Dan likes dogs. He really does. They are cute and fluffy and loyal and fun, all the good things that can fill the void in his dark and gloomy soul. And he really does love his parents’ dog Colin. He’s just not exactly thrilled by said dog suddenly being his responsibility and on such short notice.
“But mum, what if I need to go out and he needs to pee? You can’t expect me to just drop all my plans because you suddenly decided to go on vacation!” Dan was pleading with his mom. “Since when do you do things like this anyway? You’ve literally never done anything at a moment’s notice!”
His mother gave him a piercing look. “Daniel. When was the last time you left the house?”
Point taken. Not that Dan was ready to give up.
“And what if I decide to go wild this week in particular and party all night long, mum? You don’t know my life! I could have plans!”
“Well, then you can take Colin with you, you party animal,” replied Dan’s mother in a mocking voice, handing Dan the leash and turning around. “He’s not my dog, he’s the family dog. You’re family.”
He knew the conversation was over.
“Have a good vacation!” he yelled at her retreating form.
“Have fun at your wild parties!” she replied, and started climbing down the stairs. Colin followed her figure with his eyes until she was out of sight, and then sat down on his furry butt and raised his eyes to Dan with a look of mild curiosity.
“Well, it’s just you and me, boy.”
Colin just let out an unimpressed sigh.
To be fair, having his childhood dog with him wasn’t all bad. Colin was nice company, he spent most of his time lying on the couch and looking at Dan with a passive expression. Sometimes he gently demanded some belly scratches or lazily followed Dan around the house. And Dan didn’t even mind Colin sometimes stealing a half pizza off the coffee table while Dan was in the bathroom. Like, who could really blame the dog for liking pizza? (Certainly not Dan.)
The worst thing about this arrangement was that Colin demanded three walks a day. And that meant Dan had to pass through the hallway on his floor at least six times in one day. Which was about six times more often than he normally did. And this presented a problem in that it significantly increased his chances of bumping into a neighbor.
Or well, one specific neighbor.
Dan could deal with the dirty look Mrs. Hagelton gave him every time they passed each other in the hallway. He could even deal with the cursed small talk Mr. Kapusta liked to engage him in when they shared the lift.
He could not, however, deal with Phil fucking Lester who lived next door and whose piercing blue eyes and kind smile were just impossible to bear. And of course, the fact that Phil was very, very hot.
Up until this point, despite living on the same floor for over a year, Dan had managed to limit their face-to-face contact to two times, both of which were disastrous. When Phil just moved in, he went around to all the neighbors with some ugly looking cookies (like the considerate freak he was) to introduce himself, and Dan, not being prepared to meet what could possibly be the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, opened the door in his underwear and a pink hoodie, prepared to apologize to whoever was knocking for listening to music too loud.
To say that that interaction was awkward would be an understatement. Dan may or may not have openly stared for fifteen seconds, then caught himself doing it, let out a high pitched shriek and closed the door in Phil’s face.
Fucking gay panic.
Phil, while a little confused, didn’t seem to be upset and left some cookies under the door with a soft knock and a “I hope to see you around, Daniel!”
To add insult to injury, the cookies, while objectively horrifying visually, were insanely good. So his new neighbor was a sex god and a fucking baker. Great.
Their second encounter happened when Dan was coming back from a trip to Tesco with a bajillion bags, cursing the fact that the lift broke once again, and they accidentally bumped into each other on the stairs.
“Oh hi! Nice to see you, Daniel!” Phil’s voice was so nice. Who gave him the right to sound so good, even when he was running down the stairs? “Do you need any help with your bags?”
“I’m fine!” Dan managed to breathe out and nearly lost hold of the bags in his hands because he tried to fix the mess of hair on his head, but accidentally hit himself in the eye with a corner of a cereal box sticking out of a bag.
At least Dan progressed from shrieks to a couple of words. Progress, right?
Since then, Dan did his absolute best to avoid Phil at all costs. Dan just wanted to never embarrass himself like that again. So, call him a stalker, he learned Phil’s schedule. Just to know when to avoid the lobby. Totally normal, right?
He also may have spied through the peephole to see who was coming in and out of Phil’s apartment and had jealousy fits over every one of them. And Dan’s perceptive nature just made it impossible not to memorize Phil’s entire wardrobe. Or figure out what his favorite take out places were. Or his music taste (it’s not Dan’s fault that the walls in this building were paper thin).
It also didn’t help Dan’s obsession to learn that Phil was into guys. Also that, judging by the sounds his partners made, he was really good at sex (the walls in this place were really paper thin). It seemed like the universe was just determined to torture Dan.
(He did find a twisted sort of satisfaction from the fact that he had yet to see Phil bring over the same guy twice. No matter how loud they were at night.)
But of course, Colin remained absolutely oblivious to the most elaborate plans Dan put into place to avoid ever seeing Phil in person. And of course, he decided that he needed to pee at the most unfortunate of times. As soon as Dan and Colin walked out of the (finally fixed) lift to go back home after an evening walk, Dan saw that he was screwed. Phil was at his door rustling through his keys, but turned around at the sound of the lift doors opening and his face immediately shined with a blinding smile.
“Hi Daniel! Oh my god, is that your dog?”
And before Dan could even begin to gather his wits, Colin lunged in Phil’s direction, tugging his leash out of Dan’s hand, and, with his tail wagging so hard his entire backside flailed from side to side, he basically jumped onto Phil and began licking his face. (What a traitor. But also Dan didn’t have the heart to blame him, he would have wanted nothing more than to do the same thing. So yeah, solidarity).
Phil let out a delighted laugh and immediately dropped to his knees to cuddle the dog. “Oh you’re such a good boy, oh my god!” He was scratching behind Colin’s ears and Dan would be lying if he wasn’t a tiny bit jealous. Or like, massively jealous.
“What’s his name?” Phil asked Dan, looking up, forcing Dan out of his stupor.
“Colin. He’s my mum’s dog, I’m dog sitting.” Wow, an entire sentence.
“Colin, you’re so cute!” Phil cooed, and Colin seemed to agree with that sentiment entirely, as he lay on his back sticking all four paws in the air to let Phil scratch his belly.
“He’s usually not this friendly to strangers, he must really like you!” Dan blurted out and immediately felt his face going bright red.
“Aww, I like him too! He’s so soft!” Phil was now on all fours scratching and petting Colin who seemed to be very happy with this arrangement.
“I’ve been hoping to bump into you, by the way!” Phil glanced at Dan a little shyly. “I heard you listening to the latest album of Muse for the last couple weeks, wanted to ask you what you think?”
“Um….” Dan was a little dazed, but could you blame him when there was basically an angel crawling on their knees in front of him? “You hear my music?” Somehow it didn’t occur to Dan that walls are paper thin both ways.
“Yeah! Also I love how you play the piano, it’s so beautiful!”
Dan’s cheeks were probably the color of a firetruck by now.
Phil stood up from his knees and handed Colin’s leash over to Dan. Their fingers accidentally brushed and Dan felt as though an electric shock went through his hand.
“Thank you for letting me pet your dog, Daniel!” Phil looked a little dazed as he made eye contact with Dan.
“It’s Dan. Yeah. Of course.”
“Dan. Nice to meet you. Again. Yeah.”
There was a pregnant pause only disturbed by Colin’s panting.
“Do you think Colin might want to join me for dinner? I’m making fajitas!” Phil asked, breaking their gaze and looking down at the dog. “You are also invited of course”. Phil’s cheeks were a little pink.
Colin immediately jumped up to put his paws on Phil’s legs and went to lick his hands.
“Yeah, I think Colin would love that.” Dan said. They both smiled at each other and Phil turned around to unlock his door.
“So, what’s your favorite song in Simulation?” Phil asked, letting Dan and Colin through the door.
“Acoustic version of Dig Down, obviously,” Dan replied.
“Obviously,” Phil grinned.
“Although I enjoyed Thought Contagion as well…. I mean this album is no Origin of Symmetry…”
Okay, maybe having Colin over wasn’t that bad. At least he had very good taste in humans. And walking the dog was definitely more fun when you could hold Phil’s hand.