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message in a bottle

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The past few days play over like vignettes out the train window. Phil’s smile, his eyes, his laugh. Dan wants the images to stay on shuffle forever; it’s not like he was using his brainpower for much, anyways. And saving every second of his visit with Phil is certainly more important.

He catches himself smiling at his reflection and quickly covers his mouth with his hand so nobody else can see. This happiness is his, and he’s not willing to share that with anyone. Unless it’s Phil. He’d gladly share everything with Phil. 

Not that he really had much choice in the matter; Phil drank from his coffee after only an hour of actually knowing him in person and despite having ordered an identical drink. Called it “quality control” and said he had to make sure Dan’s coffee lived up to the caramel macchiato golden standard.

Of course, Dan didn’t at all mind. Sipping the same macchiato as Phil was one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life until that point. Never mind the fact that the highest-ranking spot was swiftly overtaken.

He’d never seen Phil like that, both so eager and so shy. Blurting words he’d clearly rather have swallowed, pawing at Dan to reclaim his attention the second his eyes drifted elsewhere, walking closer and closer to him only to jump away the second they brushed arms…

Dan’s been through enough theater to know that’s how a person acts when they like someone.

AmazingPhil likes him. Phil likes him.

Suddenly his hand isn’t enough to hide his grin anymore. He can see it in every part of his reflection: the brightness of his eyes — not a side effect of caffeine, just of being around Phil; the deep dimples that mark his cheeks — because of real joy this time, not simply mocking him for the happiness he doesn’t usually get to have; the little red patch by his jaw — he’d hated it up until the moment a certain someone became all too fascinated with the ways to draw it out.

The giddiness of it all has him squirming in his seat. It’s different from how excited he’d felt on his trek up when he’d been running on so much adrenaline that there was a moment where he thought he might be sick. This is different. This is happiness.

Well, happiness minus the tiniest drop of sadness because, with each minute, he’s getting farther and farther from where he left his heart up North. But he knows Phil will keep that safe for him until they can be together again.

Dan’s grateful that Phil keeps so much of his own heart scattered across the Internet. While it’s not the most fun thinking about how he’s reverted to simply being another face in the plentiful sea of subscribers, he’ll gladly take whatever bits of Phil he can get.

At least until Halloween. Then they can be together for real. And in public this time. With other people they’ll know.

Well, with other people Phil will know and whom Dan will have thoroughly stalked so as to be able to hold a half-decent conversation if needed. He hopes he won’t have to, that he and Phil will be so busy with each other that they’ll decide to slip off on their own and not actually suffer through making small talk with all of the other YouTube folks.

But these are Phil’s colleagues, technically, and maybe hoping that he’ll pay more attention to Dan than the networking opportunity that’s the literal reason he’s coming to London is too much to ask.

Somehow, Phil makes him feel like it’s okay to ask anyways.

Dan doesn’t think he’s ever had that before, someone who wants to hear every stupid opinion and request that spills from his mouth before his brain can catch up enough to stop him. But Phil seems to like all of the words Dan says, even when he feels so tongue-tied that he can’t possibly be making any sense.

He’d been nervous about it the first time, when Phil asked what he wanted to do next and all Dan could think of was how much he wanted a space for them to be alone. But Phil had been so gracious about it, didn’t mind walking all the way back across town to fulfill Dan’s ridiculous request.

Admittedly, it’d ended up being a truly phenomenal idea: he’d come up with the perfect destination for their first kiss. In this one tiny area of his life, Dan thinks he’s earned the right to be a little smug.

Phil miraculously liked that side of him too, even gave him a moment in bed to be a bit star-struck and revel in the fact that he had the one and only AmazingPhil under him. And Phil stared up at him as though he were equally as amazed, at which point Dan had to distract himself in the constellations of Phil’s freckles because getting to be looked at like that must certainly be far more than he deserves. But he’s starting to admit to himself that he wants it, regardless.

And it’s terrifying, having something he wants so much in so close of a reach. It’s Phil and it’s more than Phil, and Dan doesn’t have the words to explain why this already means so much just having the possibility.

Maybe it’s because they have even the slightest chance at creating real, accepting love. Or because these past two days were proof of concept that perhaps someday he could truly be happy. Maybe it’s because of something else entirely.

All Dan knows is he feels warm despite the train’s chill, and he feels awake despite the lack of sleep, and he feels safe despite all of the vulnerability he’s shown. Or perhaps as a result of it.

For the very first time, on a train rushing South, towards a lonely bed in a lonely room in a lonely house, Dan finally has something to hope for.