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Life was a beautiful creature. From that first greedy breath of air, to that frail and final exhale, beauty was exerted through her. She was complex and intertwined with love and mishap, a melting pot of many things. Her hair hung straight, with barely a strand out of place, tucked into a small bun, with bangs to cover the smooth canvas of tanned skin. Eyes so large, all that was released was innocence. The chocolate iris large, the pupils, as dark as midnight, dilated. Life’s frame was small, yet clothes sat on her body like a warm blanket tucked around you on a cool autumn night, it fit her. She was an angel among the most evil of people upon the earth.

The kind of people that crowded the boring, tiled floors in the classrooms of The Forest School. They didn’t necessarily know that they were so damaging to their peers, and their surroundings, but they were. Their words were like stones when they spoke, so everyone learned not to discuss things that were too serious. That way, in case those stones became bullets they wouldn’t get hurt.

The bell rang out in the empty hallway, screeching with its tinny voice, and the doors to each classroom was flung open by the students cramming their way into the tiled parkway. The yellow hue to the ugly lights flickered as the rowdy boys in blue and gold filled the once abandoned corridor. Black shoes bounded quickly attempting to get away from the maths course the year 11s had been forced to attend.

“Ey, Howell you goin’ to get some pussy tonight?” A tallish, blond-haired brute shouted across the crowded hall. A few of the boys whooped, and one straight fringed brunet tucked his rosy cheeks down, before sucking in a thick breath. He knew he shouldn’t egg them on, women deserved the same amount of respect as anybody, and Dan Howell highly doubted that at Corinne’s all-girls school they would be shouting about how she was going to get some dick just because it was her birthday.

“How could I say no?” Dan caved to the devil on his shoulder. “Her parents are out of town and I definitely promised them I’d treat her well for her birthday.” The blonde boy found his way to Dan’s side as they strode down the hall, and joined his palm to Dan’s shoulder blade.

“Atta boy, Howell!” He declared proudly to the group in the hall. The boys all dressed in white button-ups and blue and gold striped ties—short ties, that is, it was much cooler—hollered for Dan. “Maybe you can share your girl when you’re done with ‘er. Mary won’t even let me finger ‘er!” He pulled Dan in closer as they rounded the corner. “At least you’ve gotta girl oo’ll get into bed with you and give you head when it’s that time of the month. 

“Yeah, Howell! Yer a lucky boy!” A more squat, squarish boy shouted, Dan had known him for a little over a year from when he transferred to this school, his name was Hugo. “Tad’s gotta point, I haven’t gotten head in forever!”

Tad scoffed, “Nobody would even lay a hand on you, Hugh, you’re too pudgy for any bird.” Dan felt bad for Hugo, he was a nice kid, who just wanted to fit in, and maybe his tie was lopsided and he left his blazer fully buttoned, but he didn’t deserve being called unlovable. And Hugo himself had had a girlfriend for eight months before she had called it quits. At least that’s what he had said to Tad, Dan, and the rest of the boys in their maths class. 

“At least I’m not skin and bones,” Hugo coughed out, the boys whooped once more, “After sex, I’m at least comfortable to lie with, unlike someone here.”

Tad pressed his tan, freckled hand to the spot right between his collarbones. His face contorted to one of utter disgust, “You’re assuming I even have time to cuddle when I finish up, one and done, mate,” Tad laughed as the boys, excluding Dan, who was about as red as a tomato, and Hugo who sighed.

“Well, sorry we don’t all value our relationships,” Hugo huffed, “I had Sania for eight months, which I’m assuming is longer than you can keep anything other than blue balls.” 

“Ay, mate,” another boy, a black skinned one with a finely chiselled jawline pitched in, “He got you there.” Tad punched him in the arm.

“Shut up, Paul,” Tad shouted just slightly too loud, a teacher stepped out in the hall before the boys could cross the threshold to the classroom. The boys, excluding Dan and Hugo who smiled at the man, all nodded at the thin teacher. “I’ve got more action than you have.”

Paul laughed bursting into a fit, “Yes, because I should be totally jealous that you may have accidentally impregnated more than one girl,” Tad grunted, “Nice going, by the way, are you paying child support?” Tad grimaced at Paul’s snide words and crossed his arms roughly over his uniform. His jaw hung slightly slack and he rolled his hazel eyes.

“You have a close call with one girl…” Tad groaned. He threw his ugly beige bag down by his and Paul’s desk which sat directly behind Dan and Hugo’s desk, he sat down in his chair and his feet flew to the table, which caused his shoes to make an uncomforting squeaky sound with the rubber soles against the cheaply shined surface. Dan cringed at the grotesque sound, but Paul and Hugo seemed to be unfazed by it.

Paul pulled out his own chair and sat down next to him. He leaned his arms into the table. “One time, mate?” Paul started to heartily laugh, both Dan and Hugo were facing the other two and they had begun to chuckle a bit as well. “I’m pretty sure if I told anybody you had a kid on the way in this class they would—wait,” Paul turned from Tad and focused his attention to the ginger boy that walked in, “Ey, Ollie,” A pair of wide blue eyes looked up from behind a pair of chunky black glasses, “did you hear that our very own Thaddeus Berry has a child on the way?”

Tad groaned and leaned his head back and stretched his feet out so they were pressed against the royal blue of Dan’s blazer. Dan moved away quickly, and turned his attention to the geeky looking ginger, who was coated in a layer of freckles so thick and close together he could have been tan, had it not been for his pale complexion.

“I’m not surprised?” Ollie seemed to question, he ignored Paul, Dan, and Hugo as they all turned back to Tad who had gone completely red in the face and was sputtering a bit. He looked to be clawing at the brown oak desk behind him before realizing he was being watched by three pairs of eyes.

Tad straightened up quickly and his face seemed to go back to its tan color almost too quick. He deadpanned quickly before saying, “At least everybody knows that I’m having sex regularly,” in a calm voice that didn’t match his expression barely 20 seconds previous, “And it's not some event like it is for you, Howell.”

Dan’s face heated up, it wasn’t just some event when he had sex with Corinne. It was special, it was an intimate moment that he and his gorgeous brunette girlfriend had shared a few times. He hadn’t even said anything about it after the first time he had done it with her—sure it was his fifteenth birthday a few months prior, but they had both been ready and they knew it was going to hurt the first few times, and they knew if they had wanted to do actually enjoy themselves in the future then they might as well get the painful part over with so they could actually enjoy themselves.

“At least I know how to treat a girl with kindness,” Dan huffed and turned towards the front of the class, Hugo joined him and turned to the front as well as they pulled out their homework. “And know better than to fuck her and run.” Hugo laughed at Dan’s whisper.

The tinny bell rang out once more signalling the beginning of their class. A man in a beige tweed suit closed the door and walked to the whiteboard in the front of the class. He straightened his salt and pepper hair and ran a hand over the rough stubble on his chin. “Thaddeus, feet off your desk,”

“Sorry, sir,” Tad mumbled and dragged his feet off the desk. Dan ran a hand through his hair and focused up at at the teacher. At least this was his last class of the day.

~•~•~•~ 

Although the beginning of Mr. Wells’ English class had felt like it had taken about the next three years of Dan’s life, that tinny savior of a bell rang out once more signalling that the prisoners would be released from their cells. Dan sprung up quickly, pushing his things into his bag and running towards the front of the building where his mum would be picking him up. 

His black dress shoes hit the white tile quickly as he pressed through the mildew-y scented halls of his school. Other boys crowded as well in a well thought out attempt to rid themselves of the presence of educators and thick textbooks with words that basically only made sense to the 1% that actually read them and could comprehend it. Dan pressed through and found his way to the heavy front door, and he pushed it wide open. He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and took in the view of barren looking trees layered in a very thin layer of snow that hadn’t appeared to stick to the ground in the frosty bite of January’s air. 

Dan’s chocolate eyes peered over the heads of younger students that scrambled towards their parents' cars and easily found the small red car his mum had been driving around in for the past ten years. She had gotten it when she had found out she was pregnant with Adrian, and the rusty black one that Dan’s parents had bought used just didn’t cut it anymore. Dan had grown used to the red car that his mum called Harry. 

Dan quickened his pace and opened up the passenger door. He slid in carefully, removing his backpack so that it sat between his legs in front of him.

“How was school, Dan?” Dan’s mum asked him, she began to drive away from the school. Dan let out a long breath and pushed his hair slightly off his forehead, but not so much that the entire canvas of his tanned forehead. He looked over her face and saw the bags under her eyes that she had attempted to cover with a cheap concealer, her lips were pressed in a straight line, and her eyes were glossed over as she paid attention to the road in front of her.

“I’m glad to be going home,” Dan sighed. He loosened his tie and placed it on top of his bag. “It’s too cold to go to school,”

Dan’s mum looked him over briefly and sighed heavily, “I told you to bring your jacket, Bear,” his mum scolded, “I told you you would get cold. Where’s your scarf?”

Dan huffed and opened the top of his black bag, and showed off the horrendous grey and maroon knitted scarf his Nana had made him for Christmas. “You mean the one Nan designed to actively make me want to die?” His mum snorted a bit at him. She gave him a solid stare.

“Your Nana spent her time making you that hideous scarf and she’d love to see you wearing it when you walk in the door,” She laughed a bit still, her pink blush from her laughing peeking out from underneath her streaky makeup. Dan perked up a bit.

“Nana’s at ours?” Dan asked, his mum mumbled an ‘mhmm’. “Did she bring food?”

“Yes, she’s watching Adrian, the poor thing is sick. She brought you pasta,” his mum made a right-hand turn as Dan pulled out the scarf and set it on his lap. He let out a small ‘yess,’ before his mum continued, “and she wants to see you and Corinne off on your date tonight. She’s almost as shocked as I am that you’ve made it two years.”

“That’s nice of her,” Dan said and leaned back. Two years was a lot, a good accomplishment especially for two fifteen, well now a fifteen and a sixteen-year-old. Not many people lasted in relationships when they were young, but Dan and Corinne must have been an exception to the average of teenage relationships. Dan fiddled with the scarf a bit more, wedging the scratchy material between his slender fingers, grazing the skin of his palm. “Do I actually have to wear this piece of sh—“ 

“Daniel!” His mum interrupted him, “At least wait until she’s gone tonight to actually call it a piece of shit.”

Dan laughed heavily. His mum let out a quiet breathy laugh as well before changing the topic abruptly, “Do you know what you’re gonna wear for your date?”

Dan nodded, “Yes, mum, Corrine has basically told me what is and isn’t acceptable for date-wear.” Dan’s mum let out a breath of relief. “I’ll probably wear like a button-up and dress pants, I guess.”

“Treat her well, please,” The car slowed down to obey the laws of traffic towards the oncoming red light. “Her parents aren’t here on her sixteenth, and that’s an important birthday for any teenage girl.”

“I will, mum.” Dan hummed in content and slumped against his seat waiting to arrive home and get a few steps closer to being with Corinne, and that plate of pasta.

~•~•~•~

The walk up to the front of the Howell household was so far from foreign to Dan, he had made this walk for his whole life, forwards and backwards. It was daily, a routine. Dan held the scratchy material of the scarf in the palm of his right hand, before extending his other hand to open the front door. He pushed open the green door, that had been fitted with a once golden lettering of the word, ‘welcome’ but had now faded to an uglier yellow. With the door open wide, Dan stepped in and took a deep breath of the familiar air.

“Welcome home, Daniel!” His Nana greeted from the kitchen and peeking her head through the doorway. His mum closely followed his trail. Dan smiled at his Nana.

“Hello, Nan,” Dan walked further into the house, walking to the kitchen, he looked over the fat counter to the living room where Adrian was sat under a blanket on the couch, engrossed in some movie with talking animals. “Hey, Adrian, how are you feeling?”

Adrian looked up with tired eyes, and he cuddled under the blanket a little more, “Better-ish,” His fragile voice spoke before connecting his line of vision right back to the telly. 

This time Dan and Adrian’s mum spoke, “Have you eaten any food, baby?” The question was pointed at Adrian. The nine-year-old averted his eyes from the playful animation and turned to his mum, his brown eyes meeting their match.

“Mhmm, Nana gave me soup,” Adrian responded, now with a better view of his face, you could see his lidded eyes. He let out a small yawn, “It was good, I want Nana over all the time.”

“Okay,” their mum walked over and placed her hand on his forehead, “You’re still rather warm, you need to get some sleep,” Adrian frowned, but nodded. She looked up at Dan and her mother, “Thank you, mum, and Dan go get your homework done before your date with Corinne.”

“Mum, I have all weekend, and we’ve just barely got back. They’re stupid for only sending us to school two days this week,” Dan said before taking off his blazer. He set the blazer and the scarf roughly onto the kitchen counter by his Nana.

His Nana looked up and caught his eye, “You’re still carrying around that ugly thing?” She pointed at the knitted material that had looked to be shoved under his blazer. Dan broke his eye contact with his Nan and turned to his mum with a look of betrayal. 

“Mum has been making me,” Dan said while still staring at his mum, he turned  back to his grandmother, “It’s mostly just stayed in my backpack, though.”

Dan’s grandmother let out a deep chuckle, one that replaced, what felt like tension, with pure joy. It was a nice feeling of warmth, and it even caused Dan to let out a few laughs as well, even though they weren’t the nice, deep belly laughs his Nana was producing. “I don’t blame you,” She managed to let out between laughs, “The thing is as hideous as the worts on the bottom of a troll’s feet.”

“Mum, don’t be so hard on yourself,” Dan’s mum tried to supply.

“To be quite frank, I am horrid at knitting. I’m amazed that you would make your boy carry that around,” Dan’s Nana walked over towards Dan and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I can’t believe you’d make him suffer like that.”

“Yeah, mum,” Dan started getting cheeky, “Why would you make me do that?”

Dan’s mum laughed a little, “Weren’t you going to get ready for your date?”

Dan stuck out his tongue before walking out of the kitchen and heading upstairs to his small bedroom, where he began to pull off his school clothes and change into his Corinne-approved, date clothes.

~•~•~•~ 

She was beautiful. Everything about her. Dan smiled as their clasped hands swayed between them, her thumb rubbing gently over the skin of his hand, her smooth and gentle touch a comfort as they walked down the street together. She leaned more into him, bumping her arm against his, with a large cheeky smile. She matched the atmosphere so perfect, the sky still a little light at the sun hung low in the sky, causing hues of pink and orange to paint the sky after their dinner at a small Italian restaurant. Fairy lights had been strung up between street lamps for the winter season, lighting the path they walked on. The park was quiet, except for their breathing.

“I miss you a lot,” She began, her sweet voice light and airy. She looked up into Dan’s coffee brown eyes, meeting his gaze with her own chocolate eyes. “When I’m at school you know? Especially when we get to talk about our boyfriends at lunch,” she blushed heavily, as Dan pulled them off to the side to sit on a small wooden bench in the midst of the park. She pulled her pink jacket tighter around her frame, and cuddled into Dan’s side. “I love talking about you. You’re my favorite.”

Dan lifted her chin and kissed her lips gently, he would talk about how the guys at his school talked about their girlfriends and he found any opportunity to talk about her as well, but then he’d have to go into detail about how most of them just want the intimate details, how hard, how fast. Instead of talking about how only 5% of the boys at Forest respected women, he went for a simple, “You’re my favorite as well, and my family likes you probably more than they like me.”

She leaned again and went for another kiss, clasping her lip around Dan’s bottom lip. He tasted her chapstick, it was simple but sweet. Mint. The flavor that matched the color she raved about when they were just friends. The color of the notebook she had pulled out the first time Dan realized he liked her. The color of the bow in her hair on their first date. The color the first t-shirt she had stolen from Dan. The color of the underwear she was wearing the first time they slept together, mint was the color of firsts. Of all the colors in the world, mint stuck out like a black puppy in a pile of white kittens.

She broke apart and looked up into his eyes, “Thank you for an amazing birthday dinner, Dan,” She cuddled into him a bit more, this time grabbing at his thigh a bit, her warm fingers prodding at the cool material of his dress pants. “Can we go back to my house and drink hot cocoa? Maybe we could turn on a sappy movie that I can use an excuse to have you hold me?”

Dan smiled, “I can’t say no to that.”

So Dan grabbed her hand once more and playfully pulled her into his arms, making both of them wobbly as they walked towards Corinne’s house. They laughed and shoved at each other playfully as they walked and eventually stumbled into the entryway of the Ridley family home.

The Ridley’s were wealthier, and their prize possessions of two beautiful daughters were nothing to hide. Corinne was the younger of the Ridley girls, Laura having been four years older was already in university, and had moved from Wokingham to a town on the other side of London. He had only met Laura a few times, and she was beautiful too, but she was nothing compared to Corinne. To no surprise, Corinne was Dan’s favorite of the Ridley’s. 

Corinne slid off her jacket, and took Dan’s from him before slinging them over an armchair that sat by the door. They slipped off their shoes before walking further into the house. Corinne slid in front of Dan’s step, sashaying her hips a bit, Dan couldn’t help himself as he leaned forward and grabbed her bum a bit, causing her to let out a squeal.

“My parents aren’t home,” She stated. Dan checked her out up and down, and now he fact that her bra was very thin poked out in the form of her nipples causing tiny little tents on her breasts. 

“I know,” Dan said and closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around her thin waist and pulling her tight to his flat chest. She looked up at him and grabbed the sides of his face pulling him closer and biting on his bottom lip gently. He moaned slightly at the feeling, a pang over arousal making his pants to feel a bit tighter.

“Can we go to my room?” She asked although she was already pulling away from his hold, and latching herself to his wrist where her hand was wrapped. She pulled him behind her and up a curved stairway of the front room of the house. Dan grinned a suggestive smile as the made it to the top of the stairs and turned towards her room to the left. She pulled him to the doorway before letting go of his wrist and turning back to face him. She dragged her fingers over the smooth fabric of Dan’s white button-up, slowly bringing her fingers down to the hem of his pants, that the belt actually managed to hold up and keep in the same spot.

“Wait here,” She said and turned once more opening her door and slipping inside, which left Dan stationery at the door like a puppy waiting to be let inside. Dan looked at the white wooden door, so much had happened beyond that door that the thought of sex with her shouldn't make him as nervous as it did, but this happened every time. He always got nervous with her, he didn’t want to mess up. What if she hated how it felt but was too nervous to say anything out of fear that Dan would leave? Dan wouldn’t leave if she didn’t want to have sex anymore, it would slow down his racing mind, but then again, Dan really liked to have sex with Corinne. She always looked amazing when they were together, her moans were high pitched, the way her mouth hung open just slightly, no matter if he was pounding directly into her or just thrusting gently. The way her hair always managed to stay tucked in that cute little bun, except for her fringe that would have sweat plastering it to her hairline. Dan though even that was beautiful. He didn’t deserve her.

Barely a moment passed and the white wooden door was cracked open. “Come in,” Corinne said in a slightly more sensual voice than she normally spoke in. Dan pushed the door and walked beyond the threshold. He sucked in a deep breath on air as the door got closed behind him, and he got pinned to the door. Corinne grabbed at his hips and pushed him against the wood of the door, she lifted one of her hands from his dress pants and took it to his cheek, that she pulled down and kissed at his cheek, his jaw, his lips. Dan opened his eyes and drank the way she looked.

A white lace bra and a white thong. Fuck, she looked beautiful. She always did. Dan moved his hands and dragged it down the tanned skin of her sides, and slipping his fingers between the string-like waistband of her thong, the one he knew her parents would never let her buy. It was pleasing to go against her parents’ wishes. He slid his hands even further down and grabbed a handful of her ass, and pulled her in even closer this time to bite and suck at her lip, and now with a swipe of his tongue against her lips, they were properly snogging.

Corinne moved both of her hands down to Dan’s belt, and unclasped the buckle, causing his trousers to immediately fall down his thighs, exposing his own flesh as they kissed. Corinne pushed them so they would fall the rest of the way, and Dan kicked them off his feet. Dan pushed Corinne towards her bed, Corinne allowing herself to be pushed. Dan pushed both of them so they fell on the bed, Corinne erupting into a fit of giggles as she wrapped her legs around Dan’s waist and pulled his face closer so she could run her fingers through Dan’s straightened hair. He moaned as she moved her kisses down to his neck, and grazing her teeth across the sensitive skin present there. A heavy groan came from his throat from the sensation of his neck being sucked on. 

“Let me grab a condom,” he breathed out and started to pull Corinne’s legs off of him, she whined but sat up a bit. He pulled away with one last sweet kiss before heading to his dress pants that had been discarded by the door. He grabbed his wallet and opened it, looking for that square foil packaging. He tore through his wallet, not seeing the shiny packet. “Shit, shit, shit,” Dan muttered over and over again.

“What’s wrong, Dan?” Corinne asked now sitting up on the bed. Dan dropped his wallet and rubbed his palms against his eyes.

“I don’t have a fucking condom, I ruined your birthday,” He was so close to being in tears. Corinne smiled and stood up, so she could walk over to him.  She lifted her hand and tucked her fringe behind her ear. She grabbed him around the waist and pulled him in close, so that he had something to hold onto.

“Just pull out, I don’t care,” She whispered. “As long as you don’t finish inside we should be fine.” Dan buried his face into the top of her head, breathing in her scent, it was floral.

Dan sighed heavily, “Are you sure?” Dan knew the risks that came with not using a condom, but you can’t just let a girl down on her birthday. Especially when she’s says it’s okay.

Corinne nodded, “I’m sure, now can we please take off the rest of your clothes?”

This time it was Dan’s turn to nod, and he began to unbutton his dress shirt.

Chapter Text

Life was, in the simplest words, complex. As soon as she had coated the earth in a frost that caused the grass to crunch under the black shoes of the boys leaving school every day, she had stripped it away, the grass was wet and flexible under weight rather than that crunch that had been there only a few days ago. She had a switch somewhere, unknown to man, but that switch could be struck on any day. It was odd, she was odd. A good type of odd, but also one that was so fucking confusing.

“What do you mean she’s not talking to you?” Hugo basically screamed as they exited Forest on the second Friday of February. Hugo had a black beanie covering his unorganized black hair, and his hazel eyes were wide as though he couldn’t believe what Dan had repeated already three times.

“I already told you, man,” Dan breathed out tensely, “She just like started ignoring me like a week ago!” Hugo still remained looking dumbfounded. Dan huffed and pulled out a sliding cell phone. “I mean I don’t have enough space to save all the texts, but you can see that the last text she sent me was 6 days ago.”

Hugo grabbed the phone and looked at it, loudly clicking buttons and then sighing. He looked up and met Dan’s eyes, “Mate, it looks like it was 7 days now.”

“Great,” Dan took back his phone and rubbed his eyes heavily, “At least Paul’s having that party tomorrow, I’m bringing her since you’ve never met her I might as well bring her somewhere we know we both’ll be at.”

“I guess that’s fair,” Hugo’s voice sounded soft.

Dan lifted his hand to rub at the back of his head, and he tugged at the brown hair that had been fried that morning to become straight, he was getting a bit shaggy as his mum would remind him every morning, “Maybe I should go to her house and check on her?”

Hugo shrugged and pulled up the zipper on his jacket.

“I just—I don’t know, Hugh!” Dan moves his hand from the back of his head to his eyes where he pressed furiously. “Maybe she wants to be left alone?”

“Don’t ask me, Dan,” Hugo sighed, clearly frustrated that he couldn’t help his friend as much as he could, “But if you’re actually that worried, just go and check on her. You very clearly want to go see her, and she is your girlfriend.”

“I think I’m gonna go check on her,” Dan whipped his hands from his eyes, which were now red from his agitated rubbing. “Thanks, Hugo,” Dan slapped him on the back, in a friendly way, rather than the way Tad would slap them. “You’re way smarter than I will ever be. I’ll keep you updated.”

“See you at Paul’s,” Hugo said before he turned and headed to his dad’s car.

Dan sighed and buried his phone deep into his pants pocket, he turned and immediately spotted his mum’s car. Dan’s mind felt foggier, and was annoyed at himself for not thinking of a solution sooner. Had he messed up things between him and Corinne so bad she was leaving him? He needed to check on her, two years felt like too long to just lose because they couldn’t talk. Mum could help him, right? He looked back over to that small car in the shade of a strawberry, mum can help. He took large strides and got to Harry in record time, he piled in and his mum looked him up and down.

“You look like you’ve just ran a marathon, dear,” Dan’s mum greeted. Dan sighed rather heavily once more, running his hands up and down his face before pressing his head firmly to the dashboard. Dan’s face was red due to the fact it was rather cold and he chose not to wear his jacket, and he was breathing rather heavily from his run from the school’s entrance where he and Hugo had talked. Dan’s mum didn’t start driving like she normally did as soon as he hopped in the red car everyday. She stared at him, before hesitantly lifting a hand to the back of his head and rubbing his scalp a bit. Dan would be lying if he said that the feeling wasn’t soothing, and the knowledge that his mum was still there with him made him at least partially relieved. “What’s wrong, Dan?”

The breath caught in Dan’s throat was hot and felt to think to actually be breathable. He kept looking down, this time pressing his hands even further into his face, so that his cheeks squished up and he looked almost pancaked, not that his mum could see as his face was still buried in the dark grey material of the dashboard, that overtime had just grown to smell like the Howell’s rather than that almost pleasing chemically smell that sat fresh in a new car. Dan mumbled incoherently into his sweaty palms, and he rubbed his face up and down. Dan’s mum kept rubbing at his scalp, feeling the softness of his brown hair.

“Daniel, honey, please lift your face so we can speak,” Dan’s mum said, moving her hand from the softness of his scalp to his back, where she continued to rub. “I want to see your lovely face, please,” Dan groaned loudly and outwardly, and leaned more so his body covered the stereo. She continued rubbing his back while he sat groaning like an old man. “I don’t think I’ve said this since you were seven years old, but you need to use your words.”

Dan abruptly leaned back in his seat, causing his mum to tear away her hand so it wouldn’t get crushed by her teenage son. Dan pawed at his face with sweaty palms once more before tearing them away and speaking softly, “Mum, I think we need to stop by Corinne’s house on the way home,” Her eyes studied him over once more, to see the small violet bags he had hanging just below his eyes, she saw the slight puffiness from the amount of times he’d rubbed over his eyes. “I don’t know what I’ve done, but she hasn’t texted me in a full week! I thought she wanted space but I think I might’ve messed something up,” Dan shouted at his mum, who had placed her hand on his shoulder, but was now moving back to the back of his head to relax him. “I just want everything to be okay, mum.” He buried his face in his hands again.

“Look at me,” She said, even though Dan didn’t budge. She gave him a minute that still had no avail. “Daniel James,” Dan looked up at the mention of his middle name, that and if his mum was actually angry, he didn’t want to mess with her. She moved her hand to the side of his face, rubbing the pad of her thumb softly against his smooth cheek. “We’ll stop by her house. She’s a teenage girl, and she’s probably just being temperamental right now, dear,”

“But what if I said something wrong?” Dan asked softly, he breathed in deep, “I don’t want to lose her over nothing, mum.”

“Stop worrying, you did nothing wrong, dear,” she cooed and removed her hand from his cheek so she could start the car, “and just know, if she hurts you, I will hurt her.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek before she turned to start driving off, “You’re a good boy, Dan.”

“Thanks,” Dan whispered before he straightened himself up, and ran his fingers through his hair a few times to make sure he looked presentable. If he had to get Corinne to talk to him, he might as well look good for her.

~•~•~•~

The drive felt like it took forever, seeing cars, trees, and familiar houses pass normally felt fast and so mundane, but today the sight of the brown brick houses, and trees that hung to life like a cat to its human trying to get it in the bath, felt foreign. Dan had removed his royal blue blazer and now made sure his tie looked straight, his dress shirt flat, and trousers creased. The radio buzzed a quiet melody that Dan’s mum quietly hummed as she peacefully drove towards the Ridley family home, rather than her own.

Dan breathed in and out evenly, calming his heart rate. He shouldn’t be so nervous to see Corinne, especially since she had seen every part of him, the good and the bad sides of him. He’d walked into the Ridley house so many times it was more of a routine to him than it was an event, and the same went for Corinne and the Howell house. Dan couldn’t get tired of seeing Corinne’s beautifully large house, even the green plants that always remained annoyingly trimmed, which were far too perfect for anybody, he wanted to see a small fault, a yellow leaf, some dirt possibly spilled from the pot.

Dan’s mum turned on her left-hand blinker and Dan looked up from his thoughts, “Mum, this isn’t Corinne’s house,” She held up a finger to her son’s lips, hushing him without a word.

“I’m buying her flowers. You can tell her that they’re from you,” Dan’s mum parked very quickly, as Dan’s slow brain finally recognized the florist shop that they had stopped at, with the name ‘Lily’s’ in pink calligraphy racked up over the green striped awning. “Red and pink roses?” She asked.

Dan nodded sheepishly, “Please.”

She opened the door and quickly walked up to the shop before opening the door and rushing inside the small building.

She came back after about ten minutes, before handing Dan a bouquet of what dan quickly counted to be twenty roses, in colors that varied from a deep red to a pastel pink, and almost every color in between.

“Sorry, I had to make sure the bouquet was perfect for her, I know how much you love her.”

Dan looked at his mum, she was right, he did really, truly love her. Even if they were young, she was constantly on his mind, almost in every thought. She plagued his mind similar to the way a virus would, except filled with love and affection rather than actual illness.

“Thank you, mum,” Dan said, as his mum started the car back up and pulled out of the parking spot, leaving the lot and headed back in the familiar direction on the streets of Wokingham.

“It’s not a problem, Bear,” She smiled a toothless smile and this time when she drove it felt as though no time had passed at all when she stopped the car.

“Mum, can you stay here? I don’t think this is gonna take very long,” Dan asked his mum as she put the car in park, watching her son immediately open his door and straighten his clothing once more, as if he hadn’t been straightening it near-religiously for the past twenty minutes.

“Yes, dear,” She said and turned her body so she was facing the back, before she pulled out a leather bag, and concealed within it a book, “take as long as you need, darling.”

“Thanks,” Dan said and began the trek to the front door, a cream-colored, almost-too-perfect color. He made it to the front door, the roses tucked neatly in the crook of his elbow so they wouldn’t get crushed. He lifted his fist and his heart beat in his chest heavily. Without further adieu, he knocked on the door with three even and steady raps.

Barely a second passed and the door was opened to reveal a brunette woman in a tan sweater and blue jeans, Marcelline, Corinne’s mother. “Oh, hello, Dan!” She greeted cheerfully, which was nearly the exact opposite of the reaction he expected.

“Hello, Marci,” Dan responded, smiling heavily, his dimple poking out a little. “May I speak to Corinne?” Dan asked that slight anxiety that had built up earlier resurfacing.

Marci’s face contorted to a look of confusion before she nodded. “I’ll go get her, she hasn’t been feeling very well these past few days,” Marci took Dan’s hand and pulled him in to the house, with what felt like a grand entryway, even though it wasn’t really ‘grand’ it was just far larger than Dan’s entryway, or lack thereof. Marci turned and left Dan standing right inside the door.

Corinne hadn’t been feeling well? She hadn’t said anything about not feeling well, Dan’s intrusive thoughts came to him from nowhere, Well, it’s not like she’s been telling you anything for the past week. Dan had enough and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger, pinching it to put some pressure on, and releasing so he could distract himself at least for time being. He probably rubbed over his nose at least twenty times before Marci made her reappearance.

“Corinne will be down in a minute, it’s a shame you didn’t come over sooner, Laura was just here,” The brunette woman said. Dan didn’t really know Laura, except for knowing that her and Corinne were really close, which he had wanted to have with his own little brother, but they were six years apart, and had completely different interests, as Dan wasn’t nine, and Adrian wasn’t fifteen. She finally looked at the small bouquet in his arms, viewing the red and pink flowers. A small grin etched its way onto her face, and she let out a breath. “You’re so good to her.”

Dan nodded, and that slight anxiety that had built its way to Dan’s core now rested firmly far away from him. “I really try,” Dan’s voice sounded quiet, yet unafraid.

“You’re good for her, Dan,” Marci fit in seamlessly, “You really are.”

As much as Dan loved hearing positive reinforcements about himself, he wanted nothing more than to see Corinne, to hold her again, to see what was getting her down. Marci was a lovely woman, but she held no spot even near Corinne in Dan’s mind, even when she made fantastic food—which bumped her up a few spots, but still didn’t make it to Corinne’s level. Dan’s thoughts wandered back to Corinne, and he wished nothing but to see her again, her small frame and mousy brown hair.

Some outside force must have heard Dan’s silent prayer, and a pair of slippered feet slid down the stairs and into the front room. Corinne appeared in the room wearing a tight navy blue t-shirt, that was a slight bit short for her torso, and a pair of Dan’s sweatpants that she had received after she bled through her jeans at his house. Her face looked tired, the bags under her eyes looked more on the light side, which Dan thought must have been better then they had been for the rest of the week. Her hair was pulled into a high ponytail, with only her bangs out, and even then they didn’t look as full as they normally did.

Corinne walked straight to Dan’s arms, burying herself in his chest and just inhaling. She wrapped one of her arms around his waist, and rubbed her cheek against the smooth material of his dress shirt. Dan wrapped her in his free arm, and looked from the top of Corinne’s head to Marci, and Marci nodded and walked out the room. Dan’s focus recentered on Corinne, she turned her head towards the flowers that Dan held.

“Are these for me?” Corinne asked quietly, her voice didn’t sound sick. She looked up into Dan’s eyes.

“Yeah, my mum helped pick them out,” He handed them to her, she grabbed them.

“You didn’t have to,” She said, this time she didn’t meet his eye. “I’m sorry for not really talking to you this week, I’ve been sleeping a lot more than normal, and I’ve thrown up three times in the past week.” Dan brushed back her fringe and held her close to him. He planted a few kisses on the top of her head. “But I’ve been feeling a little better so I think I’m gonna go to that party with you tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Dan said simply. Corinne didn’t respond after that, she did pull away from him a bit and held the flowers to her chest.

“Thank you for the flowers, Dan,” she didn’t meet his eye. “I’m gonna go put these in the kitchen, I’ll be right back.” Corinne turned and walked out of the entryway leaving Dan a little stunned. She wasn’t herself, she must still be out of it. Her hair wasn’t in that little bun she always had. Even on her sick days, she always got dressed, even if it was what she always joked were her ‘bum’ clothes.

“I couldn’t find a vase,” she broke Dan’s train of thought and stepped back into Dan’s space, wrapping her arms around his middle once more. “I gave them to my mum to take care of.”

“For someone who didn’t talk to me for a week, you’re very cuddly,” Dan said, in a light hearted attempt to lighten the mood. Corinne must not have seen it that way, and instead looked up at him with tears brewing in her eyes.

“Oh, a-are you angry at me?” She asked, and her lip began to quiver a little bit. “I’m so sorry, Dan, I’m so, so sorry.” She let go of him and moved so she could sit on the armchair by the door. Her small body plopped down and she buried her face in her hands. Small sobs escaped her body, and she repeated the words “So sorry,” over and over.

Dan racked his brains, and ran his hand through his hair, messing it up a bit, but with the state Corinne was in that didn’t matter as much. He thought about it very briefly before he made his way to stand in front of Corinne. “Corinne, please look at me,” Dan held the sides of her thin face between his soft hands, but he didn’t move her head at all, allowing her to do it herself. She didn’t move, “Rin, please look.” This time her head moved up, and her tear-filled eyes made contact with his, and a few tears dripped from her eyes.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated again.

“Corinne, you have nothing to be sorry over,” Dan soothed, he moved her so she was crying into his shoulder rather than into her hands so that she was more comfortable.

“I do, I do, Dan,” She sat up from Dan’s grip and stood, “I love you so much, Dan, and I’m horrible for not telling you enough. I’m so tired, and I haven’t talked to you. Dan, I feel horrible,” She hugged Dan tightly, within a steel-like grip of her thin arms. She let out a few more tears, “I’m so sorry,” she wailed.

Dan was at a loss, he had no clue what to do and Corinne being sat in his arms crying boggled his head. Marci must have heard the commotion and walked into the front room.

“Corinne, dear, your father is on his way home,” She began, so she wasn’t here to console her crying daughter, “He wants to go out to dinner tonight.”

Corinne looked at her mother, “Okay,” she whispered, before looking at Dan, “I’m sorry, I have to go get ready.”

Dan looked her over once more and kissed her forehead, “That’s okay, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Marci smiled at Dan as Corinne quietly walked away, wiping at her eyes.

In an awkward flurry of movements, Dan escorted himself out the door and back to that small, red car. He opened the passenger side door and took a seat.

“How’d it go?” Dan’s mum asked, pulling out a bookmark from the front cover and putting in her spot. Dan sighed.

“She’s been getting sick over the past week, but she says she’s been feeling better, and she’s still planning on going to Paul’s,” Dan took a deep breath, so he could keep speaking without sounding rather frail, “And then she started crying and apologizing over and over? I still don’t know what’s wrong, though.”

“That’s odd,” Dan’s mum said, “hopefully she’ll be more normal tomorrow.”

“I’m hoping.”

~•~•~•~

“Happy birthday, Paul,” Dan greeted as he entered Paul’s family home with Corinne by his side.

“Thank you, Dan,” Paul smiled at his friend, “Thank you for bringing Corinne too, mate.” Corinne blushed and hid in Dan’s side. Paul held out his hand to shake hers, Corinne held out her hand a shook it firmly, “Good grip.”

“Thank you,” Corinne said quietly. Paul laughed a bit at her shyness, causing Corinne to blush a bit more.

“You don’t have to be shy,” Paul said, “Tad isn’t here yet, and he’s the one you’re gonna want to avoid, and the parents are gone, so go wild, but not too wild I have to clean up.” Dan laughed in agreement to the statement about Tad.

“I’ll keep you safe from him, Rin,” Dan let go and he began to shed his jacket, and letting Corinne remove her own. “Is Hugo here?” Dan pointed his question at Paul.

“Yeah, Hugh’s in the kitchen,” Paul stopped briefly so he could switch to singing voice, “he’s talking to Mary.”

“Isn’t that who Tad’s been shouting about?” Dan began to laugh.

“Yeah, Kate invited ‘er, she’s friends with my sister and it turns out she and Tad ‘ave never even kissed!” Paul had to stop talking because he was laughing so hard, and now Dan erupted into laughter. “Tad’s a fucking liar! And now, Hugh’s gonna get ‘er.”

“Oh my god, that’s the best thing I’ve heard in awhile,” Dan snorted. “I have got to see this,” Paul slapped Dan on the back and led them to the kitchen, where Hugo was sat in an open flannel and a pair of blue jeans. He was laughing, a genuine, crinkly eyed laugh. Mary was sat across the island from him, she had red hair, and was coated in freckles, she wore a pair of blue jeans as well and appeared to be wearing a pink sweater that looked long on her torso. She looked like she was enjoying herself.

“Hey, Hugh,” Dan said and walked to Hugo’s side, patting his shoulders and shaking them gently, “Introduce me to your friend?” Dan was already laughing, know that this was the Mary that Tad had been raving about for the past month, and how far they had gone.

Hugo laughed and lifted a hand, “This, Daniel, is the very lovely and beautiful, Mary Peters,” Hugo laughed and turned a bit more, peeking at Corinne, “And I’ll take a guess that that lovely one right there is Corinne?”

Dan nodded proudly, and Corinne held out her hand to shake Hugo’s. Dan had told her that Hugo and Paul  were safe to talk to. Hugo shook her hand gently.

“I am her,” Corinne said, and let out a smile, it didn’t reach her eyes, but it was kind enough to pass for the moment. Hugo smiled back at her, but then turned back to the ginger girl across from him.

“You’re telling me Tad said we’ve been sleeping together, too?” Mary visibly laughed, “The only thing I’ve done with him is tell him off.” Even Corinne laughed at that one. Mary tucked an orange strand behind her ear and crinkled her nose, “Ew, now I’m thinking about it!” She held out her hands and fake dry heaved for a second, while Hugo erupted in another fit of laughter.

Corinne wrapped her arm around Dan’s waist, and pulled down the front of her thick mint-colored sweater. Her hair, was in a looser bun than normal.

A few minutes passed before the next guest entered, “Alright, lads, party can start now!” A notably arrogant voice shouted.

Dan held Corinne tighter to his side, “That’s the one you’re gonna want to avoid,” Corinne nodded. Not even a second later the tanned boy burst into the room, carrying a black bag, he set it gently on the table. He turned to Dan, completely bypassing the appearance of Mary and Kate, who had only popped in a moment before.

Tad’s eyes went wide as he looked over Corinne, “Well, hello there,” Tad turned to Dan, “Ya’ got lucky with this beauty,” the blond extended a hand to Corinne, who grabbed it lightly, the arm around Dan’s waist got tighter with her nerves, “Thaddeus Berry, you must be the lovely Corinne Ridley, our Danny-boy talks about all the time.” Corinne blushed at the fact Dan talked about her at school.

“I-I am,” She said nervously. She played with the hem of Dan’s black shirt, rather than pay that much attention to Tad.

“You know,” Mary began talking from behind Tad, who’s eyes grew about four times their normal size. “For someone who’s supposedly with me, you are being awfully friendly to a taken girl.”

Tad smiled awkwardly and turned toward, “Oi, Mary!” Tad grinned a fake smile, “Havin’ fun?”

Mary grinned, exposing a set of beautifully lined teeth, “Oh, yes. Loads, Tad,” She looked to Hugo, “Especially with the amount of times we’ve supposedly slept together ?”

“Eh, yeah… about that,” Tad stroked the back of his head, to be answered by the doorbell.

“Pizza!” Paul shouted, he ran to the door and grabbed the pizza, quickly paying and running back. “Thank God it’s here, I’m starving.” Corinne stared at the pizza as it came in, her face contorting just a bit.

Corinne swallowed thickly, “What kind of pizza did you get?” Paul set out the boxes, five of them for the seven of them, it would have been overkill if four of them hadn’t been teenage boys.

Paul organized them quickly, “We’ve got one cheese, two pepperoni, one supreme, and a mushroom,” Paul pointed at each one as he passed by them. Corinne held her breath for a second before turning just slightly to Dan.

“Can you get me a slice of cheese?” Corinne released Dan from her vice like grip, Dan nodded and headed over to where Paul and Tad were already opening up each box and tearing away slices from the pizzas. Dan walked over to them, grabbing two paper plates.

“So, Dan what’s up with her?” Paul asked quietly, scooting over so Dan could squeeze in. In the moment, Hugo slid his way in too, so that the four were huddled over the boxes of pizza.

“What do you mean?” Dan asked, he plucked up a slice of cheese pizza for Corinne. Paul laughed in a hushed tone, and pulled two slices of pepperoni for himself.

“Can you literally not see it?” Paul whispered.

“I have to agree with Paul here, Dan,” Hugo said, and opened up the supreme pizza taking out two slices for himself.

“I literally don’t know what you’re talking about?”

“Dan, are you actually blind?” Tad interjected, and for him to notice something was up was a big accomplishment, he wasn’t very bright. “Dude, she’s been clung on you all night like she’s gonna lose you, and she turned up her nose at pizza.”

“Well, maybe if you’d have followed through, Tad, we could loosen her up with some alcohol,” Paul sighed. Tad rolled his eyes.

“Black bag, numbskull,” Tad ripped off three slices of pepperoni pizza. “I may not always be reliable, but I always have alcohol.”

Paul whooped and slapped Tad on the back, “Atta boy, Berry!” Tad smiled and bit a large chunk out of his pizza. Dan grabbed two slices of mushroom pizza for himself.

“I still don’t know what you lot are on about,” Dan sighed.

“Mate, we don’t know her very well and can tell something’s off, you gotta ask her, and to help,” Tad spoke, but now quieted down so he could announce, “We’re cracking open the victory juice in just a few minutes ladies, and well, uh, us.”

“I mean she’s been sick all week,” Dan didn’t know if he should share everything they had talked about the day before, “maybe she’s just recovering from that.” Dan didn’t really want to be part of the conversation anymore, so he broke away from the boys, but not before he heard Paul say, ‘twenty quid,’ which was followed by something else he couldn’t hear.

“I’ve got your pizza,” Dan said and handed Corinne the plate, she grabbed the plate with both hands and thanked him. She looked down at Dan’s other hand where he was holding his own mushroom pizza.

Corinne scrunched up her nose and set her pizza down, “That smells horrible,” She whispered to Dan before pulling the collar of her mint sweater over her nose. “How can you eat that without gagging?” Corinne asked, she laughed a little bit to brush off the tenseness between the two. Her sweater lifted up a bit and Paul and Tad’s eyes drifted to the bare skin, before they looked at each other again and began talking quietly.

Corinne turned from Dan and took a seat next to Kate and Mary. Dan sighed and walked so he was sat with Hugo, who stood in the presence of Tad and Paul, but had no part in their quiet conversation. Hugo looked to be in deep thought, as he studied over Mary.

“She’s gorgeous,” Hugo said, “For once I’m really fucking glad Tad’s a liar,” he ran a hand through his tangled mess of dark hair.

“You could do it,” Dan said, although his voice sounded significantly abnormal to the point Hugo drifted from his own thoughts and turned to stare at Dan with confusion in his eyes.

“Is there something wrong?” Hugo asked suddenly, dipping into the uncomfortable pool with no major thought as to if it was wrong.

“I feel like everybody is asking me that,” Dan sighed, pulling his hands back up to his face.

“Well is there?” Hugo asked again.

“Not as far as I know,” Dan said he set his pizza down, “I don’t think Corinne is feeling well though, she made some comment about how mushroom pizza makes her sick,” Dan thought about it, and it something felt off about her saying that. She has indulged herself in mushroom pizza before and Dan had never remembered her about the smell making her want to sick over it.

“At least Tad’s brought some booze,” Hugo said, “Maybe if you get her at least a little tipsy she’ll talk more, not that that’s really the morally correct thing to do.” Just as Hugo finished speaking, Tad moved to the black bag that had been set on the island.

“Alright, ladies and germs,” Tad called in an announcer's voice, “I’ve got some schnapps, some whiskey, a full bottle of Malibu, and a bottle of champagne that demands to have its cork popped,” he pulled out each one and set it on the island. Dan grinned at the champagne, which his parents had let him and Corinne each have a few glasses of on New Years Eve, their first kiss of the year tasted of champagne. He looked to Corinne to see her completely red in the face and looking right back at him with her large brown eyes.

Corinne walked over to him, “Um, I’m really not feeling well, can you please walk me home?” Dan nodded, even though she looked more embarrassed than she did sick.

“Let me just tell them I’m taking you home,” Dan said, which Corinne nodded to, Dan now noticed the tears brimming in her eyes, and he hoped to whatever God was out there listening that she wouldn’t break down right here, before he could console her without the presence of everybody.

Dan snuck over to Paul whispering a quick goodbye, and that if he could he would be back shortly. Paul nodded and grabbed the champagne popping the cork, eliciting a few cheers from Tad and the other girls, “At least take some champagne to go.”

Dan looked to Corinne, she shook her head, “I can’t,” She said, “I mean, I would love to, but, um, my mum would figure it out and be mad at me.”

Dan shrugged at the confused expressions of his friends and waved at them, a bit disappointed at his lack of alcohol. Corinne grabbed his wrist quickly and pulled him gently to the door where they found their jackets and shoes, that they slid on quickly before Corinne began tugging Dan out of the house once more.

“Corinne, please slow down,” Dan sighed as he slowed and attempted to grab Corinne so she would slow down as well. His hand slid across the mint color of her sweater that shielded her stomach, and the tears, that Dan had thought had settled, made their way down her face. “What’s gotten into you?” He said softly, pulling her close. She stepped out of his arms and wiped under her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. “Corinne, I’m so confused, I feel left out of the loop. There’s something bothering you, and I want to know what it is so I can help you.”

Corinne shifted foot to foot, she breathed unevenly and she began to rub her stomach the way she would when she would have cramps, or got a bit nervous. She lifted her left hand, the one that wasn’t on her stomach, and she pushed her bangs to the side as she paced a bit.

“Dan,” She said, her voice trickled with a slight pain, that hurt Dan. She wiped at her eyes a bit more, and she tried to make herself more lovely in appearance, as if her looks would change the outcome of anything she would say. “I’m pregnant.”

Dan’s breathing stopped. He look at her, his eyes grew wide, the girl he had lived since they were just little kids going to the same primary school. The same girl that had once told him about another mean girl at the park to which he had vowed to protect her. Tears sprung from that no-longer-little girl’s eyes. “What?” He breathed out, even though he had heard her very clearly the first time.

“My parents don’t know, that’s why Laura was here randomly,” She cried, “She bought me a pregnancy test after I missed my period and didn’t feel well, and well I’m pregnant."

Dan didn’t think he was gonna make it back to the party.

Chapter Text

Life was but a comedy, a tragedy, and a whole goddamn mystery all in one go. She was a miracle and a curse combined into one heavenly poison. The way her hair fell thin when she was distressed, yet still managed to look so full and ready for anything. The way she would tug on a wrist kindly, even though her motives weren’t kind. The way she sat so still and calm, even though her words felt like a whole fucking tsunami crashing down on an unsuspecting life.

Tears trekked their way down the calm blush skin of Corinne’s face as she spoke softly, and sounded so broken, “Dan, please say something.” Her voice was pleading, and her mint sweater didn’t seem as lovely as it once had been under the pink of her jacket.

Why did she keep it from me? Dan thought to himself. He looked up at her pink face, her lip trembled and her eyes were closed lightly. Her arms were wrapped around her stomach, and they rubbed each side gently. She was comforting her baby, their baby. “A-are you gonna keep it?” He asked softly, his own voice cracking as he spoke.

Corinne sniffed in heavily, “Dan, I haven’t thought that far yet,” She hugged her stomach tighter, but not so tight as to hurt the life growing inside. “But I don’t think I could live right if got rid of them.”

“Oh, okay,” Dan said, he stepped forward, watching as Corinne flinched a bit, “Can I hug you? It’s a lot to take in but I know you need it,” It wasn’t necessarily a permanent fix to the problem at hand, but he knew when he was upset his mum would console him with a hug, or some form of physical contact, he wanted to help. Corinne nodded as another fat tear dropped from her brown eyes, and soaked into the small bag under her eye. Dan hugged her, which she accepted and hugged back, “We can get through this.” Dan laid a few kisses on the top of her head.

“I don’t know how to tell my mum,” She whispered, tilting her head up a bit so she could be heard clearly, “and oh my god, my dad is going to kill me,” She released Dan from the hug and grabbed his hand. They didn’t lace their fingers. “My dad doesn't even know we’ve been having sex.” She rubbed her eye with her empty hand, “at least my mum knew we’ve been doing it.” She continued to speak as they walked slowly towards her house, Dan felt like a snail as they walked so slow. Her words went in one ear, and while every once in a while one of her words would stick, for the most part they just left.

His mind wandered, only hearing her when she would say ‘pregnant’ or ‘sex’ or anything along the lines of the catastrophic bomb she just dropped on him. He still had a little brother to take care of, a family that he was still trying to be closer to, a grandmother that surely would be angry at him for impregnating his girlfriend at the age of fifteen. He wanted the pregnancy test, to show his mum, to prove to himself that he wasn’t in some twisted version of a dream. His mum needed to know, she did, she really did. How was he supposed to just bring that up though? Just walk up to her and announce it as if it was nothing, or was he supposed to beat around the bush until she caught on? Maybe he could just tell her, and cry like he felt like he was gonna do.

Perhaps Dan could go back to the party and get a little tipsy before announcing to his friends that Corinne was pregnant, only to be met with ceaseless teasing from Tad and Paul. Hugo would be supportive, right? He always was, but Hugo wouldn’t let him drink himself to death like he felt like doing.

He knew better, he was taught better by his mum to not drink himself drunk, to stay safe while having sex, but how was he supposed to tell her about how he forgot a condom and they just did it anyway, knowing Corinne wasn’t taking any form of birth control? She would forgive him though, at least thinking through every knowledgeable situation she would. Hopefully his dad would actually talk to him, tell him what it was like to watch someone you care so deeply about go through childbirth, to tell him what it was like to become a father. Unless Corinne didn’t plan on keeping the baby, but Dan wouldn’t be able to go a day without thinking about them if Corinne did want nothing to do with the baby.

“I have to tell my mum,” Dan interrupted Corinne, who’s mouth fell open a bit, her eyes widening. “Sorry for interrupting, but I have to tell her,” Corinne nodded and wrapped her free hand around her stomach, protecting it.

“Can you tell your mum not to say anything to my parents?” Corinne asked, her voice fueled with nervousness. Dan nodded before realizing Corinne was looking forward, and distinctly not at him at all.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I have to tell her, she knows me too well. I can’t even imagine how you’ve made it this far without at least accidentally saying something.”

Corinne squeezed her hand that had Dan’s palm in its grip which caused a bit of her nervous sweat to touch Dan’s soft skin. He cringed a bit at the feeling, but didn’t say anything outwardly.

“That’s why I had Laura,” Corinne whispered as if one of her parents were near, “So that I could tell at least someone.” There was a stray tear that carved a river down her cheek. She wiped at it with a sweater paw, “I want to tell my mum, but I’m not ready for my dad to know.”

Dan sighed loudly, his mum would be understanding, probably disappointed that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant so young. Maybe she would be excited she was going to have a grandchild while so young, she wasn’t anywhere near death, she herself having Dan when she was in her early twenties, she wasn’t even forty yet, but that meant she would have a lot of time with her grandkid.

Corinne squeezed on his hand once changing the pace of Dan’s thoughts. What was Dan thinking? He didn’t even know if Corinne wanted the baby. Sure, she had said she didn’t want to abort it cause it would cause her such a guilty conscious, but he didn’t even know if she wanted to keep the little thing. Maybe Dan did want to keep the baby, he didn’t want to just brush it under the doormat like everybody else did. Not telling anybody would kill him for sure, and not keeping the baby—

Dan lifted his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Sorry my mind was wandering again,” He spoke in a tone so soft even the finest glassware could fall from a skyscraper and still be okay.

“It’s better you think than not though, right?” Corinne said gently, Dan looked her over, but found his eyes stuck at her stomach. In there, not even a meter away, was a fetus. A little tiny seed that would grow and flourish, something that would become something great. Had it’s heart even started beating? How big was it actually? Dan knew nothing about babies, but looking down at Corinne’s stomach made him want to know everything.

Dan happened upon a quick realization that he never responded to Corinne and looked back up to meet her eyes, “Yeah,” he said, still in that soft tone. He felt out of breath, even though he was breathing the same air as everyone else.

Dan even noticed the time that passed as Corinne spoke about how she had come to find she was pregnant, she had mentioned briefly that Dan had the right to know how it had happened, as he had been the one to make her pregnant. Dan listened the way he would read a school assigned book, paying attention to some of what she said, but not really listening to every detail.

She went on to explain that she had noticed she had start feeling dizzy and nauseous more mornings than not, and she told her mum she didn’t feel well. She had started feeling better throughout the day but remained feeling a bit like the world was spinning. She didn’t think anything about it until she had her period never came.

“That’s when I called Laura,” She spoke with clarity, despite the nervous tears that still made their way down her pale cheeks. “I knew something was up, and I think talking to her was the first time I realized I was pregnant.”

Dan nodded, even though she had spent roughly five minutes explaining everything, down to the color of her sick, and he had only caught about the last minute. He was so distracted by the fact she was pregnant to listen to the how.

He sat in his own mind for a few more minutes before Corinne was tugging at his hand. “We’re at my house, Dan,” she laughs a slightly uncomfortable laugh, “I’m sorry I sprung this up on you, but it’s better you know now rather than waiting until we’re finding out the gender,” He looked up and saw her house, and her hand was released from his own.

She said a quick, awkward goodbye that sounded strangely like a gasp before planting a kiss on his cheek. “Call me if you get the chance,” She had said as she walked off, leaving Dan to stare at that pink jacket that was covering her mint sweater.

Before he could get distracted for long, Dan turned, sighing a bit to himself and walking off in the direction of his home.

~•~•~•~

Dan’s mind wandered his entire way home. There was never a peaceful moment, even if the street was barren, the wind was cold and empty. The trees barely rustled, which wasn’t all that surprising due to the bite the air had and the lack of leaves added, but still a bit of a let-down. There was nothing to distract him, the sun was down, leaving no light to at least look at and let something to maintain his attention even if it would just be for time being. He was left with the beige of the ugly pavement, which was basked in a cruel darkness.

Without a distraction, Dan’s mind wandered again. That’s all he had seemed to be doing. Mindless wandering. He was so lost, nothing made sense. Mum will help. His cruel brain had thought up, Or maybe she’ll kill me. He reminded himself coldly. His hands hung down limp at his sides, swaying as if he had no control over them, but they matched his slow and upset stride.

He needed something to distract himself, desperately. Talk to mum first, he reminded himself. Not that she’ll let you distract yourself. Tell her how much of a dumbass you are, she’ll be so excited.

His mum wouldn’t be cruel, she was young when she had him. She was twenty-one, but even that isn’t a damn teenager. He was fifteen, and January, February, March, April, he held out his fingers counting out to nine. September. A baby in September. Eight months. Dan needed to close his eyes, all this thinking gave him a pounding headache.

He looked up from the glaring pavement and saw his house and it’s bitter green door, with that ugly cursive lettering he had grown too fucking used to. Behind that threshold most likely stood his mum, maybe Adrian too, if their mum had been nice enough to let him stay up.

He breathed a breath that had been held just out of his reach, and stepped towards his house, and that god forsaken path, that although had felt so comforting in the past, now felt uneasy. His palm, cold with nervousness lifted, and grasped the doorknob, that felt cold against the clammy skin.

If she’s standing right there, I might just cry, Dan thought to himself, already feeling a bit choked up on words he was terrified to say. Kids have been kicked out of their houses for getting pregnant as teenagers, and sure a fair majority were girls, but Dan did it, he was the one at fault. He should have been smart enough to tell Corinne that sex wasn’t the best idea condom-free, as if he hadn’t beat himself up over it enough.

He pushed into his house, feeling the warmer air hit his cheeks. He smelled sweet and, he took another shallow breath through his nose, cinnamon.

“Dan?” A sweet voice ran through the front room, too sweet, like a sickly, over sugared cup of tea, or one of those cake-batter chocolates that Adrian adored more than anything. Dan didn’t answer to his mum’s call. He breathed in shaky and shallow breaths. “Daniel?” His mother called again, this time he could hear a towel being moved to and fro.

“M-mum?” Dan spoke, his voice breaking a bit. Damn, now she knows . All movement stopped from the kitchen.

“You’re home early,” another call came, sounding a bit closer than the two previous, Dan’s mum came into view, her hair loose and falling over her shoulders in kind waves, looking lighter over the emerald green of her sweater. She looked him up and down quickly, “What happened?”

Dan sniffed in strongly, “Is dad home?” He didn’t want his dad to know just yet. He folded his arms over himself tightly, to hold himself together at least a bit better than he had been.

“He’s back tomorrow,” She stepped forward, sensing the need of a hug from her son. “Busy boy,” Dan really tried to smile at his mum’s happy banter, but he couldn’t will his smile to appear again. He needed her to sit down so he could tell her. Sitting down was what they did in the movies when someone was about to be told something big, given it was normally a good big, but Dan wasn’t so sure that this could be counted as a good big.

“I want to sit down,” Dan said, attempting to get his mum over towards the couch, or the kitchen table, just somewhere where there was a seat comfortable enough he didn’t really have to think about being uncomfortable. He was already thinking about uncomfortable every time he remembered why he and his mum were going to go sit down.

“Okay?” Dan’s mum said, sounding a bit like she was questioning herself. She grabbed a hold of her son’s bicep and led him to the couch in their living room with a gentle grasp, making sure not to disrupt her son’s mood any further. Dan was already one wrong word away from a full meltdown in front of his mum, and his mum knew plenty well that was the opposite of what he wanted. “Did you want me to call your father, darling?”

“No,” Dan said too quickly, his face immediately paling a bit at the thought of telling his dad about his bastard child on the way. Dan sucked in a harsh breath before speaking, “Please just you, mum.”

Dan’s mum sat him down on the couch, with no force, acting more as a guide dog rather than a great wind. She sat down next to him, and she observed her teenage son. She saw the puffiness under his eyes, be it from stress or crying, the paleness of his normally pink cheeks. She peered over his lower face, gazing at the absence of his rosy path. She looked up once more now seeing his eyes. They looked dull, like a bowl of sludge rather than the beautiful warm coffee, flecked with amber that were so normal to her. She lifted a hand and placed it against his cheek, his cold, smooth cheek.

He knew he had to tell her. He leaned into her touch as though he was savoring it for everything it was worth. Maybe this was the last time she would look at him and genuinely care.

Her next words were a tsunami striking upon the once calm shorelines, destroying everything that stood in it path, “What’s wrong, baby ?” Destroying that facade of fine Dan had worked so hard to maintain even if it was just momentarily. Baby. Baby, baby, baby.

Dan crumbled, his lip quivered and he pressed his eyes shut quick. He sniffed in again and blinked tightly and rapidly, quickly lifting his hands to wipe at his eyes before any more rivers could be made. If his body was a concrete slab, he was now rubble as he leaned towards his mum and wrapped his arms around her tightly, clinging to her in a way he hadn’t done since he was probably six or seven and had had a nightmare so horrific he couldn’t stay in his own room.

She held him, kissing the top of his head, pressing kisses to his straightened hair. “What’s gotten you all worked up, Bear?” She asked. He whimpered a bit, like a puppy who had been kicked, his sobs still raking through his body. Maybe that was the last time he’d hear his nickname as well.

“Y-you can-can’t say an-anything to anyo-one,” Dan managed to get out, his mum looked at him with wide eyes. He sat up just a bit so he could hold eye contact with her. Their eyes met and another painful-sounding sob shook his body. “I-I just need t-to te-ell you,”

Dan’s mum nodded, not wanting to disrupt her son. She lifted her hands and wiped away the tears that had gathered just underneath his eyes with her thumbs. “Take your time,” She said softly, not wanting her son to break down again, the sight causing herself and most definitely him distress.

He sat for a moment, words going through his brain at a speed so fast they would have had mountains of speeding tickets. I’m gonna be a dad, mum, he thought up first. Fuck, no, that was too committed. Was Corinne even gonna keep the baby, or was she sending them out to be adopted? He sat still, and his mum stroked patterns into his smooth hand. Mum, I’m having a baby. He sniffed in thickly, Ew, also too committed, but this one sounds more cliche. Dan swiped a hand through his hair to fix it.

Dan inhaled a deep breath before speaking, calming himself just enough to not stutter, “Corinne is pregnant,” he shut his eyes tightly so he didn’t have to see her response, so that if he could just be quiet for a moment he wouldn’t get kicked out. Now she’s knows how much of a dumbass you are, dumbass. Her hands dropped from under his eyes, their former position on his cheeks. “I-I, mum,” Dan opened his eyes to look at her, her eyes were wide, “I don’t know what to do.” Her eyes looked to be watering just a bit.

Dan’s mum didn’t miss a beat, “Who knows?” Dan looked confused at his mum, “About the baby,” she added. She looked up and swiped her thumb across her water line, but she wasn’t crying. Maybe saying something was wrong.

“Only me, you, Corinne, and Laura,” Dan wiped at his own eyes now. “She still hasn’t told her parents,” Dan’s tears kept coming, out of fear that his mother was just holding it in now, but would beat him coming at any second.

“Oh dear,” she said softly, she lifted a hand and tucked some stray hair behind her ear. “Is she taking vitamins?”

Dan’s nose scrunched up, “What?” The fuck does vitamins have to do with anything? Maybe he knew less about pregnancy than he learned from his mum.

“Prenatal vitamins, did her sister get her any to hide in her room?” She rephrased. Dan raked a hand through his fringe pushing it back to expose the expanse of his forehead.

Dan shook his head, “Not that I’m aware of?” Dan’s mind raged with questions. “Are you not gonna say anything about it?”

“I just want to make sure you’re both doing okay,” She whispered, now grabbing Dan’s shoulders and pulling him close to her own chest. “Baby or not, you’re my first priority. That, and we don’t have to have everything sorted right at this very moment.” Dan breathed in her comforting scent, his once present tears absent and drying on his smooth skin. “I also know I need to think about this, so I can only imagine what’s going through your head.”

Dan nodded, and his mum placed some kisses to the top of his head. He moved his arms to wrap around her. “I needed to tell you. I just found out like, an hour ago.” Dan’s mum sighed, not a sigh that screamed that she was upset, but one that showed that she was relieved.

“Oh, Dan, honey,” She laughed a little, “It’s that fresh in you mind?” Dan nodded once more. “Your nana is coming over tomorrow morning, why don’t you and I go out to breakfast so we can talk, and we’ll leave Adrian to go to church with nana?”

“That sounds good, and then do I have to tell dad?” Dan asked. His body was filled with tremors of nervousness.

“I think you should, but really, wait until you’re ready,” She said and cuddled him just a bit more. Her baby wasn’t really a baby anymore, was he?

“I think I’m gonna go to bed, my head hurts,” Dan mumbled. His mum laid a few more kisses to the top of his head.

It felt like just the other day he had been born, and in what felt like barely no time at all he had become a waddling toddler attatched to her hip. Crying when she had to go, big crocodile tears that broke her heart. The ones that when she had looked at his tiny red face, streaked with tears, and his little chubby hands reaching for her to come back, she immediately wanted to run and back and hold him in her arms forever. The same tears he had when he had horrible nightmares that ended up with him wound up lying in between her and her husband, mostly cuddled into her side, clung to her tightly. Dan wasn’t that little boy anymore, he was a teenager now, a teenager who was so distraught over his girlfriend being pregnant. Maybe his baby would be like him, clingy but overall a good kid. As much as she missed her little boy, she wouldn’t trade her distraught teenager for anything.

“Don’t beat yourself up, Dan,” She said, “and don’t think too hard, I’ll make sure you get your sleep tomorrow before nan gets here.”

“Okay,” Dan muttered, “I love you, mum.”

“I love you too,” She responded pulling Dan up with her as she stood, so he was also in a standing position. “And don’t you ever think I don’t, not even for the tiniest second.”

“Night, mum,” He said, giving her one last, large hug. He parted from her turning and walking away.

He definitely wasn’t that short toddler anymore, and Adrian wasn’t either anymore, even he was growing up too. Maybe they weren’t toddlers anymore, but one day they would have their own little kids, and maybe that day was a bit sooner than anticipated. They were growing, and Dan’s mum barely even felt the age of a grandmum.

She let out her own heavy sigh, and moved her hands to her face. “Oh, Daniel James,” Karen hadn’t prayed in what felt like  a very, very long time, but she sat back down on that brown couch and said a small prayer for comfort for her oldest son.

Chapter Text

Life was, and will always be, one of the biggest enigmas she herself has to offer. She was like handing a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle to a five year old child, sure they could figure it out, but how many years would that take? Was she even the same to everybody, or did everyone see Life in different bodies, different perspectives?

In the Howell household, life had been held and maintained through young love, and a bustling, happy curly haired toddler. Life was that small toddler giggling happily every morning while his tummy got tickled and his clothes got changed. Life was when two chubby hands reached and grabbed his cup of juice from his mum, with his large chocolate eyes staring gratefully into matching ones.

“Mummm,” That little voice had called out to Karen, high pitched and a bit squeaky for the early morning hours. Karen moved quicker in the bathroom, quickly brushing back her hair and tugging it into a tight ponytail. Her two year old was a bit grabby, and adored playing with her hair, despite being told ‘No, Daniel, that hurts mummy,’ quite a few times after he had tugged too harshly. His tiny little mind hadn’t understood and cried for a bit, despite having Karen rocking him and kissing his cheeks to make him feel better.

Karen looked herself over in the mirror, rather quickly, so she wouldn’t have a fussy baby on her hands. She hurried to exit the bathroom and ran to the nursery. She entered the light blue room, gazing over the plain walls happily, noting the way the sun had lit up the room quite a bit at 07:30, when her crazy boy always woke up. She looked over the room once more and toward the crib where she happened upon a standing Daniel, who held onto the top of his crib bar tightly, smiling a deep smile with cavernous dimples and contagious crinkles near his eyes. He giggled at the sight of his mum as he dropped the bear he had been holding.

“Mummy!” He shouted again, bouncing slightly now that he saw his mother. Karen smiled at the sight of her happy boy, with his hair messed up on the top his head in little curls that Karen wanted to play with so desperately. Who could resist those soft tufts of hair, that only stayed for so long ? The small baby Daniel reached his hands forward towards his thin mother, whining slightly at the lack of contact. Karen leaned in and scooped up her boy, kissing all over his cheeks.

“Hi, Baby,” she said and placed him comfortably on her hip, followed closely by her tickling him with the tips of her fingers. His laughs were so light, yet harsh, she couldn’t help but laugh as well. “How’s mummy’s boy?”

“Mummmmy,” Dan squealed again, nuzzling his face into Karen’s neck. His stomach let out a small growl, “Wan’ foo’,” He lisped quietly, now that he was near his mum’s face. Karen rocked him gently, but not enough to lull him back to sleep, despite wanting a few more minutes of shut-eye. Anything was worth it to make her boy happy.

“Let’s get you changed,” she said, bouncing him a little in her grasp, causing the small thing to whine. “What do you want for breakfast?” She distracted him as she laid him down on the changing table in his nursery. He looked up at her as she changed him neatly, and babbled with content about what he wanted for breakfast, even though a large amount of his words made no sense, other than the occasional word that was coherent.

The two were at peace, a simple pleasure that they become accustomed to over Daniel’s two years of life. She got him moving, feeding him a type of porridge that he loved, before she left him sat on the plush couch with a cartoon up on the telly as she got ready. That was before she heard a small thud from the lounge.

“Mummy!” A loud cry came from the lounge, Karen quickly finished up the last of her makeup, and ran towards the lounge where she found her son holding his head. He stood at his short height, his tears eyes meeting Karen’s. He moved his hand to reveal a trail of blood from his eyebrow.

“Oh, honey,” Karen said, leaning forward grabbing a hold of her injured son, “what happened, Bear?” He wailed sadly, showing her his hand that had some of his blood on it, sobbing even harder at the sight. The sobs that sounding like choking, constant hiccuping and struggling to breathe.

“Ow,” he cried, Karen looked at the wound, realizing that he might need stitches and immediately took him to A&E.

He was not happy as the doctor looked him over and established that, yes, he would need stitches. He cried and clung to his mum as the doctor did what he had to. Luckily, it hadn’t scarred horribly, but he did cry over it incessantly, different from his raspy ‘I’m hurt’ cries, he cried with noises that sounded more like he just wanted his mum to make it stop hurting.

The kind of cries he had let out the morning after he found out, after Adrian and his nana had left, and before his mum had come to collect him. The ones she heard from outside his door. Karen raised a fist and knocked gently on the door.

“Can I come in, Bear?” She asked softly. She stared at the door that had caution tape strapped over it, hearing a few sniffs in and a cough. She heard rustling from outside.

Another cough, “Yeah,” he finally addressed his mother’s words. His mum reached for the metal knob of the door and twisted gently. She pushed open the door to see her son stood in a pair of black jeans, yesterday’s, and an old t-shirt that looked like it had been slept in. The scar tucked in the short brown hair of his eyebrow looked slightly more white against the crimson hue of his skin. His eyes looked puffy, and he didn’t look like he had slept all that well, his hair slightly curly from sleeping. He must have forgotten to straighten it last night , Karen told herself. It was unlike him to have even the slightest bit of curliness, but to be fair he had been a bit distracted last night.

“Are you almost ready,” She began softly, not to disrupt her son’s already upset mood, “Or do you want a few minutes?” His eyes glanced up, and the glassy pair met his mother’s with a single tear gliding down his face. He looked so young in the moment, his cheeks just a little pudgy and his eyes filled with tears. Karen wanted to scoop him up and coddle him forever, which was what she wanted to do nearly every time he was upset. She would step further into the room but her son on a normal day disliked when she did that, so she kept her distance. It was painful to see her son upset.

“Give me a few minutes,” he whispered, he looked down and away from his mum. She nodded and turned at the door, exiting quickly leaving Dan to sit with himself. The door closed with a small click and Dan looked up to view his surroundings.

Where could I fit a crib? Dan thought peering around the small room. Corinne can not send that baby out for adoption. Dan raised his hands and rubbed angrily over his emotional eyes. I don’t want to regret sending that baby away, it is mine after all. Dan looked at his twin-sized bed, the end table right next to it, holding his laptop. He glanced above and saw the window pouring in soft golden light, he turned to see it hit the white doors of his closet, he turned in the small room and saw his dresser, and back to the closet. He stepped over the piles of clothes on his messy floor and opened up the closet. There has to be room in here, He sighed as his thoughts overtook him.

Dan rubbed his eyes again and looked at the empty closet floor, excluding the two pairs of scattered shoes. He grabbed the tattered pair of canvas sneakers and shoved them roughly onto his feet. He turned and grabbed an army green jacket from the end of his bed before pulling it on hastily. He left his room quickly.

“Mum?” He called, he needed to talk to her.

“Yes, Darling?” His mum responded from what sounded like the kitchen. His paces increased as he found his way to the kitchen. She was stood tall at the counter, reading over the mail that must have arrived the previous day, it was Sunday after all, and she carded through them. She looked up and saw her son in his jacket, she smiled at him. A genuine smile, that made his heart shatter a bit.

“I’m ready to go, mum,” he said, and tugged at the sleeves of his jacket.

“Okay,” She grabbed the key from the counter, he hadn’t noticed it before. “Let’s go.”

~•~•~•~

“Just us two,” The sweet voice of Dan’s life-giver spoke gently to the hostess who stood idly by the door, waiting for people to enter the confines of the small restaurant. The faux blonde hostess nodded, blinking her excessively mascara-ed lashes. She snatched up two of the red plastic menus.

She flashed a ‘customer-service’ smile before speaking with a gravelly voice, “Follow me,” she sounded like she had probably smoked a pack a day. The pair of Howell’s stayed quiet and followed her through the restaurant to the booth they were led to.

“Your server today will be Eliza,” She said, Dan peeked up a bit to see a name tag placed high up on a black t-shirt, her name was Opal.

Dan’s mum nodded, “Thank you,” Opal pressed together her pink lips and turned to head back to the front of the diner where surely another few people were waiting. Dan looked down and studied the beige marble pattern of the table. He held a focus so strong it could have been one of those Redwood trees out in California that his History teacher had raved about after his week-long holiday.

Karen coughed a little, grabbing her son’s attention. “So Corinne is pregnant?” Dan sighed and placed his hands against the table that felt like ice against his warm skin. His head clouded again, it didn’t feel real.

“Yeah,” he said, a voice so timid a mouse could scare it off. “She is, and if I’ve done the maths right, she’s due in September.” He stayed quiet after that, I think I want to keep the baby, his nosy head supplied.

“I know it’s not ideal for you,” She said, Dan laughed a tiny bit, No shit, mum. “But I need to know what you want to do. I want to be with you this whole time.”

“Mum, I don’t even know what Corinne wants to do,” Dan lifted his hands and pressed tightly to his eyes. “It’s her body. I can’t make the decision for her, I mean I have a bit of a say b-but—“ Dan choked in a sob, “I want my baby to be safe.”

Karen’s eyes widened at what he had said, his baby. It felt a hell of a lot more real, seeing her son sat at the table choking in tears that wouldn’t come for no reason. His face growing red as he spoke about a baby that as of now he was pretty sure he wanted to keep.

Karen breathed out from her nose slowly and thought.

“Adrian, please finish washing up in the kitchen, Dan’s coming back from uni for the weekend,” She saw herself saying. “He wants to have,” a blank space where a name should go, “3rd birthday party here. They’re only a few minutes away with Dad.”

“Then he can clean when he gets here,” a grumpy voice grumbled. “I can watch his kid.”

“Adrian.” Karen said sternly.

“Fine, mum,” Adrian stood and walked to the kitchen, he looked quite a bit older, taller and thinner. “I’m washing up.”

A few seconds passed in her vision and a knock sounded on the door before a squeaky sound filling the air.

“Nana!” A voice squealed happily at the door, followed by a clatter of a pair of tiny feet shuffling across the house.

“Baby,” Dan’s voice, now sounding a bit older, more mature, “we’ve gotta take off your jacket,” Dan audibly sighed, “and your shoes, sweets.”

A small face gleamed up at Karen, with rosy cheeks and dimples that lit up her whole world. “Nana,” the toddler squealed again reaching up to grab at Karen, she lifted the small thing and placed them on her hip. The little one hugged her grandmother dearly. She was like a light, making Karen’s world just a bit brighter.

“Sweetheart,” an unknown male voice rung through the house, a northern fellow. “Listen to your daddy, please.”

Karen blinked and brought herself back to the reality of sitting in a small diner, where her son was sat, upset, across from her. She wanted the best for him.

She could see it, the whole ordeal being placed in front of her as if she had been a queen and a servant was pacing down the most delicate of Chinaware carrying a thirteen course meal. She didn’t feel repelled by it.

“Let’s say, that perhaps you do keep the baby,” her words were like molasses, “Obviously, I am supporting you in your decision,” Dan visibly calmed down. “Do you see Corinne still with you, in the baby’s life?”

Dan grabbed at the edge of the table, plucking at the false wood. He sat and thought. If he wanted to be honest with himself, and his mum, he couldn’t. She didn’t fit that motherly type, no matter how much he craved for her to fill that piece of his puzzle. She was comforting, and sweet, and the image of every teenage sweetheart, but she wasn’t a mother. She was good for hugs and kisses, but she didn’t fit a motherly role.

Their waitress, Eliza, a young strawberry blonde girl with basically no breasts walked over and Dan’s mother ordered for them. Dan wasn’t in the mood to speak, he was so deep in thought. Eliza nodded off and set off to get their food.

Dan began, “Mum, I don’t think Corinne wants to keep the baby,” He sniffed in as a new wave of tears came. “She says she hasn’t thought that far, but I think she just said that cause she knew something I didn’t at the time.”

Karen looked up as Eliza came back setting down glasses of water in front of them. She thanked Eliza quietly before turning her attention back to her son, “What do you think she knew, honey?”

Dan’s lip quivered and he cradled his head with his hands. “That I want to keep the baby.” He pawed at his eyes before clearing his throat and speaking once more, “I mean I know I’m young, and I don’t have a lot of room for anything, but I think it would kill me to know that I have a baby out in the world knowing they’re off doing amazing things that I don’t get to be a part of.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” He said, “You’re not upset?”

“Oh, Dan,” She whispered sweetly, looking into her son’s eyes, “It’s not like you planned this with malicious intent, or at all for that matter. The best thing I can do right now, is be here for you.” Dan smiled and choked back some of his emotion. “And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but your father also gets home tonight.”

Dan’s breath hitched in his throat as he remembered his father. “Oh.” His heartbeat sped with the thoughts of telling his dad about the baby.

“I don’t want to tell you how to go about this, but I do think it’d be best if you told him about the situation,” Dan nodded as his mum spoke, still with those honey filled words. “I will stand there with you, if that’ll help.”

Dan thought it over, yes he wanted his mum there. That would alleviate some of his stress. How would dad react? Oh, shit, how would Adrian react? Or his nana? Fuck, he still had a lot to go over.

“Would that help, Dan?” Karen interrupted her son’s thoughts.

“Yeah,” He said trying to remind himself everything was gonna be okay. “Yeah, it would.”

~•~•~•~

Breakfast had gone well, Dan had to admit. Even though he did have a slight breakdown in a booth at an old-style family restaurant, he had to admit the outcome was better than he expected. His mum still loved him, and now she knew that his intention was to keep the baby no matter what Corinne wanted. He felt a wave of selfishness thinking about it. Not my body. He reminded himself.

He shrugged and moved toward his bedroom after returning home, he really needed to sleep, despite knowing he wouldn’t get any more. He walked into his room and face-planted into the smooth soft comfort of his navy blue bed sheets. His feet slid across each other tugging off his shoes and socks so they fell and hit the ground. He rubbed his cheek against the surface, messing up his hair a bit.

He turned and looked at his old teddy bear that he had kept on his bed since basically the day he was born. Maybe that could be the baby’s. He looked it over again. They would like it, right? He’s been there for me when I needed it.

A yawn interrupted him mid-thought. Sleep.

He tugged down his duvet and covered himself back up under the warm blanket. He shut his eyes hoping for sleep to take over, he steadied his breathing but he couldn’t sleep.

He flopped around for a minute trying to find a more comfortable position, despite already finding his ideal positioning the first time. Everything felt uncomfortable. He turned and faced the silver coloring of his old laptop. He sat up hastily and swiped it so it was in his lap, knowing full well sleep was completely off the table at this point, unless he could calm himself down. He opened the laptop up and typed in his password quickly, the screen quickly opening to the last thing he had opened.

YouTube. He had grown almost addicted to it, he always craved to go back and watch what people had gotten up to, it was distracting in all the best ways. It was nice to know that his life had one of billions, and thankfully for the people online, he could insert himself somewhere else’s for even just a bit of time. Dan’s fingers glided across the trackpad and refreshed the homepage to see the latest videos.

The page turned white momentarily and then quickly filled with loads of colorful thumbnails that were begging to be clicked. He gazed over numerous videos, a few with cats and other animals, a few with titles like “BIGGEST PRANK EVER” and “watch this 100 times and you’ll still laugh”. He saw a few ones with people sat in their bedrooms or tucked away by a blank wall with captions about what they had to talk about. YouTube was magic. A grin spread across his face as he peered over his subscription feed, he sighed at the sight of no new videos, and continued scrolling down the homepage.

His eyes flickered over the light of the screen before seeing three large words:

“Channels you might like:”

He looked over the channels looking at the appearances of them, the first to pop up was a girl with what looked like blue hair, but more a pale-ish—like Cinderella’s ball gown. Her channel name was ToDineFor. He laughed at the attempt of a pun. ‘ SALADS ARE EVIL’ the title read. He breathed out in quiet laughter at the title and opened it up, as an almost exasperated teenage girl filled the screen in what looked like work clothes.

“Hello to all your sweet faces,” she began a sweet American accent filled that once empty void of silence, “as you know, I love cooking,” The camera cut slightly so she was sat at a slightly different angle. “That’s why I am one, working at restaurant, and two, in a trade school,” she laughed a little at herself. Dan grinned, she looked like she was having fun telling a story. She grinned and had these beautiful pink glossed lips that made her stand out even more than it already did. A title screen played before she went even further, which was a link to her blog, under the label ‘ for those interested in a more in depth of my adventure check out my blog, Gianna’s To Dine For .’

The girl, now Gianna, went on to explain this elaborate story of how she was preparing a salad, which she had mentioned wasn’t super common to order late at night—she had also added that pasta was their specialty, but for some odd reason they were known for having an obscure type of pizza—but that night was extra busy, and there was never a time she wasn’t preparing salad, and it had even gotten to a point they were in such high demand, she had to pull one of their newbies to the back to help. Dan felt a bit better after watching her video and hit subscribe almost immediately.

He backed out despite wanting to watch more of her videos, as if something had been telling him there was more to look at. He hadn’t been one to imagine that fate was real but he felt something tugging at his innermost being to just go scour a bit further on the YouTube homepage. He scrolled for a minute before casting his eyes on a guy, who couldn’t have been much older than Dan himself. He had black hair and shocking blue eyes on some of the palest skin Dan had ever cast his eyes on. He looked down at the title and saw the word’s Phil’s video blog . Something about it felt right. He clicked on the video and a lovely northern accent filled his head. He smiled at him as he went on to explain an elaborate story of something that had happened at uni the day previous to him filming.

Dan felt a genuine smile cover his face as he watched him, this tall, quirky emo dude with the most gorgeous pools of blue that if it hadn’t been for Corinne or his unborn child he would undoubtedly wish with every fiber of his being to take a dip in.

Chapter Text

Life was maybe slightly less of a bitch than Dan’s initial thought, who was that much of a bitch and then just threw a random, emo-black-haired, fucking attractive bloke towards a struggling teenager? Oh, right, the God-send that was Life and all her weirdly mysterious and hidden features that should have caused Dan to run early-on, but rather left Dan wanting, craving more, like a bug coming to suckle up only the sweetest sap from the juiciest evergreen, even though every bug knew they were destined to get stuck in that sickly sweet sap.

Maybe finding this Phil guy on a barely large platform was that sap, and Dan the bug, clinging to every word this heavenly northern accent spoke. To Dan it was literal honey dripping from his lips, distracting him from his life and filling it with purpose, a medicine to heal his aching mind. For a brief moment it felt there was no Corinne, no aching mind thinking of his baby on the way, no mum, no little brother, just Dan and AmazingPhil. It felt almost right, despite having only begun watching him barely half an hour ago.

Phil’s laugh was infectious, the way his pink tongue poked out from behind his crooked teeth as he laughed good, hearty noises. The sounds themself caused Dan’s own face to break out into a grin, one of those ones that he didn’t know was even possible. One his mum, Corinne, or anybody had seen in the past few years. Phil was a medication to a sickness Dan had no intention of keeping.

Dan sighed and watched him speak, like a lovesick puppy, smiling at the boy as he spoke. Phil would grin, and edit some small effects over the screen that fit with what he was speaking about. The theatre kid in Dan squealed at the small skits he had on his channel, yet he found himself almost jealous of Phil’s friends that got to hug him in the videos? What the hell, Dan, His mind kindly supplied to him, He’s not your friend, he’s a YouTuber, why the fuck are you jealous? You have Corinne. Dan rubbed his eyes and went back to the video of Phil goofing off with his friend, if Dan was right, called Ian.

Dan was hooked, and AmazingPhil’s hair was perfect. An ideally straight, black, emo fringe that appeared slightly tousled and messy. A bird’s nest, his mum would say, but holy hell did it suit him. His pale skin shone as he happily smiled a giddy smile, white, crooked teeth smiling so joyously that that little pink tongue that poked out between them was like heroin, and Dan had felt as though he had been addicted for years. He grinned a dopey smile, his own teeth exposed to the world, and caught biting his bottom lip.

Dan remained grinning as he held his laptop as close to his chest as humanly possible, staring into those pools of pure blue happiness. Dan had been pretty set on being with Corinne for a while, being a straight white dude with a pretty girl that he loved on his arm, but now looking at this very attractive albino-skinned, artificial black-haired northern god on earth, he wasn’t quite so sure the future he was headed towards was all that truthful.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love Corinne, he did, very much he did, hence why she was carrying his child, it was just, he had told her he was completely straight, when he wasn’t completely well, straight. To be fair, it was easier to explain that he was straight, and just “not blind” to the chiseled physique of men and women alike, rather than explaining that he didn’t quite understand himself yet. At fifteen, you were supposed to have yourself figured out, to know your preferences front to back, you weren’t supposed to just change, and sure, he was with Corinne, so it didn’t really matter his preference in other compatible human, but knowing full-well he likes boys as well as girls gutted him and served him for dinner, especially while only he knew.

Just as Dan’s thoughts were about to go wild again, a soft knock hit the door. A gentle caring knock, alongside a soft, “Dan?” His mum.

“Yeah, mum?” He answered, equally as soft, almost a mumble of what he could have said. This time the door creaked open the tiniest amount, with Karen’s head poking in. Dan moved his hand to close up the silver of his laptop, leaving AmazingPhil up to watch again later. The northern voice was silenced.

“Your dad just called me,” She said, “He’s about half an hour away.” Dan’s breath hitched. Half an hour before both his parents knew. Karen slid into the room once she realized her son was decent, leaving the door slightly ajar behind her.

“Did-Did you say anything?” Dan stuttered a bit, brown eyes meeting brown. He cursed himself inwardly for not being able to speak in full as fearlessly as he wished.

“No, Bear,” she said, “it’s not my news to share.”

“Oh.”

“Also, Adrian just got back from church with Nana,” she spoke softly, “Do you want me to have him in his room while you talk to Dad or do you want me to take him out of the house in total?”

“I guess just in his room?” Dan said quietly, “when do we tell him.” As if every cliche movie sequence were destined to happen right now, small footsteps were heard behind Karen.

“Tell me what?” Adrian’s voice asked, slightly muffled by Dan’s wooden door and the two boys mother. Dan’s eyes widened as he looked into his mum’s similarly as cartoonishly huge eyes.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Dan sighed and reminded himself that Adrian was gonna figure it out sooner or later. Karen tucked more hair behind her ear, “Do you want to tell him to bugger off, or d’you want to tell him?” Dan lifted his fists and rubbed them harshly into his already bloodshot, sleep-deprived eyeballs. He moved one of his hands away from his face and motioned for his mum to bring in the younger of the two as if she was a loyal secretary to him.

Karen nodded at the lazy gesture, and opened the door allowing for Adrian to enter. He looked at Dan’s tired form with concern. “Are you okay, Dan?” Dan nodded slightly at his concerned brother. “You don’t look good.”

“Adrian!” Karen said in hopes that her younger son would be nicer to her struggling oldest.

“What? I’m not wrong.” Karen sighed.

“Thanks, Ade,” Dan said, smiling a bit at the purely blunt honesty of his brother. “Do you wanna sit with me for a second?” Adrian’s face contorted to one of confusion, but he nodded anyway and came and sat on Dan’s bed with him.

“Do you want me to leave, Dan?” The boys’ mum asked gently, careful not to throw off the calm balance that was set in place in Dan’s room.

“Yes,” Dan said, almost too quickly, “No hard feelings, mum.” She laughed a small, almost sad laugh before exiting through the open door. Dan turned his attention back to his little brother, who sat in a polo shirt and blue jeans. His socks were matching and black.

“What did you want to tell me?” Adrian asked almost impatiently, waiting to hear what his brother had to say intently. “Did you do something fun with mum without me?”

Dan laughed at that, that conversation was the opposite of fun, Dan thought. Oh god, how do I tell a nine year old that he could possibly be an uncle? Dan rubbed up and down the bridge of his nose, a normal stress reliever he found. Here goes nothing.

“Well, I did something,” Dan started off the train wreck of a conversation, Adrian looked at him with his face full of innocence. Oh, how unaware he is. How unaware of how much his life is gonna change even before he turns 10. How did I fuck up his life so early on? “So…”

“So, what?” Adrian asked, still steadily growing more impatient, despite only having sat there for two minutes at the very most. His leg bounced with the need to hear this new information. “Dan, you’re scaring me a little.”

“I don’t want to lie to you,” Dan said, his tensed up shoulders loosened as he looked intently at his little brother, who looked so calm in comparison to Dan’s own self. “So, you know Corinne,” Adrian nodded, humming an ‘mmhm,’ Dan sighed, which apparently was a very Howell-way to express most emotion. “Well, I messed up a bit.”

“Did you break up?” Adrian asked sadly.

“No, no, we didn’t break up,” Dan reassured, “we’re still together, but, uh,” Adrian’s breath hitched, “She’s pregnant.”

“What?” Adrian shouted, “Does mum know? Are we gonna have a baby living here? Did you tell dad? Or-or Nana?”

“Mum knows, but dad, Nana, and Corinne’s parents don’t, so you can’t say anything,” Adrian’s eyes widened and then blinked a few times, like refreshing an internet browser, like he was registering all this information.

“So, I’m gonna be an uncle?”

“If I get to keep the baby, yes,” Dan looked at his brother, who must not have realized all the implications of having a child at the ripe age of 16, and was smiling greatly. “You can’t say anything to dad or nan until they know though, okay?”

“Okay,” Adrian agreed. “If you get to keep the baby can I help?” Dan laughed a bit.

“Yes, you can,” Dan moves his hand and ruffles a bit at his kid brothers messy hair, “I’m gonna need it.”

Adrian left Dan’s room shortly after, once Dan had reminded him that it was a secret at the moment, and if he was to tell anyone Mum will kill you . Adrian has grinned and lifted his pointer finger and thumb in a zipping motion over his mouth, before fake throwing “the key” over his shoulder. Dan couldn’t deny he was a good brother, especially for him being a pest most of the time, he had his good moments.

It must have been fifteen more minutes before he heard his front door open. Dan had been looking into the mirror, making sure his clothes were straight enough for his dad to be kind to him, his dad wasn’t a mean guy, he just could be fairly grumpy after long work days, or a whole weekend in this case, on set. Dan ran his fingers through his hair before he opened his door and stepped out.

“Dad!” Adrian squealed, before his footsteps could be heard running towards the door. Dan walked with long strides before he was met with the sight of his younger brother hugging tightly to their dad.

“Hey, kid,” He said before ruffling his youngest’s hair, “You’re looking rather spiffy, did you go to church with Nan?” His face actually looked interested to hear about what his young son had been up to rather than hearing about his work.

Adrian nodded, “Yeah, I did, and Nana even baked me bread for breakfast!”

“She did, huh?” His dad chuckled, causing Adrian to nod all over again, “Did she leave me any?” He whispered. Adrian nodded again.

“I hid it so Dan and mum couldn’t find it,” Adrian laughed, Dan faked a gasp as he entered the room, despite his nerves that in just a few minutes everybody in his house would know about the baby. Adrian turned abruptly towards Dan, before squealing a, “There’s no bread!” And running towards the kitchen.

“Hi, Dan,” His dad said as soon as Adrian was out of sight. Dan smiled a fake smile, before trudging up to his father and giving him a small hug. He felt more grown than he had the last time he hugged his dad. Of course you do, dimwit, you’ve got a special surprise on the way. His lip began to tremble as he remembered that he had to talk. His body soon followed in erratic breathing, followed by his eyes closing against his father’s broad chest. “You okay, mate?” He asked when he started to feel Dan tremble in his grasp.

Dan looked up, not yet fully crying, “Can I talk to you?” Timothy, Dan’s father, looked down at his boy and crumbled at his bloodshot eyes and wobbling lip. He looked like he was three again, and had just scraped his knee outside, except this time he looked broken on the inside rather than just a scrape on the outside.

“You can always talk to me, buddy,” he said softly, breaking a bit away from the hug but rubbing his back still. Dan pulled away from his father and crossed his arms.

“Uh,” Dan breathed, he raised one of his hands to rub at the back of his head, while the other remained tightly clung around his waist. He looked at his father with tear filled eyes, that threatened to spill the longer he held them out. “Corinne’s pregnant,” His voice finally whispered. He stared at the gruff stubble on his dad’s chin.

“Come again, Dan?” His father’s only reply was.

After it had been said the first time, Dan’s voice filled with a bit more confidence. “Corinne’s pregnant.” He looked up to scan his father’s face, his father’s eyes were wide, and his short, brown hair looked to be standing on end towards his neck. He didn’t look angry, but rather afraid.

“Oh,” He said. He lifted his hand again, causing Dan to flinch back in case he was about to be hit, his father never hit him, but Dan felt stupid enough he thought he might as well start. “Come here,” He said as he lifted his other hand. “I’m not mad.”

Dan shifted forward awkwardly, before hugging his dad. “You’re not mad?” Dan asked tentatively, and before his father could respond he racked on, “But I was stupid.”

“I’ve been stupid in my life too, Dan. It’s not worth ruining a whole relationship over something you didn’t have any intent of doing.” His father spoke with clarity, and he held an air of confidence despite looking slightly afraid as well.

“What?” Dan’s voice was filled with confusion. He’d royally fucked up, and his dad was just okay with it?

“Dan, do you think I’d stop loving you just because you did something you didn’t mean to?” His dad asked softly, like he was genuinely concerned that his son had thought it was a possibility. Dan’s eyes filled with tears once more, how could he have possibly thought that his father could hate him over something so small.

“I-I thought it might have been possible,” a tear dropped from his eye and his lip wobbled a bit, but this time he was happy that his dad wasn’t angry.

He laughed and wrapped his arms tighter around his son, his son who was growing and getting older, making his own mistakes. “I just want you to know I’ll always be here for you,” he rubbed his son’s back. “I don’t know what exactly you’re planning for that baby, but I’ll love them, and you, in every situation.”

Dan held his father tight in his arms. “Thank you.”

Timothy grinned down at his boy before placed a single kiss to the top of his head, “Always, Kid,” Dan sniffled in. “And I could never hate you.”

Chapter Text

Life was the most unorganized bitch you would ever meet. She was picky, and sometimes mean. She could be vile if you caught her at the wrong time, or if you looked at her hair just slightly as if you didn’t like it. There were also times, though, when Life didn’t look like herself at all. Where they would sit with a bent back and a goofy grin, once brown hair looked shaggy and black. Brown eyes turned to pools of heavenly ocean. Even then, though, they never strayed far from what they were used to, what they had grown so accustomed to.

The sun had shone brightly in the expanse of the oldest Howell son’s room, waking him from a slumber that left as peacefully as it came. He inhaled a deep breath from his nose before squinting his eyes at the sun and stretching out his tall body. He reached up and cracked his bones, feeling relief with each pop. He lazily raked his fingers across his scalp, moving around the slightly curled hair, despite spending a good twenty minutes before he went to bed frying his brown locks straight.

Dan pushed his duvet off his body and moved off his bed, he looked around the messy, dirty-clothes-covered floor for a t-shirt to shove on before his eyes landed on an old My Chemical Romance shirt. It was wrinkled, and probably smelled like his floor and his feet, but it was a t-shirt nonetheless. He quickly pulled it on over his head before heading back towards his bed. He sat on top of the duvet and pulled up the fleece that was folded up at the end of his bed, before relaxing into his mattress once more. He grabbed his laptop from the floor and opened it up, immediately being welcomed with the YouTube homepage. AmazingPhil was there—as he usually was. Dan sighed and scrolled over the videos he’d already seen four or five times at least. He wasn’t obsessed, he just had like that Phil was a university guy with perfect hair and a nice smile, and a great personality. So, no, definitely not obsessed, but fascinated.

A small knock sounded on the door of the Howell’s family home. It echoed in the entryway against those tan walls. Dan heard that knock from the confines of his also tan bedroom walls. Dan’s head quirked up from AmazingPhil on his laptop as he heard heavy footsteps walking toward the door. The sound of their front door creaked open.

“Corinne?” Dan’s father’s voice echoed off the walls, in a similar fashion to the raps heard barely a minute previous, “Dan’s still in his room, but feel free to go in there.” Dan closed his laptop and placed it once again on the floor, before he stood up for only the second time today. He turned and looked at his cheap digital clock, where the clock read out 11:26.

Dan made his way to his own door as he listened for Corinne’s small “thank you,” her words were rushed and sounded so timid, like she was afraid. Dan’s lips stretched out and the ends pointed downward. Her own footsteps were quick to Dan’s door. Dan looked at his floor and quickly pushed his scattered clothes towards the corner of his room.

Another small knock sounded, gentle raps once more, but this time against Dan’s bedroom door. “Dan?” She whispered almost as quiet as a breath exiting her lungs. Dan bounced toward the door and pulled it open, unveiling Corinne in an old t-shirt of Dan’s—even fit with a few extra holes in the neckline seam—that looked just slightly tighter around her freshly pregnant tummy, and a pair of fleece pajama pants. “Can I come in?”

Dan nodded, his brown eyes blinking a few even times as he pulled the door open even farther. “Of course.” She stepped in, and immediately flung herself to Dan’s chest. She breathed in rapidly and her breath hitched before she started letting out choked sobs into his shoulder. Dan lifted his arms wrapping one around her waist while the other one reached up to her head and massaged her scalp.

“They know, Dan,” she whined, muffled slightly by Dan’s shoulder, she looked up a bit and into Dan’s eyes. “They’re so mad at me.”

“As much as I hate to say it, I’m not really surprised,” Corinne’s water filled eyes let a few more tears fall. “Do you know what they’re thinking?”

Corinne shook her head, “Not really,” She coughed a bit, and Dan lifted his hand to rub her back to soothe her sobbing body. “My dad wants to move me to online school so nobody has to know,” she breathes in a large, gasping breath before speaking again, “that was after I told him I was gonna have the baby and then put them up for adoption.”

Dan’s own breath hitched. Giving the baby up. He couldn’t let that happen, They’re my baby too, he thought. His lips parted in search of words to express that there was no way he was giving that baby up. Corinne searches his face, her hand reached up and pressing down on the crease that sat between his eyebrows, she smoothed out the crease.

“What’s wrong, Dan?” She stroked at the smooth expanse of skin, she lowered her voice and spoke just above a whisper, “Did I say something?”

Dan, as normal, let out a sigh, “Uh,” he breathed, I can’t lie to her, “I want to keep the baby.”

Corinne tore her hand away from his face. “You, what?” They held an eye contact that they hadn’t held for, how far along was Corinne? Two months? Her light brown eyes squinted at him, and her hands moved to his sides.

“I want to keep the baby,” Dan said once more, this time filled with an air of confidence he hadn’t had right before. “And I talked to my mum about it, she seems pretty keen on the idea.”

“Dan, my parents are already mad enough, as is,” She whispered, and unbelieving tone painting her voice like it was a canvas. “How do you think I’m gonna tell them that you want to keep the baby, without them murdering me?” She tugged at the hem of his monochrome t-shirt. Dan’s brown eyes swelled with a great pressure that felt like a pounding headache, he lifted his hands to his eyes pressing in on them.

“Corinne, it’s gonna kill me to know that I have a baby out there, somewhere,” He said, raising his voice just a bit, “knowing that they could end up with some dirtbag, instead of me, that little baby’s father,” he moved his hands to her stomach. “I don’t want them to end up with some scumbag that’ll beat them at night.”

Despite herself, Corinne’s lip broke out into a slight grin, “Will I be able to see them?” Dan looked back into her eyes, his hands falling back down, realization that she had just insisted that their relationship would be no longer. Corinne pressed close, her slightly swollen, pregnant belly pressing gently against Dan’s torso, right where his t-shirt ended and his grey sweatpants began.

Dan nodded, “If you want to,” he smiled his own cheeky, dimpled smile. “So, is that a ‘yes’?”

“You play a hard bargain, Howell,” Corinne laughed a small, slightly uncomfortable laugh, looking down and away from him. “But I don’t know yet. I don’t know what I should say.” She moved her hands from Dan’s waist to cup at the very slight curve of her stomach. Dan grabbed her soft jawline gently and lifted her face so their eyes could meet.

“You don’t have to decide right now,” he said gently, like a dove, “but when it does come time for you to decide, just know that me and my parents are all here for you. We can help you get what you need.”

Corinne nodded, and her eyes welled up with tears, “Thank you, Dan, so much.” She buried her face into Dan’s shoulder once more, letting a few tears drip onto his black t-shirt. “Sorry for crying so much, I think these hormones are fucking with me.”

Dan let out a soft laugh, “It’s not your fault.” He kissed the top of her head gently. “And please think about letting me keep the baby, I really, really want to,” Corinne looked up, but this time instead of annoyance her eyes filled with more feeling, a look of almost, acceptance was it? “—and my mum said you could use some of her maternity clothes from when she was pregnant with Adrian, no idea why she kept them this long, but it looks like it turned out just fine.”

Corinne choked in a laugh, “I think maybe you might be able to keep the baby,” Dan’s chest swelled with excitement. “You seem rather dead on about keeping it, and I think I might want you to? But I think it might hurt me to look at you with our baby rather than just us two.”

“Rin, I will try to make this as easy as possible,” Dan whispered, pulling her into an excited embrace. “I don’t want either of us to hurt.”

“I agree,” She whispered. She leaned into his arms and breathed in his scent. His tightened his arms around her waist, but not tight enough to hurt the baby, or her.

Her lips parted and she breathed out gently, “My parents are moving me to online school at the end of the week.”

Dan rubbed at her back, “What?”

“I agreed, Dan. They are ashamed of me,” She said quietly, “They don’t want anyone to know about the baby.”

Dan huffed his breath, “And?”

“I agreed because my dad looked so angry, and I was scared. Mum looked scared too,” Corinne moved her hands and cupped her little bump, that was barely anything, but faintly there nonetheless. “I think she was scared for the baby.”

“And you’re just okay with not seeing your friends?” He asked gently.

“I mean I’m upset, but I think they’ll still let me see you,” She said, “Mum knows I’m here, but I don’t think you’re gonna be allowed in my house for a bit, or if my dad stays angry, possibly forever.”

“Oh.” His lack of words poked from pink, chapped lips. He gnawed at his bottom lip, before replacing his teeth with his tongue, running it over the dried bits and grooves.

“I’m sorry,” she said again.

“Not your fault.”

She breathed out, letting her warm breath heat up a small portion of Dan’s chest. She breathed in gently, dreading her breath. Dan rubbed up and down her spine, and kissed her forehead. He left his lips against her skin and sat peacefully with her in his arms.

~•~•~•~

“Mum, I’ve never cared for someone so much,” Dan said, pressing a cool glass of water to his forehead to disguise the nasty headache he had received as a result of staying up all night. Karen grabbed two bowls from the cabinet and sat them in front of Dan.

“Corinne?” She asked quietly, turning again to grab cereal and milk.

“The baby, mum,” Dan rolled the glass so a colder part touched his forehead, “It’s so weird, but I want to hold them so much, let them know they’re safe with me.”

“Ah,” She said setting down the milk and cereal and sitting down next to Dan. “I remember that feeling with you.”

“So it’s normal?”

“Oh, very,” Karen grabbed the cereal and began pouring it into her bowl, “You were quite the squirmer, and I remember constantly holding my stomach and humming that you’d be okay,” She laughed a bit at herself, “I just wanted to hold you tight, that and get you out. I could hardly sleep while pregnant with you.”

Dan grabbed the cereal box from his mother’s hand and poured himself some. “If I do keep the baby, which I am planning on doing, will you help out?” Dan asked looking up from his bowl to see his mother pushing the milk towards him.

“Of course, Bear,” Karen said, now standing pushing away from her bowl of cereal, “Why wouldn't I?” She leaned over from where she was standing and pulled two spoons from the drawer.

Dan shrugged and grabbed the spoon from Karen’s extended hand. “I guess I got kinda scared, based on how Corinne’s parents responded,” Karen sat back down, “I was worried you might let me figure everything out on my own.”

Karen let out a good hearted laugh, that felt like warm sunshine. “Babe, the entirety of your first three weeks, your Nana was basically glued to my side because I knew absolutely nothing.” Dan laughed and took a bite into his cereal. “Based on personal experience, I would not leave you to figure out a newborn on your own.”

“‘Fanks,” Dan laughed around a bite of cereal.

Karen laughed and kissed the side of Dan’s head, “Don’t speak with your mouth full, and get ready for school, you’ve still gotta do that.”

Dan harshly swallowed his cereal, a few of the dry flakes scratching his throat, “Got it, mum.”

~•~•~•~

Dan tucked in his school shirt and quickly tied his tie, before squashing his large feet into a pair of dress shoes. He glanced up at his laptop, where he was mindlessly playing one of AmazingPhil’s videos to keep him company. He grinned from ear to ear listening to him speak before glancing over at the moving screen. Phil’s tongue poked out and swiped itself over his lips, almost seductively.

Jesus fuck, Dan tipped his head back and released a breath, closing his eyes in time with his sigh.

“Mummy, look!” A much shorter and younger Dan squealed as he tore open the wrapping on a gift that his father had just returned home with. He stared down at it in awe, The Little Mermaid , the title read. Karen smiled at her toddler son who was sat happily next to her. He held up the movie and smiled a big cheeky smile.

“It’s like Daddy knew how sad you were when we lost it!” Karen had said to her son who was now pushing off on the couch to go stand on the floor to do his version of a happy dance. Timothy smiled at his boy from across the room as he twirled and shook his little bottom. It was an extreme difference from the sad, loud sobs that had been released the few days previous when Timothy had to tell the toddler that they couldn’t find one of his favorite films, and as much as the toddler had attempted to survive simply off of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, the rotation wasn’t the same without Ariel and Eric.

His parents had always assumed he might have fancied that beautiful, young, red-haired mermaid, as he had a plush doll of her that he insisted sat next to him every car ride, meal time, and everything in between. It wasn’t until Karen had invited an old school friend and her husband over to properly meet her toddler that they discovered that maybe it wasn’t Ariel who he loved.

When the knock sounded on the door, Dan squealed and ran to the entryway, expecting to see his nana stood on the other side. Karen strode in behind him, standing over the short boy.

“Step back, bear,” Karen said, pushing Dan’s chest gently back so he was pressed against the front of her legs. She grabbed the doorknob and pulled it open, being met with the sight of her friend and her spouse.

Dan’s eyes widened at the pair, who was not in fact his grandmother. The woman was thin and rather short, her neat ginger hair tucked into a bun. She grinned at the little boy. His eyes flicked over and looked at the man, tall in stature, a lean figure adorned with a white button up and a pair of navy dress pants. He had dark hair, and light blue eyes. Dan turned and pressed his face into his mum’s leg.

“Come on in,” Karen spoke gently. “This is Daniel, he’s not usually this shy.” The woman let out a small laugh, one that wouldn’t frighten the boy, and the man let out a similar laugh but deeper. Dan’s lip quivered and he breathed in his mother’s familiar scent. Karen sighed and leaned down to pick up her suddenly shy son. He tucked himself into his mum, and hugged her tight.

“That’s perfectly alright,” The woman spoke. “He’s quite the cute little thing isn’t he?” She grinned at him despite his face still being buried in his mother’s neck.

“Yes he is,” Karen moved her arm so only one was holding him, so he was sitting on her forearm. She held out her hand to shake the man’s hand. “Sorry for not properly introducing myself, I’m called Karen, and you’ve already met Dan.”

“Ah, you’re just fine,” The man spoke on that same gentle voice, shaking Karen’s hand. “I’m Wesley, Steph has been non-stop talking about this.” Dan peeked his eyes out at the sound the man’s voice, being met with a crinkly-eyed grin. Dan’s cheeks heated up, a rosy red color filling the once slightly tanned skin. The man laughed slightly at his actions, “Hey, buddy.”

Dan lifted his chin and looked at his mum, his hair a bit muffed up due to his hiding.

“You ready to say hi?” Karen asked her son, kissing his cheeks that were still a bright red. Dan leaned his head in and pressed his face to the side of his mum’s, with his little mouth by her ear.

“Pri’ce Eric,” He whispered into his mum’s ear. She sucked in a breath before laughing at him. His little cheeks, already filled with red, turned a tad bit darker with color.

“Is that who that is?” She asked gently, smiling at her son’s sudden shyness due to the presence of his favorite character. Dan nodded gently, turning again to peek at the tall man.

“Wuv,” he whispered in Wesley’s general location, getting just a bit more squeaky.

“What’s that, Dan?” He asked. Dan turned his whole body toward Wesley and held out his arms. Wesley grabbed the toddler from his mother and held him up higher. Dan grinned and leaned in giving him a hug. Dan’s chubby hand reached up and cupped Wesley’s jaw.

“Ha’some,” Dan said, grinning very large at the compliment his mum always said to him and his dad after the both got dressed in the morning.

Wesley smiled. “Thank you, you’re very handsome as well.”

Dan let out a small giggle, and he hugged him tighter.

“I think someone might have a crush,” Steph said softly into Karen’s ear. Karen laughed loudly.

“He’s rather attached, isn’t he?” Karen said, “At least he’s putting himself out there, I basically had to be pushed to go talk to Tim for the first time.”

Dan opened his eyes, “Dan, we’re gonna be late!” his mum shouted.

Dan looked down seeing his fully uniformed body with untied shoes. He sat down briefly and tugged at his shoe laces tying them quickly. He stood and grabbed his backpack tugging it over his shoulders.

A knock hit at his door, “Dan?”

“Yeah, mum?” He answered softly.

“You ready to head out?”

“Erm, yeah.”

Dan walked to the door and tugged it open, seeing his mum and her high ponytail, as it always had been. “Are you just gonna leave your laptop playing?” She asked gently, looking past her lanky son to see a second thin, tall boy on screen.

Dan’s eyes went wide, his cheeks heating up a bit. “Oh, no,” Dan turned and closed the laptop lid, “Thanks mum.”

“Anytime, now let’s not make you any later than you have to be.”

Dan’s lips spread to a thin, nervous smile. “Alright.”
“Who was that on your laptop?” Dan’s mum asked as she opened their front door, pushing Dan out of the family home.

“Mum,” Dan whined, stepping out of the house, and walking toward Harry in a record time.

“Bear you haven’t blushed like that since you’re first date with Corinne, and as your mum, I can ask you to tell me.” Karen grinned and opened the car door sliding into the seat.

“His name is Phil,” He said softly, and stopped.

“Is that it?” She asked, Dan turned to look at her and he stopped. He quirked his eyebrow up. “What? I have a mum’s instinct.”

“He’s at uni up north.” Karen backed up the car, cutting the wheel to start their drive.

“And you fancy him?”

“Mum!” Dan shrieked. “I’m with Corinne.”

“So, that’s a yes,” Karen surveyed.

“Why are you in my business all the sudden?” Dan asked.

“I’ll back out of it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested.”

“Can I please turn on the radio, and we don’t talk about this for a bit?” Dan asked.

Karen nodded, “You know it’s okay to still like other people while you’re with someone right, as long as you don’t act on it.”

“Mum.”

“Alright, backing up.”

“Thank you.”

~•~•~•~

“Be safe!” Karen shouted at her teenage son as he stepped out of the old red car and onto the pavement that led into the school building.

“I will, mum.” Dan said, tugging his backpack tighter to his back.

“I love you!” she said.

“Love you too,” Dan grumbled, despite really actually loving his mum and her embarrassing ways of affection. He turned from the car after her happy grin at his face, being met with Hugo’s slightly worried face.

“Dan, we might have a small problem, and my small I mean pretty fucking massive.” Hugo said all within one breath, his cheeks now flushing a dark red.

Dan’s shoulders instantly tensed. “What happened, Hugh?”

“I think Tad found out about Corinne,” Hugo said and looked over his shoulder.

“Shit.” Dan cursed.

“I haven’t seen him, but I didn’t say anything to him,” Hugo huffed out a deep breath. “I think Corinne had to tell her friends why she was leaving, and so I’m assuming Tad managed to get to one of them. God forbid, we find out who.”

“Well, I mean maybe Paul is keeping him at bay?’ Dan raked his now sweaty fingers through his straightened hair. “I don’t know, Paul seems at least semi-reasonable about this kind of thing.”

“Well, I mean Paul was at least reasonable when you told him?” Hugo stated, almost a question seeping through. Dan shrugged.

“I don’t know.” Dan turned and started walking with Hugo to head into the school, being met with Tad and Paul.

“Didn’t know you knocked up Corinne, my man,” Tad grinned. “Power to the penis.”

“Dude, what the fuck,” Paul said, “You can’t turn this immediately to sex.”

“Paul, I’m just proud of Howell,” Tad smiled and wrapped his arm around Dan, his other arm reaching up so his hand could wipe away a fake tear. “I always thought I’d be the first one with a kid.” Tad pushed through a few kids piled up in the hallway.

“Oi,” Hugo said, “Not too loud in front of the others.”

“Aye, sorry,” Tad whispered, “I’m with you, Howell. Really I feel like if I had gotten a bird pregnant, you guys would have treated me good.” He took Dan in close and gave him a sneaky side hug. “I also was told you might end up keeping the baby, and I wanna help.”

Dan’s eyes grew wide, “Tad, you--”

“Shut up, Howell,” Tad groaned, “I’ve been a dick for a while and I think I really wanna help now.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Paul butted in from behind, nudging at Dan’s side, “Trust me, Dan when he told me I was just as shocked as you are now.”

“Thanks, Tad.”

“Eh, don’t mention it, this is new for me too.”