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winds of time

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The baby is so tiny in Dan's arms, but Phil can't help but notice how nice he looks holding her.

He's not really sure what to do with that sort of thought. It's not that kids are a thing he actively wants - certainly not now, maybe never. He can't quite wrap his mind around having that sort of responsibility for another little person when everything in his own life feels so up in the air.

London. The BBC. Youtube.

With every waking moment of his life at least half his brain is having a small crisis over how this could all be a mistake. They're barely even able to afford food or furniture in the new flat and it's so far away from home and everyone he knows...

He tries not to let on. He doesn't want Dan to think he has doubts.

Because he doesn't, really. He doesn't doubt himself and Dan, not on any level.

He just doubts the world around them, the same way when he's sitting in a taxi his mind flashes to which car will crash into them, or he thinks of what mechanical errors could be lurking on every plane ride he talks.

It's just how his mind works, no matter how much he wishes it would work a little less. So he pushes the thoughts away and he watches Dan gently jostling Emily as she blows baby bubbles at him.

*

Dan goes to sleep early.

Phil isn't surprised. Dan hasn't slept well the past couple of weeks. He goes on twitter or tumblr and he sits there and lets the stormcloud grow around him and then he retreats. Into his room, into himself, places Phil can't reach.

But he seems better here. Maybe it's because they've been so busy visiting friends and places and eating good food and staring at the giggling chubby cheeks of a barely-formed human being that he hasn't had time for the rain in his head.

Either way, Phil is grateful for it. He smiles at Dan from an upside down angle as Dan walks behind the couch Phil is sitting on.

He's doused in surprising warmth when Dan leans over and gives him an also upside down kiss, nose bumping Phil's chin. "Goodnight, loser."

*

Lauren's already in bed, knowing she'll be up in a few more hours with the baby. Ian says she catches sleep when and where she can, that they both do.

Phil and Ian sit there together, the television playing at a quiet volume.

It feels strange, surreal. When he thinks of Ian, he mostly just remembers teenage angst and parties and playing video games. He thinks of testing the boundaries of youth and adulthood at clubs, by drinking too much.

Not this - what they are now. Two men who pay rent and have jobs and lives, sitting in a lounge full of baby toys while their partners sleep on nearby.

"Weird, innit?" Ian says, voicing thoughts that Phil figures must be pretty similar to his own.

"Yeah," he agrees.

Because it is.

But not in a bad way. Phil mostly feels better as an adult than he did as a teen. There are things he misses; the constant camaraderie of a group of friends, mostly. Adulthood can be a lonely thing, maybe lonelier with his melancholy of having moved away only months before.

He misses Ian. He misses his mum and dad.

He can visit, though. Just like he is now. That's what he tells himself. It's less than a couple hours by train. He's not really that far away.

*

"How is it?" Ian asks. "London?"

Ian wanted to move to London, ages ago. Phil figures he must be pretty settled by now, especially with Lauren and the baby.

Phil never wanted to. He thought London was big and noisy and scary.

It is big and noisy and scary, still. He wasn't wrong.

"It's good," Phil says. "It makes Manchester feel small."

"I bet." Ian takes a drink from the bottle in his hand.

It's Ribena, not beer. Ian's not drinking right now because Lauren can't drink. Phil thinks that kind of solidarity is sweet. Dan had laughed and said Phil better not get knocked up because Dan wasn't going for that.

Everyone laughed.

"How's Dan?" Ian asks. "How's all of... that?"

He tips his bottle like that'll clear up what 'that' is.

Maybe it doesn't need to be made clear, though. He does know. "It's good."

"So are you like..." Ian's words sound awkward, like he's not sure what he should be asking. "You know. Do people know?"

"Um." It's possibly the hardest thing he could ask. "Mostly no."

"Oh." Ian looks confused. "Why? You're in London, it's a bigger place. Isn't it like - better there? Safer?"

"It's not all about safe," Phil says. "It's complicated."

"Right, yeah. Of course." Ian doesn't look put off, but Phil still hates giving that answer.

So he tries again. "Dan's family doesn't know. And the BBC - we don't know how they'd react."

"But the whole like, thing with the internet...?" Ian trails the question off.

Phil shrugs. "They don't know."

They do. That's the problem. The fans on the internet know, because things get around. They saw the video last year. They remember how Dan and Phil were in the start.

And Phil's friends know, because Phil's a lad from Rossendale who’s gotten a bit famous, and everyone loves hometown gossip.

"Right," Ian says again. "Well, I hope it gets better."

Phil wants to argue that they're doing plenty fine just as they are. That they don't need the world to know in order to be happy. But he's not even sure if that's true.

So he just smiles at the television and says, "Yeah."

*

Lauren wakes up at midnight to feed Emily, and that's when Phil decides to go to bed.

As he brushes his teeth he can hear their quiet voices and when he passes their open bedroom door he sees Ian sat with Lauren on the bed, the baby's head cradled against her chest.

Ian sees him and lifts a hand in a wave. "Night, Phil."

"Goodnight," he says, and keeps walking past.

*

Dan is asleep when Phil gets in bed with him.

They can't do this many places. PJ's, here. Phil's parents’ house.

Any other friends they visit, trips they take, appearances they make in cities too far away from home - they retreat to different beds at the end of the day.

Phil hates it. He never sleeps well without Dan.

"Time 's it?" Dan mumbles, turning toward Phil.

Phil wraps his arms around Dan. "Midnight."

Dan hums a response and settles his head at the curve of Phil's shoulder, breathing out deeply. "You okay?"

It's a touchstone moment, a check in like they do a dozen times a day. Dan's probably too asleep still to even understand an answer if Phil were to give one, but that's alright. They can talk tomorrow. Or they won't. Phil's not even upset, just a little maudlin about being home for the first time since they moved.

And it's worth some quiet on his part sometimes to keep Dan's good days good.

"Yeah," he whispers, and stretches his toes out under the unfamiliar blanket.

Dan sighs again and whispers, "Love you."

Phil takes that sleepy unassuming confession and holds it tight to him as he falls asleep.