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I Know You Really Well (And Like You Anyway)

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"Not worth the effort," Dan says, sprawling on the sofa next to Phil.

"Dan," Phil admonishes, because Dan had only just closed the door behind the poor girl.

"Tongue piercings are stupid anyway," Dan says, "and it only gets worse if you don't know how to use them."

"I'll keep that in mind," Phil says.

Dan snorts at him, then stretches and makes a show of turning his neck towards Phil. "Did she leave a bite? Felt like she left a bite."

Dan could go check for himself. They do have a mirror in their flat. Several, in fact. Phil sighs and looks up from his computer. There's a love bite below Dan's ear, freshly red like it had to have been made this morning. Not worth the effort, but worth two goes. Phil doesn't understand Dan.

"Nope," Phil says. "Nothing there."

"Cool." Dan fights his way up. "'m gonna do that thing today."

"Yeah," Phil says, because Dan always does at least a vlog the days after he gets laid.

Less than five minutes later, Phil hears, "Phil," drawn out and complaining. He pretends he doesn't hear anything, putting his headphones on.

Less than two minutes after that, Dan tugs one side of his headphones away and says, "There's a mark right here!" His finger stabs in the general vicinity of the bruise.

Phil takes off his headphones and sets his computer aside. "Oh, sorry," he says, "must've missed it."

"How," Dan grumbles. "She may as well have been a vampire." He doesn't notice Phil's lack of sincerity, which isn't surprising whatsoever. "Help me with this."

Phil sighs directly in Dan's face. This is what he was trying to avoid. Dan sighs back, mimicking him. "I'm no better at it than you!" Phil protests, but he takes the little stick of concealer Dan is jabbing at his ribs.

"You can see it at least," Dan says.

"Mirrors," Phil says, like approximately every time before, and then, also like approximately every time before, he relents and haphazardly pats the concealer on. He's had enough practice at it that he feels like he should've improved, but either he's just that bad or love bites really are impossible to hide, because all he accomplishes is blurring the edges a bit. Dan will see it on camera and complain.

"Thanks," Dan says, and takes the shitty concealer from Phil and returns to his room.

 

 

Phil has known Dan for almost two years, and they've been living together for most of that, because three weeks into their friendship, Dan had come by with half his belongings trailing behind him, and said, "My roommate kicked me out for his girlfriend. Can I stay for a bit? Promise I'm not a bad flatmate!"

He'd been in his first year at uni and very sincere, and Phil had believed him. Since Phil's own roommate had decided to go to Australia, god knows why, Phil had had the room, and, well. Here they were.

Phil does have to admit that, all Dan's bad habits aside, they make for a pretty good match. And Dan won't ever kick Phil out for his girlfriend.

Even if Dan ever were to get and, more pertinently, keep a girlfriend, Phil is confident Dan is too fond of him to get rid of him anyway.

 

 

It's not that it even happens all that often. A few times a month, maybe. Fairly normal, Phil thinks, if you're someone who's got the opportunity and the inclination, and Dan clearly has the inclination.

It's just that Phil wishes he weren't the one inadvertently providing the opportunity. It's all his friends Dan is sleeping with, and if they survive the experience emotionally, they become their friends. Either way Phil loses his friends: either Dan runs them off the morning after, or they all stay friends and Phil can never look them in the eye again, because Phil, blessed as he is to be Dan's best friend, gets all the details.

He didn't need to know that Daisy liked it rough, he really didn't.

Most frustratingly, Dan manages to share interesting facts like that without giving away anything personally. For example, Phil might be slightly more interested in knowing whether Dan liked rough sex, if only to provide some variety to the unrelentingly sarcastic reviews of his friends' sexual prowess.

 

 

The first time had been a fluke. Dan had said, "Oh, she's pretty," of Katie, a girl Phil's known since primary school, and since Phil's known her since primary, and therefore remembers her with braces and terrible hair, Phil had said, "Yeah, if you like that sort of thing," and gestured for Dan to go talk to her, because at the time, he rather liked the idea of playing matchmaker for two of his friends, especially when one of them was Dan, who seemed like he might like a little support in the dating arena.

In Phil's defense, he'd only known Dan about five weeks. He hadn't learned yet.

 

 

The second time had been two weeks after Dan had walked Katie politely to the door then said, "Nope," when Phil asked when he was seeing her again.

(For the record: "Nope" is still not an answer to the question of when, but it is a very final answer to the question what'd you think then or, maybe even more appropriately, what was wrong with that one, neither of which Phil knew yet to ask.

Uncoincidentally, though Phil had yet to figure this out as well, it had also been two weeks since he'd seen Katie at all.)

Dan had asked who Phil was texting, and Phil had told him about Ruth who was in her final year and throwing parties every weekend to celebrate, and then Phil had invited Dan along because Dan had looked so interested.

Phil had introduced Dan to Ruth, and Ruth had offered to show him around, and Phil hadn't even realized what was going on until he went to get Dan to go home and Ruth had told him, giggly through a cracked door, not to worry about Dan for the night.

When asked the next day, Dan had said, "She's not really my type."

Phil had been a little suspicious at that point, but mostly he agreed with Dan: he and Ruth would've made a terrible couple.

 

 

It's the third time that really got Phil in trouble, though.

The guy's name was Eric.

Phil was kind of friends with him, the way you are when you have a bunch of friends in common but have never spent more than an hour or two talking. That is to say, Phil was familiar with Eric's face and he was familiar with him as a person that existed, but he knew absolutely no personal information about him. So, for example, he hadn't known Eric was into guys.

On the other hand, he would've said he knew Dan pretty well, face and all, and he hadn't known Dan was into guys either.

"It's not a thing," Dan said defensively the morning after, when Eric had said goodbye to Dan and hey to Phil, and been escorted to the door.

"No, it's fine," Phil said.

"I don't need your approval," Dan said testily.

"What?" Phil said. He didn't think he'd done anything to deserve that reaction. Admittedly, staring blankly may not have been the most tactful response, but it was early in the morning and he'd been surprised. "I think it's great!" He musters up some enthusiasm. "Eric's nice, I like him."

"Hope you don't like him too much," Dan said.

"Why?" Phil asked, because he was starting to notice a pattern but Dan always said he wanted a quiet, relaxed, reliable relationship.

Dan had muttered something about Phil not wanting to know, which of course made Phil insist he did, and then Dan had gotten Phil to understand it was sex-related and Phil had cringed about asking.

 

 

And the fourth time, the same general thing had happened, only with a girl, and basically, if Phil had learned not to ask so many questions, however well-intentioned, he wouldn't be in this situation.

He'd had to go and encourage the oversharing and brutally honest comments, hadn't he?

 

 

"She," Dan says a few weeks later, of Phil's friend Brandy who he'd only brought over because she was mostly a lesbian, "was amazing."

"Oh?" Phil says glumly. There had been a bit of a break after vampire girl, and he’d liked not having these discussions. At least he wouldn't mind seeing more of Brandy, if Dan decided—

"But she would be, wouldn't she, terrifyingly perfectionist about everything as she is," Dan says, and that's that.

 

 

After Brandy there's Shara. Shara is opinionated and very nice, and she and Dan meet because she works at the chip shop around the corner. Dan sees her twice, and the first time Phil stops by after Dan breaks it off with her, she glares him out of the establishment.

 

 

"It's begun to interfere with our daily life!" Phil moans. "Soon we won't be able to eat."

"You could've ordered anyway," Brandy says unsympathetically. Phil's currently telling her about it because she has some idea of what Dan's like but hasn't gotten tired of hearing Phil talk about him yet.

"No," Phil says, horrified. "You didn't see her."

"Why do you think it is they all end up hating you more than they hate him," Brandy says, "when he's the one refusing to date them?"

Phil narrows his eyes at her. She sounds like someone with an ulterior motive. "What are you suggesting? I shouldn't ever have friends over?"

She sighs at him. "You're hopeless, you realize?" It's a rhetorical question, because she won't talk to him about it anymore.

Now Phil's down to zero friends who will listen supportively to his problems, and that is literally all Dan's fault.

 

 

He doesn't complain about Dan to her after that, at least not directly. He does, however, complain about not having any friends who still like him best and will come visit.

When she's finally had enough of that, she interrupts him at the end of lunch and says, "I have someone you should go out with."

"Out where?" Phil asks.

"Out out," she says.

"I don't think—" Phil says.

 

 

She'd had to rush back to her job, so Phil hadn't had time to argue properly.

And then he'd had time to think about it, and it hadn't seemed like a terrible idea. He trusted Brandy. So when she called to give him details he hadn't argued very much. He was slightly attracted to the thought of giving Dan a taste of his own medicine.

Not that Phil is planning on sleeping with the guy once and then make fun of him the morning after. Phil isn't that kind of boy.

He is the kind of boy who rarely dates, however, so he's got a few minutes left before he needs to go, he's showered, and he's standing half-naked staring at a pile of shirts on the bed. He's not sure what kind of image he's supposed to be trying to project.

"Phil!" Dan calls. "Come out, I'm starting the show!" He's yelled across the flat at Phil all day, even asked him why he was showering in the middle of the afternoon, but he's too lazy today to come down the hall and actually talk to Phil. Small blessings.

"I can't!" Phil calls back, and hurriedly picks a blue one. He's just shoving it over his head when Dan appears in his doorway, doesn't even knock, the jerk, and says, "What are you doing, come—"

Phil straightens his shirt self-consciously.

"What are you doing?" Dan asks suspiciously.

"I have a date," Phil says.

Dan blinks, then laughs. "No, really."

"Really," Phil insists, and tells himself not to be insulted. He hasn't dated, the whole time he's known Dan, it's understandable Dan might be confused.

"You don't date," Dan says, which is also understandable, because Phil doesn't date. They've made jokes about it, how Phil collects friends and nobody dates him.

"Well," Phil says, drawing himself up. He deflates a moment later, because Dan's still his best friend and he could use some moral support. "I know, it's just Brandy set me up and I thought it seemed like it could be nice."

"Having second thoughts?" Dan asks sympathetically, with only a little hint of amusement underneath.

"Fourth or fifth," Phil admits. "But I already tried backing out."

He had. He'd called Brandy back the day after he agreed, told her he wasn't sure, and maybe he could meet the guy at a friends thing first, and she'd yelled at him and called him a lovesick coward. In exactly those words. Phil has no idea what she was getting at.

"I think it'll be good for you!" Dan says, jarringly enthusiastic. "Get you out of the house. You could use some socialization."

Phil stares, because since when does Dan spout platitudes? Neither of them ever goes somewhere just to socialize anyway - they've got each other right here at home, they're good for socializing.

"Um," he says.

"Where are you going?" Dan asks.

"Don't know, really," Phil says, lost.

"Well, you look nice," Dan says.

"Thanks?" Phil says, voice pitching up a little hysterically. "Why are you acting so weird?"

"Well, I don't know how to do this, do I?" Dan says, giving up and scowling.

"I'm just going out for a few hours!" Phil says. "All you have to do is wish me luck and ask me how it went, after."

"Fine," Dan says.

Phil edges past him out the door. Dan trails after him down the hall.

"Good luck," Dan says.

"Right, yeah," Phil says. "Probably need it."

"You won't," Dan says easily. "See you when you get back."

"Uh, yeah," Phil says, and leaves with his head swirling in confusion.

 

 

Bernard prefers to go by Bernie, and he's not Phil's type, inasmuch as Phil has a type - he's short and sometimes takes a while to get a joke, which...isn't ideal, where Phil is concerned - but he's very nice and has a lovely outlook on life, and he seems to find Phil interesting, which is nice. It's a nice feeling.

After dinner, Phil invites him back to the flat to show him his small collection of action figures, because Bernie collects vinyl figurines and had asked, and they're nearly at the flat when Phil realizes what this might seem like.

"Um," he says. "I really wasn't suggesting anything—" He waves a hand around and hopes the abstract gestures get his meaning across.

"I know," Bernie says earnestly, so that's okay.

The key sticks in the lock, and Phil's already discovered Bernie doesn't see the humor in self-deprecation, so as he jiggles the door open he tries not to make a joke about how ridiculous it always looks when he or Dan has to do this.

When he gets the door open, Dan has come halfway down the stairs, alerted by the defectively loud lock of Phil's return. Since normally he won't get up at Phil's arrival unless there's food on offer, Phil guesses he really must be interested in how the date went. He's staring at them, though, and not looking terribly welcoming.

"This is my flatmate, like I told you," Phil says. "Dan, this is Bernie."

"Nice to meet you," Bernie says, bobbing his head on the other side of the doorway because Phil hasn't stepped aside to let him in.

"Bernie," Dan says. "What kind of name is that?"

"Dan!" Phil yelps, because Dan's never rude, but Bernie just laughs. It comes out awkwardly, but Phil appreciates the effort.

"My parents were sadly old-fashioned," he says to Dan, like he'd said to Phil two hours before. "But it beats Bernard."

"Bernard," Dan says, half rudely, half wonderingly.

"I just came to show Bernie—" Phil starts.

"Actually, I should get going," Bernie interrupts. He smiles apologetically. "It's later than I realized."

"Um, alright," Phil says. They sort of stare at each other, and then there's awkward shuffling before Bernie leans in for a goodbye hug. Phil thinks the whole thing would've been uncomfortable as it was, but Dan staring wordlessly and impolitely at them doesn't help at all.

"I'll text you?" Bernie says.

"Yeah, looking forward to it!" Phil says, too loudly for the situation and enclosed space. He can almost feel Dan hold back laughter behind him.

"Good night," Bernie says.

"Bye," Phil says. He concludes the whole fantastic saga by waving half-heartedly as Bernie tugs the door shut behind himself.

"How old was he," Dan says as soon as Phil locks the door. "Thirty?"

"He's still in uni," Phil says. He doesn't actually remember how old Bernie is, because Bernie had said uni and Phil had thought like Dan and failed to finish listening to Bernie's sentence.

"Looked like his hair was thinning," Dan says, turning to go back upstairs.

"Dan!" Phil says. Dan usually has to sleep with someone before he breaks out comments like that.

"Just an observation," Dan says.

"Well, keep it to yourself." Phil follows Dan into the lounge. "What's wrong with you?"

"What?" Dan asks defensively.

"You were rude! You made fun of his name!"

"It's a stupid name," Dan says. "You can't date someone named Bernie. Imagine how that would sound. Bernie and Phil?" He makes a face.

"Phil and Bernie sounds all right," Phil says. "Besides, he's nice."

"If you say so," Dan says, but he waves the remote at the TV and looks at Phil questioningly.

Phil takes it for the peace offering Dan means it to be, and stays to watch The Walking Dead.

Dan's fidgety though, which is strange when that's usually Phil's job. He hasn't got his laptop, so Phil thinks he may be bored, but then he asks abruptly, "You're going to see him again?"

He doesn't sound enthusiastic about the idea. Phil hadn't been sure, since the date hadn't gone that well, but Dan being an awful person makes him want to be one too.

"Think I will, yeah," he says.

Dan holds out to the end of the episode until he mutters that he's going to bed.

"Goodnight," Phil says, to no response. It's barely eleven.

 

 

Phil spends the next two days telling himself Dan isn't glaring at him.

On the third day, he has his next date with Bernie – Phil thought it was a little soon? Maybe? But he doesn't do this often and Bernie had asked and asked – so he goes to tell Dan he's leaving. Dan's sprawled across his bed, staring at his laptop, and he barely glances at Phil.

No glaring.

"I'm going out," Phil says. "Want me to get anything from the shops on the way back? Think we need milk."

Dan looks up again and fixes Phil with a—

—that is definitely a glare. Phil tries not to frown.

"No," Dan says after a pause. "Are you going to see Bernie again?"

Phil doesn't like the way Dan looks and is talking, but he'll save that fight for when he gets back. "Yeah," he says, and something prompts him to add, "Might be back late, though."

He doesn't know why it makes Dan grind his teeth, but it's satisfying to watch him do it.

 

 

The second date is even worse than the first. Phil will be the first to admit this is largely his fault – he doesn't say much when Bernie's talking about his courses, even though it turns out Bernie's studying sociology for his Master's and normally Phil would find that interesting. It isn't until Bernie outright asks him what's wrong that Phil realizes how awful he's been.

"Sorry," he says, and he means it. He's just a lot more upset with Dan than he realized. He tries to explain, and more than five minutes later he realizes, again, that he's been rude. Phil just needs to talk when he's upset; it's not his fault.

"Okay, well," Bernie says, watching him strangely. Phil's probably freaked him out – it's generally a bad idea to unleash the worst parts of your personality on someone your second time meeting them.

"Maybe we should reschedule," Bernie suggests.

Phil looks down at the table. They're halfway through lunch. He's getting broken up with.

He doesn't care. Bernie is kind of boring and has a ridiculous name. "Sorry," he says a final time.

"You can text me," Bernie says, which Phil takes as confirmation that Bernie won't be doing so.

Phil's mostly relieved when he leaves the restaurant, but by the time he's reached their street he's begun to stew in his annoyance. He can't quite be angry, because he still doesn't know what to be angry at Dan for – he doesn't understand what's going on.

Dan doesn't come down the stairs when Phil gets in this time. Phil trudges up, puts the milk away, and when he's shutting the refrigerator door Dan says, "Date went well, then?"

"Why are you acting like this?" Phil bursts out, turning to glare at him. He doesn't default to sarcasm like Dan does, and he doesn't feel like dealing with it right now.

Dan straightens a little, maybe surprised.

"You've been angry with me for days," Phil continues. "Or sometimes you are. You keep glaring at me like I've done something wrong. You're just – you're still being weird!"

"Oh, am I?" Dan says sharply. "I'm not the one lying to my friends, Phil." And he stomps off down the hall.

"What?" Phil asks the empty kitchen.

 

 

He hadn't been expecting that. Dan wasn't normally the type to storm off. You didn't win arguments that way.

Phil gives him a while to calm down. He scrounges up chocolate and then, while he waits, he texts Bernie and apologizes.

Bernie responds graciously, and Phil honestly feels bad. Bernie really is quite nice, and Phil is such a disappointment. Luckily, when Phil suggests they try being friends, Bernie agrees almost instantly.

He’s so nice Phil’s not quite sure what to do with him, to be honest. He’s almost tempted to think Bernie’s a passive-aggressive avoidant liar, but Phil doesn’t think he’s the type of person to engender much passive aggression in other people.

Except Dan, clearly.

As if on cue, and with fantastic subtlety, Dan sidles back into the kitchen. He looks hugely annoyed to see Phil still sitting there, and for a moment Phil thinks he may go back to his room without saying anything.

Dan says, “I’m starving.”

Phil smiles at him tentatively. Dan scowls. Phil stops smiling.

“Who are you texting?” Dan asks snidely, digging through the freezer.

“Bernie,” Phil says.

Dan makes a noise of disgust.

“Apologizing,” Phil says. “Asking if we can still be friends, since we’re really not going to work out.”

Dan perks upright and goes still. Phil watches, interested.

“Really?” Dan asks, and his feigned casualty would work better if he’d stop staring blankly into the freezer.

“Shut the door,” Phil says. “Dan.”

Dan sighs, irritated, but he shuts the door and turns to look at Phil, leaning back against the refrigerator and crossing his arms defensively.

Phil doesn’t know what he’s done. “Why are you angry?”

Dan rolls his eyes. “Oh, I don’t know, Phil.”

“You said I had been lying to you,” Phil persists. “Tell me what I did, please?”

“Stop looking at me like that,” Dan says, annoyed. “I’m allowed to be angry at you.”

“Of course you are,” Phil says, as earnestly as possible, because Dan cannot deal with straightforward communication. It stresses him out. Phil’s not overly fond of it either, really, but needs must. “I just want to know why. I don’t think I did anything.”

“No, but you’ll do someone,” Dan mutters, low enough he can pretend he wasn’t saying it to Phil.

“Is this really all about Bernie?” Phil asks, and doesn’t have to play up his surprise very much. He knows it is, sure, but he can’t figure out why.

“I don’t give a shit about Bernard,” Dan bursts out, uncrossing his arms and coming over to put his palms on the counter, the better to glare across at Phil. “This is about you, and not saying you’d ever date a Bernard.”

“What?” Phil says blankly.

“A guy, Phil! He’s a guy! And you don’t date guys!” Dan snaps.

Phil blinks. “But,” he says. “Yes, I do?” He doesn’t mean for it to sound like a question, but Dan sounds so certain, Phil almost isn’t. “I told you I do? Or would? After you, um, saw that guy, Eric?” He’s pretty sure he had. He’s pretty sure he remembers telling Dan later that day just so Dan would stop looking at him suspiciously from the corner of his eye.

“Who? And no,” Dan says flatly.

“Oh,” Phil says. Well, that explains why Dan reacted so badly to seeing Bernie. “Um, surprise?” he says weakly.

Dan just stares at him, and Phil makes an apologetic face. Even he’ll admit that was in poor taste.

“I don’t know! I thought you knew!” Phil says.

“No,” Dan says shortly.

“Right,” Phil agrees faintly.

They stare at each other for a while, and Phil realizes that Dan still seems like he’s waiting for something.

“Um,” he says, realization coming on slowly, “why are you so angry about that though?”

Dan makes a noise of utter disgust.

“I am very sorry for not telling you!” Phil says. “I am, I really thought you knew!”

“I figured it out, sure,” Dan says.

Phil blinks at him. “So what—”

“You’re an idiot,” Dan says feelingly. And then he leaves again.

He hadn’t even gotten anything to eat.

“Gah,” says Phil, half frustration and half utter confusion.

 

 

Phil leaves the kitchen and goes to his room, perching on the edge of the bed and contemplating his wall. He knows Dan, he knows Dan’s moods and melodramatics and the things he’ll dig his heels in over. He should understand what’s going on, and he has no idea.

Sure, Dan would be upset that Phil hadn’t told him something—would see it as a secret deliberately kept from him, most likely—but usually once Phil admits he was fully wrong and apologizes, Dan takes the high road and acts all gracious about it. This time, he’s acting like Phil has done something that personally hurt him.

He says it’s not about Bernie, but Dan’s only that catty about people he honestly can’t stand. Which doesn’t make sense, because the only thing he knows about Bernie is that Phil went on two dates with him. Considering how often Dan dates people, and that Phil never even brought Bernie into the house, Dan has no grounds to be annoyed.

It’s a lot like when Dan’s jealous because Phil’s made a new friend who he hasn’t yet introduced to Dan, except that Dan can’t be jealous of Bernie, because Bernie’s not a friend, he’s someone Phil was possibly going to date. That doesn’t have the same potential for competition.

Except it has worse potential, really. Phil remembers how he feels every time he worries Dan might find someone to have sex with more than twice, and realizes he is an idiot.

 

 

When he knocks on Dan’s door, there’s no answer, so Phil opens it anyway.

“Did I say you could come in?” Dan asks. He’s sprawled back against the pillows on his bed, and he makes no effort to actually make Phil go away, so Phil walks to the edge of the bed.

“I’ve realized why you’re upset,” Phil says earnestly, “and I want to say I understand, and I’m sorry.”

Dan sits straight upright, almost losing his laptop in the process. “What.”

“I know I’ve never dated anyone,” Phil says. “And you’re—” He pauses to consider. How to say, you’re a possessive jerk, even of your friends, because you’re a little insecure, but that’s okay because it makes me feel valued without actually saying that? “—You’re worried I’ll find someone I’ll spend more time with and we won’t do as much together. And I should’ve talked to you, I guess, but it was just one date, and I didn’t think—”

Dan’s expression of strange startled terror has melted into one of open disbelief. Phil soldiers on. “—I didn’t think I needed to say anything because—” Phil founders. Because obviously? “—Because we live together. You’re my best friend. We’re, Dan! I wouldn’t even date someone if you didn’t like them!”

“Wow, thanks,” Dan says sharply. “That was really what I was worried about.”

“Well, then tell me why!” Phil says. “Since you said you figured it out anyway, and I wasn’t keeping it a secret!”

“I figured,” Dan says mockingly, “that you had some reason for not dating.”

Phil can feel the way his face screws up that, confusion and incredulity and plain disbelief warring for expression. Because really?

Dan rolls his eyes. “If not, why didn’t you see anyone? And then you go out with someone like Bernard.”

“Leave him alone, you don’t even know him!” Phil says. “And what sort of person did you think I would date!” Besides female, if that’s honestly not the issue. Phil is so confused.

Dan looks disgusted. “I don’t know, someone more like me?”

“That is unbelievably vain,” Phil says, almost admiringly. He hadn’t known Dan was that—Sure, they’re great friends, but that doesn’t mean Phil’s choice in partners

“Wait, I didn’t mean it like—” Dan speaks over Phil. Phil realizes he looks terrified again.

Phil frowns, can’t understand why Dan would be scared of something he himself said. Someone more like me—Wait, I didn’t mean it like—

Oh.

“Oh,” Phil says. “Oh, um.”

Dan looks stricken. “Shut up.”

“You—” Phil starts. “Um. You like me.”

Dan doesn’t say anything, just sits there, looking like he’s been dropped off a cliff. That’s sort of how Phil feels, honestly.

“I—” Phil says, and loses every bit of self-possession or rationality he’s ever had. “I have to go,” he blurts out.

He realizes as he says it that it’s the fucking worst thing he could do, but his flight reflex has already kicked in, and that is that.

 

 

Brandy is texting someone, splitting her attention between Phil and her phone. On one hand, Phil has no right to complain, since she admitted him to her flat when he showed up on her doorstep like an abandoned dog, but on the other, this is a very important crisis he is having.

“What am I supposed to do?” he repeats for maybe the fourth time. “Dan can’t like me! He’s horrible to the people he likes! He sleeps with them once and then says awful things about them. I don’t want that to be me!”

“Maybe he doesn’t like them,” Brandy says, and bites at a hangnail.

“Well, at least not as much as me,” Phil mutters. “We are actually friends at least.” He pauses. “Right?”

“Sure,” Brandy says. She spits out the hangnail. It’s kind of gross, but Phil loves and appreciates her as a person.

“I mean, you should’ve heard the things he said about you,” Phil says. “If he said things like that about me, it would ruin our friendship.”

“Phil,” Brandy says calmly. “Can I interrupt before you say or repeat something that ruins our friendship?”

“Yes?” Phil asks hopefully.

“First of all,” Brandy says, and finally puts her phone down to more appropriately address Phil’s problem. “You realize you don’t have to sleep with Dan. It does not automatically follow that because he desperately wants to have sex with you, you desperately want to have sex with him.”

Phil starts to interrupt, and she glares at him. “Since you do desperately want to have sex with him—”

“I do not—”

“Shut up,” Brandy says kindly. “Even though you do desperately want to have sex with him, it does not automatically follow that you have to have sex with each other. If you’re concerned about ruining your relationship because Dan is a fucking wanker, you could choose not to have sex with him.”

“I do not desperately want to have sex with Dan!” Phil says, since she so rudely interrupted him earlier.

Brandy rolls her eyes. “Yes, you do.”

Phil stares miserably at the table. For a few minutes, there’s just the sounds of Brandy tapping at her phone and people talking nearby. Finally, he says, “I don’t know what to do. I mean, sure, it’d be nice to live with Dan for the rest of my life and not have him sleep with all my friends.”

Brandy gives him a strange look. “Was there supposed to be a ‘but’ to that? Because that brings up my second point. Your moderately attractive live-in best friend decides to be madly in love with you? Yeah, I can totally see where the problem lies.”

Well, when you put it that way.

 

 

Dan's in the kitchen eating a very sad, soggy bowl of cereal. Phil feels really, really bad, almost bad enough to squash the fizzy feeling of guilty happiness at recent events.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey," Dan parrots back. He doesn't look up from his cereal.

Phil takes the seat next to him. "I left really abruptly earlier," he says. "I shouldn't have. I didn't mean to."

Dan laughs, and it pitches with nerves. "It's okay," he says. "Know it shocked you."

"Yeah," Phil says, because it had and he doesn't make a habit of lying, especially to Dan, and now seems like an especially bad time to start. "But it's okay."

"Yeah, sure," Dan says. "These things happen all the time. Just have to wait for it to go away. I don't even know why I like you, really."

"Don't be mean," Phil says. "You have to be nice to the people you like."

"Do not," Dan says with a snort. He seems better, will actually make eye contact with Phil now.

"Do," Phil says. "Or I won't tell you why I like you."

Dan tenses, mouth pulling into a frown. "What?"

"I like you too," Phil says, because he imagines Dan might be a little surprised too.

A beat, then Dan says, "No, you don't."

"I do!" Phil says. "I just didn't realize it until a while ago."

"You know if you like someone, Phil," Dan says scornfully. "You can't just—"

"You didn't even know I liked guys!" Phil says. "And I hadn't been hiding that."

"That's hardly the same thing. I did know, and even if I hadn’t, that's something I wouldn’t know about you, not something you don't know about yourself." Dan rolls his eyes, stands up and takes his bowl to the sink.

Phil looks at the long tense line of his back and sighs. "I'm more stubborn than you are."

"You can't stubborn me into believing you aren't just, just—" he stops, turns to look at Phil and waves a hand at him.

"Just what?" Phil asks. "You think I'm pretending to like you?"

"I think we're best friends and you don't want to hurt my feelings or something, yeah," Dan says.

Phil feels himself hunching, straightens up to try to project an air of determination. "Because it'd be nicer, or easier, to pretend than to just tell you if I don't feel the same? That doesn't make sense!"

"I didn't say it was a well thought out plan," Dan says.

"You're right, I don't like you, I hate you," Phil says.

Then they stare each other down. Phil blinks first, but that's okay, because it's not a staring contest. And he really is more stubborn than Dan.

Dan breaks first. He makes a frustrated sound. "I don't believe you!"

"Why not?" Phil asks, because he's willing to talk about it if Dan is. Ideally Dan would've believed him and then they could've—well, probably they'd have just gone and watched more Walking Dead, but it might've been a sort of date watching Walking Dead. Instead they're arguing in the kitchen.

"Because this kind of thing doesn't happen out of nowhere," Dan says.

"It hasn't," Phil says. "We spend most of our time together, we live together, and we have done since a few weeks after we met."

"You haven't dated anyone since I've known you," Dan says. “Now what am I, your trial run?”

"Yeah, I haven't dated anyone since I've known you. I want to enter that as a point in my favor." Phil nods decisively. He thinks it's a point worth mentioning — Dan doesn't leave any time or desire for alternate companionship, so clearly they've already been doing something right.

“Well, why not?” Dan asks, frustrated and kind of hopeless-sounding.

“Because I didn’t want to.” Phil repeats, “I like you.”

“But,” Dan says. “You don’t act like it!”

“Well, you don’t act like you like me,” Phil says, rather triumphantly, because there’s nothing Dan can say to that and he knows it.

“I didn’t know how!” Dan says. “And it just...came on over time.”

“Yeah,” Phil says, pointedly, then he reconsiders. “Well, actually, I suppose it came on over time but the realization of it sort of hit at once.”

“Obviously,” Dan says flatly. “I wasn’t that lucky.”

“Sorry,” Phil says, then huffs and says, “No, I’m not. It’s not my fault. It’s not even a bad thing!”

Dan rolls his eyes. Then he looks at Phil, and his mouth quirks to the side. “I don’t know what to do now.”

Phil thinks for a moment, and then he asks, "Do we have to do this in the kitchen?" They decide after a moment that no, they do not, and trudge on down to the lounge.

The change of scenery makes it more uncomfortable again. This is the lounge where they watch shows and films together, where they play video games together, where they record videos together. And now it's where they talk about the fact that they'd like to see each other naked.

Phil could've planned this better, probably, but he decides there’s no way out but through and confesses, “So, I have no idea what to do now either.”

“I still don’t really believe you,” Dan says unapologetically.

“Well, I don’t really believe you,” Phil says. And he means it in the really? really??? kind of way. Not just because Dan’s been like a feral cat so long as Phil’s known him, but because it’s Dan. Which is so ridiculous Phil realizes he can never say that out loud, and he finishes conclusively, “So.”

“So we just…” Dan trails off skeptically.

“Try,” Phil says. “Or I guess we try to forget any of this ever happened and ignore it. And just...continue as we have been?”

Dan looks hesitant. “Both options seem like terrible ideas, honestly.”

“That’s what I thought!” Phil says, because he had. “But well, if your moderately attractive live-in roommate says they like you, it’s a good thing?” He lacks conviction to deliver it the way Brandy had, mostly because about halfway through Dan starts making the face he makes when he’s trying very hard to be polite long enough to let someone finish their sentence.

“Why do you talk to Brandy?” Dan asks disgustedly. “That is the biggest load of—if anything, that’s a reason not to do anything, because you already live together and you’re doomed from the start!”

You moved in with me!” Phil says. “And I talk to Brandy because you’ve slept with the rest of my friends and scared them off.”

“Yes, well, I had to make sure you didn't sleep with them and accidentally—accidentally end up married to one of them!”

“Married, really?” Phil says, distracted.

Dan levels a look at him. “You let me move in with you after you'd known me three weeks.”

“That's you, though,” Phil says, and weirdly, Dan looks like he flushes a little.

“So we can try?” Phil asks hopefully.

“Do you even want to have sex with me?” Dan asks, like a last-ditch effort at changing Phil’s mind, because he’s dumb.

Yes,” Phil says, maybe a little too fervently, judging by Dan’s startled expression.

“Okay,” Dan says slowly. “I mean, I still have no idea what to do about any of this, because I figured after the first six months or so that if you ever figured out I—” He flaps a hand around and says, “Whatever you, to you, about you—” Phil finds him ridiculously endearing, —-you’d say thanks but no thanks, so all my plans about how to address this situation involved moping and eating unhealthy foods.”

“I guess we just figure it out,” Phil says. “What would you do now if it wasn’t me?”

Dan looks at him flatly. “Phil, you know exactly how my prior relationships have gone.”

“Well,” Phil says.

"I'm not just going to have sex with you!" Dan says, seeming affronted.

"You've done it with everyone else!" Phil says.

Dan stops, leans back a bit and looks at Phil quizzically.

"What," Phil says grumpily.

"You are jealous," Dan says, face brightening. He seems amused, suddenly, more than anything.

"Yeah," Phil says, "because I've had to watch you fuck all my friends for the last two years!"

"Fuck, ooh," Dan says, because he is immature and hypocritical. “And a year, maybe.”

"Year and a half," Phil argues.

"Yeah, fine," Dan says. He laughs.

"What," Phil repeats.

"You were jealous for a year and a half and didn't realize you liked me?" He seems delighted at the idea. More importantly, he sounds like he believes Phil. Phil’s not overly pleased that this is what’s convinced him, but beggars and choosers and all that.

"I'm a multi-faceted person," Phil says. "And I was usually busy being offended by how rude you are to the people you sleep with. I actually don't want to have sex with you, hearing all that."

"No!" Dan says, aggrieved. "I wanted to make sure you knew none of them were worth dating!"

"That," Phil says, "is an even stupider idea than if I were doing all this to avoid hurting your feelings."

"Yes, well, I didn't exactly plan it out," Dan says. "And I don't want to have sex with you now, either."

"Yeah," Phil admits. There's a beat of silence. "Mario Kart?"

"Mario Kart?" Dan repeats disbelievingly.

 

 

"Ha, suck it," Dan crows, because of course he whined and protested, and now he’s gone and won every time.

"For the record, having sex with everyone but me is probably the worst way to let me know you’re interested in me,” Phil says spitefully.

“I didn’t want you to know I was interested in you! Maybe I was trying to make you jealous! And show I didn’t want to date any of them!” Dan says defensively. “I don't know!”

“You mean you like sex and you like being a jerk sometimes and it just sort of happened,” Phil says, because he knows Dan, and revisionist stories aside, Dan had flailed through this just like Phil had, only more slowly and with far greater casualties.

“Whatever,” Dan says.

“Could’ve just told me you liked me in the first place," Phil says.

"Shut up," Dan says, and starts the next track.

 

 

Phil tries kissing him to distract him on round five. It actually works, and he's quite pleased, except Dan immediately forbids him from ever using that tactic in serious competitions. Also it sort of works the other way around, so it's not a fantastic strategy.

Oh well. Phil still gets to claim the higher ground in this whole situation. Mario Kart wins come a distant second as far as bragging rights are concerned.

 

 

A few days later, Dan gets up early despite not having class until two in the afternoon. He sprawls onto the sofa next to Phil, making put upon noises.

"Dan!" Phil complains, because he has his breakfast on his lap and Dan's whining about getting up early is loud enough Phil can't hear the TV.

Dan steals half of Phil's food in three bites and subsides for a few minutes. Then he says, "So I slept with this guy last night—"

"This is my flat too," Phil says, with dignity, if he does say so himself. "How would you like to be the one thrown out?"