Dan grabs his hand as they’re walking out of LAX and the timer in the back of Phil’s head starts ticking down. He gives it a full minute, this time.
The doors slide open and they walk out into the bright California sun. It’s warm, warmer than London, definitely warmer than the chilly plane. People flood past them and don’t look at them twice. It's early afternoon, a time when most people are on their lunch breaks and probably don’t have to linger while they pick up their people from the airport.
Dan’s hand is getting sweaty, and Phil’s trying to tick down the mental list of where all their things are. They’d packed relatively light, outside of VidCon they’d only planned to stay a day or two extra. There’s a car that’s either waiting for them in the special celebrity pick up lane, or on the way. It’ll be something nice, VidCon always spends way more money than either of them are comfortable with, even now. It’ll still be hilarious that they merit a special celebrity pick up anything.
About a minute and a half passes and Dan squeezes his hand once and Phil lets go. He’s still thinking about logistics, whether or not they’ll have time to get coffee with Cat like she keeps asking but he takes a second to glance at Dan, catches the nervous, apologetic grimace he’s making.
Phil doesn’t say anything, this time, because there’s nothing they haven’t already talked about. He just wraps his hand around the strap of his bag and squints into the day, looking for the license plate number they’d been sent.
When Dan’s feeling something, anything really, he sort of...vibrates with it. It's sort of preferable, because the other option is when he’s feeling a lot but shutting down, falling into a dark quiet that Phil never ever misses when it's gone.
But it means that he’s looking at the schedule for VidCon, idly wondering what kind of breakfast the hotel would provide, and Dan is fidgeting, pretending to be quiet but refusing to broach the topic.
The car they’re in is nice, an SUV, big like everything in America and the music is loud enough.
Phil quietly says, “Use your feeling words?”
“Fuck off,” Dan says, rolling his eyes.
Phil doesn’t respond, just watches Dan’s knee bouncing until Dan finally sighs.
“It’s been ten years,” Dan says.
“Nine and a half,” Phil says, because Dan always rounds up and Phil really won’t ever let him forget the six months before they actually started dating Dan spent “finding himself” in any person that would look at him with fleeting interest.
“We hold hands all the time,” Dan says and Phil waits for the point.
They hang out with new couples sometimes. People have told Phil that they don’t get his and Dan’s relationship, that sometimes it seems like they don’t like each other all the time. Phil doesn’t have the words to tell them that sometimes, Dan needs a brick wall to run up against until he’s exhausted himself.
“Things don’t have to change,” Phil says. “That was always the plan.”
That was Phil’s plan, anyway. Dan would tell people, or he wouldn’t, and either way it would be fine. Dan’s plan is a little more detailed, color coded in various shades of grey. Phil’s heard every iteration and still thinks that maybe his own plan is still more effective.
“I want to hold your hand in public,” Dan says firmly, and a touch too loud. Phil glances at the driver, who’s humming along to the music, not too loud, just enough to make it harder for him to hear a half-muttered conversation happening in his back seat. Experienced, then.
Phil holds his hand out and Dan gives him an annoyed look, but still takes it, intertwining their fingers and tucking his thumb between their palms like a fucking weirdo.
“Nothing has to change,” Phil says again, “And we can go slow, Dan.”
Dan’s mouth flattens into a tight line and Phil knows he’s thinking about the panels, about all the times he’s going to have a choice about what it means to keep their private life private.
They’ve spent a decade being private, being the kind of private that means biting their tongues and checking that the space between them is appropriate.
And now, Dan’s gotten a taste of what it means to let the whole world know who he is, who they are and he’s been glowing all month. In the privacy of the internet, and their own home and, here and there, their city.
But now they’re pulling up to a hotel that’s got young people looking conspicuously inconspicuous and there’s no way none of them are here for them and Dan has to make the decision over and over again.
The problem with Phil’s plan--that Dan will tell the world, and Phil will say yes, me too and the words will fall where they fall--is that it depends on Dan’s choice.
That’s how they work. Phil keeps them going, keeps their business and their house running, and Dan makes the splashy moves, the dreams and the big ideas that he needs Phil to make work.
“This is your stop, gentleman,” The driver says and glances at them in the rear view mirror. His eyes are big and brown and there are little wrinkles around them. Smile lines. “Congrats, by the way, on the video. My husband loved it.”
That hits Phil in the gut in a way he didn’t expect. They’ve been prepared for their fanbase. They’d even prepared for it going past their people out into the small galaxy of the internet in general. He hadn’t really been prepared for nice older men and their husbands to give a damn about what he and Dan are or what they do.
“Thank you,” Phil says to the driver and to Dan says, “Stay there.”
Dan probably protests, but Phil’s long practiced in ignoring Dan for his own good. He opens his door and slides out, hustling around the back of the SUV. A small group of teenagers with brightly colored hair look up, their practiced casualness melting like ice in the LA sun, but Phil ignores him to open Dan’s door.
“What are you doing?” Dan asks, there’s nerves in the way he glances out of the door but when his eyes fall on Phil’s outstretched hand, his face smooths out into understanding and a little amusement.
“They’re going to decide I’m the girl,” Dan says, but he still takes Phil’s hand, lets Phil help him out of the car and holds it for a few seconds longer before Phil lets go, but doesn’t step away.
“We’re both boys, Dan,” Phil says in a low voice, pulling on a smile for the girls walking their way, “That’s the whole point.”