They don’t do this often enough. That’s the overarching emotion that comes over him as Phil mixes another drink at the makeshift bar in the hotel room. It’s probably one too many, but it’s something to do and he likes the variety of brightly colored bottles all filled with some kind of deceptively strong sugary liquor.
He can’t remember whose room it is at the moment. It doesn’t matter really. There’s always been an unwritten rule about everyone’s suit being a revolving door at these conventions.
Well, all but his and Dan’s. It’s also an unwritten, but highly acknowledged, rule that they generally like to keep to themselves. At some point they have to sneak away to decompress in private after long days full of vlog cameras shoved in their faces and too many large personalities in one usually too hot room.
But this...this is nice. He’ll probably be over it and satiated for the next year once they’re home. But right now he likes the handful of people currently cracking jokes and letting loose after being ‘on’ for the cameras. It’s something they all have in common and it’s nice to remember they are technically all on the same team.
Alfie had set up Guitar Hero and he can’t blame Dan for being drawn to the sound of the title screen like a moth to a flame. He’s good. He’ll kick everyone’s ass and that boost of ego will carry over to their own room tonight. Really, everybody wins.
He can’t help but sneak lingering glances at him. Happy Dan, especially happy Dan with other people, can be a rarity and he wants to save this moment for times when the self doubt comes creeping in. Phil wants to recall everyone in the room cheering Dan on, witnessing just a fraction of how talented and charming and funny he is.
Phil feels a body squish up next to him on the floor, generally too close for comfort but they’re all a little more than tipsy.
Zoe puts her drink to the side and bumps her foot against his. She’s always been kind to them. Never asked questions or tried to get too chummy, but makes a point to include them and not just for the extra views. She even put a ‘no camera’ policy in order tonight despite Alfie’s incessant protests.
“All right there, Philly.” Her voice is lower than her usual light sweet tone. It’s comforting in a strange way. A nice reminder that they’ve all got masks in some way or another.
“M’alright. How are you?”
He never quite knows how to talk to them. YouTubers. It feels so much more formal than it did just a few years ago. No one here is really friends, not like they were. Vidcon in America is a far cry from a couple hundred people gathering in the middle of London. It’s intimidating.
But Zoe isn’t intimidating. She’s nice.
“I’m good! Bit tired. These things always drain me, ya know. In a good way!” She gives a nervous chuckle, almost subconsciously looking for a camera. “Alfie lives for it though.”
They both glance over at him. He’s battling Dan, eyes laser focused on the notes on the screen. Seemingly growing more frustrated every time the virtual audience cheers harder for Dan. Phil won’t pretend it doesn't make him feel a little smug.
“It is a lot.” He leans his head back on the wall and laughs to himself “I never really was a party guy.”
“Awwe you? Surely not! No wild lad nights out in uni?”
The joke doesn’t hurt coming from her. They know each other well enough to know she’s also a homebody who’d rather be having a board game night right now, and she means well. Maybe he’s just drunk and feeling good.
He giggles a little bit louder than intended. “No, I was too busy being a nerd on the internet. Lads don’t generally invite the weird gay kid who makes videos in his bedroom to parties.”
He freezes the moment he says it. He’s too afraid to look at Zoe, but not looking seems worse.
She’s smiling at him. Half shocked, half dazed. Like she can’t decide how to react either. She wraps her hand around his arm and squeezes. “It’s okay. I won’t say.”
“Thanks.” Phil hopes it sounds more calm than he feels. “It’s not like..a secret really. I just...we don’t..it’s not important, you know? But yeah.”
She bites the inside of her cheek and flicks her eyes from him to the other side of the room. “So does that mean….What about Dan?”
“Dan.” He‘s full on whispering now. “Dan is Dan…”
“Sorry! Sorry, that was so fucking rude of me!” She lets go of his arm. “It’s none of my business.”
“I promise I won’t say anything. I swear.” She looks at him dead in the eyes and nods her head. “I know what it’s like. Well, not exactly, but you know.”
She’s staring at Alfie again. The fuzzy part of his brain finally clicks.
“I’m sorry what happened with that. It’s not fair.”
He does feel bad for them. It’s certainly not on the same level as what he and Dan have gone through. Zoe and Alfie weren’t at risk to lose their jobs or sponsors. They wouldn’t have been disowned by their family, but still. He knows what it’s like to lose that privacy and feel the constant eyes of speculation, to know people are waiting for a slip up. To have something shared with the world you weren’t quite ready to disclose yet.
He rests his head on her shoulder. Partially as a way to express what his brain can’t figure out how to say, partially because he could use a little comfort too.
“That’s okay.” She returns the gesture and lays her head on top of his. Her ponytail tickles his face. “It turned out alright.”
They sit there in silence, the comfortable kind, and watch as Dan does a victory dance after his fifth consecutive win. It makes Zoe snort and there’s something inside of Phil that feels even lighter.
Dan finally seems to have had enough. He scans the room until he finds Phil, just like they always do when they’ve wandered apart, a wide grin on his face. He’s drunker than he should be too.
Zoe gets up to pat him on the shoulder when he makes his way over to them. “Good job, Dan! I’m going to go console the loser. He’s a real baby about this shit.”
Dan says goodnight and helps Phil off the floor. There’s no real reason to, but it feels nice. “You ready?”
He lets himself lean into Dan once he’s up. If anyone catches them he can blame it on the alcohol. Zoe shoots him a nod and a smile as they exit the hotel room.
They don’t do this often enough.