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Where everybody knows your name

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Even when you snore you’re too cute to wake. Bumped into the fam and will be dragged along for a walk, we’ll be back for lunch. Mum’s downstairs. Love you.

Dan groans when his mobile display informs him that it’s 11:14 a.m., and he lets the phone and Phil’s note sink onto the empty mattress next to him, stretching his legs and revelling in the warmth underneath his duvet. Maybe it’s the sea air or the level of relaxation he’s experiencing when they visit Phil’s family, but he hasn’t slept this well in ages. Back home in London he’d been feeling restless ever since they returned home from tour; he’d constantly been exhausted but too on edge to sleep properly, a feeling of uselessness relentlessly nagging him that he should be doing something with his days but he couldn’t figure out what, so he’d just been going with the motions, helping Phil film, playing video games, wondering if and when the day would come when he’d be brave enough to tell the internet that no, he’d not be uploading to his channel again.

It’s only the second day with the Lesters and he can already feel all this melt away. They had taken a walk first thing yesterday, up to the cliffs with the sunset view, and while he’d tell anyone who’d ask (or not ask, for that matter) how much this walk had felt like exercise and how exercise isn’t anything he’s too keen on, especially on holidays, especially on Christmas holidays, he had been feeling more alive than he had in the past months.

So maybe that was where his more than ten hours of sleep had come from. Or maybe they had sprung from that certain kind of drowsiness that can only be acquired in front of a fireplace, hot chocolate in hand and Phil sitting behind him, his chest against Dan’s back and his arms around him, holding him warm and close, while the rest of the family had already been off to bed.

i don’t snore. remember that liars will get their feet bitten by the mole people

He texts back, then quickly pops into the shower before he makes his way downstairs, where it faintly smells of the coffee the others had had for breakfast. From the open kitchen door he can see Phil’s mum standing at the worktop, her back to him, and he softly knocks on the doorframe as not to startle her. She’s already smiling widely when she turns around.

"Daniel! I thought I wouldn’t see you before lunch at all!" she calls out. "Good morning, dear."

"Good morning," Dan replies, making his way over to the worktop to assess if he can be of any help. "Need a hand with anything?"

"You’re our guest, you don’t need to help! Would you like a cup of tea?" She asks, already opening the cupboard with the teapots.

"Yes please, but you really needn’t do that for me. And I’d like to help. I could, I don’t know. Peel potatoes or something," he offers, and Kathryn chuckles.

"Do you even know how one peels potatoes?"

"We don’t just live off pizza, you know," Dan states, taking a vegetable peeler from a drawer. He knows his way around the Lesters’ kitchen by now, and he likes it. He and Phil don’t cook as often anymore as they did in the beginning, but he still enjoys cooking, and most of all he enjoys cooking with company, when peeling and dicing and stirring don’t feel like chores, but pleasant pastimes.

"So," Kathryn says as she places Dan’s teacup on the worktop in front of him. "What’s your version of the story?"

"My version of which story?" Dan asks, but he thinks he already knows the answer. She did watch their liveshows, after all; it would have surprised him if she hadn’t asked sooner or later, and Kathryn being Kathryn he should have known it would be sooner rather than later.

"You know. Taking a break with the gaming channel. My child redecorating his room. And you not uploading since... when was it?" She asks.

"March," he replies quietly, his gaze fixed on the potato in his right hand.

"March," she repeats. "You don’t have to tell me, of course. But mothers are meant to be curious." She smiles at him encouragingly, and when he notices, he smiles back, faintly.

"You’re not my mother, though," he winks, but she just waves her hand dismissively.

"Oh, I already pestered the child with so many questions. And you’re like a son to me, so my nosiness extends to you as well."

Just as well, Dan thinks as he places the potato back and takes the teabag from his cup, putting it into the bin before taking the cup, softly blowing on the surface of the tea to help it cool down quicker. It’s not like his own mother would ever ask. But what exactly was his version of the story? Did he even have another version than Phil? What did Phil tell her? And is it at all important what Phil told her, and whether or not it differs from his side of the story?

He sighs, taking a small sip of his tea. He can feel the calm and relaxation drain from him already, being replaced by nervousness, and he holds on to the teacup which is actually too hot to the touch, but right now it feels kind of comforting. Kathryn has gone back to peeling carrots, and he thinks that as long as he’s not being looked at inquisitively, he might actually be able to talk about it.

"I don’t know what Phil told you," he starts, "and... I don’t know. Nothing’s set, you know? It might all just be a pipe dream. But I just..." He pauses, not knowing quite exactly where to begin, before he decides to go for the most obvious bit. "I mean, the gaming thing is simple. We need to have a think about how to continue. It’s been so many years, we can’t do Sims for the rest of our lives."

Kathryn hums softly, a sign she’s listening and he can continue if he likes, and he finds he does, even if the difficult bit, the one that’s most important to him but also most unclear, is still waiting to be adressed. Maybe it's good to talk to someone else but Phil, he thinks, someone not immediately affected, but still someone close enough to have a genuine interest in their lives.

"Phil redecorating is probably just... I don’t know. It’s better if he tells you himself, but I think it’s really just down to him not wanting to be the quirky blue-green guy forever. It’s like the quiff, but... the room, " he continues, and Kathryn nods.

"That’s what he told me," she agrees, taking a can of peas from the cupboard and emptying it into a pot.

"Yeah, so... did you watch that pizza eating video?" He asks, even though he knows the answer, and indeed Kathryn nods again.

"I did, dear," she says, putting the kettle on to boil water for the vegetables.

"Yeah. I just..." He pauses, drinking from his tea again, bracing himself for the next bit. The hard bit. The bit only Phil knows about, so far. "I really don’t want to do youtube anymore. I mean, the odd video with Phil is fine, but like... my channel. I can’t. I don’t want to. I feel like I’d have to force myself to come up with anything and I’m not even sure I have anything to say at the moment," he blurts out, putting the teacup down and reaching for a potato again, removing the shoots it had grown. "I don’t know what there’s left to say after that chocolate and ass statement. Sorry," he adds when Kathryn looks over to him at that, but she simply shakes her head.

"It’s fine. It’s not like it's surprising that the two of you are doing all kinds of things with each other after ten years," she shrugs, placing the carrots into a pot and covering them with water from the kettle before turning her attention to the potatoes.

Of course she's right, but Dan still blushes. He rarely talks about this to anyone but Phil, and he's simply not used to a parent reacting this nonchalantly to the idea of their son being gay, and actually having gay sex. He remembers his own parents' reaction when he came out to them, a day he'd rather not think about but still does every now and then, and he hates how they still seem uncomfortable around Phil after all this time.

He sighs, trying not to dwell on this now, trying not to bring more things into this which make him miserable, and looks at the one measly potato he removed the shoots from. "I’m sorry, I didn’t really do anything after all, I guess," he says, before he steps aside and takes a breath. “Did Phil tell you we want to move?”

Kathryn nods, the first potato already peeled. "He did. I thought you liked London." She keeps her gaze on the task at hand, and Dan is grateful for that.

"We do like London. I’m not even sure if it’s wise to move away, but like... I don’t know. Phil misses the countryside. And I really need to get out more. Not to a park, but like... out out. I need some quiet. Rent a house, get a dog... go for walks, you know? Just... I don’t know," he trails off, finding it hard to put in words what exactly he wants. "It doesn’t sound much like me, but I’d really like that."

"People change, dear," Kathryn says, placing another peeled potato into a bowl for boiling them later. "Maybe it’s not what you used to think you want your life to look like, but if it’s what you want now, I think you should do it. No need to stay in the city just because you wanted to get away from Wokingham ten years ago." She looks over to him, smiling softly, and Dan smiles back. She's right, he thinks. His teenage self might have hated that small town surrounded by fields, but now that he's had his fair share of city life, it didn't seem that bad anymore. Kathryn's voice brings him back to reality. "Do you know yet where you want to move to?"

Dan shakes his head no. They talked about this, quite a lot actually, about how a place near London would be nice so they'd still be close to their friends and everything no other place in England has to offer, but how up north Phil just feels more at home, and it’s not like he himself didn’t like the north, just...

"How about here?" Kathryn asks, interrupting his thoughts. "I mean, not in our house maybe. But nearby? We'd love to have you closer to us, and you always seem to like it here," she ponders.

"We do like it here," Dan says, realising he’s still fidgeting with that stupid potato, and swaps it for his teacup again. "I love it, actually. It’s the best time of year when we’re with you," he adds, and Kathryn smiles, surprised. "And I know Phil would love that, too. He misses you. It’s just... that’s a whole lot of Lester family and then me. I’m... I think I’d feel like the fifth wheel sooner or later," he says feebly.

"Hmmm," Kathryn hums, putting the peeler away and looking up at Dan. "You know there’s no actual reason for this, right? We all love you, darling," she states as if it was really that simple, and maybe it was.

"Thank you," he says quietly, his voice trembling even at just those two words, and he can feel his face grow hotter and his throat constricting.

"Daniel!" Kathryn calls out, and the next thing he knows is her taking his teacup from him and hugging him, and he hugs back and the angle is weird because he's just too tall, and he wipes at his eyes with his left hand when he can feel a tear running down his cheek.

"Did I say something wrong, dear?" Kathryn asks, worry apparent in her voice, and he shakes his head.

"No," he croaks, clearing his throat and trying to take a deep breath. It's shaky, but he manages, and he adds, "You said just the right thing. I'm sorry I'm a mess."

He can feel her hug tighten for a moment, before her hand rubs over his back, then his arm as she removes herself slowly, her hand still resting on his arm when she looks him in the eye again.

"You're not a mess, honey. There's no need to apologise," she smiles softly, and he tries to smile back. It feels crooked and barely there, but it's all he can manage for now.

"I think I'll... go wash my face," he says, gesturing in the general direction of the kitchen door and, in extension, the bathroom, and Kathryn nods, rubbing his arm encouragingly before letting him go. He takes a deep breath once he's in the hallway, and makes his way up the stairs to the guest bathroom. His face in the mirror is blotchy, his eyes slightly red, and he splashes his face with cold water and keeps his hands under the tap for a while, the cold feeling nice against his wrists.

He takes his phone from his pocket once he's dried his hands. There's no message from Phil regarding the mole people or anything else, but then again, phone reception is patchy once you leave the town.

i just cried in front of kath. in case you haven't fallen off a cliff or started living with the mole people, i'd really like you to come home and save me from embarrassing myself further

This time, his phone actually does buzz after a moment.

As if my presence would stop you from crying :P I'm kidding. Are you ok? We'll be back in a few.

rude. yeah i'm ok just the usual wreck. hope i didn't traumatise her

He puts his phone back in his pocket, making his way downstairs. He may have been useless with the potatoes, but maybe he could help set the table, he thinks. Or just be around Kath for a while.

His phone buzzes once more before he has reached the kitchen.

I'm sure she'll be fine. And you will be, too.