Actions

Work Header

missing the obvious

Work Text:

Catboy: I’m sorry!!!!!!! I really didn’t know it was you. I have some stuff? You can have it ?

 

Femboy: I’m going to actually fucking lose my mind. You’re unbearable , what the fuck do you mean you didn’t know it was me!

 

Diet Coke: come onnnn he wouldn’t have killed you on purpose

 

Crabs: James, calm down mate. It’s just a game

 

The illusion of a person: it was a bit shit tho. He’s got tons of stuff he can’t get back now

 

Femboy: thankyou! Finally someone who knows their arse from their fucking elbow

 

Alex: please don’t encourage him

 

Femboy: idk why u are making me put up with him. He literally didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the game until a month ago

 

Catboy: I forgot how pretentious u were for like a second and now I’m remembering

 

Femboy: lmao u don’t mind playing on MY server tho, do u? Using all MY resources

 

Gender?: it’s ours. u didn’t get here on your own. Go sit on the naughty step and calm down for a sec. we’ll help you get all your shit back.

 

Crabs: yeah go on. Time out

 

Diet Coke: we’ll set a timer for five minutes before u say something that makes us ALL  wanna kill u :D

 

Catboy: it was an accident promise, but at least now we know u all think you’re king shit

 

Femboy: yeah whatever. just remember who owns this Michael

 

+++++++++

 

“Hi.”

 

“Hello.” 

 

The lift doors shut, and they do as they always do. Dan in the corner, Phil all over him. It’s a daily routine at this point, something that started just after they learnt the camera in the corner didn’t actually work. And it’s a good fucking start to the day, because Phil knows how to push all his buttons and get him thinking about later. It’d started off as a one night stand, then two, then—four times a week. Monday to Friday Dan gets fucked in a way that makes him lose his mind a bit, then they break for the weekend and act like it never happened.

 

And it’s a good plan, works for them both. They get on, they find each other attractive, they don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with more—at least that’s what Dan tells himself. Because now he’s started craving Phil on a Saturday night, but in a way he definitely shouldn’t. He’s thinking curled up on the sofa watching crappy tv, not thinking about getting bent over the arm of it. He doesn’t dare mention anything though, not when this works so perfectly.

 

Dan doesn’t even know if he actually properly wants Phil like that, or if it’s more down to the unending nightmare that is human loneliness. Maybe he’d attach himself to anyone right now, just to feel something.

 

They’d met at a work party, never crossed paths before because the office was huge and their departments were on completely opposite sides. Dan had been drunk—cocky—confident enough to go over and say hello to the pretty man in the corner. And he’d been obsessed immediately, couldn’t stop staring at his Cupid’s bow. And he also couldn’t stop his hands from fixing the brown quiff, the room they were in was stifling and it’d ruined all effort that’d gone into the artful hairspray and gel job. But Phil hadn’t seemed to mind a stranger being so touchy feely, instead he just suggested they go somewhere a bit quieter.

 

That’d been five months ago, now they’re here. A proper established little fuck routine going on, with some slipped in feelings and more than enough conversations that have nothing to do with the bedroom.

 

“I can’t do tonight.” Phil says, but the hand up Dan’s shirt is telling an entirely different story.

 

“Sorry?” Dan asks, trying to catch his breath. Phil has this way of knocking all the air out of him, “why not?”

 

“Got a thing on.”

 

“A thing?”

 

“Yeah.” Phil tucks a curl behind Dan’s ear, and it’s how Dan always knows he needs a haircut. “Tomorrow is still good though.”

 

They’re still stood so close and he’ll blame that for what comes out of his mouth.

 

“A date?” Dan asks, bottom lip catching between his teeth—but it’s too late, it’s already out there.

 

“No.” Phil laughs, leaning in to kiss Dan again even though Dan’s making it impossible. His face all screwed up, lips unmoving. He just can’t move past the fact he’d asked something so stupid, thrown all this jealousy out into a tiny lift he can’t escape from.

 

“Hey.” Phil tries.

 

Dan releases his bottom lip, but he turns his face away. He’s usually grateful for the stupidly long journey up, but now he wishes he worked on the first floor as opposed to the thirty-fifth. Or that other people actually used the lift, but the rumours made it essentially everyone’s last choice.

 

Dan doesn’t know if anyone’s ever died in here, but it’d be handy if a ghost popped up now to say a few words. To cause a few distractions.

 

“Dan.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“If you really want all the sexy details, I’m getting a colonoscopy.”

 

“Oh!” That startles a laugh out of Dan. “Sorry. That’s not funny. Are you ok?”

 

“Dan I’m—“ the lift doors open and they leap apart, straighten their shirts out in a weak effort to pretend they weren’t just being entirely inappropriate in the workplace, “fine. Just a checkup.”

 

“Ok.” Dan nods, taking the first step out to check the coast is clear. It usually is, bit of a deserted corridor where only the cleaners tend to go. “Tomorrow then, if you can?” And he feels like a dickhead for asking, but too wrapped up in his own need for Phil to stop it from coming out of his mouth, "sorry-"

 

“Mhm.” Phil catches his Dan’s hand, drags him back into a dark corner. And this doesn’t feel like a normal thing, this feels like reassurance. This is Phil promising Dan nothing is going to change. It feels a bit embarrassing honestly, that’s he’s been so easily seen through, but he takes it. He tips his head and makes all the right noises, but when Phil tries to get tongue involved Dan ends it.

 

“Don’t. Gonna make me wanna fuck in a musty old hallway.”

 

Phil smiles, drops a final kiss to Dan’s temple. And that feels like too much somehow. “It’s weird here, isn’t it? Doesn’t feel like it belongs to the rest of the building.”

 

“Yeah, well.” Dan clears his throat, tries to get himself to sound normal again as opposed to the wrecked version of himself. “None of the clients go here.”

 

“The seedy underbelly of fashion magazines?” Phil laughs, and then he’s walking away. A hand thrown up over his shoulder in goodbye. “C’ya around, Danny.”

 

"Let me know if it goes ok!" Dan calls after him, but Phil turns the corner without a reply.

 

Dan lingers in the hall for a few moments, tries to let the reality of the day sink in. He’s not going to be waiting for Phil later at the entrance, not going to be going home with him. It’s not that dramatic, it’s just a fucking day, but the short notice has knocked him off kilter. He’s got to to come up with something new to distract himself, something that’s not going to measure up to Phil.

 

He leaves his pit of misery, eventually.

 

The office they’d given him is nice, a sleek minimalist thing that probably belongs in an episode of an American tv show. Dan feels like he doesn’t quite deserve it, there are people here with actual degrees and he’d snuck in via a social media backdoor.

 

Dan still doesn’t quite understand how that’d worked, how he’d gotten here. But an Instagram filled with unprofessional looking photos of himself wearing a multitude of stripes had apparently been enough. Maybe all the followers helped too. He spends all day putting fancy spreads together, wishing he had enough money to afford half the shit he’s suggesting other people buy. He does alright, just not alright enough to buy himself the new season of Gucci.

 

He waters the succulents on his windowsill, straightens the papers on his desk then decides to do a complete rearrangement of everything. Maybe his desk facing the window will be good for him, to stare out at all that natural light. Then he decides against it when he remembers about the window cleaners. It takes half an hour to change absolutely nothing, unless you count the rug he’s moved a centimetre to the left.

 

Dan is just trying to put off doing actual work today, knows his head isn’t in it. His head had been in Phil land, but now that’s gone. And it’s fine, they’d never actually agreed on a routine and obviously Phil has a life outside of this—whatever this is. It’s just— he’d been excited. Maybe he’d gone all out and worn something beneath his trousers that Phil had never seen before. But it’s fine, tomorrow is still on the cards. This isn’t going to end suddenly because Phil’s had to go and do something important.

 

Time moves by so slowly, and Dan gives in after two hours.

 

Dan: hi. I know i said no fucking in hallways... but what about that one toilet ?

 

Phil: god. insatiable

 

Dan: just like... my hand, your dick

 

Phil: oh? What are u getting out of this?

 

Dan: get to see ur dick

 

Phil: haha. sorry no can do, u know I always wanna eat right after u make me cum

 

Dan: so? we can go get lunch

 

Phil: daaaan. can’t eat today

 

Dan: erm? Why? ur not doing some freaky Instagram water fast are u?

 

Phil: lol no, can u really see me doing that? 

 

Dan: no ur desk drawer is shoved full of sweets

 

Phil: you can’t eat before colonoscopy

 

Dan: oh. rank

 

Phil: oi, you’ve had your tongue up there

 

Dan: oi? That’s such a me word stop stealing

 

Phil: maybe we’re just morphing into one

 

Dan: maybe. see you tomorrow. Lemme know what happens, yeah? that you're ok

 

He shoves his phone back into his pocket, knows he’s pushing it and his boss is about to walk by at any moment. There’s only so many times he can blag his way out of it, act like he’s talking to a client. He probably should actually do that, sort out his actual work. His inbox is full and so is the little tray on his desk.

 

He opens an email, he thinks about Phil. Phil who is on the other side of the office dealing with all the IT bullshit. Sometimes he’s transparent with his excuses, purposely pings a button off his own keyboard just so he can call Phil on the work line and ask him to come over and help. He always gets the same look, this raised eyebrow and a plastered on smirk that says I know your game. Today Dan isn’t going to do any of that, because today Dan has already done enough.

 

The clock is ticking along so slowly though. He won’t call Phil. He won’t throw a tantrum and break workplace property. He replies to a few emails, then he opens Instagram and nearly shits his pants when he gets a request to model for something that isn’t just an online brand. His fingers move at rapid pace across the keyboard, then he spends too long thinking about how to sign off. He almost completely loses his mind and finishes with a love from Dan.

 

The excitement of it makes the day pass by a little quicker, and though he thinks about Phil, he doesn’t call him once. He tells his boss and she seems happy for him, just makes sure to tell him he mentions the magazine. And he will, because as slow as the day can be sometimes he likes this job. He likes his too fancy office. He likes having a steady income. He likes having Phil in the same building.

 

Dan: oi oi.

 

Phil: lads lads lads? Shouldn’t u actually be doing work mister Howell

 

Dan: i ammmmm. Just got a fancy company asking me to do some fancy modelling

 

Phil: hardly a surprise

 

Dan: wot?

 

Phil: ugh. have u seen your face lately? too pretty for your own damn good

 

Dan: u sure u don’t want that handy in the toilet?

 

Phil: want, yes. Can? No

 

Dan: doesn’t make sense

 

Phil: does. Destroy your keyboard again so I can come see u ;)

 

Dan: oh fuck off ive never done that

 

Phil: if u say so. Congrats, tho! I know how much u like fancy free clothes. Gotta run actual ppl need me

 

It’s odd to not stand beside the revolving door and wait for Phil to do his predictable act of trying to make Dan jump. Odd to go back to his own apartment instead of Phil’s, he wants to be lusting over the exposed brick right now. He likes his own apartment, but Phil’s is just so fucking good. It’s why they end up there more than they do here.

 

Dan’s apartment is all plain white walls, wooden flooring that’s actually just laminate. It’s a new build unlike Phil’s which is a converted mill, has all the original features. Wooden beams, a spiral staircase, big windows that look out over the entirety of the city. Dan’s feels characterless in comparison. He’s tried to make it his own as much as possible. Fluffy blankets on stark surfaces, pictures hung up against all the white, the world’s most expensive coffee machine on the side. He’d splurged after his first Instagram sponsor, £2000 on a machine that essentially turns him into a barista.

 

It’s actually the main reason why they sometimes end up here, Phil gets all pouty about the fact the one in his own kitchen was only fifty quid.

 

But coffee machine aside, Dan doesn’t really want to be here right now. Doesn’t want to be stabbing at a microwave meal because he’s too in his own feelings to try and cook something proper. He tries to reframe it, now he just has more time to fuck about at night. More importantly he had more time to play the game that’s taken over half his life, play at a time where people are actually online.

 

Dan’s chair is squeaky, a loose wheel that he needs to screw back into place catching on the floorboards as he rolls back and forth. He’s pacing—technically—just in a sitting down sort of way. Using his feet to roll back and forth in a half broken chair, a chair that’s going to collapse into fucking dust soon if he has to spend one more night with him. He can hear his discord pinging away in the background, knows they’re all probably shouting at him as opposed to the real problem.

 

He’s spent too much time—and actual money—on this game for it to be ruined.

 

For it to be ruined over and over again.

 

Every time he comes online he prays that he isn’t around, the dot next to his name a grey instead of green. For the first couple hours he’d been blissfully free of the annoying little rat, but then he’d hopped on to ruin the night.

 

Alex: c’mon stop being such a drama queen. We’re all gonna get killed mate

 

Femboy: good it’s gonna Happen anyway. He keeps giving all our fucking shit away 

 

Gender?: come ooooonnnnn

 

Crabs: yeah come on, we neeeeed u <3

 

Sam: please please please

 

The illusion of a person: one of these days I’m gonna smash ur heads together irl

 

Catboy: I was only feeding the animals! They were like all hungry and nearly dead!!!!

 

Femboy: ... fine. As long as it was just the animals

 

Diet Coke: god did u two actually just agree?

 

Femboy: the dogs are cute

 

The illusion of a person: mate they’re wolves.

 

Femboy: same thing

 

Catboy: big puppy

 

Dan snorts, then berates himself for it. This catboy—or Michael as he’d once said—is Dan’s literal arch fucking nemesis. He’d joined their group a few months ago, a straggler that they’d felt sorry for. And now everyone loves him so Dan can’t kick him out. But he’s a complete mess of a player—gives their stuff away, gives their location away, befriends other players who are definitely looking to steal. He’s too kind for the game basically. A team player who always gets them killed.

 

Dan spends half his time looking for ways to subtly eject him from the group without looking like a complete villain. It’s just he takes this super seriously, and he’s always the one who has to fix the problems. Build their base back up, hide their location, then grovel for the forgiveness of a brat. He checks out of the discord because he’s not in the mood tonight, usually he’s had the life fucked out of him so he’s better equipped to not flip out.

 

He focuses on security, gathers up all the metal he can while Michael fucks around in the distance. He just doesn’t bring anything of value to the team, and he doesn’t understand why he’s the only person who can see that.  He runs around with his little schemes and plots, then he fucks up the mission entirely.

 

Catboy: James James James.. come look

 

But sometimes checking out of discord isn’t enough, sometimes he’ll get barraged with stupidity in the game as well.

 

Femboy: what?

 

Catboy: I found something ! it’s shiny

 

Dan rolls his eyes, probably found a polished turd. He stops building to go over there and shut him up just so he can be left in peace.

 

But—fuck. Somehow Michael has accidentally stumbled upon one of the rarest things in the game.

 

Femboy: wtf u know what this is right?

 

Catboy: rock

 

Femboy: ffs. Do u actually ever read? like Try and find out about my game you’re ruining

 

Catboy: u don’t have to be a dick.

 

Femboy: u could try and realise I’ve put a lot of effort into this

 

Catboy: is this rock something?

 

Femboy: yeah it’s something

 

He screenshots it, flicks back over to discord to post it in the server. Everyone loses their shit, and Dan hates that he had to tell them it was Michael who’d found it. Accident or not this is still big, accident or not they still lord him as a champion.

 

Femboy: got to go. Bye

 

Diet Coke: jammmmes don’t be a baby

 

Sam: this is good for all of us! We can finally move on come on

 

Crabs: U know u wanna stay so bad

 

Catboy: night, James

 

He turns off his desktop and opens his phone, realises during his miniature war that Phil had been texting him.

 

Phil: I’m fine, btw. nothing serious.

 

Dan: how was the tube in the ass

 

Phil: wish it was ur tube

 

Dan: shuuutup. I have to go wank and that’s upsetting

 

Phil: not upsetting for me to imagine

 

Dan: Want a picture?

 

Phil: want u.

 

Dan: tomorrow

 

Phil: yeah, course

 

+++++++++

 

They meet at the revolving door and Dan feels fucking giddy with it, like it’s the first time all over again. He never knew how much he needed this, and maybe that’s dangerous, becoming too reliant on something that isn’t a sure thing. It hadn’t been a date yesterday, but it could be one day.

 

“Hey.” Phil smiles, jostling their shoulders together because they can’t kiss out here—to many people around, nosy coworkers. “Your place or mine?”

 

“Yours.” Dan answers immediately.

 

“You can’t moan about my pleb coffee.” Phil says, then his hand is on Dan’s forearm, moving down until they can hold hands. Just for a second. But that second is enough to have Dan hoping.

 

“I never moan.”

 

“I mean...”

 

“Shutup. You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

They walk together to the tube station, close enough that they could properly hold  hands if they wanted. And maybe they both do want, but maybe neither of them are brave enough to try.

 

“Miss me yesterday?” Phil asks, nearly sending them both flying when he changes course to stop himself from walking over three drains.

 

“Fucking hell.” Dan grunts, rubbing at the shoulder that’d just made impact with the wall. “Menace. Nearly pushed me into the Thames.”

 

“Sorry. Superstitious.”

 

And Dan wants to be mad, but he can’t be, not when he enjoys this so much. Learning new things about Phil, no matter how much literal physical harm it’s causing him.

 

He wants to live here, and not even just because of Phil. He’s fucking obsessed with the place, could write an essay about how the exposed brick makes him feel. He keeps meaning to ask Phil to take a few photos of him in front of it for his Instagram, but he always ends up getting a bit distracted.

 

Today isn’t anything new, today Dan opens his mouth to say something but he doesn’t get the chance because Phil is suddenly all over him. Pinning him up against the brick. And they move fast, but never usually this fast, usually Phil at least pretends to be a good host. Offers Dan a drink, something to eat, a place to hang his coat. But it does make something settle inside of him, knowing that missing last night had affected Phil just as much as it had Dan.

 

“Eager.” Dan laughs, but his fingers in Phil’s belt loops say the exact same thing about him.”

 

“What?” Phil asks. “Wanna go stop so I can make you a cup of mud?”

 

Dan answers by pulling him back in.

 

And it goes like it always goes. They think they’ll try something new, but then they both realise nothing will compare to this. To Dan on his back, legs wrapped around Phil’s waist. He’s begging for the impossible, for what Phil is already giving.

 

“Harder.”

 

“So you can whine about how sensitive you feel after?” Phil leans over, presses their sweat damp foreheads together. It changes the angle and it makes Dan choke on his breath.

 

“Fuck, Phil.”

 

“Yeah. Missed this so fucking much last night.” Phil bumps their noses together, slowly starts to rock his hips in a rhythm that’s going to drive Dan insane. It’s too much whilst being not enough, hits the right spot every time but—fuck. It’s too slow to get him there.

 

Dan digs his heels in, tries to force this to be something else. But Phil isn’t in the mood for that tonight, obvious that he wants slow—drawn out—wants to make Dan’s toes curl with every snap of his hips. He gets like this sometimes, has more patience than Dan will ever possess in his life.

 

“Wanna go on top?” Phil asks, sounding out of it. And Dan thinks maybe he’d gotten it wrong. That tonight it’s slow because Phil physically can’t muster the energy to fuck Dan how Dan wants to fucked. Dan wants to ask what’s wrong, but that’s none of his business. That crosses a line. So Dan just says yeah, let’s Phil flip them both over.

 

“You’re beautiful, you know.” And it makes Dan blush all the way down to his chest. It feels overwhelming, and it shouldn’t be because Phil’s literally inside of him. Has been for four days a week for the last five months.

 

So Dan deflects like he always does, can’t take a compliment from anyone—never mind Phil. “You’re already fucking me, don’t have to suck up.”

 

Phil smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He just settles his hands on Dan’s hips, and doesn’t let go even when Dan begins to move. And he’s determined to blow Phil’s mind now, now that he feels he’s said something wrong. He needs to make up for the fact his mouth speaks before it has permission, that Phil’s trying and Dan’s smacking it away even though he wants it.

 

He manages to knock Phil out of his own head with the grind of his hips, with the whiny little noises he’s making.  He settles into a rhythm, into something that’s honestly too much. He can barely keep up with himself, only driven by this raw desire to make Phil feel good. 

 

Phil’s going to come, Dan can tell. His eyes are shut and he’s holding his breath. The grip he has on Dan's hips is possessive in a way that’s making him short circuit. And maybe this way is good too, knowing that he’s the one to have taken the control, he’s the only reason Phil’s falling apart. And he tries to talk Phil through it, but he just babbles out a dirty string of nothing.

 

"God." Phil breathes. "How'd you even do that?"

 

Dan goes to lift his hips, to get himself off on the other side of the mattress. He only stops when Phil forces him back down. 

 

“Don’t.” Phil warns. “Want you to come like this. Like feeling how tight you get.”

 

Dan just lets out a stupid noise, follows the command by fucking his own fist. Phil seems content to just watch, pupils blown wide and fingernails now digging in in a way that’s going to leave behind a mark or two. He spills out over Phil’s chest, has to stop himself from slumping forward as he normally does. Though—maybe that’d be hot. And... no. He doesn’t shower here. He just gets dressed and goes home. Apart from maybe tonight it could be different, maybe tonight he’ll stay.

 

He doesn’t get to make the choice because Phil is urging him off, face screwed up in the way Dan’s usually is.

 

“And I’m the whiny sensitive one?” Dan laughs, collapsing down beside him. And Dan’s properly out of practice with that position, out of breath against Phil’s sheets.

 

“I read something once where someone’s dick snapped, just trying—Shutup! Stop laughing at me.” Phil whines, batting at Dan with one hand whilst trying to remove the condom with his other.

 

“I think you have to be hard for that to happen?”

 

“Whatever.” Phil manages it eventually, ties it up and misses the bin as always. “Ugh. You get it. Your turn.”

 

“Your filthy condom.”

 

“Rat.” Phil rolls over, but he doesn’t move. He just sort of stares at the thing. “Remind me about it later. Can’t move.”

 

Dan edges closer, peers over Phil’s shoulder in an act of curiosity rather than just wanting to spoon. “Looks like a slug.”

 

“What the hell slugs are you seeing? Should I be worried?” Phil asks, and Dan’s about to sneak an arm around until he realises Phil’s got come all over his chest.

 

“You should be worried. Covered in slug slime.”

 

“Did you just call your own come slug slime?”

 

“Yeah.” Dan confirms. “I’m a slug.”

 

“Hate you so much.”

 

Dan just laughs and rolls back over. They’re silent for a while, both stare up at the ceiling, both thinking about how to traverse this. Dan’s head starts seeing their life playing out on the white paint.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“For what?” Dan asks.

 

“I—dunno, feel like I didn’t give you what you wanted. Could tell you were in the mood for y’know... hard.”

 

“Phil—“

 

“No. I know. You get this look on your face.” Phil blows out this long breath, then he starts talking again. “I just—last night. It scared me I think. Properly knackered me out, and I might’ve just wanted to feel... taken care of.”

 

“Phil.” Dan tries again, scoots back close. “You know this isn’t a Dan with benefits, yeah? This is about the both of us. If you want something, if you need something, you only ever have to ask me. Like making you feel good.”

 

“Alright.” Phil smiles. “Can you clean me?”

 

Dan snorts, whacks at his shoulder but he does get up and go to the bathroom. He misses Phil’s sheets already, the way his bed feels comfier than his own. He feels like now he’s up that’s it, he won’t be getting back into it tonight. He slaps himself around a bit in Phil’s toilet, tries to snap himself out of this. This is... an arrangement. Nothing serious. He’s just confused. Phil’s just nice. And so is this bathroom. He wants to live here so bad.

 

“One rag boy, at your service.” He kneels down beside the bed, wipes at Phil’s chest with a flannel until he’s clean. Then he goes a step further and puts the condom in the bin. And that’s when it starts, the bartering of rain against the windows.

 

“God. Was that even forecast?” Dan asks, cracking open the blinds ever so slightly—because he’s still completely naked—just to assess the situation.

 

“No, don’t think so. Was supposed to be nice all day.”

 

“The weather people are liars then.”

 

“Or maybe it’s the sky that’s a liar.”

 

“Maybe,” Dan agrees, “properly rank out there.”

 

This might be the golden opportunity, to stay over instead of trying to get himself home in that. The tube station is a bit of a trek when the weather is as violent as it is, he’s about to turn around and ask when Phil opens his mouth.

 

“I’ll call you a taxi, put it on my card.”

 

“Oh.” Dan frowns, and he does not turn around because he feels too wobbly to do so. “Alright.”

 

And it stings in a way Dan hadn’t been expecting. Because Phil’s the only person who’s seemingly never found him too much. Can handle all the loud, the way he sometimes seems to bounce off the walls. And then he can also deal with the complete opposite of that, the times wherein Dan becomes secluded, fully sinks into his own head. It’s just—Phil seems to get it. Other people write off everything he is as annoying, but Phil seemingly understands all the loud and constant is just Dan desperately trying to show affection.

 

But maybe he’d read that all wrong, maybe Phil can handle him for a set amount of time and Dan’s already gone past the hands on the clock that signify the end.

 

It stings, but that’s not fair. It’s not fair because Phil hadn’t signed up to be the person who can make Dan’s brain still.  Or maybe not even still, maybe just... feel understood. He doesn’t have to put so much effort into being someone he’s not, Phil makes him feel comfortable enough to not have to fight his very being.

 

But this is just a very long, very extended one night stand. And Dan’s trying to learn to not put all his hopes into other people.

 

It’s not fair to do that, it’s not fair.

 

+++++++++

 

Catboy: erm so hello. I think I deleted something important

 

Femboy: not in the fucking mood. Someone deal with him today before I actually kick him out

 

He’d just thought tonight had been going somewhere, but it isn’t fair to put that all on Phil. They’d always agreed it was just something to keep them both going, until s omeone else came along. Someone they actually liked in a way that was... more. It’s just the problem is that person for Dan had become Phil.

 

He puts all his energy into the game instead, builds things that are unnecessary but look pretty. He could be doing actual missions but he thinks he’d fuck them up today, too in his own head to concentrate on strategy. 

 

Diet Coke: Jamey James we’re gonna try for the sword. U coming?

 

Alex: we needs ur stonks

 

Catboy: I didn’t delete it I just made it invisible btw I didn’t know that was a feature

 

Diet Coke: Michael <3 ur so cute I love u

 

Catboy: shutuuuup I’m learning. I’ll be like the boss of the game in no time (In 59 years)

 

Gender?: u coming along catty boy

 

Catboy: yeeee! I have some time before my body starts actually demanding I shower

 

The illusion of a person: James we can see u building ya know

 

Femboy: not today u go.

 

But now he just feels like he’s letting them all down, he’d set up the server in the first place and now—no. He’s allowed to turn things down, allowed to take care of himself and say no. He doesn’t owe them anything.

 

He watches them all go off whilst he continues building something that looks scarily like Phil’s apartment. He puts a lock on it that needs a passcode. Decides he’s the only person allowed inside.

 

Catboy: hey. Hope you don’t mind me messaging you privately, but I hope you’re ok? You obviously don’t have to tell me anything. I know you’re not my biggest fan just wanted u to know someone cares and hopes you’re good. Also if I’m really fucking up your game you can kick me, I don’t mind

 

Dan reads it, then reads it again. Apparently today is full of surprises. He’s been arguing with this dude for nearly four months, and it feels as much as routine as Phil does. But now he just feels mean, like maybe all of this had been entirely one sided.

 

It’s just Dan’s problem is he’s ultra competitive. He wants to win quite literally everything. He wants to win at therapy, he wants to win at being the funniest person on the server, he wants to be the most fuckable person at the store. And he wants to beat this game, wants his team at the top of the leaderboard. But this dude has been making that hard.

 

He sighs, fingers hovering over his clacky keyboard. He can’t be a dickhead here, not when this seems like genuine sincerity.

 

Femboy: hey, thanks. I’ll be fine just not in the mood for a whole thing because I can’t concentrate. I’m not going to kick you out. Think everyone here would literally kill me.

 

Catboy: :D good! That’s you’re fine. I’ll try to not. Like kill everyone today

 

Dan signs off, because as much as the guys being nice he’s just not in the mood to talk to anyone. But maybe he doesn’t hate him, maybe he’s just being dramatic. It’s just... another routine. A little arch nemesis on the server.

 

But he’s nice, despite all the mistakes and all the accidental Dan murdering. He’s still clearly a nice fucking person, and that’s why Dan can’t bring himself to actually kick him out. He’s probably the type of person who turns up to work with a box of doughnuts for everyone to share.

 

He carries on with his little building and he doesn’t text Phil.

 

+++++++++

 

“What’re they?”

 

“Doughnuts.”

 

“God.” Dan laughs. “You’re such a suck up, stop being everyone’s friend.”

 

“So... you don’t want any?” Phil asks, back in his usual place of having Dan backed up against the corner of their lift.

 

“I never said that.” Dan makes a grab for the bag, but Phil’s oddly quick today. “Phi-il.”

 

“Gonna say sorry?”

 

“No.” Dan takes a step, makes chase, and it’s hard to run in the world’s tiniest lift. “You’re already sucked up to me so it doesn’t count.”

 

“This is new.” Phil comments, referring to the fact it’s now him pressed up against the corner. “Like it.”

 

“Yeah?” Dan asks, tipping his head and starting something just so he can snatch the bag from Phil’s hand.

 

“Oi! Did you actually just seduce me for doughnut theft?” Phil looks a bit betrayed, all puppy dog eyed in the corner.

 

“Yeah.” Dan answers, stealing the one that looks like it’s got the most filling. “Wanna kiss my sugary mouth?”

 

“You mean your mouth of theft and lies? No.” Phil holds his hand back out for the bag and, now satisfied, Dan lets him have it. “But also a bit.”

 

“Cute.” Dan laughs. “But too late, we’re one floor away.”

 

The doors open to the weird corridor, and Dan thankful they’re back in their routine. That today feels normal. It feels normal until Phil drags him back into the lift just to kiss him again. Feels normal until they’re walking down the stairs to get back to their floor.

 

“Wanted sugar that badly?”

 

“Something like that.” Phil smiles, squeezing Dan’s arm before disappearing off to his office.

 

Dan sits at his desk and he thinks about Phil, but he also thinks about Michael. Maybe he should stop being such a competitive dick, but then they wouldn’t be where they are today. Wouldn’t have all the cool shit, wouldn’t even be friends. The server was born from a want to be at the top, but now it’s seemingly turned into something else. Now they’re all just happy to be playing today, to have a group of friends they have something in common with, apart from Dan. And he doesn’t mention it as much anymore, but he still wants to win.

 

Phil: doughnuts were a hit

 

Dan: am I a massive dickhead

 

Phil: no?  I was joking in the lift. You know that yeah?

 

Dan: yeah

 

Phil: am I going to have to remote break your computer to come see you dan?

 

Dan: no I’m fine sorry.

 

Phil: hmmmm.

 

Dan: I am! Just being dramatic.. u know me

 

Phil: well. ur not. youre good, you’re so good

 

Dan: see you later? Should do actual work

 

Phil: yeee

 

He stops thinking about it, instead does what he’s actually being paid for. He writes a column about the latest runway trends, deletes it all afterwards because it’s pretentious as fuck. He tries again. Then he sends it off to his boss so she can rip it to pieces instead. But surprisingly she loves it, calls it his best one yet. Maybe the world isn’t as against him as he thinks.

 

He lounges back in his desk chair, this one far fancier than the one in his apartment. All the wheels properly attached. He closes his eyes for a second, but that turns into half an hour. He’d spent too much time up last night, catastrophising. It’s like his brain was on a treadmill going at a hundred miles an hour and he was running along behind it, trying to catch up. Trying to— make sense of it all. But he never could quite get it, so all night his own internal monologue kept him awake. And even though it was his he still didn’t understand it.

 

He’s woken up by someone bursting through the door and he thinks he’s properly in for it now, about to be fired. But it’s just Phil, Phil with his stupid face and his... god, Dan’s so fucked.

 

“Wot?” He asks, all groggy from an unwise nap.

 

“Jesus.” Phil laughs. “Were you actually asleep.”

 

“No.” Dan defends. “Just resting my eyes.”

 

“Right.” Says Phil, but the tone suggests he definitely does not believe him. “Just wondered if you wanted to go get lunch.”

 

“Shit.” Dan flings forward in his chair, nearly launches himself entirely out of it. “Shit, shit, shit.”

 

He gets up, rushing around his office. His coat gets stuck halfway up his arm and his bag isn’t usually where he puts it. Everything is going wrong.

 

“Hey.” Phil steps in, a gentle hand on his shoulder pausing all the chaos. He helps Dan into his coat, flattens down the collar with his palms. “There we go.”

 

“Thanks.” Dan says, but he can’t meet Phil’s. Sometimes he does things that scream I want more too. “Sorry. I’ve got that photo shoot thing I was telling you about, it’s literally in half an hour.”

 

“Ah.” Phil nods. “Need moral support.”

 

That makes Dan stop his search for his bag, look up and assess. Assess Phil who’s... being serious, apparently. “You wanna come.”

 

“Yeah, get a behind the scenes peek at your Instagram. Mr model in action.”

 

“Oh, stop it, it’s fucking Instagram I’m not walking a runway in Paris.” But Phil’s face drops and it makes Dan change his mind. “But yeah, you can come, just not allowed to complain you’re bored.”

 

“Promise.”

 

Phil doesn’t complain, Phil actually ... doesn’t say a word. He just looks fascinated by it all. Dan doesn’t feel pressure from the cameras, he instead feels it from Phil. He has this terrible need to impress him, to pull out every trick he has.

 

And it’s seemingly working, seemingly doing something, because Phil can’t stop staring. Doesn’t even stop when the food comes out—which is saying something.

 

“What?” Dan mouths.

 

“You.”

 

And it must result in about five photos of Dan red in the face, fumbling to get back into the rhythm he’d had. Phil has this gentle way of taking him apart, saying something innocent and sending Dan scrambling.

 

Today was supposed to be huge for him, but it seems tiny in comparison to Phil. Suddenly all the fancy clothes in the world don’t seem worth it. And maybe he should’ve listened to his friends when they told him friends with benefits have this tendency to not work—to go wrong. But he’d been stubborn, for some reason thought he was above falling in love. Not that he’s falling in love, just falling in... something.

 

At first he’d been taken in by the room, by the set up. A proper professional thing, more so than anything else he’d ever been personally involved in. Perfect lighting, rails of clothes that are worth more than his rent. There are massive windows overlooking the river, and that view alone means this building would’ve cost a bomb. He’s even got a photographer who has literal awards directing him. It’s  the dream he’d always had, to be working in a studio like this. But now he’s failing to care. Now he just keeps glancing over at Phil to make sure he’s still watching. He wants to show off for him. He wants to bend and move and— he’s not going to recreate what he wants them to do in the bedroom later.

 

“Just a bit to the left for me, Dan.”

 

“Now throw the coat over your shoulder.”

 

“Hands in your pockets.”

 

He’s listening to all the directions, doing as he’s told, but he still thinks half photos are going to come out as him looking enamoured with Phil.

 

Dan gets praised, gets a few instructions about what to post and when to post it. He also gets to choose two outfits to take home with him. He goes with a black coat that swamps him, turns him into something essentially formless. Then he goes for something the opposite of that, a lacy shirt that he might wear when he really wants Phil to come give him some IT help. And it’s—he’s had a good day. He’s enjoyed himself, but it’s not everything he’d imagined to be. Doesn’t fulfil him in the way he’d thought. Fancy clothes can’t hold him at night.

 

“Hey, you did... good?” Phil asks, even though it shouldn’t really be a question. “I mean, I don’t actually know what’s good or bad. But you looked nice!”

 

“Thanks, Phil, I’ll use it as the Instagram caption.” Dan holds open the door for him, wonders where they both go from here. Technically they’ve used their lunch hour, and more, but he doesn’t want to go back to the office.

 

“I took a half day.” Phil says, cutting through Dan’s thoughts. “They owed me some time cos I stayed late a couple Fridays ago to help out when the website went down.”

 

“I did not, but fuck it.”

 

“Dan!”

 

“What? My boss knew I was doing this, she might’ve expected me to be out all afternoon.” Dan shrugs. “As long as I mention the magazine in my spon... it’ll be fine.”

 

“Misbehaving.”

 

“Always.”

 

They end up at Dan’s apartment for a change, but just because Phil begs for a fancy coffee. But Phil doesn’t really fit here, belongs with all the exposed brick. Dan wants to make a coffee and then march them back over to Phil’s place, but that’d be proper weird.

 

“Stop spinning, you’re going to make yourself sick.” Dan warns, but Phil isn’t paying attention. More obsessed with the new stools in Dan’s kitchen than listening.

 

“Oh... yuck, motion sickness.” Phil groans, slumping down over the breakfast bar. And he’s good at that, hurting himself for literally no reason. He’s never seen a lactose intolerant person eat more dairy.

 

“I told you. Always listen to Dan.” But he takes pity on him anyway, gives him a shoulder massage even though that probably doesn’t technically help. He just wants to touch.

 

“Mhm... good.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.” Phil confirms. “This an erotic massage?”

 

“No.” Dan laughs. “This is a trying to stop Phil from throwing up in my kitchen massage.”

 

“‘Kay... it’s working.”

 

It’s a moment, Dan thanks. But then he’s thought that a lot of times, and it hadn’t stopped Phil from ordering him a taxi ride home. He digs his thumbs in a bit too hard, apologises when Phil flinches away.

 

“You broke me.” He whines, but he leans back into Dan’s personal space anyway. “More coffee?”

 

“Absolutely not. Already off your tits on it... spinning on chairs.”

 

“Spoilsport. Don’t get this at home. Gotta use my weird machine that doesn’t even stab the pods properly anymore.” Phil’s trying his hardest to persuade Dan, but Dan’s not in the mood to be persuaded.

 

“No.”

 

“Ugh.” Phil turns on the stool until they’re face to face, then he plays dirty. Presses a palm to the zip of Dan’s jeans. “Blowjob for coffee?”

 

“No.” Dan repeats, but this time it’s weaker.

 

“No?”

 

The argument ends in a smug Phil holding a cup of coffee between his evil little mitts half an hour later.

 

“You can only use that once.” Dan says, buckling his belt back up.  He’s just... easy.  He sees Phil and he wants Phil. He’s really trying to not give in, to not give over his heart—but it might already be too late.

 

“Only needed to use it once.” Phil grins, taking a huge gulp even though it’s still got to be scalding hot.

 

And now they’re in a weird place because it’s only 3pm, they’re usually still at work for another hour now. Dan starting at the clock, desperately willing it to get to four. He’s not sure on whether or not Phil should leave now, or if Phil wants to stick around for something more later.

 

He dithers in the kitchen whilst Phil drinks, cleans things that already clean. He wants Phil to take the lead, to tell Dan what to do next. He doesn’t want to fuck it up somehow, accidentally suggest something that’s too much. Is Mario kart too much? Is napping too much? Is offering to cook them both dinner essentially a proposal? He must be pulling a face because Phil comes over to intervene, prods and pokes at him until Dan gives him in and accepts the hug Phil’s trying to give.

 

“Grumpy.” Phil laughs, but it’s right down Dan’s neck and turns him on more than it does comfort him. “What’s up?”

 

“Just... tired.” Dan lies.

 

“Same. Wanna nap?”

 

Getting into bed without the intention to fuck is strange. They’ve shared a bed before but that’s only after passing out, fucking whilst drunk and losing that part of the brain that says home time immediately. They wake up this tangle of limbs, stumble over explanations and apologies and then stumble out the front door. So they’ve shared a bed, but not in a way that’s entirely planned.

 

“We should’ve gone to mine, your bed is like sleeping on concrete. The coffee machine doesn’t make up for that.”

 

“Jesus fuck.” Dan blurts, because the mention of coffee makes him realise something. Phil can’t possibly nap right now, not when he’s 75% caffeine. This is just for Dan’s benefit. This is going to be Dan sleeping next to a wide awake Phil.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing!” Dan needs to stop shouting. “Just like... dramatic. It’s not that bad a bed.” Dan lies, because he knows it’s really fucking bad, at least it is compared to Phil’s. His bed is like a literal cloud.

 

“Right.” Phil gives him a funny look but drops it.

 

They both strip down to their underwear and slip beneath the quilt, but that feels too much like sharing a bed and Dan wishes they were on top of the covers rather than beneath them. He’s going to do something stupid in his sleep like roll into Phil, or talk about him. But he’s so, so tired that he knows he won’t be able to stop himself from falling asleep. He just gives into it, but as far away from Phil as he can. Close enough to the edge that if he moves even an inch he’s gonna to slam right into the floor.

 

He dreams about darkness, about a place where nothing exists. It’s just him and his own thoughts. Him and his suffocating loneliness. He runs and he runs, constantly tries to go in different directions in an attempt to find a source of something—anything—other than the black. He never finds anything. He can’t even see his own hands. But then something is pushing him down, further into the abyss and he thought it had been dark before but this—this is swallowing him whole. This is—

 

“Dan, Dan. Hey.” The hands are Phil’s, they’re gentle, they’re dragging him back up into the sun. “Hey.”

 

And it’s no longer a dream, it’s Dan panting in his bed. It’s Dan sweating, struggling against the sheets. It’s Phil trying to calm him down.

 

“Shit.” Dan’s mouth is dry, the word an effort to get out. And he can’t look up at Phil because this entire thing is fucking embarrassing. They share a bed and Dan has a nightmare that Phil physically has to drag him out of. “Sorry.”

 

“Don’t be sorry.” There’s the brush of lips against his forehead, then movement against the mattress as Phil leaves him. And for a second he thinks that’s it, but then Phil’s back with a glass of water. He’s sitting on Dan’s side of the bed so Dan has no choice but to look at him.

 

“Sorry.” He says again, accepting the glass and glugging it down.

 

“Thought I told you to not be.”

 

“Yeah—well.” Dan sighs, his heart finally calm. “Promise I don’t always do that.”

 

“I used to have nightmares all the time, had to sleep with a nightlight to stop them.”

 

“Oh?” Dan asks, but Phil doesn’t seem the type—to be afraid of the dark.

 

“Yeah. They’re shit. So stop apologising.” Phil doesn’t elaborate, doesn’t tell Dan what they were about, but just knowing the bare minimum is enough.

 

“Did you even sleep.”

 

“No.” Phil looks sheepish, rubbing at his cheek like that’ll hide the expression. “I realised the minute we got here that I had about seven litres of caffeine in me, but you crashed and— my phone was fun company, doesn’t matter.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Ugh. Stop saying sorry, you fiend. I’ll have to do something you won’t like.”

 

“Will you? What’s that?” Dan presses, even though the ways Phil’s wiggling his fingers gives him a vague idea.

 

“Don’t think you wanna find out.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Right. That’s it.” Phil launches at him, tickling Dan until Dan begs for mercy. Until the tickling turns into Phil’s mouth against his own.

 

“Fuck, Phil. Gonna get me off again?”

 

“Gonna get me off once?” Phil asks with a smirk, guiding Dan’s hand down towards where he wants it.

 

It barely takes Phil five minutes to spill out over Dan’s fist, and when it’s over Dan dreads the idea of Phil leaving.

 

“Always forget how stupid big your hands are.”

 

“Get me something to clean them up.” Dan holds his palm flat, threatens to wipe it over Phil’s skin and it’s enough to make him move.

 

“Here.” He chucks something at Dan, and Dan only realises it’s Phil’s t-shirt when it’s too late.

 

“Mate. You realise that was yours?”

 

“S’fine.” Phil shrugs. “I’ll just steal one of yours.”

 

And Phil doesn’t go home, he just ends up wearing Dan’s things. Ends up in Dan’s kitchen eating a takeaway. And when it starts chucking it down again, there’s no taxi, there’s just this silent agreement that Phil will be staying over. And Dan thinks that maybe the other day could’ve been more if he’d refused the taxi. They’re both inching towards something, both not quite sure how far they’re allowed to push it.

 

.....

 

Catboy: erm how do u get water?

 

Dan snorts, wants to be catty and point out the fact the dude is literally stood next to a fucking well. But he refrains, because today he’s in a good mood.

 

He’d woken up with Phil clinging to him, and it wasn’t the weird awkward thing he’d expected it to be. It was nice, normal. And when Phil woke up he took one look at Dan and stuck out his tongue, refused to put it back in his mouth until Dan physically made him.

 

Then maybe they’d showered together, and maybe there were a couple of hands involved in things other than washing hair. But they did that as well. Phil forced Dan to sit cross legged on the floor of the shower so he could massage his scalp, make sure all his curls were extra foamy—Phil’s words.

 

Femboy: you see the well just there? If u have a bucket you just hold down on it for three seconds and water

 

catboy: thanks!

 

Diet Coke: god that was nice

 

Dan rolls his eyes, slumps down further in his chair that still needs fixing. He’s not that much of a dickhead, he’s helped Michael out when he properly needs it. He just doesn’t consider being stuck in a swamp as needing help, or being chased by a bear as needing help or—alright, maybe he could’ve done more.

 

Phil’s just softened him out, made him a more generous human being. Standing with him in the kitchen before working, munching on overcooked toast, had given him this little insight into what could be. It’d been everything he’d wanted but still isn’t sure he can have. Dan needs to tell Phil soon, because this is probably unfair, because in Dan’s head this is no longer the arrangement they’d both agreed upon.

 

His eyes flick back to the screen, because he should be concentrating on that as opposed to thinking about how Phil had—despite everything—still kissed him in the lift this morning. It’s a Friday now and that means he’d gone home by himself, he’d been a second away from breaking another rule and asking Phil over. But Phil hadn’t been at the revolving door, and Dan was too afraid to go too fast too quick.

 

Crabs: interesting

 

The illusion of a person: where were you both last night ?

 

Femboy: with a friend

 

Catboy: with a friend

 

Gender?: interesting

 

Femboy: oh Shutup I have friends

 

Alex: yeah yeah we know. Get laid?

 

Femboy: no comment

 

The illusion of a person: ohhhhh that explains it

 

Crabs: good for u honestly

 

Catboy: did he run to ur house after being chased by a bear?

 

Femboy: oh fuck off

 

Dan doesn’t understand how they’re not all seeing this, the fact that Michael provokes just as much as Dan. The fact his discord photo is this fluffy little dog makes them all biased. He wants to say Michael isn’t a dog, probably some weirdo sat in front of his monitor in off-white pants itching his balls.

 

Diet Coke: wellllllll that friendship lasted for two Seconds

 

Gender?: a new record

 

Femboy: that was him ffs! I was being nice

 

But he’s not arguing today, not now. It’s getting late anyway, and he has an empty weekend to make plans for. He’s thinking a few sponsored posts, about going out early to avoid the morning rush so he can take a few nice photos.

 

Dan: Philip. Whatcha doing this weekend

 

Phil: gone to manchester to see my parents , why?

 

Dan: ohhhh have fun!

 

Phil: whyy

 

Dan: doesn’t matter. Was just gonna force u to take photos of me for ads lmao

 

Phil: next weekend ?

 

Dan: na it’s fine honestly. I can do it. I’m already like way behind

 

Phil: alrighty :). mum says hello

 

Dan: no

 

Phil: what do you mean no!

 

Dan: she can’t acknowledge my existence cos we met once. And that was bad

 

Phil: she didn’t actually see anything. I didn’t expect her to drop in for a surprise visit she’s not usually like that

 

Dan: She knew something tho

 

Phil: did she?

 

Dan: yeah I was being all weird in the corner and probably looked like this horny goblin

 

Phil: you are a horny goblin

 

Dan: erm says you

 

Phil: u make me a horny goblin. There’s a difference

 

Dan: whatever. You’re the one who took me home the first time remember

 

Phil: god I do make good choices

 

Dan: go bed

 

Phil: should I say u say hello back?

 

Dan: obviously. Now go to bed

 

Phil: yes sir. See ya Monday <3

 

+++++++++

 

Dan wakes up on Monday with a wicked headache, something that makes his brain feel like soup. The sliver of light coming in from around the edge of his blind feels like the equivalent of staring into the sun. He rolls over and snot drips out of him, lands on his nice clean sheets.

 

“Fuck.” He does the awful thing of wiping his nose with his hand, thinks if he gets up now he’ll fall—now basically Bambi who’s just learning how to walk.

 

He doesn’t want a cold, he doesn’t want to be sick, he wants to breathe through his nose and have it feel normal. But right now he feels the furthest away from normal. He smacks around on his bedside table until his hand lands on his phone, the light it emits makes him hiss.

 

Calling into work sick will never not be mortifying, no matter what Dan always feels like he’s straight up lying. Even though he feels like death warmed up, even though the way he’s coughing down the line is completely real, he still feels like he’s putting on a show for an Oscar.

 

They’re understanding and they tell him to update them tomorrow, they also tell him to eat soup but he can’t be trusted with hot things and kitchen appliances right now. His sheets are already rank so he wipes his nose on the corner and hates himself for it. It’s just standing is... evil.

 

He rolls back over and away from his own filthy creation, to the side of the bed Phil had slept in. It doesn’t even take him a second to pass back out.

 

When he wakes up just past noon he feels less likely to die just via standing up. He goes to the toilet, cleans up his face, has a piss, thinks about having a shower but the dizzy spell he has puts him off. He clutches at the bathroom sink until it passes, then he brushes his teeth in an attempt to feel even one percent more human.

 

The two glasses of water in inhales in the kitchen help, or maybe it’s the half bottle of cold medicine he chokes down. His stomach rumbles but he knows he couldn’t handle food, so he just slinks off to the sofa and collapses beneath one his many fluffy blankets.

 

He’s woken up a few hours later by an insistent knock at his front door, and all he can think about is how he doesn’t remember ordering anything. Maybe in his weird cold medicine state he’d ordered a takeaway, or an I feel sorry for myself present off Amazon. All he knows is that whatever it is he doesn’t want it, because  that involves another human being seeing him in this state. But it’s rude to order something and then ignore the door.

 

He stands on wobbly legs, tries to get used to being upright again. He’s not going to be sick, he’s just going to—fall back down again. He’ll just leave the takeaway person a nice big tip on the app, that’ll make up for not answering the door. But the knocking does not stop, and the headache that’d slightly faded is now back in full force.

 

“Fuck sake.” Dan groans, trying again. This time he doesn’t simply collapse, he actually makes it to the front door and— “Phil?”

 

God. Phil. He’d completely forgotten about him this morning, should’ve texted him to let him know he wouldn’t be engaging in their morning lift business.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hi.” Dan murmurs, clearing his throat so his voice can actually be heard by people as opposed to ants—or whatever. “I can’t like... sex? I mean I can’t fuck you right now, Phil.” Dan sniffs, and he really wishes he’d stored some tissues away in his hoodie pocket.

 

“Yeah.” Phil laughs. “I don’t think I’d want to even if you could, you snot bag.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Here.” Phil holds up a white carrier bag, and it takes Dan a full five seconds to realise he’s supposed to take it. “I erm—told reception that I was supposed to be fixing your computer today but you weren’t in your office. She told me you were sick. Also I might’ve had to spend half an hour just playing solitaire in your office so it didn’t look like I was just fishing for... you information.”

 

“Oh.” Dan repeats, then he bursts into tears because his entire life feels like a fever dream.

 

“Jesus. Dan?” Phil steps into his space, patting him down like they’ll help in anyway. And it sort of does. Grounds him. “Do you feel that bad?”

 

“Yeah.” Dan sniffles, accepting the hug Phil is willingly giving even though Dan is a walking bag of germs. “Sorry. I don’t know what that was. I don’t usually cry when people give me... soup?”

 

“It’s soup.” Phil confirms, letting go of Dan so he can close the door. And apparently that means Phil is staying, going to sit around with a pathetic Dan because he wants to. “Even though soup is gross? But they say it’s a sick person thing.”

 

“What’d you mean it’s gross?” Dan shuffles through his apartment, collapses back down onto his sofa. He’s not even surprised to find Phil right there, sat on his coffee table prying open the lid on something that looks kinda home made.

 

“I dunno.” Phil shrugs, and it’s definitely home made—and very recent—because a load of steam comes out the pot. “It’s like oh erm... here’s some water and now it’s got chunks of stuff in it.”

 

“Water isn’t soup.”

 

“It’s vegetable water, like you milked the vegetable?”

 

“Fucking hell.” Dan giggles, but it’s bad because it launches him right into a coughing fit. Phil’s all concerned and leaves the soup behind to rub Dan’s back. “I’m fine, I’m fine.”

 

“You sure?” Phil asks. “Soup? Want some soup you soup boy?”

 

“God. What’s your problem with soup? You’re so evil.” Dan wriggles around until he’s sat more upright, then Phil produces a spoon from seemingly nowhere and—he’s feeding Dan.

 

He’d more been expecting for Phil to hand the stuff over so he could do it himself, but he’s getting the full nurse experience here. And Phil can’t help but try and cheer Dan up, make him laugh, busts out an here comes the aeroplane.

 

“Stop it.” Dan whines. “You’re going to spill soup everywhere.”

 

“So?” Phil asks. “It’ll cover up those grotty little snot stains on your sleeves.”

 

“No! I’m sick, you can’t bully me.” Dan tries to hide said stains beneath the blanket, but it’s definitely too late. He’d just run out of tissue at some point in the day, been to Bambi on ice to stand for more. It’s his jumper, he’s going to wash it.

 

“Mhm. Eat your soup.”

 

And Dan does, he lets Phil feed him the entire Tupperware box and he feels slightly better for it.

 

“Thankyou.” He smiles, giving Phil’s knee a squeeze even though what he really wants to do is kiss him stupid.

 

“That’s alright.” Phil leaves him on the sofa to go wash up, Dan can hear it in the background and it feels so fucking domestic that it makes his heart constrict.

 

This is properly beyond whatever they’d agreed on, and they probably really need to talk. But for now Dan’s content to just budge up on the sofa, create some room beneath his blanket, to accept Phil’s lifted arm as an invitation to curl up against him.

 

“Did I miss anything at work?”

 

“You missed me totally getting off with my own hand in the lift, dunno how to start my day with kissing now so I had to make do.”

 

“Hope they fixed the camera and caught that.”

 

“Oi.” Phil whines. “I made you soup.”

 

“Yeah.” Dan smiles, snuggling in a little bit deeper. And for once his brain shuts up. “You did.”

 

Phil stays for hours. They watch an entire five part series on Netflix. They stay cuddled, and Phil makes a complete fuss whenever Dan coughs a bit too violently. He becomes his personal tissue guy, then his personal feeder when a bit later he tries to shove toast in Dan’s mouth because apparently soup isn’t actual food—doesn’t count.

 

It’s nearing eleven when Phil finally makes some sort of attempt to go home, stands awkwardly in the middle of Dan’s living room with one hand in his pocket. Dan wants to fake a dramatic coughing fit just to get Phil to stay, but that would be unfair. He’s already done enough, already given up his entire evening just to make sure Dan was alright.

 

“I’ll pay for your taxi.” Dan offers.

 

“Alright.” Phil stop his awkward standing just to cross the room and offer up one final piece of comfort. He leans in, presses a kiss to Dan’s sweaty forehead. “And you’ll text me tomorrow to let me know you’re alright?”

 

“Yeah.” Dan promises. “Thankyou.”

 

+++++++++

 

Dan doesn’t end up back in work till Thursday. He doesn’t take the lift. He doesn’t meet Phil after work. Instead he texts to say he’s running late, then he texts to say he’s still too sick for their usual.

 

He just needs a bit of time to recover from the intimacy, from Phil coming over when he really hadn’t had to. He’s been turning it over in his head all week, looked at it from about a million different angles. Still can’t work it out. Their thing was supposed to be sex, not this.

 

Alex: there u are!!!!! Missed u James

 

Femboy: sorry been super sick. Like I think I would’ve vomited if I tried to even look at a screen

 

Diet Coke: oh no ;( hope u had a nurse to look after you

 

Catboy: my friend was sick must be something going around

 

Femboy: around the discord server lmao? I’ve not caught something off your friend I’ve never even met

 

Gender?: here we go

 

Catboy: it’s been really nice without u here. Sorry you were sick but I didn’t miss u

 

Femboy: at least you’re honest looool

 

The illusion of a person: I’m literally going to make u hold hands and be friends

 

Femboy: sorry sorry. That was actually shitty of me I still just do not feel 100% so I’m being a dick

 

Catboy: ok... I missed u a bit. I think arguing with u is like brushing my teeth

 

Femboy: burn anything to the ground?

 

Diet Coke: he’s actually be super good! Think he’s taken all ur words and gone and read a book

 

Crabs: he built a church and I still Don’t know y?

 

Catboy: I liked the windows!

 

Femboy: we’re all gay. We’re all sinners

 

The illusion of a person: our game is legally not allowed to let us on it anymore.

 

Femboy: gonna go collect shit. See ya around

 

 

.....

 

He misses the lift on a Friday. He doesn’t text Phil to tell him why. He was supposed to ... be a grown up. To figure out a way to communicate all the feelings swirling around and threatening to flow out of him, but instead he’s collapsing into himself.

 

He’s got this habit of making himself miserable, doing things he knows aren’t good for him. But once he starts off on a certain track he’s too stubborn to turn back. So two days of missing the lift turns almost into an entire week.

 

Phil still texts him and Dan replies—sort of. Blunt things that are a world away from what they’re normally like. And Phil’s such a good person, he’d understand if Dan simply said he needed some time—some space. But instead Dan’s going about this in the worst way possible, watching his own car crash of a life in slow motion but being powerless to stop it.

 

In punishment he stops doing the things that make him happy. He doesn’t play his game. He doesn’t fuck around on the internet. He doesn’t— he obviously doesn’t see Phil. He can’t spend all his time ignoring him then turn up on his doorstep asking nicely to be fucked.

 

The whole night the other week should’ve done something else, made Dan realise Phil cares for him in a way that’s outside of the boundaries he’s set. But he’s not allowing that thought to settle in and make a home for himself, because there’s still a chance it might not be true.

 

Dan doesn’t deserve good things, not when he acts like this. He wishes there was a power button in his brain, something that he could press down hard on to reset everything.

 

Phil: no lift?

 

Dan: sorry. Started working an hour later cos clients are being awkward

 

Phil: right. See you around then

 

But he doesn’t. Because Dan starts eating lunch at a different time. Stops causing IT problems on purpose.

 

Words are hard but Dan is making this even harder. He’s driving a wedge between them when all had to do was explain. When he finally realises, when he finally comes around to seeing Phil again, it’s going to be horrible because he’s made it so.

 

He’s already rehearsing his stupid apology that wouldn’t even be necessary if he actually listened to his therapist. At this point he’s paying a stupid amount of money just to hear someone else talk, because he really thinks he’s forgotten how to take any of it in.

 

And he’s not going to blame Phil if he gets sick of it, if he just announces he’s had enough.

 

 

......

 

It’s a Thursday now. An entire week has gone by.

 

Today Dan feels like he’s bouncing off the walls. Nothing is stimulating enough, but everything’s also too much. He’s started about five separate things and given up on all of them. He feels like a fucking—animal. Somethings that’s fast. Something that never stops moving. Leaping and bounding around in search of something that’ll smack his brain into calm. And he’s like the all the time according to Phil, but today it feels bone deep. Today it’s stopping him from doing anything. And he can’t even explain why it’s so much more right now, why he’s itching out of his own skin for something he can’t pinpoint.

 

He’s asked his brain very politely all morning what it wants, and every time it just gives a vague little shrug.

 

He opens his emails but realises he literally can’t read. All the words blur into one massive block, and his brain demands he move on. He tries looking at photos, tries putting them together to create a middle spread for the magazine. But it’s taking too long, it’s too boring. He feels like a child again, he just wants to run, he wants to feel the wind against his face. He wants to hit a ball as far as possible with a bat, he wants to—god. He wants his brain to stop singing the same awful song on a loop. He’s going to rip his own brain out, dig in through his ears until he can get ahold of it.

 

He pings a button off his keyboard.

 

“So, you’re talking to me now?” Phil’s stood in his office, stolen Dan’s chair to fix the problem Dan had created. He wants to comment on how good Phil looks today, but he can’t do that when he’d taken the normal lift this morning.

 

“I—“ Dan frowns, picks at the loose thread on his shirt. He wishes he hadn’t started because now he’s fixated on it, now he needs to locate a pair of scissors before he accidentally unravels the whole thing. “I wasn’t not talking to you.”

 

“No?”

 

“No.” Dan answers—stubborn to a fault. But at least his brain has something to keep it happy now, something to focus on.  Even if the thing it’s focusing on is crap, even if it’s the falling apart of the only relationship that’s ever actually worked.

 

“Dan.” Phil sighs, flopping back in the chair. He’s got the button back in now, which means he’s going to leave and that’s—bad? Dan doesn’t know. He just wants to go back a week and pretend. Pretend that he’d used his big boy words and actually communicated, done what all the hours of therapy had actually told him to do.

 

“I’m sorry.” Dan blurts—but it brings with it this sudden bone deep relief. He’s had this festering inside him all week, since the first day he took the normal lift instead of theirs.

 

“For what?” Phil asks, because he’s like that. Because he prods and pokes and has this way of getting Dan to share even when he doesn’t want to.

 

“For... blocking you out.” Dan tries, tongue feeling heavy in his mouth—blocking what he actually wants to say. But he can get his thoughts to settle in any type of actual order. They’re just all coming at him from different directions, begging to be the one that’s said out loud. “I was being a dick.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And I can explain.” Dan hopes he’s making any sense at all, not just floundering. “I can explain. I mean—I should’ve explained it before. I shouldn’t have just... you know.”

 

“Are you coming over later?”

 

“What?” Dan asks, startled enough to stop with the pacing.

 

“It’s a Thursday. We usually do Thursdays.” Phil explains, the sentence punctuated with a look that cuts right through the core of Dan. It’s—pleading.

 

“Yeah. Erm—yeah. Ok. We do Thursdays?” And Dan doesn’t know why he’s asking, he knows they do Thursdays.

 

“So you can come over.” Phil stands up, and he doesn’t walk over to Dan like Dan had been expecting. He just heads for the door. “And we’re gonna talk, yeah?”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

He can’t focus on anything else for the rest of the day. His mind suddenly gone from a million and one separate things to just one. One thing he’s laser focused on and—fuck. He’s got an entire speech planned in his head, but he just keeps going back to edit it. Add things. Take things away. Break it down into a simple confession.

 

But he knows whatever he has planned isn’t actually what’s going to happen. The minute he opens his mouth something will come out that he’s never even thought about before.

 

+++++++++

 

It’s not a normal Thursday because they don’t go back to Phil’s together. There’s no waiting for each other at the revolving doors, no almost holding hands as they head toward the tube.

 

It’s just a text from Phil at three pm to say he’s heading home early, that he’ll see Dan there.

 

And when he gets there he sort of wants to throw up on the door step, because there’s this whole thing hanging over his head. That maybe this will be the last time he gets to be here, that after today there could be no more Phil.

 

He knocks, erratically, like he’s a bailiff off one of those shows. Coming to take all of Phil’s stuff away because of credit card debt. He doesn’t know if Phil has credit card debt, but he wouldn’t be surprised because he always seems to be ordering shit. But none of this is the point—his thoughts are running off in a different direction to distract from the actual situation.

 

Phil looks as Phil normally does when he opens the door—like everything Dan wants.

 

“Hi.”

 

“Hey.” Dan says, and he almost does the stupid thing of leaning into kiss him. He catches himself at the last moment and plays it off as a stumble, as tripping over Phil’s door step.

 

“Want anything? Coffee? Tea? A—“

 

But Dan isn’t really listening because there’s a book on Phil’s table, and learning they have yet another thing in common is making him happier than the awkwardness in the room.

 

“You play?”

 

“Oh... yeah, sort of. I’m a bit shit.” Phil admits. “I’m in like a group, but the owner is probably like a step away from kicking me out because I keep ruining things. I thought maybe learning about it would make me better.”

 

“Ah.” Dan nods, but he feels incredibly guilty. Because Michael could be off somewhere doing the exact same thing. “I can help out, if you want? Not to sound like I’ve got a massive head, but I’m good.”

 

“Of course you are.” Phil smiles, pushing a can of Diet Coke into Dan’s hand because he’d been too late to accept any of the other offers. “I go by... erm, god, don’t laugh.”

 

“Promise. Mine isn’t too good either.”

 

“Catboy.” Phil says. “Or like... Michael. Whatever.”

 

Dan drops the open can, it goes all over the table, all over the book. Phil scrambles to clean it up but Dan can’t really bring himself to move. Because—well fuck. Of course. Of course. This is what his life is like, and this is how he ruins things.

 

His brain is running around in circles, hitting all the little panic alarms he’d had installed. He wants to say words but he can’t come up with anything that isn’t really just a noise. He hadn’t planned for this, so he’s going under a bit.

 

“Dan?” Phil’s voice cuts through eventually, but he honestly has no idea how long he’s just been standing—staring into space.

 

“Fuck, sorry.” He’s all jittery, organs might’ve moved around in his body to make room for all the shock to settle in his system. “Sorry. I’ll help.”

 

But Phil’s already cleaned it all up, put his book over the radiator in an attempt to salvage some of the pages. How long had he been stood there?

 

“You good, look a bit... erm. Unhinged? I think? That’s a word that means... yeah?”

 

“Yeah.” Dan nods his head, then he rips off the band-aid. “I’m femboy... or James.”

 

And Phil isn’t holding a can of Coke, but he still looks like he’s dropped something. But he recovers far quicker than Dan had, doesn’t shut down and put on a five minute performance of being a statue.

 

“You’re so mean to me!”

 

Dan stares at Phil, blinks at about a million miles an hour. Is that all? All Phil has to say about any of this.

 

“No.”

 

“Yes.” Phil says. “You—ugh, you’re a dick online, you know?”

 

“I know.” Dan says, even though he’d just said the opposite. “I am... sorry? Yeah. Sorry. I just like the game and you kept... being there, but being there wrong.”

 

His words are all incorrect, as he’d knew they’d be. Falling clumsily out of his mouth and at Phil’s feet.

 

“Have I ruined it? Your game, I mean?”

 

“No.” Dan shakes his head. “I mean... sort of. Nothing I can’t fix but—you know.”

 

“I’m sorry." Phil says. "In my head you were... not you. You were kinda all sharp? Like sharp evil cheeks, kinda... oh god, I think I kinda imagines you as Maleficent?" 

 

Dan can see that, a proper villain to them all. Also he wants horns. "I kinda... you were just a dude in stained white pants scratching at your greasy ballsack."

 

Phil blinks, "oh!" 

 

Dan giggles, then he can’t stop himself. This loud hyena laugh filling the entire room. This is all so fucking surreal, but maybe he should’ve worked it out. This guy was destroying everything he’d been working for and he still couldn’t bring himself to properly hate him.

 

“Makes sense now.”

 

“What does?” Phil pries, holding a sopping wet tissue that’s dripping all over the floor.

 

“That I couldn’t... dunno, bring myself to get rid of you. Maybe a part of me knew it was you and that’s why, despite everything, I still kinda liked you.” Dan shrugs, all sheepish in the middle of Phil’s kitchen.

 

Phil isn’t really doing anything, or showing anything. He’s good at that. Shutting down and becoming this complete brick wall of a person. They both have their flaws, both deal with things in ways they shouldn’t. And Dan knows if today is going to work, if they’re going to become anything, they’re both going to have to actually communicate. Use proper words. Full sentences.

 

“Phil.” Dan starts it, thinks he has to after this week, but it doesn’t mean that the word doesn’t feel sticky in his throat.

 

“What was that all about? Where’d you go off to?” Phil’s neutral, scarily so sometimes. It means Dan doesn’t know how softly to tread, whether he should stamp down and—it’s confusing.

 

“I... panicked.” Dan admits. “You saw me all stupid and sick, I let you in and we didn’t even fucking... you know. Sleep together. It was a lot in a way that I can’t even—I don’t get it. I shut down and I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”

 

“You could’ve told me to go home, I wouldn’t have been offended.”

 

“That’s the point.” Dan raises his voice and Phil flinches backwards, and it’s just another thing to add to the list of why he’s a disaster.

 

“You’re going to have to talk to me, Dan. You hurt my feelings this week.” Phil has the patience of a saint, and that’s obvious in how he’s acting now—after everything. “I can’t read your mind all time, just some of. Sometimes it’s very messy up there, can’t work out the path to get it.”

 

And Phil does get him, he does.

 

“That’s the point.” He repeats, quieter this time. “I didn’t want you to leave, I wanted you to stay. I always want you to stay.” 

 

“We fucked it, didn’t we? The whole casual thing.” Phil stops standing, falls into a kitchen chair. It’s a good chair, painted black and—not the point. He’s got to focus today.

 

“I’d say so, yeah.” Dan takes the other chair, fiddles with the fruit bowl in the centre of the table. It’s not actually got any fruit in it, just a random assortment of crap. A button, a hair grip, the friendship bracelet Dan had made on their work bonding day out.

 

Phil’s face is flushed, his eyes warm behind his glasses. Dan thinks maybe it’ll all be alright.

 

“I didn’t mean to, I thought I could do.... you know. Just keep it casual with the pretty guy from work.” Phil’s gaze is fixed on Dan, but Dan can tell it’s a struggle. That’s he’s really trying here. “But I was doomed from the start, knew it the minute you got tangled in my sheets. Literally.”

 

“I was drunk.”

 

“Like an octopus.”

 

“I was drunk!” Dan defends. “And so were you ...so be careful, might bring up how you spat my come out and down my knee.”

 

Phil turns red, he throws the wet tissue at Dan but it misses by about six miles.

 

“It tasted bad.”

 

“Thanks so much.”

 

“You’re the weirdo who acts like it’s... what? Nectar.”

 

“Your come,” Dan places a hand to his heart, “is my nectar.”

 

“Can we just be normal, please?” Phil begs. “Can I say the minute I got to know you, it was over? Can I say I think I’ve been in love with you for a while?”

 

That makes Dan trip over his own thoughts, this little back and forth of silly they’d had going on shattering around his head.

 

“Yeah.” Dan walks his fingers across the table until his hand can cover Phil’s. “Cos I think I’ve been in love with you for even longer.”

 

“Ugh.” Phil huffs. “Don’t turn this into a competition, James.”

 

“Don’t ruin it, Michael.” Dan laughs, and it feels so fucking weird. He never wants to call Phil Michael again. “If you stand next to me with a bucket and hold me for three seconds I’ll produce more good words.”

 

“Not come?”

 

“Maybe that too.”

 

“Like…” Phil flaps his arms, “what is this? Friends to lovers to enemies to lovers to stupid to friends with benefits to enemies to… lovers?”

 

“Erm.” Dan honestly hadn’t got a word of it. “It’s just… us? Like we're just whatever we are.”

 

“Ok,” Phil smiles, seemingly content. “Fuck. We both used our middle names, didn’t we? We both appeared offline together so many times, then came back the next day and described the literal same night. Why are we so stupid?”

 

“I dunno.” Dan shrugs. “Love or something.”

 

+++++++++

 

 

Alex: michael! Ffs you just killed me. Actually  look at where you’re shooting?

 

Femboy: oi leave him alone. The game is super laggy today

 

Diet Coke: .... wtf

 

Crabs: what? Am I alive?

 

The illusion of a person: erm we’re all dreaming collectively

 

Gender?: no way did u just defend him

 

Sam: god u both fucking or something now?

 

Femboy: yeah

 

Catboy: yeah