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A Toast to Now

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A Toast to Now

 

Christmas Eve, 2016

 

Phil leans back in the hard plastic chair and rubs at his eyes, sighing deeply.

 

Realistically, he knows he hasn’t been here that long. A quick look at the time on his cellphone tells him it’s only been two hours, but he’s so bored it feels more like ten.

 

He glances up at the departure board above his gate and huffs. No changes, of course, and why should there be? The storm outside the airport window is raging steadily on, and Phil snorts as the age-old Christmas lyric pops into his head.

 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.

 

Except Phil does have places to go, and he most certainly doesn’t want to “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

 

Not for the first time that day, Phil curses himself for not getting an earlier flight.

 

It’s all Jimmy’s fault.

 


 

3 weeks earlier…

 

“Please, Phil? It would mean the world to me if you came.”

 

Jimmy, who has a Christmas party the day before Christmas Eve?” Phil whines.

 

“Someone whose job doesn’t exactly give them a lot of time off, Lester,” Jimmy remarks, folding his arms over his chest. “The same someone who really wants his best friend to be there when he proposes to his boyfriend.”

 

Phil can’t help but smile at that.

 

“So you’re finally gonna put a ring on it, huh?” Phil teases, clapping Jimmy on the back. “I’m happy for you, mate.”

 

Jimmy grins widely. “I know. Mike’s going to love it. You know he’s a sucker for big, obnoxious gestures.”

 

“Absolutely,” Phil agrees. “There’s just one problem, Jimmy. I bought my plane ticket home months ago. I’m leaving on the 20th.”

 

His friend looks nervous now, and Phil has to bite his lip to keep from laughing. If he has to walk home for Christmas in order to stay for Jimmy’s party, he will.

 

But Jimmy doesn’t need to know that. Not right away, at least.

 

It’s just too fun to mess with him.

 

“Well, I did think you’d probably bought one already since you always fly out to visit your folks. So I looked into it and there are still a few seats available on a flight to Isle of Man leaving on Christmas Eve.”

 

“Are there now?”

 

“I know rescheduling is a bitch, but I’ll handle all the legwork for you.”

 

“Hey Jimmy?”

 

“I’ll pay the rescheduling fee and everything-”

 

“Jimmy-”

 

“Hell, I’ll pay for your whole damn ticket, Lester, I just really need you to-”

 

“JIMMY!”

 

“WHAT?!”

 

“Of course I’ll be there.”

 


 

Phil has to admit it was a brilliant party. He can’t remember the last time he saw his friend smile as hard as he did when he slid that bright silver ring onto the finger of the man he was going to marry.

 

Except maybe Phil partied a bit too hard last night. His stomach still feels queasy and his head’s still pounding more than he would like. The bright lights and hard chairs and horrible Christmas music filtering through the speakers in Heathrow aren’t doing anything to make him feel better, and once he gets into the air, he knows his travel sickness is only going to make him feel worse.

 

Assuming his flight ever leaves, of course.

 

He looks at his phone again.

 

12:10.

 

Another two minutes have passed.

 

Phil groans, rubbing at his eyes again and pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to make the pounding stop even for just a little bit.

 

He’s glad he could be there for his friend last night, he really is, but faced with the prospect of sitting in Heathrow Airport on Christmas Eve and waiting an unknown amount of time for his flight to Isle of Man to be rescheduled so he can be with his family for the holidays, Phil can’t help but feel frustrated.

 

And bored .

 

Fuck, he’s bored.

 

The combination of his uneasy stomach, niggling headache, and the ever present anxiety that resides in his gut and makes everything feel even worse all adds up to an inability to focus on anything.

 

Phil leans back in his chair and groans. Then he closes his eyes and forces himself to breathe.

 

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

 

Slow, deep, evenly spaced breaths.

 

After a few minutes, he feels a bit better. The headache is still there and his stomach could probably do with some food, but his anxious mind has quieted down.

 

He takes one more long, deep breath for good measure and looks back at the departure board.

 

Still no developments, though what did he expect? There’s one hell of a storm outside.

 

Phil glances back down at his phone, and his fingers fly across the touchscreen for the umpteenth time that day, searching mindlessly for something to keep him occupied. When he spots the small black and orange icon, Phil laughs loudly, and he looks up just in time to see a woman sitting a few seats away staring at him in confusion.

 

Phil blushes, turning back to his phone as his heart pounds a little bit faster.

 

The Grindr app.

 

The Grindr app that Phil had let (a very drunk) Jimmy download onto his phone last night.

 

“You don’t even have to meet up with anyone if you don’t want to. Just try it out. Talk to a few guys. Get to know someone. You have almost 3 million subscribers who would kill to go out with you and you haven’t been on a date in years.”

 

“You know why I haven’t, Jimmy.”

 

“Fuck Ethan. He was a wanker if there ever was one. You can do so much better than him. And besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you just talk to someone?

 

“Jimmy-”

 

“I just want you to be happy, Phil. Like I am.”

 

Phil shakes his head, and somehow he finds himself smiling.

 

Rationally, he knows his friend is right. What’s the worst thing that could happen if he initiated a conversation with a guy he didn’t know?

 

I’ll be ignored.

 

I’ll look stupid.

 

I’ll get rejected.

 

I’ll put two years of my life into a relationship that means far more to me than it ever did to the man I fell in love with.

 

The thoughts fly through Phil’s mind so quickly he can barely keep up with them, and he presses his finger to the Grindr icon and holds it down, ready to drag it to the little trash can that will delete the app for him.

 

And then….

 

...something stops him at the last minute.

 

Maybe it’s the Christmas song he can just barely hear playing over the airport speakers.

 

Maybe it’s the image the song conjures in his head of the night before: Jimmy and Mike sharing their first kiss as betrothed men.

 

Maybe it’s the laughter he can hear coming from the little family two rows over as they watch something funny on a laptop.

 

Whatever it is, Phil’s not sure, and honestly it doesn’t really matter.

 

All that matters is that Phil drops the Grindr icon back onto his screen and clicks on it. As the app opens to the profile Jimmy created for him, Phil decides to scroll through the list of men near him.

 

It’s not like he has to talk to anybody, right?

 

Ten minutes later, Phil finds himself staring at the profile of a supposed 25 year old who goes by the username “DanielH.” There’s no way this guy is 25, though. He has soft skin and chocolate brown eyes and a smile that makes Phil’s heart flip over in his chest.

 

And bloody hell, those dimples . Phil could get lost staring into those things.

 

He’s not just ridiculously cute, though. He’s into video games and movies and is a self proclaimed nerd just like Phil.

 

And he’s only 1,000 feet away.

 

Which isn’t important, because Phil has no plans to actually meet this guy. He’s just going to talk to him for a bit. Maybe they’ll bond over being stuck in the airport. Maybe they’ll talk about Overwatch, or how great “Civil War” was, or how amazing the Undertale soundtrack is.

 

He’s just going to talk to him.

 

No big deal.

 

It only takes Phil five minutes to figure out what he wants to say, which for him must be some kind of record.

 

Once he’s got it typed out, his finger hovers over his phone screen.

 

It hovers.

……

...

And hovers.

……

And hovers.

……

Until-

 

“Oh, fuck it,” Phil whispers, and his fingertip hits the send button.

 

And then he waits.

 


 

This is a joke.

 

It bloody has to be.

 

There is no way that AmazingPhil - THE AmazingPhil - just sent him a message on Grindr.

 

Dan stares at the photo on the guy’s profile.

 

Yup, that’s Phil Lester all right, only there’s no way this is actually him. The profile looks like it was written in a hurry, displaying a few stats - username: PML, age: 29, hometown: London, occupation: video editor - and a brief description that sounds like it was written by the guy’s drunk friend (“Phil is a huge nerd with a brilliant mind, a kind heart, and a cute ass. Any man should consider himself lucky to know him”).

 

“Is this real life?” Dan whispers out loud, staring down at the profile in front of him.

 

There’s no way this is THE Phil Lester.

 

It has to be a fan account, or someone playing a joke.

 

There’s no way the guy he used to be obsessed with is sitting in this airport.

 

There’s no way the guy who makes YouTube videos that are so funny Dan laughs until he cries is a thousand feet away from him.

.

There’s no way the guy who ignored Dan seven years ago just sent him a message on Grindr.

 

There’s no bloody way.

 

And yet…there’s such a delicious irony here. Wouldn’t it be an amazing coincidence if it really was him?

 

Dan stares at the profile picture, studying the face he knows so well. Then he scrolls back to the message.

 

PML: So you’re stuck in this crappy airport too huh? ;)

 

He thinks long and hard.

 

Then he takes a few screenshots and sends them to his friend Tom, who he was in the middle of texting when he got the Grindr notification.

 

Dan: it can’t really be HIM, can it?

 

As Dan waits for an answer, he types a response into the message box in Grindr, then quickly deletes it. He does this a few more times before Tom texts him back.

 

Tom: There’s no way you’re that lucky, man. Probably just some guy pretending to be him for lols.

 

Dan laughs, shaking his head.

 

Dan: that’s kinda what i figured, too. should i message him back? for the lols?

 

Dan doesn’t have to wait long for a response.

 

Tom: :D

Tom: Why the hell not?

Tom: What else are you gonna do in that airport for the next billion hours?

Tom: For the lols!

 

Dan smiles, shoots Tom a text telling him he’ll let him know how it goes, and clicks back to the Grindr app.

 

Tom’s right. There’s no way he’s that lucky, but he’s been sitting in this godforsaken airport for four hours now and he’s bored out of his mind. Why not play along for awhile? If anything it’ll make for an interesting story to tell his folks, assuming he ever makes it to Florida.

 

Dan doesn’t take too long coming up with a response now that he’s committed to it.

 

DanielH: yup. :| mother nature can be a bitch sometimes

 

Dan waits patiently for an answer.

 

He waits...and waits….

 

...and waits.

 

He’s just starting to think that maybe the guy has moved on (Dan did take a while answering him back, confused as he was) when he finally gets a reply.

 

PML: ikr? You might even say the weather outside is “frightful.”

 

Dan groans out loud, but he feels himself smile despite how terrible the joke is.

 

DanielH: ouch. mate...i can’t decide if that’s the worst joke i’ve ever heard, or if it’s so bad it’s actually good?

 

PML: I think that’s what most of my jokes are like, tbh. Brilliant or abysmal. There’s no in between.

 

DanielH: it’s cool. :) most of my jokes are dark, existential, and at my own expense

 

PML: lol

 

There’s a break in the conversation that lasts for about two minutes before Dan realizes he’s going to have to be the one to break it.

 

DanielH: so where are you headed, phil?

 

PML: Isle of Man. My family’s already up there waiting for me. Had to take a last minute flight. Best friend duties. u?

 

DanielH: florida. my folks decided they wanted to Home Alone it this year. they’ve been out there for a few days already, and i’m on my way to meet up with them. i’m not exactly thrilled about florida, tbh. i’d much rather spend christmas at home in manchester

 

PML: I can understand that. It doesn’t feel weird for me to go up to Isle of Man for Christmas, though. It’s like a second home for my family.

PML: So why are you here in London if your family’s already in Florida?

DanielH: i’m here for a concert. it wrapped late last night and the earliest flight i could get was this morning. delayed cuz of the “frightful weather” ofc ;)

 

PML: I’m sorry. :( I hope the concert was good, at least? What did you go see?

 

DanielH: well...i wasn’t exactly WATCHING the concert. i was kind of in it. with my theater group. i play the piano

 

Dan’s barely had time to wonder just how much more he wants to say when Phil messages him back.

 

PML: omg, that’s so cool! :D Were there a lot of people there?

 

DanielH: it was a p small venue, but yeah. more people than we’ve played for before. kinda scary, tbh :\ but also p fun

 

PML: Wow, that’s fantastic! You should mention that you play piano in your profile somewhere. I bet guys would love to know that about you.

 

DanielH: i guess. i mean...most of the guys i’ve been with haven’t really cared. i haven’t exactly met a ton of great guys through this app

 

As soon as he hits send, Dan wishes he could take it back.

 

“Bloody idiot,” he mutters out loud. Why the hell would he say that?

 

When Phil sends him back a simple “ oh :( Dan feels like he could kick himself.

 

DanielH: fuck. i’m sorry. i didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t a great guy. i just haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to men

DanielH: or women

DanielH: or dating and relationships in general

 

Dan waits nervously for a response. He waits so long his hands actually start to sweat and his heart beats faster. Has he fucked this up already?

 

Finally, just when Dan’s ready to close the app and find something to do to calm his fraying nerves, he gets an answer.

 

PML: I can relate. I’ve only been in one serious relationship and it didn’t exactly end well.

 

DanielH: i’m sorry

 

PML: Me, too.

 

Dan groans. This conversation had started off so light and cheerful, and somehow it’s devolved into a group pity party. He has to find a way to bring it back around.

 

DanielH: enough relationship talk. let’s start over. hi, my name is dan, and i like video games, anime, and Muse. i dropped out of law school at the age of 20 and had a few boring jobs before i started getting acting gigs. i play the piano in my spare time, i have clinical depression, and my favorite color is black

DanielH: u?

 

Dan wonders briefly if he’s said too much too fast, but he doesn’t have to wait long for a reply, which makes him hopeful.

 

PML: Hi, Dan. :) My name’s Phil, and I like all of those things, too! 

PML: I also like dogs and houseplants, but I’m not very good at keeping them alive.

PML: Houseplants, not dogs.

PML: I got a Masters Degree in Video Post-Production from York at the age of 22 and I edit videos for a living.

PML: I play Mario Kart in my spare time, I have anxiety, and my favorite colors are green and blue.

 

“I edit videos for a living.

 

Something about the way Phil’s worded this strikes Dan as odd. If this guy’s pretending to be Phil, wouldn’t he just tell Dan he’s THE AmazingPhil who has 3 million subscribers and makes his living posting videos on YouTube? Why be so blasé about it?

 

Unless….

 

...unless he really is AmazingPhil, and he doesn’t want to draw attention to it.

 

But there’s no way. There’s no way this is Philip Michael Lester.

 

And even if it is him - which it definitely is not - the last thing Dan wants to talk about is AmazingPhil, because from the brief interactions they’ve had so far, “PML” seems like a cool guy.

 

So Dan decides to focus on something else instead.

 

DanielH: phil, you can’t have TWO favorite colors. you have to pick one

 

PML: No I don’t. :|

 

DanielH: yea u do

 

PML: No way

 

DanielH: yes way!

 

PML: Make me ;)

 

DanielH: come over here and i will! ;)

 

Dan expects a tongue sticking out emoji or something equally ridiculous in response.

 

Instead he gets silence.

 

Five minutes of silence.

 

Fuck, Dan wasn’t being serious. He doesn’t expect Phil to want to meet up with him. This wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a way to pass the time during a Christmas Eve blizzard.

 

He’s just started typing a response telling Phil he was only kidding when he gets an answer back.

 

PML: Where are you?

 

Dan doesn’t let himself think before answering. Instead, he decides to take the plunge.

 

DanielH: i’m sat outside gate B42, Terminal 5.

 

PML: I’ll there in ten minutes.

 

"Well, fuck," Dan curses.

 

This is really happening.

 


 

This is really happening, this is really happening, oh crap, I’m really doing this.

 

Phil wrings his hands together as he walks, taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm his racing heart. He can’t remember the last time he took a plunge like this. He’s only had a handful of dates since he broke up with Ethan, and all of them have been initiated by someone else.

 

But this isn’t a date, Phil thinks. He’s just meeting up with a cute guy who seems nice and is miraculously easy to talk to.

 

A guy Phil was most definitely not flirting with.

 

Nope, not at all.

 

“Oh, god,” Phil gasps, his chest seizing painfully. He looks around for the nearest bathroom, and when he spots one halfway down the hallway, he makes a beeline for it.

 

Once he’s inside, he flings himself and his luggage into the nearest stall and starts his breathing exercises.

 

Ten minutes later, his stomach aches and his head hurts and he’s more than a little sweaty, but he’s managed to avoid a panic attack.

 

He’d call that a win.

 

Feeling calm enough to face the outside world again, Phil uses the sink to wash his face. The cool water feels soothing against his heated skin, and he sighs long and deep.

 

A buzzing from the phone in his pocket startles him, and he pulls it out to find six missed messages from DanielH.

 

DanielH (13:31): did you get lost, mate? this place has maps for a reason. ;)

DanielH (13:34):  i’m kidding, you know

DanielH (13:40): if you’re having second thoughts, it’s nbd. we don’t have to meet up

DanielH (13:40): i was having fun talking to you, though :)

DanielH (13:45): phil?

DanielH (13:45): if you want me to bugger off, just tell me. i won’t be offended, i promise

 

Phil gasps, and he types out a quick response, because he doesn’t want Dan to bugger off. He really, really doesn’t. It’s just that….

 

PML: I’m not lost, though I wouldn’t put it past myself. I took my driving test 4 times bc I’m so bad with my lefts and rights.

 

Phil leaves the bathroom and heads toward the nearest bench, taking a seat to wait for Dan’s reply.

 

DanielH: lol, i’m glad to hear it

DanielH: that you’re not lost, not that you’re bad with directions ;)

DanielH: did you find someone more interesting than me to talk to, then? :\

 

It’s the second time in as many minutes that Dan has said something that Phil definitely doesn’t want him to think is true.

 

PML: You ARE interesting, Dan. :) Trust me, it’s not that at all.

PML: Do you remember when I said I had anxiety?

 

He leaves it at that, hoping Dan will understand without him having to explain it.

 

Thankfully, he does.

 

DanielH: right. you did mention that

DanielH: you don’t have to explain, phil. i get it

DanielH: do you want to just keep talking like this? i don’t mind :)

 

Phil’s insides settle down for the first time since he started talking to Dan nearly an hour ago.

 

He’s offering him an out.

 

He can keep talking to Dan without having to meet him face to face….

 

……

 

...except that’s not what he wants.

 

Phil’s chest tightens, but he types his next words anyway, anxiety be damned.

 

PML: I want to meet you.

PML: I’m on my way. For real this time.

 

And before he can overthink it or change his mind he puts his phone in his pocket, grabs his luggage, and heads for gate B42.

 


 

Dan sighs with relief, wiping his sweaty palms against his jeans.

 

He was afraid he’d scared Phil away by pushing too hard. Dan may not suffer from anxiety the way he suffers from depression, but he’s had his fair share of panic attacks, and he’s happy to hear that Phil is okay.

 

And Phil's not just okay; he's actually on his way!

 

Dan sits and watches the walkway outside his seating area for a few minutes. Then a thought hits him quite suddenly and out of nowhere.

 

He’s not entirely sure who he’s looking for.

 

This Phil seems like a cool guy. He's funny and kind of goofy and surprisingly easy to talk to, and Dan really does want to meet him….

 

...except he has no way of knowing that this is really Phil Lester he's about to meet. The subject of AmazingPhil never came up in their conversation, so who's to say it's really him and not some guy whose name isn't even Phil just pretending?

 

Dan has no idea who’s going to come walking around the corner.

 

Fuck.

 

This was a terrible idea.

 

Hastily, Dan starts packing up his things, prepared to move to literally any other part of the airport.

 

And then a familiar figure walks around the corner, and his heart plummets into his stomach.

 

“Oh my god,” Dan gasps.

 

He really has been talking to AmazingPhil.

 


 

God, Dan looks even cuter in person.

 

Phil’s heart flips over in his chest again, and he takes a deep breath before walking toward Dan, who’s already standing up.

 

“Hi, I’m Phil,” he says quietly, mentally kicking himself because duh, he already knows that, dummy.

 

“Hey,” Dan says, dropping the bag of crisps he’s holding onto his seat so he can put his hand out. Phil shakes it, and when Dan squeezes his hand ever so slightly Phil finds himself smiling.

 

Once he’s let go, he looks Dan up and down, taking in all the features that his profile pic really doesn’t do justice.

 

He has the same emo fringe haircut as Phil - though it’s angled in the opposite direction - and his hair is a medium brown shade and looks incredibly soft. When Phil spots a small, lone curl near the side of Dan’s head, he realizes that he must straighten it, and he finds himself wondering what Dan would look like with a head full of curls.

 

His eyes are a dark chocolate brown, and Phil thinks he could get lost in their mocha depths without even really trying.

 

His skin looks soft and pale - though not nearly as pale as Phil’s - and he feels the sudden urge to reach out and run his fingers along Dan’s cheek to see if it’s really as soft as it looks. He doesn’t, of course, choosing instead to trail his gaze down the rest of him.

 

He’s slightly taller and broader than Phil, with big hands and quite delicate looking wrists and legs that look really good in the skinny jeans he’s wearing.

 

When Phil looks back up, he finds that Dan is eyeing him in a similar manner, and he can feel himself blushing slightly under the scrutiny. But Dan must be happy with what he sees, because when he looks back up at Phil, he smiles, displaying those beautiful dimples that caught Phil’s eye when he first started scrolling through Grindr.

 

Daniel H might be the most beautiful boy Phil’s ever seen.

 

He’s completely and utterly screwed.

 

As Phil stares at Dan, unable to look away from that gorgeous smile, he searches his brain for words he can say out loud. Unfortunately, all he can come up with “beautiful” and “soft” and “can I touch your dimples?” and he knows he can’t say any of those things.

 

Thankfully, Dan does the talking for him.

 

“So, Phil, what kind of video games do you like?”

 


 

Phil quickly loses track of how much time passes as they sit outside Dan’s gate and talk about anything and everything. Video games, music, movies, books. They have so many similar interests and hobbies it’s insane.

 

“I feel like we could sit here for weeks and not run out of things to talk about,” Dan says with a laugh, flashing Phil that gorgeous smile. Phil’s heart skips a beat, but it’s not out of fear or anxiety. No, his heart skips a beat because the idea of sitting here with Dan talking about anything and everything for weeks on end actually doesn’t sound that bad, and wow, that’s new.

 

He opens his mouth, ready to agree with Dan’s sentiment, when a sudden loud growl erupts from his stomach. It’s so loud he knows Dan can hear it, and he looks away, smiling sheepishly.

 

Dan just laughs, louder than Phil thought possible considering how soft his speaking voice has been so far.

 

“Bit hungry, are we, Phil?” he asks with a smile, his tone clearly teasing.

 

Phil laughs, surprised by how comfortable he already feels around Dan. It’s definitely not something he’s used to.

 

“Starving. I haven’t eaten proper food since this morning.”

 

“Well, what do you say we fix that? Do you like pizza?”

Dear god, he’s perfect.

 


 

After they’ve both checked to make sure there are no new updates on their flights (a quick check of the mobile app shows Phil that his flight is now more delayed than it was before) they head to a restaurant in the airport that Dan assures him makes quality pizza.

 

“Not as good as Dominos, of course.”

 

Phil laughs, because of course they also share a love for the same good-but-still-decidedly-chain-restaurant-quality pizza.

 

“Nothing is,” Phil agrees, picking up the pace slightly in his eagerness to fill his belly with hot food.

 

It turns out that Dan is right - the pizza is excellent - but as they sit and move on to the topic of favorite foods, Phil finds that the company is even better than the pizza.

 

When they’re done eating and have paid for their meals (separately), they head off in search of more comfortable seating. Dan suggests they try and find a cheap lounge, but after wandering the airport for a good half an hour they can’t find any place that isn’t outrageously crowded. They eventually head back to Dan’s gate, settling down in the hard plastic chairs once more, but Phil doesn’t mind.

 

He has enough things to distract him from the uncomfortable seating.

 

Like the fact that Dan’s eyes light up when he talks about the concert he got to play in last night, and how he only missed a couple of notes.

 

Like the fact that Dan has perfect teeth, save for a tiny chip in one of his front incisors.

 

Like the fact that when Phil is talking, Dan watches him intently, like he’s really listening to everything Phil has to say and trying to commit it to memory.

 

Like the fact that Dan smiles that soft, dimpled smile no matter how certain Phil feels that the things he’s saying sound stupid.

 

“I’m being serious,” Phil remarks, punching Dan lightly on the shoulder after what feels like hours of comfortable chatting. “I’ve listened to the Undertale Soundtrack dozens of times and ‘Memory’ always makes me cry. I know it sounds stupid, but-”

 

“It doesn’t sound stupid at all, Phil. Honestly, I think it’s precious.”

 

“Shut up,” Phil whispers, but he smiles widely, blushing at what might sound demeaning coming from someone else but sounds genuine and almost fond coming from Dan.

 

Dan laughs - a soft laugh that’s a bit different from the other laughs Phil’s heard today - and he thinks he would do anything to hear it again.

 

“You do that a lot, you know,” Dan says.

 

“What?”

 

“Blush.”

 

Phil feels himself blushing harder, and he punches Dan on the arm again.

 

He can’t remember the last time he was this touchy-feely with someone.

 

To be honest, now that he thinks about it, he’s not sure he’s ever been this touchy-feely.

 

“Actually shut up,” Phil laughs. “I’m only going to blush harder if you point it out.”

 

“Point out what? The fact that you’re blushing?”

 

Phil groans, burying his face in his hands, and Dan just laughs that soft little laugh again.

 

“Oh, come on. I think it’s cute,” Dan says quietly, and Phil couldn’t stop himself from looking back up at him even if he wanted to.

 

“Yeah?” he asks, moving his hands slowly away from his face.

 

Dan stares at him silently, smiling a soft, closed mouth smile.

 

“Yeah,” he agrees.

 

Phil laughs, and his heart beats just a bit faster, but he knows it’s not from anxiety.

 

Nope, this is something much different; something he hasn’t felt in a long time.

 

He stares at Dan, at a loss for what to say.

 

Eventually, Dan breaks the silence with a question.

 

“So Phil, what do you do for a living?”

 

Phil’s heart starts to beat even faster, and it definitely is his anxiety this time. He feels his palms starting to sweat, and he’s certain that Dan can tell he’s acting weird, but he tries not to think about it. Instead he tries to remember what he told Dan when they were chatting on Grindr.

 

“I edit videos,” he answers, finally remembering the exact words he’d used earlier. “For a small company based in London. You’ve probably never heard of it.”

 

Way to go, Lester, Phil thinks to himself. Now he’s bound to ask you what it’s called just so he can try and prove he has heard of it.

 

But Phil lucks out, because Dan leaves it at that and just says, “That sounds like fun. You said you went to school for that, right?”

 

Phil nods. “University of York. Master’s in Post-Production.”

 

Dan smiles again, but it’s a quick smile - one that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

 

“That’s cool. You actually finished college and got a job in the field you studied for.”

 

Phil nods again, shifting a bit in his seat. The tone of their conversation has decidedly changed.

 

“Yeah...but I mean, a degree isn’t everything, you know.”

 

“I guess,” Dan responds with a shrug. “I wouldn’t really know. Gave up on my law degree after only a year. Wasn’t really ready for all that work, I guess.”

 

“Sure,” Phil responds, frowning slightly, because Dan won’t meet his eyes and it’s unsettling him a bit. “Law school isn’t exactly easy, though.”

 

“No, it’s not. Especially if you’re lazy and don’t have any work ethic and-”

 

“Dan,” Phil says softly, and he reaches out and puts his hand on Dan’s arm before his brain can try and convince him that it’s not a good idea. “I’m sure none of that is true.”

 

Dan scoffs loudly, but he doesn’t pull away from Phil’s touch. “Well, then you don’t really know me that well, do you?”

 

It stings.

 

Phil knows it shouldn’t, because really it’s just the truth. He’s been talking to Dan for all of a few hours. Of course he can’t know Dan all that well yet.

 

But the words sting anyway, and Phil pulls his hand away.

 

“Fuck,” Dan curses quietly. “Phil, I didn’t-”

 

“No, it’s okay. You’re right. I don’t-”

 

“I do this all the time, you know,” Dan interrupts, leaning back in his chair and rubbing a hand over his eyes.

 

“What?”

 

“Fixate on the negative.”

 

Phil nods, leaning back in his own chair to mirror Dan’s posture.

 

“I get that. I do it all the time, too.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“But you seem so….”

 

“Cheerful?” Phil supplies, because it’s something he’s heard many times before.

 

“Well...yeah,” Dan agrees.

 

Phil laughs, shaking his head. “It’s nerves mostly. And an inability to properly filter what comes out of my mouth, or to stop myself from doing embarrassing things, like talk about how I can’t stop myself from doing embarrassing things.”

 

Dan laughs, and the sound makes Phil smile.

 

“My therapist says I need to focus more on the positive things,” Dan says, “but honestly most of the time-”

 

“-it’s easier said than done,” Phil supplies.

 

“Yeah,” Dan agrees. “Exactly.”

 

Phil leans forward in his seat, suddenly desperate to make Dan smile again.

 

“What about piano? You mentioned that you had fun performing in that concert last night.”

 

Dan nods. “Piano’s just a hobby, though.”

 

“What do you do for a living, then? You said something about acting?”

 

“Yeah. I hop around a lot when it comes to jobs. I’ve done all kinds of things. Mostly I just do PA work, but I’ve also had quite a few small acting gigs. Small theater productions, commercials, even had some radio time. I’ve done some voice acting, too. Those jobs were some of my favorites. But I doubt you would’ve heard of Daniel Howell from any of that stuff.

 

Phil shakes his head. “I haven’t. But that sounds like a lot of fun! You’ve gotten a chance to do so many different things.”

 

Dan’s leaning forward in his chair now, too, and, much to Phil’s delight, he’s smiling again.

 

“That’s true. And I really like acting. I was one of those obnoxious emo theater kids growing up.”

 

Phil laughs. “I wasn’t into theater so much, but I was one of those emo kids, too.”

 

“I figured,” Dan responds, and he leans over to brush his fingers against Phil’s fringe. “Haircut kinda gives it away.”

 

“Y-yeah. Yeah, I guess it does,” Phil says, and he’s shaking now because Dan’s fingers just grazed his skin and he really wishes Dan would touch him again.

 

“Actually...there is one other thing I used to do a long time ago: back when I was in high school and college and for a little while after I dropped out.”

 

“Yeah?” Phil asks. “What’s that?”

 

“I used to make YouTube videos.”

 


 

This is it, Dan thinks to himself. He’s finally going to get Phil to admit that he’s actually AmazingPhil from YouTube.

 

He waits for it anxiously, his palms starting to sweat, until finally-

 

“That’s awesome! What kind of videos did you make?”

 

Dan tries hard not to look disappointed. He finds himself telling Phil about the videos he used to make - which usually just involved him telling stories about the shitty things that happened to him in a way he hoped was funny but also relatable - but he’s not paying a whole lot of attention to what he’s saying.

 

Mostly he’s just hung up on why Phil won’t tell him who he is.

 

Seeing as Dan hasn’t said anything about AmazingPhil, it’s likely that Phil isn’t even aware that Dan knows who he is. Or maybe, if he is, he’s just playing dumb.

 

But the question is why?

 

As Phil nods along to whatever words Dan is saying, he gazes at him intently, as though he plans on remembering everything that Dan is saying. Phil seems genuinely interested in what he has to say, and Dan’s heart does a little skip in his chest at the thought that someone is paying such close attention to him.

 

And it hits him, quite suddenly, that he doesn’t really care that this is AmazingPhil he’s speaking to. Yes, there’s still a voice in the back of his head that remembers what is was like to be a 16 year old with a massive crush - a voice that just keeps screaming “YOU’RE TALKING TO AMAZINGPHIL! THE AMAZINGPHIL! aldkjfadkj!” - but the longer Dan sits and talks to Phil, the quieter that voice gets….

 

...because it doesn’t really matter.

 

He’s not talking to AmazingPhil right now. He’s been gifted with the very real and very incredible opportunity to talk to Phil Lester.

 

And maybe….

 

...well, maybe that’s exactly what Phil wants.

 

Perhaps Phil isn’t talking about the YouTube thing because he doesn’t want Dan to see him as some big name YouTuber. Perhaps Phil just wants to be Phil ...and who is Dan to deny him that? If Phil’s as anxious as he says, then Dan wants to do everything he can to make him feel more comfortable. If he plays along then maybe he can do that.

 

“Hello? Earth to Danny?”

“Hmm?” Dan asks, shaken out of his thoughts by the sound of Phil’s voice.

 

Did he just call me “Danny”? And did I actually not hate it?

 

“I asked why you stopped making YouTube videos. I mean, obviously you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

 

Dan shakes his head.

 

“No. No, it’s okay. I….”

 

He pauses, wondering just how truthful he wants to be. But then his gaze settles on the soft, encouraging smile on Phil’s face, and he decides to just go for it.

 

“I got help for my depression.”

 

Phil’s smile fades, and Dan feels like he could kick himself.

 

“Oh,” Phil whispers. “Dan, I-”

 

“It’s all right, Phil,” Dan cuts him off quickly. “You don’t have to apologize. It’s not-”

 

“No. No, I wasn’t going to,” Phil says, and his face flushes red as he continues. “I mean, I am sorry you’ve had to go through that, of course I am, and it’s not like it’s my fault, obviously, but I just meant-”

 

Hey ,” Dan says softly, because he can practically feel Phil vibrating with anxiety from here. “Easy, mate. It’s okay.”

 

Dan’s suddenly overcome with the desire to touch Phil - to find some way to comfort him - and he reaches out his hand, then pulls it away at the last second. He doesn’t want to make this any worse.

 

“I know,” Phil says. “It’s just...I was going to say that I...I think I get it.”

 

“You...you what now?” Dan asks, completely confused.

 

“You said you’re seeing a therapist?” Phil inquires gently, and it’s clear he’s not pressuring Dan to answer.

 

Dan appreciates the warmth and concern that are evident in Phil’s tone, and his heart hurts just a little bit in the best way possible as he responds.

 

“I’ve been in therapy for two years. I’m also taking antidepressants. I’m...I’m working hard to deal with it.”

 

“So maybe you were using the videos as an outlet - a way to cope with your depression - and now that you’re feeling better, you don’t really need the videos anymore?”


Dan stares at Phil silently, a million thoughts running through his head.

 

“Well, fuck, Phil,” Dan sputters, and he’s laughing despite himself, because Phil’s somehow hit the nail on the head.

 

How does he know all that? How can Phil possibly understand all that unless….

 

Oh.

 

What if Phil’s going through the same thing with his anxiety? What if YouTube is his outlet, too?

 

Dan wants to know more, but at the same time he knows that he’s not going to ask.

 

If Phil doesn’t want to talk about AmazingPhil, then Dan’s not going to push him.

 

He’s not going to say anything unless Phil says something first.

 

Meanwhile, Phil blushes even harder somehow, ducking his head.

 

“Sorry,” Phil mumbles.

 

“Don’t be,” Dan says, and he does reach out and touch Phil this time. He puts a hand under Phil’s chin and slowly raises his face up so he can look him in the eye. “You’re right.”

 

He lets go of Phil’s face and takes a deep breath before continuing.

 

“Most of my videos were silly, but they...they still meant something to me, and they meant something to other people, too. Making videos made me feel just a bit better when everything either felt like shit or felt like nothing at all, and I...I really needed that. I....”


Dan trails off, and he can feel the tears threatening to fall now. He bites his lower lip, trying desperately to keep them at bay, because why is he even talking about this? He’s known Phil for barely a few hours and it’s like they’ve been friends for years. He can’t remember the last time he was this open with someone.

 

He feels his heart start to pound in his chest.

 

Then he feels a warm, heavy hand land on his knee.

 

Dan gasps, and a few traitorous tears fall from his eyes before he can stop them.

 

But Phil doesn’t say a word. Instead he just scoots over onto the empty seat between them so he’s right next to Dan now. He doesn’t move in any closer, but he does squeeze Dan’s knee, and somehow it’s enough.

 

Dan sits quietly and lets the feel of Phil’s touch help comfort him.

 

When he finally feels steady again, Dan looks up at Phil and smiles.

 

“Thanks,” he whispers softly.

 

And when he’s rewarded with a smile from Phil and another squeeze of his knee that makes his heart flip over in his chest, Dan knows he doesn’t need to say anymore.

 

They sit in silence for a few minutes, content to just be for the moment, and it doesn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable.

 

It feels nice.


Dan hasn’t felt this way in a very long time.

 

Eventually, Phil pulls his hand away, and it feels like Dan’s leg grows instantly cold with the loss.

 

“I’m getting tired of looking at this bloody airport,” Phil sighs. “Do you like coffee?”

 


 

It’s nearing 6 o’clock when Dan follows Phil off the bus and onto the snowy streets, dragging his luggage behind him. The storm looks even worse from outside, and Dan zips his coat up tighter, pulling his scarf over his face as they start walking. He’s about to ask how far away this cafe is when Phil reaches back and grabs Dan’s arm.

 

“It’s not too far from here,” Phil assures him, tugging on Dan’s arm to pull him forward until they’re both walking side by side.

 

Dan nods, though of course Phil can’t see him, what with the scarf over his face and the fact that he’s facing determinedly ahead and, oh yeah, the freaking blizzard going on around them.

 

“I hope so!” Dan shouts so as to be heard over the sudden gust of wind. “My balls are already frozen solid.”

 

Phil giggles - honest to god giggles - and Dan’s heart does that flippy-over thing again.

 

It’s been doing that a lot tonight.

 

“Don’t worry, I can see it already. At least, I think I can. My eyesight’s not the best.”

 

“Oh great!” Dan shouts. “So the guy who’s leading us isn’t just bad with directions, he also has crappy eyes. Brilliant. We’re going to die in this blizzard, aren’t we?”

 

He’s joking of course, and when Phil lets go of his arm just long enough to smack him in the shoulder and tell him to “shut up” before grabbing onto his arm even tighter, he knows Phil gets it.

 

Finally, Phil points to a spot just on the other side of the street.

 

“There! I told you I knew where it was, oh ye of little faith.”

 

“Less talking, more walking, Phil. It’s bloody cold out here.”

 

A minute later, Dan finds himself stood beside Phil in the world’s tiniest cafe. There’s a small drink bar with two stools, a beat up couch off in one corner, and just two double seater tables with the chairs sat on top of them so the elderly man sweeping up the place can do his job easier.

 

“I’m closing up shop in a few minutes, boys,” the man says, continuing to sweep. “Not much left in the case, I’m afraid, but you’re welcome to buy some coffee. Promise it’ll be hot.”

 

“Thanks,” Dan mutters, following Phil over to the tiny pastry case set up to one side of the bar.

 

The old man wasn’t kidding. The only thing left in the case is a pistachio muffin that looks like it’s been sat there all day.

 

“We can go somewhere else if you want, Phil,” Dan whispers so the owner can’t hear. “There’s got to be a St-”

 

Ohhhh ,” Phil sighs, gazing in at the sad looking muffin like it’s the most delicious thing he’s ever seen. “The pistachio muffins here are my favorite.”

 

Dan opens his mouth to say something, but he closes it instantly when he notices that Phil’s eyes are shiny with tears.

 

There’s a story here, Dan knows it, and maybe he’ll ask Phil about it later. Right now, he obviously needs to make sure that Phil gets to have that damn muffin.

 

“Sir? We’ll take the pistachio muffin. And two large coffees, please.”

 

As the man makes their coffees, Dan watches Phil hold the pastry bag like he’s holding a bag full of gold as he gazes around the small shop.

 

“We used to come to this place every time we flew into or out of Heathrow,” Phil tells him. “My family and me. My brother Martyn and I would sit on the couch while my parents chatted with the owner and his wife. It’s been ages since we’ve been here, though. It’s a such a little place, but it...it means a lot to me.”

 

His eyes are shiny again, and Dan has to fight the urge to reach out and touch his cheek. Instead he just smiles at him.

 

Phil blushes and looks down at the floor. “Does that sound silly? It sounds silly, doesn’t it?” Phil asks, looking back up at Dan for confirmation.

 

Dan shakes his head. “It doesn’t sound silly at all.”

 

And he means it. Phil’s love for this little place and the memories it brings him - the way his eyes shine and his voice gets soft and he just lets himself be content with the little things - is anything but silly.

 

“Why are you smiling, then?” Phil asks.

 

The question just makes Dan smile wider, because how can he even begin to answer that? How can he even begin to tell Phil everything he’s feeling right now? Things he hasn’t felt in years. Things he doesn’t think he’s ever felt. Things that he knows should scare him but that somehow just make him feel….

 

Safe.

 

Dan laughs softly, because there are so many things he could say right now but he knows he shouldn’t.

 

That Phil has a brilliant laugh, and a brilliant smile, and an even more brilliant mind. That his quirky personality and lack of a filter are actually adorable. That his dad jokes are so horrible that they’re hilarious. That he feels more comfortable with Phil than he has any right to feel.

 

That the soft side of Phil he’s seeing right now is incredibly endearing, and that it’s the side of Phil he’s always liked the most, even before he’d ever met him.

 

He can’t say any of those things.

 

Instead he says:

 

“You have beautiful eyes. I hadn’t really noticed before, but they’re like...three different colors all at once. Blue, green, and yellow.”

 

Phil’s eyes grow wide, and Dan thinks he should probably be wincing from the overly sappy comment….

 

...but then Phil’s blushing, and for the first time since they met he doesn’t look away from Dan when he does it.

 

And that makes it all worth it.

 

“Your coffees are ready, boys. You two headed for the airport?” the owner asks, gesturing at their luggage.

 

“Heading back to it, actually,” Dan explains as he picks up their coffees (nice and hot, just like the man promised). “The blizzard's delaying almost everything. We got tired of sitting around.”

 

“Well, I hope you don’t have to wait too much longer for your flight, but reports say the storm isn’t supposed to pass until morning.”

 

“That’s not...we’re….”

 

It takes Dan a moment to understand what Phil’s reacting to, and when he realizes what the old man just implied he steps in.

 

“We’re on different flights,” he explains.

 

“Right. Sorry. I just assumed….” The man gestures to Dan, then to Phil, then waves his hand back and forth.

 

The implication is clear.

 

Dan hands Phil his coffee, and their fingers brush together as Phil takes the cup from him. Dan starts to bundle himself up, preparing to face the cold and the snow, when he hears Phil speak up.

 

“We’re just keeping each other company in the meantime.”

 

Dan feels warmer than he has all day, and he hasn’t even had a sip of his coffee yet.

 

He waits patiently for Phil to pack up his muffin and grab his suitcase.

 

“Ready?” Dan asks.

 

“Actually...I’m not entirely sure how to get back to the bus stop,” Phil admits with a chuckle.

 

“Take a left out of the door, walk two streets down, make a right, and keep going until you hit the next street. It's right on the corner, you can’t miss it,” the owner supplies.

 

“Sure,” Phil responds, and Dan swears he can actually hear the gears turning in Phil’s head as he struggles to figure out the fairly simple directions.

 

“Come on, Phil. I’ll get us back.”

 

Phil smiles, and they’re both laughing as Dan pulls open the door to the coffeeshop.

 

“Lead the way, Daniel.”

 


 

When they finally make it back to Terminal 5, Phil sighs with relief. It was nice to get out of the airport for awhile, but the storm outside was no joke.

 

After they’ve both checked their phones to find that there’s still no new information on their flight statuses, Dan leads them back to B42, and they collapse into a pair of open seats in a corner.

 

Phil sighs deeply, and he knows he should take his jacket off before the snow melts everywhere,  but he’s quite enjoying sitting in the warmth of his coat and holding onto his hot cup of coffee. So instead, he contents himself with watching Dan take his own coat off.

 

After dropping the hood and removing his scarf, Dan shrugs the jacket off his shoulders, and Phil notes that quite a bit of snow has managed to melt on his head. The moisture has turned a few sections of his straight hair into subtle curls, and Phil finds himself wondering once more what he would look like with curly hair.

 

Once he’s got the jacket off, Dan drops it on the chair next to him and turns to Phil, and he knows he’s been caught staring.

 

“Moisture’s my greatest enemy,” Dan explains, pointing up at the lone curl that’s fallen against his forehead. “Gives me horrible hobbit hair.”

 

“Hobbit hair?”

 

Dan laughs. “I straighten my hair. My natural hair is really curly, and its always reminded me of hobbit hair.”

 

Phil can’t help the giggle that escapes him, but Dan doesn’t seem to mind.

 

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Phil says.

 

“Oh, it is. Trust me.”

 

Phil shakes his head, and he kind of wants to argue his point, but he decides not to push it. Instead he puts his coffee down on the floor so he can finally shrug out of his own coat. Once it’s off he lets it drop to the floor and reaches into his backpack for the pastry bag from the cafe.

 

Oh, dear ,” Dan whines, staring down at the slightly squashed muffin that Phil pulls out.

 

Phil chuckles, dropping the muffin on top of the bag and placing it in his lap. He picks up a piece of muffin top before it can hit the floor. “This is a right mess,” he says before popping it in his mouth.

 

It tastes just like he remembers, albeit a bit dry.

 

Well...actually….

 

No, it’s very dry.

 

“Try it,” Phil says, picking up a piece and offering it to Dan. “It’s good.”

 

Dan eyes the piece of dessert suspiciously, but then Phil grabs Dan’s wrist, flips his hand over, and drops the bit of muffin into his palm.

 

Dan laughs. “All right, you twit. I’ll give it a try.”

 

Dan pops the bite into his mouth, and Phil pops another piece of muffin into his own mouth in an attempt to keep from laughing as Dan struggles to chew.

 

Eventually, Dan swallows, and Phil smiles around the bit of muffin he’s still trying to swallow.

 

“Phil?”

 

“Yeah, Dan?” he asks despite the fact that his mouth is still full.

 

“That’s the driest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.”

 

Phil laughs so hard he almost chokes on his muffin, and it’s only after Dan’s pounded him on the back a few times and made him take a few sips of coffee to wash it down that Phil can finally speak again.

 

“It’s pretty awful, isn’t it?”

 

Dan chuckles, but then he reaches down and grabs another bit of muffin.

 

His hand brushes against Phil’s thigh, but Phil pretends not to notice.

 

“I mean….” Dan pops the piece into his mouth and chews on it. Phil eats a bit more as he watches Dan’s face scrunch up in thought, and the way his nose crinkles might be the cutest damn thing Phil has ever seen.

 

Eventually, Dan swallows the mouthful and takes a few sips of coffee.

 

“The flavor’s definitely there. I can see why you like these. It’s just-”

 

“Dry.”

 

“Very dry.”

 

“The driest thing you’ve ever had in your mouth.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

And just like that they’re both doubled over with laughter.

 

Phil clutches his stomach as he laughs harder than he’s laughed in ages, tears streaming from his eyes.

 

When he finally feels like he’s got himself under control, he looks back up at Dan and finds him smiling: that gorgeous, dimpled smile that makes his eyes light up and the air in the room feel somehow lighter.

 

“Mind if I have a few more bites?” Dan asks.

 

“Not at all.”

 

They spend the next twenty minutes chatting about little things while sharing the stale muffin and sipping on their coffees between bites. The sugar and caffeine give Phil just the right amount of energy for conversation but not so much that he feels jittery.

 

Phil finds that it’s easy to talk to Dan. There’s just something about him that makes Phil feel like he can say what he wants without fear of judgment, and that’s not something he thinks he can say about anyone, not even Jimmy.

 

He can’t quite put his finger on what it is about Dan that makes him feel safe. He’s not sure if it’s the self-deprecating humor, or the way Dan seems to genuinely care about the things Phil says, or the fact that, despite the hard, edgy demeanor that Dan wants to put forth, he’s actually incredibly soft.

 

Phil knows he should tell him.

 

He knows he should tell Dan about AmazingPhil.

 

To be fair, it’s entirely possible Dan already knows and he’s just being incredibly coy about it.

 

Phil knows he should tell him...except that Phil really likes the way things are now. He likes that Dan is talking to him like he’s Phil Lester and not a mildly famous YouTuber. He doesn’t want Dan to treat him differently, or think of him differently, or talk to him differently.

 

He’s terrified of getting hurt again.

 

The conversation reaches a lull at the same time that Phil reaches the bottom of his coffee, and he stares down at his lap as he comes to a realization that makes his heart start to race.

 

He wants to tell Dan.

 

He really, really does.

 

And the thought of it scares him to death.

 

His chest starts to tighten, and he grips his coffee cup hard enough to dent it.

 

He’s quickly approaching the moment where he needs to decide.

 

Fight or flight?

 

He looks up at Dan, hoping for an answer, only to find that Dan’s attention is elsewhere. He follows Dan’s gaze to a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, who’s having a heated conversation with someone on her phone.

 

“I just...I can’t believe you’re doing this to me,” the girl says. “After you promised to come!”

 

Phil tears his eyes away from the girl, feeling too anxious to watch someone else be upset. Instead he watches Dan watch her.

 

“You’re an ass, Brian. A selfish ass. It’s Christmas, and you promised!”

 

Phil can’t stop himself from looking back at the girl as she shouts. He watches her drop the phone on the seat beside her, clearly ending the call. Then she buries her head in her hands and starts to cry.

 

Phil looks away, and he notices that a few people sitting within earshot bury their heads in their phones or turn their bodies away from her.

 

No one wants to acknowledge the sad crying girl.

 

No one except Dan, that is.

 

Phil watches silently as Dan stands and moves down a few rows toward the girl. Phil wonders if he should follow him, then decides against it. As nervous as he is right now, he doesn't think he'll be very helpful.

 

Still...he can’t help but try and listen as Dan sits down next to the girl and starts to talk to her.

 

Phil can’t quite make out everything that’s said, but he catches enough to put the pieces together.

 

“If I'm bothering you, or you want me to go away, I will.”

 

“He promised to come.”

 

“Has he bailed on you before?”

 

She’s crying again, harder than before.

 

“I don’t know what to do.”

 

Dan reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet.

 

“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly-”

 

“Go get a drink, then take a cab home. Go be with your family.”

 

“I...yeah, yeah I think I will.”

 

The girl stands and gathers up her things, and Phil realizes that his heart rate and breathing returned to normal at some point since Dan sat down with her.


“I can do better than him, right?”

 

Dan nods.

 

“You deserve better.”

 

Phil watches the girl leave, then turns to stare at Dan.

 

Their eyes meet, and Phil’s heart aches in his chest.

 

But it’s not just aching for the crying girl.

 

It’s aching for the boy in front of him.

 

The one who found the courage to reach out to someone else in need.

 

The one who’s clearly been through his share of pain but come out the other side in one slightly bruised but still beautiful piece.

 

The one who’s funny and kind and-

 

Phil has to tell him.

 

He grips his empty coffee cup tight and steels himself as Dan walks back over and sits down.

 

“Her boyfriend was supposed to fly in from America this afternoon, but at the last minute he decided to go to Vegas with his mates instead. And after he'd promised  to come meet her folks for Christmas! Wanker. Hope he loses every pound he’s-”

 

“I’m AmazingPhil.”

 


 

Well, that’s one way to do it, Phil thinks. Probably the only way to do it, really. Diving right in certainly keeps him from overthinking everything.

 

“You...you’re what, now?” Dan asks.

 

“I’m AmazingPhil. That’s my YouTube handle. I have three million subscribers and I post little stories that people find funny for some reason and I could explain why I didn’t tell you but honestly it might take me all night and-”

 

He doesn’t realize he’s started hyperventilating until he feels a large hand grip his right shoulder and squeeze it firmly.

 

“Breathe, Phil. Everything’s okay, but I need you to breathe. Can you do that for me?”

 

“I...I….”

 

Phil watches Dan closely, trying to will himself to breathe, but it’s hard….

 

...until Dan reaches out with his other hand, grabs Phil’s left wrist, and moves his arm until Phil’s left hand is resting on Dan’s right shoulder.

 

Breathe ,” Dan sighs quietly, taking in a long, deep breath through his own nose and letting it out slowly. It’s the same method Phil uses to calm himself, but the feel of Dan’s body rising and falling under his hand adds a whole new dimension to the exercise. He finds that it’s soothing to focus on Dan’s breathing, and he finds that it’s easier to calm his own when he has someone to help him.

 

It only takes a few minutes for Phil to calm down.

 

“Better?” Dan asks, finally breaking the silence.

 

Phil nods, and he’s about to turn away to search for his backpack when Dan leans down and grabs a bottle of water from his own bag. He holds it out silently and Phil takes it, smiling gratefully as he drinks. He has to let go of Dan’s shoulder and his empty cup in order to hold it because his hands are shaking so badly, but he notices that Dan still hasn’t let go of his shoulder. In fact, he’s started to rub his hand against it ever so slightly.

 

It gives Phil the courage to speak, and he finds that once he’s started he can’t stop.

 

He tells Dan that he’s been making YouTube videos for a decade; that they started off as a silly little hobby but quickly became an outlet for coping with his anxiety.

 

“A way to interact with people without having to interact with people, you know?”

 

He explains that even as his follower count grew, Phil somehow felt lonelier.

 

He tells Dan about the only relationship he’s ever had; about the first and only boy he ever loved.

 

The boy who was more in love with Phil’s popularity and his money than with him.

 

“It was only ever about what I could give him. Money, introductions to other YouTubers, bragging rights. I broke it off the night I heard him telling his mate that I was the most famous piece of ass he’d ever had but he figured he could do better.”

 

“Oh, Phil.”

 

Dan’s hand is on Phil’s knee now, right next to where Phil has rested his own hand. Suddenly, Dan brushes their fingers together, and the invitation is clear. All Phil has to do is reach out and take it.

 

So he does.

 

He grips Dan’s hand, and when Dan squeezes his hand tight Phil tells him even more.

 

He tells him that he’s scared of getting close to people because he’s afraid of getting hurt again.

 

He explains that the few dates he’s been on since Ethan broke his heart have been with people who didn’t know about AmazingPhil, because he could never bear the thought of not knowing whether they liked Phil because he was Phil or because he was famous.

 

“That’s why I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to just see me as AmazingPhil. I wanted you to see me as Phil Lester: anxious dork with a terrible sense of direction.”

 

Dan squeezes his hand tightly once more. “That’s a lot of information to take in at once,” he chuckles.

 

Phil laughs despite himself. “I know. I’m sorry. My filter’s even worse when I’m nervous.”

 

“I’m getting that,” Dan says with a smile. He squeezes Phil’s hand yet again, harder than before, and Phil wonders if it’s for his sake or for Dan’s own. “Phil….”

 

Dan pauses, then looks away from him, and it’s so unlike the Dan he’s gotten to know tonight that Phil finds himself squeezing Dan’s hand first this time, trying to offer him whatever strength he can.

 

Dan looks back up at him, and his eyes are wet with tears as he strokes his fingers along the back of Phil’s hand.

 

“Phil Lester...Ethan was a blind idiot if he couldn’t see how great you are.”

 

Phil’s heart flutters in his chest, but it’s not from nerves this time.

 

“Dan-”

 

“You really are... amazing , Phil. Just like I always knew you would be.”

 


 

Dan watches the gears turn in Phil’s head, and he knows he’s figured it out when Phil gasps.

 

“You knew who I was. This whole time?”

 

Dan nods. “I hope you’re not cross with me. I only kept it from you because I thought it would make you more comfortable. I didn’t...I didn’t want to chase you away.”

 

“So you...this whole time you….”

 

Dan feels Phil’s hand start to shake in his, and he squeezes it hard, because he knows exactly where Phil’s mind is going.

 

“No, Phil. Today had nothing to do with AmazingPhil. It’s you I wanted to hang out with. Phil Lester: anxious dork with a terrible sense of direction who’s also smart and funnier than he thinks and whose quirky personality is quite honestly adorable.”

 

Phil sits up straighter in his chair, and Dan hopes he’s not preparing to run.

 

“I’ve always thought you were amazing, Phil, even when I only knew you from your videos. I used to watch everything you posted back when I was sixteen and you barely had any followers. You could always make me laugh, no matter how shit I was feeling, and I felt like shit a lot back then. We shared a lot of the same interests, so I always thought we could get on well as friends. Plus, you were super hot.”

 

Phil doesn’t say anything, but the blush that creeps up his cheeks says enough.

 

Dan smiles, and he waits for Phil to smile back at him before he continues.

 

“Still are, actually. Even more so, if I’m being honest. But that’s not the point I was trying to make. The point is that I’ve always admired you, Phil. You were always bright and cheerful and just... young . You were four years older than me but you always seemed young at heart and I...I always appreciated that about you because I….”

 

Dan trails off, feeling suddenly doubtful. He hardly ever opens up about his past with anyone, let alone someone he’s known for less than a day.

 

But there’s just something about Phil that feels...different.

 

He stares down at their conjoined hands, and he watches as Phil rubs his fingers along the back of Dan’s hand, much like Dan did earlier for Phil.

 

Phil’s faced his fears tonight, hasn’t he?

 

Phil’s been brave - so brave - in opening up to him.

 

Dan wants to do the same.

 

And so he does.

 

He tells Phil that he’s been battling depression since he was a teenager, when he was bullied and teased relentlessly for one thing or another.

 

Then he tells Phil about the only real relationship he’s ever had: with a girl who couldn’t help him when he hit his rock bottom.

 

“Samantha knew I was depressed when we first started going out. I mean, I never said the word to her because I was never really sure myself, but she...she knew I was a bit….”

 

He doesn’t know what to say, because every word he wants to use is a word he knows he’s not supposed to.

 

Broken.

 

Dark.

 

Difficult to put up with.

 

“After I dropped out of law school, my depression got bad - really bad - and it wasn’t...it just wasn’t something she was prepared to deal with,” Dan whispers, turning his head to the side as he attempts to blink away the sudden wetness in his eyes. “Eventually she broke up with me. I was heartbroken. I was young and depressed and I couldn’t see that she had her own issues to deal with that made it hard for her to help me with mine. It took me years to realize that I couldn’t blame her for what happened. All I knew at the time was that the one person I’d ever loved had left me because I wasn’t worth it.”

 

“Oh, Dan,” Phil moans, and he scoots closer to him in his seat. Their legs are pressed together now, and the warmth of Phil’s body against his soothes him. “That’s not true.”

 

Dan nods. “It’s not. I know that now, even if some days it’s harder to accept. But I didn’t know it at the time. I was in pain, and I….”

 

He pauses, taking a long, deep breath to steel himself.

 

Phil smiles softly at him and squeezes his hand. “Dan, it’s okay. You don’t have to-”

 

“I was so lost, Phil.”

 

His voice breaks against his will, and now the words are out there, he knows he can’t take them back. He hasn’t been this open with another person in a long time. So very, very long.

 

“I was lost, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if anything would ever get better. And then, I….”

 

A few tears escape his eyes, and he reaches up with his free hand to brush them away.

 

But Phil beats him to it.

 

Phil’s hand is warm and soft against his cheek, and Dan gasps as he gently wipes the tears away. Dan turns his face into the touch, and when Phil cups his cheek, Dan smiles. He gets a small smile in return, and as Phil strokes the tip of his finger against Dan’s dimple, he finds himself smiling even wider.

 

When the tears fall this time, they’re for an entirely different reason.

 

“I got drunk one night. Really drunk. I was at my lowest point then and I remember thinking ‘will it ever get better? Is any of this...is it all worth it?’ ”

 

Phil’s brushing his tears away again, and Dan shakes his head, reaching up to grab Phil’s hand. He brings their joined hands down and rests them on his leg, turning slightly in his seat to face Phil. His left knee is pressed up tight to Phil’s right, their hands clasped in Dan’s lap.

 

“I was browsing aimlessly through YouTube when I stumbled across one of your videos. It was one of your older ones. ‘Ghost Ferret’ I think it was. And I… I remember I laughed so hard I cried. Like, proper crying, you know? It was such a silly little video, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard. Fuck, Phil, it’d been so long since I’d just... smiled.”

 

He’s smiling now, he can feel that familiar pull in his cheeks, and it’s all thanks to the man in front of him.

 

“It’d been ages since I’d watched any of your videos - years, I think - but that night I lost count of how many I watched before I fell asleep. I woke up the next day with a bloody awful hangover and the worst backache, but I also realized something.”

 

“What?” Phil prompts gently, and his eyes are shiny with tears now, too.

 

“I realized that laughing and smiling was still within my grasp. I realized that I...that I could still feel happy , and I...I felt like that was worth fighting for. So I decided to get help. I started seeing a therapist, and I started taking medication...and then I started taking care of myself. And it was all thanks to you.”

 

Dan can feel Phil’s hands start to shake in his, and he squeezes them tight.

 

“You changed my life, Phil Lester. You did that...and we hadn’t even met yet.”

 

“Dan….”

 

Phil’s hands are full on trembling now, and Dan hopes he hasn’t said too much; that he hasn’t scared Phil away with his honesty.

 

He waits for Phil to run.

 

But he doesn’t.

 

Instead, Phil gazes down at their hands silently. Dan wonders what’s going on in that beautiful brain of his, but he doesn’t have to wait too long to find out.

 

“You said it’d been years since you’d watched any of my videos. Why did you stop?”

 

Dan can feel his own cheeks heating up this time.

 

“It’s...it’s actually kind of silly, really. When I was 17 I...I tried to get your attention. I messaged you a lot on Twitter, mostly about stupid shit. Video games, movies, music. I even asked you for some editing tips once, now that I think about it. But you never messaged me back. And I get it, of course. You probably had a ton of people messaging you back then, so why would you-”

 

“Danisnotonfire?”

 

 


 

It’s him.

 

It has to be.

 

Phil’s had thousands of messages from fans since he started on YouTube, but he remembers one boy very vividly.

 

“Ugh, that was such a stupid nickname,” Dan moans with a shake of his head. “I don’t know why I ever picked it.”

 

It is him.

 

How could he have forgotten?


Aside from replies on Twitter, comments on YouTube, and the occasional ask on Tumblr, Phil doesn’t interact with his fans that often, and he definitely doesn’t talk to his fans through messaging.

 

But danisnotonfire?

 

Danisnotonfire was the one he’d almost answered back.

 

“You were very...persistent,” Phil says with a laugh, remembering the dozens of messages Dan sent him about a variety of topics. He was never pushy, but he did make it very clear that he was eager to talk to Phil about something more than just his videos.

 

“Yeah. Sorry,” Dan responds sheepishly, looking down at their hands.

 

Phil shakes his head.

 

“No. Don’t be. I liked it. You were actually the first person I really thought about responding to.”

 

“Really?”

 

Phil nods. “But I was too scared to talk to you. I’ve always been scared, especially about getting involved with fans, and after Ethan, I….”

 

Dan squeezes his hands, and Phil squeezes back. It hits him suddenly that he hasn’t given a second thought to holding Dan’s hands in public, and the small exchanges of pressure and comfort feel like second nature. He’s not even thinking about it anymore; it’s just happening, and for Phil that’s really something.

 

“Ethan is a wanker,” Dan assures. “We’ve established this.”

 

Phil laughs. “I know. But ever since then I’ve been so scared to open up to anyone; even more scared than I used to be. I've only had a couple dates since then, but they’ve all been with people I’ve been set up with, and they’ve never been with fans. At the end of the day, though, nothing’s really felt….”

 

He pauses, trying hard to find the right word.

 

“Real?” Dan offers with a whisper, and Phil can see that his eyes are full of tears again.

 

He hates watching Dan cry. Phil thinks he’d do anything to make Dan feel better.

 

“Exactly. I’ve got a great career, and an amazing loft in London, and a family that loves me, but to be honest I’ve been feeling a bit….”

 

He lets the word “lonely” sit in the air between him, because he knows without having to say it that Dan gets what he’s saying.

 

And when Dan mutters a soft “me, too,” Phil’s heart aches in his chest.

 

Because maybe...just maybe....

 

...if he had contacted Dan all those years ago…

 

...things would be different.

 

Maybe….

 

“I wish I had reached back to you all those years ago, Dan. I wish I...I wish I’d had the courage to talk to you. Maybe then I wouldn’t-”

 

Phil has no idea what words were going to leave his mouth, and he never finds out, because suddenly Dan’s lips are on his and he can’t even remember his own name.

 


 

 

Dan doesn’t remember telling his face to move toward Phil’s, but suddenly he’s kissing him and the world feels so much quieter.

 

It’s a simple kiss - nothing more than his lips pressing softly against Phil’s - but he savors it nonetheless.

 

When he pulls away, Phil’s cheeks are bright red, his mouth half open in surprise.

 

Dan wonders if he’s gone too far.

 

“I’m sorry. That was really forward of me. I’m just tired and stressed and I shouldn’t have-”

 

And then Phil’s lips are on his this time. This kiss is as simple as the first, though it lasts a bit longer this time. Dan sighs against Phil’s mouth, and he smiles when a soft moan escapes Phil as he pulls away for air.

 

Neither of them says anything for a long time.

 

They sit in the airport and they hold hands and they don’t care about people seeing.

 

Maybe they're both tired and stressed. It has been a long day of sitting and waiting on flights that are clearly not leaving anytime tonight.

 

Or maybe they’re feeling something else.

 

Dan only realizes that Phil’s hands are shaking when his phone buzzes in his pocket and pulls him from this thoughts.

 

He ignores the phone, though. He only has eyes for Phil right now.

 

Phil, whose eyes are currently filled with tears.

 

And Dan thinks he know exactly what Phil is thinking, because he’s thinking it, too.

 

What would’ve happened if Phil had contacted Dan all those years ago? What would their lives be like now? Would they have different jobs? Would they be entirely different people? Would they be together?

 

This is all happening so fast, is it even real?

 

It definitely feels real to Dan.

 

The way his insides flutter every time Phil smiles feels real.

 

The way his hands itch to touch Phil when he looks upset feels real.

 

The way his heart physically aches in his chest from the desire to make Phil laugh feels real.

 

He wonders if it feels real to Phil, too.

 

“I really like you, Phil,” Dan whispers, the words so quiet he’s not sure that Phil can even hear them.

 

But then Phil’s whispering the words back to him.

 


 

 

“I really like you, too, Dan.”

 

Dan smiles, wider than he has all day, and he looks so young and beautiful and happy in that moment that it takes Phil’s breath away…

 

...and gives him the courage to make a leap bigger than any he’s ever made in his life.

 

“Do you wanna come back to my place?”

 

“I would like that very much.”

 


 

They both check their phones for updates on their flights, just to be sure that neither of them are leaving any time soon. As they both suspected, their flights have been rescheduled for Christmas morning - Phil’s at 10, Dan’s at 10:20, barring anymore sudden changes in the weather. Then - after texting their families to let them know what’s going on - they grab one of the few cabs waiting outside the airport and head for Phil’s flat.

 

It’s almost 9 o’clock when they finally get there, and Phil throws a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner since they haven’t eaten anything substantial in a while and there’s not much else in his kitchen.

 

As they wait for the pizza to heat up, Phil gives Dan a quick tour of his loft. It’s large - much larger than one person really needs - but every room feels full and cozy despite that. He shows Dan his collection of movies and video games, and they spend a few minutes reminiscing about their favorite games to play when they were kids.

 

When the pizza’s ready, they sit in front of Phil’s massive TV and watch a few episodes of “Attack on Titan” together as they eat, and Phil tries not to think about what’s going to happen when they finally decide to go to sleep.

 

But then Dan’s resting his head on Phil’s shoulder, and Phil’s yawning.

 

“Bedtime?” Dan asks softly, and Phil sighs.

 

Honestly, he’d be perfectly happy sleeping on this couch just the way they are.

 

“Probably a good idea,” he relents. “It’s getting late.”

 

Dan lifts his head from Phil’s shoulder and sits up on the couch, stretching with a groan. “So, do you have a guest room in this massive loft or should I sleep on the couch?”

 

The pressure in Phil’s chest lessens just a little bit. Dan doesn’t expect anything from him.

 

He’s leaving the choice up to Phil.

 

All Phil has to do is ask.

 

And he wants to.

 

Oh, god, he wants to.

 

But first….

 

“I do have a guest room. How did you know?”

 

There’s a flash of disappointment on Dan’s face, but it’s so brief that Phil almost misses it.

 

“Lucky guess.”

 

“Actually...I was hoping….” Phil wrings his hands together, taking a long deep breath to calm his nerves. “There’s something I want to show you first.”

 

Dan smirks, then quirks an eyebrow at him suggestively, but Phil can tell he’s only teasing.

 

“That came out wrong,” he says with a laugh. “Just...come with me.”

 

Dan smirks at him again, and Phil rolls his eyes as he turns around and walks away. Assuming that Dan will follow him, Phil heads toward one of the two rooms he hasn't shown him yet.

 

A few seconds later, he finds himself stood in his guest room with Dan by his side, staring at the piano in the corner; the one that the last occupants had decided to leave behind, and that Phil had never really wanted to bother moving.

 

“Will you play me something?” Phil whispers.

 

Dan presses a quick, soft kiss to Phil’s lips, and his legs feel suddenly shaky.

 

But then Dan’s sitting at the piano, and a slow, familiar tune fills the apartment. It’s the first time the piano has played any music since Phil moved in - aside from the random notes it produced when he’d asked Cornelia to tune it for him “just in case.”

 

It’s a soft, gentle song, but it sounds loud in the usually quiet loft.

 

Then he realizes what Dan’s playing, and suddenly he’s crying.

 

“It’s my favorite song from Final Fantasy VII,” Dan supplies as he continues to play, and Phil wipes furiously at his eyes.

 

“Mine, too,” he gasps, but he can’t keep the tremble out of his voice, and Dan stops playing to turn around and look at him.

 

“Phil?”

 

“Please keep playing,” Phil begs, wiping a few more tears off his cheek.

 

“I will if you come sit with me,” Dan says, patting the bench next to him, and Phil doesn’t hesitate.

 

He sits next to Dan and listens to him play “Interrupted by Fireworks.”

 

When he’s done, Dan reaches down and grabs Phil’s hand.

 

“I just...I can’t help thinking we’ve missed out on something, you know?” Phil says. “Like...like our lives could’ve been so much different - so much better - if I’d only had the courage to talk to you back then. I know that probably sounds crazy.”

 

“It doesn’t,” Dan assures him with a squeeze of his hand. “I know exactly what you mean. But Phil...if my therapist has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t dwell on the past, because that’s never helped anyone. We can’t know where we would be if things had gone differently, and we don’t have any control over the past. The only thing we can do is make now the best now that we can.”

 

Phil sobs, and he leans in and kisses Dan before he can think twice about it.

 

He doesn’t want to think twice anymore.

 

Not about this.

 

Dan pulls away first, but not before biting ever so gently on Phil’s bottom lip.


“What do you want right now, Phil Lester?”

 

Phil doesn’t think twice.

 

He takes Dan’s hand and leads him toward his bedroom.

 


 

 

Dan wakes the next morning feeling warm and satisfied and sore and happier than he’s felt in god only knows how long, and it only takes a few seconds for him to understand why he feels so content.

 

Phil groans behind him, pressing his face closer to Dan's upper back and tightening his arm around his bare waist.

 

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” Dan mumbles softly, shifting in Phil's embrace so he can reach toward the source of the incessant beeping that woke him up.

 

“For the love of god, turn that bloody thing off,” Phil complains.

 

Dan laughs softly, and he twists his head around awkwardly so he can press a kiss against the top of Phil’s head.

 

“You’re welcome,” Dan teases as he finally grabs his phone off Phil’s nightstand. “At least I thought to set an alarm.”

 

“Hmmm, planes are dumb. I like beds better. We should stay in this one.”

 

Dan chuckles. Then, even though every fiber of his being loathes the idea of moving right now, he slowly shoves Phil’s arm off of him and sits up.

 

“Come on, you spork. We have families to visit, remember? And I dunno about you, but I could use a shower.”

 


 

Christmas morning is filled with small discoveries that feel like gifts in and of themselves.

 

Dan learns that Phil looks really good with a messy morning quiff (“I’m being serious, Lester. You look really hot with your hair like that”).

 

When Dan gets out of the shower and Phil tells him he loves the way his hair curls when its wet, he decides that maybe letting his hair be its natural curly self isn’t such a bad idea.

 

When they stop at a bakery down the block from Phil’s loft for a quick breakfast, Dan learns that Phil can be pretty cranky before he’s had his coffee.

 

When they finally make it to the airport to discover that Dan’s flight is still delayed - this time because of weather at his layover stop in New York - and Dan feels like he might cry at the thought of spending Christmas Day in this bloody airport, he discovers that Phil is just as kind as Dan always thought he was.

 

Phil invites him to spend Christmas on the Isle of Man with him and his family.

 

“Phil, I couldn’t possibly-”

 

“My Mum won’t mind, I promise. We have plenty of room and she loves having guests.”

 

“Phil, what if your flight’s already booked? It’s Christmas Day.”

 

“I’ll buy you a standby ticket. If you can’t get on, then I’ll stay here with you. We can spend Christmas at my place.”

 

“Phil Lester, you’re being absolutely ridiculous. You can’t cancel your plans just for me.”

 

Phil shakes his head.

 

“I’m not going to let you spend Christmas by yourself, Daniel Howell.”

 

In the end, Dan finds that he couldn’t argue with Phil even if he wanted to.

 

Two hours later, Dan’s flying to Isle of Man to spend Christmas with AmazingPhil’s family.

 

If his 16 year old self could only see him now.

 


 

Dan spends Christmas and Boxing Day with Phil and the rest of the Lesters.

 

On the 27th, Dan says goodbye to Phil and hops on the ferry that will take him to Liverpool, where he plans to board a train to London and then fly to Florida to be with his family for New Years.

 

Dan and Phil text each other every day until New Year’s Eve, when they spend an obscene amount of money on a very long long-distance phone call. They talk for almost nine hours - from 11pm London time to 3am Florida time.

 

In the end, Phil stays up to watch the sunrise just because he can, and they’re still talking as they both begin to drift off to sleep.

 

The last thing Phil hears Dan say is “I wish I could watch the sunrise with you.”

 

“Soon,” Phil promises. “Soon.”

 

And he falls asleep to the sound of Dan quietly breathing from the other side of the ocean.  

 

...the end...