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I don’t want to say I love you

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The first anonymous Valentine’s delivery came as Phil was eating breakfast. He’d got up way past his alarm time, having pressed the snooze button a record 5 times and was hurriedly shoving a piece of toast in his mouth whilst drinking a cup of instant coffee. The unexpected chime of the intercom startled him so much that he spilt half the coffee down his jacket. Cursing, he leapt up and yelled up the stairs. 

“Dan, I’m running really late. Can you get the door please?” 

“What?” 

“Door!”

“Sorry no can do, I’m only wearing a towel. Much as I love being photographed, I’m not sure the public can handle a full length semi naked paparazzi shot of me. Might cause a riot,” came the muffled reply from up the stairs. 

Phil grabbed some paper towel to dab at his jacket as the doorbell rang again, startling him once more. Throwing out another few choice curses under his breath, he strode towards the intercom and pressed the button to the common entry door to the building. 

“Delivery for Daniel Howell.” 

“Ok hang on, I’ll be down just now,” Phil muttered as he grabbed his keys and took the stairs 2 at a time down to the lobby. 

He arrived in the spacious entry-way to find a frazzled delivery person clutching 4 bunches of flowers and 2 parcels which looked suspiciously like expensive boxes of chocolates. 

“Oh my god,” groaned Phil. 

“Sign here please.”

The delivery person dumped the flowers and chocolates on the floor with a relieved sigh as he grabbed a machine from his pocket and passed it to Phil to digitally sign. Phil started picking up the bunches of flowers and directed unkind thoughts towards his errant flat mate above. 

Living with someone famous definitely had its drawbacks. The paparazzi lounging outside every day, who inevitably caught Phil in at least half the photos. The groups of teenagers who seemed to predict Dan’s movements ahead of time and invariably appeared for autographs just as they were trying to go out. The same persons who, when not being able to catch Dan, would bail Phil up trying to pump him for information on Dan’s whereabouts. Even a minibus group of camera wielding tourists had caught Phil in sweatpants and bare feet one day as he was taking out the rubbish. Phil now felt he had to dress up every time he left his door.

Today especially was hard. Valentine’s Day always brought a barrage of gifts from delighted fans and companies trying to gain the attention of the up and coming singer. Although most gifts now went to Dan’s record company office, deliveries invariably still turned up to their door, leaving Phil in a misery of jealousy and frustration. Normally Phil was able to suppress the persisting feelings remaining after their breakup nearly 4 years before but Valentine’s Day inevitably dragged all the unresolved emotions to the surface again. 

“Oh wait, one of these is for a Phil Lester.  Same address. Can you sign?”

Phil nearly dropped the flowers, fumbling with them and managing to partially crush a particularly exotic looking white orchid. 

“What?!”

“Can you sign for Phil Lester?” 

“I’m Phil Lester,” Phil said faintly 

“Ok then here.”

The machine was held out again and Phil managed to scrawl something equivalent to his signature while balancing the flowers more carefully this time. He was totally confused. Who would be sending him something for Valentine’s Day? He didn’t have any admirers that he knew about, and it had been ages since he had acrimoniously broken up with his last boyfriend - he definitely wouldn’t be responsible for this surprise. Maybe it was fans of Dan’s that had decided to include him in the barrage of gifts out of pity? 

The delivery person picked up the parcels and Phil managed to clutch them in amongst the flowers while he carefully pressed the lift button with his elbow. He counted it as a success that he didn’t drop any in the journey back up to the flat. On reaching the apartment door he leaned on the buzzer continuously deciding that Dan could at least open the door for him.

“Phil what the fuck? Oh....”

Dan grabbed several bunches of flowers and held the door open as Phil struggled in the door, and dumped the rest of the flowers and parcels on the kitchen counter. He grabbed the paper towel and started dabbing his jacket again, realising it was futile as the coffee had now totally sunk in.  

“Are all these for me?”

Phil turned and inhaled sharply. Dan was looking at the labels on one of the cards, dressed only in a tight black band t-shirt and a pair of black boxers. Phil wrenched his gaze upwards, trying not to look at the long, tanned legs in front of him. 

“Yes, oh wait! One of them is for me.” 

Dan raised his eyebrows and started looking through the cards 

“Really? Secret admirer eh?” 

“Shut up. I’m sure it’s a mistake somehow” 

“Wait, here it is.” 

Dan was looking at a card attached to an enormous bunch of red roses.   

“Damn, that looks like 2 dozen red roses! Someone must really like you Philly,” Dan said with a smirk, holding the card out to him.  

Phil snatched the card off him, his heart beating slightly fast. He opened the envelope, pulling out a stylish white card. 

Phil. I’ve been loving you from afar for so long. I love your sense of humour and your smile. I really wish you were mine so I could make you smile every day for the rest of our lives.”  

The card wasn’t signed but ended with several kisses. Phil stared at it open mouthed. He couldn’t think who it would be from. It must be a fan of Dan’s if it mentioned being from afar. Nothing else would make sense. None of his work colleagues would seemingly have done this and all his friends were attached or unavailable as far as he knew. He studied the words carefully trying to pick up more clues.  

“What’s it say?” Dan was trying to peer over the card. 

“No! Read your own - you’ve got enough of them!” Phil clutched the card close to his chest. 

“Well enough apart from the orchid. Not sure that’s going to survive.”  

Dan went back to studying the sadly bent looking orchid. 

“Well,” said Phil acidly, “It can go to plant heaven with the rest of your neglected orchids from Christmas and your birthday and last Valentine’s Day.”  

“No need to get jealous Phil. I can’t help it if my fans love me. Anyway, I don’t have time to take care of plants.”  

Phil shoved Dan in the shoulder half-heartedly as he glanced down at his watch. He let out another curse as he saw the time.  

“I’m so late! I need to go.” He grabbed his keys and headed to the front door.

“You can’t go like that! You’ve got coffee all over you Phil. At least change your jacket.”

“No time. Got a meeting at 9am which I’m now going to be late for. For your album release by the way. Not sure how you managed to escape going to that.”  

“Don’t need the star there for that, Phil,” Dan said smugly. “That’s why I have you there. To stop the evil overlords from taking over and wrecking my music. Take my jacket. It’s near the door.” 

“No time! Put my flowers in water please!” 

Phil slammed the door behind him and pressed the button to the lift frantically. As he examined himself in the gilded mirror of the lift, he sighed at the large stain which was really very obvious. He thought about going back quickly and grabbing Dan’s jacket but ultimately decided against it. It was hard enough seeing Dan at work most days, without having a constant reminder of his presence wrapped around himself. That would just be too much to bear. 

He ran out of the lobby and down the street to the tube station. As he collapsed in the seat on the train his thoughts turned to the flowers and card again. Two dozen roses. From whom? And why? His mind cycled futilely through a list of people all the way to the office but he was no closer to a solution by the time he sank panting into an office chair at the back of the crowded room, with Dan’s manager Jen glaring at him from across the room.  

 

..........

 

The second anonymous Valentine’s delivery came as Phil was struggling to mix the last song for the album. Struggling because he had to listen to Dan’s soaring voice singing lyrics that were suspiciously reminiscent of words they had hurled at each other during their break up, mixed with a large dose of regret. He couldn’t be sure though that it was their break up that was being mentioned. After all Dan had coped with their breakup by trawling the nearby bars for hook-ups night after night, month after month for ages afterward. It could have been anyone of these brief flaming train wrecks of one-night stands and short term flings that Dan was singing about with such regret. 

Dan had never expressed any regrets personally to him. Their break up had come just at the time Dan’s popularity had exploded. Long days in the studio trying to record the difficult second album had caused Dan to be fractious and Phil to be impatient. Increasing fan worship had made Phil (unfairly he realised now) jealous of any attention Dan received that wasn’t from him. Dan had never been good at expressing his feelings, and this had just exacerbated the insecurities that Phil felt as day after day came without any verbal expression of love. Dan meanwhile had taken his frustrations with the increasing pressures of fame out on Phil. Their fights had escalated to epic proportions and reached a point where neither could cope and Dan had eventually called the relationship off, much to the relief of both. 

Phil’s relief had not lasted long however. It had barely been a couple of weeks after the breakup when he started to regret his decision to agree to the split. Dan had savagely resisted any attempts by Phil to raise the possibility of a reconciliation and eventually Phil had retreated away with all the wounded pride that he could muster in self-defence. It was only during the middle of Phil packing to leave the flat when Dan had finally broken down and begged him to stay. Not as a rekindling of the relationship much to Phil’s dismay, but as a friend. The decision had been a difficult one. Phil wasn’t sure they could be friends again. However, Dan had pleaded and reminded him that they had both pledged to be friends before anything else. So after a few sleepless nights of overthinking on Phil’s part, Phil had agreed to stay and friends they had remained. 

He still wasn’t sure whether it was the right decision. Having to live with Dan, suppressing his feelings, and watching him ploughing through a succession of disastrous flings was hard. Having to continue to work with Dan on a daily basis was nearly as bad, as Phil was one of the top sound engineers for Dan’s recording label. Quitting wasn’t an attractive option as this was one of the best companies in the city with perks Phil had never dreamed of having when he was struggling through his degree. So, he’d swallowed his pride, tried to put his feelings aside, and concentrated on being a supportive friend. 

In the meantime, he’d tried a few other relationships himself. Each had lasted no more than a few months, succumbing to Phil’s reluctance to commit to something in depth when his feelings were still tied to Dan. He’d received no obvious return in his affections from his flat mate, however each time Phil had broken it off with another unlucky partner Dan had taken it upon himself to be extra supportive and had been more attentive than ever before. He’d almost seemed relieved each time although Phil could never be sure whether that was just wishful thinking on his part.

Over the next several years they grew closer as friends than even before when they had been going out. Both were now too busy for idle casual flings, and their friendship only deepened with their continued cohabitation. Neither could now even countenance moving out. Phil concentrated his energies on supporting Dan through the turmoils of his burgeoning singer career. Dan had repaid him by insisting on Phil being involved in every single aspect of Dan’s career that a sound engineer could reasonably be involved with. Phil had risen to the upper echelons of the company in record time. No one was allowed to mix Dan’s songs but Phil. 

This album creation had been a torrid time. The critics and fans alike were baying for new material. The hype was enormous and the pressure intense. Dan had been working under pressure from the company to write and record the new material as soon as the previous tour had finished, so as to capitalise on the enormous interest generated. Phil had spent long hours initially supporting Dan through countless hours of writing at the apartment, then through recording sessions late into the night. Now the final mix was nearing completion. 

Having to listen to the current song over and over was playing havoc with Phil’s emotions as he tried to concentrate on the sound rather than the meaning of the lyrics. Phil had finally managed to ignore the lyrics in the song and was in the middle of playing back the backing vocals, headphones on and concentrating hard. When a tap came on his shoulder he jumped in the swivel seat, hand flying to his chest to feel his suddenly beating heart. He took off his headphones and spun around to see the producer Adam standing in front him, holding an enormous brown and gold hamper of what looked suspiciously like one of Phil’s favourite chocolate brands. 

“Sorry Phil, didn’t mean to scare you!” 

Adam was peering very curiously at the card sticking to the top of the hamper, which luckily was enclosed in a gilt envelope. He looked up, studying Phil’s quickly reddening face. 

“These are for you. Didn’t know you were in a relationship? When did this happen - you didn’t tell me you sneaky bastard? Congrats mate!” Adam’s loud Australian accent boomed around the studio making Phil wince.  

“I’m not,” Phil muttered, taking the hamper off Adam and nearly dropping it to the floor under the unexpected weight.   

“Wow! Someone must really like you. Aren’t those Godiva chocolates? That must have cost a packet!” 

Hmmmm,” Phil murmured, eyeing the envelope. 

He decided to open it when Adam left the room, knowing that the contents would be all over the studio within the hour if he let Adam read it. Adam was an incurable romantic, happily ensconced in a relationship himself. He couldn’t believe that Phil was still single and loved nothing better than trying to either set Phil up with various friends or find out the latest gossip on his admittedly non-existent love life. Phil was glad that Adam wasn’t one of the select few who knew about his failed relationship with Dan as it would have provided endless gossip for Adam and the secretaries on the ground floor who he loved to gossip with. 

“Well thanks Adam.” Phil placed the hamper on the floor next to him. 

“Aren’t you going to open it?” Adam shifted excitedly, obviously dying to know the contents of the envelope.

“I have to get this song mixed by the end of today as you well know. I’ll open it later.” 

“I’m disappointed mate! This could be the start of something big. You’ll have to tell me all the goss later.” 

Phil decided to ignore that statement, placing his headphones back on and replaying the song from the beginning again. 

He felt Adam clap him on the shoulder. 

“Don’t think you’re getting away with not telling me!” 

Phil waved him away, feeling slightly annoyed. Of all the people to potentially bring in the delivery Adam was the one person he wouldn’t have picked. He waited until he heard the door close, then pushed the headphones back onto his shoulders, spinning the chair around in a hurry. He took the slim white and gold envelope and opened it up to find a typed message inside. 

Phil, you are the sweetest person I know. You brighten up my life every day without even realising it. You are my sunshine on a cloudy day. I want to be with you now and for always”  

Phil was stunned. The message seemed to imply that it was someone he knew, not a fan as he had previously suspected. He presumed the flowers and chocolates were from the same person as it would be too much of a coincidence for him to get two Valentine’s presents on the same day from different people when there had been many years of absence of gifts before this. He ran through his various friends and acquaintances in his head, his hand tapping nervously on the controls in front of him, but no one immediately sprang to mind. Maybe it was a work colleague then? There were a few potential candidates in the company but he wasn’t close to any of them, preferring to spend his days either mixing the songs alone or hanging out with Dan as he recorded. His mind turned over and over, but ideas for a potential admirer remained elusive.  

Phil sighed and decided that he better return to the mixing, the deadline looming large in his mind. He pressed play again on the song and let it run through, letting Dan’s voice flood his mind. The familiar tones of regret and longing sent a pang tugging at his heart. As much as it was nice to have an admirer, he found himself secretly wishing that the emotion expressed so ardently in the song was directed towards him and not some likely random fling that Dan regretted giving up on. Oh how he wished things had turned out differently with him and Dan. 

As his thoughts gradually turned back to the music, he suddenly realised that the control he had idly been tapping on before had inserted a series of loud drum beats throughout the second half of the song. 

“Oh fuck!” Phil groaned, smacking his forehead and leaning back in his chair. “Fuck, why me.” 

This was going to cost him an extra hour of editing to tidy this up. He was going to have to stay late enough as it was tonight without having to tidy this mistake up as well. Even if he skipped lunch and dinner, he couldn’t see himself getting out before nearly midnight at this rate. He’d been hoping to get to Dan’s premiere showcase tonight of the initial few songs from the album that had already been completed. The show was a sell-out, everyone being keen to hear Dan’s new songs. The fact that it was on Valentine’s Day hadn’t dampened interest at all. Phil had hoped to be listening backstage like he had often done before but now it looked like he wasn’t going to even be able to make it. He felt his mood sink further. Sighing again he ripped open the packaging on the hamper and grabbed the nearest box of chocolates, deciding he might as well take advantage of his admirer’s generosity while he remixed the song. 

 

......

  

A couple of hours later as mid-afternoon rolled past, Phil was startled out of his concentration by the sudden crash of the door opening hard against the wall. He spun around to find Dan standing there holding the door open with his foot, clutching a large pizza box and 2 grande Starbucks cups which smelt suspiciously like caramel macchiatos. The smell intertwined with the pizza to make Phil realise he had forgotten to have lunch and he was currently starving. 

“Hey. I guessed you probably hadn’t had lunch yet - was I right?” 

“Oh that’s awesome, no I haven’t,” Phil said gratefully. 

He jumped up to take the pizza box from Dan and placed it carefully on the table behind the chair. He took a Starbucks cup off Dan and took a large swig of it, then opened the pizza box and grabbed a slice.  

“What’s that on the floor?” Dan was casually leaning back in the other swivel chair sipping from his cup whilst picking at the worn leather of the arm, pretending not to be too interested. His face was too blank. Phil knew every expression of Dan’s face, and he knew Dan was for some reason highly interested in Phil’s response from the way he was glancing up surreptitiously from under his eyelashes, whilst pretending to study the hamper at his feet.  

“Chocolate.”

“Another admirer? Wow Phil, you’re popular today.” 

“Jealous, Danny? You’ve probably got enough flowers to open your own florist by now. I presume you’ve had more since I left.”  

“They’re from nobody important.” Dan waved his hand dismissively and grabbed a slice of pizza. “Who is that from?” 

“No idea,” sighed Phil. “They didn’t leave a name. I’m presuming it’s from the same person that left the flowers this morning but I’ve been racking my brain all morning and I can’t think who it’s from.” 

“Hmmm,” Dan was silent for a minute. “You really don’t know?”

“Why, do you?” Phil asked suspiciously, looking up from his second slide of pizza. 

Dan said nothing for a minute, a strange pensive look inhabiting his face briefly, before his mouth twisted in a smirk. 

“Maybe it’s that hot guy Brad from PR.”

“What?! No! He must be no more than 16. He’s nearly half my age!”  

“He’s 22 and definitely on the lookout for a boyfriend.” 

“How do you know then? Not one of your latest conquests, is he?” Phil said pointedly, raising his eyebrows and wondering how Dan knew that. But of course Dan would know, the guy had probably tried to make an advance. He was a huge fan after all.  

Dan ignored that comment, twirling side to side on the swivel chair and tapping his chin thoughtfully with his spare hand that wasn’t holding a pizza slice.  

“Maybe it’s Gladys from reception. She’s always making heart eyes at you every time you walk in the building.” 

“No! She must be at least twice my age! Stop it.” 

Dan snickered as he finished off the pizza slice and stood up. 

“The rest is yours. I’ve got to go to sound check for the show tonight. Are you coming tonight?” 

Phil turned back to the panel in front of him and picked up his headphones, not looking Dan in the eye and grimacing slightly. He was worried about Dan’s reaction to the news that Phil wasn’t going to be there.

“Probably not sorry. I was going to, but this song needs to be mixed by tomorrow. I’ll be here until late.” 

“Ah. Ok. I was hoping you could hear the new songs live but I guess you’ve heard them lots. I’ll see you after the show then.” 

The door slammed. Dan didn’t even sound disappointed to Phil’s surprise. He usually pestered Phil until he gave in, preferring Phil to be backstage for support. Phi’s face dropped further, and he rubbed his eyes tiredly, trying not to be upset. He loved hearing Dan sing and he thought Dan relied on having him there. Maybe not, Phil thought gloomily. After all he had plenty of other support at the venue. Maybe Phil had been overcalling the situation. He sighed frustratedly, switched the song back on, and let Dan’s voice wash over him.

 

.....

 

Phil was having a break and nibbling at the last of the now cold pizza in the tea room when the next delivery came. Most people had left for the day and Phil was enjoying the peace and quiet. 

“Phil mate!”

Phil groaned internally. He could hear Adam all the way down the hall, obviously looking for him. He really didn’t want to have to listen to Adam’s gossip of the latest company stories. All he wanted was to relax and try and forget that Dan’s show was in a little more than an hour and that he would be missing it. 

“There you are! Mate have I got something for you!” 

Adam bounced into the tea room excitedly, holding an envelope and an expensive looking wrapped parcel, bright gold paper and tied with a black ribbon. 

“Gladys asked me to give these to you. They arrived a little while ago and she nearly forgot with closing up, she grabbed me as she was running out the door to her crocheting class and asked me to find you.” 

The pizza box was wrenched out of Phil’s grasp and the package and envelope landed in front of Phil’s stunned form, his hand still held out in front of him. 

“Well aren’t you going to open it?” Adam asked impatiently. 

Phil slowly lowered his hand and reached out to open the envelope first. It was addressed to him and looked like it had been hand delivered as it didn’t have an address on it. Out of the envelope fell a slip of paper and what looked like a ticket.  

Phil, I want to see you. Please come to Daniel Howell’s show tonight. I’ll meet you there. With all my love and hope.” 

The ticket was to a seat in one of the boxes at the show venue. Box 1, seat 2. Phil’s mouth dropped. He presumed his secret admirer had the other ticket as this venue normally had paired seat boxes. 

“What’s it say?” Adam was trying to see over the top of the note, his blonde fringe falling over his eyes as he strained to see.

Phil stuffed the ticket and the note back in the envelope and put them in the table. 

“Hey! You have to at least tell me what it said.” 

Phil ignored him and went to open the parcel. He ripped it open, throwing the paper and the ribbon messily on the floor. Inside was stylish sparkling gold and black jacket, the type one would wear to an award show or a movie premiere. It sparkled in the dull fluorescent light of the tea room like a myriad of golden stars on a dark moonless night. Another slip of paper spiralled to the floor and Adam swooped to grab it. 

You are my sun and moon and stars all wrapped together. Please wear this at the show tonight.” Adam read out the note, holding it out of Phil’s reach. 

“Wow, is this from the same person that sent you the chocolates? You’re set tonight!” 

Phil stood and grabbed the note, easily towering over Adam’s stocky form. He flung the jacket over the chair and paced up and down the tea room, the note crushed in his fist. 

Phil was slightly unnerved. Who was this person who obviously knew him well enough to know his favourite brand of chocolates? Who knew he liked Dan’s music? Who even probably knew that his jacket was wrecked from the coffee incident this morning and had sent him another one? He felt spied upon. This person was obviously someone close to him and all the choices he could think of were filling him with dread.

There was no one he interacted with in his close personal life regularly that he would want to have a relationship with. No one that had that spark of interest for him. No one that stood a chance of matching up to ..... Dan. Dan, with his annoying smirk, horrendous sleep habits and snarkiness before 10am. Dan with his beautiful smile, gorgeous face and softness that only Phil saw late at night. Dan, who Phil realised he still loved more than anything and would do anything to get back with. Dan, who did not want to get back with Phil and who was happily going to sing tonight without seeming to care whether Phil was there or not. 

The turmoil must have played out on Phil’s face as Adam stopped examining the jacket and halted him on the 5th lap of the tea room. He grabbed his sleeve, pulling him to an abrupt halt and forcibly pushed him down into the nearest seat. 

“What’s up? Anyone would think you didn’t want to have a secret Valentine’s admirer.” 

Adam’s face changed rapidly from a smirk to one of confusion as Phil said abruptly, “I don’t.” 

“What? Phil, what on earth are you talking about?” 

Sensing a juicy story Adam grabbed a chair and sat on it backwards, arms resting on the back of the chair, his full attention on Phil. 

Phil debated whether to make a run for it to try and avoid the inevitable gossip that would ensue behind his back for days afterward but decided finally that he was tired. Tired of hiding his feelings and trying to pretend he didn’t care. All he wanted was to pour out his heart to someone that would listen. Even if that meant paying the consequences of having to be waylaid by Gladys and her cronies at the front door tomorrow. 

He buried his head in his arms and said in a muffled voice, “I’m in love with someone else.” 

Half an hour later, having successfully avoided naming any names, he had poured out his heart to Adam. Adam, to his credit hadn’t tried to interrupt but instead had been more helpful and encouraging than Phil had ever thought he would be. He’d listened at the right times, asked questions without trying to sensationalise the story and provided encouragement when Phil had been vacillating between turning up out of curiosity versus ditching to hide in his apartment. 

“Mate you might as well turn up. At worst it will be incredibly awkward for a few days when you ditch them after the show. At best you might make a new friend. Or you might even find they’re a match for this dickhead that broke your heart.” 

“But I have to finish mixing the song....” 

“I’ll cover for you with the execs. They won’t care as long as it’s finished in the next couple days. Now get out of here. You’ll have missed the support act but that’ll be good because you’ll have time to chat to this person before Dan comes on. Then if it’s awful you won’t have to talk to them while Dan’s singing.” 

“But...” 

“You’re not getting out of it! Here, take this wreck of a jacket off and put on the other one”. 

Phil was manhandled out of the stained jacket and into the new sparkly one. It fit perfectly, making Phil freak out internally at how this person knew his exact size. Seeing the turmoil come back into his eyes, Adam grabbed Phil by the arm and marched him towards the door. He walked him down to the entrance to the building, hailed a cab and pushed him inside, giving the driver the address to the venue where Dan was playing. 

“Go get ‘em mate! And say good luck to Dan if you see him.” 

Adam slammed the door shut. The taxi drove off, and Phil collapsed back into the seat, still not sure he was doing the right thing. Sure it was nice to have an admirer, but really he couldn’t see a future with anyone at the moment. Not while he was still so hung up on Dan. He was half tempted to redirect the taxi back to the apartment but then remembered that he’d wanted to go to the show originally anyway. Even if Dan didn’t care whether he was there or not he could still listen to the new songs. After all they might need to be remixed slightly, especially now as he had a few days grace.

He flicked open his phone and idly scrolled through Dan’s tag, interested in what people were saying about the show tonight. 

“Dan Howell rumoured to be singing new love song tonight.” 

The article was from one of the trashy websites which hounded celebrities for snippets of gossip but then turned them into sensationalised stories far from the truth. The website claimed to have a scoop from one of the roadies at the venue who had heard the song at soundcheck earlier in the day. It was claiming that Dan was singing it to a new lover tonight and the rest of the article was speculation on who the lucky person might be. 

Phil felt a sick feeling in his stomach. Dan hadn’t mentioned any new dates lately, but he could have met someone new in the last couple weeks whilst Phil was buried in the editing studio. He shook his head abruptly. No that was ridiculous. Dan would have told him if he’d found someone new. The website was likely just making up stories to fill the void from their lack of real news. 

The cab arrived at the venue and Phil jumped out. He just had time to wish Dan good luck before the show. It would cut down time with his mystery date, but Phil didn’t really care. He was late enough as it was that a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. He ran into the venue and found the backstage area, texting Jen as he went to let him in. He was escorted to the dressing room, only to run straight into Dan coming out of the dressing room door, a stage hand ushering him in the direction of the stage. He was dressed all in black and he looked gorgeous enough to take Phil’s breath away. Black ripped jeans, jagged black designer shirt and a black stud in his ear. Phil thought he could see the smallest amount of eyeliner to complete the look.

“Phil! What are you doing here? I thought....” Dan seemed surprised to see him and paused, seemingly slightly perturbed, as he stopped what he’d been going to say. “I thought you weren’t coming?”  

“Just wanted to wish you good luck. It’s the first public outing of your new songs. I know everyone’s going to love them, but I hope it goes well Dan. I really do.” 

Dan’s face softened, and he stepped forward to draw Phil into a fierce hug. Phil tentatively put his arms around Dan’s waist and buried his head in Dan’s neck briefly, wishing with all his heart that things were different. The hug lingered a few seconds too long and they only broke apart when the stage hand cleared his throat, obviously wanting to hurry Dan along. 

“Thanks Phil. Nice jacket - it looks good on you.” 

Dan fingered the jacket, running his fingers up and down the lapels on both sides and finally gripping them tightly, his gaze rising from the gold threads in Phil’s jacket up to intently staring into Phil’s eyes. The universe seemed to pause as they continued to stare at each other. Dan only seemed to reluctantly tear his eyes away as the stage hand started hopping nervously from one foot to the other. 

“I have to go. See you later,” Dan hurriedly said, looking nervously at Phil and then at the stage entrance nearby. His final piercing glance at Phil was shot back over his shoulder as he ran up the stairs at the end of the hallway into the backstage waiting area. 

Phil stood waiting for a moment collecting his thoughts. He was tempted to just stay backstage and watch Dan from the wings as usual. However, a thought came to his mind of the mystery person potentially waiting for him and being disappointed at his no show. He decided reluctantly that he should make an appearance, even if it was just to say thankyou for the chocolates, flowers and jacket. Although with Phil being so late there was every chance the person may have given up and already left.

He made his way upstairs and found an usher, who led him further up the red velvet carpeted stairs. The noise of the crowd grew louder and more piercing the closer he got to the top. The support act had obviously finished as there was no music playing, yelling and screaming filling the auditorium. They walked past the closeted boxed seats to the end of the row and the usher stopped at the last door and opened it. Phil took a deep breath, not sure that he was ready to meet whoever was potentially inside, and looked through the door. He was somehow not surprised to find two red velvet covered chairs with gold braiding, both of which were empty. He felt a pang of disappointment, despite his misgivings. Had his admirer left already?  The usher made to leave but Phil stopped him with a cautious hand on his sleeve.

“Was there someone else here earlier? I was supposed to meet a friend here and I’m worried they might have already left. I’m a bit late.”

The usher thought for a minute.

“No, there hasn’t been anyone in this box tonight. Just you sir.”

“Oh. Ok. Thanks.”

The usher left, closing the door behind him. Phil slowly took his seat, confused. He was supposed to meet someone here. What had happened? Was the other person late or had he been stood up? Or were they coming later? He felt churlish for being slightly pleased that he was temporarily alone to enjoy Dan’s concert. Whoever had sent him the gifts was clearly enamoured and even if he wasn’t to meet them, he would have been pleased to at least know who was responsible.

The noise of the crowd rose to a roar as music flooded the stage. The band jogged on to take their various places. The screams then rose to deafening proportions as Dan finally took to the stage. He launched straight into the first single, which had been released a few weeks before. Phil settled back to watch, enjoying being able to see Dan from front on rather than from the back of the stage. Rather than supressing his feelings for once he decided to give full reign to the emotions swirling around in his chest, and he let himself be carried away to the sound of Dan’s voice.

The concert proceeded better than anyone in the company could have expected. Surely even Dan, the harshest critic of his own songs, would be happy with the response of the crowd who hung on every word and chord change. Phil watched closely, admiring the lithe form as he strode around the stage, amping up the crowd and making jokes between songs. He crouched down brushing the front row of hands, making several fans nearly faint with excitement. Phil smirked as Dan blew a kiss into the crowd, making the screaming nearly drown out the bridge of the song currently playing.

There had been no sign of the writer of the Valentine’s messages. The seat beside him had remained empty throughout the show, the door behind him remaining firmly closed. As the concert drew near the end, Phil decided that he had definitely been stood up. No matter, he’d had an awesome time, the acoustics from the box were incredible and the close up view of Dan from above had meant he’d been able to stare without the worry of being noticed by the subject himself.

Dan came to the end of what was meant to be the last song, and the crowd erupted into rapturous applause. As it died down slightly Dan grabbed the microphone and brought it to his lips, gesturing for silence.

“I’ve got a surprise for you all. Would you like to hear an extra song?”

Loud cheers burst from every direction.

“This is a song I wrote for someone. It’s no accident I’m singing it tonight for the first time. I wrote it as a Valentine’s present for someone. I should have told him this long before now, but I want him to know now how I really feel. Love, this is for you.”  

As the first few notes rang out, Phil suddenly decided he couldn’t stay any longer. The sick feeling and a tightness in his chest had reappeared and he felt like he couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. The gossip site was correct. Dan was singing a love song to someone. He didn’t think he could stay and hear the words, sung to someone that Dan had obviously fallen in love with. All he wanted was to get away and hide under his duvet back at the apartment. As the tears sprung to his eyes, he jumped up and took one last look at the stage.

To his surprise Dan was looking right up at the box, and staring at Phil. His knuckles were white, clenched around the microphone and he had a pleading look in his widened brown eyes. Dan’s eyes bored into his, and it almost looked as if he was willing Phil to stay. Phil gripped the edge of the box tightly. He didn’t want to hear Dan’s declaration of love to another on today of all days, but Dan was the only person he cared about. He wanted with all of his heart to support Dan no matter what. He would never forgive himself if he let Dan down when he needed him most. Taking a deep breath, he sat down again, leaning forward with his arms on the edge of the box and clasping the railing tightly. Dan looked grateful as he turned his attention back to the audience and started to sing.

 

I don’t want to say I love you

That would give away too much

It’s hip to be detached and precious

The only thing you feel is vicious

 

I don’t want to say ‘I want you’

Even though I want you so much

It’s wrapped up in conversation

It’s whispered in a hush

 

Though I’m frightened by the word

Think it’s time I made it heard

 

No more empty self-possession

Visions swept under the mat

It’s no New Year’s resolution

It’s more than that


The lyrics were so revealing and Phil was astounded because this was the first time Dan had ever poured his heart out like this. Phil had never heard a more beautiful song, and he loved all of Dan’s songs. More tears sprang to his eyes as the song continued and he wished with all his heart that Dan was writing it for him. Dan was totally in love with this person, whoever it was. By the end of the song, Phil was in awe and devastated all at once. It was the best song Dan had ever written. It was clear that Phil had no chance of ever getting back with Dan if he felt like this about his new love. As the song came to a close, he stood ready to leave and go hide with his laptop back at the apartment to potentially start looking for another apartment. He took one last glance at the black figure on the stage, determined that this would be the last time ever he watched Dan sing. It was too painful to keep coming and hearing Dan pour out his love to someone else like this.

Dan bowed his head and wiped a hand over his eyes furiously, the emotion of the song getting the better of him at last. Over the thunderous applause and screams he took a breath and raised the microphone again.

“Happy Valentine’s Day to my love in Box 1, seat 2. I love you so much.”

Dan raised his eyes again, looking uncertainly upwards whilst Phil nearly fell to the floor in shock, his mind reeling. His heart was pounding furiously, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the still form down below, obviously waiting for a response. He couldn’t believe what Dan had just said. Surely he’d misheard? But Dan was still looking up at him, chewing on his lip nervously as if he was worried about Phil’s reaction. After a few seconds whilst Phil was trying in vain to get his thoughts together, Dan flicked his eyes back to the audience temporarily and then down at the floor, scuffing one black boot against the floor whilst the audience clamour still raged around them. Phil had a sudden panicked thought that Dan still didn’t know how he felt. He obviously was trying to stay calm but knowing him as well as he did, Phil could tell he was under immense strain. His shoulders were stiff and his hand still gripped the microphone so tightly that it looked like he was using it as a lifeline. His bowed head gave Phil no opportunity to send Dan a response to the poignant and revealing lyrics he’d just heard. Phil couldn’t leave him in suspense any longer.

As Dan finally raised his head, waving his hand to the crowd and turning to leave the stage, he looked upwards for the final time his face a picture of stress and agony. Phil raised his hand and in a series of gestures sent a message back. ‘I love you too’. He raised a hesitant hand to his lips and blew a kiss downwards. Dan’s face changed in an instant, his face now overwhelmed with joy. He raised a hand to catch the kiss and ran off the stage. Phil realised now that half the audience had figured out that something was happening above their heads and were turned to look upwards at the box, pointing and yelling above the roar of the rest of the crowd. He felt his face turn a fiery red as he figured out that they must have seen the exchange and were wondering who the mysterious figure in the box was, that Dan had just poured his heart out in song to. He became conscious it was time to make an escape before they figured out where he was and tried to accost him.

Phil wrenched open the door and ran down the red corridor, and down the stairs. He put a quick call to Jen again to let him backstage and tore down the corridors, just managing to escape a group of fans crowded near the backstage entrance. Jen eyed him suspiciously as she opened the door and ushered him through.

“He’s in the dressing room, but you know he’ll need to go back on stage in a minute to do a final goodbye to the crowd.”

“Yes, I know. It’s ok, I’ll wait,” Phil managed to say as he tried to catch his breath.

He found the dressing room and opened the door cautiously. As expected, Dan wasn’t there. A huge surge in noise from the crowd told Phil that Dan was back on stage. He sat down on the large faded red sofa in the corner and settled in to wait, nervously flicking through his social media accounts but not taking anything in. He still couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. Dan had professed his love on stage in front of thousands of people. He still loved Phil after all these years. Flashes of half hidden memories rose to the top of his mind, now put into context by the song he’d just heard. Small touches, furtive intense looks and off-hand comments which Phil had not put any meaning behind, but which now rose into significance. He wondered that he hadn’t realised before that Dan had been planning something.

As his thoughts twisted round, he heard footsteps along the hall, and he rose uncertainly to his feet and put his phone in his back pocket. The door burst open and Dan strode into the room, slamming the door closed again with his foot. He drew in a large breath as he saw Phil waiting for him and walked slowly towards where Phil was standing. He stopped a few inches from Phil and raised his hands to start playing with lapels on Phil’s jacket again, not meeting Phil’s eyes. Phil put a shaking hand to Dan’s chin and lifted it up so that he could look into the shadowed eyes before him.

“Dan. I don’t know what to say. That was beautiful. It’s the best song I’ve ever heard you write.”  

“I meant it. I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long. But I didn’t know how. So I thought I’d write it in a song instead.”  

“I love it so much. How long….?” Phil paused, uncertain of how to phrase the question but Dan knew immediately what he was trying to ask.

“Ages. I regretted breaking up with you almost immediately, but I was too stubborn to admit it. I thought I could forget you and it was easier to just be friends and not admit how much of a dick I was to you and how much I still loved you.”

“You sent those gifts? The messages were so sweet. I couldn’t think who they were from.”

Dan’s cheeks went slightly pink.

“Couldn’t you? I was sure I was being so obvious with my feelings lately but maybe I’m too good at hiding them.”

“Way too good,” Phil agreed. “I had no idea. I thought you never wanted to get back together, and I was miserable as I realised you were the only one I wanted to be with, ever.”  

Dan’s eyes searched Phil’s face, as if he was trying to rememorise every feature before him. He pulled Phil closer to him, his arms enfolding Phil in a tight embrace and his head lowered slowly towards Phil’s. Phil’s hand slipped to caress Dan’s cheek. Their lips were almost touching as Dan said softly, “Do you think we could try again? Please?”

Phil’s answer was to curl his hands around the back of Dan’s head and pull him into a scorching kiss. All the past years of pent up frustration, agony and heartbreak were poured into the kiss. As the kiss drew out and Phil became breathless, he tore his lips from Dan’s and looked back into Dan’s eyes, seeing a wealth of love and desire that he had been wanting to see for so long.

“Yes. A thousand times yes. I love you so much and I’ve been wanting to get back together every day for the last four years.”

Dan smiled one of his brilliant wide smiles that had Phil feeling lightheaded all over again. He pulled Phil in for another kiss, shorter this time, then pulled away slightly.

“Happy Valentine’s day love. I’m not scared to say I love you anymore and I would be so happy if you were mine forever.”

“That’s not a proposal is it?” Phil asked faintly, suddenly overwhelmed with all he was feeling currently.

Dan thought for a minute. “No, not yet. But some day it will be. I don’t want anyone else but you. I’m going to say ‘I love you’ every day from now on to prove it.”

“You don’t have to say ‘I love you’ every day. I’ll just have to play your song and I’ll know.”

Phil pulled Dan back closer into his arms, but Dan shifted away to say, “C’mon let’s go home, I want to have a proper Valentine’s Day celebration with you.”  

“What does that mean?”

“Wait and find out,” Dan smirked and grabbed Phil’s hand to lead him out the door. “Let’s go home.”