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future bestseller

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"What if I don't know how to do it?" Phil asks.

His laptop is on in front of him, a blank document open.

He's stared at blank documents hundreds of times working on video scripts, edits of their book, meeting notes, posts for social media. None of them have ever made him feel as lost and incapable and unaware as this one.

He doesn't even know what he's supposed to be aware of. That's how unaware he is.

"Do you still want to do it?" Dan asks. "No one is making you."

Phil's not sure why he feels let down by that response, but he knows it's just Dan not letting him off the hook.

That's what Dan does best. Knows when to push and when to back down. "Yeah," Phil says. "I want to do it."


He has worlds upon worlds inside of his head, and he's always wanted to find ways to let them out.

Dan always says his brain is a fascinating place, and he's usually not being sarcastic. It always makes Phil feel a special certain way when Dan says things like that. It's like a time capsule of a moment and he suddenly feels twenty-three again, telling Dan stories over a pixelated video connection on those nights when Dan couldn't sleep.

Or even further back - following his mum around the house prattling on about this and that, things that made sense in his head but probably to no one else.

Dan thinks a novel is the natural progression. Phil isn't so sure anything in his mind has ever progressed in any sort of natural way, but he's ready to at least try.


"What if the publishers hate it?" Phil asks. "What if no one even wants to publish it at all? What if an editor says I have to rewrite the whole thing?"

Dan puts his coffee down and straddles Phil. It's an unexpected but not unwanted weight in Phil's lap. Dan grounds him, morning-warm and sleepy-eyed. "Shut up," Dan says, and leans down to kiss him. "How long have you been up here panicking?"

"Um." Phil tries to think. "An hour? Maybe more. You slept in."

"Did you get any writing done?"

"Some," Phil says. "Four hundred words."

It's not a lot. He wishes it were more.

But Dan just rests their foreheads together and yawns obnoxiously right in Phil's face before he says, "That's four hundred more than you had when you woke up."


It's about a boy.

A boy who likes boys. Because Phil can do that now.

A boy who likes boys, and has a secret.

Dan says there's symbolism in that. Phil likes that Dan thinks so, though sometimes he worries that the things Dan likes best and thinks make Phil smart are things that happened accidentally.

The secret is that he sees how people will die when he touches them.

The boy meets another boy and when they touch he sees his own death instead.

That's as far as Phil's gotten, really.

He should probably figure out the ending soon.


"I'm not even a real writer," Phil says. "There are people who really do this for a living."

"Sure," Dan says. "But every single one of them had to start somewhere. No one explodes out of the womb holding their seventeenth finished manuscript."

Phil makes a face. "I don't think exploding and wombs should be in the same sentence."

"Your mum and my dick don't belong in the same sentence," Dan says reflexively. "But she wasn't complaining about it last night."

"Argh!" Phil kicks his feet out, connecting with Dan's hip. "You're the worst.”

"I'm the best," Dan counters. "And I'm right. Imposter syndrome, Philly. It's a thing."

"I know it is." Phil's grumpy because Dan's right and Phil's angry that knowing something doesn't make it feel any less real, or him any less of a fake.


Dan reads whatever Phil's written at the end of every night.

He corrects Phil's typos and makes suggestions about the characters and keeps up with continuity from chapter to chapter. He gives him editing tips (almost with a straight face) and he tells Phil what sounds confusing.

But mostly he just tells Phil what he loves - and Dan loves a lot of it.

With every whispered praise and reward of a kiss and every beaming smile from Dan, Phil manages to believe that maybe he really can. When Dan describes this book, it feels like a real book.

"I couldn't do this without you," Phil tells him.

"You could," Dan says. "But you don't have to."


He's sweaty and his heart is pounding and he's regretting that third coffee.

Publication offices look just like any other office, it turns out. It doesn't make the wait any less nerve wracking.

His phone goes off. He pulls it out and looks down at it.

Dan's sent him a courage wolf meme.

vintage, Phil replies.

His fingers shake a little less.

just like u, Dan writes back.

It makes him laugh. The young man behind the desk looks up at him and then immediately back down at his computer. He doesn't really care.

Phil takes a deep breath and lets it out. No one else is paying attention to him. No one is waiting for him to fail.

Dan's sent another text. dominos for dinner.

cookies??, Phil responds.

uhhh yah, Dan says. Then a moment of uncharacteristic textual sincerity - a heart emoji.

The black one, because it's Dan. But still.

Phil sends a purple one back.


He walks out of the meeting two hours later and immediately rings Dan. "They want it."