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Hold me in the darkness

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Dan awakes with a start, the entire bedframe around him jolting violently with the sudden movement as he bolts upright. His heart is pounding fiercely in his chest as though he's just run a marathon and he's drenched from head to toe in a cold sweat. Disorientated, he flails around, legs twisting in the covers as it takes him a good few seconds to remember where he is, why something about the shadowy outlines of their furniture is just off and switched around, why the window has somehow moved.

The penny drops. Oh. New house.

He takes a deep gulping breath, trying to stave off the panic attack he instinctively knows he’s just on the cusp of. He curls in on himself; puts his head in his hands and tries to focus on a calm, if shaky exhale, the memory of his bizarre dream fading quickly.

"Dan? Wha'ssup?" Phil's voice next to him in the darkness is groggy but urgent, the alarm in his tone evident. Dan tries to hum at him in response to let him know he’s okay, but it comes out like more of a strangled yelp than anything remotely reassuring.

There's some fumbling by Phil's side of the bed for a moment and then with a small click the room is suddenly bathed in lamplight. Dan blinks as his eyes adjust and when he looks up from his hands he can see Phil's tired face illuminated in the soft glow as he shoves his glasses on and turns back to Dan, face filled with concern.

"Sorry, Phil." Dan rubs at his eyes, exhaustion swooping in. "Was just a bad dream. I didn't mean to wake you."

"C'mere, bub." Phil opens his arms and Dan slumps back onto his bare chest gratefully.

"Oooffph." Phil huffs a gentle laugh as the air is knocked out of him. He places cool, soothing fingers to Dan’s cheek, his forehead. "Breathe with me now, baby. Nice and steady, that’s it," he murmurs softly.

Dan concentrates on the slow and purposeful rise and fall of Phil's chest beneath his own, breath tickling his ear. He makes a conscious effort to match his own breathing to the pace Phil has set, one shaky exhale whistling past his chapped lips at a time. Phil leans down and presses a soft kiss to Dan's forehead.

"You're all sweaty." He brushes a hand through the damp curls on Dan's forehead, swiping them upwards to form a little curly quiff on the top of his head. "There. Now we match again."

Dan smiles despite himself. His heart rate is starting to slow, no longer trying to wage World War Three right there in his chest. The adrenaline is steadily draining from his veins now he's wrapped in the comfort of Phil's embrace, with the still unfamiliar room no longer hidden in darkness. Phil continues to gently stroke his hair with one hand, while the other begins rubbing soft circles into the bare skin of Dan's chest.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Dan closes his eyes, pulls the covers up around them, their own little cocoon. “Not really. Was just another silly Norman dream, I think. ‘S already fading. You were there too though.”

“Oh yeah?” Phil hums softly.

“Yeah... There was this horrible giant spider, and it got in Norman’s tanks and tried to eat him. And then… Somehow you were hurt too. I dunno. Was weird. Sounds stupid now.”

“Sounds pretty scary to me.”

“Please don’t get eaten by a giant spider.”

Phil laughs softly again, right in his ear. “I won’t.”

“Promise?”

“I promise, Dan.”

“Good.”

They’re silent for a moment. Dan brings his hand up to intertwine his fingers gently with Phil’s, his thumb still stroking little circles over Dan’s sternum.

“I don’t normally worry about losing you. Especially not in such a stupid way.” Dan murmurs into the duvet. Phil’s answering hum is all he needs to spur him on. “I guess, with the move, like, it’s a big change. It’s a big life commitment. And I don’t want anything to change with us. You know?”

“I know,” Phil murmurs.

“I know we’ve lived in three different apartments together already, but there’s just something about owning our own place that’s different. We’re not just playing at being grown-up anymore. We are grown-up now… If this didn’t work out-”

He stops himself, breaking off with what sounds embarrassingly like a choked sob. He feels Phil’s arms tighten around him. A gentle brush of lips once again against his temple.

“Dan.” Phil presses a kiss to the shell of his ear. “I’ve loved you for the past eleven years.” His lips drag softly across Dan’s cheek. “What on earth makes you worry I’m going to stop now?”

Dan takes a deep breath. Presses Phil’s arms tighter against his chest.

“Because it’s a change. A big, real-life adult commitment. Because sometimes I can’t help but think you might realise you actually hate my taste in interior design, and think - oh, why the fuck did I design a house and waste the past decade of my life with this depressing loser.”

Phil huffs a quiet laugh directly in his ear.

“Hey!” Dan rolls over in his arms to face him indignantly and jabs a finger into his side, making Phil yelp. “I’m trying to be all vulnerable and bare my soul, you can’t laugh at me!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Phil squeals as Dan tries to start a half-hearted tickle fight, digging his fingers into his ribs over and over. Phil grabs a hold of Dan’s wrists with practiced ease after a decade of play fighting and pins them above his head, flipping them over so he’s hovering above him. Dan looks up at him sheepishly.

“I just can’t imagine a life in which we’re not together, Dan. You know that.” He ducks down then, presses their lips together as though he can’t help it. It’s clumsy, and their teeth clack together at the awkward angle, and yet when Phil pulls back with a smile, Dan can feel moisture gathering at his eyes. Phil flops back down on the bed next to him, wraps him up in his arms again.

“I’ve got you,” he hums. “I’ll always have you. We just make sense together and we balance each other out. I wouldn’t ever want anyone else.”

“Doesn’t it ever worry you? That you’ve never known anything else?" He picks at a loose thread on the lining of the duvet and rolls it between his thumb and forefinger, pulling at it to see how far it'll unstitch. "Maybe you don’t know what you’re missing…”

“Dan. Look at me.” Phil tugs the duvet out of Dan's hands and gently cups his cheek as Dan reluctantly looks up at him. “No. That doesn’t worry me at all. Does it worry you?”

Dan breaks their eye contact, looking back up at the shadows suspended across their ceiling. “No…”

“So why would you worry about me feeling that way?” The question is gentle, non-judgemental, and it makes Dan's heart squeeze with affection for this man, who somehow always knows what to say.

“It’s not something I worry about all the time,” Dan whispers, “I know logically that we’re it for each other. But sometimes I can’t help worrying about why you put up with me.”

“Dan, you know I’m not your high school friends. Or even your family.”

“I know. It’s just that indifference was all I knew for so long, and sometimes I still find it hard to believe you’re real. I love you so much, Phil. I don’t know what I’d do without you sometimes.”

“I know, baby. I know. I don’t know what I’d do without you too. You’re the best thing in my life.”

Dan sighs. What did he do to deserve this man? “Urgh. God, Phil, I can’t believe we’ve turned into one of those couples. We’re such disgusting saps.”

“It’s ok, we’re only disgusting in private. Thankfully.” He giggles, tugging at a stray curl on Dan’s forehead, then leans in to press their lips together, gently this time, softly, the angle easier on both of them. And even after all this time, that’s all it takes to wipe Dan’s brain of every thought that’s not Phil. Despite the fact that they’d christened the new room mere hours ago, Dan can’t help but deepen the kiss, rolling onto his back and pulling Phil with him, against him. He hums contently against his lips, his hands starting to wander as his body takes an interest in the proceedings.

“Dan,” Phil pulls back with a laugh, “stop trying to distract me with sex!"

Dan pouts. “Stop being so sexy then.”

Phil giggles again, presses a lingering kiss to Dan’s lips and curls around him again.

“Urgh. It’s just it’s the middle of the night, and I’m too knackered after all the box-lifting earlier."

Dan smiles. “That’s just more evidence you’re secretly a boomer, you know.”

Phil snorts at him, nudges at his shoulder. “Well, what does it say about you that you still want to shag this boomer then?”

“You know me, Phil. I’ve always wanted a sugar daddy.”

“Horrible boy!” Phil starts to pull away in mock outrage, but Dan grabs at his wrists, pulls them back around his torso in a forced bear hug.

“Nope. You’re stuck with me, mate. You said it yourself not five minutes ago.”

Phil grumbles at him, puts on a show of giving in before he snuggles up close to Dan again. Dan rolls over onto his side so Phil’s spooning him, he pulls the covers up around them again and looks around at their new room in the soft glow of the lamplight.

Dan sighs. “It’s funny how we spent years designing and planning out the house, but now that we’re actually here it still feels so unfamiliar.”

Phil’s thumb starts stroking at his soft belly again under the covers. He brushes his lips against Dan’s shoulder, murmurs into his skin, “I don’t think so. It’s one thing to plan it all out, but it’s another to actually live here, and not see it from the perspective of a 2D floor plan. Or a bombshell of a building site.”

“It doesn’t feel quite like home yet,” Dan confesses. “I mean, it does, because you’re here obviously. But I mean I had no idea where I was when I woke up. Though I suppose that was probably partly the ridiculous nightmare.”

“I think that’s normal though,” Phil whispers back, hand still rubbing soothing circles into Dan’s skin. Dan can tell without looking back at him that his eyes have drifted shut. “The plan for this place is forever, right? But you’re still viewing it from your critical design perspective. You haven’t fallen in love with it yet. But that'll come.” He breaks off to hide a yawn in the back of Dan’s neck. “It’ll come. You just need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself, Danny.”

Dan sighs. Phil’s right obviously. Of course he’s right. He may have the most chaotic, wild brain out of everyone Dan knows, but somehow he just gets Dan instinctively. “It shouldn’t keep surprising me that you know me this well after eleven and a half years, Philip Lester. But it still does, you know. Every damn time.” Dan squeezes Phil’s hand where it’s fallen still on his stomach. Phil turns his palm up to wordlessly intertwine their fingers. “What would I do without you to talk sense into me at 4am, or automatically turn the bedside light on when I have a bad dream because, ridiculously, I’m still afraid of the dark aged twenty-bloody-nine.”

Phil giggles at him softly. “I told you. I just get you. We get each other.”

“Would you also get the light again please?”

Phil groans. “But I’m comfy!”

Dan wiggles his hips backwards against Phil’s, nudging him closer to the edge of the bed. “It’s your side of the bed!”

“Fine,” Phil huffs. The warmth enveloping Dan’s back disappears for a moment as Phil rolls over to get the light, and then the room is shrouded in darkness once more. Phil’s arm snakes back around his middle. Dan relishes in the comforting reverberations of the deep, sleep-soft humming and grumblings from Phil’s chest as he snuggles up behind him, cocooning them both in the little bubble of their bed. It’s so familiar after more than a decade of such similar soothing cuddles that the unfamiliar surroundings fall away entirely. This is the man who, over the course of more than a decade, he’s shared three flats with already, woken up in countless hotels next to, traveled practically the entire world with on a tour bus, twice over. Screw the bricks and mortar, Phil is Dan’s forever home really.

Dan sighs contently, a bone-deep tiredness settling in on him. Bad dreams can’t possibly touch him when he’s so wrapped up in Phil.

“Feel better now?” Phil mumbles into his shoulder, and Dan knows that sleep is coming for him soon as well.

“I do,” he hums, “thanks, bub.”

“Love you, Danny.”

“Love you too.”