“Wh–what do you mean, you still need to pack?!” Dan pinched the bridge of his nose while holding the phone to his ear with the opposite hand.
On the other end of the line, Kyle chuckled easily. “I uh. Need to do laundry and then pack.”
“Mate.” Dan tried not to groan, he really did.
“Listen,” Kyle went on, in his typically nonchalant tone, “it’s fine. Just come to mine now like you’d planned. I reckon by the time you get here my clothes will be in the dryer. We can hang for a bit, it’ll take me ten minutes to pack once the clothes are dry, and then we’ll be off. Hmm?”
Dan sighed over the sound of a washing machine starting up, not even able to comprehend that Kyle apparently had access to a tumble dryer. “All right. Be there soon.”
He grabbed his duffel and headed down to the car (borrowed off his mum), tossing the bag in the backseat before heading off to Kyle’s.
And, okay, maybe Dan had benefited from the mixed fortune of running out of clean pants on their recent tour. At the time it was a pain since he had to do laundry on the road, but it meant that he’d returned to London with a suitcase full of 90% clean clothes. The entirety of his packing ordeal had entailed moving some of those clothes into a smaller bag.
Still, had that not been the case, he would have made time to do wash more than 45 minutes before they were supposed to leave. He wasn’t the utmost stickler for being on time, but usually that amounted to a few minutes’ tardiness after getting held up with a task he thought he could complete before his next engagement.
“Ahoy!” Kyle said cheerfully as he let Dan into his flat.
Dan entered, looking around the sparsely furnished and less-than-tidy space, which he had only visited once or twice before for very brief intervals. Kyle had two flatmates who were presumably at work at the moment.
A backpack clearly meant for climbing sat in the entryway, which gave Dan some reassurance that Kyle was at least partly packed for their journey.
“Can I get you anything?,” Kyle said easily as he made his way over to the small kitchen area. “Beer?” he waggled his eyebrows at the suggestion.
The fact that it was 10 AM made Dan want to gasp, scandalized, but Kyle was clearly joking. Not that his easygoing manner made Dan feel anything besides awkward and uncool.
“Some water, please, maybe?” he managed to croak out.
Kyle nodded, then filled a glass from the tap and passed it over the narrow kitchen island, where Dan accepted it and gratefully took a drink.
“And you’re sure this is all right, me tagging along?” Kyle asked, casually.
“No bother at all,” Dan replied quickly, immediately fearful that it sounded resigned or dismissive. Kyle didn’t seem to notice as he went about putting away some clean dishes and glasses before moving on to washing up the dirty things in the sink.
Dan had booked the little rental place on a whim while they were on tour, thinking the trip might clear his head, help him recharge and get some ideas for new songs. On the one hand, their first album wasn’t even out yet so it seemed a little ridiculous that the label was already asking about LP2. However it also made sense that they needed a plan for what came next, assuming the whole thing didn’t completely fall apart.
Thankfully, Dan had loads of iPhone voice memos and draft lyrics coming out of his arse and even a few proper demos to speak of. But he needed to make sense of them all, which would be easier over a few days spent in a more relaxed setting than his chaotic London flatshare.
And, when he mentioned offhandedly that he might book a rental for a few days on the Dorset coast, Kyle piped up about how he’d been wanting to check out some climbing in that area, and the plans came together rather easily after that.
They hadn’t bothered asking Will or Woody or any of the crew, who were presumably eager to get back to their significant others and their lives outside of the band.
The unspoken mutual understanding that it would be just the two of them initially sent a zing up Dan’s spine, but he’d dismissed it just as quickly. Kyle was undeniably fit, and they’d gotten on splendidly from the moment they’d met. But their career as a band was on the line and he was trying to stay focused on that instead of entertaining silly impractical fantasies.
Now, though, being in Kyle’s space and watching him do ordinary things, Dan felt like he was seeing his personable, gregarious bandmate for the first time. He had the fleeting thought that even if the whole music thing went completely tits-up, it would be worthwhile because it had led him to Kyle and maybe, at some point, there was an off-chance that–
An obnoxious signal alert rang out over the sound of the running water in the kitchen, shaking Dan from his Kyle-induced trance.
“That’s the dryer!” the latter announced eagerly, turning off the tap and sparing Dan a wink before he rushed off to tend to his clean clothes.
Alone at the counter, Dan downed the rest of his water in one gulp.
Ten Years Later
Kyle worked his way through the basket of clean laundry at his feet, making one neatly-folded stack of clothes destined for the dresser and another pile of rolled garments to be packed for their trip.
He’d packed enough suitcases, duffels, and overnight bags over the preceding decade-and-change to know that – by some mystical sorcery beyond his grasp – clothes traveled better when they were rolled.
Of course, these weren’t Kyle’s clothes.
Absolutely not his clothes, he thought to himself with a smirk as he rolled another pair of tragically boring black pants and added them to the pile.
He heard footsteps above him then, first in the upstairs hallway and thereafter descending the stairs.
Dan grunted when he passed Kyle’s perch on the sofa. He returned a moment later from the kitchen, mug of black coffee in hand, sitting down next to the stack of folded clothes.
“I was gonna do that,” Dan said, the pout audible in his voice. “Set an alarm and everything.”
“I’m aware,” Kyle replied gently, not looking up from his task of rolling a jumper, “but you needed the sleep more.” He placed the item on top of the pile intended for Dan’s overnight bag. “There! I didn’t do a half-bad job now, did I?”
A playful grin spread across Dan’s face. “Sure. But what am I going to wear? Seems you’ve packed all my clothes that you tend to borrow.”
Kyle spat out a chuckle. “I’ll have you know, these are the clothes that I think you’re most comfortable in. Which seems important for our little getaway,” he explained. “As for my stuff, I packed days ago.”
“Show off,” Dan sneered, good-naturedly.
“You could say I’m particularly motivated,” he said. “A long weekend on the Dorset coast, no tour gigs or studio sessions or photo shoots or anything!”
“Ah, our mystery destination revealed!” Dan declared triumphantly.
Kyle grinned, unable to contain his relief that Dan seemed pleased with the choice.
Then, his expression softened and he met Kyle’s gaze. “Thanks.” The single word was sheepish and sincere and Very Dan all at once.
Kyle ventured that the serious tone was meant to convey gratitude not only for the laundry, but for everything else he’s tried to be for Dan over the last several years.
An hour later they’d packed and were well on the road – this time in a car rented from a proper place and everything.
“It’s been ten years, huh?” Dan said, voice thoughtful.
“Mmm-hmm,” Kyle hummed from his place in the passenger seat, dutifully tracking the driving directions on his mobile. He snuck a quick glance at Dan, whose face was ablaze with warmth despite his eyes remaining fixed on the road.
Kyle blushed happily as well, thinking back to that first weekend away, just the two of them.
A moment later Dan spontaneously spat out a laugh. “Remember how for that trip I was packed a week in advance and had to wait for you to do laundry? And then this time…”
“Oh how the mighty have fallen,” Kyle joked. After a moment he added seriously: “I was so worried. Back then.”
Dan frowned, confused. “About sharing a cabin in Dorset?”
“No, not that,” he began, shaking his head, but not sure where to go from there.
He’d felt so drawn to Dan from the moment they’d met. The other man was clearly a creative genius, albeit one who would need to be coaxed out of his shell and encouraged and surrounded by the right people and given proper inspiration. Even at his shyest and most reticent, he radiated unmatched kindness and integrity and Kyle was eager for any excuse he might find for them to spend time together away from the rest of the band and crew.
Of course, he didn’t want to fuck up their working relationship or crowd Dan when he needed space to cook up his songwriting magic. But the coincidence of the Dorset destination had seemed like a sign that maybe Kyle could have both the exciting, chaotic musician’s life and something more with Dan.
“It was a lot, the first few years of the band,” he offered simply. “There was so much that could go wrong, y’know?”
“You could say I was aware of that, yes,” Dan chuckled, before his expression fell. “It never seemed to get you down, though. Meanwhile I was a nervous wreck all the time; I’m not sure how anyone put up with me.”
Kyle’s chest squeezed at Dan’s self-effacing remark and he wished like hell that they weren’t having this conversation in the car on a winding country road.
“You were – are – exactly what you need to be,” he insisted.
Their relationship hadn’t been perfect, or conventional, but they’d always been inextricably intertwined. Dan was every bit as affectionate and generous as Kyle had anticipated. Also predictably, he wasn’t the best at work/life balance, and it took Kyle some time to figure out what he needed when he was stressed or preoccupied by something. (Sleep. He usually needed sleep.)
More recently, Kyle had resolved to show Dan how much he meant to him, by arranging this weekend trip and providing a healthy distraction from the recent album campaign efforts.
Dan’s mouth settled into a straight line. “It’s because of you,” he said quietly, through a shaky breath. “I couldn’t– all of this–”
Kyle gently touched his forearm. “It was mostly you, I reckon. But, if you insist, I’ll take some of the credit.”
“Sorted, then.” Dan nodded, sparing him an affectionate glance when he was able to divert his eyes from the road for a brief second.
Kyle merely sat back in the passenger seat and smiled.