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Do it for the ‘gram

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in need of a story has to start somewhere.

 

Dan had stared at that sentence for the last twenty minutes before he realised that wasn't the best way to start this. He didn't know how he wanted the story to go but this wasn't it. He sighed, placed the laptop onto the sofa cushion next to him, and walked into the kitchen. Placing a coffee pod into the machine and putting his Drama Llama (don’t judge him it was a gift) mug underneath, he picked up his phone, the gentle whirring making for an enjoyable white noise to the loud of his head. His phone showed 3 new notifications, one from his therapist reminding him of his phone appointment later that week, one from the game he was currently addicted to (oh Love Nikki you were downloaded as a joke and now you have Dan’s whole heart), and one from Instagram telling him that Phil Lester has added to his story. He took a deep breath as he clicked on the link.

“Like the new look?” read the text over a black and white picture of Phil with what appeared to be a few days worth of stubble.

Dan let out a little squeal and opened his Twitter app and typed out:

OK WHICH ONE OF YOU FUCKERS BROUGHT BEARD EDITS INTO REAL LIFE

Shortly followed by

@phillester are you trying to kill me mate?

He knew his tweet would get lost in the screaming and keyboard smashing of Phil’s followers but he could only hope that one day he would get that notice.

He grabbed his coffee and walked back over to the sofa. Lifting his laptop he decidedly ignored the flashing cursor which forever taunted him and clicked over onto tumblr. Dan had two Tumblrs, one was his aesthetic shit posting blog filled with the photos he took while he was out travelling, and then the other? Well, the other was a stan Tumblr dedicated to the guy he had been crushing over for the past 2 years.

 

Phil was a presenter on the BBC, mostly doing online news reports and interviews but he also had a radio show dedicated to LGBTQ+ content. His Instagram was filled with photos taken with all the queer recording artists and actors he interviewed, but there was also the selfies. Oh god the selfies. Dan could quite happily spend whole hours looking through his feed and crushing over those eyes.

He posted the screenshot of the story on his tumblr along with the heart eyes emoji and began to scroll through everyone's reactions. One of his online friends had also posted a screenshot so he reblogged it saying “i know right?!”. He was so caught up with the scroll that he nearly missed his phone buzz next to him.

Phil Lester replied to your tweet:
Sorry, I normally try to only kill houseplants not humans

Dan read the reply. Then read it again, wiped his eyes, pinched his arm and read it again.

Then he did what all normal people did when getting replies from the people they have crushes on… Ran round his living room waving his arms in the air trying not to scream so loudly so his neighbours didn’t think he was being murdered (although he might as well be because status update: Dead).

His phone then continued to buzz as his mutuals replied to him with gifs and keysmashing tweets. His hands were shaking as he tweeted Phil, he knew Phil wouldn't reply back but Dan didn't care in that moment.

@phillester well now i am fully dead so expect the police at your door pal

He put down his phone and grabbed his coffee off the side table. It was barely warm but he downed it anyway and then rested his head on the back of the sofa. He closed his eyes and started giggling to himself. He couldn’t believe that of all the replies and tweets he’d sent to Phil over the last year or so, this is the one he responded to(well at least it wasn’t one of the 2am thirst tweets). He needed a distraction from his constantly buzzing phone so he put on an episode of Mindhunter and prepared to lose himself in the drama for the next 45 minutes.

Only, it didn't last long.

Phil Lester has added to his story. The notification caught his eye, he opened the app and there was a shot taken from what he recognised as Phil's balcony showing a police van parked on the street outside, the next story uploaded and it was a shot of Phil's face looking shocked with an overlay of “are they here for me???” and in the corner “did you send them Dan?”.

Dan couldn't believe it. In fact he didn't believe it. He clicked on to twitter and could see people were already freaking out about it. Loads of people were shouting “WHO IS DAN” but his mutuals were already dropping in his mentions and he didn't have a chance to reply to any before the battery on his phone died. He groped down the side of his sofa looking for the charger cable and plugged it in.

Leaving it on the side, he decided he needed a break from all the excitement and prepared to head out to the coffee shop a few doors down from his flat. He grabbed his wallet and keys and checked himself out in the mirror making sure he didn't have ink on his face from the pen he was chewing on earlier (look, it had happened before and didn't think he was going to live it down). Closing the door softly behind him, he put his hoodie on and opened the front door to the busy street outside.

He walked quickly through the people milling about and into the door of The Bean. He discovered this place the afternoon he moved in, he originally only went in because the neon signs and the pot plants that were basically insta bait but then he realised the coffee was the best he had tasted so he continued to come back and was now somewhat of a regular. He ordered a cold brew latte, picked up a salad and worked his way over to his favourite corner. Sitting down, he picked up one of the magazines they leave out for patrons and began to flick through the well-worn pages while waiting for his coffee.

They called out his order and he went and fetched it, knocking someone's backpack onto the floor as he did so. He turned around to apologise and stared directly into the face of Phil Lester. He found himself silent, unable to find any words to say or even an apology to him for the accident with his bag.

“Are you okay mate?” enquired Phil, staring at Dan intently. Dan simply murmured a quick 'sorry' then grabbed his coffee and returned to his corner, picked up the magazine he had been reading, and used it to hide his blushing face. He couldn't believe it. Phil Lester, PHIL FUCKING LESTER was in HIS coffee shop. How? Why? The voices in his head were being so fucking loud and screaming in excitement, so he nearly missed when a real voice said;

“You know, I find it a lot easier to read when the magazine is the right way up”.

Dropping the magazine down and peering over the top, Dan realised that it was Phil stood in front of him. “I mean I don't mean to critique whatever technique you have but, um, you kind of stole my coffee”

Looking at the coffee in front of him, Dan realised that in his shock of being faced with his not-so-secret crush he had taken his drink instead. “Oh my god, I am so sorry, I was a bit, um, distracted and must have grabbed the wrong one."

“Distracted?” Phil said with a smirk.

"Yes, now can I have my actual drink? I kinda need the caffeine right now” Dan replied, trying to escape the awkward situation as fast as possible.

Phil reached over and placed Dan's coffee on the table in front of him, picking up his own and confidently sitting down on the empty chair next to Dan.

Dan didn't know how to react to this. Here was the guy he had been lusting over for a hot minute, sat in person next to him. Not behind a screen, or in his airpods as he listened to his show, but here. Holy shit.

Phil just looked at him and giggled, took a sip of his coffee, and said: “You look pretty good for a dead guy.”

Dan's face dropped and he whispered a loud 'shut up' to which Phil flung his head back and let out a huge laugh.

“I cannot believe you recognise me.” Is all Dan could say, trying desperately not to appear as anxious as he felt.

“Well, I’m not going to lie, I've seen you in here before."

WHAT, is all Dan could think at that

"And then when your face came up in my mentions I knew I had to reply to you”.

Dan just sat there open-mouthed, trying to wish away the blush that appeared on his face from Phil's words.

“So how long have you been a Phil stan then Danny?” Phil teased.

“Oh fuck off, I am not a stan, I just um, like your work and the fact that you feature all queer acts on your show. It feels good to know there is representation out there.” Dan rushed out.

“And my face? I think you comment on my insta don’t you?”

Dan's face turned beetroot red at that, and he looked in Phil's eyes and realised he’d not been as subtle as he thought he had in his commenting. Deciding not to reply to that, he simply held Phil's stare and took a sip of his coffee.

Phil sat back in his chair and smiled. “Hmm, for all your shouting online I didn't think you'd be this quiet in real life, I'm usually the awkward one but here's you blushing up a storm.”

“I mean, right now you don’t seem that awkward, Phil. You are over here being Mr Confident and I don’t know how im supposed to react in this insane situation I've found myself in!” He placed his coffee back on the table and messed with his hair in order to distract himself further. He needed to feel something normal, to ground himself, make sure he wasn’t dreaming or hadn’t hit his head on the short walk to the coffee shop.

Phil just sipped on his coffee and watched him.

“Look, I get this is normally a fangirl dream situation, the total meet-cute every fanfic aims for, but this is actually the strangest fucking thing for me!” Dan continued, “I come in for a coffee and then apparently it's spiked with some mind altering substance because the guy I've been crushing over is right here in front of me smiling at me and—" Dan stopped when he felt Phil's hand on his arm

“Dan, it's ok, I get this is weird and I shouldn’t have introduced myself like that. I just saw an opportunity and took it.”

Dan sat back in his chair and focused on his coffee, trying hard to not scream at himself. One half of his body was aching to stay and talk to Phil, to figure out what the hell was happening, and the other half? That one was stuck in fight or flight mode, and it wanted to get the hell out of this place and back to the safety of his flat.

He looked up at Phil again and realised what half he was going to go with.

Chapter Text

Closing his front door behind him with a bang, he walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass off the draining board and filled it with water. Drinking it down in only a few gulps, he let out a large sigh, wiped his mouth, and sank to the floor.

His mind was racing, the speed with which he left the coffee shop was matched only by the speed of his thoughts going through his head. Trying to find a way to calm them, he reached into his cupboard, grabbed 2 painkillers, and walked into his bedroom. It was only 2.30 but he was suddenly exhausted. He swallowed the tablets down with a grimace and stripped off his hoodie and jeans, realising too late he had left his phone on charge in the other room. He pulled the duvet up over his head and closed his eyes.

When he woke, the room was dark and he realised that he had well and truly fucked up his sleep pattern for the day. His stomach was grumbling and he realised that he had left his lunch at the coffee shop when he ran out earlier. Going into the kitchen, he grabbed a bowl out of the cabinet and poured himself a large portion of cereal (Cinnamon Grahams, because he knows how to do cereal right.) He reached into the fridge added some almond milk on top and grabbed a can of diet coke. He walked into the sitting room, plonked himself down into his comfy spot, and deciding to face the inevitable, he reached for his phone. He had 134 twitter notifications but 2 in particular caught his eye.

You have 1 new follower (@phillester)
You have 2 new messages (Phil: Dan I hope you read ….)

He also had several WhatsApp notifications from the “phil lester is love” group that he was part of. He didn't think he could deal with their reactions right now so he ignored that and clicked on twitter.

Taking a deep breath, he went into his inbox and clicked on the DM from Phil. He almost wanted to ignore it, push it away until he felt he could handle it a bit better, but he realised it was like pulling off a plaster, better do it quickly. It’ll hurt like a motherfucker but at least it will be over and done with. He started to read the messages which were sent shortly after he had left The Bean.

Phil: Dan I hope you read this message. I’m sorry you found the situation so terrible you had to leave so quickly. I honestly just wanted to talk to you, I don't really get to meet many of the people who watch and listen to my stuff and when I saw it was you I knew I had to talk to you. Like I said I had seen you in the cafe before and I had noticed a few of your tweets about me (especially that 2am one, naughty boy) and what can I say, you garnered my interest and I thought I would take my chance. I hope you reply to this message because I really would like to talk to you.

Dan’s eyes grew wider as he read the second message

Phil: Mainly about that crush you said you've got on me ;P

Throwing his phone onto the table in front of him, Dan let out a huge guffaw of laughter at the pure cheekiness of that message. Phil bloody Lester and that fucking crush. He didn't even know how he was supposed to respond apart from just “nlsdvnlsdfnalandncl HAHAHAHAHA WHAT”. Trying desperately to process his thoughts, he opened his can of diet coke only to watch as it fizzed all over the table.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he uttered, rushing into the kitchen to grab a towel to wipe up the mess that was edging its way over to his open laptop.

After averting certain disaster, he picked his phone back up and clicked on the message thread. He snapped a quick photo of the mess and wrote: “look what you made me do Phil, you got me all discombobulated with those messages and my can certainly felt the effects!”

Followed by “no we can’t talk about that. Other things yes, but any admission is made earlier was made in a time of stress so should be ignored!”

He put the phone down next to him, making sure to turn the phone off silent so he didn’t have to check it every 5 seconds in case Phil decided to reply (please baby Jesus make it so) and picked up his laptop.

Logging on to Tumblr, all he could see was reblogs of Phil's insta that people had tagged him in. Phil's fans were rampant gossipers and always had to sniff out any bit of information possible so it came as no surprise to him that his twitter conversation with Phil earlier and the consequent story made it obvious who he was. He reblogged it on to his own page simply adding on “senpai noticed me ;D” he then continued to scroll, and scroll, and scroll some more.

He was finishing the last of his cinnamons when his phone chirped and pulled him out of his Tumblr blur. Opening the screen, he saw it was his group chat on WhatsApp and decided he better pay them the attention they were so desperately craving, judging by the photo of Phil they had used to get his attention.

It was mostly filled with them all going mad about what had happened earlier and then them trying to decide why Dan had abandoned them in such a way without answering any of their many, many questions. He didn’t want to mention any of what had occurred after Phil's insta story so he simply went with “yes, how can I help you” which was met with a barrage of “I can’t believe he noticed you and you didn’t even come scream at us” and “omg senpai” “he loves you” and “motherfucker!” He clicked out of the chat (remembering to mute it first) and back onto Twitter. Checking his notifications that were now in the hundreds and were mostly just replies from his mutuals who were obviously excited about his reply from Phil (they all knew about Dan's rather obvious crush) and the rest were likes and retweets.

His phone beeped in his hand and a little 1 popped up on the inbox tab. Dan clicked on it as fast as his meaty thumbs would let him. It was from Phil (of course it was).

Phil: “Do I need to arrange a funeral for your laptop, can’t believe you both died because of me on the same day!”

He replied with: “Don’t worry it’s safe, you’d be footing the repair bill if it wasn’t buddy”

Phil: “I’m sure we could work something out to cover the cost”

Dan: “Phil Lester are you offering me certain favours to cover the cost of a new laptop?! I am shocked and appalled”

Phil: “Me? Never ;P
Phil: Although
Phil: Maybe I could just buy you a cup of coffee instead? As long as you promise not to steal it this time”

Dan let out a peal of laughter and answered as honestly as he could given the incredulous situation he found himself in.

Dan: “I’ll have to consult my calendar but it will probably be yes”

Phil: “Only probably?”

Dan: “A boy always has to keep their options open Phil”

Phil: “Oh so tomorrow at 2, or tomorrow at 3 those kind of options?”

 

Dan: “I’ll let you know”

Phil: “I’ll be sitting patiently waiting for you or, you know, recording a radio show ;)”

Dan: “I never miss a show, I’ll be listening in”

Phil: “Well you know where to find me when you decide”

Dan: “That I do x”

Phil: “Speak soon Danny Boy x”

Dan: “Don’t call me that”

Phil: :P”

Chapter Text

“So guys lets throw it out to you listening out there, approaching strangers in coffee shops because you know they follow you on insta, good idea bad idea??”

Dan had tuned into Phil’s radio show just in time to hear this question, blushing he immediately went to the shows twitter hashtag and tweeted: Terrible idea, truly the worst idea ever @phillester #coffeeshopcatastrophe

He continued to listen to the show while aimlessly scrolling through his twitter. Everyone had calmed down enough after the twitter reply and his WhatsApp chat had moved on to discussing whether Phil was keeping the stubble or not (please baby Jesus yes). He hadn’t told anyone about the coffee shop or the DMs because he wanted to keep that piece of happy for himself.

“That was the latest from Troye Sivan who I hope is going to make good on his promise to come sing ‘bloom’ at me later this year. Now we’ve been checking the hashtag for replies to my earlier question and one in particular caught my eye”.

Dan held his breath and hoped that Phil hadn’t chosen his to read out.

“This comes from @danthestan and it makes for a very interesting read, and certainly not what I experienced judging by his blushes earlier today.”

Dan could have screamed while Phil read his tweet out and he knew it would only be seconds before his group chat blew up again. He listened intently while Phil revealed what led him to ask the question in the first place before moving onto playing another song. His phone buzzed in his tight grip with a DM from Phil.

Phil- hope that was ok? I haven’t upset your bf or gf have I
Dan - wow aren’t you slick
Phil - excuse you, subtle is my middle name
Dan - I mean the fact that you even ask that question means you’ve never stalked my insta and that saddens me greatly Philip
Phil - a boy tells no secrets about his stalking habits Danny
Dan- I said stop calling me that!
Phil- sssh I’m busy being super famous and important
Dan- go away then you bore me
Phil - sure I do Danny
Phil- message me later?please?
Dan- well since you asked so nicely :)
Phil - <3
Dan- yes Philip subtle Lester x

They continued to DM back and forth for the next day before Dan plucked up the courage to ask for Phil’s actual number, which was met with a “now who’s being unsubtle Daniel” and they continued their gentle flirtation.

Dan hadn’t really experienced this kind of continued flirty banter before. Sure he’d chatted online with other twitter mutuals and some had tended to be flirty, but he hadn’t dipped a toe in the water for years. His only relationship was with a girl in school who he’d been pretty serious with until the inevitable decision needed to be made when it came to university. Dan had decided early on that he didn’t want to go to uni; the structured environment didn’t fit his unstructured mind.

After school he followed his girlfriend to college, doing a course in journalism and then she went on to university. They decided it was easier to break up rather than continue their relationship. Dan felt that he was really the decider in this, he had realised for a long time that he wasn’t happy with her, wasn’t happy with the expectation placed upon them of; finish uni, buy a home together, get engaged, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. That isn’t the way he saw his life continuing. He wanted a life to be lived, not one that follows the rules set by someone else. So they broke up, she went to uni and Dan stayed at home.

Dan went from part time retail job to a full time receptionist job before he managed to find a job at his local newspaper. This led to a job working on online pieces for The HuffingtonPost. It paid enough for him to have a little flat in London far enough away from his family so he could get away with not visiting all the time, but close enough for him to see his grandma every month or so for a cup of tea and whatever she had baked that day (depending on the episode of GBBO she had watched recently).

He was also desperately trying to write his novel. They say everyone has a book within them but Dan thought his must be buried super deep because he hadn’t found it yet.

With the attention he was getting from Phil bringing a new sense of excitement he decided to bite the bullet and ask Phil out on a date. He was pretty sure he would die of embarrassment if he said no, or awkwardness on the night if he said yes, but he wanted to at least find out either way.

So he picked up his phone and typed out a message to Phil.

Dan: so did you realise what day it is?
Phil: Friday? Wait hang on ... yeah definitely Friday, you do realise you could have checked that yourself right?
Dan: ha ha ha funny guy. It's actually a very important day for my Instagram feed. It’s the start of PSL season.
Phil: I shall have to sack my PA, she didn't write it in my diary, I could have missed out on my favourite time of the year!
Dan: ahem anyway Philly, I was thinking…
Phil: don't do that you’ll hurt yourself
Dan: you know what I've changed my mind, I was going to ask if maybe you wanted to join me later for one but I think I’m going to go on my own now.
Phil: wait
Dan: nope too late, soz mate
Phil: if you take me i’ll buy you a cookie and let you post a picture of it to instagram ;D
Dan: wow phil, you truly know the way to a man's heart
Phil: yep, straight through his rib cage
Dan: PHIL YOU ARE SO WEIRD gawd lol
Phil: you love it don’t lie
Phil: so I’ll see you at The Bean in an hour or so?
Dan: wait I was asking you Phil, how did this happen.
Phil: you were taking too long, must have been… distracted ;P
Dan: shut up
Dan: see you in a bit x
Phil: <3

Chapter Text

Dan put his phone down on the sofa next to him, a blush rising to his cheeks. He didn't know what alternate universe he’d fallen into where the object of his affection kinda maybe seemed like he was interested in him as well. Maybe? Kinda? I mean friends go out for coffee all the time. At this thought Dan realised he hadn’t replied to his co-worker who had texted him earlier that day. Shooting off a quick “I’m sorry dude, coffee sounds great” text to them, he pulled himself out of his browsing position and made his way to the shower.

His shower thoughts were filled with muddled stream of words and possible outcomes for what could happen during this “date”. His brain always helpfully supplied things like this. Most of his day could be spent inside his brain having various conversations, whether it be times like this or past events where he was trying to see if there was different ways things could work out.

After standing under the warm stream for probably too long he stepped out into his fluffiest of towels and walked into his bedroom. Opening his wardrobe door he pulled out his favourite black jeans (the one that made his thighs look extra good with the slashes in just the right places) and pulled a striped tee out of the drawer next to it.

After dressing he dried his hair, teasing a few of his favourite curls into the best way they could fall. He also applied a bit of mascara, and a slight sparkly eyeshadow he’d picked up last time he was in the States. If Phil didn't like it then that was his loss. Dan thought he looked good and it took him a long time and a lot of therapy before he could do this kind of thing and leave the house.

He pulled on his boots, grabbed his backpack, checked he had put his phone in his pocket and walked out the front door. It was only a short walk to The Bean and in no time at all he was opening the door and walking in to the familiar surroundings. Checking his phone, he realised he was early (how? This goes against everything he stands for!) so he headed towards his favourite seat and sat himself down. He was scrolling through his phone when a notification popped up:

“Phil Lester has added to his story”

Clicking on the story he was shocked when it loaded and it was a gif of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland with the text underneath reading ‘I’m late, I’m late for a very important date’.

In response to this Dan opened his WhatsApp and sent Phil a photo of The Bean’s menu and a question mark.

Phil: I’m so sorry
Phil: I knew you would have me on notifications ;)
Dan: fuck off im leaving
Phil: :(
Phil: I promise I’m worth the wait
Dan: I’m only here for the cookie
Phil: and the insta likes
Dan: the most important reason obviously how could I forget
Phil: cheeky
Phil: I’ll be there as quick as I can <3
Dan: Make it quick then before some other tall nerd offers to buy me a coffee
Phil: I’ll fight him
Phil: wait for me, ok?
Dan: god, so needy
Dan: but of course i will x

Dan took a selfie to post to instagram. He hadn’t done one for a while and he felt cute so why not share it with the world. He went through the 40 or so options he had taken and by the time he had decided on a filter and was ready to post it he felt a movement on the sofa next to him.

“Good choice, you’ve certainly got the ‘you want me, you can’t have me’ vibe going on there Danny boy.”

Dan turned to look at Phil and hoped he wasn’t blushing too terribly. He smiled as large as he could and uttered out a simple “hey”. Phil asked him what he wanted to drink which he rolled his eyes at, and with an answering smirk he got up and walked to the counter.

Dan clicked post on the selfie and added it to twitter, noticing that Phil looked at his phone when he did so, which made him wonder if Phil actually had him on notifications. He decided to pack that thought away in the back of his head for another time before the butterflies threatened to burst out of his chest.

After a few minutes Phil, rather unsteadily, brought back two large coffee mugs topped with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon, and next to them on the tray was two cookies. He placed the tray onto the table in front of Dan and sat down on the sofa next to him.

Phil leaned over to grab his PSL, but Dan reached out to stop him. He turned to Dan and shot him an incredulous look.

“You owe me a photo Phil!” Dan laughed breathily as Phil rolled his eyes at his suggestion but sat back in his chair anyway. Dan picked up his backpack and pulled out his camera.

“When you said you needed a photo I thought you meant using your iPhone and a fancy filter not that beast,” Phil said while playing with the strap of the camera that had fallen on his lap.

“Don’t judge me Phil, if I don't post at least one photo to each of my socials then people will think I finally died.” Dan huffed out while reaching to set up the table how he wanted it.

“Let me know if I can help, anything that means I can get that cookie in me faster,” Phil said and reached over and stole a crumb that was on the plate causing Dan to smack his hand lightly.

“Actually you can help, come sit round the other side of the table,” Dan asked and continued to arrange the table.

As Phil sat down he took Phil’s hands in his own and placed them around the steaming cup in front of him. Phil stayed silent while he watched Dan work, smiling at the way Dan seemed so focused on his task. When he got the placement perfect he stood back and began to shoot, taking pictures from different angles and checking the screen after every one to make sure it was right.

After a couple of minutes Phil pulled his hands away complaining gently that the cup was getting too hot. Dan realised he had probably got enough to work with so he set his camera aside and sat back down. He expected Phil to remain where he was but he stood up and moved back round to the sofa Dan was sat on.

Sitting back down closer than he was previously, he asked, “So do I fit in with your aesthetics then Danny?”

Dan rolled his eyes at that and said: “Actually I think you’ve got the perfect face for radio so...”

Laughing he grabbed his coffee and leant back to get comfier. Phil sat there with mock surprise on his face before saying: “Actually, I think you’ll find that you think quite the opposite, shall I just get out my phone and find the evidence to prove it?”

He moved to pull his phone out of his pocket when Dan grabbed his hand and squeaked out a “NO” followed by a quieter, “no shaming Phil, it’s unfair.'' Phil simply laughed and pulled his hand back from Dan’s.

Dan felt a bit saddened by the loss of touch so wrapped both his hands around the mug and took a sip, making sure he didn't get whipped cream everywhere. Phil had also reached for his drink but hadn’t managed to avoid the same fate, getting a splodge of cream on the tip of his nose. Dan reached over to remove it but pulled away before he could, he didn't know if that was too much so simply gestured for Phil to get rid of it himself.

They spent the next couple of hours chatting easily about various things, finding out they’ve got a lot more in common than Dan realised, based on what he knew of “Phil Lester”. He soon came to realise that the Phil sat in front of him was adorable, funny and the cheekiest little shit he had ever met. He was also an absolute dork and if he didn’t know better he’d have thought he was a dad with the amount of bad puns he kept throwing into the conversation.

“Nope, just a Daddy,” is the reply that came when he mentioned as such, causing Dan to choke on the last bite of his cookie and Phil to almost dissolve into tears he was laughing that hard.

“Never say that again you nerd,” whined Dan. “Especially not when someone’s eating, I could have died again!”

“I promise I’m not trying to kill you Dan, I just needed to see the look on your face when I said it, and boy did you deliver I thought your eyes were going to pop out of your head!” replied Phil while trying to calm his laughter down.

Dan’s phone then started buzzing on the table in front of him, grabbing Phil’s attention. They both looked at the screen at the same time which was not great as it was a lot of notifications from his group chat discussing Phil’s insta story and who he was on a date with and whether it was actually a date.

God these people are exhausting, Dan thought.

“Well, are you going to answer the - Phil Lester is Love - chat?” said Phil. “They need to know whether it’s a date or not. What are you going to tell them, I mean you have insider knowledge after all.”

Phil had sat back in his chair and was shooting Dan a look he couldn’t quite work out. He was starting to panic, and his stomach was fluttering with nerves.

“The group chat name is a joke, you know I’m a fan of yours and well I like to talk to other people about you, but not ‘you’ you, Phil Lester you, now I know ‘you’ you I don’t think I can talk to them anymore about anything,” Dan knew he was scrambling, his words were just spewing out faster than he could realise what he was saying. “They just like taking small nuggets of info and gleaning as much as they can from it, it’s harmless really, I’m not that involved I just like to sit back and watch.”

He realised that he needed to stop talking so looked back at Phil, who was still looking unhappy. “I’m so sorry Phil, I can understand if you want me to leave and stop messaging you.”

Phil simply closed his eyes let out a small sigh and said: “I’m going to need a couple of minutes ok?”

He then opened his eyes looking directly at Dan, squeezed his knee and walked to the back of the cafe where the toilets were. Dan was completely shell-shocked and sat looking at his phone wondering what the hell had just happened when a notification popped up.

“Phil Lester has added to his story”

He tentatively clicked and up popped a picture Phil must have taken without him realising, one of Dan side on looking through the pictures on his camera. There was a text box below which read “To the Phil Lester is Love GC - definitely a date” with a red heart emoji and a black heart emoji.

Chapter Text

Dan sat and panicked for the 5 minutes it took for Phil to come back to the table. He’d debated with himself over and over whether it would be worth just running, but he’d already done that once before and this wasn’t some angst driven story he was part of. So even though his anxiety has gone sky high, he decided to wait it out.

Phil walked over to him and sat on the chair opposite the sofa they had previously sat on. He looked upset and like he’d been struggling to make the decision of whether to leave or stay just like Dan had. Dan watched as Phil swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, his chest moving with the deep breaths he was taking. He opened his mouth to talk, and Dan prepared himself for the worst.

“Do you only like me because of what I look like? Because of the photos I put on Instagram, or the stories I post? I mean I don’t think I look anything special but I know you are always the first to like them, or comment or whatever.” Dan desperately wanted to interrupt but he just sat and listened as Phil continued.

“I don’t want to do this if you are only doing it because of who I am, of whatever the person you and your friends have built me up to be, whatever unrealistic expectations you have of ‘Phil Lester’. Because that isn’t me, and I was hoping to show you who I actually am behind the filters and the scripts and the carefully chosen front I have to give to make people like me. But I don’t want you to see that, I wanted you to see me, to like me for me”.

As he finished speaking he sat fully back in his chair and put his hands over his face. Dan wanted nothing more than to see Phil’s face right now, to see that Dan could see him, so he did what he needed to do. He moved over to where Phil was, gently took his hands off his face and held them to his chest.

“I see you Phil, I see who you are behind the photos and behind the radio personality. I see the adorable geek who laughs in a way that means I can’t help but laugh too, I see the Pokemon nerd, the anime binge watching til midnight, texting me because he can’t sleep because he needed to ask me what I thought about the show because you know I’m watching it as well. I see your beauty, and your gorgeous eyes that, yes, as gross as it is I would love to swim in. I see you. I couldn’t care if you had 4 arms and no legs, I don’t care what you look like. I see YOU, I like YOU.”

Phil was looking deep into his eyes and began to smile as he finished his little rant.

“Alright, cringe, I believe you.”

Dan dropped Phil’s hands and stood up. “That’s it I’m walking out, I could have just said yes it because you are super hot you fucking nerd, but I was trying to be nice,” and then: “bloody cringe, cheeky bastard” and sat down on the sofa. Phil’s laugh filled the air around them, and Dan felt his cheeks begin to burn before he began to giggle too.

“Do you always do that?” Dan asked, Phil looked at him quizzically before he carried on. “That tongue thing when you laugh?”

“What tongue thing?!” Phil asked and began to hysterically laugh when Dan attempted to replicate the adorable way Phils tongue pops out when he giggles too much. He shoved Dan playfully and poked his dimple.

“Yeah well, do you always need to flaunt this thing in my face when you smile?!” He asked, keeping his hand on Dan’s cheek for a bit before dropping it to his lap. Dan just smiled at him and wondered how on earth he has managed to get here.

They continued to chat for the next 30 minutes or so before Phil’s phone began to ring. The name ‘Martyn’ popped up on the screen and Phil answered while apologising to Dan for the interruption. Dan listened while Phil was on the phone but soon zoned out and focused on the way even though his attention was fully on the call, Phil just seemed to stare at Dan, smiling the whole time. Before long he ended the call and explained that the caller was his brother “but you probably knew that anyway” he said with what can only be assumed was Phil’s version of a wink. Dan feigned an insulted face while Phil added that the reason for the call was Martyn inviting him to meet later that week for dinner.

“Means I’ll have to leave the house for dinner twice this week, though,” he stated, “As I was going to see if you wanted to go for something to eat?” He smiled at Dan waiting for his reaction.

“You want me to leave the house again for you Lester? Man, you are needy, I have a whole hermit thing going on. Don’t you know this could seriously affect my tumblr time?” Phil giggled at the last part. “But yeah, I could eat with you I suppose, as long as I get to choose where!”

Phil nodded and moved to grab his phone from the table and stood up out of his chair. He held his hand out to help Dan up and said: “I look forward to ruining your reputation as a sad internet loner, Danny.”

Dan grabbed his hand and his bag and stood up. “I might just let you.” He dropped Phil’s hand and walked towards the door.

“But not if you keep calling me that, GAWD!” he exclaimed at the end.

“You can call me God anytime you want.” Phil said as he followed him out the door.

Dan said nothing but smiled and moved to kiss him on the cheek. “Text me later?” He whispered into Phils ear.

“Now who’s needy?!” Phil said as he hugged Dan tight.

Dan playfully pushed him away, smiled and started walking back to his flat, turning one last time to see Phil staring after him. He blushed and waved at Phil who gave an awkward little wave back before he pulled out his phone and started to walk away. Just as Dan was walking through the door of his flat his phone alerted him to a twitter notification.

@phillester Hate to see him go, love to see him leave

Chapter Text

The next couple of days passed in a flurry load of work for Dan. He had a deadline coming up for a piece that he had been working on for a while, interspersed with texts from Phil and the occasional cheeky subtweet. His group chat had basically imploded after the date so he bid farewell to them and left, promising to keep in touch with the one person he actually enjoyed talking to.

He had also been to his therapy appointment. Therapy was something Dan had promised himself he would seek out after admitting that he couldn't cope with the way depression seemed to be ruling his life. He had tried to make his tumblr and social media his outlet, his way of dealing with everything going on. This is where he had discovered Phil, and although it was such a massive part of his life, he knew there had to be a healthier way for him to help himself through this.

He had to abandon his stan tumblr now this thing was happening with Phil. He didn't want to go into anything with him if it meant people were going to try and use it as a way of spying on their “relationship”. He kept his aesthetic tumblr, posting the photos from their date on there and because it wasn’t linked in any way to him, to his real life, people were just enjoying the photo and not who the subject matter was.

There was also the small matter of his next assignment with work. They often sent Dan abroad to write articles and conduct interviews, and his next one was going to be a biggie. He was due to fly out to Orlando at the start of next year ahead of the 50th anniversary plans for Disney World's Magic Kingdom park, and as one of the resident travel writers (and all around disnerd) Dan had been chosen to go out there for 6 weeks.

It was pretty much his dream assignment, and the excitement to go was bubbling under everything he did. Until he met Phil.

He knew that this might not even be a serious thing, that it could just be a flirtation that burns out after a couple of dates, but for once his fingers were crossed. He very rarely thought positively about anything, and most of his life had been spent looking at things as glass half full, but this seemed special. Phil seemed special and worth the risk.

He hadn’t told Phil about the trip yet, didn't want to delve too deep into the future when he didn't know what kind of future they had. Whether Phil even thought the same way he did, during their date they had admitted they liked each other and Phil made sure to text him good morning and goodnight every day. See, even trying to convince himself to think positively was hard, given the constant anxiety he had running through his veins and every thought process he had.

They had discussed their upcoming date, and Phil was convinced Dan was taking his time to decide on a restaurant as he was scouring the internet trying to find the best looking one for instagram. (As if Dan would ever do that; he already had a list of all the places he wanted to try).

Taking the plunge he texted Phil.

Dan: Pizza?
Phil:Always
Phil:Pizza when?
Dan:Tomorrow?
Phil:But I want pizza now Dan, you can't text a man the word pizza without him getting all excited and then string him out like this.
Dan:I’m also pizza blue balling myself Phil, i need the day to pretty myself up for you, i haven't left the house for 3 days
Phil:You are pretty enough for me
Phil:Okay tomorrow, you hermit, I’m excited
Dan:For pizza or for a date with me?
Phil:Pizza obviously
Phil:But i suppose you are the added bonus
Dan:Cheeky bastard
Phil:You love it ;)
Dan:That’s debatable, but I'll take the hit for the chance of pizza
Phil:And seeing my face
Dan:Always
Phil:<3”
Dan:<3

Chapter Text

Dan woke up before his alarm the next day. This was already a rare occurrence as he was normally woken up by the outburst of “Somebody once told me…” He had set it as part of an ongoing joke with his younger brother but had become used to it and couldn’t seem to wake up to anything else now.

His first instinct was to check his phone and there was already a message from Phil waiting to be read.

“It’s too early to be excited right? For pizza obviously you are just an added extra ;)”

Just as he was about to reply a second message came through.

“Morning btw, I should probably start with that but my brain is focused on pizza”

He clicked on the message and replied with a pizza emoji and a black love heart. He then moved onto the twitter app and mindlessly scrolled before realising he should really get out of bed and have a shower.

He usually had to psych himself to do this, a side effect of his depression that made him really struggle with such a simple task. But knowing he was meeting Phil later gave him the push he needed. His medication and therapy weren’t always enough, he often needed to find a reason to look after himself. Phil was definitely a reason, a really good reason.

After his shower he changed into some simple sweatpants and a well worn t shirt as he only had a few work emails to deal with and wanted to be as comfy as possible. He grabbed his phone from where he had left it on his bed. There were no further messages from Phil which wasn’t unusual this time of day, and he moved into the kitchen.

He put the kettle on to boil and grabbed his favourite cereal out of the cupboard. He was about to pour himself a bowl when the buzzer to his flat rang. He wasn’t expecting anyone and had no deliveries due so he was suddenly anxious. He was tempted to ignore it but moved across to the entry answerphone and nervously picked it up. He was shocked when he realised who it was and pressed the button to let them in.

He opened the door to his flat and there stood Phil, in one hand he held a brown bag and in the other 2 cups from The Bean. Phil’s face was plastered with a smile and he was wearing his thick framed glasses which Dan damn near swooned over.

“Will you think I’m cheesy if I say I couldn’t wait til later to spend time with you?” said Phil.

Dan laughed and replied: “Let me know what’s in the bag before I make any decisions.”

He grabbed the bag out of Phils hand and peeked inside. In there was a pistachio muffin and some other assorted pastries.

“Um how did you know my favourite thing? I’m definitely only going to think you are cheesy and not tell you to your face.” he said to Phil as he led him into the kitchen.

Once inside, he put the bag on the counter and pulled Phil into a hug.

“I may have stalked your Instagram last night and saw many a post about those muffins so I thought I’d be in your good books if I bought one for you.” Phil said as he returned Dan’s hug just as tightly.

Dan smiled and then his face fell as he realised what he was wearing. “I mean as much as I appreciate you being here, you could have pre warned me so I could have dressed in something other than this!”

“I don’t know,” said Phil, looking Dan up and down with a lustful look on his face.. “I kinda like the Britney tee, and men in grey sweatpants is always a good thing.”

“Alright Phil, keep it in your pants, I suppose I should be grateful I already showered this morning!” With that Phil reached over and stroked a curl out of Dans face.

“Yes the curls are looking especially pretty today, Danny.” Dan blushed and lightly pushed at Phil’s chest. Phil moved his hand down Dans cheek, lightly poking at the dimple that was forming as Dan couldn’t stop smiling at him.

He slowly moved forward and lightly pecked his lips against Dan’s. Just a simple little kiss but Dan thought he was going to faint with how happy he felt because of it. He moved back and smiled at Phil before he made the move again to return it, a little more this time but still much more than Dan could ever have dreamed of.

Phil broke off the kiss after a while and rested his forehead against Dans.

“Ok?” He asked.

“Hell yes.” replied Dan, laughing gently.

“Good, because I have been wanting to do that and didn’t want to wait any longer,” said Phil before pressing his lips against Dan’s once more then pulling back.

“And now I’ve done that we can eat all the pastries and watch Drag Race UK all day together, and then you can buy me pizza.” Phil said as he started rooting through Dan’s cupboards for plates.

Dan broke out of his daze and watched Phil make himself at home in his little flat. He couldn’t believe what had just happened and internally he was jumping for joy. He knew Phil had to like him a bit because of the chats they had been having but confirmation in the shape of such a sweet kiss was just the cherry on the cake.

Reaching out to close all the cupboard doors that Phil had left open, he said: “I thought I was impatient but you couldn’t even buy me dinner before you kissed me? I’m shocked Philip, what kind of boy do you think I am?!”

“Hey, I bought breakfast and coffee for you, also I kind of really like you and I thought you liked me and I didn’t want to delay the inevitable,” Phil said while placing everything onto the plates he eventually found. He turned around fully to face Dan. “Did you not want me to kiss you? Do you not like me?”

He looked worried so Dan placed his hand on top of Phils and said: “Of course I wanted to kiss you, especially if you bring me muffins in the morning.”

“And because you like me?”

“And because I like you Phil, too much already probably, but yes I like you.” he smiled and took the plate of pastries and the coffees and moved into the living room.

“No such thing as too much already Dan, just go with your heart.” said Phil, moving to sit down on the sofa next to Dan.

“I’m going with my stomach actually,” said Dan as he grabbed the muffin and broke a huge piece off before inelegantly shoving it into his mouth. Phil simply laughed before reaching for the remote and cuddling back against Dan.

Chapter Text

They had watched a couple of episodes all the while arguing over who was their favourite (Dan felt a personal connection to DDC especially after their tale of being bullied at school, a feeling Dan knew all too well). They finished off the coffees and pastries, his sofa was covered in crumbs but at this moment he couldn't care less.

He stood up from the sofa before they put the third episode on to make a fresh cup of coffee and see what other snacks he could find. He was putting the kettle on to boil when he heard footsteps behind him before a hand rubbed the back of his neck.

“Hi,” said Phil into the shell of his ear.

Dan shivered with the contact before he turned round, realising how close Phil was to him all he had to do was make the distance even shorter and bring their lips together.

“Hi yourself,” he said after breaking off the short but sweet kiss. “Hungry?”

“What are you offering?” Phil replied with a raised eyebrow. “Not that you cheeky shit, I meant actual food!” Dan laughed as he buried his face into Phil’s shoulder. He could feel the movement of laughter before he heard a loud giggle coming from Phil.

“I’m happy with whatever you have to give, Danny, you know that.”

“In which case, it’s cereal because that’s basically all I have food wise right now.” He let go of Phil’s embrace and moved to where he had left the cereal earlier before his unexpected guest had arrived.

“Wow Cinnamon Graham’s, you really are spoiling me today, love.”

Dan suddenly stopped his movements and looked at Phil with a dimpled smile. “Love? When did you become a barmaid from Corrie?”

He laughed as Phil blushed.

“It slipped out, I was trying to be sweet I won’t bother again,” Phil said with a look of mock shame on his face before he reached over and grabbed the box of cereal out of Dan’s hands piling a fistful into his open mouth.

“At least use a bowl you animal,” Dan said as he grabbed the box back. Phil just shot him a cereal dust smile and Dan wanted to kiss the look off his face.

So he did.

They moved back into the lounge when the coffee was made and settled back into the sofa, this time Dan brought over his blanket so they could get cosy and put the large bowl of cereal on Phil's lap to share.

They made it through the next episode and then decided to put on a film. Phil took charge of the remote and started scrolling through Netflix.

“Bloody hell mate make yourself at home,” Dan said pushing on Phil’s shoulder.

“Well alright then,” Phil replied, at the same time swinging his legs over Dan’s lap and resting his head on the arm of the sofa they were sitting on.

“I didn’t mean like that, you giant oaf.” But Dan made no attempt to push Phil’s legs off, instead he simply stroked the soft material of Phil’s trousers.

Phil decided quickly on a film and they settled down and began to watch. Dan’s phone began to buzz on the table in front of them and he was closer to it Phil picked it up and passed it over. “Who is Ash?” Phil asked, looking at the screen as he did so. “Looks like he’s desperate to talk to you with all those messages.”

“Don’t be so nosey,” Dan joked until he looked at Phil’s face, realising too late that he seemed to be far from willing to joke around, in fact he seemed rather sad.

“He works with me at HuffPo as a self proclaimed nightlife guru, he’s trying to get me to go out with him on the weekend,” Dan explained. “But you know me, awkward introvert, so I’m trying to ignore him.”

“Go out with him? As in out out or date?” Phil asked with a nervous tinge to his voice.

Dan grabbed Phil’s hand and replied: “Just out, he’s found this bar in Soho that’s he’s desperate to review, and for some bizarre reason he wants me to go with him and his friends.”

“Soho? So it’s a gay bar then,” Phil stroked Dan’s knuckles with his thumb, gaze locked anywhere but Dan’s face.

“Yeah it is,” Dan said. “I’m not going to go if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s not like I’m going on the pull Phil, that isn’t what I do.”

“But what if some super hot guy decides you are his soulmate and hits on you?”

“I don’t know, Phil, what would I do. I mean, firstly I don’t play well with strangers, secondly I’ve already got some super hot guy holding my hand on the sofa in my flat, and thirdly—Hi, I like you, you bring me muffins and coffee.” Dan reached out and put his hand under Phil’s chin to make him look in his eyes.

“Sorry, I’m just nervous that someone’s going to steal you away when I just found you. I’ve been waiting for you, Dan, and now you are here I don’t want you to go.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Phil. Maybe do you want to come with me to the bar? Ash is one of my only friends really and I’d kind of like to show you off.” Dan asked. “Especially as you’d be like, guaranteed to be the hottest guy there.”

“Impossible,” said Phil. “because you’d be there.”

He stroked Dan’s hand that was still on his face before bringing Dan’s knuckles to his lips and kissing them.

“Anyway I don’t believe in soulmates, so if super hot guy did think I was his then he’d be wrong, but maybe I’d let him buy me a drink first,” Dan said laughing softly.

“Wow! Poor super hot guy was only looking for a hook up and you broke his heart Dan!”

“I don’t want a hookup Phil, I want coffee and sofa cuddles and watching TV together under a blanket,” Dan said.

“And kisses?”

“Yes, definitely kisses Phil.” Dan said as Phil pressed their lips together.

Chapter Text

A couple of hours later Phil decides he can no longer survive on cereal and cuddles alone, and he needs real food. Dan offers to Deliveroo something in but Phil wants to take Dan out.

As much as Dan’s body doesn’t want to leave this little bubble of happy they have created under the blanket, he realises that the self-imposed hermit life might have to be changed for the rest of the day.

He leaves Phil on the sofa and goes into his bedroom to get ready. He makes sure his hair isn’t doing anything too wonky after letting it dry naturally and goes to grab some clothes out of his wardrobe. While dressing, he took some time to regroup.

His anxiety was starting to bubble away in his chest, though he had a lovely morning and the man sitting on his sofa was incredible. But his logical brain was being fought out by his paranoia and his fear that he was about to mess everything up. That Phil was going to look at him and realise that he wasn’t the person he thought. That the person Dan was showing to Phil wasn’t worth the effort.

He sat down on his bed and tried to calm himself down. He knew that realistically he was fine, that Phil liked him as much as he liked Phil. That he was ok to let Phil in and be himself, but there was still that anxious part of his mind that was reeling. That trying to do anything outside of his norm, outside of his well protected boundary, was impossible. He wanted to push through and reach out. To let someone in for once.

“No sparkles today?” A sudden voice said, breaking into Dan’s internal fight.

Dan looked up and there stood Phil, leaning up against the door frame looking like he had been there before. Like he belonged in Dan’s space.

“Got a bit distracted by my brain shouting at me, just needed a second,” Dan replied.

“Do you want me to shout at your brain for you?” Phil said walking towards the bed, silently asking for Dan’s permission to sit next to him. Dan nodded and Phil sat down.

“You don’t need to listen to your brain if it’s talking about me. If it’s making you sad. If it’s telling you things you don’t need to worry about,” Phil said reaching over to grab Dan’s hand, slowly rubbing his thumb over the knuckles. “I want your brain to think good things about me. Because mine thinks pretty amazing things about you, like all the time, it never shuts up really!”

Dan smiled and focused on the repetitive stroke of Phils thumb on his hand, back and forth, up and down. He matched his breathing to it. In out in out in out.

“It’s not saying bad things about you. It’s saying bad things about me,” replied Dan as he met Phil’s eyes.

“Well brains are stupid sometimes, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.”

“Sometimes it shouts too loud though Phil, ignoring it doesn’t seem to be an option.”

“Well, when it does get loud, call me or text me, or just tap me on the shoulder because I want to be next you like, a lot, and I’ll tell it to be quiet.”

Dan didn’t know what to say. He simply leant forward and buried his head into the space between Phil’s shoulder and his neck. A space he seemed to fit into pretty well. Phil simply hugged him close and kissed the top of his head.

“I’m here ok Dan, I’m not going anywhere. Well, except for pizza because ya boi is hungry.”

Dan lifted his head up and replied: “Don’t ever say ‘ya boi’ again otherwise I’ll make sure you’re banned from every pizza place in the local area.”

Phil did his cute laugh and kissed Dan on his dimple.

“Sorry Danny boy,” he said into Dan’s ear.

“Urgh that’s it, get out of my flat you are cancelled,” he whined pushing Phil away and standing up to move away from him. Phil simply laughed and pulled Dan into a hug.

“I’m not going anywhere, trust me.”

Dan said nothing, just hugged Phil tighter, feeling his brain begin to quiet and the anxiety bubbles start to dissipate.

Chapter Text

It was a couple of days after their all day date and Dan had spent them with his nose buried in his computer. He had been asked by work to help in a different department in the lead up to Black Friday madness so he was glued to his screen non-stop.

He’d managed to speak to Phil a few times and they texted as much as he could. Phil’s show the night before was the only real time he got to just stop and focus on something that wasn’t work related. He’d wanted to join in on the question that Phil had thrown out to twitter but Dan’s social media had taken a back seat. He had deleted his twitter after Phil’s fans had realised who he was and flooded his notifications (and his DM’s).

But today was Saturday.

Which meant he was having to do something he didn’t really want to do.

Dan was not a social person in the slightest, he’d had his share of nights out when he was younger. But he had come to the realisation that drinking and dancing wasn’t his scene.

But dancing with Phil? Enjoying the fact that they could be together in a completely new environment? Dan wanted that part. He wasn’t exactly going to grind on him in the middle of the dance floor but just able to be close to him was something he was looking forward to.

He texted Ash earlier in the day to confirm the plans and was already tired when Ash finished the message with “see you at eleven buddy”.

11 pm was not a time Dan wanted to be leaving the house, more like cosied up in front of the TV because apparently he was turning into his Gran the older he got.

But at 9 pm he was making his way to Phil’s house, coffees in hand from the Bean to keep them going before they got a couple of cocktails inside them.

He was nervous as he hadn’t been to Phil’s before; he honestly didn’t know what to expect. He took a deep breath as he approached the front door and pressed the bell.

Before long the door opened and there stood someone who was definitely not Phil. Dan’s brain went into Panic mode.

“Hi,” said the stranger.

“Um… hi?” Said Dan.

“Let me guess, you are the famous Dan I have been hearing about all day?” The stranger said with a big grin on his face.

He held his hand out to Dan, and Dan looked at for a few moments before tentatively shaking it.

“You have no idea who I am, do you?” Said the tall stranger, dropping Dans hand and running his fingers through his ginger hair. “Corny time to go, Dan’s here!” the man shouted as he grabbed his coat from by the door, shortly before a woman walked up behind him.

Dan was just stood in a daze as the woman, who he could only assume was ‘Corny’, shot him a big smile and said: “I guess having good taste runs in the Lester family.”

It finally clicked who the stranger was just as Phil showed up.

“Dan!” He shot Dan a giant grin as he patted his brother on the shoulder. “Looks like you’ve met Martyn and Cornelia.”

Dan, now feeling more nervous than ever at the sudden meeting, just stared at Phil unable to say anything. He thought he would have more time to prepare himself for this situation, so his brain was working faster than his vocal cords.

Phil seemed to sense there was a problem so he said his goodbyes and gently pulled Dan into the house. He led him into the kitchen and took the coffees out of his hand before wrapping his arms around Dan’s waist.

“Sorry to surprise you like that, they were meant to leave earlier but me and Martyn started a game of Bubble Bobble, and before I knew it, you were here.”

“It’s ok,” replied Dan, resting his head on Phil’s shoulder. “Just my brain doesn’t handle scary situations like that very well and when I saw a hot guy answering your door I just thought ‘Oh shit I’ve been replaced’.”

Phil pulled away before slowly rubbing his thumb across Dan’s cheek. “Firstly, you seem to be pretty irreplaceable to me so don’t panic about that, and secondly EWWWW you think my brother is hot?!” His face scrunched up with disgust.

“I do love me a ginger,” Dan said smirking. “And yes I do know what colour hair you are hiding under that brown hair dye mister.” He grabbed his coffee off the counter and shot Phil a huge smile.

He turned away and walked out of the kitchen as Phil grabbed his drink and followed behind. He offered to show Dan around, but Dan was happy enough just watching Phil in his own space. Each corner of the house seemed to be filled with little touches that seemed to fit, seemed to scream Phil and his personality. He found his way into the sitting room and walked over to the bookcase which held most of Phil's DVDs and games.

He ran his finger along the spines of the boxes noting that a lot of them were ones Dan owned himself. He noticed that even though they had talked about Ghibli films he didn’t seem to own many, making a mental note for possible Christmas gifts.

He moved over to another book case which was full of photos, some of Phil and his family and there was a lot of Phil and people who had obviously been on his show. There also seemed to be a lot of half dead plants and empty pots which were obviously previously homes to those that didn’t make it.

There was also a tank on a sideboard by the door he had walked into. There was a little blue fish inside, which seemed to be sat on a leaf.

“That’s Norman,” Phil said as he walked up beside Dan resting his hand on the small of his back. “But again you already know that.”

Dan bristled at that.

“Does it still bother you that I was a fan of yours? That I know more about you than you know me?” Dan asked, biting his bottom lip.

“It didn’t bother me until like today, where I go to introduce you to my brother and my Norman, and you already know who they are because you basically stalked me for like three years.” Phil replied followed by a stiff chuckle that Dan could see right through.

“Actually it was only two years, and I don’t know everything, just the stuff you told us. You aren’t 100% the same person you show on Instagram all the time, Phil.” Dan said, turning round to face Phil.

“I tried to keep some things private, but I didn’t think I was that different? Is Phil Lester better than your Phil?”

“My Phil?”

“I mean, yeah Dan, if you’ll have me?”

“Only if you are aware that you are stuck with me, #1 Phil trash?”

Phil walked away drinking from his cup as he did so. “Hmmm how confident in that title are you, maybe I should hold a competition on the show to find out.”

“Now who’s the cheeky bastard?! I’d better bloody win if I have to put up with this!” Dan said, as Phil just turned around and said: “No special treatment for you Danny Boy, you can’t bribe the judges so you win!”

“Oh really?” Dan questioned raising one eyebrow. “I’m sure I could find some way to swing the votes.” He said before kissing Phil on the cheek.

“How did you plan on doing that Dan?” Asked Phil quietly, wrapping one arm around Dan’s waist and pulling him in tighter.

“Pancakes, Phil, and pizza and coffee, all the things you like the most,” he whispered into Phil’s ear.

“There’s one thing I like the most, though,” replies Phil.

“And what’s that?”

“You.”

Chapter Text

Dan stayed in the living room while Phil finished getting ready, busying himself by scrolling through his Tumblr, reblogging a couple of things he knew his followers would appreciate and answering a couple of asks about how he edits his photos.

Before long he heard footsteps coming down the stairs and looked up to see Phil walking into the room. His breath caught in his throat as he took in the beautiful man stood in front of him. Phil was dressed in a simple red plaid shirt and his black jeans were ripped across the knees.

He looked Phil up and down before looking directly at him, smiling shyly at the smug grin plastered across Phils face.

“Like what you see, eh Daniel?” He said as he attempted a twirl, falling slightly off balance and having to grip the door frame to stop himself toppling completely.

Dan just laughed and said: “Oh yes, very suave and graceful.”

Phil’s face flushed red as he walked to where Dan was sitting, proffering him a hand to help him up.

“Why thank you kind sir,” Dan said as he stood up, not letting go of Phil’s hand for a few seconds. “Are we ready to make a move now then?”

“Yeah, the Uber is on its way so let’s go wait outside,” Phil replied, reaching around Dan on the sofa to put his coat on.

—-

The short ride to the bar was made better by Phil placing his hand on Dan’s thigh and rubbing his thumb gently across his leg. Dan had voiced his anxiety of going out and knew that this was Phil’s way of making sure that he knew he was there. That he wasn’t alone tonight.

They arrived at the bar a little after 11 and Dan checked his phone while they waited to get in. He’d received a message from Ash saying they were already inside and had a table, so at least that was one less thing for him to worry about.

Soho was looking so pretty with all the lights that were up ready for Christmas, and even though it was busy he enjoyed the fact that he had to press into Phil to let people pass on the busy pavement.

Phil had his arm wrapped around his waist, taking advantage of the fact that this part of London was a bit less scary for them to show such affection in public.

It wasn’t long before they were in the bar, which was already super busy. He reached out and grabbed onto Phil’s hand, squeezing it tight to stop the panic rising. They made their way to Ash’s table, where there was about 6 or so people chatting and drinking together.

Dan recognised a couple of them from Ash’s department at work—and Connor who he worked with—but the others were strangers. He smiled at them all as Ash made introductions but had already forgotten their names by the time he’d gone round the table.

They took their coats off and put them on the two available chairs next to Ash before moving over to the bar to order some drinks.

Dan squeezed his way in and felt Phil press up against his back placing his hands on the bar essentially trapping Dan in.

“Do you come here often, hot stuff?” Phil whispered into Dan’s ear.

“Has that ever worked for anyone?” Dan replied, turning his head to look at Phil.

“I’ve never tried before, but you look like a sure thing,” Phil giggled as he kissed Dan’s cheek.

“Excuse you! Sure thing! I have never been a sure thing, you need to work a bit harder for that Philip,” he turned his head back round to face the barman, who had come over to them.

Dan ordered their drinks and while they were waiting for them to be made he turned around to face Phil properly. He simply pressed his lips gently against Phil’s, smiling as he did so.

“You can’t get away with everything because I find you cute you know, so bloody cheeky all the time, one of these days I’ll bite back.”

“I look forward to it, I like being bitten,” Phil laughed, burying his head into Dan’s neck before snapping gently at the skin there.

“Ah so that explains the pale skin, you are actually a vampire,” Dan said pushing him gently away and turning back round giggling as he did so.

“Hmm I don’t sparkle though, unlike you,” Phil said, stroking his thumb across the side of Dan’s face where he had applied some highlighter earlier.

Dan turned his head to the side to meet Phil’s eyes, feeling a sudden twist of worry in his gut. “Don’t you like it?”

“Of course I do, I already think you are the most beautiful man in this room, that shimmer just highlights that.” Phil replied, with a smile playing on his lips.

“Wait, was that a fucking pun? Did you just dad joke and compliment me at the same time!”

Phil simply laughed and wrapped his arms around Dan’s waist, hugging him securely from behind. Dan felt Phil’s lips brush against his ear as Phil said: “Don’t blush Danny, we can kiss and make up if you like.”

Dan just laughed and enjoyed the feeling of Phil’s laughter on his neck.

Chapter Text

They had picked their drinks up and moved back over to their seats, and straight into what seemed to be quite the heated discussion.

Ash, who was sat to Dan’s right, leaned over and explained what the argument was about. “One half of the table is arguing that baby Grinch is cuter than baby Yoda.”

“Look, all I’m saying is I know what cute is when I see it,” One of the guys Dan worked with shouted. “Talking of cute, hi there Phil Lester, minor radio celebrity, Instagram hunk, and reason for many a happy ending to my evening.” He finished with an exaggerated wink which sent Phil’s face bright red and Dan’s anger level right up.

“Connor,” He warned through gritted teeth as he reached for Phil’s hand under the table.

“Oh sorry babe, didn’t realise he was claimed already,” Connor replied with a saccharine sweet tone to his voice.

Phil squeezed Dan’s hand as he sniped back “There’s plenty of hot ass for you to chase after in this place BABE, so fuck off yeah?”

“Gosh darling, didn’t take you for such a salty bitch, I was only joking.”

Dan ignored Connor and concentrated on the motion of Phil rubbing his knuckles, before reaching out and placing their entwined hands on Phil’s thigh.

The conversation soon moved onto a different argument and Dan’s anxiety was starting to fizz up. This is why he didn’t go out anywhere, too many people to talk to, too many differing opinions and people fighting for attention. He loved his job and the safety it brought him, but people like Connor always acted different outside the workplace.

Dan felt Phil’s head fall to his shoulder. As he watched the people arguing, he said, “I can hear your brain clicking about, if you don’t want to be here, we can go back to mine?”

Dan was grateful for the escape plan but didn’t want to let Ash down so he declined the offer, stating that he really wanted to dance with Phil later, to which Phil’s face lit up.

He then turned to Ash and started talking about the bar and the drinks that were on offer, the table had already made their way part down the menu of cocktails that were on offer. The trio then spent the next hour or so chatting with Ash, asking Phil lots of questions and telling him lots of embarrassing stories about Dan.

After Phil had excused himself to the toilet Ash looked at Dan. “He’s cute, and funny and a complete fucking nerd, I can see why you are into him.”

“God I am so into him, I’m panicking that it’s too fast and he’s going to see what a twat I am and just leave.”

“You aren’t a twat, you are a wonderful man and if he doesn’t see that then he should just leave.”

“Urgh why are you being nice to me, I don’t cope well with nice people.”

“Only because I can see that he’s super into you too, and if it’s fast then so what? As long as you are both in it, then fuck what everyone else thinks.”

Dan didn’t know how to reply to Ash’s comments so he just squeezed his shoulder and gave him a big smile. Ash was probably one of Dan’s closest friends, and had to deal with more than a few of his anxious moments, both inside of work and out.

Dan drained the last of his drink and excused himself to the bar to order another one for himself and Phil. He stood at the bar and tried to get the bartender's attention when something caught his eye.

Phil was standing at the other side of the bar with a tall blonde man pressed up against him. They were obviously deep in conversation, with the other man gesticulating wildly before reaching his hands up to Phil’s face and pulling him into a kiss.

Dan watched in shock as Phil pushed the man away with an angry look on his face.

Dan clutched the bar breathing heavily, looking down at his knuckles slowly turning white, when he looked back up he saw only one thing.

Phil’s beautiful blue eyes staring back at him.

Chapter Text

Dan wanted to run.

Wanted to go back to the table, grab his coat and leave.

Get back to his flat, get under the duvet and not move again till Monday morning.

Instead his feet were stuck to the floor. His eyes were trapped in two pools of ice blue crystal water.

He always thought you could swim in Phils eyes, and right now he was drowning.

He blinked hard to break the connection, and kept his eyes closed for as long as he could bear it.

When he next opened them Phil had gone. He resurfaced from the icy blue and gasped for air.

Then he felt breath next to his ear and a whisper of: “Dance with me Dan, please.” He turned his head to where Phil was standing, and held his hand out for Phil to take.

They silently made their way to the dance floor, weaving through the couples that were already there. The music wasn’t insanely loud in this part of the bar, just loud enough for the bass to pump through Dan’s chest, matching the thrum of his anxious heartbeat.

Phil stopped and turned to Dan, wrapping his arms around his waist. Dan lifted his hands and placed them on Phil’s chest, resting his head on his shoulder. They stayed locked together, swaying to the music that was playing.

He didn’t want to look up, he couldn’t meet those eyes again for fear of what Phil was going to say. He knew he had no claim on Phil’s emotions, on Phil’s heart, but until that moment he didn’t realise just how much of a claim Phil had on his.

After a few minutes, he felt Phil take a deep breath and begin to speak.

“I’ve known Sam for years. We’ve been on and off for nearly all of that time, he treats me as his backup plan. Whenever he isn’t in a relationship with someone else he comes running back to me. Because I thought that is what I wanted, I let him.”

Dan moved his hand up to Phil’s neck and started to rub his hand over the back of it, trying to soothe him while grounding himself in the situation. He lifted his head to meet Phil’s gaze. Phil’s face was showing an emotion Dan hadn’t seen on him before, and it wasn’t one he wanted to see again.

“I haven’t seen him for about 9 months,” Phil continued. “He reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and I ignored him. It’s when I first started talking to you. You had my full attention and I didn’t want to talk to him anymore.”

Dan smiled gently at this, trying to get Phil to respond in a similar way but Phil’s face stayed solemn.

“He couldn't accept that. He said he realised that I was the one he wanted to be with. That the other relationships were just filler. The same old bullshit he says every time because he knows it gets into my head. Then he fucks me and he fucks me over.”

Dan bristled at this; Phil didn’t normally curse so he knew this was hitting a nerve. He didn’t want to interrupt so just kept making soothing circles on Phil’s neck, the other hand resting on his chest. They continued to sway to the music. Dan didn’t even hear what was playing, he was so focused on Phil and what he was saying.

“But this time—this time was different. This time there is you. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually felt something. That I’ve looked forward to there being something other than sadness and an inevitable break up and breakdown,” Phil tightened his hands on Dan’s hips. “You walked into my world and I thought, oh there you are I’ve been waiting for you to show up. I kissed you and it felt right, and I didn’t want to stop.”

Phil finally smiled, only a small lift at the corner of his mouth, but it was there.

“When he kissed me it felt nothing like it used to, nothing like I experience when I kiss you. Then when I pushed him away and saw that you were right there I thought it was over. That you were going to leave and I wouldn’t see you again, and I didn’t want that. I’m so happy you stayed.”

Dan squeezed Phil’s neck slightly. “Are you calling me dramatic Phil, expecting me to flee out of the bar into the night?” He let out a gentle laugh, Phil buried his head into Dan’s neck at this retort.

“I mean you have done it before Danny, you’ve got form.” Phil replied.

Dan laughed heartily at this, pulling at the hair on the nape of Phil’s neck lightly. “Oi!” He felt Phil laughing before he continued. “Anyway, you can kiss whoever you want, Phil. This is a brand new thing, we’ve been on like 2 dates, I can’t stamp ‘taken’ on your forehead as a warning to all the other men out there who can see how fucking hot you are.”

“I think I need to do that, have you seen how everyone’s staring at you in this place Dan? Like I’m sure one guy at the bar earlier was dribbling.”

Dan rolled his eyes but felt his cheeks flame red.

“They can think what they want Phil. I don’t want them, I’ve had a crush on you for two fucking years. So just because I don’t want to kiss anyone else, just because I only want to kiss you, doesn’t mean you don’t have to only want to kiss me.”

Phil pulled back to face Dan.

“I want to,” Phil said, looking completely sincere. “I quite enjoy kissing you and only you.”

“I mean, I am an excellent kisser, the approximately 4 people I’ve kissed before would testify to that I reckon.”

“Gosh 4 people, you do get around Dan.”

“Yes Phil, I’m a huge player. Don’t hate me, hate my game.”

Phil said nothing, just wrapped his arms tightly around Dan pulling him as close as possible before pressing their lips together.

Dan simply relaxed into the kiss, noticing the bass beat of the music match his heartbeat again. This time not through anxiety but by the beat it skips when being with Phil.

Chapter Text

It was a few days after their night out and Dan was sat back in The Bean. Christmas was in full flow and he was back to try one of their newest festive drinks. They’d actually invited him to sample one for free in exchange for a photo for their Instagram so Dan jumped at the chance.

Of course Phil had decided to join him because sugary drinks were one of his favourite things.

“Marshmallow topping might be the absolute best thing I’ve tasted,” Phil said with a big grin on his face.

“You mustn’t have liked it that much Phil, you’ve got a bit on the end of your nose,” Dan said. Unlike the first time they went for coffee he didn’t stop himself from reaching out to wipe the cream away.

Dan had been getting a bit braver in that regard, he always struggled with showing any sort of affection but with Phil he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and touching. Feeling safe in the knowledge that he could do that and Phil would let him.

Phil smiled at Dan before reaching out to steal Dan’s drink, pulling a face when Dan moved it out of his way.

“You’ll be hopped up on sugar and not sleep tonight Phil, then you’ll be texting me tomorrow saying how sleepy you are.”

“You aren’t my real dad you can’t tell me what to do,” replied Phil, finally getting his hands round Dans mug and taking a huge slurp of the sugary concoction.

Dan rolled his eyes. “It’s a good job I’ve already got all the photos I needed Phil!”

Dan had spent twenty minutes framing the perfect photo when they had arrived. A silhouetted shot of Phil from behind holding a mug, surrounded by glowing fairy lights. He was super proud of the shot and hoped The Bean would love it.

“Anyway Dan, I was hoping we could go back to my flat and watch Christmas films for the rest of the day, so you don’t need to worry about me being able to sleep or not, because you’ll be there with me to keep me entertained,” said Phil.

“I’m not here to purely be your entertainer you know! But yes, I’ll come watch all the cheesy films you want. As long as there's snacks and coffee on tap.”

“Obviously, this is me we are talking about, I have to be within at least 500m of a pack of Maltesers at all times otherwise there’s hell to pay,” Phil said as he stood up from where they were sitting.

“Oh of course. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t get chocolate at least once every hour, and I don’t want to witness the horror again,” he stood up next to Phil and tangled their fingers together.

Phil looked down at their joined hands and smiled. He was usually the one making first contact like that so Dan seemed to have surprised him.

“Don’t look so soppy, it’s cold outside Phil I’m doing it for warmth,” Dan giggled.

“Ah yes, holding one hand together is going to keep us super warm,” Phil replied, rolling his eyes while pulling Dan towards the door.

“Actually if you are worried about being cold I’ve got a few different ways we can keep warm,” laughed Phil, raising his eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

“None of which can be done in public Phil, so get moving,” laughed Dan, half pushing him out the door of The Bean.

“I meant cuddling under a blanket in front of the fire, get your mind out the gutter Danny,” Phil replied, nearly tripping over his own feet as he left the coffee shop.

“Sure you did Phil, sure you did,” said Dan, grabbing Phil’s hand again and walking out into the cold winter day.

——

They arrived at Phil's house with rosy cheeks from the bitter cold and big smiles on their faces. Both of them telling silly stories and jokes on the walk from the cafe.

They hadn’t let go of each other’s hand, Phil constantly rubbing his thumb across Dan’s knuckles or squeezing his hand tight when they were about to cross the road. Dan had felt safe and protected being next to Phil, which was something he had rarely felt before.

Phil opened the front door and they rushed into the warmth, both starting to shiver from the walk. They took their coats off and Phil went into the kitchen, putting the kettle on to boil. Dan walked into the living room and admired Phil’s decorations that he had set up the previous day.

He ran his fingers across the tinsel and fairy lights that were edging the fireplace. Stared into the glittery baubles that were hanging on nearly every branch of the thick green tree in the corner of the room. Phil’s Christmas look was nothing like Dan’s minimalist approach to decorating for the festive season.

He said as much to Phil when he walked into the room with two steaming mugs of coffee and a selection box tucked under his arm.

“It’s Christmas. Go big or go home, Danny boy. If you can’t whack a string of fairy lights on every available surface then what’s the point,” Phil replied.

“It literally looks like Father Christmas vomited in here so I suppose mission accomplished.”

Phil just giggled before reaching for the remote and putting the TV on.

They settled for one of the cheesiest Christmas films they could find. One where the girl falls in love with the lead man after 3 days before living happily ever after, which let’s be fair could be any of a 1000 Hallmark festive flicks.

They snuggled closer under Phil's fleecy blanket, laughing at the silly moments in the film and fake swooning at the over the top romance on the TV in front of them. They argued over who was getting the Curly Wurly from the selection box with Phil getting his own way after distracting Dan with a kiss.

While Phil was making another drink in the break between movies, Dan grabbed his phone. He clicked onto Instagram and checked the picture he had posted from earlier on the day. He had a number of notifications, including a lot from the Phil fans who had followed him after realising who he was.

They obviously knew that Phil was the subject of the photo and were screaming about how gorgeous he was, and how lucky Dan was to be able to take photos of him. But there was also the fans who were quick with the nastier comments towards Dan about how he wasn’t good enough for Phil and how he was using him to get more attention on Instagram.

Phil walked in when Dan was reading through the comments getting more and more upset. Realising that Dan was sad, he was quick to cuddle him into his arms, pulling him as close as possible. Dan handed Phil the phone so he could read what everyone was saying.

Dan buried his head into Phil’s shoulder while they sat in silence. He was so anxious about all the attention he had received, he wished it was purely because of his photograph and people liking it, not just the subject matter of it being Phil.

Phil had one hand on the phone and the other he was running through Dan’s curls, trying to calm his loud brain.

“They are talking rubbish you know, I mean apart from the people calling me gorgeous that is 100% the truth.”

Dan huffed a laugh into Phil’s neck at this comment but let Phil carry on speaking.

“I wish I could tell them all to shut up and leave us alone, but we have to just let them get bored of this situation. I’m in this for the long haul, they’ll get bored of seeing us together eventually,” Phil said, kissing the top of Dan’s head.

They didn’t move for a while, Phil had put another film on and Dan had shifted round so his back was pressed against Phil’s chest and they were as close to each other as they could get.

Dan let the comments float in and out of his mind, he tried to swallow the anxiety down as much as he could but the bubbles were floating to the surface.

“Fancy an afternoon nap bub?” Said Phil, breaking the silence that had sat between them for a while.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, but I’ll come cuddle you if you are tired?”

They hadn’t actually slept in the same bed before, the night they had gone out Dan had slept in Phil’s spare room, so this was something new.

They walked into Phil’s bedroom and Phil handed Dan a pair of his pj bottoms. He went into the bathroom to change and looked in the mirror in front of him. He could see the sad look in his eyes. The “I’ll never be good enough” that was written across his face, the flashing neon sign of “fragile goods, handle with care” that he constantly felt was hanging above his head.

Phil was already snuggled under the duvet looking at his phone when he walked into the room. He smiled broadly at him, before lifting the cover for Dan to join him. They quickly cuddled together, Phil spooning Dan and whispering sweet things into his ear.

Dan’s brain was suddenly quiet, the anxiety bubbles had popped and he turned round to face Phil.

“I’m in this for the long haul too you know, I didn’t say it before but I want that with you,” he reached forward and took Phil’s face with both hands kissing him gently.

Phil kissed him back before pulling away and smiling.

“Good, because I’m not letting you go.”

They kissed one last time before Dan rested his head back on the pillow and let his eyes fall closed. He concentrated on Phil who was stroking Dan’s hair, his eyes, his nose, anywhere he could reach before slowly falling asleep feeling total comfort from the man next to him.

Before Phil went to sleep he grabbed his phone and took a photo, posting it to Instagram.

It was simply a photo of Dan’s sleeping face, Phil’s hand resting on his cheek, the caption read:

I knew my hands were big, but who knew I could hold the whole world in one of them

Chapter Text

Dan’s plans for Christmas were always the same. Put off the inevitable visit to his mum’s house before the guilt got too much and he was dragged back for at least Christmas Day. The rest of the festive season was spent eating too many twiglets and binge watching as much rubbish as he could before he had to go back to work in January.

This year was shaping up to be different.

This year there was Phil, and an invite to his parents house. It wasn’t set in stone yet, just something mumbled by Phil when they were about to go to sleep last night.

That was also new to Dan, someone to go to sleep next to and wake up the next morning with. He wasn’t used to having someone that close to him for such an extended period of time. His normal instinct was to push Phil away, he needed time to breathe and to decompress and having Phil there was hard work for him. They managed to work something out, Phil understanding Dan’s need to be alone sometimes, to block out all the noise.

They still spent more time together than apart though, hence the invitation to spend Christmas together. Phil explained his obsession with Christmas and how much of a family event it was; stockings, Christmas pj’s and board games, the whole shebang. Much better than a single day spent with his family purely to get cuddles from the family dog.

Much better than trying to avoid all the questions being at home brought. The guilt at needing to not be around the person who brought him into this world. The constant buzz of anxiety he felt when he was in the house he grew up. The house most people would call a home, but Dan could never call it that.

Dan was awake too early, Phil snoring lightly next to him, one hand resting on Dan’s thigh, bright morning sun poking its way through the gaps in his bedroom curtains.

Being awake meant more time to think about Phil’s proposition. Would spending Christmas together be better than spending it apart? This whole thing still felt too soon but they had both decided that they were in it and who cares what anybody else thought.

So maybe Dan was thinking of saying yes, was already dreaming of ugly Christmas jumpers and homemade mince pies. Of actual roast dinners and not whatever vegan disaster his brother was forcing on them this year.

Of festive walks along the coast bundled up in thick coats and bobble hats. Of cuddles in front of the fire, hot chocolate and too much wine. Of starting a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and arguing over who puts the last piece in.

Of a mum and a dad. Of a boyfriend. Of a happy Christmas for once.

Not that they had said the boyfriend thing yet, but Dan had hoped this is the way they were going. Just the thought of Phil referring to him in that way to his parents had him reeling. He’d never been a boyfriend before, never had a boyfriend before. Never moved in such a way towards such a big thing.

The L thing.

Love. Did Dan love Phil? Did Phil love Dan?

Dan had very rarely thought that he could love someone, that he could open his heart that wide to someone and let them in.

Let them see every flaw, every bad thing, every horrible thing that made Dan who he was. But he also wanted Phil to see the good, the reasons that he could be loved.

He struggled with the concept of being loved, that someone could see everything about him and love him anyway. That someone would want him.

But yes, he thought he could love Phil.

Maybe he already did.

There was a flutter in his heart when he turned his head to look at the man lying next to him. Close enough to reach out and kiss, but far enough away that he didn’t feel suffocated.

He stroked the hand lying on his thigh, lifting it up to look at it carefully. Ran his finger across all the ridges, the wrinkles and the smooth parts. Entwined their fingers together and saw how well they locked together. How well him and Phil fit together.

Phil began to stir, squeezing Dan’s hand tightly as he did so, moving as close as he could and pushing his head into the space at Dan’s shoulder.

They lay together in silence for a bit while Dan let his thoughts bubble around his head. Phil’s fingers running up and down his chest, scrunched into his hair and down his face.

The need for conversation between them to fill awkward silences had never come. The air around them was never screaming to be filled. Just this moment, any moment spent together was enough.

Dan cleared his throat then said in a voice still broken from waking up and not speaking for a while:

“If you were serious then yes I’ll come to your parents for Christmas, I’d love to wake up on Christmas Day with you, open presents together, eat too many selection boxes and argue over monopoly. I don’t want to not be together at a time that matters a lot to you.”

Phil didn’t say anything but Dan could feel the smile that was radiating out of him. Mainly because he had the same smile on his face.

All his life he thought of himself as a puzzle missing a piece, maybe Phil was the part he was missing all along.