Dan, though. He feels a warmth heavy and comforting in his chest just thinking it.

“You’re up first, yeah?” Dan asks, finishing the last bite of scone then wiping the crumbs from his mouth.

Dan looks good today. Phil wonders if he should say it, or if it’s too weird to say in public. But he does - he’s wearing a dark red polo shirt with a stripe around the collar and a pearly white button down that he’s got undone, and a pair of nice trousers.

Phil’s wearing a button up and nicer trousers himself, but only because his mum had come into his room and picked out clothes he should wear.

“I am,” Phil says. “I’ve never had a job interview before.”

Dan shrugs. “Me either. I worked with my granddad some last summer and he paid me, but he’s retired now. Didn’t really have to interview there, he was obligated to hire me.”

“Lucky,” Phil says. “My dad won’t let me work for him. Says he doesn’t trust me not to skive off, or break stuff.”

“You probably would,” Dan teases. “But it’s okay. If you break things at the cinema, I’ll just help you clean it up or hide the evidence.”

Dan’s still joking but it makes Phil’s heart do funny things anyway. “You’re the best,” he says, quietly but so sincerely.

He loves the way Dan looks at him with soft eyes in return. “You are,” he says back.

“How about we both are?” Phil suggests. “Which is why Showcase is going to hire us both.”

Dan laughs. Phil feels like he’s won a prize when he sees that dimple on display.

“Agreed,” Dan says.

They’re almost to the cinema. Phil’s managed to avoid nerves so far, but suddenly they slam right into him.

Dan must be able to sense it, because he bumps his hip and his shoulder into Phil. “You’re going to be fucking awesome,” he says. “Just don’t like, tell them you’ll let ten year olds into an 18-rated film.”

“What if it’s a ten year old that looks eighteen?” Phil asks.

“Maybe… maybe don’t start posing questions like that either.” Dan laughs at him. “Just answer the questions they ask, yeah?”

They’re in front of the cinema now. Dan stands in front of Phil and reaches up, tugging on Phl’s collar. He has that look on his face like he wants to kiss Phil, and even though he can’t just that look is almost as good.

“See you after,” Dan says, letting go and taking a step back. “I’ll be in Costa waiting.”

“Our Costa sofa?” Phil asks.

Dan grins. “Our Costa sofa.”

The interview itself only takes twenty minutes. A bored twenty something with an overfull cup of coffee and greasy hair asks him half a dozen questions, barely listens to his answers, and then reaches out to shake his hand. “You’ll be on the schedule starting next week. Your first day will be paperwork and training videos, and we’ll start you on clean up your second shift.”

Phil’s stunned. He has a welcome packet tucked under his arm as he walks out of the theater and right into the coffee shop next door.

Dan looks up from his phone, looking almost as nervous for Phil as Phil had felt for himself beforehand. “I got it!” Phil says, practically bouncing on his feet. “And you will too, I know it.”

“Oh my god!” Dan beams, jumping up off the sofa and pulling Phil into a tight hug. Phil hugs back just as tight, hardly caring how many people are probably watching. Dan lets go quickly and murmurs, “Sorry.”

Phil’s still smiling. “I can’t believe I have a job.”

“You have a job!”

“And it was so simple. They’re definitely going to hire you too I can feel it in my bones. And I’m psychic so you know you can trust me.”

“I wish I had enough money to buy you a celebratory coffee,” Dan says, sitting back down on the sofa.

“Soon you will!” Phil can tell he’s being obnoxiously optimistic but he can’t seem to contain his joy. “But we might get into some rows about who pays because I’m definitely gonna be buying you stuff all the time.”

Dan looks up at Phil through his long dark eyelashes and motions for him to sit. When Phil sits Dan leans in for a brief moment and whispers, “You’re really fucking cute.”

“Mm, nope, I think that’s you actually.”

“Cute but dumb.”

“Hey!” Phil protests, slapping at Dan’s thigh. “I’m well smart, I’ll have you know. Also I’m leaving now.” He stands up.

“What?” Dan asks, looking panicked. “Where’re you going?”

“To buy you a coffee.” Phil grins.

“I better get this job,” Dan mutters. “You’ve bought me too many coffees as it is.”

“More like my mum has,” Phil reminds him.

“Well I’ll buy something for her too. If I get the job.”

“Stop saying ‘if’,” Phil says, dropping his welcome packet onto the table in front of their well worn like sofa. You’re going to get this job.”

“What if I don’t though?” Dan asks.

“Then I’ll help you find a different one.”

Dan does an adorable little puppy-eyed pout. “Don’t want a different one.”

“Doesn’t matter anyway, you’re gonna get the job. We’re gonna be sweeping up popcorn and mopping up spilled coke together and sneaking into horror films and hiding in the back of theatres and— yeah.”

Dan smiles. “You haven’t thought about this at all have you?”

“Shut up,” Phil says softly. “What d’you want to drink?”

“Surprise me please.”

Phil buys them both white mochas. Dan pretends to hate it but he drinks the whole thing and then they just sit there on that little sofa with their thighs pressed together, talking and laughing until it’s time for Dan’s interview.

“Let me walk you,” Phil says, standing up when Dan does.

Dan laughs. “No. That’s just gonna make me even more nervous. Stay here and just… cross your fingers for me.”

“I’ll cross my toes too,” Phil promises.

Dan looks like he wants to say more. He looks nervous, but also something else Phil can’t really put his finger on.

“You’ll do great,” he assures Dan as warmly as he can. Everything inside him aches to reach out and squeeze Dan’s hand. Instead he just kind of kicks at Dan’s shoe. “If I can do it you definitely can.”

Dan nods. “Here I go. Keep all those digits crossed. I don’t wanna have to apply at Focus.”

Phil watches Dan walk away and then pulls his phone out to distract himself. To his surprise he has a text from someone who isn’t Dan.

It’s from Ian. lester are you still alive or what

It’s odd that it makes Phil feel odd. Ian was his closest friend before he moved to Wokingham. He’d been half gutted about having to leave him behind, assuming he’d never meet someone he could trust that much again.

And now he doesn’t even know how to talk to him. Doesn’t even know if he wants to talk to him. He doesn’t even feel like the same person he was when he left Rawtenstall.

He can’t tell Ian what he’s been up to the past few weeks. He can’t tell Ian what’s been on his mind day in and day out since he got here. He can’t tell Ian what Dan means to him. He can’t tell anyone about that.

And what else does he really have to say?

i’m alive he texts back. He knows he should ask about camping but he doesn’t really care and he doesn’t want talk to about it unless he has to.

did you finally find a girl in reading willing to put up with you or something where have you been??

Phil pockets his phone. He can’t do it right now, he just can’t. He stands up and collects his packet and goes outside to wait for Dan in the sun. At least he can tell his mum he got some vitamin D today.

-

Dan gets the same treatment as Phil - a few basic questions and then a welcome spiel. He walks out of the back offices slowly.

He knows Phil is gonna be happy for him, and he’s really excited to tell Phil but he feels almost overwhelmed by having done this thing he’s been putting off for so long. There was always one reason after another, like those days where he just can’t get out of bed, or being convinced he’d fail and not even wanting to try…

But he did it. It’s a shitty cinema job, but it’s a job.

There’s one person he wants to tell before even Phil. She’s the only other person who never looks at him like he’s disappointing her.

“Daniel?” His grandmother sounds slightly concerned. “Everything alright, dear?”

He doesn’t usually ring her in the middle of the day. Only when he needs a ride home from somewhere, which has happened once or twice.

Suddenly the excitement hits him. “I got the job, nana! I’m working at showcase!”

“Of course you are,” she says, sounding happy but not at all surprised. “They’d be fools to pass you up.”

“Nana,” he says, laughing. “I think they basically hire anyone without a prison record.”

“Then they’re getting more than they bargained for,” she says. Then she says the thing that he always craves so much to hear: “I’m proud of you.”

“I’ve gotta go tell Phil now,” Dan says, because he’s just realized Phil is standing outside the theater and he doesn’t look nearly as happy as Dan had expected him to. “I’ll be home in a few hours.”

He hangs up and pushes the heavy double doors open. “Phil.”

Phil’s head snaps up and the troubled look that was there before vanishes instantly. “Hey! How’d it go?”

Dan holds up his own welcome packet.

“Sweet!” Phil holds up his hand for a high five.

Dan gives it to him, but he can’t deny it stings. Not just his hand where they’d slapped a little too hard but somewhere deep down comparing it to the bear hug Dan had given Phil a few hours ago upon hearing his good news.

He can’t stop himself from asking. “What’s wrong?” His stomach feels all sour and twisted which is just… really not how he wanted to feel after landing his first proper job.

“What? Nothing. I’m frickin chuffed, Dan. We’re going to be working together just like we talked about!”

Dan can’t even fake the enthusiasm. “Yeah.” His voice comes out flat.

Phil’s face falls. “What did I do?”

Dan shrugs. “Nothing. You just… you seem weird.”

Phil sighs and rubs his hand down over his face. “Sorry. I just… my mate Ian texted me.”

Dan waits but Phil doesn’t continue. “Yeah…” he prompts.

Now Phil shrugs. “Just feels weird that like… I can’t tell him anything.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Like… you. I can’t tell him about you.”

“Oh.” Dan’s honestly not sure if he’s relieved or offended.

“It’s not a big deal. I was just thinking, you know. It’s weird. It kinda sucks in a way.”

“You miss him?” Dan asks.

“That’s the thing,” Phil says. He starts to walk so Dan follows. “I don’t. I’m just… happy?”

Dan frowns. Now he’s well and truly lost. “Huh?”

“Like, you and me, y’know? I’m so happy about it I could explode. But I can’t freaking tell anybody.”

“Oh.” Dan feels better instantly. It’s probably pathetic, but he does, he feels a wave of relief wash over him.

“Sorry,” Phil mumbles. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters a bloody lot if it bothers you,” Dan says gently.

Phil shakes his head. “It doesn’t. It’s fine. I was just having a moment.”

Dan looks around. They’re walking down the pavement in the direction of home and there aren’t that many people around so he feels safe to lean in a little closer and say, “I wish I could kiss you right now.”

Phil smiles. “Me too. I’m sorry about the high five. It’s not— it wasn’t what I actually wanted to do.”

“Well…” Dan looks around. They’re still right in front of the coffee shop, so he nods at Phil. “Come with me.”

He takes a moment to marvel at the trust that Phil has in him. The girl behind the counter gives them a look but as soon as she recognizes them she relaxes again and goes back to staring at her phone. Dan walks right past the counter anyway, around the corner to the hall that leads back to the toilets.

Not exactly the most romantic location, but… he opens the family one and then yanks Phil inside.

“Dan!” Phil looks scandalized. “What if someone saw!”

“Then I’d say you were about to shit your pants and I was helping you make it in,” Dan says, matter of factly.

Now Phil looks even more scandalized. “No! You will not! I’d die, Dan!”

Dan laughs and steps in close to Phil, so that Phil’s back is to the door and his front is almost flush with Dan’s. He reaches down and pushes the door lock in until it snaps into place with a click. “But we’re alone, and you can show me what you really wanted to do.”

Phil grins and reaches up, cupping Dan’s face between his hands. He kisses Dan solidly on the mouth, catching Dan’s bottom lip between his and then tilting his head as his mouth opens.

Yeah. Phil’s definitely caught on to the whole kissing thing.

Dan’s fingers grapple with Phil’s shirt, sliding it up so he can get his hands on Phil’s back. He knows they can’t really do anything - it’s a public toilet, anyway, gross - but he still wants to feel bare skin under his fingertips.

They keep kissing against the door until they hear someone walking by. Both of them go absolutely still, mouths still locked together, until they hear a door to one of the other toilets open and then close.

Dan pulls back from the kiss with a wet smack. “Okay,” he says.

Phil reaches up to push a lock of Dan’s fringe out of his face. “Do you feel adequately congratulated now?”

“If I feel any more congratulated I won’t be able to walk out of here,” Dan admits. “So yeah. Definitely.”

They open the door. Phil slips out first, and even though the coast is clear, Dan waits an extra twenty seconds before following.

“I feel like a proper perv,” Phil hisses as Dan catches up to him outside.

“You are,” Dan deadpans. “Filthy.”

“Shut up. Don’t say that,” Phil says. Dan can’t actually tell if he’s joking.

“I’m kidding, Phil.”

“Right.” He sounds sad again.

They walk in silence for a while, Dan reeling from the rapid back and forth of emotions of this day. The sun is still bright in the sky but he feels tired down to his bones, like he could sleep for days and it still wouldn’t be enough.

“I keep fucking up,” Dan says after it’s been quiet for too long.

“No,” Phil says instantly. “It’s not you. I’m sorry.”

“Still thinking about your mate?”

Phil shrugs. “I guess, kinda. This is all just so… new.”

“Different,” Dan offers.

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“And scary.” Honesty is better than whatever they’re doing right now, half admitting what they’re thinking without actually acknowledging anything head on. This feels familiar, but maybe it’s okay to need the same reassurances more than once.

Phil gives him an apologetic look. “I just keep saying the same dumb stuff.”

“It’s not dumb. You know I know how you feel. I feel it too. I was thinking the same thing yesterday. With my dad. It’s just like… yeah. I dunno.” He runs out of steam halfway through, not wanting to admit to Phil that he feels all the shame and guilt and fear too, but Phil seems to understand. He nods.

“I hate how it feels like we’re doing something wrong,” he whispers.

“We’re not though,” Dan says emphatically.

“But people might think we are,” Phil says quietly. “And I don’t know if it matters if we really are or not if like… if my mum, or your grandma, or people at school, or… or whoever think that about us.”

People at school.

Dan’s not even thought about that really.

“Then we just don’t tell them,” Dan eventually says. “For however long we want to… not tell them.”

Phil’s quiet again. “Yeah. I guess.”

Dan doesn’t know what to say to make this right. He’s shit at making things right, anyway. All he really does is ruin them.

So instead of trying to make it right he lets the worst part of himself come out, the part that gives up and retreats when things are hard, that shuts down when feeling things becomes too painful. “Is that it, then?”

“What?” Phil asks. At least he looks confused. That makes Dan feel a little better, but it doesn’t stop him being petty and dramatic. His feelings are hurt and he’s a selfish asshole but he kind of wants Phil to hurt a little bit too.

“Are you done with me?”

Phil’s face crumples and Dan regrets everything instantly, but he holds tight because he’s stubborn and still a little (a lot) confused about what’s really inside Phil’s heart right now.

“Of course not,” Phil says, voice shaky. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“But you care if your mum thinks we’re doing something wrong,” Dan says.

“And you care if your dad thinks we’re doing something wrong,” Phil counters, though his voice is still gentle. Hurt but gentle. Dan wonders if he’s capable of anything else. Phil is the gentlest soul he’s ever met.

And Phil has a point. Dan does care about that. And it doesn’t at all change the fact that he wants Phil with everything he has.

“I’m sorry,” Dan says. It’s so bizarre and other worldly that they’re having this conversation on the pavement in the sun while across the street a mum is pushing her baby in a pram. Everything feels too bright for how muddy his insides are right now. “I’m sorry I pulled you into the toilets and kissed you and then called you a perv. That was shitty.”

“It wasn’t,” Phil says.

He’s so good. He’s always so fucking good. Way too good for someone like Dan.

“I liked it,” Phil continues. “I like kissing you, I always do. I’m just… confused.”

“But not about me, right?” Dan has to try to give Phil the benefit of the doubt, even if his anxiety skyrockets when Phil says the word confused.

“Not about you,” Phil repeats. “Just about… I dunno. Everything else. Wanting to keep something secret and at the same time wanting to tell everyone I’ve ever met, y’know?”

Dan nods.

“I don’t want to feel like a perv.”

“You’re not,” Dan says. He steps in a little closer to Phil and brushes his hand just for a brief moment. “We’re not.”

“Hiding doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” Phil says. He doesn’t phrase it as a question but Dan understand that he means it as one anyway. He’s looking for assurance from Dan that what he’s saying has truth to it.

“It doesn’t,” Dan promises. “Not at all.”

“I don’t want to be scared,” Phil says, voice so quiet.

“You don’t need to be,” Dan says. “Is anyone home at your house?”

Phil shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

“My nana’s home. Lets go to yours and just…” He can’t bring himself to say it out loud, in public, but he gives Phil an imploring look.

“Yeah,” Phil says, nodding.

Without saying anything else about it, they both step faster.

Chapter Text

Phil didn’t mean to fall asleep.

He remembers getting into his house with Dan and checking that no one else was home, then holding hands all the way up the stairs. He also remembers that as soon as the door had closed Dan had been right there, not even kissing Phil just holding him.

Phil hadn’t really known the difference in being hugged and being held until today. Now he does. He turns in bed a bit and sees Dan still curled up in fetal position facing Phil. He’s asleep too, and Phil’s glad.

He looks young like this, young and sweet. Phil leans in to kiss Dan’s mouth. He makes a noise into the kiss but doesn’t entirely stir yet, so Phil kisses him again. Dan kisses back then, hand coming up and cupping Phil’s face.

“Fell asleep,” Dan mumbles, rubbing his eyes.

“Me too,” Phil says. He rolls over and checks his phone. “Only been an hour.”

Dan snuggles back down, wrapping an arm around Phil’s chest. “Hey,” he says. “We got jobs.”

Phil laughs. “I forgot. Wow.”

“Mm.” Dan kisses his shoulder. “It’s gonna be great.”

“It’ll be ace,” Phil says. He touches Dan’s arm, stroking his fingers down it, indulging in one of those momentary shivers because he can.

How is it that it feels so much easier when no one else is around? It’s like a Dan bubble and he hates leaving it. Leaving it means doubt and confusion and scary big feelings.

But laying in his bed with Dan is just… good. Warmth. Safety. It almost makes him wonder what he’d even been upset about in the first place. How could anything be wrong when this feels so entirely right?

“Can we just stay here forever?” Phil asks.

“Yeah,” Dan murmurs, knees fitting in behind Phil’s. “This is all I want anyway.”

“Me too.”

“I’m sorry I was an ass,” Dan says.

“You weren’t.” Phil turns around then, because he wants to see Dan’s face again. Maybe even kiss it again at some point. “I’d say more of a div.”

Dan just smiles and Phil leans in for that kiss.

“How long do we have?” Dan asks when their lips come apart.

“Maybe an hour.” Not enough. Never enough.

“Do you have to do family dinner?”

Phil sighs. “Probably. Martyn leaves soon so my mum’s extra weird about doing things all together.”

Dan nuzzles into Phil’s chest and wraps his arms around him. “I’m so fucking excited for Reading. I get you to myself for two whole nights.”

“Oh my gosh, I nearly forgot. There’s so much going on lately. I’m too boring for all this excitement, my brain can’t handle it.”

“You’re not boring,” Dan says, pretending to be offended. “Don’t call my…”

Phil makes a face like he’s waiting for Dan to say something stupid.

“Shut up,” Dan mutters. “You’re not boring.”

Phil just smiles and shakes his head a little. “Tell me about Reading. I’ve never been to a music festival.”

Dan shrugs. “The music is fine I guess. It’s just like, a bunch of big outdoor concerts with a load of drunk people and a lot of mud.”

Phil frowns. “That… doesn’t sound that fun, sorry.”

“It’s not really the music part I’m excited about now,” Dan says, dropping his voice down lower. “I’m more looking forward to the tent.”

“The tent,” Phil repeats. “Like, just for us?”

Dan nods.

“Two whole nights just you and me in a tent?” His heart rate kicks up just thinking about it.

“A small tent,” Dan clarifies. “Where did you think we were sleeping?”

“I don’t know,” Phil says. “I didn’t really think about it. And mum didn’t ask.”

“Your mum wouldn’t think it was weird, would she?”

Phil shakes his head. “Probably not. She let me go camping with Ian before.”

“This will be way better than camping,” Dan promises. “Or at least I hope you haven’t gone on a camping trip where you’ve done the kind of things I want to do with you.”

“You know I haven’t,” Phil says, a touch defensive but mostly just dazed.

-

“We’ll need to buy an air mattress or something,” Dan says, then makes the decision that now is a good white lie moment. “I don’t have one anymore. Maybe we can go Thursday? Load up on snacks and drinks and figure out something to sleep on.”

“Drinks?” Phil repeats. “Like…”

Dan shrugs one shoulder, the best he can do still laying down. “We don’t have to have alcohol if you don’t want to. I’m sure my mates will be drinking but I’ll be honest, I don’t give a fuck if I even see them at the festival. I just… want to be spending time with you.”

“Dan,” Phil says, faint but pleased.

“Too much?” Dan asks.

“No,” Phil says, tucking his body in closer. Dan reckons they’re about as close as they can get now, unless they start attaching body parts… so he tips in to close the distance between their mouths, and because even that doesn’t seem close enough, he rolls over onto Phil.

“Hi,” he says, resting his arms flat to either side of Phil’s head. It lets him just barely hold his weight off Phil to avoid doing anything inconvenient like crushing him, while still leaving them pressed completely together from the shoulders down to the hips.

Phil doesn’t seem to have any problem with it. He drapes his arms over Dan’s back.

“I’m gonna make out with you now,” Dan informs Phil.

“I’m glad,” Phil says.

Then one of those weird things happen where time seems to just jump. Dan would swear they’ve only been kissing for five minutes but they can hear Phil’s mum’s car pulling in and he groans as he pulls away.

He’s hard. He can’t kiss Phil that long and not be hard. But he’s okay with it right now.

It actually seems to be more of an issue for Phil that Dan’s hard, because his eyes are fairly glued to it.

“Your trousers are so tight,” Phil says, almost in awe.

Dan looks down. They’re probably a size too small - his mum usually buys him some before school goes back but she hasn’t yet. And yep. There’s the outline of his dick, right there.

“Your mum literally just walked into the house,” Dan reminds him.

Phil sighs and sits up. “I know.”

“No one will interrupt us in Reading,” Dan says.

“What about your mates?”

“Fuck ‘em. They’ll have their own tents. We’ll put ours far away from anyone we know.”

“Anyone you know,” Phil corrects. “I don’t really know anyone.” He gets out of bed reluctantly.

“You know me.” Dan’s still sat on the bed, not wanting to move. He never wants to move from lying in bed with Phil.

“I do,” Phil agrees. “I’m so glad I do.”

“I have to get up now, don’t I?” Dan asks.

“Yeah. Sorry. I had to promise my mum I’d be a perfect son for her to agree to let me go this weekend.”

Dan groans, but he swings his legs over the side of the bed. “We have to make this weekend count. We can’t waste it.”

“Don’t think that’ll be a problem,” Phil says, smirking. “You might even have a hard time getting me out of the tent at all.”

“Mm,” Dan hums. He’s liking the image that conjures very much. “Don’t think I’ll really be trying that hard if I’m honest.”

Kath calls up to Phil then and Phil calls back, right away and with an eagerness Dan can tell is exaggerated. He loves that, though. He loves that he’s not going to let anything stand in the way of this weekend together.

“Should I sneak out the window?” Dan asks, standing up.

Phil shakes his head, beckoning Dan forward. “Come say hi before you leave. She’ll be happy to see you. She likes you.”

The warmth those words elicit in Dan’s chest surprises him. He’s not used to being liked by anyone smart enough to know better. It feels pretty damn good.

Dan follows Phil down the stairs and into the kitchen. Kath is there, and she doesn’t seem surprised in the slightest to see him. She doesn’t even technically greet them, just asks, “How’d the interviews go, boys?”

Phil looks at Dan with a grin before telling her the news. “We both got hired!”

Her face lights up and she gathers her boy into a hug that makes Dan’s chest hurt. She’s overjoyed at the news, cooing over the both of them and reaching out to pull Dan into the hug too. “I’m so pleased,” she says, stroking her hand on Dan’s shoulder blade.

Dan feels a swell of pride. “Thanks,” he says, suddenly bashful. He risks resting an arm around Phil and hugging slightly before quickly dropping it. He steps back. “I have to get home and help my mum with dinner.”

It’s definitely a lie, but he thinks it’ll be the kind of thing Kath respects. Making a good impression on her feels suddenly even more important.

Phil walks him to the door, not that they can do anything. “Ring me later?”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “Of course.”

His own mum is home already when he gets in, sat at the table talking to his grandmother.

“There you are!” His nana says, smiling.

“Did you tell her?” Dan asks, because he hadn’t exactly asked her to keep it a secret.

She shakes her head. “No, that’s your news, dear.”

“I got the job!” He says, heart actually pounding with excitement.

It’s nice to be able to tell her something she’ll be happy with for once. She gets up and hugs him. It’s just as good as the hug Phil’s mum gave him, and it catches Dan off guard. “Knew you would,” she whispers in his ear. “Knew as soon as you decided to try, you’d be able to.”

The ‘decided to try’ part does sting a bit, but he decides he to ignore it. “Thanks,” he says, pulling back. “Now can you give me an advance on my first paycheck so Phil and I can buy stuff for this weekend?”

She rolls her eyes but nods. “I think we can arrange that.”

-

Both their mums give them money, and Dan’s nana does as well.

“We’re basically rich,” Phil says, staring down at the small pile of cash. “What do we need?”

“Um,” Dan says. “Food, I guess. Things we can just keep in the tent. And something to sleep on.”

They sit together with coffee - or, as Dan refers to Phil’s drink, sugar with a splash of milk and a shot of coffee - and make their list, feet occasionally kicking together.

There’s a mini-Tesco that isn’t too far away so they stop in there first. It doesn’t take long to have a basket piled high with snacks, bags of crisps and popcorn and sugary sweets. Every now and then Dan holds something healthier up for approval only for Phil to make a face at it.

“If I wanted healthy things I’d shop with my mum,” Phil argues. It doesn’t take much convincing.

Dan’s phone rings halfway through. It’s his mum asking him something about her computer, so Phil doesn’t feel bad wandering to the next aisle while Dan tries to explain it to her.

The next aisle, as it turns out, happens to include the personal intimacy items. His heartbeat kicks up as he realizes he’s staring at the lube and condoms.

He’s never had lube before. He felt conspicuous buying a tube of lotion to wank with, overexplaining to the girl behind the til that it was for his mum. But he feels brave now - brave and excited. He reaches and grabs at the first bottle he sees, then covers it up with some of the crisps.

He hurries back over to Dan, who is still on the phone and rolls his eyes at how long the call is going when he sees Phil.

“Do you want me to go ahead and pay?” Phil asks. He can’t explain why but the idea of Dan seeing the lube is more awkward to him than the store clerk.

Dan nods and Phil hurries off, relieved.

It’s still awkward with the store clerk in the end. Somehow it feels like every pair of eyes that exists on the planet is locked onto him and his stupid red face. Every living person on the planet is watching him pay for something he intends to squirt onto his cock and they’re judging him harshly for it.

Even though the clerk is a middle aged woman who clearly doesn’t care at all. He snatches up the bag as soon as the transaction has gone through and prays to god and jesus and all the rest of them that Dan won’t want to look through their haul before Phil has time to stash the evidence of his lechery somewhere private.

Even though he’s kind of hoping they’ll use it together someday.

He can’t think about that right now though. It makes him all fluttery and nervous and excited and he can’t be feeling those things while he’s out in public with absolutely no way to see anything through. He thanks the woman and goes to wait for Dan just outside the shop, catching his eye and waving when he looks up.

He’s still on the phone, but when he sees Phil he says, “Mum I have to go, ok? I’ll look at it when I get home, I promise. Yeah. K, bye.” He rolls his eyes again and slides his phone back into his pocket.

“My mum’s the same way,” Phil says. “Probably worse actually.”

“I don’t know how she ever gets anything done,” Dan says. “She owns her own company but can’t figure out basic computer shit.”

“Good thing she has a loving patient son,” Phil teases.

“Hey, I was patient. There’s only so many times you can say the same thing before you have to give up and say you’ll just do it yourself. Besides, we’ve got more shopping to do.”

“We do,” Phil agrees, still nervous as hell Dan’s about to reach for the bag and discover the evidence of Phil’s perversion. “Where should we go next?”

They end up in a shop Phil’s never heard of, the first one they come across that entices them inside with a display of lush looking pillows in the window.

“Pillows are important,” Dan says solemnly.

“No argument here,” Phil says, running his hands over one with a royal blue velour case. It’s so soft it almost feels like nothing is there. “This feels like a cloud or something,” he murmurs. He’s really in awe over a pillow.

But then Dan reaches out to touch it and their fingers brush for a moment and Dan is just as impressed as Phil is. “Oh my god we need this.” He pulls it off the shelf and tucks it under his arm. “We definitely need this.”

“We do,” Phil agrees. “We need more.”

“We need a bunch more. We need more colours.”

Phil gives him a look. “Since when do you need colour?”

“Phil, keep up. I like colours, I just don’t like wearing colours. Besides, you like colours.”

“Yeah,” Phil says. “I do.” His eye has already been caught by a purple pillow. It’s larger than the first and when he runs his palm across it, somehow even softer. “I bet this is what a unicorn feels like.”

Dan snorts. “You’re such an idiot.”

“Touch it,” Phil demands.

Dan looks around before deciding it’s ok to step right into Phil’s space and whisper, “I will. Tomorrow night, in our pillow tent.”

Phil forgets how to speak.

“Unless—”

“No unless,” Phil croaks. “Tomorrow.”

Dan’s stood so close to him he can feel his breath on his face, and then… a hand. Pressing flat against the crotch of his jeans. Dan’s hand. On his dick. Kind of. In public.

And Phil still doesn’t want him to stop.

But he does stop, almost as soon as he’s started, pulling his hand away and taking a step back and picking up the purple pillow and rubbing his face right against it. “Fuck,” he mutters. “This is totally unicorn skin.”

“We need a trolly,” Phil announces. “We need to get a trolly and just fill it with all the bloody pillows.”

And that’s what they end up doing, filling a trolly with a rainbow of soft pillows and blankets.

“This is too much,” Phil says when they physically can’t fit anything else into the trolly. If they actually buy all of these they won’t have much money left for anything else. “We should probably put some back.” He picks up one of the latest additions to their collection and moves to return it to its place on the shelf.

Dan snatches it out of his hand. “Don’t you dare. I’m a good person, I deserve a pillow fort with the guy I wanna see naked.”

Phil’s jaw drops. “Dan!” he squeaks. What’s gotten into him today?

“Sorry not sorry,” Dan says defiantly, hugging the pillow tight to his chest. “I’m a good person,” he repeats. “I deserve nice things.”

Phil’s heart is racing and he wishes so badly they weren’t in public. He’s not as brave as Dan, but all he really wants to do is scoop Dan up and kiss him everywhere and tell him just how good he really is and how Phil wants to see him naked too and lie him down on their mountain of pillows and touch him and make him come and—

He can’t do any of that here, not here where people can see them and hear them and judge them for something that’s not their business. He can’t do what he wants to release all the energy and feelings he has pent up inside so instead he grabs a pillow out of the trolly and smacks Dan right in the face with it.

“Oi!” Dan shouts. He’s laughing as he retaliates and Phil’s laughing too, even when he gets a mouthful of fuzz.

“You’re going down, Howell.” He forgets where they are and how immature this whole thing is in favour of chasing more giggles and deeper dimples and more shrieks of Phil’s name.

He forgets everything except how fun it is to be silly and carefree with Dan until a stern voice is right beside them saying, “Excuse me.”

Ice shoots through Phil’s veins when he sees the angry face of the store clerk but Dan continues laughing. “Sorry, sorry,” he says.

“You’ll need to—”

“We know, we know,” Dan says, reaching out and grabbing the pillow out of Phil’s trembling hands. “We’re going.”

Thank god for Dan’s balls, Phil thinks, and not in the way he’s usually thinking that. Thank god Dan is brave where Phil would rather shrivel up and hide or just run the hell away. Dan can laugh it off when Phil feels like his heart is stuck up in his throat and stopping the air from reaching his lungs.

“C’mon Phil,” Dan says. “They’re kicking us out.”

“Sorry,” Phil croaks to the clerk as he walks past, following Dan to the checkout. He lets Dan pay and takes one of the three giant bags as they walk outside.

Dan bursts out laughing as soon as the sun touches their skin. “Oh my god,” he wheezes. “What is wrong with us?”

“I can’t believe you did that,” Phil says, shoving Dan hard in the shoulder. The relief of that moment being over is so overwhelming he almost thinks he might cry.

“Me!” Dan’s voice is shrill and indignant. “You hit me first!”

“You provoked me,” Phil argues, though with absolutely no conviction.

“Well at least we know for sure these pillows are soft,” Dan chuckles. “And we’ve already started breaking a couple of them in, though I had something else in mind.” He winks.

“You…” Phil’s gone right back to that fluttery nervous, slightly turned on feeling that’d led to their pillow fight in the first place. “You’re a cheeky bastard today,” he whispers.

Dan shrugs. “I’m well excited about Reading. And… maybe I’ve been thinking about that stuff you said the other day.”

“What stuff?” Phil asks.

“You know. Not wanting to be afraid and stuff.”

It’s never been so hard to resist pulling Dan in for a big sloppy kiss than it is right now. “You don’t… you don’t have to act differently just because I’m weird,” Phil says quietly.

“M’not,” Dan says. He swings a bag gently into Phil’s leg. “Just trying to say more what I’m actually thinking so you know.”

Phil almost doesn’t know what to say back. His heart feels full with hearing Dan say that. “I always wanna know what you’re thinking,” he says back quietly. “Are we done?”

“Reckon so, mate,” Dan says, hefting the two bags in his arms. Phil’s got the third one full of cushions and the bag from Tesco still. “Not sure we can carry anything else.”

“I bet my mum would come pick us up,” Phil says. “Want me to ring her?”

He doesn’t really fancy walking home with his arms this full. Though it might at least be enough to keep him from reaching out and touching Dan the way he’s really dying to.

She answers on the third ring, and says she’s busy at home but she’ll send Martyn for them. It’s not really what Phil had wanted - not at all, actually. But he can’t really say no, after he’s already made his case for how they’ve got too much stuff to walk back with.

“Martyn’s coming,” he says to Dan, when he hangs up.

“Oh.” Dan looks like he’s waiting to take Phil’s lead on how to react. “How is that going?”

Phil shrugs. “Haven’t talked to him much.”

It’s strange. He and Martyn do, despite the few years between them and wildly differing interests, enjoy hanging out together at least a couple times when Martyn’s home for breaks from uni or just to visit for a weekend because he wants their mum to do his laundry or cook him food.

But Phil feels too guarded this time, and Martyn’s spending most of his time on his phone anyway. Phil’s not sure if he feels more sad or relieved.

“That sucks,” Dan says quietly, and Phil can tell he really means it.

It only takes Martyn ten minutes to show up. He’s in their mum’s car, so they load all their stuff into the boot and then Phil takes the passenger seat. He shoots Dan an apologetic look as Dan gets into the back.

“What are you two wild lads up to?” Martyn asks.

“Buying stuff for Reading Festival,” Phil says.

Martyn glances over at him. “Mum told me you’re going. I’m impressed, little brother. You’ve never been into music before.”

“I’m into music.” Phil’s tone is instantly defensive.

Martyn snorts. “Sure.”

“I’m introducing him to all my favorite bands,” Dan says, interrupting them. “That’s what we’re going to do today, right Phil?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, feeling something warm and pleased at Dan’s subtle defense. Dan and Martyn have already talked about music a few times - and Phil’s proud that he’s got someone on his side who can hold his own with that.

It’s not even that Phil doesn’t like music. It’s just that he likes the sounds of it and doesn’t get too attached beyond that.

“Sounds like a fun jam session,” Martyn says, but he’s already sounding distracted. Phil catches him glancing down at the phone in his lap.

He almost asks who Martyn is endangering their lives to read texts from, but he decides he doesn’t want to take the risk of how Martyn might respond… especially with Dan in the car.

“You can just drop us off at Dan’s house,” Phil says.

Martyn has no problem doing that. Curiously, when he drops them off he doesn’t actually drive straight back to their home. Phil can see him with his phone up to his ear as he continues on past their house.

If he were a bit younger and brattier he’d want to tell on Martyn, because he’s not supposed to use his phone while he’s driving. But right now he doesn’t want to add to the awkwardness between them.

“We can put all this in my room,” Dan says. “And my mum’s dropping us off at the festival, did I say?”

“Good,” Phil says, because he doesn’t entirely know what Reading Festival will be like but he’s sure it wouldn’t take much for his mum to decide it’s not safe. The less she actually hears about it, the better off Phil is. She’s always been more protective of him than she was Martyn.

Dan’s house is empty. The pile the bags of pillows and snacks in the corner, and Dan grabs his laptop. “Okay, now for your education.”

“Oh, really?” Phil asks.

“Unless you don’t want to?” Dan looks hesitant now.

“I want to,” Phil says. “I just wasn’t sure you were serious or if you were just saying that for Martyn.

“Phil, I’m always serious about music,” Dan says. “I’ll just pick an album and start it and then we can lay down and listen.”

That’s enough to sell Phil on the plan. He nudges his shoes off then climbs onto Dan’s bed. He’s kind of expecting Dan to actually want to make out or something, but to his surprise Dan really does just lay down beside him at first.

It’s nice. Phil even makes it through a whole like, half an album before he starts to get restless. It’s not that Dan’s commentary on the bands or the songs he likes or the musical genres aren’t interesting, it’s just… they kind of float right over Phil’s head because he can feel Dan warm beside him. The bed is so small that they’re shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, and Phil really has a hard time being alone like this with Dan for more than thirty minutes without squirming for more.

He starts by finding Dan’s hand and holding it. Dan turns his head and gives Phil a little smile, squeezing his fingers back.

“You’re bored aren’t you?” Dan says, laughing. It sounds low and husky and close enough to make Phil shiver.

“No,” Phil says weakly. “I’m not bored, I’m just…” He mumbles the rest.

Dan’s eyebrows draw together. “What? I couldn’t hear you.”

“Just wanna kiss you,” Phil says in a slightly louder voice.

Dan laughs. “Okay. Then kiss me.”

It’s exhilarating how Phil gets to do just that.

-

Dan can’t help but notice that Phil gets better at kissing every single time they do this. And actually, maybe Dan does too. Maybe that’s just what happens when you spend most of your free time kissing the same person.

Phil’s lips are so soft. Everything about Phil is soft, but right now Dan is focused on his lips and the way they move against Dan’s, the way they frame Dan’s and the noises they make when they pull back.

The noises really get to him. They make him feel too hot under his skin, too wild to stop himself pushing his hands up under Phil’s shirt and touching him everywhere he can reach. He finds Phil’s nipples and rolls them between his index fingers and thumbs and delights in the way it makes Phil squirm.

They’ve never done this with music playing in the background. Dan likes it a lot. It’s like they’re living in a film version of their life and this is their soundtrack. Everything feels heightened.

He keeps playing with Phil’s nipples as they kiss and Phil gets more and more liberal with his tongue. Dan gives a little tug and Phil grunts, retaliating almost as if instinctually and without thought by reaching down and pressing against the outline of Dan’s dick through his jeans.

It’s Dan’s turn to squirm now. It’s more bold than really anything Phil’s done before and so sudden.

Dan doesn’t pull back. Phil doesn’t act like it was a mistake. He cups his hand lightly around the shape of Dan’s length, digs the heel of his palm in a little.

“That feels really good,” Dan breathes. He doesn’t want Phil to get scared.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Phil whispers.

“You don’t have to do anything.” He moves his hands from Phil’s nipples around to stroke up and down his back, still underneath the shirt. “I’m ok with whatever. Just wanted you to know… that feels really nice.”

“I’m kind of afraid I’m gonna be rubbish,” Phil says. He hasn’t moved his away though. He’s still rubbing Dan’s cock from outside his jeans.

“At what, exactly?” Dan asks. He lays his head back on the pillow and closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to look like he’s not attentive to Phil’s anxieties, but he can’t really ignore the rush of sensation between his legs right now.

“Dunno.” Phil drops down a little, presses his lips to Dan’s neck. “Everything I guess,” he mumbles.

“Literally not possible,” Dan says, his hips twitching up into Phil’s palm as he latches on just below Dan’s jaw. He runs his hand up into Phil’s hair and they both lose themselves for a while, Phil sucking Dan’s neck and Dan trying his best not take Phil’s hand and just shove it into his pants.

Phil pulls his lips from Dan’s some time later. “I’ve never touched another guy’s dick before.”

“You have,” Dan argues. “Mine.”

“But not like, for real.”

“Well, I haven’t either,” Dan says. “We’re both new to all of this.”

Phil nods. He moves his hand up to Dan’s belt and stars to undo it. It kills Dan to do anything to deter Phil from what he’s got in mind but he can’t have Phil taking steps he’s not ready for. He puts his hand on Phil’s and whispers, “Hey. If you’re feeling weird you shouldn’t—”

Phil shakes his head. “Not weird, just… want it to be good.”

Dan decides the best idea is to reach down and rub Phil’s dick too. He’s found that pleasure is the best way to obliterate nerves that keep him from doing what he really wants and he really doesn’t want Phil to be nervous. He wants to be Phil’s safe space, his refuge from having to feel things like fear and doubt.

Phil sighs and drops his forehead down onto Dan’s shoulder. “That does feel good.”

“Mhm,” Dan hums, closing his fingers around Phil the best he can through jeans and underwear. He squeezes and groans a little himself. “Phil, you… you have a big cock.”

Phil snorts. “No I don’t.”

“I mean… I think you do, mate. It’s definitely bigger than mine.” He’s too turned on to even feel self conscious about that fact.

“Shut up,” Phil mumbles. He tilts his head and sinks his teeth gently into Dan’s neck.

Dan gasps.

“Shit, sorry.”

“No,” Dan croaks. “No, it. It felt really good.”

“Yeah?”

Dan nods. “Kinda seems like everything you do feels good. Don’t think you have to worry about anything, honestly.”

“So what you’re saying is…” Phil’s voice drops to a low whisper. “You totally found it hot when I whacked you in the face with a pillow earlier?”

Dan’s laugh is more like a loud guffaw, completely out of place with the sexy dick touching and yet somehow… not. Phil making him laugh when they’re talking about touching each other’s dicks somehow seems like it fits just as perfectly as everything else.

“Shut up,” Dan says, with more fondness in his voice than he’s ever directed at any single other person. “If you do want like… a tip.”

“Yeah?” Phil looks interested immediately.

“My neck is just… really sensitive.”

Phil’s eyes widen. “Your neck.”

“Yeah.” Dan nods, then leaves it slightly bared. “Like what you were doing with your teeth a minute ago… that was good.”

Phil leans in and does it again immediately, a little overenthusiastic. His nose smashes a little against Dan’s throat and Phil giggles before adjusting his position.

He starts to scrape his teeth over it again, biting a little harder here and there. It feels so good Dan’s head is swimming almost straight off, but then Phil’s hand sneaks back between his legs and Dan can’t hold in a moan.

“Wow,” Phil whispers faintly. “You do like that.”

“Can’t believe you hadn’t noticed yet,” Dan says. “It’s weird, like if someone touches me there that I don’t know I just want to like, die or kill them or something. Punch them to death. But when I’m turned on…”

Phil sucks very gently right on Dan’s pulse point. Dan inhales sharply.

“Yeah,” he says, eyes sinking shut. “Like that.”

Phil doesn’t seem to have the coordination to rub Dan and kiss his neck at the same time, but that’s alright. Dan’s fairly sure it would end him if Phil did figure that out. As it is he can feel Phil’s hand resting heavy against him, fingers occasionally flexing, and what Phil’s doing with his mouth is enough to send Dan into orbit.

But not so far away that he doesn’t hear the sound of the front door opening. He listens carefully; if it’s just his mum they might be fine, she’s not likely to come bother him in his room as long as they’re quiet.

Then he hears Adrian shouting and his nana laughing and… and the sound of Phil’s mum, too.

“Fuck!” He gasps, feeling the potential of what this could have built to ripped away from him.

Phil clearly hears it as well. He looks dismayed as he sits up. “What’s Mum doing here?”

“They’re conspiring against us,” Dan says, sighing. He’s almost not surprised. Of course their whole bloody families show up right when things are getting good.

“Well,” Phil says, looking down at Dan. “They can’t interrupt us tomorrow.”

It goes straight to Dan’s cock. His hips even twitch up in an aborted thrust. Phil leans down and quickly kisses him, but almost as soon as their lips touch there’s a pounding on Dan’s door. “Daaaan!” Adrian calls out. “Nana says come downstairs! You and Phil!”

Dan sticks his tongue out. Adrian can’t see him, but he does it anyway. “Fine, we’ll be down in a minute.” Then once Adrian has walked away Dan points at Phil. “Now don’t look at me for a minute so I can actually look your mum in the eye.”

Phil snickers and obediently rolls away.

“Ugh.” Dan groans. “Now I can see your bum. That’s not any better.”

Phil laughs even harder and stands up. “Fine, I’m going to the toilet. A whole hallway away. Is that far enough?”

“Maybe,” Dan calls out.

As soon as Phil’s shut the door, Dan rolls over and buries his face in the pillow.

One more day.

Chapter Text

Phil wakes up earlier than he usually does. Like, a lot earlier. His body seems to know this is going to be a big day. A series of big days. He’s as nervous as he is excited when he throws the duvet off his legs. There’s no way he’s going to go back to sleep.

He grabs for his phone and is well shocked to see he already has a message from Dan. why am i awake this early wtf

i am too. we’re going to reading today!! Phil’s stomach flutters even just typing out the words.

you should come over now and have breakfast with me. the earlier we leave the better spot we can get for our tent. oh but have a shower first. the showers there are gross

He springs up out of bed and wastes no time brushing his teeth and getting into the shower. If he thinks about what might happen in the tent and has a quick wank, no one needs to be the wiser. He washes himself meticulously and lathers shampoo into his hair twice. He’s going into this day smelling as nice as humanly possible.

He packs clothes into his backpack with two towels still wrapped around himself. He packs light like Dan advised, managing to fit in just enough for three days.

He’s about to close up the bag when he remembers the sneaky purchase he’d made yesterday. It’s still sitting where he’d stashed it in the corner of his wardrobe where his mum wasn’t likely to see.

He bites his lip as he considers what to do. There’d be no way to tell Dan he brought lube to their camp out without making it look presumptuous, would there? Probably not.

But what if…?

He doesn’t even really know what if but he makes the split second decision to be brave. He snatches it out of the plastic bag in the closet and shoved it down to the bottom of his backpack.

Where it will likely stay.

His mum nearly has a heart attack when he walks into the kitchen.

“What the hell are you doing up so early?” she demands, almost like he’s up to something suspect.

“Leaving for Reading today,” he reminds her. “Gonna go have breakfast at Dan’s. His mum’s driving us in.”

“I didn’t forget,” she says. “Just didn’t expect to see you up before 9am.”

He rolls his eyes but she’s not wrong. “Alright well, I’m off.”

“You’ll ring me at least once every few hours.”

“Mu-um,” he groans. “I’ll text. Once a day.”

She narrows her eyes and stares him down with that mum look that he’s old enough to pretend isn’t scary anymore. “Text three times a day. Ring once before you go to sleep.”

He could argue, but he just wants to get over to Dan’s as soon as possible. “Fine. Three times a day.”

“And ring once. That bit’s important.”

“And ring once,” Phil agrees begrudgingly. “I’ve gotta go, mum, Dan’s expecting me.”

“Alright alright, at least give your mother a hug.” She holds her arms out and Phil steps into them. He doesn’t mind this part. He squeezes back and she says, “Have fun, yeah? But be safe.”

“I will, mum. Promise.”

“Ring me if you want to come home. Or you get into trouble.”

He can’t help smiling. She’s ridiculous but she loves him and he can’t fault her for that. She’s a great mum. “Don’t worry so much, mum. It’s just me and Dan at a really long concert. We’ll be fine.”

She nods. “Don’t forget to keep in touch, I’m serious.”

“I won’t,” he says, dropping his arms and taking a step back. He hitches his backpack up higher onto his shoulder. “See you in a few days.”

“Wait.” She holds up a finger and then goes into the lounge. When she comes back she’s holding her purse, digging around until she finds her wallet and pulls it out. She pulls out a few ten pound notes and hands them to him. “Try to eat a vegetable at least once.”

He starts to argue but she holds up a hand. “Lie to me.”

“I’ll eat so much veg, mum.”

“Good boy.” She leans in and kisses his cheek. “Off you go, love. Dan’s waiting.”

And she’s right… Dan is definitely waiting, and none too patiently. Phil’s not sure he’s ever actually seen Dan so animated. He has their tent and the bag full of pillows all ready by the door, with his own backpack loaded down.

Phil feels vastly underprepared; his own pack just has spare clothes and some more snacks.

“How many years have you done this?” Phil asks, as they eat breakfast together in Dan’s kitchen.

“Three,” Dan says. “I was thirteen the first year mum and dad actually let me go. Can you believe Panic and Fall Out Boy are both gonna be there? It’s gonna be fucking epic.”

“Language,” Dan’s mum says, though she looks amused. “Phil, are you sure you know what you’re in for here?”

Phil laughs. “I don’t mind. It’ll be fun. I’ve never been to anything like this before.”

“I’ll keep him safe,” Dan says, talking to his mum but looking at Phil. He taps his foot against Phil’s as he speaks.

“You better,” Phil says under his breath.

“Have you packed your air mattress?” Dan’s mum asks.

Dan looks at Phil, who’s got a sort of deer in the headlights expression. After their impromptu pillow fight they’d both completely forgotten about that bit.

“Shit,” Dan mutters.

“Daniel,” his mum says sternly. “Not in front of your brother.”

“I know about shit, mum,” Adrian informs them proudly.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Dan’s mum says under her breath.

“Mum,” Dan says smugly. “Not in front of your sons.”

“Oh shut up,” she says, tossing a piece of crust at Dan’s face. She’s smiling.

“Oi!” Dan squawks. “Abuse!”

“Are we having a food fight?” Adrian asks excitedly.

“No,” she says, pushing her chair back and standing up from the table. “I’m going to try to find something for your brother to sleep on tonight.”

“And Phil,” Dan says without thinking, mug of coffee halfway to his lips.

Her face goes serious. “Your dad said Phil had his own tent.”

Phil’s stomach fucking drops. Dan looks like he’s about to shit a brick.

“Uhh… it… broke?”

Phil catches on quickly, somehow. Fear is a powerful motivator. “Yeah, sorry,” he says, looking at Dan’s mum with what he hopes is a convincingly troubled expression. “Mum checked it out for me last night and turns out we’re missing a bunch of like, poles and stuff. It was too late to go out and get a new one. Dan said it’d be ok if we shared.” He says the last part quietly, a little (or a lot) worried it might be the wrong thing to say.

“I also told him if he snores I’m kicking him out,” Dan adds, his voice a little too high pitched to sound casual, but Phil’s hoping he’s the only one who’s noticed.

“Ok…” Dan’s mum says skeptically. Fuck, she’s probably not buying it at all. “I don’t even know if we have one air mattress. We definitely don’t have two.”

“S’fine, mum,” Dan mumbles. “We’re not gonna be spending much time sleeping anyway.”

If Phil wasn’t bricking it he’d laugh. “I can sleep on the ground anyway,” he adds.

“You’ll do no such thing, Phil,” she says. “Dan will share. If I can find something, otherwise you’ll both be sleeping on the ground.”

She walks away and comes back about ten minutes with what looks like a roll of foam padding under her arm. “This is the best I could do.”

“That’s great, mum, thanks.”

Phil agrees. “Much better than the cold hard floor.” His heart is still pounding.

Half an hour later they’re in the back of Dan’s mum’s car. His little brother is up front, turned half around in the seat and chattering nonstop questions and asking his mother with every other breath why he can’t go.

 

“Because you’re ten, brat,” Dan says.

“Daniel,” his mum warns.

‘Daniel’ Phil mouths at him, teasing.

Dan reaches out and jabs him in the side. Phil grabs him just by the single pokey finger - and squeezes.

He’s so excited. It feels like there are snakes in his stomach, squirming around, scary but not all bad.

“You’ve got money?” Dan’s mum checks before she drops them off. “And you’ll find somewhere to charge your phone? And call me not your nana if you need bailing out of jail, because she’d never let me hear the end of letting you go if you called her instead.”

“Yes, mum,” Dan says obediently, leaning in to kiss her cheek through the rolled down window as Phil moves to the boot to start grabbing their stuff.

-

Phil actually is terrified. Dan can tell by the way Phil keeps looking around, jumping at some of the shrieking laughter and loud noise, apologizing every time he bumps into someone.

“Come on,” Dan says, heading to the same area he and his friends set up their tents last year.

He could text them and ask if any of them are here yet. But he doesn’t think they’ll be around this early, and it’s a calculated plan for there to conveniently be no tent spots that close to him and Phil by the time they do show up.

Even if he didn’t want privacy for him and Phil… they probably know about Evie by now, and he’s not ready to answer those questions. He’ll never be ready but he can at least put it off for as long as possible. Maybe by the time they meet up his friends will all be so drunk they’ll forget Dan even had a girlfriend.

Last year Dan showed up with three bottles of Malibu for the weekend. This year he’s got none. He doesn’t want Phil to think he’s after any of that, and he doesn’t want anything they do to be while they’re drunk.

“How’s this?” Dan asks, stopping in front of an empty patch of grass.

“Great,” Phil says, looking around. There are a few tents nearby already but no one’s actually in them, and that’s exactly what Dan was aiming for.

“So.” Dan lets his backpack drop to the ground, then grabs the long tent bag. “Have you ever put a tent together?”

“Uh.” Phil clears his throat. “I tried once. And… it didn’t go well.”

“How did it not go well?” Dan asks.

“... I may have broken a pole and then my dad refused to let me ever help again, and I had to sleep on the wonky side where it kept falling in.”

Dan laughs. “God you’re cute,” he says, voice low enough that no one around should be able to hear. “So was that story not bullshit, then? Your tent is actually broken?”

Phil shrugs. “We probably have one I could’ve used.”

“I’m glad you’re sharing with me. But try not to break this one, yeah? I don’t wanna sleep in a wonky tent.”

Phil puts on his most exaggerated flirting voice. “Who’s says you’re going to be doing any sleeping?”

Dan can feel his stupid face get hot. Phil never talks like that in public.

“Sorry. You can sleep if you want.”

“Don’t wanna,” Dan mumbles. “I hate sleep.”

“Yeah, ew, who likes sleep?”

“Only weirdos,” Dan agrees. “Do we even need to set up this tent in the first place?”

“Yes we do,” Phil says, dropping his backpack.

“Why?” Dan asks, dropping his voice down even lower. “Because you want me to touch your dick?” He expects Phil to get flustered and red faced or look around panicked but instead Dan watches his lips fighting the good fight against quirking up into a giant grin.

“Yeah,” he says. “Also I wanna touch yours.”

“Well let’s get this bloody thing up, then.”

It takes a long time, even longer than Dan would have thought, but they manage to get the thing up without breaking any poles.

He’s sweating though. Already. All he has to clean off with are the baby wipes he always packs and he was kind of hoping Phil might do that thing with his teeth on his neck against and he just doesn’t see any way around it tasting like either bitter soap or salt now and that just… sucks.

He wipes his forehead with his forearm and realizes not only is he gonna taste and smell like sweat but his hair is going to start going curly too and he knows it’s kind of silly but it makes him feel nervous. And ugly. Which he feels a lot of the time anyway but he doesn’t want to feel that when he has virtually uninterrupted access to Phil for two whole nights.

“We did it!” Phil chirps happily, oblivious to Dan’s inner torment.

“We did it.”

“Shall we go inside?” Phil asks. “Set up our pillows and whatnot?”

Dan nods. Despite his hangups he’s definitely still excited. He grabs his stuff and ducks down, following Phil inside their little blue house. He zips the little half moon door shut when they’re both inside.

It’s small. Dan had forgotten just how small. Granted, the person he was meant to be sharing this space with is a lot smaller than Phil is, but…

He’s not thinking about that. He’s not going to think about her right now, and how sad she probably is, wherever she is. Dan realizes then he doesn’t even know if she’s come home yet or not.

Phil starts to say something about the size of it, something about how cramped they’re going to be and Dan basically lunges at him, or as close to lunging as one can do when they’re hunched over and surrounded by overflowing bags of pillows. He crushes his mouth against Phil’s.

He knows he has to face the hurt he caused Evie. He knows he does. But he doesn’t want to do it right now. Right now he just wants to be with Phil.

“Ow,” Phil croaks. “Steady on.”

“Sorry,” Dan mumbles, pulling his lips away but wrapping his arms around Phil’s waist and squeezing. “I’m just excited.”

“Me too. Let’s set up our bed.”

Dan’s stomach flutters. Our bed. He really fucking likes the way that sounds.

They roll out the foam padding first, then cover it with the sleeping bags they brought. “We can lay on one and use the other as a blanket,” Dan says, not even willing to entertain the idea of actually sleeping in separate ones.

Then he grabs the pillows and starts strewing them out everywhere. Phil does the same, not stopping until the whole tent is just a mountain of cushions.

Dan leans back on his heels and laughs. “It looks fucking ridiculous,” he says, and then watches Phil sprawl back onto them with his arms and legs splayed out.

“Comfortable though,” Phil says, giving his verdict. “My tents when Dad would drag us camping never felt this nice.”

Phil’s head is resting on a pale lavender pillow with little tassel fringes on the end. His hair looks shockingly black against it. Dan crawls over beside Phil and shares the same pillow. “Wow,” he says. “I was afraid it would feel weird or lumpy but this is just nice.”

They’re eye to eye when Phil turns onto his side. “Nice. And ours.”

The kiss they meet for feels inevitable, mouths pressing hot together. Dan goes in greedy for more, but someone walks very close to them and laughs very loudly and Phil jumps, banging their foreheads together.

“Ow,” Dan says, laughing and putting a hand to the sore spot. “You’ve got a bony head, Lester.”

“I’m sorry!” Phil rolls onto his back and covers his face with his hands. “That surprised me.”

“They can’t see us,” Dan reminds him. “It’ll get quieter when the bands start. Around here, at least. Everyone will be out in the fields.”

“You don’t want to be out in the fields?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. He doesn’t, really. But he doesn’t want to sound desperate. “I want to catch a few bands, I guess.”

“What about your mates?” Phil asks, moving his face closer to Dan’s again, voice low.

“Definitely don’t give a shit about that,” Dan says. He’s staring into Phil’s eyes, their faces so close their noses touch. He can see little flecks of green and yellow scattered throughout the blue. It’s so pretty, like the sea or some other deep body of water he could swim in forever.

Fuck. Even just Phil’s eyes make him sappy and ridiculous. “You’re pretty,” he whispers.

Phil breathes a little laugh. “You are.”

“I thought so right away. Like, right away the very first time I ever saw you,” Dan admits.

“When you brought over cinnamon rolls?”

Dan shakes his head. “When you were stood in your drive and…” He stumbles over his next words. “When Evie picked me up.”

“Oh. Right.” He sounds a bit lost for words, like he really wasn’t expecting Dan to say something like that.

Which is fair enough. Dan doesn’t want to say things like that to Phil. “Sorry,” he mutters, rolling over onto his back and looking up at the convergence of the tent poles and the x shape they make five feet above his head.

“I mean… it’s a thing,” Phil says.

“Yeah. It is.” Fucking why did he have to go and talk about her in front of Phil?

“We could… talk about it? If you want,” Phil says gently after a long silence.

Dan turns his head on the cushion and looks at Phil, who’s still lying on his side and looking at Dan intently. “It,” he repeats, a tad dumbstruck.

“Her,” Phil clarifies. “The whole thing.”

Dan just stares at him, no idea what to say. Probably Phil is just trying to be nice. He probably doesn’t want to talk about Dan’s ex-girlfriend. And Dan doesn’t either.

Mostly he doesn’t. Mostly. But… maybe a little. Maybe it might be nice to talk through some things.

But that feels like a big fucking maybe and it also feels a little too scary in the close intimacy of this tent.

“It’s ok,” Dan murmurs. “You don’t have to.”

“I want to. If you do.” Phil reaches up and brushes Dan’s fringe off his forehead, then pulls his hand back away. “I want to be the person you can talk to. Even if it’s like, stuff that kind of sucks.”

“I don’t wanna talk about stuff that sucks right now,” Dan whispers. “I just want to kiss you.”

Phil smiles. “That’s good too.” He leans in and presses his lips to Dan’s.

It’s nice, but Dan wants closer. He draws Phil in and puts both arms around Phil as best he can, kissing him deep again. Their mouths open and tongues touch, a long slow exploration of a kiss that leaves them both breathless. Their hands don’t explore though - not yet, not right now. The kiss seems like… enough. It feels like a kiss that’s about more than just what their bodies want.

Dan’s not sure he’s ever felt kisses like this. “Phil,” he whispers, ducking his head down and resting it on Phil’s chest, tucked right under Phil’s chin.

Phil rubs a hand over Dan’s shoulder. “Right here.”

Dan smiles. “Yeah. Good.”

-

Phil can hear people moving all around the tent outside. It’s weird to know that there are people so close to them, but he’s holding Dan just like he does when they’re locked away in one of their bedrooms.

It’s really… cool, actually, now that it’s not catching him off guard. He likes feeling like he gets to be part of the world and also not be afraid of touching Dan.

He’s starting to feel a little drowsy, relaxing into their cushion mountain with all that nice warm weight on top of them, when his stomach reminds him he’d been too nervous to have his normal two servings of breakfast and then a snack.

Dan snickers immediately. “Phil, was that you?”

“... no,” Phil tries to say.

Dan sits up. “Your stomach is actually growling.”

“It’s past lunch time!” Phil says, in his own defense. “We took ages putting the tent up. Come back, though.”

Dan settles back down, but beside him this time instead of on top of him. “Should we go get something to eat? They’ve got food stands all around. We can like… walk around a bit. Eat something to get our strength up. Might need it.”

He does a really dumb eyebrow thing that makes Phil laugh so hard he snorts. “Oh no,” he says, but he’s still laughing.

“Come on, come on.” Dan crawls forward and starts to unzip the tent.

Phil has a moment - a moment where all impulse control just leaves him. Because Dan’s bending forward and his bum is just… right there. He reaches out and grabs with both hands.

Dan yelps and looks over his shoulder. “Oh my god, perv.” Then he freezes. “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s okay,” Phil says, and right now… it is. Right now it’s not making him feel bad at all, maybe because there’s no one around to see, or maybe just because he’s too excited to let the bad feelings in. “Stop having such a nice bum and I’ll stop being a perv.”

“It’s good to know you’re attracted to pancake asses,” Dan says. “Because mine’s so flat my jeans won’t even stay up.”

“Good. No one wants them up anyway,” Phil says, continuing his streak of boldness by squeezing Dan’s cheeks again, slower this time, less impulse and completely deliberate.

“No one?” Dan asks, voice gone low into something husky and dark that shoots straight to Phil’s cock.

“I don’t,” Phil says. “I don’t want them up. I wanna touch your ass, and jeans just get in the way.”

Dan zips the tent back shut and crawls over to push Phil back against the cushions and climb on top of his lap. He takes Phil’s hands and guides them backwards and Phil doesn’t need any more invitation than that. Dan leans forward to kiss Phil again and Phil slides his hands inside the back of Dan’s jeans and gropes.

Dan makes a noise into Phil’s mouth, a noise of yes, more, please. Phil’s cock twitches again and he pushes up into Dan’s lap. Their position isn’t ideal and they’re both wearing jeans so it’s not going to go anywhere without serious rearranging but it still feels good and hot and Dan’s wrong, his ass is not flat in fact there’s a nice soft give to it under Phil’s insistent fingertips.

He’s about to be even braver and slide his fingers under Dan’s pants when his stomach growls again, louder this time. Dan laughs against his mouth and pulls back, much to Phil’s dismay.

“No,” Phil whines. He’d gladly starve to death right now if it meant more of this.

“C’mon,” Dan says, shimmying backwards and trying to stand up without stepping on any wayward limbs. “Your mum will be cross if I let you die of hunger.”

Phil just grumbles. He doesn’t want to think about his mum right now. That reminds him that he’s probably meant to have texted her by now, so he pulls his phone out of his pocket. At least it’ll give him a moment to get his raging hard on in check.

got here fine and managed to get the tent up. going to get food now

“Who’re you talking to?” Dan asks. “Have you got friends you’re not telling me about?”

Phil laughs and turns the phone around to show Dan. “Just my mum. Does she count? Are you jealous?”

“Your mum’s well nice,” Dan says. “But no, I’m not jealous.”

Phil looks down to read the response. “She says to make sure I have veg.”

“Sure,” Dan says, nodding as though that’ll be an easily accomplished tasks. “Tomato sauce counts as veg, right?”

“I actually think a tomato is a fruit,” Phil says.

“Well, that’s basically veg.” Dan manages to get the tent unzipped this time without being interrupted via wandering hands, though it takes restraint on Phil’s behalf. “Make sure you’ve got your phone and anything else you don’t want lifted. We’ve never been robbed before, but… there’s not exactly a tight security system.”

Phil doesn’t actually have anything worth stealing besides his phone, but he’s still alarmed. “What?”

“Uh.” Dan looks sheepish. “Forget I said anything. Don’t worry, you’re safe. I’ll protect you.”

Phil wonders if it’s weird how happy that makes him. “My hero,” he says, knowing the smile on his face must be huge.

But then Dan’s smile back is just as huge, so - maybe not that weird after all.

They close the tent up behind them and Dan makes sure to spin around and remember a few markers so that they’ll be able to find themselves again later.

“We won’t be gone too long, will we?” Phil asks. He’s really got no idea how much of the festival Dan actually wants to enjoy… but he’s antsy to finish what they started before, or maybe to start some all new things.

“Nah,” Dan says. “Just get some food before it gets too crowded, and maybe, I dunno, walk around a bit?”

There’s a faint tremor of nerves in Dan’s voice.

“Okay,” Phil says, deciding if something’s got Dan nervous he doesn’t want to push. He steps in as close as he can without it looking weird and tries to ignore the pang in his heart when he imagines how it’d be if he could just slide his hand into Dan’s.

He won’t. There are so many people around. But it’d be nice if he could.

They find a fish and chips stand that doesn’t have too long of a queue and stand in it. There’s already a band going, not close enough for them to see well but certainly close enough to hear. Dan hums along with the song so Phil asks, “Who’s that?”

“Jimmy Eat World,” Dan says.

“Did you want to see them?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “Not really. Did you want to like… experience the festival?”

“No,” Phil says, deciding honesty is the best policy. “I want to experience the tent.”

Dan laughs, covering his mouth with his hand. “Phil Lester, you’re awful.”

“Probably,” Phil agrees. “But you’ll teach me.”

“Oh my god.” Dan just shakes his head, still laughing into his hand.

“Too much?” Phil asks, grinning. He feels that kind of jittery nervousness that comes from doing something scary, but he can tell Dan likes it which makes him glad he took the risk.

Dan shakes his head. “You’re ridiculous, but… not too much. Never too much.”

“I’m like, not really kidding though,” Phil says, looking down at his shoes. They’re already looking a little worse for wear. He’s going to be filthy by the time he gets home. “You have to teach me… stuff.”

“Nope,” Dan says. “I haven’t so far, have I?”

Phil looks up. Dan looks almost unnervingly calm about all this. “Uh, I dunno. Guess not? But we haven’t really…” He looks around. There are people everywhere now, but no one appears to be eavesdropping on their conversation. Still, he drops his voice down to a whisper. “We haven’t really done anything.”

“Ouch,” Dan says, slapping his hand to his chest like he’s been wounded.

“You know what I mean.”

“I think we’ve done loads, actually. The amount of laundry I’ve had to sneak into the wash says we’ve been doing plenty.”

“Dan!” Phil squawks, covering his face with his hands. “Shush.”

“Am I wrong though?” Dan elbows him gently in the ribs.

“No,” Phil mumbles against his fingers. “I’ve actually had to learn how to do my own laundry.”

“I’ve been a good influence after all,” Dan says.

“Oh my god. Shut up,” Phil squeaks. “I hate you.”

“You started it, Mr ‘I want to experience the tent.’”

“I changed my mind,” Phil says. “Let’s go watch Johnny Eat World.”

Dan laughs. “It’s Jimmy, you berk.” He shakes his head fondly. “And we need to eat first.”

That’s true. No matter what their plans are for the immediate future, they definitely need to eat. They wait in the queue for longer than they should for how few people are stood in front of them but eventually they have some greasy fried fish and chips and they eat as they wander around.

“Sometimes the most fun part of this whole thing is just watching the other people,” Dan says, as they both watch a group of girls with coloured hair and minimal clothing walk by laughing, all with their arms thrown over each other’s shoulders.

“I could see that, for sure,” Phil agrees. He’s mostly still preoccupied with shoveling lunch into his face. He’d been even hungrier than he’d realized.

“It feels different to do this sober,” Dan says.

“You usually drink?” He doesn’t know why he’s still surprised about these things.

“Definitely. I mean I did last year anyway.”

“And this year?” Phil asks, trying not to sound apprehensive.

Dan shakes his head. “I mean if you wanna have a drink or two we can, together. But like… it wasn’t my intention. I didn’t bring anything.”

Suddenly Phil doesn’t feel so hungry. “Dan?” he murmurs after a long silence.

“Hmm?”

“I’m not… like I’m not just ruining this for you, am I?”

Dan frowns. “What? Why would you even ask that?”

“I know I’m not like, fun. Like I ruined the party you took me to and now I’m ruining this ‘cause I’m just… I dunno. A nerd.”

“Shut up. We’ve had this discussion like twelve billion times. You are a nerd and I am too and all I ever want to be doing is hanging out with you anyway and we don’t need to be drunk to have fun.” He bumps his shoulder into Phil’s. “Ok?”

“But what about the bands?” Phil asks. Relief is already flooding through him but he clings to the sulk a little longer. Maybe he just wants a little more reassurance.

“What about them?”

“Isn’t that like, the whole point?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “It’s part of it. It was a big part of it in the other years I came. But Reading is kind of always more about the overall experience, like it’s not just the bands it’s the whole atmosphere, y’know?”

Phil’s about to open his mouth to say something when Dan pulls his buzzing phone out of his pocket. He looks at it first and then at Phil. “It’s Tom,” Dan says, like that’s supposed to mean something to Phil.

He stares back at Dan blankly.

“Tom? You met him at the party?” Dan prompts.

“Did I?”

Dan rolls his eyes. “Should I answer?”

Phil figures he’s only got a few more seconds before Dan’s mate gives up and hangs up, so he makes the split second decision to say, “Yeah, why not?” If it’ll help assuage this weird nagging guilt he’s feeling about monopolizing all of Dan’s weekend, it’ll be worth a few hours of socializing and listening to loud music he doesn’t care too much about.

Dan aswers. “Hey… yeah we’re here… no, not— no. I’m here with Phil…. Yeah… where? … Ok, yeah. See you soon.” He hangs up and shoves his phone back into the pocket of his jeans. He looks at Phil. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. It’s— it’ll be fun. We have all night for the tent, right?”

Dan smirks, nodding.

“And this way I’ll get to experience some atmosphere. And get to know your mates better since I pretty well flaked out on that bit at the party.”

Dan eats his last chip and walks over to an already overflowing bin to chuck the empty, greasy paper-lined box. “Dunno how much bonding you’ll get in with Tom and them. He already sounds kind of sloshed.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Yeah. This is kind of like the drinking highlight of the year, so.”

“We can drink,” Phil offers. He can handle a beer or two, surely.

“I’d kind of… rather not?” Dan says cautiously. “Unless you like, really want to.”

“Really?” Phil asks again.

Dan looks suddenly sheepish. “ Just… kind of wanna get back to the tent as soon as possible and… don’t wanna be drunk for that.”

Phil’s stomach swirls and he’s definitely not hungry at all anymore and he’s also heavily regretting his decision to push Dan in the direction of actually doing festival things.

“I told him we’d meet up with them. I’m sure they won’t be bothered if we fuck off whenever, though,” Dan says. “They’ll be preoccupied.”

Phil nods.

“You alright?” Dan asks.

“Yeah why?”

“You look nervous.”

“I am,” Phil says. “But it’s okay. I have to be brave some time, don’t I?”

“We won’t stay with them long,” Dan promises. “And then it’ll just be me and you and… all those pillows.”

Chapter Text

Dan really does mean to keep his promise about not staying with his friends for very long, but everyone’s drunk and keen to catch up and even though every part of Dan would rather be off alone with Phil it’s easy to get drawn into the laughter and the whole vibe of the festival.

He keeps Phil close, though, checking every few minutes (seconds, sometimes) to make sure Phil’s not looking miserable. But Red Hot Chili Peppers have taken the stage and Phil’s a fan, apparently. He’s talking to Dan’s friend James about which album is their best.

He’s glad Phil’s found someone to get on with. He hasn’t given it much thought but in the back of his mind he is still aware that sixth form starts next week and while he plans on spending as much time with Phil as he can before and after lessons it’s probably less scary for Phil to go in knowing someone that isn’t Dan.

The sun is starting to set. More people he knows from school - not well, but enough to be familiar - arrive. A very loud, tequila scented pseudo-friend flings his arm over Dan’s shoulder. “Can’t believe Evie’s missing this for fucking Greece, mate! Couldn’t talk her into coming home?”

“Uh,” Dan says, and it’s the first time he’s actually stopped to think that maybe his friends don’t know. Maybe… maybe Evie hasn’t told anyone. Or maybe it just hasn’t spread as quickly as Dan expected.

James is still talking to Phil, but he can tell by the stricken look on Phil’s face that Phil’s not listening to him. He’s listening to Dan.

“Dunno. Didn’t try. We broke up.” Dan shrugs out from under the meaty arm weighing him down.

There’s a brief moment of silence as his friends all look at him. He wants very much to disappear. A sinkhole would be nice. Or the ability to teleport. Just grab Phil and fucking go.

“Wow,” James says. “You two were together since like… year eight.”

“Nine,” Dan mumbles. “It was only two years.”

“Do we need to get Danny boy nice and pissed?” Tom asks. “Drink his woes away?”

Dan laughs and shakes his head. “Raincheck, mate.”

“He don’t need a drink from us,” Tom says. “He needs one from her!”

He points across the way to a girl wearing a tiny pair of bikini bottoms, a lot of body paint, and nothing else. Dan glances at her just long enough to see who they mean, then averts his eyes immediately.

Phil is looking down at the ground. Dan moves in closer to him, further away from everyone else.

If they were sober they might see how uneasy he is. Instead they just all join in shouting about how Danny needs a rebound. A few other similarly attired girls join her and Dan realizes his friends are distracted enough that they’re barely even listening when he says, “Think we’re gonna go see who’s on one of the other stages.”

He grabs Phil’s arm. “Fuck,” he says, temper suddenly flaring hot. He’s not mad at Phil - he’s mad at his friends, and he’s embarrassed Phil even had to see that.

He’s not even paying attention to what direction he’s dragging Phil in until he realizes the throngs of people are weaving tighter and tighter, and they’re actually walking toward the stage where the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing.

When he stops abruptly, Phil bumps right into him from behind. Dan grabs onto Phil’s arm to steady him and half turns around. “I’m sorry,” he says, anger fading in the face of Phil looking… less than thrilled. “That was… a fucking mess.”

“It’s fine,” Phil says quietly.

“I don’t need a rebound,” Dan says. “You’re not a rebound.”

Maybe people can hear him. Right now he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know any of these people anyway. “Yeah,” Phil says, but he doesn’t sound convinced. “You were with her for two years?”

Dan shrugs helplessly. “Because I’m a fucking coward who didn’t know how to break up with her until… until I met you. And I couldn’t ignore you.”

Phil’s teeth sink into his lower lip, worrying it. “I hate hearing that you were with her that long,” he admits.

“I’m not with her now,” Dan says. “I”m here. With you.”

Phil looks up. His eyes look so blue and his mouth looks so soft and pink and Dan feels so many things. “You don’t wish-”

“No.” Dan doesn’t even let him finish.

A song he recognizes starts to play. He steps in close to Phil and grabs both of his hands. “Dance with me.”

Phil’s head jerks up, a shell-shocked expression on his face. “No, we can’t-”

 

“Look around,” Dan says. “It’s dark now. Nobody’s paying attention. It doesn’t have to be… a thing. Just dance with me. One song. Then we’ll go back to the tent. Unless… you don’t want to anymore.”

“I do,” Phil says, then gives Dan an awkward, imploring look. “I just don’t know how to dance.”

Dan laughs. “It’s okay. Just move.”

Phil does - and he’s right, he doesn’t know how to dance. But something nice and full slots back into place for Dan, pushing all the badness out and leaving nothing left but warmth and fondness for this tall dork swaying like his limbs are being controlled by puppet strings.

Dan starts copying what Phil does. Phil’s face goes red to start with but he gives in and laughs with Dan, reaching out to shove at Dan’s shoulders. Dan grabs his hands again and for the briefest moment slots their fingers together and squeezes.

When the last notes of the song fade away, he leans in and whispers against Phil’s ear, “Tent?”

He can see the ripple of Phil swallowing before Phil nods and says, “Yeah.”

He turns away from the stage and feels Phil grab a handful of his shirt from the back so they don’t get separated as Dan leads them both away from the crowd of drunken partiers. Dan’s not drunk but he’s so nervous and excited that he might as well be.

“D’you remember where the tent actually is?” Phil asks, and he’s right up next to Dan’s ear. The words aren’t sexy but they sound it when Dan can feel the warmth of Phil’s breath on his neck.

“Um. Kinda? Might take a bit of wandering,” Dan admits. His mind feels a bit foggy, his legs a little weak.

It’s silly. He’s being silly, they both are. It’s not likely that much more will happen than has already happened, but still it feels… big. It feels a world away from dry humping in their parents’ houses. Tonight the only thing stopping them from doing whatever the fuck they please will be themselves.

Phil’s hand slips into Dan’s. Dan turns around, heart in his throat to look at Phil. He can’t even see him that well, his face all shadows and edges of lamplight, but he can tell he looks some combination of brave and terrified.

“It’s dark,” Phil murmurs. “No one is paying attention.”

Dan nods and squeezes Phil’s palm. He feels even more intoxicated on the magic of this place than he did before.

“I don’t mind doing some wandering with you,” Phil says. “Let’s wander. We have all night, right?”

“We have all weekend,” Dan says. “We never have to leave the tent once we find it, if you don’t want to.”

So they wander, and Dan can’t feel too bad about how long it takes or how many times they almost unzip the door of a tent that isn’t the right one because Phil holds his hand the whole time. He doesn’t let go once.

Dan’s chest nearly explodes with anticipation when they finally find their little blue homebase. There are a lot more tents set up than there were before they’d left to get lunch, but somehow that feels like a comfort to him. There’s is just one in a vast sea. They can be anonymous here; they can do what they want and no one’s going to know. No one’s going to care.

Dan unzips the tent and leads Phil inside. They both take off their shoes in silence and Dan lays down on their cushions, but Phil stands above him, biting his lip.

“What?” Dan asks.

“M’supposed to ring my mum,” he mumbles.

Dan laughs. “Of course you are.”

“D’you mind?”

“Course not,” Dan says, lying his head down on that soft velvet blue cushion, the first one they’d chosen in the shop. “Tell her I said hello.”

He closes his eyes and lets his mind swim with visions of what’s to come while he listens to Phil murmuring quietly to his mother. His heart is already pounding. He pulls the sleeping bag up over his body and lets the warmth seep into his trembling limbs.

“Ok, ok mum,” Phil says quietly but impatiently. “Yes I will. I’ve got to— yes, mum. Ok. Talk to you tomorrow. Mhm… Love you too. Bye.”

Thirty seconds later Dan feels Phil lift up the sleeping bag and snuggle in next to him. “How’s Kath?” Dan asks.

“Ridiculous. Overprotective. The usual,” Phil says, but there’s so much fondness in his voice that Dan can’t quite believe Phil is actually annoyed at all.

“It’s nice she cares,” Dan says.

“I’m lucky she let me come at all.”

Dan grins, turning his face towards Phil’s. “It’s because she loves me.”

“That must be it,” Phil says quietly. Too quietly, even. His words are tinged melancholic and Dan doesn’t understand.

He turns on his side to face Phil fully and Phil does the same. It’s dark but they can still see enough.

“We’re in the tent,” Dan says.

“We are.”

“And… you’re not happy.”

“I’m happy,” Phil says.

“But not completely.”

Phil doesn’t say anything. Dan thinks he knows why and he fucking hates it. “It’s because my mates are a bunch of fuckheads, right?”

“Um.”

“And the Evie stuff,” Dan continues.

“It’s fine.”

“They’re not always like that,” Dan says. “I mean they’re kind of idiots but not usually that much.”

“It’s fine, really,” Phil says. “I’m just not… used to this, to feeling like this. And, I never thought… I never really considered I could ever feel like this with…”

“A guy,” Dan finishes.

“Yeah.”

“But you do.”

Phil wraps his arm around Dan’s waist and pulls him in tight to his chest. “I do.”

“And I do too. Even if my friends are assholes and I used to be with a girl. And even if I can’t tell anyone else about you… it doesn’t change that I do feel it.”

“I know,” Phil whispers. “It just felt really bad for a minute.”

“I’m sorry,” Dan whispers, and he is. He’s so fucking sorry that something that feels so easy when they’re alone with each other should feel so bloody hard when they’re not alone anymore.

“I’m scared about what happens when school starts,” Phil says. “And they’re around all the time.”

“Yeah,” Dan croaks. “I kind of am too.”

Phil laughs a breathy sound against Dan’s face. “Lie. Tell me everything’s going to fine.”

“It is,” Dan promises. “That’s not a lie. We’ll figure it out.”

“Thank you,” Phil murmurs. “Don’t leave me for a girl with body paint.”

Dan laughs, and it’s much less soft and sweet a sound than Phil’s had been. “I won’t. I promise. I’m kinda like, not into that right now. At all.”

“No?”

Dan shakes his head. “Just you.”

Phil leans his face in closer to Dan’s, pressing their foreheads together. “I think maybe it still feels a little unreal to me that that’s actually a thing.”

“Why?” Dan breathes, tipping his face upwards enough to press his mouth to Phil’s ever so gently.

Phil kisses back before he answers. “Because you’re just like… incredible. No one’s ever liked me before and now there’s you and you’re just… you.”

Dan answers by kissing him again, reaching up and holding Phil’s face and putting everything into the kiss that words are too limited to express. That he feels exactly the same, that this moment is good and pure and nothing and no one can take it away from them.

Phil pulls him in tighter, slips his hand up under Dan’s shirt. Their legs tangle together, socked feet locking around denim calves and they kiss and kiss and kiss. Dan’s ears are full of it, of their breaths breathed across each other’s faces, the smacking sound of their lips and the wetness of their tongues coming together to trace along the inside and taste each other.

Dan could stay just like this, all night, all weekend, the rest of his life suspended in these kisses, but then Phil ducks his head down to mouth at Dan’s neck and suddenly it’s not just sweet and tender but hot. So hot. Phil knows now because Dan had told him, and it seems as though he’s using that knowledge to torture Dan with the strange almost-too-much intensity of teeth and tongue all up and down the most sensitive of Dan’s skin.

Dan rolls over onto his back and pulls Phil on top of him, craning his neck, goosebumps erupting all down his arms when Phil starts sucking. Dan hums his approval, one hand tangled up in Phil’s hair.

“You’re gonna leave a mark,” he says.

Phil doesn’t answer and Dan doesn’t care. Right now Dan doesn’t care about anything, except maybe getting Phil’s shirt off. He grabs the bottom, pushing it up Phil’s torso until he gets to his arms and Phil does the rest, breaking away from Dan’s neck just long enough to pull the shirt over his head and toss it to the side. It makes a little rustling noise as it hits the wall of the tent.

Dan’s hands don’t know where to touch first. They run up and down Phil’s back and chest and stomach, grazing over his nipples and through the thin patch of hair and over skin so smooth Dan feels the strange urge to dig his nails into it.

He catches a glimpse of Phil’s face with eyes that have now completely adjusted to the low light. There’s something unexpected on his face, something that catches Dan in a way he wouldn’t have expected either.

He just really… wants Phil. And he thinks Phil really wants him.

He knows Phil really wants him. He can feel how Phil wants him. He grinds his hips up but it’s not enough, not even with the way Phil gasps hot against his shoulder.

He pushes a hand between their bodies, feeling the press of Phil against his palm. He wants that, and his hands start to fumble with the button on Phil’s jeans.

“No,” Phil says, reaching down and pulling Dan’s hands away. “Stop.”

-

Phil’s heart is pounding as he pulls Dan away. He can see the confusion and panic bleed into Dan’s face so he pushes past his own nerves to say the words hanging on his tongue. “I want to touch you first.”

Dan’s hands fall slack. It might be funny if Phil weren’t so turned on that it hurts.

He sits back, kneeling over Dan’s thighs. His hands are shaking but he’s determined, he wants to do this. He knows if he lets Dan then Dan will just get him off, Dan will take care of him, and it’ll feel good and Dan wouldn’t complain -

But Phil wants to do this while he has the chance. He gets Dan’s jeans undone and tugs down until Dan lifts his bum. They’re so tight that it’ll take more than that to get them all the way off, but it gets them cleared down enough to give Phil what he wants.

Dan’s cock. Right there, just through Dan’s pants. It might be good that Phil can’t see much. It’s easier, somehow, to feel his way down Dan’s chest and over his stomach. He gets to Dan’s pants and he can feel the heat radiating against his palm, pressing lower and firm. It feels… real. It’s Dan’s cock and it’s real and he’s touching it.

“Phil?” Dan whispers. “You can stop any time if you want to.”

It’s motivation Phil needs to surge past this new momentary block. He doesn’t mean to be going so slow, everything just feels tangled together in his head. But he’s not stopping. He hooks his fingers into the waistband of Dan’s pants and tugs.

He immediately wishes that he could see better, but he can still make out the shadowy shape of Dan. He wraps his fingers around it and feels it, a strange warm weight that should feel just like holding his own dick but doesn’t at all because it’s Dan making needy breathy noises when Phil touches him.

“Is this okay?” Phil whispers. He’s still not really doing anything, but he wants Dan to give him reassurances anyway.

“It’s so fucking good,” Dan says, squirming. He sounds almost drunk. “Please just… you can… move your hand. Or don’t, if you don’t want to, it’s - fine. Anything is fine.”

Phil starts to wank him, long slow strokes just to feel the softness and the hardness and the way he can almost feel Dan’s pulse in how it jumps into his touch when he does stop for a moment.

It feels like only a few seconds before Dan is twisting back, and reaching out to push at Phil’s hands. “You have to stop,” he says.

“What?” Phil drops Dan like he’s holding lava. “Was I doing something wrong?”

“No, I was just about to come,” Dan says.

Phil’s shocked. “But I was only-”

“Phil.” Dan’s voice is tight, but not in a bad way. “Trust me. You’re touching me, and I am still like two seconds away from coming, and I really want to touch you too. Can I touch you?”

Phil’s stomach flips like he’s on a roller coaster. “Are you sure…”

Dan sits up. Phil’s eyes are glued to the way his cock is slapping against Dan’s own stomach. He can see better with Dan sat up, and it just looks so… good. It doesn’t make him feel dirty like looking at the guys in porn does. It just looks like Dan and Dan is the best thing Phil has ever seen.

“Please,” Dan says, whining a bit. Phil realizes he’s still waiting on Phil to answer.

“Yeah,” Phil says, scrambling back and laying down. There’s just enough room for them to maneuver like this, for Dan to be leaning over Phil now. Instead of going straight for his dick, Dan starts by kissing Phil - and that’s probably the best thing he could have done. Some of the tension just melts out of Phil when Dan’s mouth is on his, it’s like his brain doesn’t have enough power to be nervous and be kissing Dan at the same time. He sinks his fingers into Dan’s hair and holds his mouth there for maybe longer than Dan intended, but Dan doesn’t complain.

When he finally does let Dan end the kiss, he feels ready.

Dan is more of a completionist than Phil, or maybe just more patient - he takes Phil’s jeans all the way off and then leans down to kiss his chest and stomach some before Phil feels Dan’s hand splay over the bulge in his pants. It’s so close that Phil feels that shivery hot sensation building already, and suddenly he understands how Dan got there so fast. It feels like being turned on is as much in his head as in his cock right now. It’s just knowing that it’s Dan and that they’re doing this together.

Dan’s fingers make out the shape of him in his underwear and skim over the tip, rubbing in little circles. “Fuck, you’re like, leaking already,” Dan whispers.

“You’ve got me so hard,” Phil whispers.

“Phil, you can’t just say things like that.” He sounds almost as wrecked as Phil feels. There’s a new noise added to the mix and Phil’s eyes fly open. Dan’s using his right hand to wank himself a bit. He sees Phil looking and says a sheepish, “Sorry. Can’t help it.”

Watching Dan touch himself is definitely going to be added to Phil’s permanent wank bank now.

Dan lets himself go and puts both hands on Phil’s thighs. “Can I take them off?” He asks, sliding his hands up until he’s bracketing Phil’s cock with them. “Please?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, and it’s his turn to lift his ass so that Dan can slide them off.

And then he’s naked. He’s fully naked in front of another boy, and he’s hard, and they’re going to make each other come, and he thinks his brain is probably dribbling out of his dick along with precome now.

Dan’s hand is hot and soft and big and wraps around him, not quite enough to cover the full length of Phil’s dick but impressive in how much it does. Phil curls his fingers into one of the nearby cushions and squeezes hard. He’s not ready for this to be over but it feels so overwhelming and all encompassing that he’s not sure he has a choice either way.

“Is it good?” Dan asks, and Phil can hear him touching himself again, that soft sound of skin on skin.

He keeps his eyes closed. He wants to look but he knows it’ll be all over for sure if he does. “Mmm,” he hums, because he can’t spare enough mental energy to form words when he’s trying so hard not to give in to the searing heat that’s building low in his gut.

Dan twists a little around the head on the upstroke and Phil gasps. “Stop stop stop,” he babbles.

Dan lets go instantly. “Good stop or bad?”

“Good. Too good,” Phil croaks, squeezing his eyes shut even tighter, fighting the rising tide of pleasure threatening to overtake him, even after Dan’s hands have left his body. He can still see Dan jerking his own cock and that’s enough to make him afraid he can’t stave himself off for more than another few seconds. “Say something please, he begs. “Something to distract me.”

“Um… your cock is really big?”

Phil snorts. “Shut up.”

“It is though, I was right. It’s really big and really pretty.”

Phil opens his eyes just in time to see Dan reach out and stroke the tip of one finger across the tip of the head. Phil makes a horrible groaning sound and jerks to the side. “Fuck.”

“Sorry,” Dan says, but he doesn’t sound sorry at all.

“I need a break,” Phil says. “Please. Don’t wanna come yet.”

“I don’t either though,” Dan says. He’s still holding himself in his fist but his hand remains still.

“Don’t do that,” Phil says, pulling Dan’s hand away. “I wanna.”

Dan’s weight is on his knees, pressing heavy into the cushions beneath them and bracketing Phil’s thighs. It looks awkward and uncomfortable as he’s still wearing his jeans and his pants. And his shirt, for that matter.

“Take your clothes off,” Phil whispers. “I want to see you.”

Dan pulls off his shirt first. The instant he’s dropped it down onto the floor Phil reaches up to run his hands over the smooth bare skin of Dan’s chest. There’s no hair there at all, not until below his belly button and leading down. Phil’s seen that happy little trail before and wondered exactly what it looked like beneath the line of his pants and now that he gets to see, it’s even more intoxicating than he’d imagined.

He runs a hand through that coarse hair, grazing the base of Dan’s cock and enjoying the sharp intake of air it elicits. He grins up at Dan but moves both hands up, sliding until he gets to the dark little circles of his nipples and rubs over them with his thumbs. They’re so hard and Dan’s chest is so broad, broader than it looks when he’s wearing a shirt. His shoulders too.

He looks like a boy and after tonight Phil will never have any room for doubt in his mind that that’s a part of him now, a fundamental truth about the way his brain and his body work. He likes boys. This one in particular.

He wants to keep touching, to explore Dan with his fingers. It’s a good distraction, even if it does nothing to lessen the hot throbbing of blood in his dick. At least he’s not going to come. That’s probably the most he can hope for right now.

He traces over Dan’s collarbones, sharp where they stretch Dan’s pale skin thin. He wants to put his mouth there but he can’t reach and he doesn’t want to move. He feels suspended in a wonderful dreamy sort of limbo where all that matters is mapping out every curve and jut he can get his hands on.

His hands slide down again and wrap around Dan’s hips, the stretch of skin over bone even sharper than his clavicles. He moves his hands inwards until they meet in the middle with Dan’s cock between them. He just wants to feel it, so soft and so hard, so new and different and wonderful.

“You’re evil,” Dan whispers.

Phil lets him go. “Get naked for me please.”

Dan rolls off Phil’s legs instantly to lie down beside him and work off his jeans. Phil sits up and as soon as Dan’s kicked off the denim completely Phil takes hold of Dan’s pants and pulls them down for him.

“Eager?” Dan asks, smirking.

Phil’s too turned on to even pretend he can bant right now. “You have no idea.” He straddles Dan’s thighs and sits, the bare skin of his ass touching the bare skin of Dan’s legs and somehow that feels like a whole new level of intimacy.

“You’re so fucking hot, Phil, jesus,” Dan breathes.

Phil wants to argue but there’s no doubting the sincerity in Dan’s voice so he just says, “So are you.”

“I might come but I need you to touch me now please,” Dan says, a desperate, needy sort of edge to his voice that pulls low in Phil’s stomach.

Phil wraps his hand around the base of Dan’s cock and squeezes.

“Oh god,” Dan says, throwing an arm over his eyes. “Fuck. Go slow.”

Phil has to squeeze the base of his own dick hard to keep himself together. He squeezes so hard it bypasses pleasure right into pain and helps ground him a little.

“Please,” Dan whines. “Please Phil.”

Phil watches Dan’s face as he pulls his fist up the length of Dan’s cock, what he can see of it anyway, what’s not covered by his arm. His teeth are digging into his bottom lip likes he’s in pain, but the panted little moans he’s letting out help reassure Phil that he’s definitely enjoying what’s happening right now.

He twists around the head like Dan had done and gets rewarded with a slightly louder moan, a high pitched one that has Phil’s stomach flipping over dramatically. The thought crosses his mind that it might even be possible for him to come without even touching himself.

He hopes he doesn’t. He wants to fall apart with Dan’s big hand wrapped around him. He wants to watch his come drip down Dan’s knuckles.

He can’t think about that. It’s too dirty and too good and he didn’t give his brain permission to conjure such filthy hot images when he’s trying to retain some semblance of control.

“Fuck, fuck, slower Phil, slower,” Dan groans. “Too good.” His hand darts out and wraps around Phil’s wrist. Phil hadn’t realized he’d already lost control of the rhythm with which he was tugging on Dan’s cock.

“Sorry,” he murmurs, though he’s not sure he really is.

“Say something to distract me,” Dan says, copying Phil’s words from earlier. He lets go of Phil’s wrist and Phil thinks maybe he shouldn’t start up the wanking again so soon but he can’t not. He just can’t. He’s looking down and watching the head slipping in and out of the tunnel of his fist and it’s mesmerizing.

“Oh my god, Phil, fuck.”

“I think about you every time I touch myself,” Phil blurts.

Dan groans and his hips push his cock up further into the tight grip of Phil’s hand. “That’s not distracting,” he says through gritted teeth. “That’s the— mmf, fuck. That’s the opposite of distraction.”

“I think about what you might taste like.”

Suddenly there are hands on his shoulders shoving him back.

Phil laughs and he’s very glad they’ve got an entire floor of cushions because everything feels soft and cushy when Dan pins him against the floor and kisses the fuck out of him.

Literally, almost, because when he realizes he can feel Dan’s cock against his own he almost comes on the spot.

“You’re a fucking menace, Phil Lester,” Dan says, kissing him fast and desperate. Their teeth clack together briefly, and Dan’s hands are everywhere and Phil keeps pushing his hips up so maybe he can feel them touching again.

He doesn’t get to try for too long though, Dan’s reaching between them and he feels like he’s on a mission now. Phil doesn’t stand a chance; Dan’s wanking him hard and fast, squeezing tight. He’s not playing around anymore and in Phil’s babbling he can’t even think to tell him to stop, to say he’s much too close. He thrusts up into the grip like he’s trying uselessly to help, but Dan’s mouth is still too distracting, and they’re all naked and long and pressed together and so much skin -

He gets no warning before he comes, or maybe that’s a lie, because he’s known he was so close for so long anyway. But it still catches him off guard, his cock suddenly pulsing hot and shooting come between their bodies.

“Oh-” Phil flails, and he’s sure he looks like a hooked fish in his mix of pleasure and agony, but he doesn’t even care what he looks like. The feeling is too all-consuming, Dan still wanking him through it and making the most amazed sounds in Phil’s ear. “Oh, Dan-”

Phil’s fingers flex against Dan’s shoulders, nails properly digging in now, and he feels like his whole being is coming out the tip of his dick. It lasts forever, longer than any orgasm he’s ever had he’s sure, probably because Dan isn’t letting go. He keeps stroking long past when Phil would if he were alone, and the aftershocks keep Phil trembling. He’s sure he’s got nothing left in his balls at all by the time Dan swipes a thumb through the tip but somehow more oozes out to meet the touch.

Then it’s abruptly too much in a real way and he pushes at Dan’s shoulder instead of squeezing in. “Hurts,” he says, and Dan lets go immediately.

“Was that-”

“You killed me,” Phil says, and to his own ears even his voice feels choked and strange. “I’m dead.”

“You’re not dead,” Dan says, kissing him. He kisses back and realizes he can still feel Dan hot and hard against his hip and that Dan’s moving against him in tiny little thrusting motions. He’s not even sure Dan realizes he’s doing it. “But are you okay?”

He just came for the first time because someone besides him was touching his dick. Phil’s not actually sure he is okay, but he’s also not not okay. He’s better than okay, but in a weird different-feeling way.

He feels a lot all of a sudden. He wraps his arms around Dan’s neck and then hides his face there, in the damp sweat-salty stretch of skin.

“Phil?” Dan asks. He’s stopped moving now.

“I’m okay,” Phil says, realizing he never answered. “That was… that was the best thing in my life. Ever.”

Dan laughs. It’s a sound of relief. “That’s high praise.”

Phil clings a bit tighter. He’s not sure how to explain that he just really wants to feel Dan right now. He wants to crawl inside Dan’s skin and live there. In a non-murdery-cannibal way.

He’s also sure that Dan really, really wants to come now and he wants to make Dan come but he also just needs this… just for a moment.

Dan doesn’t seem to mind that much. He kisses Phil and it’s more gentle now, full of restraint. “Sorry,” Phil eventually whispers.

“It’s okay,” Dan says. He kisses the corner of Phil’s mouth, then his jaw.

Phil finds himself blinking hard. He’s not gonna cry the first time his dick gets touched. He’s not.

He reaches down, trying to find Dan to touch him. Instead he ends up smearing his own come over his stomach and says, “Ew.”

“It’s not ew,” Dan says. “It’s hot.”

“It’s cold actually,” Phil counters. “It’s a mess.”

“I like it,” Dan says, placing little kisses all down the length of Phil’s neck. “I like that it’s there because of me.”

And Phil likes that too. He likes that Dan likes it, but it also feels gross and he doesn’t want to be distracted by that when he still has a job to do.

“Don’t wanna get it on the pillows,” Phil says and Dan laughs.

“Ok. Fair point. I have tissues in my backpack.”

“You do?”

Dan nods, leaning over Phil’s body to reach for his bag. “I was, you know… hoping we’d need them.”

Phil chuckles. “Why is that hot?”

“I’m glad you think it’s hot that I literally never stop thinking about making you come,” Dan says. “Because I kind of don’t.” He hands Phil a wad of tissue.

Phil accepts it gratefully and starts cleaning himself off. “God, there’s so much,” he mutters. He looks up and Dan is cleaning himself off a little too. “Oh my god, did I get it on you?”

“Do you hear me complaining?” Dan asks. He pushes Phil down and starts to help with cleaning him off. “Wow, there really is a lot.”

Phil groans in embarrassment. He gets himself as clean as he can, but his skin still feels a little tacky when they toss the wadded up tissues into the corner of the tent. He figures it’s a small price to pay for the way he feels now. Loose and relaxed and honestly - a little stoned.

Dan lies down next to him. Phil doesn’t see it because his eyes are closed but he can feel Dan’s shoulder pressed against his. He feels on his way to the best nap he’s ever had, turning to the side and reaching for Dan. His fingers curl around Dan’s shoulder and pull him in close, and he feels something warm and hard press against his stomach and suddenly he’s not tired anymore.

“Oh shit,” he says. “Shit.”

“It’s ok,” Dan assures generously. “I know what it’s like after you—”

“You’re still hard,” Phil interrupts, amazed.

“Uh, yeah. I think I will be until I…”

“Oh. Oh.” He feels dazed, like he’s forgotten how to form proper thoughts or react to things at a normal human speed.

“I can take care of it myself,” Dan says.

“Shut up, you better not,” Phil says, finally clearing his head enough to be present in the moment. He presses himself against Dan’s side and reaches down to take Dan in his hand again. He’s not quite as hard as before, but Phil intends to remedy that.

He strokes slowly, with more control than he’d had when he was distracted by his own imminent orgasm. Dan reaches up and cups the back of Phil’s head, pulling his face down to kiss him.

Phil kisses back with enthusiasm. Feeling Dan swell hot in his hand has fully reawakened him and reignited his desperation to make Dan feel good. He pulls away once Dan starts to lick into his mouth and moan.

He rolls over onto his back and says, “Get on top of me.” His voice comes out deep and gravelly and more assertive than anything he’s ever said to Dan before. It surprises even him, and Dan scrambles to climb into his lap.

Phil can feel Dan’s balls on his own soft cock. He’s honestly not sure he’s going to stay soft for long. Instead of wrapping his hand around Dan again he takes time just to look. He still can’t see as much detail as he’d like, but what he can see makes his heart race.

“Do you know how pretty you are?” Phil asks.

“Shut up.” There’s no heat behind Dan’s words.

“Hot, then. Sexy.” He runs his palms up Dan’s thighs and around the back to squeeze his ass. “God. I love this,” he murmurs, the pads of his fingers kneading the softness of Dan’s cheeks.

“You’re an ass man,” Dan laughs.

“I’m a Dan’s ass man,” Phil corrects. “I don’t care about anyone else’s ass.” He has a flash of a mental image then, of Dan laid out underneath him, naked as he is now but with his legs spread open and Phil pushing himself in between.

It takes him by surprise. It’s skipping about ten steps and he’s never really fantasized about that, but apparently he is now. He doesn’t even know if Dan would be into that. And Phil wouldn’t know how to do it anyway, just like he doesn’t know how to do anything else.

Phil’s still squeezing Dan’s ass cheeks and thinking about things he’ll probably never have when Dan reaches one of his hands back to wrap around Phil’s wrist and guide his hand to his cock.

“My balls are turning blue, mate.”

“Shit. Sorry. I was… thinking.” He grips Dan’s dick and squeezes as he strokes.

Dan’s eyes flutter shut and his head tips back slightly. His arms are behind him, bracing his weight against Phil’s shins. “Bout what?” he croaks.

“Um. Just dirty stuff,” Phil says sheepishly.

“Tell me.”

Phil shakes his head even though he knows Dan can’t actually see him. He takes a deep breath. “Just about… things I wanna do.”

“Right now?” Dan asks. He’s humping slightly into Phil’s grip.

“No. Not now. Just someday.”

“You’re a tease, Lester.”

Phil giggles. “M’not.”

“Well I hope you do these things someday.”

Phil feels a twitch in his cock at that. Every time he jerks Dan’s dick it moves Dan’s balls against his own dick and that combined with how lost Dan looks in the pleasure and the mental image of actually feeling Dan from the inside has him threatening to harden again, even though it hasn’t even been ten minutes since he came his fucking brains out all over himself.

“You don’t know that,” Phil croaks. He jerks upwards and rubs his thumb flat over the tip of Dan’s cock, sinking a little into the sticky wetness of the slit.

Dan gasps. “Fucking hell, Phil.”

“Sorry—”

“Shut up. Do it again.”

So he does it again, and it’s so hot and dirty his head swims with it, inhibitions flying out the window again. “I wanna do that with my tongue someday,” Phil whispers.

Dan’s thighs squeeze around Phil’s waist and he groans loudly.

“Can I? Someday?” Phil asks.

“Fuck yes,” Dan rasps. “I want to too.”

“Tell me,” Phil says, starting to jerk harder and faster, ready to take Dan apart and watch him come.

“Wanna suck your cock,” Dan says, digging his nails into Phil’s calves.

“I want you to.”

“I’m gonna come,” Dan grunts. “Don’t stop.”

Phil doesn’t stop. His wrist is starting to burn a little from the angle but nothing short of a meteor hitting their tent and obliterating them could stop him now.

It doesn’t take long anyway. He can feel Dan get harder somehow, and the way his whole body goes tense and sort of strains a bit, and then the orgasm pulsing through the vein right against Phil’s palm.

Then Dan’s coming, and it hits Phil’s chest first in a long stripe of white. There’s more puddling against his skin, and it feels hot and really a lot like Phil’s own come but then not at all because it’s Dan’s, Dan’s coming on him, and Phil’s definitely well past half hard again. The rest does drip down his fingers, just like he fantasized about.

It’s amazing. He feels… hot. Sexy. Wanted. He made someone do that. He made Dan do that. Phil’s still holding Dan’s cock as he starts to soften. He doesn’t want to let go. He just wants to do sexy things to Dan forever.

But then Dan exhales so hard he almost coughs and falls forward. He catches himself on his arms and the movement of his body is enough to make Phil let go. “Fucking hell,” he says, panting. “Fuck. Phil.”

Phil laughs, pleased, and kisses Dan’s temple since it’s what he can reach without moving. “Yeah,” he agrees.

He can still feel Dan against him. He wonders if it’s weird to think that this is a really cool part of sex, how afterwards they’re not trying to come anymore but he still gets to feel Dan all naked and touching him. He even likes how Dan’s cock feels soft against his tummy. It kind of just feels like all the other Dan-skin he can feel but he knows it’s not and that makes him feel… things. Lots of things.

“I made a mess of you,” Dan says apologetically.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry.” Dan pushes himself back up and leans to the side to reach for his bag.

“Don’t be,” Phil says. He’s watching Dan struggle to pull what he assumes is tissues out of a side pocket. “I get it now. It’s not ew. It’s kind of nice.”

Dan finally manages to get out what he’s after, but he doesn’t hand the wad of tissues over like Phil’s expecting. Instead be leans over Phil’s chest and cleans him up himself, gently and carefully until his skin is a little tacky but technically clean.

“I’m gonna need to shower so badly when we get home,” Phil says.

Dan chuckles and lies down next to Phil. “Same.”

“I hope you’ve got a lot more tissues in that bag,” Phil says.

“Why? You planning on making more messes?”

Phil rolls over and gives Dan’s body a squeeze. “I hope so.”

Dan pulls the sleeping bag up over them. “I don’t have much more. I wasn’t anticipating so much… volume.”

“Ugh, ew,” Phil says, but he wraps his arms around Dan’s naked body even tighter.

“We’ll just have to steal some toilet roll from the loos tomorrow,” Dan says. “We’re gonna make lots more messes.”

“Mmm,” Phil hums, hitching a leg over Dan’s. “Can’t wait.”

“Phil. Are you… hard?” He wedges a hand between them and his fingers brush over Phil’s dick.

“Um… yeah. Maybe a little. Sorry. You were just like, on top of me and all and it was so hot.”

“Shut up, you don’t have to apologize,” Dan says like it’s a dirty word. “Do you want me to…?”

Phil thinks about it for a second. It’s not a bad idea really. He’d be able to last longer this time at least. He’s never come twice in a span that short but he’s kind of curious what it would be like, but at the same time he still kind of has that very inconvenient urge to cry and cuddle and maybe whisper sweet nothings to each other against their pillows.

Plus he’s just… tired. He’s really really tired and not sure he has the energy to withstand those kind of sensations again. He shakes his head. “It’ll go away.”

“D’you wanna get dressed and go for a walk?” Dan asks. “Try to find some food?”

“Definitely not,” Phil says with authority. “We have snacks right?”

“We do, d’you want some? Are you hungry?”

Phil kind of hates that his answer to that is yes, but it’s been a long time now since the last time they ate and they’ve both been working hard, so to speak.

Dan breaks free of the grip of Phil’s arms and unzips his backpack completely. While he’s bent over Phil reaches out and cups one of Dan’s bare ass cheeks, because he’s drunk on endorphins and exhausted from a long day and his inhibitions are not what they usually are. And Dan’s got a nice ass and Phil doesn’t have to pretend not to notice that anymore. Not when it’s just the two of them.

Dan doesn’t even seem surprised. He turns around a minute later grinning and holding a packet of crisps which he tosses into Phil’s lap. “Will you be able to control yourself when we’re out in public?” Dan asks.

“Sorry, I’ve just never actually seen it without clothes covering it.”

“Well, I’m glad you like it, even if you are kind of blind to the fact that it’s flat as hell.”

Phil reaches out and pulls Dan on top of him. Dan squeals and Phil laughs, putting a hand on each cheek and squeezing. “This isn’t flat,” he says triumphantly.

“You crushed your crisps you dummy,” Dan says.

“Worth it.”

Dan leans down and plants a kiss right on Phil’s mouth. “You’re stupid. And you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?” Phil asks, already getting turned on again with his hands on Dan’s bum and their lips pressing together.

“Are you gonna be groping me out in public now?”

Phil sighs. “No. But I’ll be thinking about it.”

Dan doesn’t say anything, just lets his cheek drop down to rest against Phil’s chest. Phil reaches between them to pull out the crumpled bag of crisps and toss it aside. He couldn’t care less about eating anymore, he just wants this. He just wants Dan’s body pressed against his, even when they’re both too spent for it to be anything more than a cuddle.

Cuddling is good. Phil fucking loves the cuddling, maybe just as much as the other stuff. He loves feeling the warmth of Dan’s skin and slowly running his fingers up and down Dan’s back and just listening to him breathe.

Dan shifts to the side a bit so he’s not lying fully on top of Phil but his head remains on Phil’s chest, tucked in under Phil’s chin.

“Do you ever feel like…” Dan traces a finger down Phil’s chest, over his nipple and down to grip Phil around his waist. “Like this is just kind of insane?”

“What, like, being naked in a tent?” Phil asks.

Dan chuckles. “I guess. I kind of mean like, all of it.”

“Like, you and me, you mean?” Their voices have gone soft and quiet and Phil tries to tell himself that everything is fine.

“Yeah.”

“Are you… having doubts?” Phil whispers.

“No, Phil. God. Can’t you see I’m mad about you? I don’t mean it like that. It just feels so… like sometimes it feels unreal.”

“Yeah. It is. Especially right now,” Phil agrees. He thinks he understands.

“It’s like, it just feels so easy? Like in some ways it’s hard but mostly like, with stuff like this—” He gives Phil a squeeze. “It just feels like I don’t even have to try.”

“Yeah,” Phil murmurs, tilting his face down to kiss the top of Dan’s head.

“It didn’t feel like that with— well, yeah. With anyone else.”

“You can talk about her,” Phil says, even despite the tightness in his chest at picturing Dan lying like this with her. It was supposed to be her here with him after all. “I want you to talk about things you’re thinking about, if it’s what you want.”

“I reckon I shouldn’t be comparing you to her. That’s not fair. But sometimes I can’t help it. It just feels so different with you.” He pauses for a moment and Phil feels his body stiffen a little. “I mean, not that we’re— I’m not saying you’re my—”

That one stings. Phil doesn’t know what they are either and he doesn’t know that he’s even ready to put a name to it but just knowing Dan doesn’t want Phil equated on the same level with his ex-girlfriend feels kind of twisty and awful.

But he says, “I know, Dan. It’s fine,” because that’s the kind thing to do. They’re both confused about a lot of things but it seems they’re not confused about the happiness they make each other feel.

Surely that should be enough.

“Fuck,” Dan mutters. “I was trying to tell you I’m happy and I’m ballsing it up.”

“You’re not,” Phil promises. “And I’m happy too.”

“Did you mean what you said before?” Dan asks. It feels to Phil like he’s trying to change the subject. Maybe that’s for the better anyway.

“Yes,” he replies without thinking. And then, after a moment, “About what?”

“About…. doing stuff. With your tongue?” His voice pitches up at the end, nervous and embarrassed.

“Oh,” Phil says, feeling nervous and embarrassed as well. “Um. Would that be bad?”

Dan snorts. “No. Of course not. Is there a bloke alive who would say no to… that?”

Phil feels all twisty inside again, still not in a good way. All he can think of is a girl’s mouth on Dan’s cock and he really, really hates it. “I wouldn’t know,” he mutters, and his tone comes out much more bitter than he’d intended.

“Oh. Right,” Dan says quietly. “Sorry.”

Phil doesn’t say anything. He wants to go back to the way he felt five minutes ago, just completely blissed out like nothing bad could ever touch him again.

“Phil?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry,” Dan whispers.

“It’s fine.” He still doesn’t sound like it’s fine.

“No, it’s not,” Dan argues. He climbs up on top of Phil and pulls the sleeping bag over his shoulders like a cape before leaning down and kissing him.

Phil kisses back. Of course he does. He kisses back with everything he has, opening his mouth and deepening the meeting of their lips and the slide of their tongues. It’s easier when it’s like this, just the overwhelming attraction and the instinct and none of the talking or thinking. Kissing they can do. Kissing is easy.

But he can’t stop with the thinking now, even as the kissing continues, even as they’re naked and Phil can feel everything, feel Dan’s body responding along with his own, his hormones trying desperately to do what they normally do and override the thinking.

But they can’t. He’s getting hard against Dan’s thigh but he’s also thinking, and worrying and he can’t shake the feeling that things are too unsettled now. Too uncertain.

He pulls away. “Dan?”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“We’re together, right?” Phil blurts. He can’t survive another second not knowing.

Dan smiles and leans in for another kiss and pulls back and he’s still smiling. “Yeah. Yeah, we are.”

Phil pushes up to meet Dan’s mouth. The kiss feels easier this time - not that it was hard before, but he feels like he’s trying to kiss out the burst of happiness in his chest at hearing Dan say that.

He’s never had… well, he’s never had an anything before, and now he’s got a Dan.

-

Dan can feel the difference. Phil is smiling against the kiss and it makes it kind of more teeth than lips but he doesn’t even care. He kisses back and cups Phil’s face. He wishes he didn’t ever have to say anything that makes Phil feel bad, but he doesn’t want to lie to Phil either.

And he hopes that Phil can focus on the fact that he’s who Dan is with now. Dan’s surprised Phil even had to ask, really - but he supposes the lines are a bit more unclear on this side of it. When a boy likes a girl and a girl likes a boy back, they’re just… going out. That’s how it is.

But two boys liking each other feels like swimming upstream, like grasping at clues and signals and just blindly hoping you’re on the same page but being so afraid you’re wrong that you don’t even want to say it out loud and lose what you do already have.

They’re on the same page, though. They might still be scared but they both know what they want, and that’s to be together.

It’s certainly all Dan wants. Just to be in this tent with Phil right now, with Phil’s mouth and hands on his body, and Phil all pressed up underneath him.

Phils hands move down his body again, stroking over the planes of his back. He palms Dan’s ass in an almost-innocent way, and it makes Dan think less innocent things, like about Phil’s fingers pushing more into the crack and maybe even pressing inside.

His mind is all racing now full of thoughts of Phil and his long pretty fingers and Dan’s never even done that before. And yeah maybe he’s seen it - in the kind of porn he never really wanted to admit to watching, or told himself it was just weird curiosity - but he never really thought about having it done to himself.

But he knows how two guys do it. And he knows it must feel good. The idea of Phil touching him anywhere sounds hot, and that’s like… intimate.

Intimate in a scary way. It feels more than just touching someone else’s body part. It feels like so much he can’t quite wrap his brain around it, so he decides to push it out of his mind for now and just focus on what isn’t scary.

Kissing Phil. Touching Phil. Making Phil come. He pushes his hips down and feel’s Phil, hard against him.

“We’re together,” Phil whispers, and Dan realizes Phil’s mind is still on that.

It’s kind of surprising while Dan’s being the utter perv who has already moved on to thinking about Phil’s finger up his ass and how nice Phil’s cock feels.

“We are,” Dan agrees, sucking briefly on Phil’s lower lip then licking just inside it, against that weird bit of skin that feels thin and tastes almost electric clear.

He starts to kiss down Phil’s face again, down over his jaw and to his throat. Phil doesn’t seem to be nearly as sensitive there as Dan is. Dan’s not surprised, apparently not that many people are. But Phil still likes it, judging by the happy noise he makes. It’s a low sound that Dan can feel against his lips.

He’s down to Phil’s collarbones, kissing wet and slow and without a plan. Phil’s hips push up every once in a while and they’re right back to where they were before, naked and hard and wanting for each other, as if their orgasms had never even happened. Phil’s hands are still on Dan’s ass. Dan’s still thinking about what it would feel like if they were inside instead.

He’s also thinking about what he’d said earlier, about using his mouth to get Phil off. He’s thinking he’d really like to do that and he’s thinking he shouldn’t be so scared given how many times he’s had that done to himself and how many times he’s watched it done to others on the screen of his laptop.

It still feels like a lot. It still feels maybe like too much. He grinds down when Phil pushes up and their cocks rub together and it hurts a little but it also sends a shock of pleasure surging through every nerve in his body. This is enough for now. Moving against each other and using their hands is more than enough and it doesn’t feel scary anymore.

He kisses down to Phil’s left nipple. He licks over it and then traces the tip of his tongue around in little circles, enjoying the way it makes Phil squirm. Phil may not have an overly sensitive neck but the attention to this particular body part definitely does something for him.

Phil grabs Dan’s face and pulls it back up to his.

“Sorry,” Dan says. “Too much?”

Phil nods. “In a good way though. I dunno how you do that. It always feels like a little too much.”

Dan laughs and kisses him. It sounds like nonsense but he understands exactly what Phil means. Everything feels turned up to eleven when Phil touches him.

Just then there’s laughter outside the tent and they both freeze. It’s loud and it’s close.

“Having fun in there?” someone crows. They sound absolutely hammered and Dan’s heart stops for a moment thinking someone might actually try to come inside. He’s still on top of Phil and they’re both naked as the day they were born and though it’s been about the best night of his life he’s still not ready to be exposed to the outside world like that.

“Yeah we are,” Phil calls out. “So bugger off and leave us to it.”

Dan’s eyes feel like they could pop right out of his head. He looks down at Phil, his lovely, usually kind of socially anxious Phil and just stares in disbelief.

Phil shrugs.

“I like you so much, Phil,” Dan whispers, because he feels like they’re being eavesdropped on now, even though he can hear the laughter getting farther away.

He wants to forget about all that, so he leans down to kiss him and Phil kisses back for a moment, then grips Dan by the waist and flips him over so he’s laid flat against the cushions. Phil hovers over him and their legs are all tangled up in the sleeping bag and Phil’s hands are on his body, on one part in particular, gripping and squeezing and stroking in a way so much more confident than before it makes Dan’s head spin.

“We’re together,” Phil breathes in Dan’s ear.

They’re the sexiest words Dan’s ever heard.

Chapter Text

They finally get around to eating their crisps after the second go round. Phil’s well starving now, his stomach making rather horrible noises, not fit at all for how utterly euphoric he feels lying next to Dan in nothing but a pair of socks. They’ve pulled the sleeping bag up over their bodies properly this time, but when he looks he can still see Dan’s bare shoulders and he likes it so much. It makes him feel grown up or something.

“Don’t get crumbs,” Dan mumbles as he shoves more crisps into his mouth. “We still have to sleep here. Twice.”

“You don’t get crumbs,” Phil retorts. “Besides, we’ve got worse than that on our blankets at this point.”

“Whose fault is that?”

Phil smiles. “Yours. Definitely yours.”

Dan finishes his snack up in four bites of his giant mouth and tucks the empty packet into his backpack. “If this was a film we’d be smoking cigarettes instead of eating crap,” he says as he sits back against the three cushions he’s propped up.

“My mum would murder me,” Phil says.

“Would she approve of you wanking me off, then? Snogging guys is ok but smoking is worthy of homicide?”

Phil hates the twist in his gut he feels thinking of what his mum would think if she knew what he and Dan were getting up to in this tent but he forces those bad feelings aside. Tonight is not a night for bad feelings.

“Nothing is more worthy of homicide to her than smoking. I reckon I’d get in less trouble for killing Martyn.”

“Guess you better stick with crisps and not take up smoking then,” Dan says, resting his head against Phil’s arm. Phil likes how it seems like Dan just wants to be close. Right now being close to Dan feels like something Phil doesn’t just want but something he needs, deep inside of him.

Phil wads up his crisps bag and tosses it to the corner in a much less orderly fashion than Dan had. He wipes his greasy fingers on the top of the sleeping bag and then yawns massively. “What time is it?”

“Can’t reach my phone,” Dan says. “You get it.”

Phil grabs the phone from where it somehow ended up to the side of him opposite the one Dan is on.

There are three notifications on the screen, missed calls from names Phil recognizes as people they met earlier. “Your friends rang,” Phil says, passing it over to Dan. He tries not to let the weirdness he feels into his voice.

“Don’t care,” Dan says. Phil watches him clear all the notifications. “I’ll tell them I was drunk or something. They won’t care. I could probably tell them I did end up hanging out with them and they wouldn’t remember the difference come tomorrow morning.”

“Dan,” Phil says, laughing but not admonishing. He likes the idea of Dan not wanting to hang out with people who aren’t him, even though he understands that today is kind of a drastic situation.

“After midnight,” Dan says, putting the phone back down. “Are you sleepy?”

“Yeah,” Phil admits. “I don’t want to be.”

“It’s okay.” Dan rubs his knuckles up and down Phil’s hip. “I’ll be here in the morning.”

Phil’s eyes half shut and he feels Dan’s mouth on his. This is a thing now, goodnight kisses with someone who makes him feel so nice. “Good,” he says, not even caring how mushy it sounds.

He can’t pinpoint the moment when sleep creeps up on him but he does know when he wakes up to the sound of drunken cackling outside the tent that it must be many hours later. Dan’s fast asleep draped half over him and phil can feel the the beginnings of his bladder starting to make itself known but he can tell he’ll be able to hold off at least a couple more hours so he tunes the world back out and goes to sleep again.

The second time he wakes up it’s early morning; he can tell just by the light in the tent and the hush around him. The only noises are birds chirping and Dan breathing right next to him. They’re still over each other and Phil really wishes he didn’t need the toilet so badly because they’re also still naked and Dan looks beautiful in the softness of the muted, cloud covered sun that filters in through the tent. He looks kissable and touchable and Phil wishes he could kiss and touch and pick right up where they left off last night.

But he does need the toilet. Bad. So bad that the idea of getting up and finding his clothes feels like a monumentally difficult task. He sits up and yawns and takes note of the fact that he really needs to brush his teeth too.

Oh fuck, and take out his contacts. His eyes burn like they’ve been maced.

Dan stirs then, stretching his arms over his head and yawning a loud drawn out groan. He reaches out for Phil and rubs his back. “What’re you doing?” he croaks.

“I need a wee.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Do you not?” Phil asks.

Dan seems to think about it for a moment. “Mm, yeah. I guess I do. But that means we’ve got to put clothes on.”

“Yes,” Phil agrees. “That’s probably for the best.”

“And leave our pillow tent,” Dan continues.

“Mhm. I reckon it’s better if we don’t wee the bed.”

“But you’re naked.” Dan’s hand moves around from Phil’s back to his stomach and starts to slide down.

Phil giggles. “I wouldn’t. I’m not kidding about needing the toilet.”

“Fine,” Dan grumbles. “But if I’m leaving this tent we have to find coffee. And breakfast.”

“You think I would argue that?” Phil asks.

Dan ignores him. “And then we have to come back here. And get naked again.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Now pass me my pants.”

It takes a while as they’re two rather large humans in a very small very overfull tent, but eventually they manage to find two sets of pajama pants and two hoodies. They slip on their shoes and stumble out of the tent to dewy grass and a thick layer of fog hovering over the sea of tents around them.

It’s beautiful, and a sight Phil’s not used to seeing as he’s rarely ever up before ten am if he doesn’t need to be.

“Jesus, what time is it?” Dan asks.

Phil laughs and shushes him. “Early. Everyone’s still asleep.”

“Ok, fuck breakfast,” Dan whispers. “We’re coming right back and going the fuck back to sleep. Nothing’s gonna be open yet anyway.”

Phil reaches up and tugs on one of the toggles of Dan’s hoodie. “Not arguing with that either.”

It really is a ghost town as they make their way to the toilets, so much so that Phil doesn’t think anything of reaching out and lacing his fingers between Dan’s. It’s going to suck when school starts and he absolutely can’t do things like this anymore. The thought of being surrounded by people who’ll say the kinds of things Dan’s mates were saying yesterday jolts something dark and unpleasant through him and every cell in his brain screams to repress it.

So he does. He’s going to enjoy this weekend while he can. He’s going to live every moment of this festival with Dan and revel in the feeling of freedom he has to be himself and not feel bad about it.

His shoes are damp and toes cold by the time they finally make it to the toilets. He has his much needed wee and then he and Dan brush their teeth next to each other. He takes out his contacts and vows to thank his mum for insisting he bring his glasses along.

“How did I not know you wear glasses?” Dan seems almost offended by the revelation.

Phil shrugs. “I kind of hate them. They make me look—”

“Hot.”

Phil snorts and waves his hand in the air like the thought is utterly ridiculous.

“I mean you always look hot, but… yeah. I fancy the glasses on you quite a lot.”

“Don’t get used to it,” Phil mumbles. He wonders if it’ll ever feel less fluttery and heart pound-y to hear such earnest compliments from someone he finds so utterly intoxicating. “I just don’t want my eyeballs to fall out. I’m not supposed to sleep with my contacts in.”

“I guess it’s like me and my curly hair, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Phil says. “Except your curly hair actually looks good. In fact the ends are starting to look a little—”

“I know I know, don’t remind me. I should’ve brought my straighteners,” he interrupts.

“Well I’m glad you didn’t. And I kind of hope it rains today,” Phil says cheekily.

“Phil! Don’t even say that! Do you know how shit it is to sleep in a tent when it’s raining?”

“No,” Phil says, being honest. “But I’ll take your word for it.”

He gives himself one more glance in the mirror. His own reflection seems - too normal, in a way. Phil doesn’t feel like he did yesterday. Maybe it’s a weird buzz that will fade… but he feels like he’s stepped into a different world.

And it isn’t the sex, or the sexy touching. That’s nice too but it’s the part where he got to go to sleep next to Dan and wake up next to Dan and share things with Dan. That’s the part that feels like it’s waking something up inside of him that’s been asleep for as long as he can remember.

“Come on,” Dan says, standing behind Phil and resting his head on Phil’s shoulder. “Stop staring at yourself. You’re pretty, I promise.”

He sneaks a kiss in right to the curve of Phil’s shoulder and Phil laughs, leaning back into the touch before they quickly step apart.

Halfway back to the tent they realize they were wrong, there are some signs of life in the festival atmosphere. They buy two cups of coffee and two breakfast pastries and eat as they walk.

They’re not in a hurry. They walk around leisurely, eating and letting their free hands brush between them.

If Phil were braver, he’d hold Dan’s hand. But he doesn’t even know if Dan is that brave so he settles with the ticklish, delightful grazes that happen now and then and just sharing silence. Once they’re down to crumbs against their fingertips and their bellies are full with something that isn’t a nutritionally lacking snack, they seem to decide without needing to discuss it to turn back and head in the direction of their little pocket of space.

Soggy socks and shoes get shoved into a corner, and Phil even takes the initiative and chucks off his pajama bottoms without any further comment about it.

It feels nice to sink back down onto their cushion pile. It’s still far earlier than he’d normally wake up any other day. Dan joins him after a moment, yawning. “I really wanna kiss you,” Dan mumbles. “But I really wanna go back to sleep too.”

Phil grabs Dan’s arm and pulls it over him, tugging Dan in close. “Both,” he says, leaning in to speak right against Dan’s mouth. ”Do both.”

Their kisses now are lazy and slow. Phil already feels half asleep and drunk on the minty taste of Dan’s mouth but he still manages to work Dan’s pajama bottoms off. His hands cup Dan’s ass like they’ve got a mind of their own, but this time Dan does does the same.

It’s the first time Dan’s touched him there and it surprises him just how intimate it feels. Dan’s fingers are cold and long as they give his cheeks a gentle squeeze. It’s nice. Really really nice, and Phil has a moment of pure joy thinking of all the firsts they still have left with each other.

“Now this is a nice ass,” Dan murmurs.

“Stop,” Phil chuckles.

“It is,” Dan in insists. “It’s like a bubble.”

Phil laughs again and gives Dan’s a gentle slap.

“Oooh,” Dan says. “Getting kinky are we?”

“Is that kinky?” Phil asks in all seriousness.

“No. I’m just being an idiot.”

“Do you want kinky? Is that like— is that something you want?”

“No, Phil, christ. I was just making a stupid joke.”

It’s definitely Phil who’s feeling stupid. “Well I dunno. How am I supposed to know? I don’t know anything about anything.” He’s not trying to sound petulant but that’s definitely how he’s coming across regardless.

“What, like… kinks?” Dan asks. “I don’t either, really. Like, I watch weird porn sometimes but I’m not like, an expert.”

Phil shakes his head. “That’s not what I mean.” He’s trying to roll onto his back and extricate himself from Dan’s grip but Dan won’t let him.

“Well tell me what you mean, please.”

“I mean all of it. All this like, sexy stuff,” Phil mutters. Now he’s sure he’s embarrassing himself.

Dan smiles. Phil can’t tell if it’s a mocking smile or not, but he’s going to choose to believe that it’s not. Dan never mocks him in a cruel way.

“You’re doing fine,” Dan says gently. “You’re doing really well. You have nothing to worry about.”

“Well…” Phil sighs. “I do anyway.”

“Because you think I’m secretly into like, being whipped or tied up or something?” Dan asks.

“Because… you’ve had sex,” Phil whispers. “And I haven’t. I hadn’t even really ever kissed anyone before you.”

“I feel like we’ve talked about this before,” Dan says, leaning in and kissing him. “And I told you it’s ok.”

Phil shrugs. He feels stupid for even bringing it up. Sometimes it feels so easy with Dan, like he can just coast off of the euphoric feeling of them being together and knowing for sure that it's not all in his head. And then sometimes, suddenly, it feels impossible. It feels like he’s a kid playing dress up and things are going to fall apart when Dan realizes he has no idea how to do any of this. When Dan decides he’d rather not have to hang around while Phil learns to ride the bike with training wheels with every new step they take.

“Are we moving too fast?” Dan asks quietly. “Are you— you don’t feel pressured, do you?”

This time Dan lets Phil roll away. He pushes his glasses up onto his head and digs the heels of his palms harshly into his eyes. He can feel a stress headache waiting in the wings and he curses himself once again for sleeping all night with his bloody contacts poisoning his retinas.

“Fuck, Phil. Say something before I have a fucking heart attack please. I thought you were into this.”

“I am,” Phil mumbles.

“You don’t actually think I expect you to know things, do you?” Dan asks.

“I feel like I’ll surprise you with all the things I don’t know,” Phil whispers.

“I don’t know anything about doing this with guys,” Dan says, his own voice hushed now too. “I don’t know any more than you do.”

Phil knows Dan thinks that makes sense, but to him it doesn’t. To him it still feels like a world of difference.

“We don’t have to… do stuff,” Dan says. “If it makes you feel bad. I don’t want you to feel bad. I fucking hate that being with me makes you feel—”

“It doesn’t. It doesn’t feel bad,” Phil says. “Just feels… scary. Sometimes.”

“Scary is bad.”

“Not always,” Phil argues. “Sometimes it’s exciting.”

“What can I do?” Dan asks. Pleads, really.

“I don’t know,” Phil admits. “It’s just weird. I feel… weird.”

“Weird sounds bad,” Dan says.

He sounds distressed - and Phil does hate that. He hates making Dan feel bad.

“I just wish I knew what I was doing,” Phil says. “I wish I knew that I was - good enough.”

“Did I give you any indication that last night wasn’t good?” Dan asks. “Because if I did, please fucking tell me-”

“No.” Phil interrupts him. “You didn’t. It’s just like… I know there’s someone else who… has done that. To you. Lots of times. And better.”

“How do you know it’s better?” Dan asks. “It’s not. Like - I don’t know if this will really make sense, but it’s not like one thing is better than the other. You’re… different. It feels different. That’s like saying cake is better than ice cream.”

“Am I the cake or the ice cream?” Phil asks in a small voice. “I want to be the cake.”

Dan laughs, but like he’s not sure if he should be laughing. “You’re better than both, okay. Please… believe me?”

That headache still threatens Phil right at his temples. He rubs his whole face with both hands, and decides that if there’s anyone he’s going to trust, it’ll be Dan. He’s not so great at the whole bravado game but he’s not willing to lose what he’d lose by letting insecurity win.

“I want to touch you,” Phil says. “Can I touch you?”

Dan tosses back the sleeping bag. He’s stark naked, all long legs and pale skin and soft cock nestled in brown curls. “You can touch me.”

 

Phil takes him in hand. He’s not really touched Dan soft, and it feels strange and almost… innocent in his hands. Not really; there’s not actually much innocent about this. But there’s something vulnerable about it.

He doesn’t stay soft for long. He’s barely in Phil’s palm thirty seconds before Phil can see him starting to harden. He’s done this with himself before, just seen how long it would take without even touching himself, but it’s totally different watching Dan. He sees the skin go pinker at the same rate the blush crawls down Dan’s neck and chest, and he loves it.

Phil turns onto his side to really be able to see what he’s doing. He tugs a bit, the still looser skin going with his touch, and then draws the tip of a finger over the foreskin and dips just inside. Dan sucks in a breath but he doesn’t say anything, he just lets Phil keep exploring.

So that’s what Phil does. He isn’t trying to make Dan come right now, like he had been the night before. He’s just touching, and learning Dan with his fingers, seeing what Dan responds to. He even lifts Dan’s balls just to hold them in his hand and feel the weight of them. It’s weird how what Dan has is exactly what Phil has but everything feels hotter because it’s Dan.

He traces his fingers back up the shaft. “What do you like best?” Phil asks.

He watches Dan swallow, and then shrug. “I don’t know,” he says. “You touching me feels different than anything I’ve felt before. It’s like… I’m into everything. Just looking at you…”

Dan’s eyes linger long and hot on where Phil is touching him, and Phil can feel the answering twitch against his fingers. It’s exhilarating; like proof Dan means it.

Phil just won’t think about how he probably meant it with someone else too, before Phil. That hurts and it won’t stop hurting but there’s no one else with their hands on Dan right now. Something settles in Phil’s heart at the thought of that, and he hates how weird and possessive it makes him but he just feels something when he looks at Dan that he’s never felt about any other person before.

Phil thinks about kissing Dan, but he doesn’t - not yet. He moves his hand over Dan, up and down, slow building speed and confidence. Dan isn’t saying much, like he just wants to let Phil do what Phil wants to do, and Phil appreciates it.

He cups Dan’s balls again and this time they’re drawn up closer to his body. Phil feels a surge of pride at how he’s doing that to Dan, he’s making Dan feel that way.

He thinks of what he likes himself, really thinks about it this time and not in a scared way, and then he slides two fingers down - not quite to Dan’s ass but almost there, and then he rubs.

Dan’s head thrashes to the side and he hisses, “Fuck.”

“Bad?” Phil asks.

Dan shakes his head. “Just wasn’t expecting it. That’s - new. ”

“Really?” Phil grins, proud. He strokes again, one long up and down and back up, squeezing around the tip. He can feel stickiness against his fingers, and somehow everything just seems in sharper clarity than it was the night before.

Dan nods. Phil uses his other hand down there, pressing and rubbing in circular motions while he wanks Dan without quickening his unhurried strokes. He wants to do this slowly. He wants to make Dan feel everything. He doesn’t want help, he wants to learn it.

The first time he thinks Dan might be getting close he stops altogether and just starts to touch Dan other places, one hand staying on Dan’s thigh while the other scratches fingers through Dan’s pubic hair and up his stomach. He traces lines and circles and shapes on Dan’s skin, teasing over his nipples and into the dip of his collarbones and then meandering back down.

“You’re killing me,” Dan croaks.

“Shut up.” Phil squeezes Dan’s cock when he says it so Dan knows it’s not really something Phil is cross over. He likes how much Dan is being affected right now. Dan’s so hard - maybe he was this hard last night and Phil was just too overwhelmed to take it in. But he’s looking his fill now, and he can’t believe how much he likes it.

(Part of him still doesn’t know what it means. He can’t imagine looking at a girl and feeling like this about her body, but he can’t really imagine looking at a boy besides Dan, either. Maybe he’d like it just as much - or maybe he wouldn’t. But it doesn’t matter, he tells himself, chasing the invasive thoughts away with force. It doesn’t matter because he does feel this way about Dan and Dan’s the one he gets to do this with.)

He can hear people outside of the tent starting to stir. It’s not so early anymore; still decidedly morning but a more reasonable hour. Phil’s not sure if they’ll end up going to sleep after this or not, but time could stand still right now and he wouldn’t complain.

Dan moves, bending his legs. He looks like he’s trying to stay relaxed, and failing at it. Phil looks at Dan’s leaking cock, the tip pink and shiny, and he doesn’t mind at all. He moves to stroking with two fingers, up and down the shaft and then underneath, knuckles brushing Dan’s pelvis as he tries to keep the touch feather light. He’s just feeling still - not as pointed as teasing, not trying to make Dan suffer, just… playing.

He’s still playing with he uses his full fist again, moving the hand with Dan’s cock in it back and forth while the other traces around the head. Dan laughs, a quiet chuckle, and Phil says, “What?”

“You’re moving it like a joystick,” Dan says.

“Pac-Man,” Phil says, grinning and moving it around.

“Thought I was the one getting your cherry, not the other way around,” Dan shoots back immediately.

“Dan!” Phil laughs, so shocked he drops Dan’s dick. “Shut up!”

“Sorry,” Dan says, not sounding sorry at all. “Touch me some more, please.”

“Like this?” Phil asks, drawing a single fingertip down the shaft.

Dan whines, he actually whines. “More.”

Phil uses one hand, but just holds it again, not moving it. “Like this?”

Dan thrusts his hips up, like he’s trying to fuck into Phil’s grip but it’s too loose. “Oh my god,” Dan says, whining deeper.

Phil finally starts to wank Dan with his whole hand, and then uses his free hand again just to hold Dan’s balls and squeeze them a little. He’s not sure if it’s sexy or ridiculous, if it feels good to Dan or doesn’t make any difference at all, but he likes the feel of this vulnerable part of Dan in his grasp. He likes how hot and thin the skin feels and how it’s like… Dan, it’s all Dan.

“Feels good?” Phil asks, because he wants to hear Dan say it.

“Phil.” Dan’s eyes pop open. “You’re fucking killing me.”

“But in a good way?”

“You are fucking evil, Lester.” Dan pouts - or as much as he can because his entire face screws up into a totally different expression when Phil sneaks a finger back down under his balls and presses. “Evil genius.”

“That’s me,” Phil says, and he really just loves this a lot. He looks down at Dan’s dick again and there’s a wild impulse that won’t leave his brain now. He looks Dan right in the eye and says, “Hey.”

As soon as Dan is looking at him Phil leans down and quickly kisses Dan’s dick - just once, just under the head. It’s almost chaste, a quick press of his lips and then they’re gone, but Dan stares at him with wide-eyed shock and then grunts, “Phil, I’m gonna-”

Phil uses both hands at the end, one around the head like he’d do to himself to spare a mess and the other stroking tight and fast. He knows Dan is about to come and he wants to make it as fucking amazing as he can, he wants to be the fucking handjob master.

Feeling the come hit his palm, catching that warmth in the cup of his hand, is intoxicating too. It’s weird how much of sex should feel gross, or might have sounded gross to Phil, but when it’s happening between the two of them in the moment just blows his mind with how hot it is.

Dan whines out Phil’s name again and Phil strokes him through it, remembering the night before and not letting go until Dan makes a broken sound.

-

Dan could definitely go back to sleep. Satisfaction thrums through his entire body and his pounding heart is slowing finally.

He opens his eyes and looks at Phil and feels bursting with fondness.

“My hand is full,” Phil blurts out.. “Of… stuff.”

“Stuff.” Dan repeats, grinning.

“Shut up,” Phil says. “It’s - jizz. Spunk. Semen-”

Phil seems like he has every intention of continuing.

“I got it,” Dan laughs even harder. “Stuff.”

He forces some life into his lazy bones and sits up, reaches over and hauls a bag into his lap. It’s Phil’s but he figures Phil will have something they can clean up with too.

His fingers close around something that definitely isn’t tissues. It’s a hard bottle and it’s pure nosiness that leads him to look at it.

Lube. Phil brought… lube.

He looks at Phil, who is still holding a cupped palm full of Dan’s jizz, and then stuffs the lube back into the bag and comes up with the t-shirt Phil had been wearing the night before instead, along with the baby wipes. “We’ll have to get more napkins when we go out for lunch,” Dan says. “We kind of um… went through them all last night.”

Phil accepts the shirt with a crinkled nose of distaste. He wipes it against his palm and says, “Come shirt. Ew.”

“How dare you,” Dan protests, lying back down against the cushions. He feels amazing, every muscle in his body warm and loose, but his mind is racing. Why did Phil bring lube? What had he been planning? What could he still be planning? Is Dan ready for… that?

Phil interrupts his spiraling by lying down next to him and draping himself over Dan’s chest. “You’re not ew. And your stuff’s not ew. I love your stuff.”

“Shut up,” Dan laughs, wrapping his arms around Phil’s back. “That was amazing by the way.”

“Was it?” Phil asks. It doesn’t even sound like false modesty.

“Um, yes Phil. It was. So I’m going to need you to stop doubting stuff, yeah?”

“I’ll try,” Phil says, laying his cheek on Dan’s chest. It’s not convincing enough for Dan to leave it alone yet.

“No one’s ever touched me… there,” Dan says. “How did you, like… know to do that?” He sounds like a right wanker but it had never even crossed his mind to try touching anything below his balls and this new knowledge is kind of blowing his mind.

Phil shrugs. “I guess I just tried it once and liked it. Don’t even remember, if I’m honest.”

“Huh,” Dan murmurs. He’s got another question on the tip of his tongue now, but he feels like this one might actually be too much.

“So you liked it?” Phil asks quietly.

“Shut up,” Dan says. “You know I did. It was amazing. It feels so… different.”

“Yeah.”

Dan goes quiet, chewing on his lip and trying to decide if he wants to keep going down this particular line of questioning.

“Phil?” Apparently he does.

“Mm.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Phil giggles. “I think that’d be alright.”

“Have you ever… gone lower?”

Phil lifts up his head and looks at Dan, frowning. “Like… the hole?”

“Yeah,” Dan croaks.

“Have you?”

Dan shakes his head.

“I kind of did, once. I tried. It just kinda hurt and felt weird and I got scared,” Phil says.

“Oh.”

They’re both quiet. It feels a little tense now. Dan wants to ask about the lube, but he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t know how to do it without making it sound accusatory.

Phil breaks the silence first. “Did you… were you thinking you want me to… do that? Like, to you?”

“Um…” Technically he kind of does. He’s curious about it anyway, especially now knowing the skin between is so sensitive and electric when Phil presses the pads of his fingers there.

But it’s not really what he’s asking for right now. “Is that what you want?” he asks. It’s a cop out, but he’s not feeling particularly brave in this moment.

“I’d do anything you wanted,” Phil says with so much sincerity it hurts Dan’s heart a little. Dan takes Phil’s face in his hands and leans down and kisses him.

“Is that a yes?” Phil asks, smiling as their lips come apart.

Dan groans, knowing he just has to stop being a coward and say the things he wants to say. “Ok, I have to say something and you’re not allowed to be cross.”

Phil’s face falls. “Ok…”

“I found lube in your bag,” Dan blurts. “When I was trying to find something for the stuff.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

Phil just shakes his head a little. His cheeks are pink. He’s not saying anything.

“So I guess I was just wondering if there was like, something you wanted to do. Together. With it.” Fuck he’s awkward. Why does he have to be so bloody awkward about it?

“Um. I don’t— I dunno. I didn’t really have anything in mind, I just. Saw it in Tesco and kind of. Bought it. Spur of the moment impulse kind of thing,” Phil mumbles.

“Oh,” Dan says. “Ok. That’s cool. Sorry, I didn’t mean to— like, you don’t have to feel weird. Sorry. I know I’m being weird about it but it’s just…” He scrubs his hand down over his face. “Fuck.”

“I hate that you thought I would like, expect—”

“I didn’t,” Dan interjects. “I promise, I didn’t. I was just wondering if you wanted something and were too scared to ask.”

“I told you,” Phil says quietly. “This is all so new to me. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing or talking about. I don’t know how anything works. I wouldn’t even know what to ask for.”

“You can ask for anything,” Dan says softly, and he means it. “I don’t know anything either.”

“About guys,” Phil clarifies for him.

“Right.”

“But you’ve probably watched it some, right?” Phil asks.

“What, like… porn?”

Phil nods.

“Uh… yeah,” Dan admits. “Have you not?”

Phil shakes his head. “Not with just guys. I don’t even watch straight porn that much.”

“Really?”

Phil shakes his head. “Do you?”

“Um. No comment,” Dan says sheepishly.

“It’s fine,” Phil says softly. “I’m not judging you. All I’m trying to say is I reckon you have a better understanding of two guys together than I do.”

“Porn isn’t real, though,” Dan says. “Not really.”

Phil nods. “That’s probably why I don’t like it that much.”

“I haven’t watched much since we started… doing stuff,” Dan says.

Phil’s smile returns at that. “Really?”

“Haven’t needed it,” Dan says.

“Shush,” Phil mumbles, embarrassed but also clearly delighted.

“Hey,” Dan says, feeling a little braver now that everything is out in the open. “Let’s make a deal.”

“Ok,” Phil agrees instantly.

“Let’s just… tell each other stuff. Even if it feels weird. Let’s not be weird with each other even when it feels like it should be weird. Does that make sense?”

Phil smiles again. “No, but I get it. And I like that.”

“I’ve never had anyone I could just… trust,” Dan admits. “I’ve never trusted anyone enough to say anything to.”

“I’m not sure I have either,” Phil says. “Until now.”

“Yeah.” Dan stretches his neck up and kisses him again, longer this time. Deeper.

“Hey Dan,” Phil says, breathless after a while.

“What?”

“I do want to touch you like that someday. If you want.”

Dan hides his face in Phil’s neck. “I want,” he whispers.

“I won’t know what I’m doing.”

“Neither will I,” Dan says. “We’ll figure it out together.”

“Maybe we could like… look it up,” Phil suggests.

Dan snorts.

“Is that stupid?”

“No,” Dan says. “It’s probably smart. You’re smart.”

“Maybe I just shouldn’t touch you again until I research how to be gay,” Phil says.

Phil doesn’t hesitate over the word. Even though it doesn’t feel like it really fits, Dan likes it. He likes it a lot. He likes that Phil said it and doesn’t seem ashamed. Maybe it’s just the magic of Reading and their little blue tent with all its cushions and crisp crumbs under his bare ass but Dan feels free and himself in a way he’s never come close to before.

“Absolutely not,” Dan argues. “You should never stop touching me while we’re in this tent.”

“Does that mean you’re ready for round two?”

Dan pushes himself up and flips Phil over onto his back. “No. It’s your turn.”

“Oh good.” He grins. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

“Can I try something?” Dan asks.

Phil’s face gets very serious.

“Not that,” Dan adds quickly. “Just—” He twists around and grabs for Phil’s bag. He reaches in and fumbles around until he feels the cold plastic bottle and closes his fingers around it.

“In the spirit of our new agreement I have to tell you I’m a little nervous,” Phil says quietly.

“Oh, sorry,” Dan says. He pulls the lube out and tosses the bag aside. “I was just gonna use this to wank you.”

Phil relaxes visibly. “Oh.”

Dan runs his hand up Phil’s thigh, through the sparse hair there til he gets to Phil’s hip. “Can I?”

“Yes please.” Phil props himself up on his elbows. “I’d like that, I think.”

“You think?”

“I’ll let you know.” Phil smirks.

Dan uncaps the bottle. “Can I take my time like you did?” He watches Phil’s adam’s apple bob as he swallows.

“Yeah,” Phil says, voice husky.

“Take off your shirt,” Dan says. Phil does it, and with surprising speed. He yanks it over his head and chucks it away and now they’re both naked again. He stacks three cushions under his head so he’s propped up and then looks at Dan expectantly.

“Can you open your legs a little?” Dan’s nearly whispering now. There is life happening all around them outside the tent so they can’t be too loud, but really all he cares about is right in front of him. Really all he cares about is Phil spreading his legs enough that his balls drop down a little between them.

Dan takes some time just to look. He’s never gotten to see Phil in this much detail and it’s a lot. It’s a lot to take it, and there’s a lot happening inside Dan’s own body. He won’t acknowledge it but until now he’s been half waiting for something to be too much, for him to realize he’s really and truly having sex with a boy and snap out of it.

He doesn’t think he’s going to have that feeling anymore. He can see Phil, really see him now, and he likes it even more than he’d thought he did. He likes the hair on Phil’s body, in places it had never been on Evie’s. He hates to compare but it’s hard not to.

He likes the look of Phil’s balls, the pink wrinkled skin that surrounds them. He likes the way Phil’s cock lies thick on his lower stomach, the tip glossy and peeking out from the foreskin. He’s so hard already and Dan hasn’t even touched him yet.

Dan’s glad he’s just come himself. He’s glad his mind isn’t clouded over with the distraction of his own dick. He pushes Phil’s legs apart more, enough to fit between them. He sits down flat on his ass, and puts his hands on Phil’s knees, pushing them up enough to slip his own legs underneath them.

When he moves his hands Phil’s legs fall back down like he’s lost control of his muscles. His legs overlap Dan’s and Dan shuffles forward a little more. He looks down at all of Phil so open and on display and nearly has a heart attack. He can see everything now. Like… everything. He can see parts of Phil he’s never even seen of himself.

And he likes it all. So much.

He’s suddenly overcome with the urge to lean down and kiss Phil’s cock just like Phil had done to him. He can’t though; he’s not that flexible, so he resigns himself to next time. He drizzles what he thinks is the right amount of lube into his palm. It’s cold, so he closes the lid and tosses the bottle to the side to rub the slickness between his hands until it’s warm. He wants this to be so good for Phil.

He quickly realizes ‘the right amount’ is actually way too much when it starts trickling down his arms. He hasn’t even touched Phil yet and already he’s fucking it up.

“God,” he mutters. “I’m gonna make a mess.”

“I don’t mind,” Phil says. “Do you?”

Dan smiles. “No.” Of course he doesn’t. Why is he wasting time worrying about dumb shit when Phil is lying there waiting for him?

He wants to take his time, to really be patient and feel out what Phil likes, but he knows right away that’s going to be a lot easier said than done when he closes his slick hand around Phil’s dick. All he does is squeeze the shaft a little and Phil’s breath draws in sharply.

Dan likes that. He really fucking likes that. He wants to hear more of that. He slides his fist upwards and the glide against warm skin is effortless. It feels completely and totally different to a dry wank. He can’t quite imagine how different it must feel for Phil.

“Oh,” Phil says. “It’s so slippery.”

“Yeah,” Dan says and he sounds slightly in awe. “I feel like I could go so fast.”

“Yeah,” Phil breathes. “You totally could.” He says it like he wants it.

Dan could do that. He could just go hard and fast and it’d be so easy. There’s so much less resistance with his hand all messy and slick like this.

It’s not what he wants though, not yet. He slides his hand back down and pulls the foreskin with it until the head is fully exposed. Phil hisses ever so quietly.

“You ok?” Dan asks.

Phil nods. “Just - sensitive.”

Dan understands. That first pull back of skin is intense, sometimes even painful if not done properly.

Phil’s is such a deep pink already. It’s pretty, Dan thinks, and definitely looks different from his own. A slightly different shape. A slightly different colour.

And bigger. Definitely bigger.

He has no explanation for why that makes his stomach plunge with excitement. Phil has a proper big cock.

Dan realizes he’s been staring when Phil says, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, sorry. It’s just… pretty.”

Phil smiles. “Shut up.”

Dan pumps his fist up and down a few times quickly just for the satisfaction of watching Phil’s eyelids flutter and his teeth sink into his bottom lip. “Fuck,” he groans quietly. His arms are by his sides, hands gripping the sleeping bag which has somehow ended up underneath him.

Dan exposes the head again, slower this time to save Phil from discomfort. He drags his thumb along the ridge, the glide there even smoother. “Ok?” he asks, just to be sure.

Phil nods, staring down at what’s happening intently.

Dan moves his thumb up slowly until it gets to the tip and then pushes it through the slit. Phil’s eyes fall shut like he’s pained but Dan can tell he’s not. He does it again and then strokes up and down the whole shaft slowly, twisting his wrist a little with every downstroke.

He watches as he does it, marveling at how something can be so hard and so soft at the same time. It feels like silk as his palm slides, like a rock when he stops and squeezes.

The first time Phil moans Dan stops. He’s been stroking slowly the whole time, probably agonizingly so for Phil, but he doesn’t want to risk it. He lets Phil’s cock fall back and make a little slapping noise as it hits his stomach.

Before Phil can complain Dan moves his hand down to cup Phil’s balls. He feels the shape of each one with the tips of his fingers, shifting them around slightly in their sac of wrinkled skin. It gives Dan a thrill that’s almost more about the trust than it is about being sexy.

Phil must trust him so much. There’s not a line of worry on his face, even with arguably the most vulnerable part of his whole body caught between Dan’s squeezing fingers. It’s overwhelming. He wants to spend every waking moment working to deserve that trust.

He keeps one hand wrapped gently around them and uses the other to envelop Phil’s cock again. Phil sighs with relief and Dan lets him have it for a while, still stroking slowly but in a smooth rhythm that he thinks must feel pretty fucking good. Phil’s eyes are closed and his head tilted back a bit against the cushions.

Dan wants to move his hand lower. He wants to press his fingers behind the balls like Phil had done and watch Phil’s face contort. He can still feel so clearly how strange and wonderful it felt when Phil had done it to him. He wants to make Phil feel wonderful.

But he also wants to make Phil feel something he never has before. And that’s why he’s sat here stroking slowly and cupping Phil’s balls, because he doesn’t know what that is. He’s so woefully unprepared to give Phil anything new or better than Phil could give to himself and he hates it.

He moves two fingers down anyway. Phil must like it if he’d known exactly how to make Dan feel like his whole ass was just one raw nerve. He keeps jerking Phil’s dick and presses those two finger flat against Phil’s taint and rubs little circles into it.

Phil’s hips push up once in surprise and suddenly Dan doesn’t care that it isn’t something new. Things don’t have to be new to be wonderful.

“Am I doing this right?” Dan whispers.

Phil doesn’t answer verbally. Instead he pulls his knees up and reaches for the nearest pillow, which he shoves underneath his lower back rather violently. Dan is briefly confused until he sees what the change in angle means.

It means Phil likes what Dan is doing. It means he wants Dan to keep going. It means a far better view of the parts of Phil Dan hadn’t even thought about when he’d thought about their time together in this tent, but now it’s everything. Now it’s all he reckons he’ll ever be able to think about again.

Phil reaches down and pulls his balls to the side. “You’re doing it right,” Phil croaks. “Please don’t stop.”

Dan’s stomach flips and he makes the executive decision to fumble his hand around in the cushions until he finds the lube again. He probably doesn’t need more but it can’t hurt, so he flicks the lid open with his thumb and drizzles some right onto Phil’s skin.

Phil flinches, probably at the sudden temperature change, but Dan wastes no time pressing his fingers against him again and rubbing in firm little strokes.

Phil is making little noises in the back of his throat and Dan knows the rhythm of his hand around Phil’s cock has become stilted from trying to multitask but - yeah, Phil really doesn’t seem too bothered.

Dan tries not to think about how close he’s coming to a certain part of Phil every times he slides his fingers downward. He’s trying not to think about how much he wants to keep going until he gets to it. That would be something new, but they hadn’t discussed it beforehand. Dan wouldn’t have thought he’d be ready but right now he’s ready and he wants to touch Phil there. He wants to touch Phil everywhere.

Mercifully he gets distracted when he notices that Phil has started thrusting up into Dan’s hand. It sends a shiver down Dan’s spine watching it happen. He can’t help wondering what it might be like if it were something other than Dan’s fist Phil was fucking.

He really has no idea what that would feel like. But he knows in this moment for sure that he wants to find out someday.

Phil lets out a noise then that Dan’s sure is loud enough for people outside the tent to hear. Maybe he’ll care about that later but right now it’s so hot that all Dan can think about is making it happen again. He officially tosses the idea of going slow and taking his time right out the window in favour of giving Phil what he seems so desperate to have.

“Do you wanna come, Phil?” he asks, voice low.

Phil nods frantically.

“Tell me what to do.”

“Faster,” Phil says breathily. That’s all he says.

So Dan wanks faster, and he was right before. It’s easy. He’s in a good position at a good angle. His arm isn’t tired and his wrist isn’t aching and there’s not a hint of resistance as he jerks and jerks and jerks. His eyes stay glued to Phil’s face, watching the way it changes, the way his frown deepens and his eyes squeeze shut even tighter. He’s got a hand buried in his black hair, pulling at the root. Dan doesn’t have the coordination to do more than just press his fingers into Phil’s taint now as he wanks, but he doesn’t stop.

Phil doesn’t give him any warning before he comes but Dan’s not surprised. He already knows that when Phil gets quiet like this that he’s about to let go.

And he lets so much go. Dan angles him so the thick white shoots out onto Phil’s chest and stomach. He can feel the pulsing hot in his hand and he doesn’t stop until Phil has nothing left to give. Even then he doesn’t let go, just stops moving. He feels connected like this, and there’s a strange intimacy in feeling Phil soften between his fingers.

It takes a long time. Dan stares at Phil’s torso while they catch their breath, almost mesmerized by the pearly decoration of it. It’s probably more come than Dan has ever seen. It actually looks kind of pretty, he thinks.

Maybe that’s just his ego talking. Maybe he just likes it because he knows he helped put it there.

Phil stays quiet for so long Dan actually thinks he might have fallen asleep. He pokes a finger into Phil’s side. Phil jumps but only a tiny bit, eyes opening. “I’m doing that back to you as soon as you let me. That was so good.”

Dan laughs, pleasure bubbling up in his chest. “Kay,” he agrees readily. “It’s messy as fuck, though. Hand me the, uh-”

“Come shirt,” Phil supplies, passing it over to Dan. “I don’t even know if I want to try sneaking that one into the wash. Maybe I’ll just burn it.”

“We can get a few more uses out of it before you burn it,” Dan says, then he realizes he’s asked for it to clean Phil up and cleaning Phil up involves like… touching him. In a way that suddenly feels very exposing. He’s not sure why; it’s Dan who is exposed in the literal sense and it’s not like he didn’t just have his hands all over Phil, in every way possible. But that’s sex, and things that are normal during sex can still feel weird when the purpose isn’t to make someone come.

He folds the shirt to hide the dried, stained spot from before and reaches down with it, swiping gently up Phil’s thighs and over his cock.

Phil gasps. “Still - feels like a lot,” he says. “Sorry.”

Dan swipes again, but more gently. He can’t look Phil in the eye while he does this. He wipes the come away last and then folds the shirt again, tossing it to the side. “There are showers here but the queue is always really long. Maybe later…”

Phil shrugs. He doesn’t seem too bothered. “Maybe. But can we nap again right now? I feel really nice and sleepy.”

Dan pulls his legs out from under Phil’s and stretches out on top of Phil, leaning down to peck him on the mouth. “Naptime it is.”

Chapter Text

They sleep for almost three hours. It’s pushing into afternoon by the time they wake up, and the sounds of the festival are impossible to ignore. There’s music in the distance and people laughing and talking around them.

It’s still jarring for Phil, to know that he’s so close to so many people but also naked here with Dan. He stretches a leg out and pushes it between Dan’s, cuddling in. He’d like to go back to sleep again, and he’s halfway there when he hears a sound that he recognizes as his mum’s ringtone.

The call stops without him reaching for it, but then he sighs.

“Mm?” Dan hums, half a question from someone who is only half awake.

“It was my mum,” Phil says.

“Mm.” It’s the same sound with a fading sigh on the end, an affirmation that Dan heard though Phil doubts how much Dan’s processing right now.

He stares at Dan’s sleeping face until the expression evens back out into something purely unaware. The opposite is happening for Phil; he’s more awake now, and he’s not sure he’ll even be able to get back to sleep.

He’s not sure he wants to. His mind is doing funny things now. He’s naked and sticky in a tent that smells like sex in a noisy field in the middle of a day with a boy he’s known for a month. His heart starts to race a bit. It’s not regret he’s feeling, and he’s not sad or upset, but it’s like he just wiped clean a window that had big a bit foggy before. The whole of the last day is catching up to him and he can’t quite breathe right.

“Dan,” he whispers softly.

Dan squints at him and makes another questioning sound.

“I’m gonna go out for a bit.”

Dan frowns. “Y’okay?” He asks in a groggy voice.

“Just gotta call my mum,” Phil says. “You can sleep. I won’t be long.”

Dan is back asleep by the time Phil’s pulled on a pair of shorts and a fresh t-shirt from his bag. As soon as he steps outside, the feeling of being overwhelmed intensifies. There are so many people. He looks around carefully to make sure he won’t forget where the tent is, then waits until he’s a good distance away to pull his phone out of his pocket and ring his mum back.

“Child of mine,” she says, when she answers the phone. “You’ve not come to any harm?”

“A strange man in a utility truck offered me sweets so I’m with him now,” Phil says. “That’s alright, isn’t it?”

“Philip,” she admonishes him.

“It’s all fine, mum,” he says.

“Have you heard any good new music?” She asks. “Going to show back up with all the hip tunes?”

“Of course, mum,” he says. “I’ll be the hippest.”

“Give your brother a run for his money,” she advises. “He could do with it.”

It’s inane chatter, but it’s comforting. It feels familiar, even if he has to push away the thought of what she’d say or what she’d think of him if she really knew how he spent the last day.

She’s actually the one that ends the call, telling him that she’ll let him get back to his fun. He can’t think of a reason to keep her talking to him so he lets her go.

He’s not ready to go back to the tent yet, so he makes his way to the toilets. They’re small and smelly and claustrophobic but he uses toilet roll at the tiny little water tap and manages to unsticky himself a satisfying amount. When he steps back out he finds himself just walking in a slow path around the fields. He doesn’t want to go near any of the stages, but the smell of food becomes enticing the closer he gets to it.

The queue for the pizza stall is long, but he decides it’ll be nice to bring lunch back to Dan. The longer he waits, the more the excitement builds again. He imagines waking Dan up and sharing a pizza with him and then maybe if Dan wants they can walk around again…

He’s worked up to a real smile for the tired, stressed looking girl behind the counter when he tells her what he wants. He orders a lot more than two people should reasonably eat, but he already knows he and Dan will finish it all.

It takes all his willpower not to eat any on the walk back to the tent, but he manages it, even though it takes him a ridiculously long time to find it again.

His hands are full of pizza, so when he finally does find their little camp he crouches down and says, “Dan? You awake?”

“Phil?”

Phil’s stomach clenches. Dan doesn’t sound happy.

“Yeah, it’s me. Can you let me in? My hands are full.”

The zipper is being pulled open almost instantly and Dan’s sleepy eyes look worried. “I thought you’d fucked off and left me all alone,” Dan says, before Phil can even say hello or step inside the tent.

He holds up the pizza defensively. “Just wanted to feed you. The queue was super long. I did tell you I was going out for a bit to talk to my mum.”

Dan backs up so Phil can come inside. He’s wearing pants and a hoodie and his hair is a right mess.

“Right, yeah. I know,” he says and it sounds like he’s relaxing into the realization that Phil hadn’t tried to bolt. “I guess I got paranoid when you didn’t come back for so long. You said you wouldn’t be long, so I just…”

He plonks himself down onto their makeshift bed and Phil sits next to him, handing him his share of the pizza.

“Sorry,” Phil says quietly. “Felt like I needed some air. I went to the toilet to try to clean myself up a little and then went for a walk. I smelled pizza and thought I could give you a nice surprise.”

“So I was kind of right,” Dan says quietly. “Even if you did come back in the end, I was right.”

“What d’you mean?” Phil asks, looking down at his pizza and suddenly feeling like he’ll never want to eat again.

“You wanted to get away from me.”

Phil frowns. “No.” That’s not it at all. Does he really think that?

Dan looks over at him. “But like… yeah.”

Phil shakes his head. He looks down again at greasy cheese. He can’t look at Dan when he looks sad like that because of something Phil did. “No. Not you. Just…”

“What we did?” Dan asks, voice shaky.

Phil takes a long time answer. He doesn’t want to hurt Dan’s feelings. He doesn’t really know how to explain himself without making it sound like he has regrets. He doesn’t.

“Not in a bad way,” he murmurs. “I like what we did. It’s just like… so much.”

“Too much?”

Phil shakes his head. And then shrugs. “No. I don’t know. Just a lot. I felt like I needed to just, like. Think? A little bit.”

Dan nods. He puts the paper plate of pizza on the floor and pulls his knees up to his chest.

“Dan.”

“It’s fine,” Dan whispers.

“It’s not fine. Not if you’re thinking bad things.”

“M’not,” Dan croaks, clearly lying.

“Dan. Let’s talk about it. Please?”

“Ok.”

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Phil says. He knows he’s said it a million and one times, but it feels like an important piece of information right now.

“I know.”

“I like everything we do together.”

Dan looks surprised. Phil hates that.

“Do you though?” Dan asks.

“Yes.”

“I do too,” Dan says softly. “That’s why I’m scared. I keep waiting for you to change your mind.”

“I’m not going to.”

“If it’s too much… If I’m making you feel like you need to do things you don’t want to,” Dan says. “You have to tell me. I don’t want to be that person.”

“You’re not,” Phil assures.

“We can go back to just cuddling. We don’t have to touch each other.”

“I want to touch you. I want you to touch me. I think I just wanna like… talk about it after.”

Dan actually giggles a little at that. “Ok. We can do that. I think I’d like that too.”

“Because it's a lot, yeah?”

Dan nods. “It’s a lot.”

“And like, it sometimes doesn’t feel like a lot when it’s happening, because you turn me on so much and it feels so good,” Phil continues. He feels like everything he’s saying is stupid and childish but now he’s started he’s not sure he can stop. Something about Dan just makes him so keen to spill his deepest thoughts and insecurities. “But then after…”

“It feels like a lot,” Dan finishes.

Phil nods.

“Yeah. I get it,” Dan says. “When it’s happening my mind is already jumping ahead to all the other things I wanna do. And that feels like a lot too.”

Phil forgets what they’re meant to be talking about for a moment. “What other things?”

Dan shakes his head. “No way.”

“Oh come on,” Phil whines. “You can’t just say that and then not tell me.”

“Yes I can,” Dan argues. “I can and I will because you’re overwhelmed enough as it is.”

“I’m not. I was lying. It was… a test. I was testing you and you passed.”

Dan shoves at his shoulder. “Shut up.”

Phil pouts. “I wanna know.”

Dan shakes his head. “Just cuddles for now.”

“That’s not what I was saying. I don’t want to go backwards. Do you?”

“No.”

“I really did just need some time to think. To process, or whatever.” Phil reaches out and puts his hand on Dan’s knee.

Dan smiles. “Ok. As long as you tell me if there’s ever anything actually wrong.”

“I will,” Phil promises. “And you too.”

“Yeah. I’ll try.”

“You will,” Phil corrects.

Dan starts chewing on his thumbnail.

“What?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs, ripping a piece of his nail off between his teeth. “Ow, fuck,” he mutters, then looks over st Phil. “I think I might be bad at that.”

“At what?”

“Talking?” he says, voice pitching up at the end. “Sharing feelings? Understanding what my feelings even are? Sometimes I feel things when it makes no sense and I don’t know why. So then like, I don’t want to talk about them because I don’t even know why they’re there.”

Phil’s heart hurts a little. He hadn’t really thought about Dan’s feelings at all when he’d taken his little field trip today and now Dan seems to have been set on some kind of spiral. “We can talk about stuff,” Phil says gently. “Even if it doesn’t make sense. Maybe that’s even more reason to talk.”

“Shut up Phil,” Dan says, his tone contradicting his words completely. “You’re too nice.”

“Too nice or just the right amount of nice?”

“Too nice,” Dan insists. “I don’t know how to handle it. No one’s ever been nice to me like you are.”

“Well get used to it mate.” Phil leans over Dan to pick up his now-cold pizza. “Eat this.”

Dan seems to fall towards Phil and catch his balance when their mouths crash together. They’re both holding small mountains of food in their laps and it feels a little bit silly but it also feels nice. Maybe Phil’s a bit of a mess and Dan is too but it seems they’re going to continue to be messes together.

They eventually detach at the mouth and do eat their pizza. Once Phil takes the first bite he realizes how ravenous he actually is, and wishes he’d gotten even more.

“I should go clean up later too,” Dan says, stretching out and resting his hands on his belly. His body is so long that his toes push against far end of the tent. “Later.”

“Dirty boy,” Phil says, not minding even in the least.

“Why do you sound like your mum when you say that?” Dan asks.

“Ew,” Phil says. “Don’t bring up my mum in our sex cave.”

Dan nearly chokes. “Sex cave? Is that what it is?”

“Den of sin? Shag pad?” Phil starts reeling off whatever comes to mind.

“Stop talking,” Dan says. “Before I have to call this whole tent business off.”

“Fine,” Phil says. “I wouldn’t fancy wanking you in a sleeping bag on the ground where everyone can see.”

“Not into exhibitionism, noted,” Dan says.

“Wait - are you?” Phil asks. “Is that like… something you do?”

“Get wanked off in sleeping bags?” Dan gives him a funny look. “No. Can’t say that’s ever happened before.”

Phil pushes away the wild idea to ask Dan more questions, because he isn’t sure he’d like the answer to anything he’s wondering right now - like if Dan’s girlfriend wasn’t that sort, or if Dan got wanked off by other people before her.

He does want to be able to talk to Dan about like… everything. But maybe not everything all at once. Maybe he’s got some lines to draw, just like Dan does by not talking about what he wants to do with Phil. Maybe as long as they’re both honest about some of the things that scare them, they can be less scared together when the time comes.

-

Dan does, eventually, decide he feels too filthy to carry on. He’s got no grand hopes about how much cleaning up he can do in the increasingly filthy toilets but Phil stands outside the door while Dan does what he needs to do, at least managing to clean up the important bits.

“Are we going back now?” Phil asks, looking around.

Dan shrugs. “Do you want to?”

As much as spending all his time shut away with Phil is actually Dan’s full intention for the weekend, he does like the fresh air and the bustle of the festival crowd in mid afternoon. Everyone’s caught in that space where they’re just done being hungover from the night before but haven’t had enough to drink to be properly drunk again yet, and it just feels that buzzy kind of nice that draws Dan to things like this.

He’s glad when Phil says, “We can walk around some. Maybe… get lunch?”

“Pizza wasn’t lunch?” Dan asks.

“Pizza was breakfast,” Phil explains.

“Then what was it we ate this morning?” Dan is only grilling Phil because he loves what Phil’s brain comes up with to questions like that.

“Midnight snack,” Phil says decisively.

“Midnight after sunrise?”

Phil shrugs. “Midnight is a state of mind.”

“You’re mental,” Dan says, almost proud.

“My mum used to tell me midnight was ten pm. She had me on for ages. Like, it’s embarrassing how long I believed that for.” Phil does that sheepish thing he does where he covers his mouth with his hand when he laughs. Dan wants to reach out and tug it away, wants to see that whole smile.

But he doesn’t. Because - people. Because his mates are in this crowd somewhere.

“Remind me not to believe anything Kath says,” Dan declares. “She’s an evil genius.”

“What about your mum?” Phil asks. “Did she ever tell you things like that?”

Dan shrugs. “Not really? I feel like my mum and dad were always pretty honest with me. Sometimes I wish they’d lied about things.”

He can tell from the look on Phil’s face that Phil doesn’t really get why Dan would say that, and he regrets bringing it up.

But when Phil says, “Like what?” Dan still feels obligated to answer.

“Like, I dunno. I wish maybe they’d been like… less honest about how crap the world can be sometimes? I feel like every time I felt really excited about something they just had a reason why it wouldn’t work.” Dan can see how Phil is frowning at him, and he suddenly hates the conversation. “It doesn’t matter.”

Phil’s frown just grows. “It does matter-” He starts to say, but Dan’s already walking off in another direction.

“Panic at the Disco is on stage right now,” Dan says, knowing he’s being kind of a dick by walking ahead of Phil but just wanting to escape the scrutiny that he also knows isn’t even really on him to begin with. “You like them?”

“I guess,” Phil says.

Dan glances behind him, and the confused look on Phil’s face makes him slow down.

Suddenly Dan wishes they had just gone back to the tent.

“Hey, Dan?” Phil says.

“Yeah?” Dan answers.

“It’s okay.” Phil reaches out and touches his arm fleetingly. “Just like, whatever’s going on in your head, it’s okay.”

Dan’s strange mood deflates almost immediately. Phil looks so sincere and just… like he fucking cares. Dan can’t stay upset when someone is looking at him like that.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. “We can talk about that stuff later.”

 

Phil simply says, “Okay,” and then starts walking toward the stage.

Dan’s hand shoots out to grab Phil’s wrist almost of its own accord. He opens his mouth to say… something, he’s not sure what, he just knows he doesn’t want Phil to think Dan doesn’t trust him enough to share this kind of stuff.

He doesn’t manage to get a single word out because then someone is closeby and shouting his name. “Dan! Dan!”

Dan drops Phil’s wrist quickly and pretends not to see the way Phil’s face falls. He looks around for the source of the shouting although he can already tell who it is. A few seconds later Tom jumps up onto his back, his arms wrapped around Dan’s neck. “Dan!” he shouts, right into Dan’s ear. “There you fucking are! I’ve been texting you mate, where the fuck you been hiding?”

He’s drunk, very drunk. Dan knows if it was Evie next to him and not Phil, he probably would be too. He can’t blame his mates for being the idiots they always are, he just doesn’t particularly want to hang out with them today.

But he will, because to blow them off the whole weekend would probably come across suspicious and he’s certainly not ready for anyone to start asking questions.

“Just been hanging out,” Dan says, shrugging Tom off his shoulders. “You going to Panic?”

“Yeah, course. But first—” Tom reaches out and grabs for Phil as well. “You lot need drinks.”

Dan gives Phil a look out the corner of his eye and Phil’s looking at him too. Dan raises his eyebrows in question, hoping Phil knows he doesn’t have to say yes just because they’re Dan’s mates. Phil just shrugs and says, “Yeah. Reckon we do.”

Tom tries to coax them back to his tent for shots but Dan manages to convince him to be content with pints of beer from one of the vendors. He doesn’t want to get wasted, and more importantly he knows Phil definitely doesn’t. He’s not going to let another situation like the party happen.

He pays for their beers and he and Phil follow the rest of Dan’s friends toward the stage where Panic is playing. He bumps his shoulder into Phil’s because it’s all he’s brave enough to risk right now. He hopes it’s enough.

Phil looks at him and smiles a little.

“Ok?” Dan asks. “We can sneak off if you’d rather not-”

“It’s fine,” Phil says. “It’s good. It’ll be fun. We have all night to talk, right?”

Dan nods. “All night. Every night.” He hates this feeling like everything is up in the air as soon as there are other people around.

Phil takes a sip of his drink. When he pulls his lips back from the cup his nose is scrunched up in an adorable way. “Beer is gross.”

Dan chuckles. “It’s better than shots of vodka, which is what Tom would’ve made us take if I’d let him.”

Phil smiles a little wider. “My hero.”

“Let’s just chug this shit and go get lost in there,” Dan says, gesturing with his head toward the huge crowd of sweaty people gathered in droves and jumping around to the music that drums against their skulls.

Phil holds up his cup. “Cheers.”

It’s not very satisfying as the cups are made of plastic but they tap them together and then grin at each other before starting to drink. Dan intends to stop when Phil does but it seems Phil had taken Dan’s suggestion of chugging seriously. He keeps going with it and so does Dan, even when a trickle of beer drips down his chin and onto his shirt. It tastes like shit and he can feel the carbonation building a bubble in his chest but then he notices Phil is laughing into his cup and that makes Dan giggle and then they’re just stood there laughing and dribbling like a couple of idiots.

Happy idiots, though. Phil holds up his empty cup in triumph once he’s done. “I win!” he declares.

Dan finishes just moments later and lets out a truly disgusting belch. He claps his hand over his mouth and stares at Phil in horror. He wouldn’t care if it were Tom or Andy or any of those guys, but this is Phil.

Phil just laughs. “Wow, sexy Dan.”

“Shut up.” He’s mortified, but Phil doesn’t seem bothered. He’s looking at Dan with a smile that looks something like adoring.

Then someone is shouting, “Dan! Phil! For fuck’s sake, come on!”

Dan starts to turn away, prepared to hide his shame in the crowd, but Phil grabs his arm. Dan looks back just in time for Phil to let out an equally impressive belch.

They stick near Dan’s friends for a few minutes, long enough for Dan’s friends to start to separate themselves. Dan sticks as close to Phil as he can and by the time the music starts to play, he’s actually finding himself feeling the smallest of buzzes and glad they did decide to actually spend some time out of the tent.

-

Phil can tell Dan’s having fun. It makes it more fun for him, though he’s still not sure how he feels about the throngs of sweaty drunk people.

It makes him think of his brother and how Martyn is probably doing the same thing in Leeds right now, only maybe more drunk and with his mystery Swedish friend.

He thinks about texting a picture to Martyn, but he can’t shake the weirdness that the last week held. He’s never questioned so intensely whether his brother even likes him, or if whatever good relationship they’d had before was just… conditional. Conditional in a way that doesn’t encompass Phil liking boys, or even just the one boy.

He takes a picture still but instead he sends it to Ian.

Ian texts back almost immediately. MATE!!! Where r u??

Reading Festival, Phil types back.

I heard girls get their tits out there

Phil grimaces. He hates that it always goes to that place with Ian. It’s not like it’s just Ian, though. It’s all of Phil’s friends from Manchester. And apparently all of Dan’s friends here, based on how they reacted to the girls with body paint the night before.

He can’t help but wonder if that’d be Dan, too, if Phil weren’t around. It’s weird for Phil, because he can understand how being excited about seeing Dan without clothes on. Even just thinking about it makes him feel a bit tingly.

But that’s Dan. That’s not like… some random boy. Phil can’t even imagine that. He can’t imagine staring at a boy and everyone being able to see him stare and knowing he feels that way. They’d probably be disgusted. Ian would probably be disgusted.

Seen a few, Phil types back to Ian, because he has to reply with something.

send me pics m8 don’t hold out!!

Phil starts to think texting Martyn might have been a better idea. ew no i’m not a perv

fine i’ll just have to come next year. Mama Kath will let me stay at yours right?

A month ago the idea of coming to something like this with Ian would have had him over the moon. Even two weeks ago the idea of Ian wanting to make plans with him a year ahead would have felt reassuring. But now it just makes Phil slightly uneasy. He feels like he’s got a secret and he needs to protect it from the whole world.

Ian probably thinks that’s what he’s doing, going to the festival during the day and going home every night. He’s not about to let Ian know what he’s really doing. So he just texts back with yeah :) and then a second message before Ian can even reply that says gg panic! Is on and shoves his phone into his pocket.

“Who was that?” Dan asks, leaning over and speak-shouting at Phil.

Phil kind of likes how close they have to be for him to respond in a way Dan can hear him. “Ian,” he says, thinking he’s spoken about Ian enough that Dan will recognize the name. “He’s jealous I’m here.”

“Well, you snooze you lose, mate. You’re mine now, he’s just going to have to deal with that.”

Phil smiles. It’s petty but he really really likes that. He’s like hearing Dan call him his. He forgets that he’s supposed to be feeling weird now. He grabs Dan’s hand and pulls him deeper into the throngs until there are sweaty people pressed up all around them and he can’t hear anything but bass and guitar and people screaming. He drops Dan’s hand but it doesn’t matter because they’re already pressing together from shoulder to thigh.

They dance. They dance and jump around and Dan screams along to the words of the songs Phil’s never heard. Phil screams too because his whole body is just full of adrenaline and hormones and beer and happiness and he’s actually enjoying this experience, enjoying being sweaty and carefree and watching Dan’s hair go curly. He’s enjoying seeing the pure joy on Dan’s face.

He’s glad Dan is getting to enjoy this experience without having to sacrifice the parts he might have thought Phil wouldn’t want to participate in. Maybe Phil had thought this wouldn’t be fun, but it is. It feels kind of wild and reckless, and the noise and being lost in a crowd makes him feel a strange kind of freedom. As long as Dan is right next to him he can go a little mad for a while and it’s fine because everyone else here is mad too.

They stay there until the Panic show is over. Dan’s friends are mercifully lost somewhere in the crowd and he and Phil are able to make a break without being spotted.

“I’m starving,” Dan whinges.

“Me too. Double starving. Let’s get food.”

They’re halfway to the truck with the kebabs when Phil sees Dan digging his phone out of his pocket. It’s ringing, but Dan doesn’t answer it. He makes a little face and shoves it back into his jeans.

Phil is dying to ask who it was. He thinks he’s probably allowed since Dan had asked him who he was texting earlier, but something about the look on Dan’s face makes him feel like he’d best not.

“You ok?” he asks instead. That’s a good compromise.

Dan gives him a clipped smile. “Mhm. Just hungry.”

They stand in the queue for what feels like an eternity. When they finally get their food it costs a small fortune but its smells amazing and they manage enough restraint to carry it over to a picnic table before tucking in. Phil sits on the bench and Dan sits right on top of the table and they eat like they haven’t seen food in days.

Dan makes a lot of noise about how good it is. He gets food on his chin and some even dribbles onto his shirt. “Fuck,” he mutters, trying to wipe it away with fingers that are already covered in sauce.

Phil laughs at him and hands him a napkin. “I thought I was supposed to be the slob.”

Dan’s about to say something when his phone starts ringing again. The smile drops from his face instantly and Phil knows in that moment for sure who’s ringing.

This time Dan doesn’t even take the the phone out of his pocket to check who it is. Phil’s stomach churns the food he’d just put in it as he watches Dan try to rearrange his face into something more neutral.

“So,” Dan says, wiping the remains of food off his fingers and onto his jeans, “What should we do now?”

“Dan,” Phil says, softly but with a little reproach.

“What?”

“It’s her, isn’t it?”

Dan looks away, his thumbnail finding itself between his teeth immediately. He shrugs.

“Are you going to talk to her?” Phil asks.

“No,” Dan says without hesitating.

“Dan…” Phil frowns. His chest is doing funny things right now, and not the good kind of funny.

He’s spent a lot of the last month pretending that she doesn’t exist. But he can’t ignore it completely. She’s a real person, who had two whole years with Dan before Phil even came along.

He doesn’t know what their relationship was like. He can’t know, really. All he knows is that Dan was unhappy, but he also knows how Dan cried the night they broke up, and he knows that Dan wouldn’t have tears like that over someone who didn’t mean a lot to him.

And she’s not here now. Phil is. Phil is the one kissing Dan, and touching him in the dark, and rolling around in the tent with him. Phil is the one that danced to the music and stared at Dan’s sweaty, beautiful smile and is sat here right now at a food-stained table with the scent of freshly trodden down grass and fried food and maybe a little bit of piss all too real with every breath he takes. She had a lot of moments in the past but she doesn’t have this moment and as much as Phil will probably always want to continue pretending she doesn’t exist, just right now when he can’t pretend, he feels bad.

“What?” Dan says, when Phil’s gone too long without finishing his thought.

Phil shrugs and wads up the napkin in his hand. “You should talk to her.”

“What?” Dan’s voice is full of disbelief.

Phil shrugs. “She was meant to be here, right?”

“Yeah,” Dan says quietly.

“And she’s not. You brought me instead. And she - she doesn’t know, does she?” His voice drops below a whisper. He’s surprised Dan can even understand what he says.

But he must be able to, because Dan shakes his head. “No.”

“She’s probably sad,” Phil says. “I’d be sad if I didn’t have you.”

There’s a spot of sauce on Dan’s cheek he missed. He rubs his hands over his mouth and smears it and then makes a face, then reaches down to pluck the napkin from Phil’s fingers. “She’s probably sad,” He agrees. “I made her sad a lot. I’m so shit.”

“You’re not,” Phil says, an automatic defense, because he won’t have anyone talking badly like that about Dan, not even Dan.

“I was shit to her,” Dan says. “I don’t even know why. Everything just felt hard. But sometimes she was the only one that gave a fuck about me, and I was still shit to her.”

It makes Phil’s heart do an awful pang. “I give a shit now,” he says. “She’s not the only one.”

Dan’s eyes look watery, but he blinks fast like he’s trying hard not to cry. “I know. I don’t fucking deserve you. And I didn’t deserve her.”

“Dan…” Phil’s voice is weak, and he’s not sure what to say, and there are so many people around. “You deserve everything.

“Fuck.” Dan wipes quickly at his eyes.

“Ring her,” Phil says. “Will you?”

Dan nods jerkily. “Okay. Fine. I’ll ring her.”

“Now?” Phil asks. It feels like shit to even imagine it but he knows this is something Dan needs, and probably her too. Things will probably always feel a little bit wrong if Dan keeps ignoring this thing that’s hurting him deep down.

“Now?” Dan repeats incredulously. “Really?”

Phil nods. “I’ll go for a walk or something. Ring my mum or text Martyn or maybe even try to have a shower. I’ll give you space.”

“I don’t want space,” Dan says instantly. “Not from you.”

“Just for this,” Phil says softly, putting his hand on Dan’s knee just for the briefest of moments.

“I’m scared,” Dan croaks. “I don’t know what to say to her. I can’t tell her about you. I’m not… I’m not ready.”

“That’s ok. You don’t have to tell her, or anyone. I’m not ready either, I don’t think. But you can talk to her. You can be honest about other things, yeah?”

Dan looks down at Phil with panic etched in every feature. “I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s something I could ever do with her, really. I don’t even know if that’s something I do with anyone.”

“Not even me?” Phil asks.

“I… I want to. It’s not like I don’t want to. That’s not what I’m—” He buries his face in his hands. “I’m just making everything fucking worse now.”

Phil swallows over his own panic and says, ”No. You’re not. This is you being honest, even when it’s hard. And it’s ok.”

Dan lifts his head and sets his bloodshot eyes on Phil’s. “Who even are you?”

Phil just smiles. He feels like he might be sick the moment he walks away from this conversation but for now he has to be strong for Dan.

Dan takes a deep breath and blows it out shakily before he continues. “I think it’s hard for me to talk about some stuff because I don’t even understand it. Like, what if she asks me why? She’s gonna ask me why and I don’t even have a good fucking answer. I don’t know why. She was brilliant. She was nice to me and she was—” He cuts himself off again abruptly. “Uh. Anyway.”

“Tell me,” Phil says, gut clenched tight in a knot of jealousy and inadequacy. “It’s ok.”

Dan shakes his head. “I’m just saying she was more than I deserved and it still wasn’t right but I don’t know why and she’s going to want answers that I can’t give. Not without telling her about… you. Us.”

“Stop saying you don’t deserve good things,” Phil says, his voice a little stronger. “You do. You’re a good person.”

“I wasn’t with her.”

“Well… maybe that’s a good place to start,” Phil says. “Tell her you’re sorry.”

Dan looks at Phil for a while and his chin starts to quiver. “I have,” he chokes.

“Tell her again?”

Dan sniffles and wipes his nose on his shirt and sighs loudly and then nods. “Ok.”

“Ok?”

Dan nods again. “Yeah. I’ll try. But I reckon I’m gonna be a fucking mess afterwards.”

“I’ll be waiting for you,” Phil promises. “I like you so much, Dan. Messy and all.”

Dan pulls his knees up looks away. “Stop,” he whispers. “I can’t handle you being nice right now.”

“Sorry,” Phil murmurs. He wants so badly to just scoop Dan up and carry him to the tent and lie him down and stroke his sweaty curls and kiss his face all over and tell him everything will be ok. But he can’t. He has to walk away for now and let him have this, let him feel his pain for a while. “Text me? When it’s over.”

Dan nods. Phil stands up. He balls his hands into fists to keep from touching Dan in a way he’s not allowed right now and instead just whispers, “It’s going to be ok,” before he turns and walks away.

Chapter Text

Dan’s fingers are shaking as he pulls his phone from his pocket. He thinks he’s never wanted to do anything less in his entire bloody life. He’s an avoider, a procrastinator. He could go his whole life without wanting to deal with the mess he’s made here.

But he can’t. He owes Evie more than that. He owes Phil more than that. Phil would probably say he owes himself more than that too, but that doesn’t really factor into it for Dan. He hasn’t earned the right to be owed anything.

He checks to make sure it was her ringing the second time. It was.She hasn’t texted.

He presses his finger to her name. He has to do this.

She answers on the second ring. “Hey.”

“Hey,” he says. “Sorry I missed your calls.”

“You’re busy,” she says.

“I’m not now.”

“Who were you watching?” she asks. Her voice is so flat and wrong. He hates it. He hates this all so much.

“Panic.”

“That must have been a good time,” she says. “I’m bummed I missed it.”

“Yeah, sorry. It was… it was fun.” That’s good. That’s great. Tell her all about what she’s missing because you were an asshole, Dan thinks.

“Maybe next year,” she says.

“Yeah.”

“Maybe I’ll have a different boyfriend by then.”

Dan’s stomach twists. Fuck. He is absolutely not allowed to have that reaction anymore. “Maybe,” he manages to say.

She chuckles and it’s a bitter sound, like lemon juice poured right down his throat. “I’m sorry,” he blurts.

“For what?” she asks. “Be more specific.”

“For everything.”

“Yeah Dan, I know. You said that already.”

“I mean it though,” he says almost pleadingly. “I feel like shit.”

“Good,” she says. “Cause I do too.”

“You’re better off without me,” he whispers.

“Don’t. Don’t do that. You don’t get to play the victim. You don’t get to make me feel sorry for you.”

“I’m sorry,” he says again, and it’s annoying even in his own ears. “I’m not trying to. I don’t want you to feel bad for me, I just want you not to feel bad at all.”

“Well then maybe you shouldn’t have been such a shit boyfriend,” she spits.

He’s quiet for a while. They both are. He can hear her breathing on the other end of the line, can picture her tugging at the ends of her hair like she always does when she’s unhappy.

“Yeah,” he says eventually. “I know. I was shit.”

“You were always shit. But at least before I kind of thought you gave a little bit of a shit about me.”

“I do,” he says emphatically. “I did and I still do.”

“I don’t… I don’t know what the fuck that means,” she says, voice breaking at the end. “I don’t fucking understand you.”

“I don’t understand myself,” Dan says quietly. “Maybe that’s the problem.”

“I think the problem is you’re selfish.” She’s really not holding back.

“Maybe.” He feels completely and utterly defeated. Maybe what she needs now is just to berate him. It doesn’t feel nice but it’s probably more than fair.

“That’s all you’re gonna say?” She sounds properly angry now.

“I don’t know what to say,” he admits.

“Say something that fucking makes sense,” she begs. “Say something that doesn’t make me feel like you just wanted a warm hole to fuck.”

“Jesus.” His stomach turns, halfway to a full on retch. “Jesus christ, Evie.”

“Can you even say that?”

“Of course I can fucking say it.” He’s feeling angry now too. “You actually think I’m that— God. That’s not—”

“You only gave a shit when you thought someone else was interested,” she says. “That was the only way I could get you to return my calls half the time.”

“I’m shit,” Dan says. “But I’m not that shit. I hope you know that. I hope you’re just saying this stuff because you’re tilted. I loved—”

“Fucking shut up. Don’t say it. Don’t.”

“I’m sorry, but I did,” Dan says. “I just didn’t know how to… Fuck. I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t the right kind.”

“The right kind of what?” she asks.

“The right kind of love,” Dan whispers.

“I don’t know what the fuck that means.”

Dan sighs. “I don’t know. I just… maybe we would have been better off as friends.”

“Wow. That’s just… that’s just fucking great. Two years of my life just flushed down the fucking drain on someone who doesn’t care about me. That’s wonderful. Thanks, Dan.”

“I do care about you. I’m trying to be honest.”

“Yeah, and you’re honestly telling me that the whole time we were fucking you just, what? Weren’t into me like that?”

“No, that’s not— I was into you. You’re beautiful, but it wasn’t just about that. We had some good times together, there was just… something. Something about me that made us not quite right together.”

She scoffs a frustrated, angry noise. “Well, what? What is the something? If it’s not me then what is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” Dan says weakly. “I…”

“What, Dan? What is wrong with you? Why can’t we be together?”

His head is starting to spin. “It’s not—”

“Why?” she demands.

“Because I’m fucking gay!” he shouts.

There is dead silence on the other end of the line and Dan is definitely going to be sick. He breathes a stunned, quiet, “Fuck,” and hangs up the phone.

He jumps off the table, legs shaky as his feet hit the ground. He did that. He said that. He really just said that. Fuck.

Fuck him and his stupid inability to control himself when he feels cornered. He always does this, says dumb shit and blows up his life because he can’t control his impulse for self destruction. He should have known talking to her right now would be a mistake.

He wonders how many people she’s telling right now. He wonders how long it’ll be before Tom is texting him asking if he shags blokes now.

So what if they do? he thinks defiantly. He does shag blokes now. Well, one bloke. He shags Phil and he fucking likes it, and fuck anyone who can’t understand that, right?

He pulls his phone back out and taps Phil’s number.

“Hey, how’d it go? Done already?” Phil asks.

“Where are you?”

“Oh, uh,” he sounds thrown off, no doubt by Dan’s evasion and the intensity in his voice. “I’m in the queue for the showers, actually. It’s freaking massive, though, I don’t think I’ll be able to—”

“Stay there,” Dan interrupts. “I’m coming.” He hangs up before Phil has a chance to respond.

It takes him ages to find Phil, who hadn’t been exaggerating— the queue is fucking ridiculous. They’d have to wait all day for even the hope of getting a shower today.

But he does find Phil, with his backpack hiked up on his shoulder, looking down anxiously at his phone.

“Phil.”

Phil’s head shoots up and he looks relieved. “Hey, you alright?”

Again Dan doesn’t answer. He grabs Phil’s hand and yanks him out of the queue.

“Oh— ok, we’re— where are we going? What’s wrong?” Phil babbles as Dan pulls him along behind him.

“Don’t wanna talk,” Dan grunts, because he really fucking doesn’t. Talking’s never gotten him anything but trouble.

He really doesn’t want to talk. He picks a direction and walks straight, hoping eventually they’ll come across some trees or something private enough for him to do what every cell in his body is aching to do now.

They keep walking, sweat forming between their palms. Dan doesn’t let go. He doesn’t fucking care right now, not about anything but getting his hands on Phil’s body and reminding himself that this is ok, even if everyone else wants to make him feel like it’s wrong.

He doesn’t want to be in the tent right now. The tent is nice and he doesn’t feel nice. He doesn’t want to taint the tent with the ugly desperation churning in his guts. He wants a space where the sun will touch his skin and the breeze will rustle in his hair. He wants this to feel real.

He doesn’t know what the fuck he wants. His thoughts make no sense. He wishes he wasn’t having any thoughts at all. All they do is confuse him.

They walk for what feels like forever, until they come to the outskirts of the festival and a little patch of trees just like Dan was hoping for. If anyone comes along they’ll be able to see, but only if they’re looking. Dan pulls Phil into the patch of scratchy bush and pine and pushes him up against a trunk.

“Dan, what’s going on?”

Dan answers by crushing his mouth to Phil’s and licking into his mouth. He holds Phil’s face in his hands and tastes his gums and licks his teeth and sucks on his tongue and he knows he’s being obscene and gross but he wants to replace every sense he has with Phil.

Phil seems hesitant but only initially. It doesn’t take more than a few moments for him to grip Dan’s waist and kiss back, if what they’re doing can even be called kissing.

Bless this guy, Dan thinks. How did Dan ever get so fucking lucky. It makes absolutely no sense at all. He shouldn’t be able to push this gorgeous boy up against this tree and suck face like he’s lost his mind and still feel like it’s something wanted and beautiful, but that’s exactly how he feels. He feels like Phil wants it and loves it and can’t get enough of it.

Phil sucks on Dan’s tongue and makes a little sound into Dan’s mouth and Dan pushes his sweaty body up against Phil’s, crushing him into the rough bark that no doubt digs into his back. It probably hurts but Dan keeps doing it. He feels reckless, like he wants to hurt Phil with how much he - loves him.

He fucking loves him. It hits him square in the chest, unable to escape his thoughts even now. He loves Phil so much he wants to fucking eat him. He wants to dig his teeth in and his nails and push him against this tree until all the craziness rushing through him quiets a little.

Phil groans and shoves his hands down the back of Dan’s pants to grab his ass roughly and squeeze. Dan likes that. A lot. Maybe he wants to hurt too. Maybe he wants them both to hurt for each other. Because that feels real and he wants it to be real. There’s nothing more real than pain. That’s why sometimes on those days when everything feels like static in his head he’ll bite his lip until it bleeds. He’ll bite his nails until there’s nothing left but little nubs.

“Harder,” he growls into Phil’s ear and then moans when Phil digs his nails into the flesh. “Harder.”

“Dan,” Phil says, and it’s jarring. His voice is too gentle, too sweet for the poisonous lust coiling in the pit of Dan’s stomach. “Dan, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Dan lies. “I just want you.”

“Let’s go back to the tent.”

Dan shakes his head, moving down to Phil’s neck and biting, probably too hard. Phil hisses but he also pushes his hips into Dan’s crotch so Dan keeps biting, licking over the teethmarks afterward. Phil tastes like salt. “I want you so bad. Right here. Just want you.”

“You have me,” Phil promises. “I’m here.”

Dan likes that. It’s exactly what he wants to hear. He feels like some kind of animal. His hands move down Phil’s body to yank his belt out of the loop and unbutton his jeans, pulling the zip down and shoving his hand into his pants.

“Dan, jesus—”

Phil’s cock is hard as a rock and hot in Dan’s hand. Dan squeezes it and it feels so fucking nice and good and soft and delicious but it’s not enough. It’s not even close to enough so he yanks down on his jeans and pants in one go and sinks to his knees.

“Dan,” Phil hisses, sounding panicked. “Someone could see.”

“I don’t fucking care,” Dan replies, and he doesn’t. He couldn’t possibly care less in this moment. He’s not scared of getting caught or even nervous about doing this right. He doesn’t care, he just wants to know what Phil’s cock tastes like and how much space it takes up in his mouth and how hard he has to suck to get Phil to moan and pull his hair.

He’s not interested in going slow or teasing or being gentle. He grabs Phil at the base and takes him halfway down all at once, closing his lips around the shaft and sucking.

Phil yelps, but he doesn’t tell Dan to stop, so Dan doesn’t stop. It tastes exactly like what he would image someone who’s been coming and sweating without washing for two days would taste like - and he loves it. It’s kind of gross but for some reason that just makes it better. He pulls his mouth back enough to lick over the head, to dip his tongue into the slit and it’s bitter there, a taste the likes of which he’s never experienced before.

He feels Phil’s fingers in his hair and sucks again, sucks like Phil’s dick is an ice lolly and maybe that’s a silly thought but it doesn’t feel silly when he can feel the vein in Phil’s shaft throb against his tongue and hear Phil groan, “Fuck, oh fuck.”

Dan really loves that. He wants to hear more of that. He sinks down again until his lips touch where his fingers are wrapped around at the bottom and then bobs up again.

“Oh my god Dan,” Phil says. “Keep going. Please.”

So he does, he keeps going, bobbing up and down and feeling the spit build up in his mouth until he feels like he’s going to choke on it. When he pulls off for air a strand of spit stays, connecting Phil’s cock to Dan’s lip. It’s filthy and beautiful and Dan can feel his own dick leaking in his pants. He doesn’t care. He could do this for the rest of his life and his dick could fall off and he’d still be happy.

He takes a minute to look, just to look at how pretty Phil’s cock looks all shiny with his spit and red at the tip. He looks up at Phil and his stomach flips when he sees how intently Phil is watching him. He can’t resist leaning in and sucking on the head and watching Phil’s eyelids flutter shut.

“Please don’t stop,” Phil begs. “I’m gonna die if you stop.”

Dan smiles and kisses the tip. He lets go of Phil’s cock and moves his hand down, cupping Phil’s balls and then sliding two fingers back behind it to rub against that spot Phil had taught him about. Phil spreads his legs the best he can with his jeans stuck around the middle of his thighs and sighs deeply when Dan sinks his mouth back down over his cock.

He takes Phil deeper now that his fist isn’t getting in the way. It’s not easy. Phil is big and Dan’s never done this before. He gags a little and pulls back but it’s only a momentary setback. He’s determined to make Phil feel as good as humanly possible. In the back of his mind he remembers Evie telling him him she was going to master the whole deepthroat thing and how insanely fucking hard he’d come when she’d managed to finally do it.

He absolutely hates that he’s thinking about her right now but he wants to make Phil feel like that.

Phil lets out a steady stream of “DanDanDanDan,” until Dan finally manages to make it all the way down. Then Phil goes completely quiet, his hands gripping more tightly into Dan’s hair.

Dan can only stay there a second or two before he has to pull off and gasp for air. He looks up but Phil’s head is leaned back against the tree and all Dan can see is his neck.

“Phil,” Dan says. His voice is a little scratchy now and his jaw aches and his lips are tingling. “Phil.”

Phil tips his head down to look at Dan. He looks drunk. “Huh?”

“Is it ok?”

Phil nods. “It’s the best,” he croaks. “Is it awful for you?”

“No. I like it. I wanted to do it.”

“Are you ok, though?” Phil asks.

“No talking,” Dan says. He still doesn’t want to talk. He takes Phil back into his mouth and his knees hurt from kneeling on the twigs and the dirty ground and he can smell Phil’s sweat and feel his own on the small of his back but none of that matters because Phil is moaning and that’s because of Dan. It’s Dan making Phil feel like that.

He doesn’t make everyone feel bad. Most people, but not Phil. Phil is better off having Dan in his life, right?

Suddenly Dan can feel Phil’s legs go tense and he’s saying Dan’s name with urgency and reaching down for him and pulling him up.

“What, what’s—”

Phil wraps an arm around Dan’s back and pulls him in close, using the other one to take hold of himself and wank. “Gonna come.”

“I would’ve— you know…”

Phil shakes his head. “Just kiss me.”

It can’t be more than a few seconds that pass between Dan leaning in to kiss Phil and Phil twisting to the side so he doesn’t stain Dan’s clothes. Dan doesn’t see anything because he manages to keep his mouth attached to Phil’s but it still fills him with a primal sort of satisfaction.

-

Phil’s whole body feels like it’s an open nerve ending, but in a weird good way. He’s tingling from his head to his toes and still holding his dick in his hand and Dan is still kissing him even though Phil kind of forgot to kiss back while he was doing the whole coming his brains out thing.

He pulls his mouth away from Dan’s. There’s spit on his chin and kind of some still on his cock growing tacky against his fingers and sweat everywhere and as good as he feels he also immediately feels kind of… gross. But not gross enough to move, because he’s not sure if his legs work yet.

“Dan,” he whispers, voice wrecked. “What was that?”

He can tell it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as Dan freezes. “You didn’t want it,” Dan says, bluntly, like it’s fact.

“What?” Phil feels struck. “No, that’s not - of course I wanted it, I’m just - surprised.”

He gets a better look at Dan and sees Dan staring back at him, wary like a caged animal, like he’s expecting Phil to lash out. “I didn’t even ask you.”

“I’d have told you if I didn’t want to,” Phil says. “That was - that was the best thing I’ve ever felt before. Did you not… are you sorry you did it?”

Phil’s voice wobbles even saying it. He’s not sure he could stand it if Dan had immediate regrets.

Something cracks through Dan’s stony exterior and he kind of crumbles, his whole face falling. “I’m not sorry,” he says vehemently. “I’m not.”

Phil tucks himself back into his shorts quickly, and then reaches out and grabs Dan with both hands. Dan falls against him, fingers clutching at Phil’s shoulders, grabbing his shirt and fisting it in his grip like he’s afraid Phil’s going to slip away if he doesn’t hold on enough.

Phil’s not going anywhere, though. He wraps his arms around Dan and holds on tight. People could still see - they’re still close enough for Phil to hear. But it doesn’t matter much right now. All that matters is that Dan’s not okay, and he needs Dan to be okay.

Dan’s shaking and Phil realizes that he’s crying. He has no idea what to do. He feels out of his depth and like his head is still spinning and he’s never gone from feeling so good to so confused, bordering on bad, in his life. “It’s okay,” he whispers, and then keeps whispering it over and over.

Dan shakes his head. He’s getting Phil’s shirt wet. Phil doesn’t care at all.

He wipes at Dan’s face when Dan finally pulls back. His eyes are puffy and red and his lips are too and Phil just feels numb in a weird sad way now. “Dan,” he says, helpless and lost.

“I’m sorry.” Dan scrubs a hand roughly over his own eyes. “I’m a fucking mess. Can we just like… go, somewhere, I don’t know.”

“Do you want to go home?” Phil asks. If he felt like he thinks Dan feels, he’d probably just want to go home and get in bed or hug his mum.

But Dan shakes his head. “No. Fuck no. I just want to be here with you. Talking to her was just - hard. And I did something stupid.”

Phil’s stomach drops. “With me?”

“No!” Dan practically shouts it, then takes a troubled step back only to step back in again. “No. On the phone, with - with Evie.”

“Oh.” Phil frowns. “What did you do?”

“Said too much.” Dan’s mouth is a harsh twist now, like he’s struggling not to cry again. “Don’t worry, I didn’t mention you.”

“I wouldn’t care if you had,” Phil says.

It’s half a lie; in this moment, right now, he wouldn’t care. Later on he probably would.

“I fucked up,” Dan says, quietly, miserably.

“Whatever it is, it’ll be fine,” Phil insists. “We’ll be fine. Do you want to go back to the tent now?”

Dan shakes his head again. His eyes are so big and brown and wet and it makes Phil hurt in ways he’s never felt because of another person’s pain before. “Let’s, I don’t know. Let’s go get in the shower queue. Do you have clothes I can borrow?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, knowing his backpack has all his clean clothes left in it. “You can use all my stuff.”

He gives Dan a few more seconds to compose himself, and then they start walking back in the direction they came before. There’s a lump in Phil’s stomach now and he hates it. He feels like a lot just happened - like something big, for him, with Dan doing… that. But he’s not sure if it gets to be a good thing if Dan was so upset while he did it, and he hates how much that distresses him. He doesn’t want any of his firsts with Dan to be because Dan was upset.

Especially because Dan was upset over someone else.

The queue for the camp showers is still impressively long, but two more that had been closed for cleaning open up while they’re waiting and Dan elbows them to near the front. It only takes fifteen minutes after that. Phil’s about to root through his bag and give Dan his shampoo and soap when he realizes Dan is still just standing there blankly staring.

Dan was brave, a few minutes ago, with what he did.

Maybe it’s Phil’s turn to be brave now. He looks behind him, looks around, and doesn’t see any of Dan’s friends. The aren’t any attendants or festival officials around so Phil grabs Dan and yanks him inside the shower too.

“Phil-” Dan says, obviously startled.

But Phil pulls the same move Dan had earlier, and kisses him before Dan can even say anything. “Shut up,” he says sternly. “And let me wash your hair.”

Dan actually cracks a smile at that. “Is this your secret fetish?”

“You washed mine,” Phil says, yanking his shirt over his head. There’s a spot to leave their clothes so nothing gets wet. It’s probably gross to let them hit the floor but they’re gross anyway, so he makes the decision not to care and then steps naked under the weird, too-white shower stall area.

Dan’s right behind him. “We only have ten minutes,” Dan reminds him. “I think the water switches to cold after that.”

“Then we’ll be fast.” Phil grabs his soap and his shampoo. “Wash yourself off while I do my hair, then we’ll swap and I’ll do your hair.”

“While I wash your body?” Dan smirks.

Phil’s face goes red. He’s definitely not prepared for round two quite this quickly, but he sees where Dan’s eyes are looking. He has a moment of shock remembering that Dan’s mouth was on him less than half an hour ago.

“Behave,” he tells Dan, and quickly washes his hair and then his own body off. It’s a fraction of the time he’d spend scrubbing at home but feels like heaven, like he’s washing a lifetime of sweat and dirt off his body. He doesn’t want to miss anywhere important so he waits until Dan’s eyes are closed and quickly rubs soaped up fingers back behind himself, over his bum and between the cheeks. There’s something more intimate about ass washing than a blowjob, apparently.

He squirts more shampoo into his own hand and swaps places with Dan. “I wish I could do that to you right now,” Phil whispers, sinking his fingers into Dan’s wet hair. “What you did to me.”

“Sucked you off,” Dan says, and Phil can’t see his face right now but it sounds like Dan’s smiling.

“You can’t just say things like that,” Phil says, teasing. He steps in close to Dan and their bodies bump together. He’s never been naked so much with anyone, and he thought it’d feel more weird than it does. Naked with Dan is… pretty nice, actually.

“How long did you say we have?” Dan asks.

“Ten minutes,” Phil says. “That’s what the sign outside said.”

“Fuck.” Dan moans. “I need this shower to last like ten times that long, and I need you to keep doing that.”

“I’ll do it again,” Phil promises, indulging in the stray fantasy of sneaking Dan into his shower at home and - well, doing things that would make him glad he’s the only one that uses that particular bathroom.

He pushes Dan’s hair directly under the spray and rinses the water out. “Okay,” he says, breathless. “Done cleaning. Kiss me now.”

Dan doesn’t make him wait, turning and wrapping Phil up against him, kissing him deeply. He steps back and they’re not under the water anymore but Phil doesn’t care, fingers scrabbling against Dan’s wet shoulders, licking against his tongue.

Then Dan yelps and turns, glaring daggers at the showerhead. “Fuck, that’s like goddamn ice on my arse.”

Phil snickers against Dan’s shoulder as Dan squirms in closer to get away from the cold. Phil reaches around him and scoots to the side, pushing the button for the water access off.

“Do we have towels?” Dan asks.

“Uh.” Phil looks around. “No.”

Dan stares at him, contemplative, and then grins and… shakes his head.

“Argh!” Phil laughs and shields his face while Dan continues to dry his hair like a dog, grabbing Phil’s hands and tugging them down and pulling Phil in again.

Phil kisses Dan while they’re both still laughing, mouths half closed and a total mess.

“Fuck,” Dan says, hands dropping down to Phil’s ass just to rest there. “I don’t know how you make me laugh when everything feels so shit. You’re like magic.”

“I just don’t want things to be shit for you,” Phil whispers. “Will you tell me what happened?”

“Yeah,” Dan says. He looks sad again now, and Phil hates that, but he also knows he can’t distract Dan forever.

He steps back and starts using his abandoned, dirty t-shirt to dry his body as fast as he can, then puts on a fresh t-shirt and pair of shorts. “Here,” he says, handing Dan his last spare shirt. If he needs another he’ll just steal one of Dan’s. He doesn’t mind that idea at all.

“Thanks,” Dan says, squinting in the mirror before making a face at his reflection and turning away. “Come on. Let’s go back to the tent and we can talk.”

“You want to?” Phil asks.

Dan looks at him. “I… don’t know. I don’t really wanna think about anything but I can’t exactly avoid this shit forever, can I? Especially not after what I said.”

Phil’s gut clenches. “You can say as much or as little as you want. But if you’re upset I wanna be here to listen.”

Dan smiles and his eyes look wet. He sniffles and looks away, heading for the door. “Come on. I wanna be in the tent now.”

Phil lets Dan lead the way; he knows his way around much better than Phil does anyway. It feels so good to be clean, to feel the sun on his face and the breeze on the slightly still damp skin of his arms. It feels good not to be coated in a layer of sweat and hastily wiped lube and come. He should be buzzing on the afterglow of receiving his first blowjob and showering with Dan, but he isn’t. He can’t, because he’s worrying about the conversation that looms over him now like a dark storm cloud.

It’s hot in the tent. He can already feel fresh sweat at his temples and in the pits of his elbows and knees, but he flops down onto their makeshift mattress of cushions anyway. Dan zips up the door and sits down next to Phil. They’re not touching and Dan is looking off to the side.

“D’you wanna tell me what happened?” Phil asks quietly. He really really hates seeing Dan upset.

Dan shrugs.

“Why did she ring?” Phil asks, risking a more direct question.

“I don’t even know,” Dan says quietly. “I think she just wanted to shout at me.”

“Did she?”

Dan nods.

Phil sits up and puts his hand on Dan’s knee. “You know… she’s probably feeling really weird,” Phil says.

Dan turns his head in Phil’s direction and gives him an affronted look. “Phil. Don’t you think I know that?”

“Yeah, but. Not because of— what I mean is that like, it was supposed to her here, right?”

Dan nods.

“And she’s not. But she knows you are. I reckon maybe… maybe she feels like I did when Ian sent me that picture of all my mates camping. But like, worse.”

Dan drops his head down into his hands. “Fuck.”

“Sorry. Sorry. I should shut up.”

“I know I hurt her. I know I’m a selfish asshole. I don’t need to be constantly reminded.”

“I’m sorry, Dan,” Phil whispers. “I don’t think you’re selfish or an asshole. I think you did what you needed to do to be happy.”

“I didn’t do anything though. I just ignored her until she felt so bad that she was forced to dump me. So I’m selfish and also a coward. She should shout at me. I should’ve go on letting her shout at me all day.”

Phil is quiet for a long time, his insides twisted into knots. He’ll never say it, but he feels pretty fucking guilty too. He doesn’t need to put that on Dan, but he feels it. He’s not innocent in this situation.

“Can I ask you something?” he says quietly.

Dan sniffles again and shrugs a little. “Ok.”

“Do you wish you hadn’t met me? Do you wish things could’ve just stayed like they were?”

Dan turns and looks at him. There are tracks of drying tears down his cheeks. “Phil, don’t be fucking daft, ok?”

Phil shrugs. “I feel like I’ve just kind of blown up your whole life since I got here.”

“In a good way.”

“But also in a bad way,” Phil says, pulling his knees up. “You’re literally crying right now.”

“I was miserable before I met you.”

“Dan, you’re miserable now.” It hurts Phil to even say it.

“Don’t,” Dan chokes. “Don’t do this. I need you.”

“I’m sorry.” Phil drops his knees and reaches out for Dan, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and pulling him right into his lap. “I’m not trying to do anything. I’m not going anywhere. I’m sorry. I’m just making it worse. I’ll shut up. Everything’s gonna be fine, ok?”

Dan sniffles and buries his face in Phil’s neck.

“Ok?” Phil asks again.

“I told Evie I’m gay,” Dan mumbles.

“What?” He can’t have heard that right.

“Actually I kind of shouted it at her. And then hung up.”

Phil is stunned into silence.

“Phil. Tell me it’s fine.”

“It’s fine,” Phil says robotically.

“Wow,” Dan breathes. “Ok.”

“I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry,” Phil says, squeezing Dan’s shoulders. “It’s fine, of course it’s fine. I’m just… surprised.”

“I do that,” Dan whispers. “I say dumb shit when I’m tilted. Shit I really shouldn’t say.”

“You told her you’re gay?”

Dan chuckles darkly. “Don’t worry. I didn’t say anything about you.”

“That’s not— I wasn’t talking about me. I just… you’re not, right? You’re not gay.”

Dan shrugs. “I dunno. Maybe I am. Does it fucking matter?”

“No. It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry.”

“Does it make you feel weird to think of me as gay?” Dan asks. “Because I don’t know if I can hold it together if you—”

“I don’t,” Phil says. He’s not sure it’s the truth, but right now it really doesn’t matter at all. “I don’t.”

“You don’t want to think of yourself as gay. That’s what it is, right?”

Phil doesn’t answer right away. He doesn’t know how.

“Even though a bloke just sucked your cock,” Dan adds.

“Don’t say it like that,” Phil pleads quietly.

“Why? That’s what happened. I’m a bloke and I had your dick in my mouth.”

“Don’t say it like it’s something awful.”

“But that’s how you see it, isn’t it?” Dan asks.

“No, I don’t. I don’t see anything about you as awful. Nothing about what we do is awful.”

Dan sighs, and Phil feels the tension ease out of his back as he melts into Phil. “I’m sorry Phil,” he whispers.

Phil rubs his palm up and down between Dan’s shoulder blades. “Nothing to be sorry for.”

“She’s gonna tell everyone,” Dan croaks. “Everyone is gonna know.”

“It’s ok,” Phil whispers, though his chest feels like it might crack open from the fear. “It’ll be ok, no matter what. I’m here.”

There is quiet, for a long time. Dan’s breathing steadies, and Phil’s heart stops racing. The panic subsides into something a little less immediate. Phil lies back and brings Dan with him. He holds him and hopes it’s enough to make up for making Dan feel like he’s not proud of what they have with each other.

Eventually Dan speaks again. “Phil?”

“Yeah?”

“I think I’m in love with you.”

Chapter Text

Dan wants to take it back already. He feels like something is crushing down on his chest the longer it takes Phil to respond, and when Phil finally does talk all he says is…

“Oh.”

“You don’t feel the same way.” Dan’s chest feels tight and he thinks he might cry again. He sits up, shaking. Why did he even open his mouth? Why does he ever open his mouth? And why is he still talking? “You just want this to be like, something fun. You’re just-”

“Stop that,” Phil says. He’s up too now, and he puts his arms around Dan and rests his cheek against Dan’s shoulder blade. His voice is uncharacteristically harsh and Dan shuts up immediately. “That’s not what I said. It’s just - a lot, Dan.”

“I’m sorry,” Dan says, quietly, miserably.

“Hush,” Phil says again.

Dan learns very quickly that he really hates being admonished by Phil. It feels worse than any teacher or parent shouting at him.

He wants to apologize again, but he doesn’t. He just waits for Phil to talk.

“I don’t mean you,” Phil says. “I just mean what I feel is a lot. I don’t know what being in love is supposed to feel like, but I know I want to spend like, all my time always with you, and you’re all I ever think about even when we aren’t together, and you make scary things feel not so scary anymore. You’re like everything I wanted in a best friend but all these other things I didn’t even know I could have. I didn’t know they were possible. I think that’s probably being in love. I think I’m in love with you too, Dan.”

That thing in Dan that’s felt on the verge of weighing down so hard it cracks him open finally moves. He lets out a sound that ends up being more of a sob and reaches up, clinging to Phil’s hands.

Phil moves around beside him, wiping Dan’s tears away. “You’re such a messy crier,” Phil says, voice so sweet it can’t sound anything but loving.

“Sorry.” Dan wipes his eyes. “I cry a lot. I hate it. It’s like my body just does it before I can try and stop.”

“I like it,” Phil says, and leans forward to kiss a smeared wet track of tears. “I love it. I love you.”

Dan wraps his arms tight around Phil’s neck and lunges into him. Phil laughs and catches Dan, lets Dan push him back down onto their pile of sleeping bags and pillows. “I’m sorry I’m a fucking mess,” Dan says, because he can’t stifle the apologies altogether.

“I’m not,” Phil says. “Your mess makes you you.”

“Fuck off.” Dan wipes away the fresh dampness in his eyes.

“I’m sorry sometimes things are harder for me,” Phil says quietly. “Sometimes things feel scary, and I’m not as brave as you.”

“I’m not brave,” Dan says. “I’m stupid.”

Phil’s voice has a pleading note when he responds. “Please just don’t be angry with me if sometimes things feel too scary. I don’t… I don’t think I can tell people. I don’t even know what I would tell people, besides… besides I love you.”

His voice wavers even saying it out loud to Dan, but it doesn’t bother Dan as much as he might have thought it would. “Okay,” Dan says, not convinced he can keep the promise but determined to try. “Besides, I only told one person, and she-”

His phone starts to ring. He looks and sees her name, stomach dropping. “Fuck.”

“Is it her?” Phil asks.

Dan nods. Bile churns in his stomach, threatening to bring up all its contents. It’s just too much, this whole day has been way too fucking much. “I don’t…”

“It’s ok,” Phil says, taking the phone from Dan’s hand and leaning across him to shove it deep into the first backpack he can reach. “You don’t have to talk to her right now. You’ve been brave enough for one day.”

“I could tell her I was lying,” Dan says weakly. “I could tell her I was just trying to get a rise out of her because she was pissing me off. That way she wouldn’t start to- she wouldn’t think anything about you-”

“Dan, stop. Stop, ok? I don’t care right now.”

“But you will later. When we’re back in school and the rumours start. People already call me names, it’s just going to get worse. And they’ll call you those names too if you hang out with me. You’ll hate it. You’ll tell me you can’t do this anymore and it was all a mistake and you’re going to get a girlfriend and I’ll have to see her through your window and-”

-

Phil claps his hand over Dan’s mouth, hard. He hates what Dan’s saying so much he half wishes he could just sew his mouth shut entirely. “Stop,” he says sternly. “Please shut up, ok?”

Dan just looks at him helplessly.

“I just told you I love you. You think I’m just gonna throw that all away because I’m scared?” He drops his hand from Dan’s mouth so he can respond.

Dan shrugs. “M’not saying you’ll be happy about it. You’ll probably feel bad about it.”

“I told you to stop.”

“I can’t,” Dan says miserably. Everything about the way he looks and the way he sounds and the way his shoulders are hunched just screams that he’s given up. He’s well and truly defeated.

“Would it make you feel better to talk to her?” Phil asks.

“I dunno. I don’t know if she’s cross or disgusted or relieved or what. I hung up before she could say anything.”

“Is she like- does she… say things? About…?”

“Are you asking me if she’s homophobic?” Dan says bluntly.

Phil hates himself for how weird the actual word makes him feel. He’s still nowhere near to accepting that that’s a word that actually applies to him. “Yes,” he manages to say, because he has to stop being so transparently uncomfortable with this stuff is he’s going to make Dan feel anything but worse.

Dan shrugs again. “She says things, just like everyone else says things, you know. Like calling stuff gay or whatever. I dunno what she actually thinks. I feel like we never really knew each other at all.”

Phil puts a hand between Dan’s shoulder blades. “I’m sure that’s not true.”

“It wasn’t like it is with you,” Dan says sadly. “Not even in the beginning.”

“You care about her,” Phil says. He knows that’s true. Dan wouldn’t cry over someone he didn’t care about. “It’s like you said… complicated.”

Dan nods and wipes his nose on his arm.

“Do you want to ring her back?” Phil asks. “I can leave again, if you need privacy.”

Dan shakes his head, giving Phil a look that’s almost desperate. “Please don’t leave. I don’t want to talk to her right now. I don’t want to be without you. That’s literally the last thing I want. I already feel like I’m about to lose you.”

“You’re not,” Phil whispers. “I promise, you’re not. I just want to help you feel better. I just want you to be happy.”

Dan closes his eyes and Phil watches a tear roll down his cheek. He reaches up and brushes it away with his thumb before leaning down and kissing the salty wet skin. “Don’t cry. You’re going to be ok, Dan. I promise.”

“All I do is hurt people. All I do is leave people worse off than they were before they knew me,” Dan says quietly. “Even my own bloody parents.”

“Dan, that’s not true.”

“It is,” Dan says. “You can’t tell me you’re not freaking out right now. You can’t tell me you don’t wish you were back up north with your real mates and not having to deal with all my bullshit.”

“Yes I can,” Phil argues. “I can tell you there’s nowhere I’d rather be than where you are because that’s the truth.”

Dan just shakes his head.

Phil sits up. “I think you should ring her.”

“What?”

“I think you need to talk to her. It’s going to hang over your head if you don’t and I can’t see you like this. You’re like… you’re breaking my heart or something,” Phil chokes. “You’re not listening to me and I don’t know what to do, but I can’t hear you talk about yourself like this. Maybe she knows how to make you listen. She’s known you a lot longer than I have.”

Dan tugs on Phil’s arm until he lies back down, and Phil lets him. His hands are shaking and he feels on the verge of tears himself, and it only gets worse when Dan says, “No one’s ever known me like you do, Phil.”

“Stop saying I’m going to leave,” Phil says, turning onto his side to face Dan. “I’m not. I’m never going to, no matter how scary it sometimes feels. You’re scared too aren’t you?”

Dan turns onto his side too. “Yeah,” he whispers.

“But you’re not thinking of going anywhere.” It’s not a question, and Phil realizes in that moment just how lucky he is that he’s not even questioning that, and how bad it must feel for Dan that he can’t feel the same level of certainty.

“Never,” Dan says.

“Will you ring her?” Phil asks.

Dan nods. “Not now, though, please. Just wanna lie here and be with you now.”

Phil shuffles closer, until their noses touch and their lips press together. That’s all Phil really wants too. He wants to kiss Dan’s lips and his face and his jaw and his neck and all the rest of him until Dan can’t help but trust that this is where Phil wants to be.

Because it is. The fear doesn’t negate that. The fear doesn’t stop kissing Dan from being the best thing Phil’s ever experienced in his whole life. It doesn’t make him want to run away it just makes him want to cling tighter, to pull Dan close and sink his tongue into his mouth and taste the tears on his cheeks as he kisses them.

Dan kisses back with such sincerity and tenderness it makes Phil’s stomach flutter. Even when he feels terrified and guilty enough to cry, Dan still kisses Phil like he hasn’t a care in the world. It’s magic. Being with Dan like this is magic.

Phil pushes on Dan’s shoulders to roll him onto his back and moves his mouth down to his neck. Dan sighs and tilts his head to the side and threads his fingers into Phil’s still damp hair. “I love you, Phil,” he breathes. “I love your mouth.”

“I want to love you with my mouth,” Phil says. “Like you did me.”

He doesn’t even know if that’s something Dan wants right now, but he doesn’t feel like any of the words he has are going to make any difference if they haven’t yet and he still wants to show Dan how much he feels.

He thinks he can do that with his body better. His body might be clumsy but his words are clumsy in a different, dangerous way. Bodies are easier, he’s learning; touches and kisses are easier. Sometimes Dan responds to them when words don’t seem to get through.

Dan sniffles and nods. “Yeah,” he says. “Please.”

Parts of his body are still damp from the shower as Phil gets Dan’s clothes off. Dan lets him, helping when he has to but mostly putty in Phil’s shaking hands. He can’t believe Dan trusts him this much, and he can’t believe that he he wants it so badly.

He feels like a different person than he was a month ago, even a week ago. He would have never thought he’d be someone here doing these things and saying these words to another person. He couldn’t have begun to imagine meeting someone - a boy, especially - who would make him feel this way.

But Dan makes him want to be more than he thought he could be. Dan makes him want to find the right words and do the right things. So he kisses Dan all over his face just like he wanted to, down his chest right to where Dan’s already hard against his fingers, and then he kisses all over there too. He smells like soap mostly now and some kisses are more bitter where it didn’t entirely wash away in their quick back and forth under the spray, but Phil doesn’t care.

He doesn’t care about anything except this, and the sounds Dan makes when Phil takes him into his mouth for real. He isn’t as daring as Dan, he doesn’t try to go down or anything. He mostly just closes his eyes and sucks and lets his fingers twist around what his mouth doesn’t cover.

Dan doesn’t seem sad for the lack of fancy tricks. He makes the whimpering, whining sounds Phil has already come to recognize. His body moves in ways that tell Phil what he’s doing is exactly right and only minutes seem to pass before he feels a salty-sour splash against his tongue.

He can’t even say that it was fast. He’s not sure he trusts his grasp on time right now. He knows it’s been long enough that his jaw feels sore and his wrist is twinging, but he’d have kept going all day if Dan had wanted him to.

He wants to spit out the come pooling on his tongue now but he has a sudden flare of panic at not knowing if that’s okay or not, and not knowing where he’d do it, and not wanting to unzip the tent while Dan’s still got his cock out. So he braces himself and swallows it down and then it’s not so bad at all.

Dan’s eyes are red and wet and Phil’s not sure how much of that he cried through, but he’s not actually crying now and Phil feels so much that it feels like his heart is just going to burst right out of his chest. He crawls up to Dan and hugs him so tight and kisses him right on the mouth.

“You swallowed,” Dan says, breaking the kiss. He sounds breathless now.

“Is that okay?” Maybe he should have just… well, he’s not sure what.

“Phil.” Dan kisses him again. “It was hot as fuck.”

“Oh.” He’s relieved. “Good. Do you feel better?”

Dan nods. His cheeks are still flushed with a redness that crawls down his chest. “I guess blowjobs are the magic trick?”

His voice still seems shaky to Phil, but that’s fine. He reaches up and runs his fingers through Dan’s hair. “Guess so.”

“That was so amazing,” Dan says.

“Not like you haven’t better, I’m sure.”

Dan frowns. “Don’t say shit like that.”

“Sorry. I’m not trying to be a downer, I just… you know. Don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You did great. Did you hate it?”

Phil chuckles and hugs Dan tight, squeezing his fingers against Dan’s bare skin. “No, not at all.”

“Do you want me to swallow for you next time?” Dan asks.

The thought definitely tugs at something in Phil’s gut. He’s not sure why exactly the idea of it is so viscerally exciting to him, but it is. “Only if you want to,” Phil says diplomatically.

“What does come taste like?” Dan asks. “Is it gross?”

Phil’s instinct is to ask if Dan hadn’t ever asked Evie that question, but he catches himself. Instead he says, “Well… it doesn’t taste like your nana’s cinnamon buns, let’s just say that.”

“Somehow that just makes it hotter to me,” Dan says, settling on his back and looking up at the ceiling of the tent. “Like you did that for me even though it wasn’t nice for you.”

“It wasn’t awful or anything. Just a little… I dunno. I guess there’s nothing else that tastes like that.”

“I wanna do it to you,” Dan says, turning his head to look at Phil.

Phil smiles. “I’m not going to argue with that. Probably not going to argue with anything you want, to be honest.”

“What if I wanted to like, tie you up? Or like, wank on your face or something?”

Phil splutters. “Wha- um… do you?”

Dan smirks. “No. I don’t think so. Not unless you wanted me to.”

“I think I’m good with this for now,” he says weakly. Blowjobs are terrifying enough.

“Sorry,” Dan says, but his voice is tinged with the warmth of humour that wasn’t there before. “Just wanted to see how freaked out you’d be.”

“I hate you,” Phil says, reaching up and tugging on Dan’s fringe. “Oh, curly.”

“Fuck,” Dan mumbles. “I didn’t bring straighteners. Didn’t think I’d end up showering.”

“I’m glad you didn’t. You look adorable.”

“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Dan says.

Phil pushes the curls up and plants a big wet kiss right in the centre of Dan’s forehead. “I will.”

They’re quiet for a while after that, lying next to each other on their cushions and looking up at the criss cross of the poles at the top of the tent. Dan is still naked and Phil is fully clothed and they can hear lots of talking and laughing outside. It’s nice. Phil’s almost not thinking about all the emotional turmoil that has come along with some of the best moments in his life these past few days.

“I should ring Evie, shouldn’t I?” Dan asks. Apparently he’s thinking about the bad stuff too. He doesn’t sound despondent like he before, though. Just resigned.

“If you think you’re up for it, I reckon it could be good,” Phil says gently.

“I don’t really want to do it, but… I think you’re right. I probably owe it to her not to ignore any more of her calls.”

“And you owe it to yourself, too,” Phil points out. “To not feel so guilty about everything. And to not feel so scared.”

“I think that part’s unavoidable,” Dan says. “I deserve to feel guilty.”

“You don’t.”

Dan ignores him. “And maybe I deserve to be… outed, or whatever the fuck. Maybe she’s earned the right to hurt me like that.”

“She hasn’t,” Phil says, his voice more forceful this time. “No one has earned the right to do that and no one ever will. That will always be something that’s only for you.”

“And you,” Dan says, turning his head again to look at Phil. “If she tells people about me, it’s basically the same thing as telling them about you, right? So I have to talk to her. I can’t let her do that to you.”

“This isn’t about me,” Phil says, propping himself up on one elbow. “I don’t want you to think that’s why I want you to talk to her. It isn’t, is it?”

Dan shrugs. “It doesn’t really matter. There are a million good reasons to talk to her and only one not to. And it’s not even a good reason. It’s just me being a coward and I’ve done enough of that. So I need to just suck it up and do it.”

“Stop saying mean things about yourself,” Phil pleads, already knowing nothing will come of it but just needing it to be said anyway.

“Sorry,” Dan says. “I guess you really haven’t known me that long, but… I’m not really fun to be around. I say shit that depresses people and I kind of hate myself most of the time. Usually when I’m with you I forget about that. Then shit like this happens…” He gestures to his phone. “And then I remember. And- fuck.”

“What?” Phil asks, heart plunging downwards. He can’t seem to ever say the right thing today. He just wants Dan to stop acting like all the bad things he’s feeling are his fault.

“You’re gonna get tired of dealing with me when I’m like this,” Dan says quietly. “It was bound to happen. I don’t know how Evie dealt with me for so long.”

“She cares about you, Dan. Just like I do. Do you… are you having regrets? Do you miss her?”

Dan snorts a wet, mucusy sound. “No, fuck no. I mean, it sucks I hurt her, I do regret that, but I don’t want to be with her. I want you.”

“And you have me.”

Dan gives him a forlorn look. He’s right back to despondent again. “For how long?”

“For however long you’ll have me,” Phil promises. “You’re just feeling guilty about her. It won’t feel like this forever.”

Dan just shrugs.

“Ring her,” Phil demands. “Right now.”

“Right now?”

Phil nods.

“Are you gonna stay?” Dan asks.

“I will if you want me to. But I understand if you have things to say that you don’t want me to hear.”

Dan shakes his head, reaching out and grabbing Phil’s arm. “Stay. Please.”

“Of course I will. D’you wanna get dressed first?”

Dan nods and they both crawl off the bed to search for Dan’s haphazardly discarded clothes. Phil’s hands are shaking as he watches Dan pull on his shirt and jeans, not even bothering with pants. He pulls out his phone and sits back down on the cushions next to Phil.

“I’m scared,” he whispers.

“I know,” Phil says, laying a hand on Dan’s thigh and squeezing. “I’m here. No matter what happens, I’m here and it’s going to be ok.”

Dan nods and presses his finger to Evie’s number, then brings it up to his ear. Phil can see that his hands are shaking too.

-

“Hi.” She already sounds calmer than Dan had been expecting.

“Hey. Sorry I missed your call earlier, it’s… loud here.”

“It’s fine.”

Silence. It’s his turn to do the talking thing. What the fuck is he supposed to say?

“Are you home?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“Did you enjoy the rest of your trip?”

“Not really.”

His stomach clenches. “Oh. I’m… that sucks. Sorry.”

“It was still better than being here.”

Dan looks down and slides his fingers in between Phil’s, squeezing his hand so hard he feels the bones shifting. Phil doesn’t say anything. He’s so much more than Dan could ever possibly deserve, but right now he doesn’t care. He’s still just glad he’s there.

“It’s fine if you just rang to shout me at me some more,” Dan says. “But I guess I’d just like you to tell me so I know if that’s what this is.”

“It’s not,” she says.

“Oh. ok…”

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I wanna talk about, Dan, please. We can at least be more mature than that, can’t we?”

“I dunno,” Dan croaks. “I don’t know if I can.”

“Did you mean it?” she asks. “That- what you said before you hung up? Are you…?”

Dan shoots Phil a panicked look, even though he knows Phil can’t hear what Evie’s saying. He doesn’t even know how to answer this most basic of questions. “I don’t know,” he whispers.

“Wow,” she breathes. “Fuck.”

There’s nothing Dan could possibly say. He waits. He squeezes Phil’s hand and just waits.

“That means you are, though, right?” she asks after a while. “Like, if you don’t know, that must mean you are. That must mean something’s happened, something’s changed. You wouldn’t just say that for no reason, right? Like, did you ever even like me? Was I just like, a… whatever you call it? What’s’it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dan says coldly.

“Did you ever care about me? Like… fuck. Fuck, Dan. I lost my virginity to you.”

“Yeah, and I lost mine to you.”

“Did you even like it? Were you just disgusted by me the whole time?” There’s an edge of hysteria to her voice now.

“No. Of course not. Of course I liked it. When I said… what I said. I was panicking.”

“So you just pulled the first bullshit excuse you could think of out of your ass? Just so I’d lay off?”

“No,” he says. “No, I didn’t mean it like that, I meant, like… I said the wrong word, maybe.”

“Well, what’s the right word?”

“I don’t know,” he says almost pleadingly.

“How long have you felt like this?” she asks, softer now. Maybe like she actually wants to listen.

“I don’t want to tell you,” he whispers.

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry, Evie. Fuck. I’m so fucking sorry.”

“I just… I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know what to think. I feel like… like everything was just a lie.”

“It wasn’t,” Dan says. “It never was.”

“You like guys,” she says.

The blood that runs through him turns cold. He can’t do this. He thought he could, but he just can’t. “Are you gonna tell people?” he asks.

“Is that all you care about? Is that why you rang me back?”

“No. I wanted to… I dunno. Didn’t wanna leave it like that.”

“But you are,” she says. “You are leaving it like that. You’re not telling me a goddamn thing. I still feel as shit and confused as I did before.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “But like, I do too. That’s exactly how I feel too, you know? I know you’re fucking tilted right now but like… can you just… just think for a second how it feels for me.”

“Oh, fuck off Dan.”

“No, but really. Imagine yourself in my position.”

“I don’t want to,” she says. “I just want to be fucking angry right now, ok? I don’t want to have sympathy for you. You broke my heart.”

A sob wrenches up from the back of his throat and he only just manages to keep it contained. Phil can tell, and he wraps an arm around Dan’s shoulders and squeezes. It helps a little. It’s warm and firm and grounding and reminds Dan why he’s even doing any of this to begin with.

“I know,” he chokes out, then clears his throat. “And I reckon I deserve that, and more. But like… I told you something huge, and scary. I’m really fucking scared and you’re like, one of my best friends and I just kind of… I want you to tell me it’s going to be ok. And I know I have no right to that but like… you know how my mates are. They’re not going to tell me it’s going to be ok.”

The other end of the line is silent for a long time.

And then, “I’m one of your best friends?” she asks weakly.

Dan sniffles. “Yeah. Course.”

He hears her breathe out a shaky breath. “I’m really cross with you,” she says. “And I’m sad. And I feel stupid and betrayed and like you never gave a shit about me.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry I made you feel like that. I’m shit, I know I am. I’m shit and you deserve better but I still care about you. I’m sorry I’m shit. I hope someday you can forgive me so I can try to be… like, less shit to you.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do that, Dan. Every time I think about you I just fucking break down. Like… fuck.” She sounds on the verge of tears. Her voice wobbles when she says, “I’m just really really sad.”

Dan ducks his head down and hides his face in the crook of his arm. He’s crying again and he’s embarrassed and he doesn’t want Phil to see him crying over his ex, which is stupid because it feels like that’s really all he’s been doing today anyway. “I’m sorry,” he mutters into the now wet skin of his arm. “I’m sorry.”

“I won’t tell anyone what you said,” she says. “But I’m not ready to forgive you.”

“Ok,” Dan says, sniffling.

“I still have questions.”

“I don’t even know if I have answers though,” Dan says. He doesn’t know how many of her questions he can really answer without dragging Phil under the bus with him.

“Did you meet someone? A guy?”

Dan looks at Phil. He has no idea what to say. Phil just squeezes tighter around Dan’s shoulders.

“Is it that Phil guy?”

Dan doesn’t answer, which he supposes is as a good as a confirmation, but he hopes it’ll make him feel slightly less guilty. He can’t lie to her anymore, he just can’t.

“You don’t want to talk about that part,” she says quietly.

“No,” Dan croaks. “I’m sorry.”

“Can I come over tomorrow night?” she asks.

“What?”

“I just… want to see you. It doesn’t feel real like this. I just wanna talk.”

“Oh… ok. Ok. Tomorrow night.”

“Have you told your family we broke up?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he whispers.

“Even nana?”

Dan’s heart breaks a little then. “Yeah. Sorry. I was sad about it.”

“You were?”

“Of course I was.”

Not it’s her turn to be quiet, and she is for a long time. “Ok. I’m gonna try to somehow put myself in your shoes. Just tell me one more thing.”

“What?”

“It’s over between us, right? Like, I shouldn’t hold on to hope that you’re gonna wake up one day and realize you made a mistake?”

Dan digs his nails into his palm hard enough for the physical pain to keep his head clear of the much worse kind he feels on the inside. “Yes,” he chokes. “I’m sorry. It’s over.”

“Ok. I have to go.” She hangs up.

Dan crumbles.

Chapter Text

Phil holds him. He doesn’t say anything as Dan lets his tears stain the pillow beneath his head, just holds him tight and kisses his hair and gives Dan the time he needs to feel what he needs to feel.

Eventually Dan quiets. It’s dark by now and they can hear music in the distance. Dan turns his face towards Phil’s and it’s puffy and tear stained from what Phil can see in the low light.

“Sorry,” Dan says, sniffling. “I’m done now, I promise.”

Phil rubs his arm. “Let’s go out.”

“Out?”

“Yeah. Let’s go get some air. Maybe some food?”

Dan nods. “Food’d be good.”

“Maybe we could get drinks too,” Phil suggests. He feels like he could go for a drink.

“You want to?”

“Yeah, I think I do,” Phil says, sitting up and pulling Dan up with him. “I want you to have fun on your last night here.”

“I can have fun with you in here,” Dan says. “I don’t need everyone else to have fun.”

Phil’s smile is genuine. “I love hearing that,” he says. “But you can have fun with me any time you want. The festival is only tonight.”

Dan still doesn’t look sold, so Phil decides to take the initiative and grabs his shoes to put them back on. Dan seems steadier by the time Phil is unzipping the tent and stepping outside.

It’s cooler out now than it was the night before. He actually grabs his jacket, glad his mum made him bring it last minute. “Where should we go?” Phil asks.

“Could see what my friends are up to,” Dan says. “Ring Andy, or something.”

“Do it,” Phil says. “We’ll find something to eat, and then find your friends. It’ll be ace, Dan. I promise.”

“Ace.” Dan smiles faintly. “Alright.”

Dan does ring Andy, but he waits until they’re sat with each another fish and chips and a beer. Phil isn’t too keen on the taste of it, and he hopes Dan can’t see how his nose scrunches up every time he takes a drink. At least it’s something to wash down the salty chips.

He doesn’t think he kept his promise to his mum to eat at least a vegetable a day. He doesn’t think Dan will tell on him, though.

He listens to Dan’s side of the conversation. “They’re going to stay for some of the Arcade Fire set and then go back to Andy’s tent. He’s got this fucking massive eight person tent he brings every year. He said he’s even got a bar set up in it.”

“Do you think he has Malibu?” Phil asks. He’ll be willing to try anything that isn’t what he’s drinking right now.

“Maybe,” Dan says, and Phil feels successful because that’s coaxed another little smile out of Dan. “What do you want to do until then? Arcade Fire?”

Phil looks over. They’re on the main stage, and it’s so dominating that Phil can see it without even moving much. The people on stage look like tiny specks. Tiny, loud specks. He shrugs, because if Dan really wants to he’ll go, but he’s not too enthusiastic on it.

Dan must be able to tell. “We’ll see who’s on the Radio 1 stage,” he says. “That one’s smaller.”

Smaller is relative; it’s still pretty large by Phil’s reckoning. But the crowds don’t go quite as deep and on the outer fringes the guy standing on stage singing funny songs is definitely more person shaped than speckish.

They’ve each still got their beer in hand. Phil’s taking minute little sips and it doesn’t seem to be doing to him nearly what the Malibu did.

“Hold this,” Dan says, handing Phil his cup. Phil watches as Dan shrugs out of his jacket then spreads it out on the ground under them. He sits and then reaches up to take the beer back, patting the spot by him with his free hand. “Come on. Sit.”

They’re far back enough from the people that they can even still see the stage like this. It’s darker where they are, off to the side where people aren’t walking constantly by them, and Phil figures it’s safe enough to lean his shoulder against Dan’s.

“This is really nice,” he says. It’s not somewhere he ever thought he’d be - he doesn’t always like loud noises and he’s always considered things like this to be more Martyn’s thing than his. He doesn’t even go away from home overnight all that often.

But Dan makes him feel all new in a lot of ways. Like who he is with Dan might be someone that sits on the ground in a field with tens of thousands of other people, drinking beer and listening to too-loud music and staring up at the stars.

He feels Dan’s hand bump against his and smiles. When he glances over, Dan is already looking at him. “What?” Phil asks.

Dan just half-shrugs, one shoulder lifting up and down while the other stays still. “Nothing. Just - you were right. It is nicer out here.”

“Yeah,” Phil agrees. Not that all the stuff they did in the tent wasn’t amazing, but it’s a little scary how many important things have happened in so short a time, and most of them were in there. When he’s tired later he’ll want nothing more to crawl into their cushion kingdom and curl up in Dan’s arms, but right now this is better.

It’s almost another hour before Dan hears back from Andy. He sounds a drunker, Phil can tell just from the shouting down the phone line, but he tells Dan what lot his tent is in.

“We’ll be able to see it,” Dan reassures him as they weaves through crowds to one of the other tent areas. “Like I said, it’s fucking massive. And he said it’s got a flag on.”

It does - a white flag clearly bought blank with a pair of tits drawn onto it, even colored in with yellow and then pink nipples. “They really splashed out,” Phil says.

He’s feeling nervous again. The one beer is long gone and didn’t hit him at all really.

Dan can obviously tell. “We can go back whenever you want,” Dan says. “I’ll just say we want to catch another act. They won’t think it’s weird or anything, people come and go all the time in Andy’s tent.”

The front is unzipped when they get there, and there are voices pouring out of it.

“Danny boy!” Andy calls out, once Dan pokes his head in. “And new kid!”

Phil follows him in, ducking his head and giving a little wave that he knows is dorky as soon as he raises his hand.

Dan was right, it is a large tent. It’s got a big middle section that’s twice as wide and twice as tall as the one he and Dan are sleeping in, and three sections that look like little rooms with the zip walls tied back out of the way.

“Wow,” Phil says. “This is nice. How many people are you sharing with?”

Andy shrugs. “Dunno like, twenty or something!” He giggles, a shrieking drunken sound. “Whoever wants to sleep can sleep here at the House of Andrew. If Howell there’s stinking you out with beer farts, grab a pillow and bunk up here.”

“I don’t even like beer,” Dan informs Andy.

He sounds nervous still, but no one else seems to notice. Phil sticks close to him as they both sit.

“Beer is the drink of the gods. What is it you drink, then? That fruity gay shit? We got that, load ‘em up, lads.” Andy waves a hand magnanimously, and from the side someone makes a trumpet sound and displays their makeshift bar full of liquor bottles and plastic cups.

“What’ve you got to mix with?” Dan asks, peering over.

“No mixers!” Andy announces. “We get pissed like real men!”

“I think your testicles have to drop for you to be a real man,” someone whose name Phil definitely doesn’t remember calls out to Andy. “Maybe next year for you!”

“Fuck off!” Andy shouts back.

Phil can’t see the bar, so he lets Dan look for both of them. “I do see Malibu,” Dan reports. “You alright drinking it straight?”

One of the girls sitting across from Phil - that Phil definitely had thought was asleep - cracks one eye open. “Andy’s a lying cunt,” she says. “Look behind Izze over there, Andy’s got a whole stash of fizzy drinks.”

“Thanks,” Phil says.

“You were at the party the other week, weren’t you?” She asks, sitting up. She’s got pretty dark skin and curly hair done up in bunches like pigtails on either side of her head. Her eyes are smeared with neon colors and there are faint patches of dark on her mouth that were probably once lipstick. “I’m Lottie.”

“I’m Phil,” Phil says. “Are you having a nice time?”

He sounds insufferably polite, like he’s saying hello to one of his mum’s friends.

She laughs. “Aw, you’re darling, aren’t you?”

“Sorry,” he says.

“He just needs to loosen up,” Dan says, handing a drink over to him. “Then you’ll have him playing strip poker in no time, Lots.”

They both laugh like it’s an inside joke. Phil looks over to Dan, but Dan is focused on making himself a drink now.

“Long story,” Lottie says. “Howell only likes it because my top came off.”

“Not true,” Dan protests, this time shooting Phil a nervous look. Phil looks away and takes a sip of his drink. He’s going to have to find a way to deal with stuff like this. Dan had a life before him, he knows that. He just doesn’t know how not to take it all so incredibly personally.

“You and I both know the truth,” she says to Dan. “Even Evie knows.”

-

Dan’s stomach twists and he looks at Phil again without even consciously making the decision. Phil looks back at him, mercifully with sympathy. That actually makes it worth it for Dan.

“Oh… oops,” Lottie mutters after Dan’s dead silent for a moment too long. “Shit. Sorry.”

Dan shrugs.

“Can’t believe you dumped a piece like that, Howell,” Andy half shouts. “What are you, a—”

“Shut the fuck up, Andy,” Dan snaps. “Don’t talk about her like that.”

Andy looks affronted. Dan never tells his mates off, no matter how vile they’re being. He hadn’t even meant to now, but something about having Phil here with him makes him wish his friends were better. They’re not always quite this crass, it’s just bad timing but he still wants to protect Phil from all of it. And maybe himself a little.

“Fuck, sorry man,” Andy mutters and he actually sounds sincere.

“You’re an asshole, Andrew,” Lottie adds. “No wonder you never get llaid.”

Dan smiles a little and quickly hides it by taking a drink. It’s almost universally the truth that all his friends who are girls are just… better.

“Alright, alright,” Andy says. “I reckon I deserved that. I’ll shut up.”

“That’s right,” Lottie says. “You will. And stop saying gay or I’ll punch your stupid git face.”

“Why?” Andy narrows his eyes. “Are you…?”

“I’d definitely choose a bird over you any day, mate, so draw your own conclusions there.”

Dan’s never liked her more.

“Am I allowed to say anything about that?” Andy asks, grinning.

“No,” she says. “In fact you can just stop talking altogether and make me a drink. I’m gonna get pissed with Dan and Phil and we’re going to ignore you, right boys?”

Dan laughs. Phil looks like he’s unsure how he’s allowed to respond, but there’s a smile in there somewhere behind the hesitation .

“Sounds perfect,” Dan says happily. Phil doesn’t say anything, so Dan pulls out his phone while Lottie and Andy continue to bicker as he makes her drink. It almost sounds like flirting, but Dan’s not really thinking about them anymore. He’s typing out a text for Phil.

you ok?

Phil pulls out his phone and smiles when he looks down at it. yeah

you ok with drinking with my dumb mates?

Phil looks up and just nods, and Lottie comes shuffling over with a giant drink of her own. Dan scrambles to type out one last message for Phil before she commandeers the whole night.

just tell me when you wanna go back to the tent

“Let’s go sit outside lads,” she declares. “That’s where all the fun is right now.”

Phil’s response is another nod and a cute smile with his eyes still on Dan. As soon as they’re back out in open air Lottie is standing on her tiptoes and throwing her arm around the back of Phil’s neck. She’s rather short, especially when stood right next to Phil like that. Dan notices then that every part of her skin that’s on show is covered in tiny little pieces of glitter that catch the light of the lanterns that illuminate this monstrosity of a tent.

There are loads of people sitting around outside, circles of canvas camp chairs set up near groups of tents. Lottie plops herself down into one and then leans over, digging at something propped against the side.

Phil looks at Dan, who gestures to the chair by him. “Guess we’re having a seat.”

“Aw, yeah,” Lottie says. “Ems left her kit!”

She holds up a plastic box splashed in colors.

“Kit?” Phil asks.

Dan recognizes it. He’s spent the last couple years dodging Ems and Lottie and their endless supply of accessorizing tools.

Phil, on the other hand, has no idea what he’s starting by opening that door.

“Can I play on your little friend?” Lottie asks, addressing it to Dan.

“Uh.” Dan looks over at Phil. “You should ask him.”

“Can I play?” She says, bouncing back up off the chair. “Phil, pleaaase. It’s festival tradition.”

“Okay?” Phil says. He still sounds bewildered, but Dan knows Lottie’s probably the best of his friends - Evie’s friends, really, but apparently still his friends, and that’s one concern he’s happy to lay to rest at least for now.

He likes this bit, really. He likes this part of being at festivals, where he’s just sat outside with the music in the distance and his friends laughing and having fun. Last year he’d been a lot drunker, sat on the ground with his ass getting wet from how it had rained earlier in the day, Evie in his lap so she’d be spared the dampness.

He lets himself remember for about five seconds before he forces his mind to move on. He can’t go back to then. He wouldn’t really want to. Instead he watches Lottie spread a blanket on the ground and make a still confused Phil sit there.

She looks up at him. “Whatcha think for colours, Howell?”

Dan takes advantage of the invitation to study Phil’s face, the pale skin and shocking black of his hair now and those eyes that Dan could just lose himself in. “Blue and green,” he says, because he likes those eyes so much. “And some silver, maybe?”

“Is anyone going to tell me what’s happening?” Phil asks meekly.

“And risk you changing your mind?” Lottie says, crossing her legs and sitting opposite Phil.

Dan chuckles and Lottie gives him a look and a click of her tongue. “Wouldn’t get too smug, mate. You’re next.”

Dan shrugs. “What the hell, it’s tradition, right?”

She tilts her head and looks from Phil to Dan and back to Phil again. “You’re a good influence on him, I reckon,” she says. “Last year he full on ran away when Evie tried—” she clamps her mouth shut.

“He’s alright,” Dan says, absolving her of feeling guilty and shooting Phil a knowing look. Good influence is certainly an understatement, but Lottie doesn’t need to know that.

He sits back and watches Lottie pull out a tube of Vaseline and squirt it onto her fingers, then start to streak it along Phil’s cheekbone and around the shape of his eye. Phil sits perfectly still with posture that Dan’s sure Mrs. Kath would be proud of. He looks less bewildered and more mildly terrified as Lottie manhandles him.

Fifteen minutes later, she’s got half a dozen bottles and tubes of glitter in various colors and sizes spread out around her and Phil's face is a festival work of art.

“Whatcha think, Howell?” Lottie asks, turning to look at him.

“Not bad,” Dan says.

The truth is that he thinks Phil looks really fucking lovely with big chunks of blue and green and silver sparkling on his skin.

She shows Phil finally, holding up a hand mirror for him to see. Dan loves how his face lights up. “That’s so cool!” He says, looking immediately to Dan. “You’ve got to do it, too.”

“Fine,” Dan says, grinning. “You pick out my colors, though.”

Phil takes his time rooting through the makeup kit, before he picks out a packet of black and silver glitter with bits of gold flecked in. “This!”

“Oh, you’ve got an eye, don’t you?” Lottie says.

Dan knocks back his drink and then stands up, swapping spots with Phil.

“Do you need another drink?” Phil says. “I can go get them.”

Dan hadn’t even noticed Phil finishing his own, but he says, “Sure.”

“What about you, Lottie?” Phil asks. His voice has that polite tone again and from the fondness that Lottie directs at him Dan wonders if maybe he needs to worry about Phil being too nice to everyone.

The possessiveness that tugs at him is so premature, and one his least favorite things about himself. He forces it out of his mind and settles on the ground. He can hear everyone reacting to Phil’s face when he goes into the tent and it makes him laugh. Hopefully they’re too drunk to be cunts about it. Dan knows Andy’s let them make his full face over more than once when he was too pissed to care, or just wanted girls touching him and was willing to endure whatever it took.

“How you doing, then?” Lottie asks, smearing goop on his skin to make the glitter stick, just like she had Phil before. Her voice is quieter now, like she’s really asking him, like she really cares.

“It’s weird,” he admits. “Without her here.”

It’s more than just that making it weird, but that’s all he’s ready to talk about.

“Yeah,” she says, then goes quiet like she’s waiting on him to keep talking as she taps her brush in glitter and starts to apply it to his face. The brush tickles a bit.

“Have you talked to her?” He asks.

She gives him a little half smile. “Yeah. She’s sad, mate. Proper crushed.”

It’s not like Dan didn’t know it. “I’m an asshole.”

“Maybe,” Lottie says. “But I’m drunk enough I won’t judge you.”

Phil steps back out holding two cups and one can of beer. He passes the beer to Lottie, who blows him a kiss in thanks.

Yeah, Dan thinks. It’d be great if she just didn’t do that.

He lets his fingers touch Phil’s when he takes the cup back. Phil’s smile is as warm as his eyes are. “That looks wicked,” he says.

“You should let me do eyeliner too.” Lottie grins, tongue between her teeth.

“No way,” Dan says. “That smeared everywhere last year.”

“You had eyeliner?” Phil laughs. “I want to see that.”

“I’m sure he’s got pictures,” she says.

He does have pictures. Evie’s in all of them, usually on his lap. He doesn’t think he’ll be showing Phil those any time soon.

“Done,” Lottie announces, sitting back to survey her work. “Now you’re a matched set.”

Dan loves the little grin on Phil’s face at that. He loves how much Phil likes hearing it, because Dan likes it just as much.

Chapter Text

It’s probably the first time all weekend that Phil’s really understood why this could be fun, and felt a little like he used to feel hanging out with his own friends. That was usually someone’s house and not this kind of setting, but a few more people have joined them in the chairs since Lottie finished making their faces up and the conversation feels casual and mellow. He’s drinking his drink very slowly this time, not in any danger of being drunk, just light and floaty and happy.

Dan seems happy, too. He seems loose now, whereas earlier he’d been coiled up in knots Phil didn’t know how to pry apart.

Except maybe that time he did with his mouth, and now he’s thinking of that again, thinking of Dan stretched out as best he can be in their tent with his clothes off…

They’ve only got one more night alone before they have to go back to the real world. Phil’s enjoying this but he thinks soon he wants to make sure they make the most of the time they have left. The things that come next feel scary: starting college, having to wake up and face his parents knowing he’s got something big in his life he doesn’t know if they’d hate him for, starting an actual job.

The thoughts he’s thinking threaten to become too overwhelming so he takes another drink and forces them out of his head. Tomorrow he’ll marvel over how out of his depth and unprepared for all of these situations that he really is. Tonight he’s going to enjoy the moment he’s in.

His eyes are on Dan again when he sees Dan hold a hand to his face and yawn into his fist. Dan catches him looking and gives Phil a sheepish smile.

“Sleepy?” Phil asks. There’s half a dozen people sat around with them now, and Dan’s moved his chair right beside Phil’s to make room for everyone else.

Dan shrugs. “Maybe. You?”

Phil isn’t really but he still says, “Yeah,” because there’s suddenly a ticking clock in his head.

Dan’s head tilts to the side as he studies Phil and by his smile Phil realizes they’re probably on the same page. “Okay,” he says more quietly to Phil before he gets to his feet. “We’re off.”

“Lame!” Andy shouts. “It’s not even late yet!”

“You’re all so lame you’re putting us to sleep,” Dan says, while Phil gets up too.

He leaves the drink abandoned half finished. His mum would tell him clean up his messes, but by the state of things on the festival grounds that’s not really a rule adhered to much here anyway.

“Wait,” Lottie says, standing up from her own chair. “Phil, gimme your phone.” She reaches out her hand and Phil is too surprised to question anything. He hands it over and watches her type something in. She hands it back and gives him a smile. “Now you have my number.”

“Oh,” Phil says, looking down at his phone and seeing that she’s entered herself in his contacts as Hottie Lottie <3. “Thanks.”

“Text me so I have yours!”

Phil’s hands are trembling a little as he types out a simple hi and hits send. He watches a smile play on her lips when she reads the message on her own phone. “You’re just adorable, aren’t you?”

Phil’s afraid to look at Dan. He feels honestly a little paralyzed.

“Alright,” Dan says gruffly, and Phil knows his fear is at least a little justified. “We’re leaving now.”

“Have a good night boys,” Lottie purrs. Phil hopes it’s just because she’s drunk. He hopes she won’t flirt with him if he sees her again, because he’s really enjoyed this night. He thinks she’s someone he could be friends with, as long as that’s all it was.

Once they’re out of earshot of Dan’s friends, Phil can’t help but to ask, “Dan?”

Dan turns his head round but keeps walking. “Mhm?”

“Are you cross?” It feels like a silly question, but Phil could use a little reassurance.

“No.”

“But like… you are a little, right?” Phil asks.

“Not at you. And I’m not cross, just… annoyed? I guess. I dunno. I dunno the emotion.”

“It is… jealous?” Phil asks quietly.

Dan takes a few moments to answer, but when he does he just says, “Yeah.”

“You know you don’t have to be, right?”

“Yeah,” Dan says, and Phil wishes there was enough light for him to see the expression on Dan’s face. “I think I know that. Doesn’t stop it from feeling a little bad.”

“I know,” Phil says. “But I guess that’s how I always feel when people talk about Evie.”

“I’m sorry, Phil,” Dan says, with a tiny little exasperated sigh, “But like, she was literally flirting with you right in front of me. That felt really shit.”

“It didn’t really feel that great for me either,” Phil mumbles.

“No?” Dan sounds surprised.

“She’s really nice,” Phil says. “She’s funny and she seems really nice but like, obviously I’m not interested in her like that at all.”

“Not even like, a little bit?” Dan asks. “Like, not even a tiny part of you?”

Phil frowns even though he knows Dan can’t really see him. “No, of course not. Why would I?”

“She’s fit,” Dan says bluntly. “And clearly at least some kind of into you.”

Phil shrugs. Maybe Dan can see that. “I guess she’s pretty. But she’s not you.”

Dan stops walking abruptly and Phil bumps into the back of him. Dan turns around and looks like he’s about to attack or something.

“What-” Phil starts to say, but Dan interrupts him.

“You’re better than me,” Dan says matter of factly. “I don’t deserve it. Here I am trying to guilt trip you into telling me you like me more and then you go and say it in a way that just…” He trails off. “You’re just good, and I’m not.”

“Don’t,” Phil whispers. “Don’t say that. You have to stop saying that.”

“But I’m right. I’m a jealous twat.”

“You have nothing to be jealous about,” Phil says. “I don’t even really see anyone else. Like, I didn’t really think about the fact that Lottie is fit until you said it.”

“Shut up,” Dan says, and Phil can hear that he’s smiling even though he can’t really see it.

“You shut up,” Phil says.

“I’ll shut your mum up,” Dan retorts quietly. Phil really wishes he could see the dimple he knows is there in Dan’s cheek right now.

“Oh crap,” Phil says. “That reminds me I need to ring her.”

“Phil it’s like one in the morning.”

“Shit.”

“Text her?”

“I need a lie,” Phil says. “Or she’ll kill me when I get home. It was like the only rule she gave me.”

“Tell her your phone died and it took you a while to find somewhere to charge it and that’s why you’re up so late, because you were determined to get in touch.”

Phil smiles. “That’s brilliant.”

“I have a lot of experience lying to my parents,” Dan says, and Phil thinks he sounds a little bitter. “C’mon. I wanna be back in the tent like five minutes ago.”

“Me too,” Phil says, pulling his phone out and pointedly ignoring the two new messages he has from Lottie. He can deal with that later.

“Oh yeah?” Dan asks. “Why’s that, Lester?”

“Shush you perv, I’m texting my mum.”

“So you admit it’s something pervy?” Dan teases.

Phil ignores him while he types a text from his mum, but as soon as it’s sent he shoves his phone into his pocket and quickens his pace until he’s pressed up against Dan’s back. He puts his mouth to Dan’s ear and whispers, “Is me blowing you pervy? If so then yes, I’ll admit I wanna be pervy in our tent.”

“Fuck,” is all Dan says, in a low breathy voice and then they’re both walking with a little more purpose.

The moment they’ve stumbled into the tent and zipped the door shut they’re gripping each other and falling onto their cushions and kissing desperately. Phil tugs at Dan’s clothes as Dan licks into Phil’s mouth and bites at Phil’s lip. Their mouths come apart just long enough for Phil to pull Dan’s shirt up and over his head head and then they come back together, but just for a moment before Phil kisses down Dan’s jaw to his neck, delighting in the strangled noise of pleasure it elicits.

Dan starts working his own belt and jeans off as Phil works his mouth against Dan’s neck, that spot just below the jaw that makes Dan squirm. Phil is so achingly hard beneath his own jeans, but all he cares about right now is Dan and making him feel good. He wants to taste him again, maybe to take his time this go round, maybe learn a little more what Dan actually likes.

He’s not as scared this time. He’s got a few drinks warming him and easing the nerves enough that he’s not worrying about not doing a good job. He doesn’t really think he’d done that great a job last time and Dan had still seemed to love it, so really, what does he have to worry about?

Phil gets tired of waiting for Dan so he pushes his hands away and yanks his jeans down roughly. Dan groans and kicks them off the rest of the way. He’s completely naked now and Phil is running his hands everywhere. It’s a little frantic but that’s exactly how Phil feels right now, frantic and desperate and lucky and just… in love. He’s in love with Dan’s body and the way Dan makes him feel and the way it feels to make Dan feel nice. He’s in love with the way Dan makes him brave and bold. He’s in love with the way Dan looks at him and the way they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

Phil doesn’t even realize that Dan is trying to get his shirt off for him until Dan croaks, “Phil. Shirt off.”

Phil chuckles and lifts his arms for Dan to get the thing off. Once it’s been tossed somewhere Phil pushes gently on Dan’s shoulders so he’s lying on his back. Phil leans down and kisses him again, using all the restraint he has to slow the pace a little. “What do you want?” he whispers.

“Whatever you want,” Dan answers without hesitation.

Phil reaches down to take Dan in his hand. He has the wild realization that it’s only been a few days since he’d touched Dan like this for the first time and it already feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Still hot, though. Still so bloody hot and exhilarating and sexy and naughty in a good way. He has no room for bad feelings when Dan is warm and hard in his hands like this. Phil’s all fluttery inside as he says, “I want to use my mouth again.”

Dan just closes his eyes and pushes his fingers under the back of Phil’s jeans to touch his bum.

“Can I?” Phil asks.

Dan nods.

“Will you tell me how to do it properly?” Phil asks.

“Don’t need to,” Dan says, sucking in a little breath when Phil gives a quick up and down stroke with a twist at the top. “You’ve already done it once and it was amazing.”

“I want it to be better,” Phil says, releasing his grip and shuffling down a little to kiss one of Dan’s nipples. He can feel Dan’s cock hard against his stomach.

“God, Phil, can you just-” He stops talking abruptly when Phil takes the little brown nub between his teeth. “Harder,” Dan growls.

Phil’s heart nearly stops. He’s never heard Dan’s voice go that deep and insistent. He bites down harder but only a little, terrified he’s going to cause actual pain.

“Oh god,” Dan says. “Harder, Phil.” Or moans, actually. It doesn’t sound like he’s in pain, but maybe almost like he’s surprised.

Phil bites down, hard. Dan makes a noise that Phil honestly can’t decode. He lifts his head. “Are you ok?”

Dan lifts his up a little too and looks into Phil’s eyes. “Um… yeah. That was…”

“Did I hurt you?” Phil asks.

“Uhh… a little? But… like, in a good way?”

“I hurt you but you liked it?” Phil asks, frowning.

“Yes?” Dan sounds bewildered.

“Ok,” Phil says slowly. “Are you alright?”

Dan lowers his head back onto the pillow and lifts his hands to push his curly fringe up and off his forehead. “Yeah,” he says absentmindedly.

Phil can still feel Dan’s length pushing against him. “You’re really hard,” he murmurs.

“That’s what you do to me,” Dan says.

“Can I suck it?” It sounds too dirty for words that are coming from Phil’s own mouth but even just saying them gives him a little thrill of arousal.

Dan answers by reaching down and pushing down gently on the top of Phil’s head. Phil lets him, the hotness of it burning a hole in the pit of his stomach as Dan keeps pushing him down until his lips brush that soft hardness.

Phil likes that, Dan’s assertiveness. He likes it a whole fucking lot. He kisses all up and down the length of the shaft, listening carefully for every little breathy noise Dan makes. He keeps kissing in fact, until Dan says in a pained voice, “Thought you were gonna suck it.”

Phil’s dick twitches in his jeans but he doesn’t give in quite yet. He sticks out his tongue and licks up from balls to tip. Dan shudders and buries his fingers in Phil’s hair. “Mate,” he says pleadingly. “You’re killing me.”

Phil’s smiling as he opens his mouth and takes Dan in. The sound of relief he hears from above him is almost as satisfying as anything they’ve ever done together, and he closes his lips and sucks.

In the end he doesn’t do much differently than he had before. He holds Dan at the base and squeezes and strokes and twists where his mouth isn’t brave or experienced enough yet to reach. He bobs and sucks and maybe varies the speed a little more than the first time. He stops a few times to ask Dan what he should do but each time Dan just whines and pushes on Phil’s head and says, “Keep going.”

This time when Dan comes, Phil is a little more ready for it. He’s not surprised by the burst of bitterness on his tongue or bothered by the way it pools. He keeps sucking until Dan squirms away, then lifts his head up so Dan can watch him swallow.

Dan groans deep and grabs for Phil.

“Wait, wait-” Phil’s so hard it hurts in his jeans.

He scrambles to get them off, realizing he needs to take his shoes off first, and he ends up half sprawled on his back kicking at his feet while Dan practically doubles over laughing. He gives up and laughs too, body diagonal across the tent and head against one of their many, well-used cushions.

"You're ridiculous," Dan says, sounding intensely fond.

"Shut up and help," Phil demands, though he's not really out of sorts about it. He kind of likes that they're laughing, because it makes all the rest of the stuff they're doing seem not quite so intimidating and over Phil's head.

Dan doesn't shut up, but he does help, crawling over to Phil and tugging his shoes off. "Can't believe you had these on while you were blowing me."

"Is that bad blowjob etiquette?" Phil asks. "I don't know these sorts of things. You have to tell me."

"I'll tell you something," Dan says, straddling a now naked Phil. He cups Phil's face in his hands and kisses him. "I'll tell you how fucking ridiculous you are."

"You already said that once," Phil says, smiling into the kiss.

"Worth saying twice," Dan responds. "That's just how ridiculous you are."

"Three times." Phil grins and then yelps when Dan pinches him.

"It's like you don't even want me to make you come."

Phil sucks in a gasp. "I do," he quickly argues. "I really do."

Then Dan's hands are going all sorts of places and his mouth follows right after and he doesn't stop teasing Phil but that's alright because all the stuff he does feels so good at the same time.

It's probably good that no one ever told him sex would be this fun, or he might have wanted to have it a whole lot sooner.

-

It's morning, and Dan doesn't want to get up.

The whole festival seems quiet on a Sunday morning. If he listens very hard he can hear people talking. They're either packing up to leave already, ahead of a long day's journey from wherever they came from, or they're holdovers who wanted to make Saturday last so long they just never went to sleep.

Dan tries to check the time on his phone, but his battery is dead. He's only surprised it didn't die sooner. They'll have to find somewhere to plug in when they eat, but Dan's not in any hurry. Phil's still fast asleep beside him and he wants to soak in the ability to just lay here together without having to worry about anyone else.

It'd been the best part of Reading last year, too - with Evie. They hadn't been alone but he still remembers waking up with her hair in his face. They hadn't even really done anything, hadn't done much more than kissing because everything felt new and scary. He's not sure it ever really stopped feeling scary with Evie. They only managed to be alone in one of their houses maybe once or twice a month, and she only could drive her mum's car for the last few months they were together.

He's not sure if it's not scary with Phil because he's been with someone before, or if it's Phil that just makes things not scary.

Phil rolls from his side onto his back. He's frowning like he's maybe starting to wake up, but trying his best not to. He flings an arm up over his head and his breathing evens back out a bit.

It also gives Dan the perfect chance to just... look. Something hot starts to swirl in his stomach. He looks at the little patch of hair on Phil's chest and the hair under his arms and the way his adam's apple sticks out. He's such a... boy.

He's such a boy. And Dan likes all the boy parts. He likes them a lot.

But he'd liked all of Evie's parts, too. It's not like that wasn't real for him. Right? It felt good when he touched her, and when she touched him. It feels like more with Phil, but is it because Phil's not a girl or just because Phil is... Phil? Would it be the same with any other boy?

He rejects that thought right away. He doesn't want to test that out. He doesn't want any other boy. And he definitely doesn't want the next thought that sneaks into his mind, of Phil having the same thoughts, of Phil wanting to find out if it's boys or just Dan.

He puts his hand on Phil's chest almost defiantly. He gets to touch. Just him. No one else.

It’s enough to wake Phil a bit, just enough for him to grumble as Dan brushes his fingers back and forth over Phil’s chest hair.

“Dan,” Phil groans, reaching up and covering Dan’s hand with his own.

“Yeah?” Dan says. “Want me to stop?”

Phil’s face scrunches up briefly and then he pushes Dan’s hand down.

“Oh,” Dan says, laughing.

Phil’s already hard. It’s probably just normal morning wood but Dan wants to think him touching Phil had something to do with it, too.

Dan leans in and kisses Phil, because he’s been awake for so many minutes already without doing it. Both of them have morning breath, particularly rank after their drinks the night before, but it doesn’t seem as gross as it should. Phil kisses him back with more enthusiasm than Dan expects considering he barely seemed awake.

He holds Phil’s cock in an unmoving grip until Phil whines, “Please,” and moves his hips.

“Please what?” Dan asks.

“Please just…” Phil grabs at him with clumsy hands, tugging until Dan gets on top of him.

They’re both naked, both hard. Dan’s hands are big enough to wrap around them both at the same time and he loves how it makes Phil gasp.

“Do you want me to suck you again?” Dan asks. He’s impatient now - but if Phil wants him to, he will. Making Phil come is somehow more fun than even getting off himself.

But Phil shakes his head. “This feels good. It won’t… I was… dreaming.”

He looks bashful, and Dan isn’t sure how anyone can be bashful and shy looking when they’re getting a handjob but Phli manages it.

“A dream?” Dan asks, breath quickening even more. “About me?”

“About you,” Phil says. “It was so… hot, Dan, it was so hot.”

His voice dips at the end, that lower depth to it that Dan’s only coaxed out of him a few times. It makes Dan’s cock jump and his stomach swirl.

“Tell me about it,” Dan pleads.

Phil shakes his head. “Later. It was - a lot. I don’t even remember most of it, just... “

Dan understands. He’s been that way too many mornings, waking up with his body wanting something that he usually can’t have.

He can have it today. So can Phil. He can give it to Phil. He shifts back a little to put more space between them and starts to stroke. His fingers feel clumsy on both of them, like he can’t quite hold on well enough, but feeling Phil rub against him is electric enough that it doesn’t even really matter. He squeezes and tugs and works at it like he does any problem right in front of him, like anything he wants to be good at. Because he does want to be good at this, he wants to be the best at making Phil feel good.

Phil is trying to help, or maybe he just doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, little pumps of his hips against Dan. It’s like he’s trying to fuck himself against Dan’s cock and into Dan’s grip and sometimes the heads catch together and Dan feels shaky with how much it is.

“Why do you always-” Phil cuts himself off with a breathy grunt.

“Always what?” Dan asks. He’s fairly certain it isn’t anything bad with the sounds Phil’s making but he still wants to know.

“Know exactly how to do it.”

Jerking two cocks at once is hard enough, but putting thoughts together and voicing them coherently is nearly impossible. He can feel his grip getting clumsier and the rhythm becoming even more stilted. “Do what?”

“Just - everything, this stuff,” Phil says. His tone says he’s still not bothered by how amateurishly Dan is touching them right now.

“I don’t know shit,” Dan says. “I just do what I want. I see you and I just - I get ideas.”

Phil stops talking for a while and Dan gets to concentrate a little better on his strokes, but also on the indescribably glorious sight of Phil’s face in pleasure, the way he bites his lip and squeezes his eyes shut, the way his mouth falls open every once in a while to moan all soft and breathy.

His face is also covered in glitter, and not just in the places Lottie had put it anymore, but everywhere. It still looks so pretty on his smooth fair skin.

God, Dan’s going to miss this. He’s going to miss the freedom to do whatever the fuck he wants and not have to worry about anyone interrupting them. He’s going to miss the reckless way they’ve said yes to so many new things here, so many firsts. This weekend has been messy and oftentimes painful, but still without a doubt the best of his life.

“Is that it?” Phil says, as if picking up their conversation like no time has passed.

“What?” Dan’s brain is far too clouded with sex to know what he’s talking about.

“You just… do what you want?”

“Uh… yeah. Don’t you?” Dan asks. His hand actually starts to slow then, unsure how to interpret Phil’s words.

Phil puts his hand over Dan’s and encourages it to continue. “Don’t stop, please don’t stop. Feels so good.”

“You like it?” Dan asks. He wants to hear more words like that, more words that assure him that the weird stuff he tries without thinking are actually the right things, are actually things that feel as good for Phil as they do for him.

“God,” Phil pants. “My cock is - and yours - and your fucking hand.”

Dan feels a tightening heat low in his gut. Phil’s hand is wrapped around them both now too, helping Dan’s along, their fingers overlapping.

“Stop for a sec,” Phil says out of nowhere.

Dan does, and he’s not even worried like he might have been in the beginning. He knows Phil is ok. “S’up?”

Phil doesn’t respond, just twists his body to the side and stretches his arm out towards his backpack. He can’t quite reach so Dan stretches out and hooks the bag and tugs it close enough for Phil to reach. Phil starts pulling shit out and tossing it around until he finds what he wants and lies back down.

“Open your hand,” he says decisively and Dan does, relinquishing his grip on the both of them. It feels wrong, but he’s rewarded with Phil immediately squeezing a generous amount of lube into Dan’s palm first and then his own.

“You’re a fucking genius,” Dan says, wasting no time gripping the both of them again and resuming the mutual wanking.

“Holy shit,” Phil gasps, and Dan’s right there with him.

It feels so different. It feels so good. The slide is so easy, against their hands and against each other and Dan knows he’s not going to last much longer now. The heads are catching nearly on every stroke and Phil makes a noise every single time and Dan thinks that’s probably the sexiest thing of all, the noises Phil makes in moments like this.

“M’close,” Dan says. “Are you?”

“Mhm,” Phil replies, sounding drunk or stoned or something, completely lost in the pure carnality of it all.

“Think we could - ah, ah fuck. Fuck.” He bites down into his lip, hard. He wants to come so bad but he also wants so badly not to, not yet anyway.

“What?” Phil croaks.

“Think we could do it at the same time?”

Phil nods vigorously. “I can do it whenever you tell me.”

Dan moves his hand faster. He’s not convinced they can pull it off, but fuck if he isn’t going to try. His brain is latched onto the idea now, the notion of sharing this like they’ve begun sharing everything else.

“Ready?” he growls.

Phil doesn’t answer because - they’ve failed and he’s already coming hot and thick all over Dan’s hand. He feels it dripping down, feels the wetness on his own dick and it’s so filthy and wonderful that he tips over the edge too, not at the same time but close enough. It’s close enough. He’s still got Phil’s noises in his ear as he throbs and pulses, still has Phil’s hand wrapped firmly around him and working him through every wave.

“Sorry,” Phil groans as Dan collapses beside him on the cushions. “Sorry, I couldn’t hold on any longer.”

“Shut up,” Dan croaks. “I can’t breathe.”

They lie there for a few minutes in blissful silence and allow their pulses to slow and their breath to come easier. Dan grabs some toilet roll and wipes them both off haphazardly.

“That was incredible,” Phil says. “That was… yeah.”

“Yeah?” Dan asks. He’ll never tire of hearing Phil tell him how much he enjoys what they do together.

“Yeah,” Phil says. “Definitely. Don’t you think?”

“Mhm.” He rolls onto his side and presses his face into Phil’s neck, kissing where the skin is tacky and tastes vaguely of salt.

“We’re covered in glitter,” Phil says.

Dan giggles. “Yeah. You look really cute.”

“Nope, you,” Phil argues, rolling onto his side to face Dan. They stare into each other’s eyes until their smiles fade and something deeper settles in - at least, it does for Dan. He can’t claim to know what’s actually inside Phil’s head but it really does feel like the moment is a shared one, like feeling are deepening and solidifying in real time in a very real way for the both of them.

So he decides to be brave and voice it. “I love you,” he whispers.

Phil’s response is without any hesitation whatsoever. “I love you.”

“I don’t want to leave.”

“I never ever want to leave,” Phil agrees.

“Things might be… things won’t be like this. They’ll be… I reckon they’ll be harder now,” Dan whispers.

“Because of school?” Phil asks.

Dan nods. “And Evie.”

“Shit,” Phil murmurs.

“And our families.”

“And… everything,” Phil says.

“Yeah.”

-

Phil leans in and presses his lips to Dan’s firmly. “We’re still going to be together.”

“Fuck yes,” Dan says emphatically. “That’s all I want.”

“You’ll like… sit with me when we eat lunch or whatever,” Phil says. “You won’t pretend you don’t know me.”

“Fuck off,” Dan says softly. “You’ve already met like all my mates. They all already know about you. I would never.”

“Promise?” Phil asks. He feels like a loser but he just… he has to hear Dan say it.

“Promise. You’re my guy, no matter where we are,” Dan whispers, and this time it’s his turn to lean in for a kiss.

A kiss Phil decides he wants to keep going. A kiss with a different kind of energy than before, a kiss with no heat or urgency but one that makes him feel like maybe Dan is telling the truth. Like school will be terrifying and they won’t be able to wake up next to each other anymore, but maybe things will still be ok. Maybe he really will get to keep this feeling even after the magic of summer is gone and real life begins again.

Chapter Text

Saying goodbye is hard, even when all it really involves is walking across the street. Three blissful days of never being apart went by too fast, and yet they’ve left him fundamentally changed.

Things will be different now, whether he likes it or not.

He hadn’t had the courage to tell Phil about his plans for later tonight, but he thinks he knows. He was there in the tent after all, but it still feels wrong not to tell him.

His phone buzzes in his pocket just as he’s stepping foot inside.

i miss you already

Dan smiles. i might sneak over tonight if that’s ok

He’s already anticipating the need to be comforted.

thank god Phil texts back.

“Daniel James!”

Dan shoves his phone back into his pocket, knowing full well nana isn’t going to let him get away with not giving her his full attention after being gone for three whole days.

“Hi nana,” he says, holding out his arms to her. She smells like cinnamon.

She doesn’t embrace him right away, holding his shoulders and looking at his face with a considering expression. “You face is all sparkly, love.”

“Oh,” Dan says, wiping ineffectually at his cheek. “Yeah, I forgot.”

“You’re a sparkly smelly boy.”

“Thanks.”

“Go on up and have a shower,” she says, turning him back in the direction of the stairs. “I’ve made you a treat.”

“Is it cinnamon rolls?” he asks excitedly.

“Maybe. You’ll see when you’re all clean and presentable. Although I must say, your hair is so handsome like that. The curls are lovely.”

Dan rolls his eyes. “Well say goodbye to them.”

He takes the stairs two at a time and flops down into his bed. It feels like heaven, like he’s lying on a bed of clouds. The smell of pastry lingers even up here and he’s smiling because all it does is remind him of the first day he met Phil.

He pulls out his phone again. oh my gosh phil my nana made cinnamon rolls!

lol bring me some tonight plzzzz

Reading that makes him remember what has to come first and his heart thumps nervously, but he knows he has to do it. He has to do it, and he has to tell Phil about it first.

would your mum murder you if i rung real quick?

no Phil answers i’m hiding in my room pretending to unpack and get laundry sorted

Dan jabs at Phil’s name in his contacts and hears half a ring before he picks up.

“You miss me too, I knew it,” Phil says as a greeting.

“Course.”

“What are you doing?”

“Sitting on my bed shitting bricks,” Dan admits quietly.

“What, why?”

“Um… that’s why I rang. Wanted to let you know that…” He takes a steadying breath. “Evie’s coming over tonight, I think.”

“Oh,” Phil says. “I guess I kinda heard that, in the tent.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Phil says. “I mean… like, I dunno, it feels not great I guess but… it’s probably good, yeah?”

Dan shrugs even though Phil obviously can’t see him. “I hope. Closure maybe.”

“Yeah,” Phil murmurs. “Because you’re definitely… you know.”

“What?” Dan asks. His fingers are twitchy with the nerves.

“With me,” Phil all but whispers.

Dan actually chuckles. “Yes, Phil. You don’t have to worry about that. You’re not actually worried about that, are you?”

“Um… no?”

“That’s not real convincing, mate.”

“I trust you,” Phil says. “I just might be like, irrationally freaking out because you haven’t seen her in a while and I know I’ll end up wondering if seeing her again will change things but—”

“It won’t. I’m not shallow like that. It’s not about that.”

“I know,” Phil says softly. “I’m sorry. I’ll shut up. It’s good, it’s a good thing. You’re a good person. I hope you get closure and she gets… I dunno. Whatever she’s looking for.”

“What if she asks about you, though?” Dan asks quietly. “What should I say? She knows I met a boy.”

The other end of the line is dead silent.

“I guess that’s my answer,” Dan says.

“It’s not like— I don’t…” Phil sighs. “I don’t want to make it harder for you. I just… I don’t know if I can… I don’t know her.”

“I know,” Dan says sadly.

“I don’t know if I can trust her,” Phil says.

“I know, Phil. I don’t even know if I can, but it’s too late for me.”

Phil is quiet again, but this time Dan waits. He doesn’t know if he actually has anything left to say but he doesn’t want it to end here. It still feels up in the air and shitty and wrong.

Finally, finally, Phil speaks. “Say what you need to say. Just promise me you’ll still be there if…”

“If she tells everyone?” Dan croaks.

“If whatever,” Phil says.

“I will be,” Dan promises. “Will you be? Because like… you didn’t ask for any of this.”

“I will be. I am.”

“Ok. Ok,” Dan murmurs, running his thumb over a smudge of dirt on his calf. He really does need that shower. “I’ll see you later.”

“Outside my window?” Phil asks.

“Yeah.”

“Promise?” Phil’s voice is a little squeaky. “‘Cause I’m like… I’m freaking out a little, if I’m honest.”

“Trust me, I am too. But… it’s gonna be fine. Even if it’s like… not. I promise you’ll see me outside your window later tonight.”

“And you’ll stay over,” Phil says.

“I’ll definitely stay over.”

Then there is the sound of another voice on the other end of the line, distant but audible even to Dan.

“I gotta go,” Phil says. “Mum’s shouting at me about family time.”

“She’s very consistent,” Dan says. He can’t fault Kath for anything but he really doesn’t want to hang up the phone right now.

“I’m lucky she even let me go this weekend at all,” Phil says. “I’ll see you later.”

“You will.”

“I’ll try not to text a bunch. I… yeah. I’ll see you later.”

“I don’t care if your mum walks in on us, I’m touching you tonight,” Dan says. “A lot.”

Phil makes a noise that almost sounds like a laugh. “Not if I touch you first.”

It takes a while in the shower to scrub all the glitter off his face. And neck. And chest. And everywhere, really. The stuff got pretty much everywhere. It’s probably all over the cushions and blankets too.

It feels bloody good to have a proper shower, but he tries to hurry a little knowing he has nice food and time with his nana waiting. He won’t admit to it out loud, but he enjoys that time. He likes talking to his nana.

It’s also nice to get dressed again in clothes that don’t smell funky from sweat and… other stuff. He doesn’t linger long in his room after he’s dressed again. His stomach is growling - they’d opted for making the most of the rest of their alone time at the festival instead of eating lunch, only emerging from the tent for the toilet and to catch the last few songs of one of the sets. Phil had insisted he’d need to be able to tell his mum at least a few things they saw, and that he’s a horrible liar.

Dan believes it. But he also thinks Phil will probably learn fast, if he really doesn’t want anyone to know about them.

He hates how that tugs at his gut in an unpleasant way. It’s not even fair, Dan knows. It’s not like the idea of telling his own family doesn’t make Dan break out into a cold sweat. But it still feels bad, and he resents that something he wants so much can still feel so bad and… dangerous, almost.

The rest of his family is home already when he gets downstairs, even his dad. He can smell the cinnamon rolls and he sees his mum chopping carrots. “Are we having roast dinner?” Dan says, mouth watering right away.

“No, I just wanted to test and see if the knife was sharp enough,” his mum says, shamelessly sassing him. “How was the festival?”

“It was good,” he says.

“Better than last year?”

Dan shrugs. “Arcade Fire was good. And Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

“Oh, I love them,” she says. “Did they do Californication?”

“Mum, of course they did, that’s like their biggest song.”

She points the knife at them. “And for good reason.”

He thinks secretly his mum wishes she could still go to stuff like that. He’s seen his nana’s old photo albums, he knows she was wild when she was a teenager.

As he has the thought, his nana walks in from the back garden. Adrian’s chasing behind her, ducking under her arm to run around her and hide behind his mother. “Nana’s trying to make me take a bath.”

Karen scratches her fingers through Adrian’s hair and then makes a face when dirt flies out. “As well she should. You can wait a bit if you want to play outside some more but you’ll need to get clean before we eat.”

“When are we eating?” Dan asks. “Is there anything I can have now?”

“Two hours, maybe three? And I’d tell you to wait but all you do is eat these days. I miss having a teenager’s metabolism.” She sighs and shakes her head. “There’s leftover from last night’s lasagna. Don’t worry, your nana made it, not me.”

Dan’s mum isn’t the worst cook… but she’s not the best, either. He grabs the dish out from the fridge and pops it in the microwave.

He eats standing at the counter, knowing as long as his mouth’s full he can get away with saying what he has to say next. He listens to his mother and grandmother bickering back and forth about seasonings or something inane and soaks in the familiarity of the moment.

It lasts until his dad walks in. Dan tenses on instinct, like he thinks maybe his dad can just sense what he got up to this weekend, honing in on it like weakness.

But all his dad does is echo the same question his mum had. He wants to know about the music, wants to know who Dan liked best and who put on the best show. There are enough people in the room that the conversation bounces around easily.

He hates how it’s actually nice. Talking to his parents about music, how they’re actually listening to him, and everything is civil and pleasant and just… it’s fucking good. He doesn’t have that many good moments with them lately, but this is good.

So the silence when he blurts out, “Evie’s coming over tonight,” is almost deafening.

It’s his dad who responds first and says, in a too-pleased voice, “That’s back on, then?”

And that’s what Dan had been afraid of. He knows he couldn’t have gotten away with not telling them, but he also doesn’t want them to think exactly what they’re all probably thinking now.

The problem is that he’s always been bad at telling the truth when a lie makes things feel easier. So he just looks down at the empty lasagna dish and shrugs. “We’re just gonna talk.”

His mum puts her hands on his shoulders and squeezes. “Well, I hope it goes well.”

-

Phil sits at the dinner table not wanting to eat a single bite of the lovely meal his mum made.

She notices, of course. It only takes five minutes for her to look at his barely touched plate and fuss. “What’s wrong with it, then? You’ve never turned down my food before.”

Phil’s dad looks at him with a raised eyebrow. “Bit too much of the-” He mimes drinking a beer, and then laughs far too hard at his own insinuation. “Kath, get him a bit of wine, maybe hair of the dog will help him.”

“Dad!” Phil is mildly shocked. “I’m not hungover! I’m just - tired.”

He can hardly believe his dad would think he’s hungover… though he did drink at the festival. And also at the party just a couple of weeks ago. Still, he’s not been hungover like that and he’s not in a hurry to find out what it feels like.

He can’t say the real reason he doesn’t want to eat, though. That every few seconds he feels like he’s swallowing a golf ball and he couldn’t possibly force food down around it. There’s just no point. He won’t feel okay until he knows Dan’s done talking to Evie and that… well, that Dan still wants him.

And if Dan doesn’t want him anymore after he talks to Evie, Phil isn’t sure if he’ll ever feel okay again. Just thinking about it makes him want to cry and he has to work very hard not to let it show all over his face.

His parents argue back and forth over dinner whether Phil’s hungover or just sick - his mum insistent that she knows when her children are poorly. Phil tries to eat, taking advantage of his mum feeling bad for him in order to pull his phone out of his pocket and check it a few times.

No texts from Dan. Phil’s itching to send him a message, but he promised Dan he wouldn’t.

That golf ball moves down his throat and settles in his chest. “Mum?” He asks, realizing that the idea of going up to his bedroom alone sounds like torture. “Can we watch a film tonight?”

“What’s brought this on?” She asks gently as she reaches out and touches his cheek. He knows she’s feeling for fever, even if she doesn’t say it. “Last week you’d do anything to get away from us.”

Phil shrugs weakly. “Just missed you this weekend.”

It sounds better than saying he’s afraid if he goes to his room he’ll end up doing nothing but staring at his phone for the next two hours.

“Dan’s busy tonight?”

He kind of hates that, even if she’s basically hit the nail on the head. He’ll have to try harder not to shut her out.

Ten minutes later he’s sat on the couch next to his mum, his head on her shoulder and her arm around him. She smells like her familiar perfume, warm and faded from the day, and every few minutes she’ll stroke her fingers through his hair or scratch her nails over his arm. He wishes he were still little enough just to crawl right into her lap, but this is the next best thing.

His dad brings popcorn that they all share out of a massive bowl. It’s nice. Not nice enough to stop him thinking about Dan, but still definitely better than hiding in his room imagining the worst.

-

She doesn’t text him when she gets there. He’s waiting, phone in sweaty hand, anticipating with a mild sense of dread the moment it buzzes. He’s sat in the lounge watching Family Guy with his brother, Bangy flopped right across Dan’s lap like his own personal heated blanket when the doorbell rings.

Dan hears a chair scrape against the floor in the kitchen. “It’s ok mum,” he calls. “It’s for me.” He can’t tell if the nerves are apparent in his voice or not.

He moves the dog over onto Adrian’s lap and ignores the whines of protest as he gets up and heads for the front door. No part of him wants to be doing this right now, but he tries to breathe through the panic as he pulls the door open.

“Hi,” she says.

“Hey.” He steps back to let her in, trying not to stare.

This feels fucking weird. Maybe even worse than he thought it would. It hasn’t been all that much time since he’d seen her last and things had been as they’ve been for years.

Now it’s just a few weeks later and Dan is not the same person he was then, but she is and she still looks the same if not for a slightly darker skin tone from all the time spent lying in the Grecian sun fending off dickheads with suncream.

She looks good, and he rather hates himself for even noticing that. But she does, and he does feel something still when he looks at her, kicking off her flip flops into the pile of shoes on the mat just like she’s done a hundred times before.

Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, the way he always told her he liked. She’d roll her eyes like she didn’t believe him, but he meant it. He liked being able to see her cute little ears and plant kisses on her neck without getting rogue strands caught between his lips.

She’s wearing a hoodie and shorts and what looks like little to no makeup and he can’t help but think maybe it’s all intentional that she’s dressed exactly the way he always insisted she looked best - like herself.

He has to look away. He doesn’t want to have these feelings. He doesn’t want to remember this stuff. That was another life and it’s over now, because for all that he loves her and misses her, he knows that what he has with Phil is something that makes him feel right in a way he never has before.

She sees Adrian sat with the dog on his lap and smiles before going to join them. Dan doesn’t follow, watching her drop down beside his brother and ruffle Bangy’s fur.

“How you doing, kid?” she asks Adrian, and they have a little conversation about how their summers went.

It looks so fucking easy, like she belongs there and it feels… terrible. Dan feels terrible. He pulls out his phone and opens his camera roll to see photo after photo of Phil’s smiling face, the last one a closeup of tongue stuck out between teeth and glitter everywhere.

It helps. He goes a step further and opens up his texts and sends a quick one.

thinking about you <3

His mum comes into the lounge then and gives Evie a big hug. “Good to see you, love.”

“You too Karen.” She sounds so heartbreakingly genuine.

“You lot heading upstairs, then?” his mum asks, looking over at Dan. Maybe he’s imagining it but he feels some kind of comfort in her expression, like she knows exactly how shit he feels in this moment.

“I think so,” Dan croaks.

“Off you go then,” she says, giving Evie a little rub between her shoulder blades. “Good luck.”

Evie looks suddenly like she might cry. Dan turns and heads for the stairs. He can’t fall apart in front of his brother. He hopes she won’t either.

He can hear her following him up the stairs and into his room. Normally that would mean shutting the door and falling onto the bed kissing, tugging at each other’s clothes.

Why can’t he stop thinking about shit like that? Why is his brain so determined to make this painful?

She closes the door behind her. He doesn’t know what to do so he just stands there and watches her sit down on his bed.

“Weird being back here,” she murmurs.

“Yeah.”

She scoots over from the edge of the mattress and crosses her legs underneath her. “Everything looks the same.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Dan says quietly.

“Feels like it has.”

Dan looks out his window, across the street to Phil’s house, to the tree he’s planning to climb later tonight.

“Yeah. It does.”

“Are you gonna sit?” she asks.

Dan sits stiffly, his feet still firmly planted on the carpet.

“This is gonna feel weird no matter what, isn’t it?” she asks.

“I think so,” Dan says. He can feel her looking at him, but he keeps his gaze directed at the way his jeans are bunching a little at the bend of his knee.

It’s tense and silent a while before she murmurs, “This was probably a mistake.”

Finally he looks up. “What was?”

“Coming here. It’s all… I thought it would feel better, seeing you, seeing this room. Thought it would feel like…”

“Closure?” he asks.

“Yeah. I guess.”

He pulls his legs up and hugs his knees to his chest. “It doesn’t.”

“No,” she says sadly. She just sounds so bloody sad. “It kind of feels the opposite.”

He looks always again. “Maybe… maybe we need more time.”

“You’d like that I bet. You just want me to leave you the fuck alone and pretend I don’t exist.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he protests weakly.

“I think it is.”

“It’s not,” he insists. “This feels fucking weird and sad for me too.”

“Last time we were in this bed…” she trails off. “I just keep thinking of shit like that.”

“Me too.”

“It fucking hurts,” she whispers. “I thought I could be like… I thought I could be cool. I thought I could…”

Dan wishes, in this moment, that he could die. He honestly does. The tightness in his chest and the giant fucking tennis ball sized lump in his throat are making it hard to breathe and he can’t imagine ever being free of this crushing sense of guilt ever again. He can’t envision a life where he doesn’t feel like a monster who does nothing but hurt people and he just… really doesn’t want to feel it anymore. Even a few days of it has been unbearable, the thought of living with this any longer feels impossible.

He knows what he wants, but right now it doesn’t matter. Right now he wants to tell her he fucked up and they can go back to how things were. They can try harder. He can kiss her and make her smile and claim temporary insanity or something.

Then he thinks of Phil and knows he could never do that. Will never do that. And he’s still stuck where he was before, still caught between a rock and a hard place, still with what feels like the weight of the world in his hands, balancing two hearts between him and knowing he’s responsible for causing enough pain to break one.

But the decision has been made. He’s already broken one, already caused the pain. He’s supposed to be trying to find a way to live with that, but in this moment it doesn’t feel possible.

“Will you ever forgive me?” Dan asks.

“Doesn’t feel like it right now. Unless… fuck.”

He looks at her. “What?”

“Unless… you changed your mind.”

He closes his eyes. “Eve…”

“I know. Fuck,” she mutters, pulling her hands back into the sleeves of her hoodie and burying her face in the paws. “That’s exactly what I promised myself I wouldn’t say and I’ve already said it. And I don’t even want you to— please don’t say anything. I don’t think I can handle hearing you say it again.”

He’s completely and utterly helpless. There’s not a single damn thing he could say to make this suck less and still be true to what he knows is right for him.

And that’s the problem really. At the heart of it he feels selfish, putting himself before her. It feels wrong even though he knows it’s not.

“Have you fucked him yet?” she asks.

Dan feels like he’s going to be sick for sure.

“How does it work?” she asks. “How do you decide who does the—”

“Stop.” His voice is firmer than he’d have thought possible.

“Is he a good kisser? Is he like, extra good at blowjobs?”

He can’t say anything. Maybe this is what he deserves.

“Was I bad at that stuff?” she asks.

“No.”

“Is he better, though? Is that what it’s about?”

“It’s not about anything,” Dan says, a hardness starting to sink between the guilt. He didn’t expect cruelty.

“It has to be about something. You wouldn’t dump me for someone you just met if it wasn’t about anything.”

How can he explain? How can he explain something he doesn’t even really understand himself?

“I just want to know why.”

“I told you why.”

“I just… I’m sorry, I don’t fucking get it. If you just told me you’re like… gay. Like if you say you’re gay then it would make sense to me.”

The words cuts into him shamefully. Because he knows he’s not and because he doesn’t want anyone to say he is and because he feels guilty for not wanting anyone to say he is.

“I’m not gay,” he says. “It’s not simple like that.”

“You’re fucking a guy,” she says bluntly. “How are you not gay?”

“Stop saying that. I’m not— we—”

“Oh god,” she interrupts. “Don’t say we. You’re already a we? Fuck.”

“I’m not gay,” Dan says again. “I know I’m not because of you.”

“Yeah but you left me.”

“Sometimes people break up. It happens all the time. If I… like if I left you for someone with blonde hair would you say I hate brunettes or something? Or like… if I started dating Lottie? Would you say—”

“Oh fuck off, Dan, it’s different and you know it.”

“Yeah but I’m telling you it’s not. You know there’s like… there’s other stuff besides just gay and straight.”

“So what?” she asks. “You’re like… bi?”

He sighs and drops his forehead down against his knees. “I don’t know.”

“I don’t understand how you can not know.”

“All I know is that… it feels right for now.” He says it quietly, knowing it’s going to gut her.

“With him.”

He looks up at her. “Yes.”

“Did you cheat on me?” she asks.

“No.”

“But technically I broke up with you.”

“Yeah. I was… confused. And scared. But I didn’t cheat.”

“But you would’ve.” She sounds so sure.

Dan’s not sure enough to argue. “You just want to hate me now,” he chokes. “You don’t actually care about the truth or putting yourself in my shoes or any of it.”

“Well you sure as fuck haven’t been acting like you care about me.”

“I’m trying. I’m trying to give you space to be angry. But I also like— I kind of thought you might give me space to be fucking terrified? And not be shitty about it? I thought that’s why you were coming over here.”

She looks him dead in the face, a frown deep set between her brows. He stares back, trying not to lose his nerve.

“You’re an asshole,” she says.

“Yes.”

“I’m being an asshole to you about… this. This thing,” she says.

“Yes,” Dan agrees. “You are.”

“But you understand why.”

“Yeah, of course. But I just… it’s hard to hear you say this shit. Because I thought out of everyone you might be the one to understand best.”

“Would you have— like, were you already unhappy before you met this guy?”

Dan bites his lip and nods.

“So things would have ended eventually either way?”

“I… think so?”

She sighs. “You don’t make this shit easy, you know that?”

“I’m genuinely being honest,” he says. “I don’t know what would have happened.”

“If I hadn’t gone to Greece we’d still be together,” she says quietly.

“You’re better off this way. And I still would have met…”

“Phil,” she finishes, staring into his eyes intensely, daring him to disagree. Daring him to lie, since they both know what’s the truth.

He doesn’t say anything.

“You’re not going to talk about him? Even if I promise not to tell anyone?”

Dan shakes his head.

“Should I pretend I don’t know? Why does it matter?”

“I can’t,” he croaks. “I just can’t.”

“I talked to Lottie today,” she says quietly.

Dan’s stomach sinks right down to the fucking floor.

“She said he’s really nice. And cute in a kind of dorky way.”

He can’t breathe. He doesn’t remember what it feels like not to be terrified.

“I didn’t ask, by the way, she volunteered that information. I think she might have a little crush on him actually. She said he let her put that glitter shit on his face.”

He’s just going to let her talk it out. He feels like saying anything right now would be admitting something that betrays the trust Phil had placed in him, and that’s one guilt he doesn’t think he could endure.

“She told me you said you were sad about us.”

“She did?” Dan asks.

“Yeah. She’s my best friend, Dan. She told me you said you were sad but that you seemed like you were having fun. With Phil.”

He falls silent again.

“You’re gonna have to talk to me about him eventually.”

“Actually, no I’m fucking not, Evie, ok? It’s none of your business.”

She stands up off the bed, crossing her arms and glaring at him. “How is it not my fucking business? You dump me for a bloke and act like you’re the victim here.”

“Shut up,” he hisses. She’s practically shouting.

“I’m leaving,” she says. “This was stupid. Should’ve known you’d be too selfish even to answer basic questions.”

“You don’t get to ask me those questions,” he spits, voice quiet but furious. “You’re not even pretending to care that this is hard for me. You’re not even trying to understand. You just want details so you can have more excuses to be pissed off. Or you want details so you can… can fucking out me to everyone and ruin my life.”

She’s quiet for a minute before she responds. “You think I’d do that?”

He shrugs. “Why not? You wanna hurt me like I hurt you.”

She sits down again, keeping her back turned. “Part of me does. Part of me thinks that’d be like… karma or something. But I… I wouldn’t do that to you. I don’t think it would make me feel better.”

“Are these details going to make you feel better?” he asks. “I don’t think they are. I think you’re trying to humiliate me.”

“Is that what you think of your new boyfriend?” She says it like it’s a dirty word. “You’re humiliated? People knowing about him would ruin your life?”

“Fuck you,” Dan says. It’s not playful. He can’t believe it’s come to this, but now he’s well and truly angry. He didn’t think her capable of cruelty like this, of misunderstanding so willful that he’s actually starting to feel the beginnings of hatred. “I’m not humiliated by him. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

He watches her face crumple, and for once feels not a shred of guilt. She can be angry, she can shout and cry and tell him he didn’t treat her right, but she can’t talk about Phil like that. He can’t let her think he’s ashamed of what he has with Phil. Even if he loses everything else, all his friends and what little reputation he has… it’s worth it. It’s worth it not to misrepresent the most beautiful thing in his life.

Maybe that’s the anger talking, but he feels it keenly now and it makes him brave. Reckless.

“Wow,” she breathes. “Ok.”

He thinks maybe now is when he should say something else, but he waits out the silence instead. He watches the emotions filter through her face, watches her wipe the tears away.

But she doesn’t leave. She just stays sat there on his bed, looking at him like she’s looking at a total stranger.

Finally she wipes the last of her tears away and says, “I think I do hate you a bit now.”

It’s almost a relief to hear it. “Yeah,” he says. “I think I hate myself right now, too.”

Something in her expression cracks at that, but whatever she feels isn’t enough. “You always do,” she says. “You act like you’re the only person in the world who ever feels bad sometimes.”

Her words cut like a knife. If she wants to hurt him back, she clearly knows just how to do it. He breathes out hard. “I know I’m not.”

It’s a weak response. That’s how he feels right now. Weak and awful.

“I hate you a bit.” She wipes her eyes again. Apparently he’s not done making her cry. “But I love you so fucking much, Dan. I know you’re a shit boyfriend and I know you don’t answer my texts sometimes and I know you think your problems are worse than everyone else’s and it makes you an utter asshole. Sometimes I think you don’t even realize other people even have problems. You’re always just on about yourself, you never even ask about me. But I was going to love you anyway. I was always going to love you anyway.”

She has her arms wrapped around herself now, voice breaking with sobs. He hates this worse than he hated the anger.

“You deserve someone who will answer your texts and care about your problems,” he says, quietly.

She looks up at him. She’s heartbroken but there are still daggers in her eyes. “Are you going to hate yourself if you’re a better boyfriend to him than you were to me? Are you going to answer his texts and ask him about his day? Are you ever going to tell me why he deserves this and I didn’t?”

Dan’s heart is stuck in his throat again. He can’t answer. He can’t say it.

He can’t talk about Phil to her. He just shakes his head and sniffles.

“Why did you even want me to come over?” She asks. “Why did you want to talk to me if you weren’t even going to say anything real? If you aren’t going to answer anything I ask?”

“You’re only asking me about him.” Dan tries to speak around the ache, the weird stab of guilt he feels for even acknowledging there is a him so openly. “If you want to know about me, ask me about me. Or do you hate that, too? Do you hate me now because I’m - not who you thought I was? Because there’s something about me you didn’t know?”

“I’m not a fucking homophobe,” she says, furious now. “But I am mad that you kept something like this from me. It feels like you lied to me, like you’ve probably always been lying to me, and I feel so stupid, Dan. You always have. You make me feel like a fucking idiot for caring about someone who doesn’t give two shits about me.”

“I did,” he says. “I do.”

But she’s already on her feet, shaking her head. “I can’t do this.”

“Wait,” he says, suddenly desperate for this not to be the end. He stands up too and follows her to the door.

He can see that she’s actually shaking. “No.”

“Can I at least ring you later?” He’s spent a year avoiding her calls but there’s a desperation coiling in his chest to not lose her, not like this, not entirely. He just needs a bit of hope to cling to.

“Fuck off,” she says, reaching out with both hands and shoving him.

It’s a weak push but he still stumbles back. “Evie…”

“No,” she says again, shaking her head. “I mean it. Fuck off.”

He doesn’t try to follow her when she walks out. He can’t quite understand just how he seems to dig the hole deeper and deeper every time. Should he have just told her what she wanted to know?

Surely not. He’s a dickhead and a shit boyfriend and she’s well within her rights to hate him for that forever, but she doesn’t have a right to Phil. She doesn’t have a right to any part of what he has with Phil that they’re ready and willing to share.

What they have is for them and no one else gets to take that from them, no one else gets to lay claim or taint it with judgement they didn’t ask for.

So maybe he really is going to lose her. He’s not going to give up yet, but he knows right now he has to let her hate him.

He pulls out his phone to check the time and sees a message from Phil, and it couldn’t be more perfect for how rotten he feels at this moment.

i’m literally always thinking about you

He checks the time. Still too early for sneaking, so he’ll have to make do with texting for now.

she’s gone

Phil’s response is startling in its immediacy. how’d it go

pretty shit

:( i’m sorry. no closure?

Dan has to think about that for a moment. He thinks closure implies some kind of peace, which he definitely mostly doesn’t feel, but at the same time…

The guilt is less. He doesn’t know what it really means, but he definitely feels a little less guilty.

i dunno. i don’t know if closure is possible. she wanted me to talk about you and i told her i wouldn’t

i told you you could if it would make things easier, Phil texts.

i don’t care about making things easier for myself if it means making things harder for you

Phil’s next reply takes a little longer. are you still coming over tonight

unless you don’t want me to

Just then there’s a knock on Dan’s door and his mum’s voice saying, “Dan?”

He shoves his phone in his pocket and slides down under his duvet. He reckons he’ll need a place to hide his face for this conversation.

“Yeah.”

“I’m coming in, alright?”

He just grunts.

She comes in and sits on the edge of his bed. “So,” she says carefully. “That didn’t go well.”

“Were you— you weren’t listening to us, were you?” he asks, panic seizing his every muscle.

“Of course not. But she left in a hurry. She was clearly upset, Dan.”

“Yeah well.” He shrugs. “I’m upset too.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks, stroking his fringe off his forehead.

He shakes his head. “Kinda just want to sleep. And not think.”

She nods, but makes no move to get up. She strokes her thumb softly up and down on his temple, her head tilted slightly as she looks down at his face. “I’m proud of you, you know,” she murmurs.

“Why?” he asks. “I’m a right fuckin’ twat.”

She actually laughs a little at that. “You are.”

“Thanks.”

“But you tried tonight, didn’t you? You tried to make things right?”

“I mean… not like you think. Not like dad thinks. I wasn’t trying to get back with her or something like that.”

“That’s not what I mean,” she says. “You tried to make things feel better. You tried to make her feel a little less shit.”

Dan sighs. “I probably could have tried harder.”

“You tried. That’s the important thing, bear. And you can try harder next time. And maybe next time she’ll try too.”

He frowns. “You said you weren’t listening.”

She laughs again, breathy and full of the wisdom of a woman who’s lived and learned things Dan can only imagine. “I wasn’t, I swear.”

It’s then that he feels the tickle in his throat he actually thought he’d be able to stave off this time. “Mum,” he says, his voice wobbling in a truly humiliating way.

“What is it, love.”

“It’s so… hard.”

“What is?” she asks, brushing her fingers over his forehead.

“Like… everything.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Does it get less hard?”

She smiles. “Do you want me to make you feel better or do you want the truth?”

“I was kind of hoping those were the same thing,” he whispers.

“This part will get easier,” she says. She’s merciful enough not to tell him all the ways things will get harder.

It’s not like he doesn’t know. It’s not like he doesn’t see how red her eyes get sometimes, how she’ll slip away and reappear later with splotchy cheeks. He’s ashamed to admit he’d never given it much thought.

“I think I’m gonna sleep now mum,” he says quietly. “I’m exhausted.”

It’s only half a lie.

She nods. “It’s been a long weekend.”

“Yeah. A long month.”

She laughs. He doesn’t even care that she’s almost certainly making fun of him a little, the sound is a nice one. “Sleep, baby. Things will look better in the morning. Even if it’s just a little bit.” She leans down and kisses his forehead, then gets up and walks to the door.

“Love you mum,” Dan mumbles, half hoping she won’t hear.

“I like you a little bit,” she says, grinning. “Goodnight.” She shuts the door softly behind her.

He pulls his phone back out before he can dwell on the loveliness of that moment long enough to start crying. He’s got a message from Phil.

i want you to. duh

Dan smiles. just tell me when it’s safe

how abouuuuuuuut
NOW

you sure? Dan texts. i don’t want kath to catch me

just come please. i told her i was tired from reading and needed to go to sleep early. i kind of need you to come over asap so just please shut up and get over here already

That’s all he needs.

coming :D

Five minutes later he’s managed to painstakingly sneak out of the house without anyone noticing. He’s got no shoes but that hardly matters; he’s going to be mostly naked and wrapped around Phil all night like a koala anyway.

He’s got a routine down now as he climbs up Phil’s tree, knows exactly where to put his feet and which branches are the strongest for pulling himself up. He nearly has a heart attack when Phil’s face is right there in the window when he gets there, but his fear quickly turns to laughter as Phil opens the window and all but yanks him inside.

Dan grabs him into a bear hug and squeezes tight for a long long time, gripping Phil’s shirt and breathing in the clean smell of him and enjoying the way their breathing synchronizes after a while.

Phil runs a hand up and down Dan’s back and just stands there in the middle of his bedroom floor and lets Dan hold him like a crazy person for ages. He doesn’t let go and he doesn’t push Dan to say anything he’s not ready to say, he’s just there. Like a rock. A lovely Phil shaped rock.

Dan presses his face into Phil’s neck. “I live here now,” he mumbles.

“Can we live in the bed instead?” Phil asks.

“Ok.”

“Can I take off your jeans?”

Dan laughs. “Yes please.”

“Do you want pjs?” Phil asks.

“Definitely not. And you have to take yours off.”

Dan takes off his own jeans and goes ahead and takes off his shirt too, and Phil does the same. They crawl into Phil’s bed in their pants and immediately find themselves fitting together like puzzle pieces.

Dan loves this, he loves feeling Phil’s skin against his own, but right now he doesn’t feel moved to act in any way besides holding Phil tight and enjoying the closeness. He presses his face to Phil’s neck again and sighs.

“You ok?” Phil asks.

Dan shrugs. “Now anyway.”

“D’you wanna talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“You know you can though, yeah?” Phil asks.

“I’m just… tired of talking.” He’s talked so much today and it doesn’t feel like he’s accomplished anything at all. Words are fucking futile and he just wants to feel now, to exist is a soft warm space he doesn’t have to try to apologize or rationalize or… think. He doesn’t want to think.

“Ok,” Phil murmurs, rubbing Dan’s back. “Lemme know if you change your mind.”

“You talk,” Dan says. “Talk to me.”

“About what?” Phil asks.

“Anything. Anything you want that’s nice and easy and happy,” Dan mumbles against the skin of Phil’s shoulder. “Just wanna be happy for awhile.”

“I want you to be happy,” Phil says. “Especially when you’re with me.”

“I am. I just wanna like… pretend my life doesn’t exist right now. Like I don’t wanna think about stuff that’s hard. Unless you have hard stuff.”

“I don’t want to think about hard stuff either,” Phil assures.

“Tell me what you did tonight,” Dan prompts.

“I watched a film with my parents. And ate a lot of popcorn.”

Dan chuckles. “That’s so cute. You’re so bloody cute.”

“It was nice. I wished you were there too but… yeah. It was nice.”

“I had a like, moment, with my mum too,” Dan says quietly. “It was nice too.”

“I’m glad,” Phil murmurs. “I think family is important.”

“I don’t know why it feels so hard for me. Like when I go to yours and see you with your parents it just seems like… like you lot are what family is meant to be. And it doesn’t feel like that for me most of the time.”

“I thought we weren’t talking about hard stuff,” Phil says gently.

“Oh fuck.”

“I mean, we can. Sorry. I didn’t mean— we can talk about that.”

“I genuinely don’t want to,” Dan says, squeezing his arms tighter round Phil’s middle.

“Some other time, then,” Phil says.

“Maybe.”

“Dan…”

“Shush.” Dan kisses Phil right on the mouth to stop him talking. “Happy easy stuff only.”

“Umm… I think you’re cute?”

“You’re cuter,” Dan argues.

“You’re the cutest.” Phil sticks out his tongue.

Dan sticks out his too and presses it against Phil’s.

“Oi,” Phil whines. “Gross.”

“Is it?”

“No. Do it again please,” Phil says, sticking it out again.

This time Dan goes a step further and actually sucks it. He feels Phil’s body stiffen.

“Shit,” Phil murmurs. “I take it back. You’re not cute, you’re hot. Sexy McHottie Face.”

“Shut up,” Dan giggles.

“Nuh uh, don’t wanna, can’t make me.” Phil sticks out his tongue again.

Dan licks it then sucks it and presses himself into Phil’s body, inhaling sharply when Phil’s hand moves down to slide into the back of his pants and squeeze his bare ass cheek.

“You have the best bum,” Phil says, his voice gone low.

“You have the best everything,” Dan counters.

“That’s cheating.”

“No it’s not, not if it’s true.”

“Well it’s not,” Phil says, his hand still firmly planted on Dan’s ass, fingers flexing against what little flesh is there.

“Yes it is, stupid.” Dan bites Phil’s bottom lip playfully.

“Ok, give me some examples.”

“We’ll be here all night,” Dan says.

Phil smiles. “I’m ok with it.”

“Ok… god, I don’t even know where to start.” He’s looking into Phil’s eyes, so he might as well start there. “Your eyes.”

“I have the best eyes?” Phil asks, blinking theatrically.

“Yeah, you do. I already told you, they’re like the sea. I wanna go swimming in them.”

“Well, yours are coffee, remember?” Phil asks. “What’s better than coffee? The sea isn’t better than coffee.”

“Your mum is better than coffee,” Dan retorts.

“Ok well… that’s true. But not in the weird pervy way you mean it.”

“Mate,” Dan says. “Stop interrupting me when I’m trying to tell you you’re perfect.”

Phil grins. “Sorry.”

“I love your nose and how it kind of looks like a beak.”

“Hey! Is that even a compliment?”

Dan giggles and kisses the tip of said nose. “Yes it is. I love you and your bird nose.”

“You love me?” Phil teases.

“Shut up. You know I do. Also your lips.”

“My lips?”

Dan answers by kissing them, first the top lip and then the bottom, then completely ruining the moment by licking over them both.

Phil barely bats an eye, though. “You’re gross.”

“Mhm. But you’ve still got the best lips. I wanna eat them. Tasty tasty lippies.”

“Shut up!” Phil squeals.

Dan crushes their lips together, both because he really wants to kiss Phil and because Phil really needs to shut up so they don’t get caught.

“Don’t actually eat them,” Phil giggles against Dan’s mouth. “I need them for… stuff.”

“What stuff?”

“Shut up,” Phil mutters, moving his mouth down to Dan’s neck. “You know what stuff.”

“Uh uh, need you to tell me,” Dan teases, hitching his leg up Phil’s thigh.

“For… kissing your neck,” Phil murmurs, doing just that.

Dan moans softly. He’s so easy; all it takes is Phil’s mouth on his throat to make him feel electric all the way down to his toes. “Yeah,” he sighs. “You have a point. Lips are important.”

“Mhm.”

Dan squirms a little and makes some more noises he can’t contain. The humming is good. And the biting that comes after and makes his noises a little more desperate.

“You like biting, eh?” Phil muses.

“I didn’t know I did, but… mm, fuck. Yeah. I think I do.”

“Do you want me to bite other places?”

Dan’s body reacts in a way his brain absolutely did not give it permission, a tingly swelling between his legs.

“What?” he squeaks, a little panicked. “Like… my willy?”

Phil giggles. “I mean… if you want?”

“No,” he says automatically. “Please don’t bite my dick.”

Phil full on laughs at that. “Ok, I won’t.”

“Seriously,” Dan says. “Seriously.”

“I promise I won’t bite your willy.”

“You can bite me literally anywhere else,” Dan says, kind of hoping Phil will take it to heart.

“Can?” Phil asks. “Or should.”

“Shut up,” Dan mumbles.

Phil smiles and says, “Ok,” cheerfully, before shuffling down and sinking his teeth into Dan’s collarbone.

Dan sucks in a breath through his teeth. “Ow.”

“Good ow or bad ow?”

“Um… I don’t—” He stops when Phil moves lower, dragging his teeth down Dan’s chest to a nipple. “Good,” he croaks. “Good ow.”

“You’re weird,” Phil says, before taking the nub into his mouth, sucking before closing his teeth around it.

Dan doesn’t have words left for a retort. Maybe he is weird. Maybe it’s weird that his brain seems to have the receptors for pain and pleasure all jumbled up, but Phil doesn’t seem too bothered about it. In fact Dan knows he’s not because he can feel him hard against his leg as Phil moves back up to Dan’s neck again.

“I’m sure you’re weird too, I just haven’t figured out how yet,” Dan says.

“I haven’t either,” Phil says. “Everything I know about myself like that you know too.” He flips down on his back next to Dan.

“Did I, like, kill the mood?” Dan asks.

“No. I just… it feels embarrassing sometimes.”

“I didn’t know about the biting thing until you did it,” Dan says. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m like… like, I like that I get to be the one to learn this stuff with you.”

Phil turns his head to look at Dan. “Yeah?”

Dan nods. “I wanna learn all the things.”

Phil’s lips pull up into the beginnings of a smile. “Me too.”

“I don’t even know what all the things are, like, with…”

“Boys?” Phil offers.

Dan nods.

Phil shrugs. “Probably still more than what I know.”

“Well,” Dan says, rolling over on top of Phil to straddle him. “I like what you know. What you know feels really fucking great.”

Phil cranes his neck up for a kiss and Dan leans down to give it to him. It’s not a quick peck, and before long they’re full on making out and Phil’s tongue is licking against the side of his and he’s pushing his hips up gently into Dan’s lap.

Then he slides his hands down Dan’s back and into his pants to squeeze his ass. “You still have the best bum. I wanna bite it.”

Dan laughs. “No you don’t.”

“I do. Have you seen it?”

“I don’t spend much time looking at my own ass, Phil, no.”

“Well I do. And it’s good and I’ll bite it if you let me.”

“And you had the balls to call me weird,” Dan says, leaning back down for more kissing. Phil’s fingers flex and knead and Dan’s slide up into Phil’s hair. It’s all deliciously slow and hot and for a while Dan actually forgets that they’re not in a tent in a field anymore.

Until there are footsteps in the hall coming towards Phil’s room.

“Get under the blanket,” Phil hisses and lunges out of the bed towards the light switch.

He manages to plunge the room into darkness just as the door creaks open. Dan can’t see anything as he’s hiding under Phil’s duvet, holding his breath while his heart pounds painfully against his sternum.

Phil hadn’t had time to get back in the bed but he whines, “Mum what the heck?”

“Sorry, love. I just wanted to check in? What are you doing up, I thought you were going to sleep early.”

“I was. I did. You… woke me up.”

Dan cringes under his cocoon. Phil’s not doing a very good job of lying right now.

“Oh, well—”

“Mum you’ve got to start knocking, yeah? Everyone just comes into my room unannounced all the time and it’s like… I’m not a child anymore you know. I need like… privacy.” He chokes out the last word awkwardly and Dan knows if he could see Phil’s face it’d be beet red right now.

“Oh,” Kath says, equally as awkward as her son. “Oh. I’m… right, well… sorry love. I’ll knock. From now on I’ll knock.”

“Thanks,” Phil croaks. “I’m gonna go to bed now. You don’t need to check up on me, I’m doing just fine.”

“Ok. Goodnight.”

Dan hears the door close. He lets out the air he’d been holding but doesn’t feel safe to move until Phil slides in next to him and pulls the covers up over his own head too.

“Bloody hell,” Phil mutters. “That was close.”

“That was excruciating,” Dan whispers. “I think I might be dead now. You’re snogging a ghost.”

“I just basically told my mother I was wanking.”

“Yeah,” Dan says. “Sorry.”

“Now I have to run away from home and live in a cardboard box like we talked about. I can never show my face in the light of day again.”

Dan bites his lip so as not to laugh. He’s sure Phil’s feelings are very real in this moment. “I promise it’s going to be ok,” he says, patting Phil’s arm. “Besides, she’s not an idiot. It’s not like she doesn’t think her teenage son wanked sometimes. My mum makes jokes about me wanking like, a lot.”

“Does she really?” Phil asks, horrified.

“Kind of, yeah.”

“God,” Phil says. “I need a lock on my door.”

“You do. You really do. But the good news is she definitely won’t be coming back in here tonight, yeah?” Dan asks, shuffling closer to Phil and reaching out to touch bare skin in the darkness.

“My boner is gone,” Phil says matter-of-factly. “I doubt I’ll ever be ever to get hard again.”

“Should we just sleep? Or I could sneak back out if—”

“No,” Phil says quickly, cutting him off. “Definitely don’t leave.”

“Ok good.” Dan smiles to himself and then scoots up the mattress and pulls the duvet off his head. Phil follows suit and they lie beside each other on their backs.

They’re quiet for a while before Phil says, “Someone’s going to walk in on us someday, aren’t they?”

“No,” Dan says. “We’ll be careful.” His tone conveys a conviction that doesn’t actually match up with what he feels, but he doesn’t want Phil to be worrying about that. If it happens they’ll deal with it when the time comes. He’s already made his choice, and that choice is Phil, even if it is fucking terrifying sometimes.

“What are we gonna do in the morning?” Phil asks.

“I’ll sneak out early. Set an alarm on my phone and everything.”

“I wish you didn’t have to,” Phil whispers. “I wish we were older and we could do whatever the hell we want and not have to make excuses or tell lies or…”

“Yeah,” Dan says gently, rolling over onto his side and laying his head down on Phil’s chest. “Me too.”

“Someday?”

Dan nods. “M’not going anywhere.”

“You might, though. You never know what could happen.”

Dan frowns. “Don’t say that. You’re supposed to be telling me happy things.” He hugs tight around Phil’s waist, trying to will away the mental images of all the ways this thing could end up going wrong. He’s not naive enough to argue that it’s impossible that they won’t be together forever like this, but he doesn’t want to think about that right now.

Phil sighs. “Sorry. I just get scared sometimes.”

“I get scared all the time. But I kinda don’t want that to be what I’m feeling right now?”

“Yeah,” Phil murmurs. “Sorry.”

“This is why talking is stupid.” Dan decides to be bold, sliding his hand down Phil’s stomach and into his pants. He’s so tired of constantly feeling fear and doubt nagging in the back of his mind. He just wants to lose himself in the parts that are good, the parts that flood his body with heat and endorphins.

He cups Phil where he’s warm and soft and Phil sighs again, but this time it’s a contented sound that makes Dan’s insides flutter.

“Yeah,” Phil breathes. “Talking is stupid.”

Dan wraps his fingers around the fleshy wrinkled skin and squeezes lightly, focusing on the weight of it changing as it slowly hardens.

He suddenly starts to giggle, muffling it against Phil’s shoulder.

“What?” Phil asks.

“Your mum thought you were wanking. She’s half right, I guess, because now I’m wanking you.”

“Please don’t mention my mum,” Phil pleads.

Dan leans up and kisses him. “Why don’t I just get you off instead?”

Phil kisses back deeply, mouth eager on Dan’s. “Yes please.”

“Can you believe we woke up in a tent this morning?” Dan muses. “It already feels like a different life.”

“I want to go back to that life,” Phil says. “This life has work and school and ex-girlfriends and—”

“Ok, officially no more talking,” Dan interrupts, crushing his mouth against Phil’s. “I’m gonna make you come now.”

“I know I’m quick, but I’m not that quick,” Phil says.

“You’re not quick, you’re great. Now shush please.”

Phil mimes zipping his lips and throwing away the key.

“Ok, wait,” Dan says. “Don’t throw away the key quite yet, I have a question.”

“What?”

“What d’you want?” Dan asks. He’s still holding Phil in his hand and he’s still only half hard.

“God, Dan,” Phil breathes when Dan squeezes a little harder. “Anything. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.”

“Do you want my mouth?”

-

Phil nods vigorously. He does, he definitely does want that.

“You have to be quiet, ok? I know I’m amazing but if your mum catches us with your cock in my mouth she may not be too keen on any more sleepovers.”

“Shut up,” Phil hisses.

Dan’s still giggling as he slides down Phil’s body and under the covers. He pulls Phil’s pants down and Phil moves his legs to help him get them off. Now that he’s been expressly reminded about staying quiet he has the almost overwhelming desire to laugh and make as much noise as possible.

And that urge certainly doesn’t go away when Dan’s mouth is on him suddenly, warm and wet and sucking and Phil can see the shape of his head bobbing under the blanket.

He’s grunting breathily right from the get go. One swipe of Dan’s tongue from base to head clears his mind of absolutely everything that isn’t this, this all consuming toe curling pleasure.

Dan pulls off and Phil whines. “Why’d you stop?”

“You’re making too much noise.” Dan’s voice is muffled by the duvet.

Phil pushes it down until Dan’s head pops out. “Sorry, you’re just… really good at that.”

“No I’m not.”

“Ok, you’re not,” Phil says. “Keep going please.”

Dan drops his head back down and Phil watches for a while. It’s mesmerizing, seeing how Dan’s movements match up to the sensations Phil’s feeling. He almost thinks he should be taking notes for when it’s his turn, but soon the feeling is too good and too much and his head falls back onto the pillow.

His eyes are squeezed shut, one hand gripping Dan’s hair, the other tucking itself up under the back of his head in a show of nonchalance that doesn’t match up at all to the desperation coiling thick in his stomach. He can hear the wet sound of spit and suction and it’s graphic and filthy and before