Dan had been unusually quiet since they'd returned from the U.S. leg of TATINOF, spending most of his time just slouching in his sofa crease or hiding out in his bedroom doing who-knows-what. Phil couldn't help feeling like he was being shut out, but they were both pretty drained from the non-stop social pressure of the tour, so he figured they both just needed some down time. He gave Dan his space.
But weeks stretched into months, and Dan's silent brooding continued. It usually wasn't healthy to let him wallow in these dark moods, so Phil decided to give him a nudge. Not push him too much—Dan didn't respond well to feeling pushed—just ... nudge.
"Spooky Week coming up," Phil commented one morning as Dan shuffled groggily into the kitchen in his sleepwear of track bottoms and a faded grey t-shirt. Dan only grunted. Phil added in a sprightly voice, "Lots of videos to film."
Dan glanced toward Phil where he sat on the sofa with his open laptop, researching possible Halloween baking ideas. He'd been at it for the past two hours and thought he'd come up with a few possibilities Dan might enjoy. He was excited to pick Dan's brain to see what he wanted to make this year.
"Yeah. I know. Just ... Jesus, Phil ... give me a minute to wake up before you start hounding me."
Phil blinked, surprised and a little hurt by Dan's attitude. He'd made one innocuous comment—how did that qualify as "hounding"? But he just nodded silently and returned to his baking research, giving Dan however much time he needed.
When Dan plopped down on the couch with his bowl of cereal, Phil ventured a quiet apology. "Sorry if I started in on you before you were awake enough. I was just excited to start planning the Halloween videos. I've been doing some research on baking options..."
But Dan interrupted him, mumbling through a mouthful of Country Crisp. "I'm not doing a baking video this year." It was strange wording, him saying "I" when the videos had always been a "we" thing. Phil frowned slightly.
"Um. Okay. Why?"
Dan scowled and stood up. "I just don't feel like it. I'll do the fucking Spooky Week for the gaming channel, but that's it." He walked back toward the kitchen with his cereal bowl, and a moment later Phil could hear the water running in the sink. Dan was apparently throwing out the rest of his breakfast without eating it. This was worse than he'd thought.
When Dan emerged from the kitchen, clearly intending to bypass the lounge and head back to his bedroom without any additional conversation, Phil asked, "What's up? You're usually so excited for Halloween, but this year you just seem ... off."
Dan turned to look at him again and growled, "Off? I seem 'off'? I'm just fucking tired of everything being 'Dan and Phil.' We did 'Dan and Phil' for months on the book, and then months on the tour, and now we're supposed to be 'Dan and Phil' for Spooky Week, and then there's the additional TATINOF dates, and I just ... when the fuck do I get to just be 'Dan,' Phil? When do I get to just be ... an individual, and not half of a fucking brand? I mean, we even won that fucking Best Vlogger award together, as if we aren't even two separate people!"
Phil was taken aback. He'd never realized that Dan might resent the constant togetherness of the work on the book and the tour, or the award they'd won. They were such close friends—Phil had thought they were having fun. But he didn't have a chance to say anything before Dan continued, his voice raised now.
"And what the hell is it all even FOR, anyway? I mean, I could be doing something actually meaningful with my life. I could be doing videos about things that matter to me, things that might have a real effect on the world. But no. I'm falling out of my chair playing video games and fucking baking. Is this my actual life, Phil? Is this all I'm going to accomplish? When we started writing the book, we talked about it being our legacy. Well, I want my legacy to be more than that. And I want it to be mine, not ours."
Phil flinched this time. This was all starting to hit home. He'd had no idea that Dan was this unhappy with their partnership. He ventured tentatively, "So is this why you've been so quiet since we got home?"
Dan sighed and ran a hand through his hair, still standing on the other side of the lounge, as far as he could get from Phil without actually leaving the room. "It's just ..." Dan paused and met Phil's eyes for just a moment before his gaze skittered away. He was looking vaguely toward the Muse poster on the wall when he said, "My life has revolved around you since I was 18 years old, Phil. I don't even know who 'Dan' is when he isn't half of 'Dan and Phil' ... and I think maybe it's time I found out."
Phil nodded slowly, his gut tightening with nerves. "So ... uh ... what exactly were you thinking of doing?"
Dan rubbed a hand against the back of his neck and looked at the floor. "Well, I definitely want to change the style of content on my channel. I mean, I talk about more meaningful stuff in my live shows than I do in my videos, and I want that to change."
Still nodding, Phil tried to be supportive. "That sounds like something you could really enjoy. And I think your subscribers would be into it."
"Yeah." Dan scuffed a toe against the carpet, still staring down. "And I think I should move out. Get my own place."
WHAT? Jumping to his feet, Phil walked a few steps toward him, bursting out, "Dan! That isn't necessary! You can rebrand or whatever it is you need to do, but you don't have to actually leave!"
Dan met his eyes now, and from this nearer distance Phil could see tears in them, which broke his heart. He hated it when Dan cried, especially if he felt like he'd been any part of the cause.
"That's just the thing, though. See, I've never even had any other real friends. Everything has been about us. And I want to be able to make it about me. You were the first person who seemed to really listen to me and understand me, and I guess I just clung to that because it felt safe and familiar and comfortable, and I never tried to do anything ... more."
Phil didn't get truly angry very often, but this conversation was starting to get him there. Was Dan saying that he'd only continued his friendship with Phil as a sort of default? Just because it was easier than venturing out on his own? Phil wasn't going to be anybody's easy way out. "Fine," he grated. "Do it. Move out. Make your deep, metaphysical videos. Do your fantastically meaningful live shows in your fucking Winnie-the-Pooh onesie..."
Dan yelled, interrupting him, "I wore that ironically!"
But Phil continued, yelling louder to be heard over Dan, "And go out and make real friends who you aren't just clinging to like a fucking security blanket! Because you aren't a kid anymore and you can do whatever you fucking want!" He didn't usually swear so much, but he wasn't feeling particularly rational at the moment.
"Fine!" Dan screamed, and tears were falling now, trailing down his cheeks, but Phil wasn't feeling guilty anymore. He was feeling too hurt and angry to even care. "I'll move out after the Sweden TATINOF dates. And I'll ... I'll call PJ and ask if I can stay there in the meantime." His hands were twisted together in front of him now and his voice was quieter when he added, "I can come by whenever you want to film the Spooky Week videos. We wouldn't want to tell the subscribers anything yet ... not until after TATINOF is done ... obviously."
Phil was taken aback. Dan was leaving now? TODAY? Didn't he have any respect for all their years of friendship? Apparently not.
Well, then fuck him. Let him go. Phil had a life before Dan, and he'd have a life after him. He didn't know what this was going to mean for their fanbase, but he couldn't worry about that right now. Dan might have more subscribers, but Phil had been around a lot longer, and things would work out somehow.
Phil turned his back and walked back to the sofa, seating himself cross-legged and picking up his laptop. He set about closing all the now irrelevant baking-related tabs, his fingers hitting the keys with hard, angry jabs.
Dan stayed standing where he was for a moment, and Phil could feel those brown eyes on him, but he didn't look up until he heard footsteps leading away toward Dan's bedroom, where Dan was no doubt going to call PJ and pack a bag.
Phil didn't cry often, but he felt hot tears spring to his eyes now as his fingers stilled on the keyboard. He never would have imagined this scenario, Dan leaving him and with such animosity. He hoped in the long run their friendship would somehow survive, but right now ... right now that didn't look very likely.
He closed the laptop and raised his hands to his face, imagining how quiet the flat would be tonight without his best friend to share it with him. He let the tears fall.