He is ok with it, or that’s what he tells Phil. He’s ok with Phil leaving him alone all evening and coming home late at night, of course he is; it’s technically Phil’s flat as Phil is paying most of the rent and so Phil has every right to come home whenever he wants. Or to not come home at all. Or to come home, but not alone; to come home tipsy and giggling and not being the only one giggling in their flat, and also not being the only one sighing and moaning across the wall behind Dan’s headboard a few minutes later.
It’s not like Phil is waking Dan by coming home late at night. It’s not like any of his visitors are waking Dan, those visitors who have always disappeared come breakfast time, which might be because they are very considerate, or which might be because Dan prefers to stay in his room pretending to sleep until they have left, trying to block out any noise those guests make, any talking or kissing at the apartment door.
They’re not waking him because he’s not sleeping, because he’s wide awake at his computer or playing on his phone or reading or staring at the wall wondering who Phil is spending the evening with, wondering if he’ll bring someone home that night, wondering if he’ll have to endure another night of involuntarily listening in on Phil having sex. Maybe he should sleep, he figures; maybe he could sleep through the noises which may or may not occur, but he can’t find sleep with his mind racing and his heart aching, so he lies awake.
He’s ok with it.
If you can’t beat them, join them, they say, and so he does. He goes out with Katie a couple of times, Katie who he met at uni, who’s kind and funny and witty and a good kisser; Katie who he takes home with him one night, a night he knows Phil’s at home as well, and he makes sure to talk to her in the hallway so there is a chance of Phil hearing them. They stumble into his bedroom, falling down onto Dan’s bed still kissing and already fumbling, and he mostly keeps his eyes closed while she rides him, hoping it passes for passion and arousal rather than looking like an effort to block out what he is doing here. It’s not that it’s bad; she sure knows how to move and she’s warm and tight and he’s nineteen and ridiculously horny more often than he wants to admit, so this is good, it’s fine, it’s all fine.
He finds that “if you can’t beat them, join them” might not be the wisest of proverbs. No one ever said it would be all rosy and bright after you joined them, but still, it kind of was what he had hoped it would magically be. It wasn’t, he finds, but he continues. He tells Katie he doesn’t want her to think this was going somewhere, and she looks hurt and he feels terrible, and he doesn’t take another girl home with him. He goes to Shakeaway with someone who used to live next door when he was still living at halls, and he makes sure to tell Phil he’s going out for a date. His heart sinks when Phil seems to be happy for him, but he reminds himself that it’s only logical; Phil’s probably glad Dan decided to eventually leave their apartment and socialise, but he wishes it was different, he wishes Phil had asked him to stay home for popcorn and computer games or TV or anything.
For the rest of the date, he keeps wishing to just sit next to Phil on their sofa.
“Wanna go have Starbucks?” Phil had asked the next afternoon and here they were, looking out onto Corporation Street from a window seat because their sofa had been taken, and Dan is eating bits of whipped cream and caramel sirup from atop his latte. It’s terribly sweet but he loves it; his jeans are slightly wet from walking through the November drizzle and his right foot is wet because he had stepped into a puddle and he couldn’t be happier. He glances over to Phil who is stirring his own latte, and he smiles and looks back outside before Phil notices, and he thinks this is it, this is it, this is what a date should feel like, not like regret and wishing you’d be someplace else with someone else, but like warmth and contentment and wanting for time to never pass because you’re having the perfect moment.
“Why are you smiling into the rain, you scare me,” Phil laughs. “Thinking about last night?”
“What?” Dan asks, confused, and only after Phil reminds him about his date the previous night he realises that that might actually be a reason for many people to smile into the rain. For normal people. For people who didn’t try and have distraction dates because all they wanted was their friend and flatmate, but that friend and flatmate chose to sleep with random girls rather than-
“So are you seeing her again?” Phil asks, and Dan frowns and holds onto his mug, shaking his head.
“Didn’t you have a good time?” Phil sounds worried now, or sorry, and Dan clenches his fingers tighter around the mug. He doesn’t want Phil to feel sorry for him, he wants him to be happy that he won’t be seeing Laura again and he wants Phil to realise that now that he won’t be seeing her again his chance has come to-
“No, actually,” he says, looking at Phil and back to the street, to people hurrying past because that drizzle had turned into proper rain, and he thinks, screw it, and looks back at Phil and takes a breath.
“I was smiling because I’m having a good time now,” he says. “I was thinking that if this was a date, it would be perfect. Last night I was thinking that just sitting on the sofa would be perfect. I just... fuck,” he groans quietly. “Why can’t this be a date? I’m finally spending time with someone I-“ He breaks off mid-sentence, pleadingly staring at Phil whose expression is somewhere between confusion and a dawning of understanding, before he places his mug on the table.
“I’m going home,” he says, hurriedly getting up and taking his jacket from the backrest, and he doesn’t stop when he hears Phil call out his name behind him. He steps out into the rain, turning left and all but runs down the pavement, thinking that now that it’s raining at least people won’t see his tears, and at the same time feeling sorry for himself, sorry for that pathetic lovesick teenager crying on the street.
He has to stop at the red light of a pedestrian crossing, and he doesn’t have to look over to know it’s Phil who comes up to him and stands next to him.
“Dan,” Phil says quietly, but Dan shakes his head.
“Not now, please,” he murmurs, glancing from the traffic light down to his shoes, down the street away from Phil, back at the traffic light.
“Dan, I didn’t know,” he hears Phil say as the traffic light turns green, but he already hurries onto the street, not waiting for Phil to fall into step next to him.