“Where to next?” Cat’s eyes are wide as she looks back and forth between the two of them.
“Actually, can we ride this one again?” Phil asks.
Dan flashes a cheeky grin. “What, did you have your eyes closed the entire time?”
Phil gives him what’s clearly supposed to be a meaningful look before turning to Cat. “I had only been watching the left side, and I don’t want to leave having missed a whole half of the sets.”
“Of course you’d do that Phil,” she teases fondly.
Dan knows she doesn’t mean anything by it, but his internal must-defend-Phil alarms won’t let even the suggestion of an insult go by unchecked.
He juts his chin forward and actually fixes his posture for once. “That’s smart actually. Let’s go again.”
Dan feels a little smug knowing that they’ve definitely outvoted her. He doesn’t know why Phil wants to go on a mostly-boring ride again, but he’ll support him no matter what to the ends of the earth. Or the end of Spaceship Earth, in this case.
Cat pulls out her vlogging camera as they get back in line. “And now it seems like we’re going to go on Spaceship Earth for a second time because someone” — she pans to Phil — “wasn’t looking at half the ride.”
Phil makes an awkward embarrassed face for the camera before quickly shooting Dan a panicked glance. Dan hopes Cat and her video didn’t catch that, but even if they did, he thinks he’s the only one who’d be able to immediately decipher it.
She angles the camera towards him.
“Maybe let’s not video this time ‘round? I mean, I’m sure you already have footage from last time, right? And you certainly wouldn’t want your battery to die before we’ve gotten to go on all the rest of the rides. There are so much cooler things to film than us just doing a repeat.”
Dan’s probably laying it on a little too thick, can tell Phil agrees by his poorly concealed smirk, but Cat simply turns the camera back to Phil to get his opinion. At Phil’s vigorous nod, Cat rolls her eyes and lowers the camera.
“I can never win with you two, you always agree on everything!” She’s still using her on-camera voice, so Dan can’t judge how annoyed she is about it.
He hopes he’s as good at masking his feelings; there’ve been a number of times this trip where he’s wanted to grab onto her shoulders, shake her, and say, “Yes, we always agree, and yes, we’re so in sync — it’s because we’re together!”
He knows it’s not worth it, knows the consequences of saying too much to the wrong person, but having to go to such great lengths to make himself and Phil seem less close than they actually are has been exhausting. Being just friends with Phil for a short period of time is okay as nothing about that is untrue; they are friends, best friends. But when he has to prevent the rest of his affection for Phil from bleeding through, he’s like a kettle that’s long past ready: not very subtle.
As Cat fiddles with her camera, Phil begins walking back towards the entrance under the Epcot ball. Epcot sphere? Epcot round thingy. And maybe Dan should wait for her to be ready, but he’d really rather be next to Phil. She already knows he has no manners, anyways. It’ll be fine.
“Hey,” he says, coming up alongside him. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, why?” Phil shifts his elbow in a weird way that results in him bumping into Dan’s arm. Dan assumes it’s on purpose; that’s about the most they tend to touch in public these days.
“You don’t have a headache or anything? Do you need water?”
It’s the only explanation Dan had been able to come up with for why Phil would want to go again. The ride is tame and non-jostling, it’s probably dark enough to not trigger light-sensitivity, and, unlike It’s A Small World, there’s no annoying singing. For a very small subset of people, the ride must seem perfect. And he’s not about to judge Phil for being part of that group — especially if he’s feeling poorly — but, wow, this is going to be boring on round two.
“No, I’m good,” Phil answers. “You?”
“Me? I’m fine. But I also didn’t ask to re-ride the most boring ride in existence, so there’s no reason to suspect I wouldn’t be.”
“Well, maybe that’s the problem,” he teases, “because if you know what to look for, that ride could actually be super interesting.”
Dan narrows his eyes. “I doubt that.”
“You shouldn’t,” Phil responds simply, a twinkle to his eye.
“This time, I want to have everything be the opposite of last go around,” Phil announces as they step up to the front of the line. “So instead of front-left, I want to sit back-right.”
Cat turns to Dan. “Oh, does that mean you’re riding with me, then?” she asks hopefully.
“I think there’s more leg room in the back,” Phil blurts before Dan can think of his own response. “Someone with legs as long as his should sit in the back.”
Dan gives Cat a half-apologetic shrug. “Sounds like I gotta stay in the back on this one. Maybe next ride?”
“No worries,” she says with a gracious smile. “At least there’s more room for me.”
Dan really appreciates that about her, that she never presses for explanations when he and Phil are acting weird. And maybe that’s just to keep up appearances for the camera, but she always seems to go with the flow, even when the flow has to take a couple detours around all of the things they aren’t telling her.
The three of them are called up to load into their cart, and Dan is the last one to board. It’s very obvious now that there definitely is not any more leg room in the back, especially with all of Phil’s gangliness taking up more than half of the space. He almost goes to get in the front instead, but he backtracks when he catches Phil’s glare.
He squishes into the back seat.
It takes a lot of maneuvering, but he eventually manages to pull his phone from his back pocket. He swipes over to the Notes app and types: ‘What’s gotten into you?’ He doesn’t even have to bother angling it towards Phil; he’s already reading over Dan’s shoulder.
Phil takes the phone from his hands and types back: ‘Just looking forward to the ride :)’.
Dan looks up from the phone and blinks at him.
Maybe now’s the time when Phil’s finally actually lost his mind.
Phil Lester might truly be a genius.
The ride has only barely started — their picture has just been taken and they’re ascending into the darkness while the automated soundtrack rambles on — but now Phil’s hand is on Dan’s knee. It’s the most action Dan has gotten outside of their hotel room this entire trip.
Somewhere around Egypt or maybe Greece — Dan isn’t really paying attention to the ride anymore — he feels Phil’s hand shift. Phil gives Dan’s thigh a gentle squeeze, and while Dan doesn’t think he’s trying to start something, he’s also not-not starting something.
Dan reaches down and grabs Phil’s hand, intertwining their fingers on the seat.
They should perhaps be more careful in case there are night-vision security cameras, but he’s hoping his and Phil’s bodies are lanky enough that they’d just look like a big mess of limbs. And with Cat sitting in front of them, hopefully they would have enough time to notice if she starts to turn around and quickly detangle themselves.
There are more lights as they enter the era of electricity, and, when Dan looks over at Phil, the set lighting from behind gives the edge along his profile an otherworldly glow. Dan follows the light from the edges of Phil’s eyelashes, down the curve of his nose, and over the bow of his perfect lips.
Dan finally catches Phil’s eyes as they pass the moon landing. Phil’s thumb runs gently over Dan’s, a stark contrast to the heat of his gaze. It’s all Dan can do to not launch himself like the Apollo 11 right into Phil’s lap.
The ride turns again, bringing them back to total darkness, and Phil takes the moment to lean over and whisper into Dan’s ear. “Do you trust me?”
It’s a rhetorical question, the answer hasn’t once changed since they’ve met, but Dan nods anyway.
Phil’s right hand comes up to cup Dan’s cheek, his thumb smoothing over the plane of his skin. Dan tilts his head, angles himself just so, and leans in.
It’s a tender kiss, soft and slow and wonderful. The press of Phil’s lips is so light that it’s dizzying, and Dan is only anchored by Phil’s fingers carding through his hair.
Dan wants to arch into the feeling, so he does. He bites at Phil’s lip and shivers at the muffled groan he earns in response.
He only pulls back once he has to catch his breath, but when he does:
They’re surrounded by stars.
Dan pulls away just far enough to see them reflected in Phil’s eyes.
He smiles, bites his lip, and then shakes his head, incredulous.
“Beautiful,” Phil whispers.
I love you, Dan presses into his kiss in response.
There are still so many places where they can’t truly be themselves, and there are so many people to whom they might never be able to reveal the full depth of who they are and what they mean to each other.
But for now, Earth keeps spinning. The stars keep twinkling. And for the moment that’s all that matters.