Dan’s running through the forest.
He doesn’t know what the monster behind him looks like but he imagines that it has long legs and sharp teeth. As his lungs ache and his legs grow more and more unsteady underneath him, he thinks about which part of him it will snap at first.
If he’s lucky it’d go straight for the brain. It’s never been all that useful to Dan anyway. But with his general history of things going the way he wants, it’ll be a literal ankle biter that’ll do nothing but debilitate him and leave him stranded in the middle of fucking nowhere with only the glowing moon above him for company.
He stops with one hand braced on a tree and listens. He can hear it - but not footfalls. Just loud, heavy breaths that almost sound like laughter.
His blood runs cold.
And then he wakes up. Like always. It’s not cold blood now but sweat. Drenching his hair and sticking him to his sheets. He kicks his blanket off and turns on the lamp beside his bed.
He’s not sure if he’s more scared or just annoyed at this point. He always dreams the same goddamn dream, and he never gets to see how it ends. It’s the uncertainty more than anything else that makes the dream so unnerving.
What the fuck is chasing him? What is he running from?
He looks over at the bed next to his. The guy’s still asleep, so at least Dan must not have been screaming this time, which is good. The last guy hadn’t taken too kindly to being woken in the middle of the night. Dan sported a shiner the next morning to prove it.
He moves about as quietly as possible, leaving - fuck, can’t remember his name - to his sleep. Tall guy, really fantastic cock. Not that Dan was looking. He’s not the sort of guy who looks at random guys who definitely forgot their clothes when they went down the hall to the toilets to shower.
He’s had far worse hostel experiences than an overly friendly guy with a nice dick. He shamelessly thinks about that as he convinces himself he can open the door, he can step into the hall, he can if nothing else take his laptop and walk down to the common area with the beat up, stained sofas and the vending machine with no working lights.
Nothing is going to get him when he opens the door. There aren’t any monsters in the shadows. They’re all too busy residing in his very own head.
He’s halfway down the stairs before he realizes he hasn’t even put a shirt on. He stops on the step for a moment and then decides he doesn’t care.
Much to his disappointment there are people in the common area. A quick check of the clock on the wall tells Dan it’s nearly three in the morning. Do Germans just… not sleep?
There’s a man sat on the least dingy of the sofas with a woman in his lap. They’re kissing, or something like it. Mostly they’re licking each other’s mouths which is seriously grotesque and for a moment Dan just stands there and wonders how he let his life come to this.
The man looks at Dan and grins. “Wenn du möchtest kannst du gerne mitmachen?”
He doesn’t understand the words, but he understands the grin.
It might not be a bad offer, if Dan were in the right frame of mind - and place in life - to be welcoming it. But right now it feels like a tremor of the nightmare in his dream-trapped state.
“Nein,” he says, and walks away.
He circles the entire floor then turns and does it again. The idea of bed feels too constricting, like the monsters are just waiting underneath the metal frame.
He could go outside. He’s not sure why a dark and damp street in the middle of the night seems more welcoming than a place meant solely for rest, but it is.
He needs a shirt for that, though. He creeps back in. All the empty beds seem like they’re mocking him. He was glad, earlier; he’s been in too many of these places too crammed full of people. The idea that it’s only him and this one other guy - it seemed alright enough.
He snatches a shirt from the single bag he carries and pulls it on. He drops his laptop on the bed and picks up his coat from where he hung it on the corner of the bedframe.
“Bit early for a walk, innit?”
Dan jumps about a foot in the air and makes a noise he’s not proud of.
Big dick man sits up. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to—”
“You fucking creep,” Dan croaks. His heart is so far up his throat he can taste it.
“Uh, mate. You’re the one skulking around in the dark in the middle of the night. You woke me up.”
“I’m not skulking. And it’s technically morning, now.”
“You’re not German,” the guy says.
“Neither are you,” Dan replies, like he’s been accused of something. In fact the bloke is definitely English, most likely from somewhere a lot more north than Dan. He can hear echoes of it in the accent.
Dan stands there awkwardly, one arm inside his coat. “Well… alright then.”
“What are you doing?”
If Dan were more awake and less on edge, he probably wouldn’t respond the way he does. “What fucking business is it of yours?”
The man shrinks back. “None, I guess.”
Dan immediately feels bad.
Just not bad enough to apologize. “Yeah, exactly.”
The man lies down again and turns his back to Dan, pulling a thin scratchy blanket that’s identical to the one on Dan’s bed up to his shoulders.
Dan just feels even worse. But he’s used to feeling bad. It’s a feeling that follows him around everywhere.
He’s opening his mouth with no idea what he’ll actually say when a loud, sharp noise starts to blare. “Fuck!” he says, jumping nearly out of his own skin.
“Fuck,” the man agrees, sighing and sitting up. “Fire alarm. This happened last night, too.”
Dan’s heart is racing. The sound hasn’t stopped. “Is it a fire?”
“I hope not,” the man says. “If it is, we probably shouldn’t be standing here having a chat about it.”
“What do we do?” Dan asks. He’s starting to feel frantic.
“We have to go out on the street and wait until they say it isn’t.”
“Are you gonna bring your shit?”
The guy shrugs. “Don’t have much, just a backpack. Guess I’ll bring it.”
Dan stands rooted to the spot just staring at this guy. He’s too tired and fucked up from months and months of shit sleep and shit dreams and a shit life to feel capable of dealing with anything. Suddenly he’s frozen.
“Hey, take a picture, mate, it’ll last longer,” the guy says.
“What?” Dan asks stupidly.
“You’re staring at me.”
“No I’m not.”
“Fine, you’re not. Turn around, I’m getting up now.”
Dan frowns. He knows he’s acting weird but he thinks maybe his brain has officially stopped working. The alarm is so loud it feels like it must be doing some kind of internal damage. “What?” he asks again.
The guys laughs. “You’re really weird. Are you on drugs?”
The guy shakes his head and throws the blanket off his legs and - yep, he’s very much naked.
Dan turns around, but not before he gets a good long look.
He’s not sure why he feels the need to wait, but he does.
And he’s glad for it. The lights in the hallway are even more dim now and his heart still doesn’t know he’s not in some fucked up creepy nightmare forest.
The guy already knows where the stairs are. Dan could have figured that out, but probably not in time to save himself from a burning building, if it were burning.
He doesn’t smell smoke. That’s a good sign. In fact, he doesn’t smell anything besides the strong stench of urine as they make their way down the narrow staircase.
“I’m Phil, by the way,” the man says.
“Nice to meet you, Um Dan.”
The stairwell isn’t big enough for two people side by side. Phil is in front of Dan, but even without being able to see his face Dan can hear the smirk that must be on it.
“Oh, fuck off,” Dan grumbles.
“The German word for stairs is treppe,” Phil says. “Which is funny, because that’s exactly what I usually do on them. Trip.”
Dan has a twisted invasive thought, Phil with his body crumpled at the bottom of the staircase. It makes his breath catch and his heart squeeze tight and scared. “Don’t,” he says. “Don’t trip.”
He’s not sure how to properly emphasize to Phil that his primary reasoning for not falling to his death should be that Dan couldn’t handle having to step over him.
“Don’t joke,” Dan says gravely.
Phil turns to look at him. “Who died and made you the boss of me?”
“Watch where you’re going,” Dan says.
“And you’re annoying.” Dan’s not sure why he’s being so mean to this complete stranger. Honestly, he seems like he’s probably a good guy.
“And yet here you are, following me like a little puppy.” Phil smirks. It looks exactly as Dan imagined.
“Maybe you won’t trip, maybe I’ll push you.”
“My mum will be sad if I die so far from home. You wouldn’t want to make Kath sad, would you?”
Dan’s immediate thought is to wonder why a person with a mum who loves him would find himself in a shithole like this. But it’s a stupid thought. It’s not like Dan’s mum doesn’t love him, she just… never wants to see him again. It’s easier for her to pretend things can be okay if they never actually have to face each other.
“Eyes forward,” Dan says.
They must be nearing the street level. Dan can hear sounds outside. He’s so busy listening to them that he doesn’t see Phil stop completely. “Fuck.”
“What?” Dan’s heart rate spikes.
“I forgot my jacket.” Phil frowns. “Give me yours.”
“What?” Dan asks. “No. I’m not giving you my jacket.”
“I saved your life,” Phil says. “From the fire. I showed you where the stairs are.”
“There is no fire, Phil.”
“There could have been.” Phil turns and crosses his arms. He looks up at Dan from two steps lower.
It’s the first proper look at his face Dan’s gotten.
He has nice eyes. Kind of an odd face besides that, but nice eyes. Nice lips, too. Actually, taken on an individual basis, all the parts aren’t that bad. But-
“Please,” Phil says. “It’s going to be cold out there.”
“If I give you mine I won’t have one,” Dan says.
Phil pokes his bottom lip out.
“Does that ever work for you?” Dan asks.
Phil grins. “You’d be surprised.”
“Fine.” Dan pulls his jacket off and throws it at Phil. “Now let’s fucking get out of this fucking creepy as fuck staircase.”
His jacket fits Phil perfectly. He admires the way it stretches tight over Phil’s shoulders as Phil pushes the heavy exit door open and they step out into a side alley.
“I’ve decided you owe me a drink,” Dan says. He’s already starting to shiver.
Phil looks him up and down. “Fine,” he says after a very long pause. “But only because I want one too.”
“Your reasons don’t matter to me, I just need some alcohol in my system.”
Phil frowns. “You are on drugs, aren’t you?”
“I wish I were, man. I hear they make you happy and shit.”
“I wouldn’t know, but I don’t think most junkies are super in love with their lives.”
Dan rolls his eyes. “Do you know where there’s a bar or not?”
“This is Berlin, there are bars everywhere.”
“Then let’s go.”
Phil isn’t kidding about there being bars everywhere. Dan hadn’t really been paying attention as he stumbled blindly for the nearest hostel with an open bed, but only two doors down there’s a building with chipped green paint on the windowsills and rowdy sounds pouring out of the door.
It’s the sort of noise that’ll give Dan a headache for sure, but that’s a problem for future Dan - and with enough beer in him maybe he won’t even care.
He doesn’t even like beer. But he assumes that’s what he’ll get, and that’s why he’s surprised when Phil disappears to the bar and comes back with two cocktails.
He hands one to Dan. “It’s blackberry liqueur and Goldwasser,” he says, like Dan will have any idea what Goldwasser even is. He takes a drink and it tastes good. It tickles a bit going down, but the fruitiness covers most of the bite.
“Well,” Phil says. “There’s your drink.”
He’s looking at Dan expectantly.
Dan realizes now is when he could go.
He doesn’t want to go.
He hates himself for this habit he’s got - this baby duckling imprinting he does on anyone who shows him the barest bit of kindness, or even just… not kindness, but not open hate or vitriol.
“It is a drink,” Dan agrees.
Phil smiles suddenly. It’s not what Dan was expecting. “Come on,” Phil says, hitching his backpack up over his shoulder. “Let’s take these and go for a walk.”
“Who says I wanna go for a walk with you?”
“Your stupid face says so.”
Dan’s not sure why, but that makes him laugh a little.
“Oh, he smiles,” Phil says. “And a nice one, too.”
Dan takes a long swig of his drink lest he start to convince himself that this not entirely hideous looking stranger is flirting with him. “If I freeze to death, it’s your fault.”
“I think I can live with that.”
They step outside and it’s cold again. Dan doesn’t like the cold, but he can still clearly hear the blaring of the alarm from the hostel, and he’d rather be cold than half deaf or burning to death, so he shoves his hands into his pockets and follows Phil down the pavement.
“Why does someone who can afford bougie drinks with Goldwasser need to be staying in the cheapest hostel in Berlin?” Dan asks.
Phil gives him a look that Dan hates to admit is kind of sexy. “Who said I needed to?” Phil asks. “Maybe I just wanted to.”
“Okay… my question is still why.”
“If I answer do I get to ask my own question?”
Dan shrugs. “If you want.”
“I had a nice hotel,” Phil says. “With my boyfriend. Who waited until we were in Berlin together to break up with me.”
“Um.” Dan has no idea how to respond.
“He’ll realize I’ve still got his credit card soon,” Phil says. “So enjoy the drink.”
“Wait, if you’ve got his credit card, why didn’t you just get another nice room?” Dan asks. “Also, aren’t you like… upset?”
Phil shrugs. “Not really. He wasn’t very nice to me sometimes.”
There’s quiet darkness in Phil’s voice, but Dan’s brain is lagging behind. He can’t keep up with all of this. “I don’t… wait, boyfriend?”
Phil’s eyes swing sharply to him. “Is that a problem?”
Dan recoils, though not for the reason Phil probably thinks. “No.” He shakes his head like he just needs to drive it home. “It’s not a problem. It’s like… really not a problem.”
If Phil catches the subtext, he doesn’t let on.
“You asked a lot of questions,” Phil says. “I think it’s my turn now.”
“Did you look at my dick earlier?”
Dan’s mouth gapes a little before he catches himself. “Uh… yeah.”
“That’s your question?” Dan asks.
“I get at least one more.”
“Make it a better one.”
“You don’t enjoy conversing about my penis?” Phil teases.
Dan’s not drunk enough for this.
“Okay okay, better question. Why were you skulking around in the middle of the night?”
“I told you, I wasn’t—” He sighs, exasperated. “I had a nightmare. I tried to go sit on those shitty sofas downstairs but some dude invited me to join him and his girlfriend sucking each other’s faces and I wasn’t exactly keen to get herpes so I came back up.”
“Why are you in Germany?”
“Because it’s not England.”
“What’s wrong with England?”
Dan shakes his head. “Reckon it’s my turn.”
Phil stops and chugs back the rest of his drink. “Okay, shoot.”
“Why aren’t we taking full advantage of having your asshole ex’s credit card?”
Phil laughs. It’s a proper, full on laugh. “Alright, that’s a good question. What should we do? How can we spend loads of money in Berlin at three in the morning?”
“More drinks?” Dan suggests. He points over Phil’s shoulder. “As it would happen, we seem to have arrived at another bar.”
“As it would happen.” Phil grins again. “You’re so posh.”
“Oi, fuck off.” Dan shoves at him.
He’s allowed, right? Phil’s wearing his jacket, after all. That gives him rights.
“Remember who’s buying your drinks,” Phil says, a playful warning.
This place is fancier than the last. There are less rowdy drunken Germans and more people lounging in soft chairs, talking quietly to each other. It’s like stepping into a different world.
Still a world where it’s three in the morning and people are here to get drunk. That much is the same. But Dan feels like he should stand a little taller here.
So he does, and he orders them shots of things he can’t pronounce the name of. A server carries them all to a table on a little tray.
Dan starts to sign the ticket when he stops. He doesn’t know what to sign.
Phil takes the pen from him and scribbles something. Dan doesn’t look, because he isn’t curious.
“Are you a lightweight?” Dan asks. “I stopped at four each.”
“You might be in charge of getting us back to the hostel,” Phil says. “But I should be fine.”
“Oh, so you are a lightweight.”
“I didn’t say I’d be drunk,” Phil says. “I’ve just got a horrible sense of direction. I can hardly tell left from right when I’m completely sober.”
“Please tell me no one lets you operate a vehicle.”
“No,” Phil says. “I mean, technically I guess I could, but I had over seventy driving lessons and it still took me four fails to pass.”
“I didn’t know it was possible for someone to be that bad at driving.” Dan closes his fingers around the first shotglass. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Phil says.
“To shit people who abandon us when we need them?”
Phil’s a few seconds slower taking the shot because of how he stares at Dan for a few seconds after Dan speaks.
Then he downs it and winces. “I didn’t need him.”
“Whose turn is it?” Dan asks.
“Let’s say mine.”
Dan leans back in his seat. “Alright then.”
“Who abandoned you?”
“You don’t pull any punches, do you?” Dan asks.
“You know, normally I do. I guess I’m not really myself right now. Being myself hasn’t worked out too well for me lately.”
Dan picks up the next shot. “Cheers to that.” They clink their glasses together and throw back something bitter and vile.
“Ugh,” Phil says, doing a campy little hand waving thing to emphasize his disgust.
Dan smiles. “Everyone, by the way.”
“You asked who abandoned me,” Dan says. “The answer is everyone. I guess being myself hasn’t worked out great for me either.”
Phil looks at him for a long time, and Dan looks back. It may be the first time in his life that prolonged eye contact hasn’t made him feel itchy under his skin.
“Your turn,” Phil says.
“What was your boyfriend’s name?”
“What did he do that wasn’t nice?”
“Why don’t you wanna talk about him?”
“Because he already took up more of my time than he deserved,” Phil says in a deep dark voice that has Dan wishing he was drunk enough to lean across the table and stick his tongue down Phil’s throat.
“Good answer,” Dan says gruffly.
“My turn again.”
“That’s not fair,” Dan argues. “You barely answered anything I asked.”
“I answered,” Phil says. “You just didn’t like most of my answers. But that’s not a requirement.”
“I didn’t realize there were rules at all.”
“Yes, and I make them.” Phil picks up the third shot. “Ready?”
Dan isn’t sure if he means for the question or the shot but he still says, “Yeah.”
Phil tips his back and swallows neatly. Shot, then. Dan takes a moment to admire the long stretch of pale neck before he follows Phil’s lead.
“That’s smooth,” Phil says.
“For what your ex is paying for it, it damn well should be.”
That earns another grin from Phil. “Alright. Why were you eyeing me up earlier?”
Dan snorts. “Do I even need to answer that?”
“Yes,” Phil says. “I never make assumptions about things like this. That just ends badly.”
“Oh.” Dan’s mouth goes flat. “Yeah. Guess I know well enough how that goes. Anyway. Whatever. I was checking you out because I like dick. If that’s alright with you.”
“You like them… aesthetically?”
“I like them sexually.” Dan pauses. “And aesthetically.”
“How does mine rate?” Phil asks. He sounds… eager.
“I mean, you got a nice fair look. And I suppose it’s good to know these things, isn’t it? So how do I rate?”
“It’s um.” A strange, uncharacteristic bashfulness takes Dan over momentarily. “I’d say eight out of ten. Could be a nine if you trimmed a bit down there.”
“I’m too lazy,” Phil says. “Though, maybe that’s just because I was… with someone for so long. Guess I might need to put a bit more effort in now.”
“When exactly did this breakup happen?” Dan asks.
“What time is it?” Phil reaches over and picks up Dan’s phone to check, even though his own is right in front of him. “About thirty six hours ago.”
“And you’re already thinking about moving on?”
Phil shrugs. “Maybe I’ve been thinking about moving on for a long time already.”
“So why didn’t you? And don’t say it doesn’t matter.”
“Not your turn,” Phil says. “Still mine.”
“I want these rules written out, please.”
“You don’t need them written out. You can trust me.”
“Can I trust you to go get us more shots after this one?” Dan is certainly feeling them, with how quickly in a row they’ve been taking them, but he’s not sure how much of anything free will be coming his way in the future. He wants to take advantage of it while he can.
“Actually,” Phil says. “I think I fancy food instead.”
“And if you answer another question, I’ll buy you dinner.”
“You mean he’ll buy me dinner.”
Phil scowls. “He probably would, you know.”
“Nothing.” Phil seems to force his expression into something a little lighter. “How old are you?”
“You look younger.”
“I’m twenty nine,” Phil offers.
Dan smirks. “Did I ask?”
Phil reaches over the table and tugs his hair a little.
“Mate. You need to buy me dinner before I let you pull my hair.”
Phil raises his eyebrows. “Let’s go then.”
“One more shot,” Dan says. “What are we drinking to?”
“To fire alarms,” Phil says without missing a beat.
Dan doesn’t like the way that makes him feel. He doesn’t like that he likes it. Liking things is dangerous, because eventually those things always go away, and he barely managed to survive the last loss.
“To no fire,” Dan says, and they clink the shotglasses together.
Three minutes later they’re out the door. Dan is still carrying his bag and Phil’s got his backpack still on one shoulder. “Where the fuck do we find food at this hour?”
“Let’s walk back toward the hostel,” Phil says. “I feel like I saw pizza somewhere near it.”
Phil’s keen pizza sighting senses don’t lead them astray.
Phil balks at Dan’s suggestions of prosciutto and arugula. He orders something covered in sausage instead.
“You pizza pleb,” Dan says.
Phil waves the credit card at him, then sticks his tongue out. He says to the clerk, “He’ll have what I’m having.”
“What if I was vegan?” Dan asks.
“I’d question your veganinity if you agreed to come to a pizza place. All of that cheesy cheeseness and all.”
“Pizza cheese barely even counts. It’s like plastic. Tasty plastic.”
“Yeah!” Phil looks far more excited than Dan’s tired, semi-drunk observation warrants. “That’s what I always tell people. Wait, are you really a vegan?”
“No,” Dan says. Then: “Yeah. Sometimes.”
“But not tonight?”
Dan shrugs. “I don’t think so.”
“Good,” Phil says. “I think tonight we should both be things we aren’t normally.”
“I’ll try being neurotypical then,” Dan says. “Hi, fellow functioning adult, it’s a pleasure to meet you for socializing during a normal range of hours in which we functioning adults function. And I’m happy to see you because of my brain that produces perfectly reasonable levels of serotonin and dopamine.”
Phil is practically wheezing. “I’d feel called out except my anxiety meds are working perfectly right now.”
“I’m drunk, are you drunk?”
“Yeah, a bit.”
“Only a bit?”
Dan focuses in on how he actually feels for a moment. “I’d say somewhere between a bit and a moderate amount of drunk. More than tipsy, a lot less than pissed.”
“I think I’m like, a rung below pissed,” Phil says. “I lied before, I’m definitely a lightweight.”
“That is quite endearing.”
“I’m almost thirty.”
Dan chuckles. “So you mentioned.”
“I’m almost thirty and I spent my best years with a… a…”
“A cunt?” Dan offers.
“That’s the worst word.”
“That’s why I like it so much.”
Phil picks a sausage off his pizza and pops it in his mouth. “I like sausage so much.”
“Oh… oops. Well… yeah. I do.”
“You are drunk, aren’t you?”
Phil nods. “I might hit on you. Don’t take it personally.”
“I don’t usually hit on strangers.”
“I don’t believe you,” Dan says.
Phil shakes his head. “S’true.”
“Then why are you so good at?”
Phil’s face goes all blushy and he looks down at his pizza. “Shut up,” he mumbles.
“They weren’t your best years.”
Phil looks up again. “What?”
Dan shrugs. “If they were years you spent with a loser, they weren’t your best years.”
Phil’s face goes sad. “I dunno.”
“Well, I do.” Dan takes another slice of the pizza. It’s easily the best meal he’s had in days. Fuck, why does he even try to be vegan ever? Pizza is god-tier food, and he is weak.
“How?” Phil asks.
It takes Dan a few seconds to remember what Phil’s talking about. Maybe the shots are hitting him now. Also the beer Phil ordered with their pizza.
“You’re fit,” Dan says. “And you have a nice cock. You won’t be single long if you don’t want to be.”
Phil actually snorts out beer. It’s a fine spray that goes everywhere.
“Ew,” Dan says, wiping his hand on a napkin.
“Sorry.” Phil doesn’t sound sorry. “But wow.”
“You literally made me rate your penis earlier,” Dan reminds him. “This shouldn’t shock you.”
“Yeah, but… I thought you might be lying to be nice.”
“Oh yes, that common social etiquette of lying about dick for the sake of polite conversation,” Dan says. “Learned all about that as a child, alongside please and thank you and the French alphabet.”
Phil shoves more pizza into his mouth. He seems almost bashful now. “I don’t know what I want,” he says as he chews. It’s a little gross, but Dan won’t hold it against him. Much. “When I left the suite we were staying in I told him I was flying back home, but I got halfway to the airport and just… didn’t want to. I realized this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve been in a place by myself with no one to tell me what to do or check in with me or say the things I wanted to go see and do were stupid. So I decided he doesn’t get to own Berlin, I can have a holiday too.”
“Fuck yeah,” Dan says, raising a fist. “Bump me.”
Phil fist bumps him. Or he tries, at least. The coordination is slightly lacking. It ends up being more of a pinkie brush.
“You’ve let me talk about myself all night,” Phil says. “Your turn.”
“Nothing to say.”
“Do you have an asshole ex?”
“But no credit cards?”
Dan laughs bitterly. “That would be a solid no.”
“Where are you going next?”
“Do you really think my cock is nice?”
“Yes,” Dan answers without hesitation. “Very nice, ten out of ten would suck.”
He slaps his hand over his mouth and Phil’s eyes go wide. “I thought I was supposed to be the one hitting on you.”
“It’s just… an objective fact, okay,” Dan croaks. “Don’t let it go to your head. I am… orally fixated.”
Phil’s face goes even redder.
“Fuck, I’m making it worse, aren’t I?”
“Worse, better, who’s to say.”
“When was the last time you orally fixated on a bloke’s nice cock?” Phil asks.
Dan hides his face in hands. He’s somehow still not drunk enough for this. “Shut up.”
“That’s not an answer…” Phil says in a voice like singing. “Aw, are you getting shy now, Danny boy?”
“No one calls me Danny,” he says.
“What do people call you?”
“Family calls… called me Daniel. People I worked with usually said Howell. Guys I fucked just said harder and wow, you can take it that deep? No one else really thought of me ever.”
“Jesus.” Phil manages to swallow his beer before sending it flying out this time. He wipes his nose inelegantly after he’s regained control of himself. “Talking yourself up a bit there.”
“Don’t know what you mean.” Dan takes the next to last slice. “I can’t believe we’ve eaten an entire pizza. That thing was huge. And delicious.”
“And you’d be the expert on huge, delicious things, it sounds like?”
Dan throws his wadded up napkin at Phil. “Shut up.”
“I don’t think I will.” Phil finishes his beer. “I wonder if the alarm has stopped by now.”
Dan realizes immediately that he doesn’t want to go back to the hostel. “Probably not.”
“How would you know?” Phil asks.
“I’ve got, um. Really sensitive hearing.”
Phil absolutely knows he’s lying but he’s either too drunk to care or just not in a hurry to get back himself. “Let’s go stand on the bridge, then.”
“The one on the river.”
“The river near here.”
“You have absolutely no bloody idea where we are, do you?” Dan asks.
“I do too!” Phil protests. “I walked around loads earlier and there was definitely a river with a bridge on it… somewhere near here.”
“When we walk out this pizza shop, do we go left or right?”
Phil flounders. “Oh, fuck off, I dunno. We can just explore and find it.”
Exploring a strange city with a strange man while very nearly drunk off his ass.
Has he made worse decisions? Actually, yeah, he has. “Alright,” Dan says. “Lead the way.”
“I wish I’d paid more attention to my college German lessons now.”
There seem to be a lot of people around for how late - or early - it is, and the sharp consonants are everywhere.
“Hast du einen großen Schwanz?”
Dan whips his head in Phil’s direction and narrows his eyes at him. He’s got an expression of forced neutrality that Dan’s pretty sure is masking a smirk at saying something cheeky, but he can’t be sure.
“Why do you know German?” Dan asks suspiciously.
“Maybe the asshole ex was German,” Phil says breezily.
Phil shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.”
“What’d you say?”
He grins. “Doesn’t matter.”
“I’m going to fucking ban those words from your vocabulary,” Dan threatens.
Phil just laughs. “It matters not.”
“I barely speak any German,” Dan says. “Coming here was a really impulsive decision.”
“Was it now?” Phil doesn’t even try to hide his curiosity. “Tell me more.”
“About my lacking German language skills? Sure.” Dan purposefully misunderstands. “Bitte. Danke. Ich verstehe. Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.”
“I don’t even know what the last one means,” Dan admits. “That’s what we had to memorize to work on pronunciation.”
“That makes more sense. Unless you just really have a deep love of sausage.”
“Well.” Dan smirks. “I do.”
“Yet you’re also semi-vegan.”
“Different kind of sausage, mate.”
“As much as I appreciate your taste in meat, I really wanna hear more about your impulsive decision,” Phil says.
“I’m sure you do.”
“So I tell you my life story and you tell me nothing?”
“Looks that way.”
Phil narrows his eyes. “I didn’t get you drunk enough.”
“Why are you staying in a hostel and not a nice hotel?” Dan asks.
“Because I’m sad and lonely and there’s nothing more sad and lonely than a hotel room for one.”
“Oh.” Dan looks away and digs his fists deeper into his pockets. “Well I’m sorry all you managed to find was me.”
“Yeah, you’re awful,” Phil deadpans. “I clearly hate being in your company. Why’d you come to Germany?”
“Because it’s attached to the Netherlands.”
“Why’d you go to the Netherlands?”
“For the drugs.”
Phil doesn’t seem to consider for even a single moment that Dan could be telling the truth. He just fixes Dan with a look that has Dan forgetting he’s trying to project an air of mystique.
“Because that was the first available flight when I got to the airport.”
“What are you running from?” Phil asks.
Dan shrugs. “My life?”
“Starting over then, are you?”
Dan shrugs again. “Haven’t gotten that far.” He shivers. It feels like it’s getting colder.
“We should go back,” Phil says, reaching out and touching Phil’s arm.
“We haven’t found the bridge yet.”
“I’d rather you not to freeze to death.”
Dan laughs. “You could always give me back my coat.”
“I don’t want to freeze to death either.”
“You can keep it.”
Phil says, “We can look for the bridge tomorrow.”
“Who said I want to spend time with you tomorrow?” Dan asks. “And don’t say my face.”
“Your stupid face.”
“You keep calling it stupid and I’m going to think you actually like it,” Dan says. “Primary school pigtail pulling.”
“Aw, did you wear pigtails? I can see that.” Phil reaches out like he’s going to tug on one of Dan’s curls but Dan ducks out of the way. “Anyway, yeah, I reckon you’ve got an alright face.”
It’s unexpected, how that casual compliment sits right on the center of Dan’s chest in a way that feels like the good kind of pressure.
It’s not a feeling he’s very used to.
“Whatever,” Dan mumbles. “Anyway, it’s fucking cold out.”
“Yeah,” Phil agrees, though he looks perfectly warm and snug in his borrowed outer layer. “Which way is back?”
Dan laughs. “You weren’t taking the piss.”
“I never take the piss,” Phil says, an entirely straight face.
“Right. Sure.” Dan gives him a side eye. “I don’t believe that innocent act at all.”
“Believe what you want. I’m sure you’ve been wrong before.”
Dan shoves him. Phil laughs. Dan turns around 180 degrees so they can head back the way they came.
The sun is just starting to rise when they find their way back to the hostel. It’s misty and atmospheric and if Dan wasn’t half frozen and fully sleep deprived he might suggest the go get coffee and sit outside to enjoy it.
As it is he’s covered in goosebumps and his nipples are hard enough to cut glass. He moans in relief when they step into the warmth of the building. Phil gives him a look but Dan ignores him and takes the stairs two at a time.
The beds in this place aren’t the most comfortable he’s ever slept on, but when he pulls his shirt and jeans off and collapses back against the mattress, it might as well be made of clouds for how inviting it feels. He moans again and hears Phil laughing at him a few feet away in his own bed.
“You’re vocal in your appreciation, aren’t you?”
Dan pulls the blanket up over his chest. “Why is everything that comes out of your mouth an innuendo?”
“Don’t know what you’re on about.”
“Shut up,” Dan mumbles, already feeling himself start to drift. “Sleep time now.”
“See you in the morning?” Phil asks.
“Already is morning.”
“See you in the afternoon, then?”
Dan nuzzles his face into his pillow. “I know you’re lonely, but don’t get clingy on me, mate.”
Phil laughs soft and low and it’s the last thing Dan hears before he falls asleep.