The house is empty, silent but for the clacking of his keyboard. Big, too big and empty. He never thought he would feel that way about the forever home. Everything about it was supposed to be perfect; they worked so hard to make it that way, carding through paint chips, scrawling floor plans on scrap paper, mapping out everything down to the placement of the electric outlets. It was perfect, but he can see Phil in all the little details. In the color, in the photos, in the mug he left on the side of Dan’s desk days ago that Dan hadn’t had the heart to put away. Phil is on the walls and in the closets and sitting on their shelves but he isn’t here. No one is, no one but Dan.
Everything Dan is writing is coming out shit. Dan isn’t even sure that he is funny anymore. He keeps on writing jokes he doesn’t know if he will ever get to tell. It’s been a while since he’s heard anyone laugh at what he says. Anyone but Phil, and Phil doesn’t count. Or Phil is the only one who counts, Dan can’t decide.
Phil isn’t here.
It's been a week. They’ve done a week before and it’s been terrible every time. They did three days apart after Rawtenstall and Dan was almost too preoccupied with the builders to miss him. Almost. A year and a half on top of each other makes the distance cut him deeper. He is a lost puppy with separation anxiety, ready to tear up the furniture. Ready to dismantle this Phil-stained house bit by bit.
Dan highlights a section of his opening monologue, hovers his finger over the delete button. Thinks better of it, runs his fingers through his hair instead. This joke is perhaps a little risque, a little messy, just like him. People could find daggers in these rough edges if they are so inclined, which they always are. He can almost hear the discourse now. People didn’t seem to have as big of an issue with him making these sorts of jokes when they thought he was straight, back when he was thrusting his hips at the camera for an endscreen or eating a banana suggestively or accidentally-on-purpose saying innuendos. Back when they thought he was single, before the fact of him and Phil became so obvious. Back before everything he said and did was weighed against whether or not people thought he deserved him.
Dan presses delete. Really the joke is not worth it anyway, because it isn’t funny, because nothing Dan says is funny anymore.
Really the joke is not worth it, because the comedy show isn’t happening, who is he kidding. He doesn’t need to keep tinkering away at it because his plans will keep on falling through. It was supposed to be a few weeks of lockdown, then a few months, then they just had to get through the winter, then they were waiting for a vaccine and then they were waiting for variants to die out and curves to fall and then they were just waiting. Now the cold air stings his ears and his nose on his morning runs. Before long, it will soak into his bones and he’ll have to fight it off with jumpers and jackets.
The world is opening up, but not enough for him. Not enough for him to say these words in front of a crowd.
Enough for Phil. Phil is off on another project. Dan is not jealous. Dan is happy for him. Dan is elated - finally Phil is getting the recognition he deserved.
Dan is lonely.
Dan cracks his knuckles in front of him, just to feel something. The words don’t flow any easier from these looser fingers. He bites his lip until it hurts.
He misses...people. He never thought he would, but the year inside wore on him, turned him into a different person than the one he was before. He misses being surrounded by warm bodies and making them laugh and the instant gratification that brings. He misses the shocked look on people’s face when he says something funnier and more clever than they expect. The rush he feels when he makes someone smile, when the light fills up their eyes. Knowing he has the power to do that, if he tries.
Or had the power. Dan isn’t funny anymore. Everything he’s writing is coming out shit.
Dan would like to see one other person, any person. He would like to see Phil.
Dan gives up writing in favor of lying face down on their lounge sofa. He sinks right into the cushions. This sofa really was worth all the arms and legs they paid for it.
He wants to text him, but he shouldn’t. Phil should’ve been back already but his car was late, and there was traffic, and other perfectly reasonable excuses that Dan doesn’t have the patience for. Phil said he was going to sleep during the ride home, so Dan shouldn’t text him. He should be able to deal with his own problems.
Dan cradles his head in his arms to give them something else to do. He takes deep breaths, in four, hold six, out eight. Dan concentrates on filling the air from the bottom to the top of his lungs. Dan is aware of his own breathing.
Dan is cataloging the things he feels: the soft fabric of the sofa, the ribbing on his shirt collar. He is listing the things he hears: the dull hum of the electricity around him, the heater pushing air through the vents, then, just in time, a key turning through the door, footsteps through the entryway.
Dan lifts himself up onto his elbows and then he sees him, a little ruffled and wrinkled from the travel, and Dan doesn’t even mind that Phil drops his bags onto the floor instead of putting them away.
“How did it go?” Dan asks him.
“It was fine.” Phil is looking at him too deeply. His eyes seem too piercing, like Dan had forgotten their power in his absence. Now his defenses are down and Phil’s gaze cuts right to the bone. “How are you?”
Dan drops his head back onto the cushions, and that is all the answer Phil needs. That is all Phil needs to go to him, to start nudging Dan to the side so that he can fit his body next to him. Once again Dan is glad they sprung for this extremely large sofa.
Phil does not quite smell like himself. He is still in his outside clothes, and the city clings to him like a second skin. There was a time when any return from the outside involved a lengthy decon procedure - throwing clothes instantly in the wash and scrubbing arms and faces until there’s nothing left - but they don’t bother with that now. Dan is happy to have Phil’s arm thrown over his back, his breath against his cheek.
Dan rearranges them so that Phil is on his back, Dan resting on his chest. Dan can feel Phil’s rib cage rise and fall as breathes.
“I just-” Dan starts but he doesn’t want to finish the sentence. He latches his mouth onto Phil’s neck instead, resting his lips right on Phil’s pulse point. He might leave a mark.
Phil doesn’t make him talk about it. Phil rubs soothing circles on Dan’s back. Dan scoots himself up so that he can meet Phil’s mouth, and Phil parts his lips immediately, welcoming him in.
Phil seems content to keep up a leisurely pace, sliding their lips together while he runs his fingers up and down Dan’s spine. Dan is not. Dan places one knee between Phil’s legs and leans forward, presses, until Phil breaks the kiss to pant against Dan’s cheek.
“Should we take this to the bedroom?” Phil asks between breaths.
“Why?” Dan leans against him again, enjoying the choked sound that escapes his throat. “Don’t want to mess up the sofa?”
Phil closes his eyes, sucks in air through his teeth. “You’re the one who said we had to be careful with it.”
Dan thinks about it and yes - he did say that. He said that all sofa sex must be accompanied by blankets or towels or must be limited in nature. This sofa was expensive, and you can only turn over your sofa cushions once. Today Dan doesn’t feel like holding back.
He sits up. “Come on, then.”
“Take off your clothes, they’re probably diseased.”
They’ve both only just gotten through the bedroom entryway, but Dan is impatient, needy. He’s been waiting all week.
Phil puts his hands on his hips. Dan can see the bulge of his cock pressing against the front of his jeans. “You’re just saying that because you want to see me naked.”
“Yes, Phil. I want to see you naked,” Dan confirms. “You’ve figured me out.”
Phil makes quick work of his clothes. Dan is so distracted by the sight of Phil’s pale, freckled skin that he barely even registers how Phil throws his clothes onto the floor instead of in the laundry basket in the corner.
Dan brings his hands to the hem of his shirt, but Phil stops him. “Let me.” Dan’s only wearing a T-shirt and some sweatpants, but when Phil pulls the shirt over his head and slides the clothes over his hips, he feels incredibly cared for.
Phil lays Dan out on the bed, and there are those eyes again, searching every part of him. It almost makes Dan self-conscious; his quarantine body is softer than his younger one had been. But before Dan can think too much about it, Phil’s mouth is on Dan’s neck, going right in for the kill. Phil’s mouth is eating up every thought in Dan’s head. Dan can feel the contact all over his body - in the soles of his feet and the small of his back and filling up his lungs.
Phil is everywhere, underneath Dan’s hands, pressed against his hip, nestled in his heart. Phil is white noise buzzing through the back of his head. Phil’s mouth and fingers trail a path down Dan’s body, until he’s reaching in their bedside table for the lube.
Dan usually rushes Phil through this part. Dan is not young anymore and he’s not delicate and he’s done this before. But it’s been a week, so he let’s Phil take his time. He lets Phil be as slow as he wants, moving his fingers in and out, drawing small circles to work Dan open. He lets Phil dot kisses to the sides of his thighs, to his abdomen, to his hip bone. Dan can feel that his whole body must be red; he can feel the heat rolling off of it, the sweat coating it.
Phil has a complexion that blushes easily. It doesn’t take much from Dan for Phil’s skin to flush like he is standing in the summer heat. But when it comes to Dan - Phil has to work for it. So he does. Phil doesn’t stop until Dan is shaking with it.
Phil pushes himself inside Dan, and everything about it feels incredibly familiar: Dan’s knees bent up near his chest, Phil’s body heat radiating downward, Phil’s cock sliding in at just the right speed, stretching him just the right way. Suddenly the house around him has become perfect again. It wasn’t home without Phil.
Dan lets off a moan. “I missed your dick.”
“Is that all I'm good for?” He hasn’t started moving yet, and Dan wishes he would get on with it.
“Don’t be silly,” Dan grunts. “I also missed your ass.”
Phil laughs and it's the best sound Dan has heard all week. Phil laughs and the sound curls around Dan, engulfs him, raises his heart rate more than Phil’s fingers had.
“Move,” Dan commands him.
It’s not the most exciting sex they’ve ever had. They both are adventurous and insatiable and they keep finding new things to try even after a decade. But it’s just what he needs. Phil looks into his eyes as he fucks him. Dan looks for as long as he can, until the feeling in his chest is too much, and he has to close them.
Phil is close. Dan can tell from the sound he makes, from the way his breath hitches. Dan can tell because he knows everything about him. Dan is - further. Phil’s hand on Dan’s cock is slow - too slow and gentle.
“Don’t you dare come before me,” Dan hisses, eyes still screwed shut.
“Why?” Phil asks but his hips lose their rhythm for a moment. He picks up the pace with his hand.
“Aren’t you doing this to make me feel better?”
Phil comes first but it doesn’t matter, because Dan is following close behind, spilling onto his stomach.
Phil heads to the ensuite and returns with some washcloths, wipes down Dan with the damp cloth and dries him with the dry one. These he tosses in the laundry basket before Dan can chide him.
It is too early to go to bed but Phil lays back down beside him. Dan turns over so he can tuck himself into Phil’s side.
Dan listens to Phil’s breathing, his own breathing. His heart rate slows, settles on a rhythm that is calmer than it had been all day.
“Do you want to talk about it now?” Phil asks after a long moment.
Dan flattens his hand against Phil’s chest, concentrates on the feeling of the skin beneath his palm. Smooth, slightly sticky with sweat.
He should talk about it.
“I hate people, but also I miss people,” Dan breaths into Phil’s collar bone. “I missed you.”
Dan has a lot to say about using sex as a coping mechanism. So would his therapist. Dan would say that sometimes it snaps his brain out of unhelpful thought spirals. Sometimes it mellows him out. Sometimes it helps him breathe. But sex doesn’t actually fix any of his issues. He still worries if he is good or funny enough and if the world will let him do the things that he wants. Dan feels like maybe he is putting a bandaid over his problems when he should be putting sutures, when he should be holding his flesh together until it heals.
But when Dan is wrapped around Phil, none of his problems seem as large. And when Dan jokes about how they better get up now, only old people go to bed at 7:30, Phil laughs, and that is the only thing that counts.