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into the afterglow

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Dan smells like coffee when he slips back into bed. Phil doesn’t know what time it is, but he reckons it's late enough that he should’ve gotten up by now, especially since Dan’s already had time to work his opening shift and come back home. Phil doesn’t feel all that guilty about it. He closed the store last night, and besides, Dan’s mostly naked and his body slots up against the back of Phil’s so perfectly.

And it’s not like Phil’s got anything better to do, so he sighs contentedly when Dan kisses the back of his neck and whispers, “Good morning and goodnight.”

-

He dreams a nice dream of Dan. It’s hazy and golden and involves Dan’s hands on him. He drifts back to consciousness slowly, so that he’s not sure where the dream ends and real life begins. He’s warm and he can still smell coffee and Dan’s cologne.

Phil felt good in the dream and he feels good now, and he’s not ready to say goodbye to that, so he finds Dan’s hand and pushes it down between his legs and even in sleep Dan reacts by cupping around Phil and enveloping him in gentle pressure and soothing warmth.

“That’s nicer than an alarm,” Dan says in a raspy voice and Phil realizes he’s not actually asleep.

And that he feels good too. Phil can feel the evidence poking him in the bum right through his boxers.

“I had a dream about you,” Phil says.

“And now you’re hard,” Dan replies, slipping his hand inside Phil’s pants.

Phil closes his eyes. It still kind of feels like a dream. “So are you.”

“Is that alright?”

Phil smiles, and loves him for asking, because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s just not something he wants.

But right now, he does. “It’s good,” he says.

“Tell me about your dream?”

Phil reaches back just to put his hand on Dan’s hip. “It was more of a… vibe. Like, a suggestion of sexiness. You know when dreams are kinda foggy but you somehow still have an image in your head?”

Dan laughs gently, his hand cradling Phil’s balls. Maybe it should feel silly but it actually feels really nice.

“I guess that doesn’t make sense,” Phil says. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

“S’okay, I get it.”

“Yeah?”

Dan nods.

“I never had sexy dreams until I met you.”

“That’s because I am a sexy dream.”

Phil laughs a little puff of air. “You’re an idiot. But you’re not wrong.”

“So what was the image in your head?” Dan asks.

“Just you. Your hands touching me. Nothing fancy.”

“Kind of like they are right now?” Dan murmurs. He presses a kiss to the back of Phil’s shoulder.

Phil nods. “You’re a dream come true.” He’s still groggy enough not to feel embarrassed for being cheesy.

“I was dreaming I was at work and we’d run out of espresso beans but we didn’t close the shop so everyone who came in was super cross and this middle aged lady threw a biscotti at my face,” Dan says. “So you’re even better than a dream come true. Cinderella was dead ass wrong about dreams being wishes your heart makes, or whatever.”

“I think you spend too much time at work,” Phil says. “And you talk too much. You’re killing the mood.”

Dan laughs, takes his hand out of Phil’s pants and then pulls them down. Then he pulls down his own, and there’s no barrier between all that warmth and softness and hardness. He strokes his palm down the front of Phil’s naked thigh and asks, “Better?”

“Mm.”

Dan shifts his body a little then, and Phil freezes. They both do, because suddenly Dan’s dick is resting right between Phil’s ass cheeks.

“Sorry,” Dan mutters, but he doesn’t actually move.

He’s very hard. Phil can feel it. And suddenly he feels a stab of guilt for how long they’ve been together without Phil even really thinking about doing… that. Even just having Dan resting against his crack like this makes him feel nervous.

Makes him remember things.

“Dan.”

“Yeah?” Dan sounds nervous, too. “Should I move?”

Phil doesn’t answer. “Do you…”

Dan waits a while, but Phil doesn’t speak again. “Do I what?”

And then he cops out. “Do you wanna go out for lunch? I’m starving.”

-

“What’s wrong with you?”

Phil frowns at Jimmy from the other side of the little booth they’re sat in. “Nothing, you dick.”

Jimmy takes a drink from his beer before he speaks again. “You seem far away.”

“I’m right here.”

He’s lying, and of course Jimmy knows, but Phil doesn’t feel quite ready to express the jumbled up mess of insecurities and anxieties writhing around in his brain into words just yet. He’s physically present with Jimmy in this booth in this pub, but his head is a million miles away.

“You’re not, at all.” He tilts his head and looks at Phil consideringly.

“I’m just… thinking.”

“About?”

“Stuff,” Phil says, looking down at his half eaten plate of chips.

“Is this how it’s gonna be now?” Jimmy asks quietly, and Phil’s gaze shoots back up at the sadness in his tone.

“What?”

“Are we gonna be, like, the kind of mates who aren’t really mates anymore, but acquaintances who feel obligated to keep trying because we used to be close?”

Phil’s heart hurts even just hearing the words. “Fuck no.”

The cursing must help, because Jimmy smiles a little.

“Don’t even say that, Jim.”

“Then talk to me. Since when do you not tell me things that are bothering you?”

“Um… since forever?”

Jimmy’s mouth drops open in surprised indignation. “You cunt.”

Phil laughs. “Look, it’s not really a big deal, probably.”

“Probably,” Jimmy echoes. “You sound so certain, Lester.”

Phil shrugs.

“We don’t live in each other’s space anymore, Phil. If we don’t put in, like, real effort, we’ll drift eventually. And I don’t want that, do you? I mean already we sometimes go weeks without meeting up.”

“I don’t want that,” Phil agrees quickly.

“So tell me what’s up.”

Phil sighs. “My butt is frigid.”

Jimmy blinks. “Excuse me.”

“I don’t know why I said it like that. That’s weird.”

“Well, you’re weird, so it fits. But what the actual fuck are you on about?”

“How long were you and Tom together before you slept together? Like proper…” He looks around to make sure no one is eavesdropping. “Anal?” he whispers.

Jimmy frowns. “I dunno, like, a few weeks? Why?”

Phil just looks at him.

“Surely you and Dan have fucked,” Jimmy says bluntly. “I’ve heard things.”

Phil wants to crawl into a hole and die for how awkward he feels. “Yeah, but only, like, me. On top. Topping.”

Jimmy picks up a chip. “So?”

“So… Don’t you think that’s, like, bad boyfriend etiquette or something? It’s been almost a year.”

“You’re asking someone who never bottoms if they think you’re a bad boyfriend for not wanting to bottom.”

Phil winces. “Sorry. No, I… bad wording. Sorry.”

“Fine. Forgiven. But obviously the answer is no, Phil. And I know for a bloody fact Dan would say the same thing, so…”

“Yeah, but… I know he wants to. And I want to try. It’s not that I don’t. I’m just… scared.”

“You have before, yeah?” Jimmy asks.

“Yeah. Loads of times.”

“But it wasn’t good.”

“No,” Phil says quietly, looking down at his food. “Definitely not good.”

He hasn’t told Jimmy as much about those experiences as he’s told Dan, but Jimmy was there back then. He knew how miserable Phil was. He saw how Phil would cry every time he tried - and failed - to conquer what he thought at the time was just some kind of extreme late-bloomerism.

Now he knows he’s just a rare bloomer, and he’s accepted it. He likes it. He blooms for Dan.

Except when he doesn’t. And that’s the part that’s starting to gnaw at him.

“That’s… That sucks, Phil.”

“I know.”

“Have you talked to Dan about it?”

Phil shakes his head. “Not lately. He knows my history with it. He says he’s not bothered just doing what we do now. It just… I dunno. It feels bad. I love him.”

Jimmy chuckles. “I’m aware.”

“Shut up.” Phil kicks him lightly under the table. “You wanted me to talk, so now you have to listen.”

“Okay, okay, you’re right.”

“I want to do it. I wanna do everything with him. I’ve never wanted anyone like that before.”

Jimmy looks down, clearly affected by that last statement, and Phil wants to punch himself.

“Um, I mean… you know—”

“It’s fine, Phil. I know.”

Phil doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. A part of him wants to go back in time, go back to nights snuggled up in bed in the room that used to be Jimmy’s.

But he can’t. That room isn’t Jimmy’s room anymore, and they’re not the people they were then. They have to navigate this new normal now, the one where they’re in love with other people and at peace with the fact that they missed their shot.

And they are. They are at peace with it. But sometimes it still hurts to be reminded.

“I don’t want old traumas coming in between me and him. I don’t want to think of pain and sadness when we’re together.”

Jimmy nods. “That makes a lot of sense to me.”

Phil sighs. “Can you just… tell me to stop being an idiot? Tell me to get over myself.”

“Absolutely not.” His tone is firm. “And don’t you be saying that to yourself, either. I’m serious.”

Phil shrugs.

“Mate, I’m not fucking around. If you don’t want to do something, you don’t do it, yeah?” The dim light of the bar does no justice to his aquamarine eyes, but Phil can still see the ferocity behind them as he stares Phil down. He means what he’s saying.

Phil can’t look away, but he also can’t think of an appropriate response.

“You’re not an idiot, Phil. And Dan loves you, frigid butt and all.”

Phil breathes out a long breath and laughs. “Yeah, alright. Alright. But, like… what do I do? What do I do if it is what I want?”

Jimmy takes a drink from his pint. “Get really drunk and give it a go?”

Phil snorts.

“But, seriously. Share a bottle of wine and just… try. Do you let him finger you?”

“Sh!” Phil hisses, looking around to make sure no one heard. “God, James.”

“Simple question.”

Phil glares at him, arms crossed. They stare each other down for a while before he finally mutters, “No.”

“So start with that, then.”

“Does Tom finger you?” Phil asks, equally as bluntly as Jimmy had.

“No.” He is maddeningly unphased. “I don’t fancy things up my bum.”

“Have you tried?”

Jimmy narrows his eyes. “Is this about me now?”

“I’m not judging you. I’m just curious. I don’t know if I didn’t like it because I just didn’t, or because it wasn’t the right person. I didn’t like anything with other people and I like everything I’ve done with Dan.”

“So what’s to be scared of?” Jimmy asks. “What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t like it and you never do it again?”

Phil shrugs. “It feels more complicated than that.”

“Have you talked to your therapist about it?”

“Yeah.”

Jimmy looks at him expectantly.

“Talking is different than doing. And even talking about it makes me nervous.”

Jimmy stands up at that and walks over to Phil’s side of the booth. “Shove over.”

Phil shuffles to the side and Jimmy plops down next to him, draping his arm over Phil’s shoulders. “You know what you should do?”

Phil puts his head on Jimmy’s shoulder. “What?”

“Talk to Dan.”

-

Talk to Dan.

Something that’s usually so incredibly simple. Something he wants to do at pretty much any given moment on any given day, yet for this one topic, he seems utterly incapable of doing.

And he does try. He tries when he gets home that night. He tries the next morning. Days pass and he’s still thinking about it, still has the thoughts in his head but no words on his tongue.

It makes him feel broken again, something he hasn’t felt in a while. It reminds him that as much as he wants to believe he can be normal for Dan, the truth is he isn’t. He isn’t normal. And maybe he never will be.

He’s doing that thing he’s not supposed to do, letting himself spiral and catastrophize. Only it doesn’t feel like that. It just feels like the truth, like being a realist. And isn’t it better to see the truth for what it is? Instead of pretending?

When they get into bed at the end of the day, Phil shrinks away from the feeling of Dan’s skin on his. He shuffles to the very edge of the bed and tries hard not to cry when Dan says goodnight in a small voice and rolls over.

-

The moment Dan wakes up, Phil blurts out, “I want you to top me.”

He’s been awake all night. Thinking. Stewing.

Resolving not to let himself believe the lie that Dan would love him any less based on something as ultimately inconsequential as whose dick goes where.

“What?” Dan croaks, propping himself up on his pillow and rubbing his eyes.

Valid question, really.

“Don’t you want to?” Phil asks.

“Phil, what are you—”

“Can we skip the part where you’re confused about why I’m being weird and go straight to talking about it? Because I’ve been losing sleep for a week and I’m probably approaching a proper nervous breakdown and—”

“You’re losing sleep about… that?”

Phil’s mouth snaps shut. He nods.

“Why?” Dan frowns. “Did I say something?”

“No. I’ve just been thinking about it.” He pauses. “I feel like it’s holding me back from something.”

“From what?”

“I don’t know. Healing properly? Closure? Being a good boyfriend?”

“Phil.”

“It’s kind of like this dark cloud that’s been lurking over my head I guess. But suddenly it’s a lot closer and a lot darker.”

“I don’t really wanna have sex with you when you describe it as a dark cloud.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah,” Dan says, sitting up. “I do. But it still doesn’t feel like a good reason. None of them do.”

“Dan.”

Dan shakes his head and stands up out of bed, bending down to pick up the shirt he’d dropped on the floor last night. “I want everything with you, Phil, to answer your question. Yeah, I want to. Someday, when you also want to, and not because you need to prove something to yourself, or to me, but because you want to. Because you want me.”

“I always want you,” Phil says quietly. He already feels defeated.

Dan turns back to look at him. “You literally cringed when I got in bed last night, Phil.”

“I’m just letting myself get too deep into my head. You know that sometimes it’s… it’s…”

Dan’s face softens and he sits on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry.”

“I always want you, even when it feels like I can’t let myself be touched. It doesn’t change anything.”

“I know,” Dan says quietly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I hurt your feelings last night.”

Dan looks at him helplessly. “I wasn’t expecting it. Sometimes it just catches me off guard.”

“It does for me too,” Phil says. “There’s no more warning for me than there is for you.”

“I know, Phil.”

“I want to replace the bad memories with good ones. Can that be a good enough reason?”

Dan lays himself down again next to Phil, and this time Phil doesn’t move away when Dan reaches for him.

“I don’t want to be a bad memory someday,” Dan says.

Phil kisses him. He kisses him until Dan kisses back and then he keeps kissing him long after that. They keep kissing until Phil has almost forgotten what they’d been talking about and Dan is on top of him. Phil takes Dan’s hand and presses it where he’s hard between his legs.

“No one else does this to me. No one ever has. Dan memories aren’t like any other memories, and they never will be.”

Dan slips his hand inside Phil’s pajamas. “I don’t care if we never do it like that, you know that, yeah?”

“I want to try.”

Dan presses his face to Phil’s neck. “I can’t handle it if I upset you.”

Phil hooks an arm around the back of Dan’s neck. “You won’t. I’ll tell you to stop if I need to.”

“You better,” he murmurs, and kisses Phil’s ear. He tries to roll off of Phil then, but Phil doesn’t let him.

“Where are you going?”

He lets Dan pull back enough so they can look at each other. “I’m getting up.”

“I thought we were gonna do this?”

“Now?” Anxiety is threaded into Dan’s face, his voice pitched up with it.

“We’re both hard already,” Phil says. “Why wait?”

Dan reaches up and pulls Phil’s arm from around his neck. “I could give you at least ten reasons just off the top of my head.”

“I’ll settle for one good one.”

“We need showers,” Dan says.

“Oh.”

“We need condoms.”

“We don’t need—”

“We do,” Dan says firmly.

“You know, most blokes are usually kind of eager for this type of thing. They don’t try to argue their way out of sex.” He says it playfully, but clearly it doesn’t land that way for Dan.

“Exactly, Phil. You’ve slept with enough douchebags. I’m not gonna be another one.” He climbs off of Phil’s lap and heads out of the room.

-

Dan’s still in the bathroom when Phil gets up and dressed and makes his way down the hall to the kitchen. There are rocks in his stomach, but he puts the kettle on for coffee and raids the fridge for ingredients to make Dan a smoothie. He pulls out almond milk and spinach and closes the door and is reminded of the photo he’d stuck there last week.

It’s one of the best ones he’s taken in recent memory, at least in his humble opinion. Not because it’s technically good, but because it makes him smile every time he sees it - even when he’s got rocks in his stomach.

Actually, in pure photographic terms it’s actually bad. It’s blurry and off centre, but something about that just makes Phil love it even more. It’s blurry and off centre because he hadn’t been looking through the viewfinder when he took it. He’d been looking at Dan, falling a little deeper in love with the smile that was dimpling his cheek and the rosey blush Phil put there with a particularly stupid joke. He just wanted to keep that moment in time forever, and now he can. He’ll always have this reminder of what they give to each other: smiles, stupid jokes, the feeling that life doesn’t end at your lowest moments.

Maybe he’s feeling a little dramatic at the moment, but something about Dan’s face in this photo makes it so clear to him just how fucking glad he is that they both pushed through their own rock bottoms to find each other.

Suddenly Dan is behind him, chin dug into Phil’s shoulder. He smells like Phil’s lemon body wash.

“You had a shower,” Phil says.

Dan wraps his arms around Phil’s waist. “I love you.”

“I know,” Phil says softly.

“I wanna do it, you know I do. It just scares me.”

“I know. It scares me too. But I want to do it. Everything we’ve done has scared me at first.”

Dan nods against Phil’s shoulder.

“It’s not a big deal, right?” Phil says, pushing his bum back against Dan’s hips. “Just boyfriends making love.”

“Don’t say making love.”

“Making love,” Phil says, taking care to be extra obnoxious.

Dan slips his hand up the front of Phil’s shirt and lays his palm flat against Phil’s stomach. “Shut up, I hate you.”

“You just said like literally one minute ago that you love me.”

“I can do both,” Dan says, biting Phil’s shoulder. “I contain multitudes, or whatever.”

Phil chuckles. “You’re a genius, you are.”

“A hungry genius.”

“Well release me and I’ll make you breakfast.”

Dan bites him again before relinquishing his grip. “Pancakes? Bacon? Bacon pancakes?”

“Smoothie,” Phil counters. “Green.”

Dan scowls. “Stop taking my self care so seriously.”

“It’s not really self care if I’m doing it for you.”

-

Dan goes out to the shops to get his requisite exercise for the day, and, Phil hopes, to buy condoms. Phil stays in. He does the washing up and waters the plants and throws their bedsheets into the wash.

Then he has a shower. A thorough one.

He doesn’t know if it’s going to happen today. He’s okay if it doesn’t. But if it does, he wants to be ready.

-

The sheets are washed and dried and put back on the bed by the time Dan comes home. He’s rosy cheeked from the walk in the briskness of autumn in London, and he’s got an oil-stained brown paper bag full of donuts that he hands to Phil, along with a kiss.

The nostalgia sweeps over him like a wave of warmth. They eat donuts on the sofa and play Mario Kart, pausing the game every ten minutes to kiss like teenagers. Phil doesn’t think he’s imagining the giddy kind of nervous energy Dan is exuding. It matches Phil’s own.

It might not happen today, but it’s going to happen.

-

He’s a bundle of nerves by the time he takes off his clothes and gets into bed. He watches Dan undress down to his pants before he turns off the light and joins Phil between the sheets.

“Did you buy condoms?” Phil blurts.

“Phil…”

“I’m just asking, that’s all.”

Dan sighs. “I did.”

“Okay. Thanks.” He rolls onto his back and stares into the darkness of their bedroom and tries to remember the last time a silence they shared felt so excruciatingly awkward.

“Phil?”

“Yeah?”

There is the sound of skin shuffling against the sheets and then Dan is climbing onto Phil’s lap. He sits on Phil’s thighs and leans forward until he’s bracketing his weight on his arms at either side of Phil’s head. “You need to chill a bit.”

“I know.”

“There’s no rush. We have the rest of our lives.”

Phil grins. His eyes have adjusted enough that he can see Dan’s silhouette. “Are you proposing to me right now?”

“Yes. I’m proposing that you kiss me right now and let whatever your body wants to happen, happen.”

“My body is an idiot,” Phil argues. “It betrayed me my whole life.”

“It did not. Your body is wonderful. It’s my favourite body.” He runs his hand down Phil’s chest, past his stomach and inside his underwear. “I won’t have you speaking ill of it.”

Said body responds instantly to Dan’s touch. Phil tilts his head up and catches Dan’s mouth with his. Maybe he doesn’t need to speak at all.

They kiss and Dan strokes until Phil is fully hard, and Dan pulls him out of his boxers. “See?” Dan says. “Nothing wrong with this body.”

Phil reaches down to touch Dan back, and smiles when he feels that Dan is hard too. “My body likes you.” He pulls Dan’s pants down enough that his cock bobs free. “A lot.”

“What do you want?” Dan says right next to Phil’s ear. He pushes his hips forward a little so they rub together between their legs.

He’ll give Dan credit for one thing. He doesn’t feel nervous anymore. Now he’s just horny. “More of that.”

Dan lies down on him properly and kisses him and they move their bodies together and against each other. Phil loses track of time like he always does when they’re like this. Dan’s lips on his feel warm and soft and Dan keeps grinding against him just right. He’ll never finish like this but it doesn’t matter to him. He could do it forever, or maybe until the friction started to burn.

Dan kisses Phil’s neck and asks next to his ear. “Do you want me to fuck you?”

Phil’s heart explodes against his already heaving chest. He digs his nails into the fleshy bits at Dan’s waist. “No,” he says, disappointed in himself, but grateful that he’s with someone he trusts enough that he can say it to. “I want to fuck you.”

Dan reaches a long arm over and into the bedside table to pull out the lube. He uncaps it and empties some out into his hand with a kind of practiced ease that makes Phil’s stomach flip. Then he puts some in Phil’s hand and Phil strokes Dan slick while Dan reaches back to ready himself and before Phil knows it Dan is slowly sinking down on him.

It feels incredible and Phil feels like a selfish bastard, until Dan starts riding. After that there’s not much room for anything but the base carnal feelings he still hasn’t quite experienced enough to be completely comfortable with. Sex with Dan brings a loss of control that in any other context would be utterly terrifying.

In a way it still is, but he holds Dan’s hips and lets the pleasure take him, because there’s no one else in the world he has ever trusted or will ever trust enough to lead him down this road.

Dan holds Phil afterwards, as he always does. They both have tacky skin and Phil thinks as he slowly drifts to sleep in Dan’s arms that he wants to give this feeling to Dan. Even if it’s only once.

-

Dan is already sat up in bed when Phil wakes the next morning, his journal resting against his pulled up legs. He’s lost somewhere in the words he’s putting on the page. Phil watches him for a while, until Dan turns his head and notices that Phil’s woken up.

He smiles and shuts the notebook, putting it and his pen on the nightstand. “Morning.” He settles himself back down under the duvet and lies on his side facing Phil.

“Did you sleep?” Phil asks.

“A bit.”

“Dreams?” He nods in the direction of the journal.

Dan shakes his head. “Just thoughts.”

“I’m sorry about last night.”

“Yeah, I really hate it when you make me come.”

Phil frowns. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, and I'm ignoring it because it’s stupid.”

Phil just lies there with his cheek pressing into the pillow and looks into Dan’s eyes. Dan looks back, but eventually he loses the unspoken staring contest.

“Don’t forget to blink,” Dan says, rolling onto his back and digging the heels of his palms against his eyelids.

Phil shuffles in closer and kisses his neck instead. Dan ignores it, so Phil does it again, this time letting it linger a little longer.

“You don’t have to do that, Phil.”

“I know.” He kisses up to Dan’s ear and bites the lobe around the little gold triangle there. “I want to.”

Dan rolls his eyes. Phil kisses his mouth.

“You have morning breath,” Dan informs him.

“So do you.” He licks the tip of his tongue into Dan’s mouth and doesn’t miss the way Dan’s body responds.

“Sometimes it’s genuinely annoying how into you I am,” Dan grumbles, but he pushes at Phil’s shoulder and rolls right on top of him.

Phil doesn’t answer, but he does spread his legs for Dan to fit between and reach a hand inside Dan’s pants. Then he says, “Just kiss me, idiot.”

They kiss. They kiss in a way that leaves no room for doubt that it’s leading to something. Phil’s just not exactly sure what yet. They kiss and touch and take each other’s pants off and Phil’s legs are wrapped around Dan’s waist and Dan is… well, he’s kind of thrusting, rolling his hips into Phil’s crotch.

And it feels good, just like it had last night.

And it's really only one more step for them to do the thing Phil’s had on his mind for so long now. He takes Dan’s hand and pushes it down, but Dan is either stubborn or oblivious, because all he does is rub Phil’s cock a few times before pulling his hand away again.

Phil takes a moment to think while Dan peppers his shoulder with little kisses. If he wants to do this, he knows Dan will demand nothing less than absolute certainty.

Does he want to do this? His heart is pounding, but it always is when he and Dan are touching each other. He’s nervous, but he’s not sure that’s really the same as being afraid.

He knows Dan wouldn’t want him to do anything that still made him feel afraid. But surely being nervous is alright?

Phil tilts his hips up suddenly and Dan’s body stops rocking when the position change means he’s nestled between Phil’s cheeks.

“Phil.”

“Dan.”

Dan drops his forehead down onto Phil’s shoulder. “Do you actually want this?”

Phil swallows hard and nods. “I wanna try.”

Dan makes a little pained grunting noise.

“What?”

“It’s a lot harder to argue with you when I’m already pressed against your ass.”

Phil snorts. “Then don’t argue.”

“Are you scared?” Dan asks.

“Not really.”

Dan raises his eyebrows.

“I mean, I’m nervous,” Phil admits. “It’s something new for us.”

Dan kisses his neck, then rolls his hips. Phil breathes in quick and sharp.

“Was that a good gasp or a bad one?” Dan asks.

“Good, I think.”

“You think.”

“Curious,” Phil says. “Excited. Anxious. Nervous.”

Dan bites Phil’s neck. Phil twists to the side and stretches out to get the lube where they’d tossed it onto the floor last night.

He pushes it into Dan’s hands. “Please.”

Dan uncaps it and slicks up his fingers - then disappears underneath the duvet. A moment later Phil is engulfed in wet warmth and suction.

It’s amazing. It’s brain melting. It’s the best thing ever. Why don’t they do this all the time? Why do they ever do anything else?

He’s starting to really get into it, starting to twitch his hips up to meet Dan’s mouth when Dan pushes gently on the inside of Phil’s thigh. Phil’s heart jumps into his throat, but he opens his legs wider and tries to remember to breathe when he feels Dan’s finger stroking gently in a place it never has before.

He reaches under the blanket and buries his own fingers in Dan’s hair. “It’s okay,” he says. “I’m ready.”

Dan doesn’t stop what he’s doing with his mouth. He presses the tip of his finger against Phil’s rim and waits until Phil says again, “I’m ready.”

He’s not afraid. This is Dan. This is his partner, his love. Nothing he does with Dan could ever be something worthy of fear.

Dan is gentle. He goes slow. He makes Phil feel loved. He makes Phil feel safe. By the time he’s got his finger pressed inside properly, Phil is tugging on his hair, pulling him up so he can kiss him.

“Are you alright?” Dan asks between kisses.

Phil nods.

“How does it feel?”

“It feels… fine. Not bad.”

“But not good.”

Phil looks at him helplessly. He wants to say it feels good, but he’s not sure that would be the truth, and he’s not going to lie. Lying to Dan is not an option.

“Does it turn you on?” Phil asks. A deflection to be sure, but nothing gets Phil hotter than knowing the effect he has on Dan.

Dan pulls his finger halfway out and pushes back in. “It would if you liked it.”

“I like it,” Phil says quickly. “I like it. I want to feel you inside me.”

Dan hides his face in Phil’s neck. “Yeah. Fuck, Phil. Me too.”

Phil reaches down and gropes around clumsily until his fingers close around Dan’s cock.

“I wanna feel you from the inside,” Dan says, pressing his mouth to Phil’s ear. “I do. But only if it’s what you want.”

“I’ll tell you to stop if I don’t like it,” Phil whispers.

“Promise.”

He nods. “I promise.”

“I love you, Phil.”

Phil holds Dan’s face in his hands and kisses him. “Then make love to me, idiot.”

-

When they’ve stopped laughing, Dan goes to fetch the condoms and Phil shouts at him to hurry up. He doesn’t fancy being alone with his nerves at the moment. He closes his eyes and wanks himself lazily so he won’t go soft while Dan’s gone.

It’s really only a few moments later that Dan leans against the doorframe with a cheeky smirk and says, “I like the show.”

Phil can’t resist the impulse to wipe that grin off Dan’s face, so he spreads his legs to give Dan a good view.

It works. Dan’s smile drops and he’s on the bed with a packet between his teeth in three seconds flat. He tears it open and Phil watches him roll the latex down over himself in one smooth motion.

Phil doesn’t want to think about how many times Dan’s done this with other people. Hell, he doesn’t want to think about how many times he’s done this with other people.

He pulls Dan down on top of him and tries to kiss away those thoughts before they leak their toxicity into what he wants to be something beautiful and magical. Dan kisses him back and pushes his finger gently inside again. It doesn’t feel any less weird than it had before, but just knowing that it’s Dan makes Phil want more.

“Tell me again,” Phil says.

“What?” Dan murmurs, his lips moving down to Dan’s neck.

“That you love me.”

“I do. So much. More than anything.”

He reaches between their bodies and takes hold of Dan, stroking against the sticky rubber of the condom.

Dan moans so quietly in the back of his throat that Phil wouldn’t be certain he really heard it or not. “I want you, Phil.”

That’s all Phil needs to hear to push him over the edge. He lifts his legs and lines Dan up against himself, his heart pounding. “Go slow, yeah?”

Dan kisses him. He kisses him as he pushes inside Phil’s body. He goes slow, so cautious and careful and Phil can’t pretend it doesn’t feel a little uncomfortable, but he can’t find it in himself to care.

He can tell it makes Dan feel so good. He clings to the back of Dan’s neck and kisses Dan’s mouth and he can tell Dan’s trying to kiss him back. He’s trying but he can’t quite seem to coordinate his lips enough to move in time with Phil’s because he’s getting lost in the push and pull of his hips.

Dan finds his pleasure in being inside of Phil’s body in this new way, and in a way, Phil does too, but it’s different. He’s overwhelmed with good feelings, but it’s not about the physical sensations.

In truth the physical sensations aren’t doing much of anything for him. He goes soft after a few minutes, but it doesn’t feel scary or wrong like it did with other people. With Dan it feels like something profound, like something more than sex.

The feeling of connection is even more intense than when they do it the other way around. He feels bare, vulnerable, but without the helplessness that would usually accompany such things. There’s a power in sharing himself in this way with someone he trusts to the core of his being.

“Are you okay?” Dan asks, resting a hand on Phil’s hip.

Phil nods.

“Talk to me.”

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” Phil whispers.

“I’m thinking… I hope you’re alright.”

“Dan.” Phil pulls his legs up a little higher and Dan gasps silently as he slides inside a little deeper. “I’m good. Tell me about you.”

“I love you.”

Phil laughs, tilting his face up for a kiss. “You told me that already.”

“You still haven’t told me, though.”

“I love you,” Phil whispers.

“And you still will after this, yeah?”

“Dan.”

Dan answers by kissing him, and Phil slides a hand down Dan’s back to cup his ass and push on it, hoping Dan will understand that it’s okay to keep going.

“It feels fucking amazing, Phil,” Dan murmurs against Phil’s lips. “But I don’t wanna like it if you don’t like it.”

“I like it. I like that you like it.”

“Is that all?” He reaches between them to touch Phil, and his face falls to find softness. “Phil.”

He tries to pull away, but Phil locks his ankles together. “I promised I’d tell you to stop.”

Dan stares into his eyes. His expression is fierce. Phil wants to say more, but he waits. He bites his tongue. Dan is allowed a choice here too, after all, even if he makes one that makes Phil feel guilty.

“You want me to keep going?”

Phil nods. “Please.”

Dan keeps going. Their bodies are pressed together tightly, their skin starting to glide a little with the sweat of Dan’s exertion. Phil keeps his legs wrapped around Dan’s waist. Dan alternates between kissing and telling Phil how much he loves him and how good he feels.

Phil closes his eyes and tries to empty his head of everything but what’s happening right here and now: the creaking of their bed, the way Dan smells, the sound of his breath, the way it feels to have him inside. Mindfulness, Dan calls it. A therapy thing. An active effort to live in the moment.

It feels like all the time in the world and somehow none at all when Dan tells Phil he’s close. That stirs something in Phil that has him reaching down and cupping himself. He’s not hard, but he definitely feels something visceral in his gut when Dan’s body tenses and his breath gets caught in his throat.

Phil doesn’t let Dan go, not even when Dan finds his breath again and tries to roll away. He keeps his ankles locked, clenching around Dan and feeling him softening while still inside.

“Phil,” Dan says gently. “It’s your turn.”

Phil shakes his head and crushes Dan’s chest against his. He doesn’t want Dan to touch him like that right now. He feels like he’s been turned inside out and all he wants is for Dan to hold him until he feels normal again.

“Phil,” Dan says, and then Phil starts to cry.

-

They don’t talk about it right away. Phil eventually lets Dan pull out, but he keeps his arms wrapped around Dan’s shoulders until the tears stop. Dan leads him to the bathroom and they shower together, then choose their comfiest sweats and jumpers and settle down on the sofa with a blanket and late morning Dominos.

They watch tv until half the pizza is gone and Phil finally feels ready to attempt to put words to how he’s feeling. He brushes the crumbs from his fingers on his trousers and leans back against Dan’s chest. It’s easier if he can’t see the concern etched into Dan’s face.

“Thank you.”

Dan hooks his arm around Phil’s chest. “For what, you lunatic.”

“That was amazing.”

“Was it? I mean, for you? It was for me, but…”

“It was,” Phil says. “Just maybe in a different way.”

“What way?” Dan asks. “Can you explain it to me?”

Phil reaches up to hold Dan’s forearm. “I replaced the bad memories.”

“But you cried,” Dan says quietly.

“I cried because… it was a lot. It was just a lot to process for one man.” He chuckles.

Dan doesn’t say anything for a long time. Phil waits. He reckons it was a lot for both of them.

“I feel really weird and insecure,” is what he says eventually.

It’s disarmingly honest and simple. Phil squeezes his arm. “Don’t, please. I loved it. I feel, like… at peace, now.”

“Yeah?”

Phil nods, tilting his head down to kiss Dan’s arm.

“Would you wanna do it again?”

“Yeah,” Phil says, and it’s the truth. “It turns me on to make you feel like that.”

“Even if you don’t get hard?”

Phil knows Dan likes to fancy himself an expert on all things Phil, and Phil loves him for that. He thinks someday it will be true. But as it is now, there are still some aspects of this part of Phil that’s he’s only really begun to learn about himself, let alone explain to someone else.

“Yeah. I guess sometimes my brain and my body aren’t so good at communicating with each other.”

Dan kisses the side of his neck. “I can understand that.”

“You can, can’t you?”

Dan nods. They fall back into watching the telly and cuddling. Dan lies down so Phil can turn over and lay his head on Dan’s chest. He has a closing shift later, but he’s trying not to think about that. He’d like to pretend he can stay right here with Dan, just like this forever.

He’s just starting to drift his way towards a nap when Dan says, “Hey Phil.”

“Hm?”

“There’s something super important I need to tell you that I haven’t told you in ages.”

Phil grins and nuzzles his face into Dan’s jumper. It’s the one with the roses and it smells like Dan. Like home. “I love you too, idiot.”