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boys they wanna paint me

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Phil doesn’t think of himself as a judgmental person. Unless it’s like – someone slacking off in classes and still presenting a shite video at the end. Or if someone’s a goody two shoes and spends too much time on their class project. Or if they’re an old man in California who’s into tickling. Or if his brother does something sort of dim.

Otherwise, though – no, he’s not one for acting like he knows how other people should act. He barely knows how he should act most of the time.

It’s why it surprises him, a little. The way he finds himself – a little confused, now.

Dan’s finally real. He’s real, and warm, and Phil can touch him if he wants to, even though sometimes Dan squawks and squirms and blushes and mumbles something about wanting another slice of the fast-disappearing pizza.

It’s easier to get a rise out of him, like this.

On camera he’s always glancing at his own reflection, all flickering eyes and a nervous little smirk when Phil catches him, even though neither of them ever says anything. He’s always catching his own hands out of the air, carefully pulling them towards his chest like they’ve strayed, twisting his hands together and hunching his shoulders so he’s securely trapped within the frame. He’s quieter, too, always mumbling and saying half-coherent things about how his parents are only in the next room.

Phil’s familiar enough with what acting looks like.

He sees shades of that in this new – Manchester Dan, as he’s started thinking of him. This version’s still quiet, sometimes, but then they’re alone for a minute and he’s all in Phil’s space, or Phil startles him and he shrieks, throwing his whole lanky body out of the way and blushing a dark patchy red when he realizes what’s happened.

He puts every ounce of himself into each feeling, right before he comes to and pulls back, tangling his hands together and giving Phil that strange choreographed shell of a boy instead.

Phil – wants, more than anything. Wants to see what’s under there. Wants to surprise him over and over until Dan’s just the wild-eyed smile that comes when Phil orders him a too-expensive drink, or just the shy pleased look when Phil drops the last slice of pizza on his plate instead of his own, or the little gasp when they’re in the shower and he finally gets what he’s been quietly asking about for months.


Phil loves it, but there’s still a funny feeling in his stomach, staring at Dan where he’s got his knees tucked to his chest, vaguely rocking back and forth in the bed like – a turtle, or something. A terrifyingly large turtle. Turles – shouldn’t be that large. Dan shouldn’t turn into a turtle. It’s all just sort of – weird. Even though, like, Phil’s not a good judge of weirdness. It still seems kind of weird.

He can’t figure out how to put any of that into words, for a minute. He just stands there, awkwardly watching.

He doesn’t even know if he’s really meant to say anything.

Dan’s staring at the ceiling, doesn’t even seem to notice that Phil has come back in, and – it’s not like Phil’s never had a boy stay over, but they’ve never done this.

“Are you sore?” he asks. Dan glances up, and he’s already flushing red again. He goes even deeper red when Phil wiggles his eyebrows. It’s fucking – silly and childish, but – he doesn’t know if Dan would ever admit it otherwise, unless Phil presses for information. At least – it’s something he should probably know. Something they can do something about.

“No,” Dan says, voice low.

He’s trying to untangle himself in a way that looks casual. He drops his grip on his ankles, stretches one leg out and then the other. He ends up on his side, then, blinking up at Phil with his head propped on his elbow like he was only doing normal things the whole time.

“Alright,” Phil says. It seems – not entirely true, maybe, but even if it isn’t true it doesn’t seem like Dan will say so.

He climbs into the narrow bed. Dan watches, careful, only shifting to meet him once Phil taps his arm.

“Four feet on the floor,” Phil finds himself saying. He’s not – not loud about it, or anything, mostly says it under his breath because it makes him nervous to watch Dan rock backwards like that, drifting so close to toppling over, like he’s taunting gravity.

He doesn’t know when he started worrying like that. Maybe he always has.

The grainy little Dan on the screen winces, squinting one eye like he’s been hurt, but he’s still upright, somehow. There’s a thud, and then he’s leaning in close to the camera, flopping his folded arms on his desk and his chin onto his arms, all so much in one direction and then so far in the other.

“Sorry,” Phil says, because Dan’s suddenly quiet, and – maybe it was too much.

“Thanks,” Dan mumbles, sounding just about as sleepy and disoriented as Phil feels. “I forget.”


He does it all the time, once Phil starts actually paying attention. He’s not terribly perceptive, as a rule, so – that’s his defense. It takes him a minute. Or – several months. It takes Dan rolling about in Phil’s bed and nearly concussing himself on camera and inexplicably sitting with his chair sideways, the other night.

Phil’s favorite is his hands, he’s decided.

Dan’s not not self conscious, exactly. He still eyes Phil’s face on the screen when he catches himself flailing, but Phil only laughs, genuinely laughs at Dan’s bizarre flailing stories about almost getting hit by a car, and then Dan smiles, all wide and dimpled and honest in return.


“Mate,” he starts. He doesn’t really know where to go after that. It doesn’t help that Dan’s staring up at him, all quizzical like a stupid dog or something.


“You’re fully – you’re wrong side up?”

The startled look Dan gives his legs is a little bit hilarious. Phil’s not one to judge someone for forgetting about their limbs, but he whips his head around and then grimaces like he’s properly injured himself doing it, stares at his legs and then gives Phil a vaguely accusatory look like – he wasn’t supposed to bring it up? Like it’s his fault for not noticing earlier?

“I’m normal,” Dan says.

“Well. You’re wrong side up. You’re – a reversed boyfriend.”

“Like a car.”

“Uh. Yeah?”

“Beep beep,” Dan mumbles. He goes back to frowning at whatever is on his phone for a minute, like – Phil’s just meant to walk away. Or something.

He has no idea what the etiquette is when your boyfriend is upside down. It seems like it’s worth commenting on.

“Why – so – do you do this?” Phil says, trying again. “I mean, it’s very – it’s cute, um, but it is weird, and what if you have a – a brain aneurysm, because, like, your brain – thinks it lives in your foot? And stops working?”

“Doesn’t work anyways,” Dan mumbles, gloomy. He doesn’t even bother looking up.

“Dan,” he says. There’s a little bit of a whine in it, a little bit of sternness that never fails to get Dan’s back up.

“Actually not taking feedback from someone who stood on the stove top the other day and did melt his shoe, thanks though.”

“It was an accident. Dan. Daniel?”

“No,” he says, still tapping.

Jesus. Phil might kill him or might bubblewrap him to protect him from himself, at this rate.


He tries not to comment on it, mostly.

It’d be a funny picture, he thinks. Like – when dogs roll over and their lips look all weird. Dan’s face just looks normal, but – still, there’s something funny about it, when he’s on his back, sitting on the wall in the corner like he’s gone to another dimension that’s 90 degrees off from everyone else’s.

Phil takes a picture for his own – records? Science project? Anthropological study of boyfriend sitting, maybe. That could be an interesting paper. Phil could do to have more statistics on this topic.

It’s just – there’s the whole business of what he’s meant to do with it, now that he has a picture.

He’s not exactly one for bragging. Not that there isn’t anything to brag about, but – mostly that’s always been Dan’s job, always Dan jumping in front of the cameras and impulsively talking and yelling if anyone looks askance in Phil’s direction.

Now, though – it’s not like that.

It’s not like Phil’s upset about it, not really. There’s reasons and they’ve talked and he could send the picture to PJ or something and make fun of Dan that way, even if he can’t post it on Twitter or on Facebook or any of the other places where it would raise too many questions.

It’s just strange, he thinks. The way Dan’s gotten less and less shy over the years, burrowing into Phil’s life and then barging his way into everyone else’s, goofing off on the radio in front of a million people and actually getting a pretty good reaction for once in his life.

That part is good. He can talk in front of strange people, a bit, doesn’t wince away from it nearly as much as he used to. He’s started covering for Phil when Phil gets a little fuzzy around the edges, marches down to talk to the people at the post office or whatever because he’s defending Phil’s honor.

But then – they get home, and it’s like this. It’s Dan falling silent for hours on end, or going so deep in his own head that he doesn’t know which way is up.

Phil finds himself having to put both their schedules in one phone, so that he can go rouse Dan whenever he’s meant to do anything, because he doesn’t really seem to remember what time it is or what’s going on in their life. Sometimes he has to run all over the house, searching until he finds Dan in some unlikely spot. Sometimes he’s tucked into the corner like today, or he’s asleep and halfway dangling off the couch, or curled up in bed all upside down, feet where his head should be and head under the blankets.

It’s like living with a very lethargic bat, Phil thinks, on the days he has a sense of humor about it.

Maybe it’s fine. Maybe it’s always been like this, and he didn’t notice because they lived separately and then Dan was busy with school, or busy with moving, or whatever it was.

It’s just too delicate to show anyone, he thinks. He can’t figure out how to talk about it.

No one ever really sees Dan like this, except Phil. Not that he’s – completely wild, when they’re out and about. But he’s quick to talk, when he’s in the right mood, and he’s usually standing next to Phil, so he seems even quicker.

No one sees when he gets home and goes dormant, like a tree in winter. When he’s so out of it that he barely reacts when Phil pokes and prods him, doesn’t even bite out a you’re annoying.

Phil’s tried asking Martyn if it’s like – normal, or something. If his brain is the one that’s broken. Martyn says it is normal, for some people, to drift a little. It’s just – he says that, a little, and then says that it’s not good if it’s too much.

Phil doesn’t know what too much is.

He doesn’t ask, because how do you ask. How do you ask and not explain anything, not say that sometimes Dan’s so far gone that he’s not sure how to pull him back to shore.

Dan’s fine, as far as Martyn knows. He’s fine, and normal, and – all that. Whatever the requirements are for them to be allowed to keep going.

Dan glances up, catching Phil’s eyes and giving him a vaguely sheepish smile, like he knows he’s odd and he knows Phil worries.

“Y’okay?” he says, voice rough.

And that’s – just like him, really. Checking on Phil even when it barely seems like he’s on earth himself.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay.”


“You’re an octopus.”



“No, I’m a human being.”

“No,” Phil says, crossing his arms. “No, you are an octopus. This is octopus behavior.”

The problem with not commenting on it is that Phil is atrocious at not commenting on things. He can make it about a day, and then Dan does something especially weird, and Phil forgets all about the scowl that shows up every time he points out how strange Dan looks.

Sure enough, Dan’s glaring at him from his new spot, squashed in between the side of the couch and the bookcase. One of his arms somehow got left behind, dangling over the armrest. He looks like that octopus in the documentary they watched, the one that was always climbing in and out of jars.

He’s still glaring up at Phil.

Phil suspects, like, that one of the parts of having a boyfriend has something to do with placating him, or something, backing off and not prodding at things that irritate Dan just to see what will happen.

He suspects, but never mind, because he’s not any good at that.

“You look strange,” he blurts. “Is it cozy?”

Dan’s face flickers like he can’t decide if he’s more mad or not. “‘M not strange,” he finally comes up with. “But yeah. The couch…”

He trails off for a minute, glancing at the offending couch like he’s betrayed it and it’s going to attack him in revenge.

“Is it going to eat you?” Phil offers.

“No, like. Too big?”

“Oh. Yeah, okay.”

Dan narrows his eyes at Phil, like he’s – suspicious, or something. He’s sort of suspicious most of the time, though. And anyways he can’t hide the way his dimple caves in, betraying him just enough.


Dan’s always showing him music videos.

Phil doesn’t really get most of them. Some of them are hot, or artistic, or whatever. The editing’s cool.

He gets so sucked into watching the editing that half the time he doesn’t notice most of the song at all, just staring transfixed at a weird coloring idea that he’ll probably never have a reason to use, or a new effect that costs a million billion dollars to produce.

He never says that, though, when Dan mumbles for him to come over and see something. This is Dan’s thing, something that keeps him vaguely interested in video even when he’s drifting a little too far.

It takes Phil a minute to figure this one out. The sound is mostly monotone, he thinks, a guy with a deep voice that’s been processed somehow, gone strangely digital sounding. There’s hardly any editing, either; it looks like he’s just dancing over someone’s white backdrop. It’s the kind of thing Phil’s seen in any random advert.

Dan seems transfixed, though. They keep watching.

The guy is – sitting on another guy’s lap. The other guy is half naked, and covered in oil, and wearing – a Pikachu mask, for some reason?

Phil’s not sure if it’s going to be some sort of – prank video, or something. It doesn’t look like a prank, exactly, but – Dan likes those sorts of things, sometimes, the ones where everything goes utterly wrong. He’ll watch through hours of boring intros just to see a good crash. It’s a specific sort of mood.

This – isn’t that, though. The guy starts twerking, and he’s singing about a guy sucking on his arms, shows them off for good measure.

Then he’s dancing, again, all alone. It’s like that dance they watched the movie about, but – all loose, sort of noodley and silly. He does have good arms, but he’s lanky, too, bopping around in a goofy barely-coordinated way that feels recognizable. He has a big floppy shirt and big hands that are going every direction, flickering around his face. The song is something about getting light in his loafers. That finally registers, somewhere in Phil’s brain.

Dan’s mouthing along with the end, when Phil glances up. He stops when Phil stares a minute too long, catches Phil’s eye and flushes a cute pink color.

“Sorry,” he says, soft and tired. “Just – thought it was cool, I guess.”


Phil catches him playing it around the house for months after. There’s other ones, too, similar enough that they must be the same guy.

The original one seems stuck in his brain, though. It gets ten times as many plays as any of the others.

He catches Dan doing the little dances, too.

His sense of rhythm is honestly sort of terrible; he has that awkwardness that you only get from growing a million inches and never locating any of your own body parts after that. He tries, though. He figures out the little arm shimmy thing, does it one night when he’s feeling particularly silly and triumphant about a video he’s finally finished. There’s another moment where he thinks he’s being particularly cute, and his fingertips come up to touch his jaw while he’s batting his eyelashes at Phil. The third time, Phil’s ordered him a big soft jumper, and the moment he puts it on he bolts for the bathroom mirror and does a big dramatic arm flail, giggling to himself when it sways with the motion.

It’s all – Phil’s not quite sure if it’s him, if it’s really Dan, or if he’s just putting on a show. His delight is obvious, though, even if his eyes flicker away when Phil tries to catch his gaze.

“You look like that guy,” Phil whispers, towing Dan in close.

“I wish,” he mumbles.



He doesn’t exactly fall on his face.

Mostly – because his otherwise useless body knows how to deal with this, now. It’s just muscle memory.

He stumbles, for sure, ends up making a desperate leap to the side and somehow makes it, even if it’s just barely. He twists his foot and ends up on his knees, but he’s gotten sort of graceful about the whole thing.

It’s better than the time he stomped on Dan’s head. Or the time he broke Dan’s finger a little bit.

“What,” Dan mumbles.

Phil stares at him for a minute.

There’s all kinds of Floor Dan. There’s cranky Floor Dan, and sad Floor Dan, and the one that flails if you touch it. There’s sleepy Floor Dan, too, who passed out here and mostly doesn’t remember why.

This one looks a little sad and a little frazzled, but mostly sleepy. Might be pre-nap Floor Dan, who just sort of exists here for some reason.

Phil flops over, spreading out next to him and flopping a heavy arm over his middle. Dan grunts at the intrusion, but Phil’s learned not to care too much.


“Hi,” Dan whispers back, turning his head a bit so he can press his face to Phil’s forehead.

“Brain juice?”

Dan sighs under Phil’s cheek. He doesn’t say anything. His adam’s apple bobs a bit when he swallows, chest shifting funny.

“Please,” Phil mumbles. “I’m thirsty for thoughts.”

“I don’t think I want to,” he says, so quiet.

They’ve been at this for weeks. The money, Dan has said, and that’s – a big point. A point that scares Dan shitless, left him panicky for a whole week after Phil blurted out a stupid joke and Dan hadn’t laughed.

But then – it would be easier. It’d be easier to take a breath, easier to at least exist in their own space and not worry about what would happen if – if, if. If they slip, if someone asks too many questions, if the fact that they’re living together starts to seem weird, if the whole broke roommates charade crumbles under their feet while they’re watching.

It’s too many fucking ifs.

I want to be in charge, Dan had muttered, at some point. He’d laughed a bit, but it hadn’t been a joke. I want to fire everyone else. I want to fire myself. I’d fire you if I could.

“Gonna be supervillains,” Phil says.

Dan huffs something that might be a laugh. “Yeah.”

“M’ sleeping,” Phil announces. “Don’t bother me anymore.”


“You’re gonna concuss yourself, if you keep this up.”

Dan blinks up from behind his phone, wide-eyed like he’s surprised he’s still on the floor.

He’d tipped the chair over at some point and just – stayed there, fiddling with his Twitter while Phil had checked if the camera was even on, and then tried to parse some new editing thing that he wanted to try, and then got distracted with his email inbox and a weird video of a guy sticking his hands into some sand.

“F’what?” Dan says, after a beat.

“Being a floppy boy.”

“Gay people can’t sit in chairs,” Dan informs him. He looks sort of pleased with himself, like he’s made some great point.

It’s like – more than he would’ve said a few months ago, even. But also – he’s very annoying, and Phil worries, and he’d gotten huffy at the word just an hour ago, so whatever. Phil’s choosing a life of havoc.

“You’re not gay.”

“I am today.”

“Since when?”

“Five minutes ago.”

“Well,” Phil says, rolling his eyes, “I can sit in chairs.”

“You memorized that by rote, actually. Like how you can spell things that you don’t need to know how to spell, and like how you blink, and the way –”

“– that I don’t argue with my boyfriend when he’s trying to save me from going to the doctor because of a chair related incident at two in the morning because I like having money–”

“– you memorized how to talk to the mailman, in the mirror, which I saw. With my human eyeballs.”

Dan is also, apparently, choosing a life of havoc.

Phil huffs, kicking absently at where his foot is sticking up, dangling above the chair.

He doesn’t get it, really. How Dan can point out things like that but Phil can’t point out if Dan’s being odd, or how Dan acts like Phil’s a haughty little prince because he figured out how to talk to the mailman in his mid-to-late twenties.

Maybe he’s like – a little pleased with himself for learning how to be a person. Maybe he did slightly throw himself a mailman bravery party, and maybe he did slightly buy a cake about it.

Dan doesn’t have to be so sullen about it, though. It’s probably useful to know how to talk to most people and not act like a spooked horse in a sweatshirt about it. Also, he was mostly doing it so that he wouldn’t have to avoid the mailbox until 2am on the days when Dan forgets to go collect the mail, which is approximately four out of the five days of the week unless he’s very excited about a package, in which case sometimes it’s only three.

“Avoiding George was ruining my sleep schedule.”

“He’s not even named George.”

“You’re so annoying,” Phil tells him, kicking at his foot again. He still hasn’t actually made contact, but whatever. “If you concuss yourself and can’t edit then I’m sending you to live with my parents.”

“Oh. Like, what about my parents? Do you think they’d be offended? ‘Hello, I’m your kid, I’m – well, my boyfriend’s sent me to live with his parents. Oh, yes, in the middle of the ocean. Yes. Very far away. Yeah. See you never again. Goodbye!’”

Phil laughs. He can feel his shoulders finally loosen. Even when he’s feeling pesky and it’s fucking late and Dan’s being a knob – at least they have this. Dan raises his head again, grinning up at him for a minute before he flops back down to stare at the ceiling.


“Hey,” Phil says, softly.

Dan hums something.

“Can I come up there?”

The next noise might be in the affirmative. It might not be, too. Phil’s never really sure anymore.

He clambers to his feet, anyways. His legs feel like jello, but like, stiff jello. Jello made of rocks, maybe. His laptop gets put on the table so they – so Phil can’t trip on it in the morning. He peels his t-shirt and his shorts off, pulls the covers back just enough to duck under them.

He thinks he’s not – really meant to jostle Dan. Probably meant to be a little bit kinder and more patient than he normally would be, or something.

Part of him, though, can’t help being a little reckless. He flops down into the pillow next to Dan, lets his bare arm land too heavily across Dan’s chest, just to hear him grunt and watch his nose crinkle in frustration.

He’s stiff as a board, laid out flat like a vampire in a coffin or something.

Phil just – wants to knock him loose, somehow. Wants some sign that Dan is still in there somewhere, even if he’s – closed off to the world, or whatever. Even if he’s closed off to Phil.

His skin itches, suddenly. He squirms, shoving his face bossily into Dan’s chest and tapping absently at his opposite shoulder. That doesn’t do much. Dan’s eyes flicker towards him for a moment, but then they’re gone again.

Phil pinches a bit of skin on his chest. He’s fucking bored.


He sounds hoarse, like he hasn’t talked all day and hasn’t had enough water and probably barely slept, which – is all true. Phil knows, because he’s been hovering the whole time.

“I’m cute,” Phil hums. He shifts around again, adjusting his arm with zero sense of grace.

Dan grunts. Phil knees him in the dick, just to see.

“Fuck you,” Dan says. He wacks aimlessly at Phil’s shoulder blade with his free hand, huffs like he’s distraught that Phil’s bothering him.

At least that’s – something. Maybe it’s nonsensical, to think of it that way, but Phil thunks his head down in a different spot and then falls still, finally drifting into a restless sleep.


Phil snorts, when he finds him.

He’s not even like – in a parseable human position, really. His ass is in the air, for some reason, legs folded over his face so he’s balanced on just his shoulders and the back of his head. Somehow he’s still holding onto his phone.

It’s distantly – some sort of stretch, or something. Some yoga position that he’s seen Dan try to copy, when he was restless and pinging around on the internet, muttering that at least it’s not Dance Dance Revolution, like somehow that makes his 2am fussing any less weird.

“This is a new one,” Phil says, when Dan doesn’t make a move to adjust at all. “Worm boy. S’ quite – flexible, hey?”

“Don’t – fucking – stop,” Dan mutters.

“Don’t fucking stop what?”

Dan swallows, wiggling a little. His lips twitch like he’s going to respond, but he doesn’t.

He’s been quiet all day, out of bed but still drifting mostly aimlessly. He walks into rooms and doesn’t seem to see anything, walks out without saying much. Phil’s used to it. Mostly. He doesn’t really expect coherence. Sometimes, though – he just wishes he could get some sort of answer that makes sense.

“Don’t fucking stop what,” he repeats, when Dan doesn’t say anything.

“Stop making fun of me.”

“I’m not.”

“You are,” Dan says, even quieter.

And that’s – always the issue, Phil thinks. He’s not making fun, but Dan doesn’t see it that way.

He tries another tack.

He wanders over and drops down cross-legged next to Dan’s head. He lets his fingertips skim over Dan’s face for a minute, tracing over the bridge of his nose and the edge of his hair until Dan sighs.

“Can I join you?” Phil says.


“Okay. Well. Does it feel good?”

“What?” Dan asks. Phil can’t read his expression, but it seems like he’s playing a little dumb.

“Being upside down worm boy.”

“Not a worm.”

“Okay, being – human boyfriend – wet spaghetti edition. Does it feel good?”

Dan sighs. His lips twitch for a minute, nose wrinkling at something that – he’s saying to himself, in his own head. Phil bites back a giggle.

He hums a little, before he finally talks again. “It makes my body feel like – real, for a minute.”

“You’re pretty real.”

“I know, but. Like. Like – y’know how you lose your feet?”


“It’s like – like I lose everything, sometimes? Like it just – it’s not there, and it doesn’t matter, and – I just can’t find it.”

“It would be so weird if a person was just a huge foot.”

Dan rolls his eyes, but he gives Phil a little flicker of a smile. “Yeah.”

“I get it,” Phil says, even though he only kind of does. He misplaces a lot of things, but like – he’s too aware of his brain and his – middle – his thorax section, mostly. Is that bugs? Anyways. They’re always doing things.

Dan wiggles, a little, legs twitching and then settling.

“Is it remote control car?” Phil asks, after a beat.


“Like –” he tries to cast his mind back, to something Dan had blurted out in the middle of a long run-on sentence, ages ago, late at night like this, one of those nights where he was fidgeting and exhausted. “Remote control car. Like it’s not you, it’s just –”

“Yeah,” Dan says, softer.

Phil could stop there, but Dan’s finally looking at him, phone drooping in his hand. He gets like this, when he realizes that – Phil actually does pay attention, sometimes. He’s finally sort of relaxed, finally willing to drop the defenses for a minute and see if Phil will be nice.

“– ‘s the thing, right?” Phil continues, trying to smooth over the gap. “Dan’s one place and Dan brain is just watching from somewhere else? You’re just – steering.”

Dan gives him a little nod, mouth twisting. “Tired of it,” he says, after a beat.

Phil nods back, because what else can he do.


Dan grunts when Phil sprawls out.

Phil decides to ignore him. He shoves his chin into the weird muscle at the back of Dan’s neck, leaning in so Dan can hear him better. The fact that he’s bundled up in bed isn’t going to stop him.

“You’re a real boy,” he informs him.

“Nuh uh.”

“Yeah,” Phil says, gently tapping at the back of his hand. “This is a hand.” He bops Dan’s neck with his nose, like a bird. “That’s a spine.”

“Weird,” Dan says. He burrows his face into the pillow for a second. Phil always thought that meant he was annoyed, but – he thinks maybe Dan just likes the feeling. He surfaces, after a minute, sighing.

“Promise you.” Phil kicks his legs against Dan’s for good measure, smiling to himself when Dan grunts again. “Those are calves, if you’re wondering.”


“What’re you?”


“No, like – what are you doing?”

“Pretzel stuff,” he says, scooting around until he thinks he’s copying Dan’s position. Dan’s legs – or his hips – or something – are spread wider, so he’s closer to the floor. Phil can’t figure it out, but he figures it feels the same. Probably.

“Oh.” Dan’s watching him with an unreadable expression. “You like it?”

Honestly –

“This hurts,” Phil admits.


He’s still idly tapping at the phone in his hands, flicking from one thing to the next like nothing’s keeping his interest. He looks relaxed, but – in that quiet way that Phil doesn’t know how to trust.

“Brain update?” he asks. He flops forward so his chin’s smushed into the rug, ass wiggling in the air, arms sprawled wildly. He glances over to see if Dan smiles.

“It’s fine.”

“You know you’re a real boy and not a wood one?”

“Could show you some wood,” Dan mutters. Phil scowls at him for a moment, but can’t hold onto it once Dan cracks a smile. He drops his phone face-down beside him, finally looking properly at Phil. “It’s fine. I – like, asked Beth if I’m allowed, and she said it’s – I can, so. It’s good, or whatever, she thinks.”

“You asked Beth if you’re allowed to move around?”

Dan’s lips twitch for a minute, uncertain.

“It’s your real boy to pilot,” Phil says, still pressing.

Dan gives him a look, at that. “Think I’d rather be a flight attendant.”

“With a little scarf?”

“Like,” Dan starts. “Give out wine, don’t have responsibility for whether the flight lands. You know? I – um. Beth can pilot. She has, like, the pilot school degree.”

“License,” Phil says, because he’s helpful. Dan rolls his eyes.

He thinks on it, for a minute. He wants to say that Dan’s a fine pilot, but. Dan wouldn’t listen, and – it would be a little bit of a lie, realistically. The type of lie that only makes Dan more annoyed, because he knows Phil’s lying and gets obsessed with finding out about the other little lies he’s told over the years.

Phil nods, instead. Dan gives him a little quirk of a smile. He doesn’t think he’d put up with any soppy shit, but he reaches out with his index finger, gives Dan’s dimple a gentle poke.

“We could do couple’s yoga,” he says. “Except I hate this.”

“You don’t have to do this. You literally wanted to.”

Phil pulls a face, but he flops out of position anyways, sighing when his tendons finally stop yelling at him for a second. “Can I help? I wanna help.”

“Is this multiplayer now,” Dan says, flat like it’s not exactly a question.

He knows Dan doesn’t always really want him involved, but – on the other hand, it’s fucking boring, for one thing. And for two – there’s just a part of him that wants to know what to do, how to be useful if this is something Dan’s supposed to do.

“I like interfering.”

Dan laughs. It’s that surprised one that Phil loves so much.

“What if you – come over here?” he says, vaguely indicating the spot in front of him. Phil scoots until he’s sitting, and then until he’s sitting in front of Dan.

“Back a little,” Dan says, stretching out his arms and shoving at Phil’s legs. Phil vaguely thinks he’s just trying to get rid of him, but then Dan grabs at his hands and leans back, making Phil hold him up.

Phil’s about to ask if he’s alright when he groans, all – impossibly sexual, so that solves that question. Phil giggles.

“Shut up,” Dan huffs, in a way that’s still too familiar.

“So this is like. Good for when we’re too lazy to fuck,” Phil says. “Hypothetically.”

“I hate you so much right now.”

“I can drop you.”

“No, no, no. No, this –” he pauses, wiggling his ass a bit and then settling slightly differently, moaning again. “You and your hand are on your own now, I’m too busy doing this.”


“Come over here?”

Phil startles. “Coulda dropped my croissant,” he says in the vague direction of Dan’s voice.

He can’t actually figure out where he went. They’re having one of those weird mornings where they’re all out of sync. There’s shit scheduled for later and it’s probably going to demand synchronicity and – whatever. They can wander for now.

“Mat,” Dan says, finally, after Phil spends a bit too long just staring blankly into the flat.

“Oh.” He sticks the last of his toast between his teeth, shuffles over.

Dan’s still in his pajama pants, stretched out on the yoga mat he insisted on getting after some tantrum about how kneeling on this floor hurts.

“Can you sit on me?”

Phil blinks down at him.

Dan huffs after a second, pulling a face.

“Is that allowed?” Phil asks, finally. “Is this – the foreplay yoga? Or the illegal death yoga?”

“Please,” Dan says. He whines a little. His grumpy face melts into something softer, more honest.

“Okay, yeah.”

It takes Phil a minute to figure it out, but then he’s perched on Dan’s back, too scared to properly squash him.

Dan grunts a bit, so maybe it’s enough. “Thanks,” he says. “Love you.”


“You’re not involved!”

“I am,” Phil tells him, all smug. “I’m very involved.”

“This isn’t your business,” Dan wheezes. Phil grabs a biscuit out of the packet and drops it on his head. He doesn’t bother putting it in his mouth, just leaves Dan to try to fish it off his own face with his tongue.

Dan ends up near tears, giggling and irate at the same time. He turns his pout up at Phil until he retrieves it and puts it between Dan’s bared teeth.

He waits while Dan chews, reaches down to smudge the wetness off Dan’s cheek with his thumb.

“Now you’re – ” he waves his hand dramatically “ – sustained.”

“You’re annoying.”

“Y’want me to get off?”

Dan blinks up at him, suddenly going a little owlish. It’s funny, the things that set him off into a long thought.

“No,” he says, eventually. “Stop throwing biscuits at me when I’m sad, though.”

Phil shrugs. He rocks side-to-side, digging his – ass bone? That can’t be right – into Dan’s ribs. Dan grunts in pain. Phil still has that niggle in his head saying you should move, but then he watches for a second while Dan’s face clears, until his eyes are bright again, like he’s actually returned to earth.

“I’ll have my lawyer read the contract and I’ll get back to you,” he says, finally cracking a smile when Dan laughs.