1st August, 2019.
Baby. A baby nephew. Cornelia and Martyn had just had an actual baby, well more Cornelia.
Phil was going to be an uncle, the fun uncle.
He had a bunch of flowers that were too big. Potentially bigger than his new nephew, they covered his entire face, so really the mishap was not his fault. All hospital rooms looked identical.
“Congratulations!’’ And he was expecting to hear a cry, or at least his mother telling him to be quiet because a certain baby was sleeping. Instead he heard the deep clear of a throat, a rustling of sheets.
A, “congratulations for getting hit by a car?’’
Phil slowly lowered the flowers down from his face, greeted by the sight of a man who had definitely not just been born.
“No.’’ He answered, clever as always. “I mean, wrong room.’’ Obviously wrong room, because if that had just come out of Cornelia then, well, Phil didn’t even know.
“Mhm, who’d of thought that?’’ The man snorted, cheeks dimpling in a way that made Phil know. Know what he’d known since he’d seen a half naked man on a beach. “Sorry.’’ Phil’s eyes scanned the bare room, frowning at the lack of colour, and he made an executive decision there and then to place the flowers down onto a too small table. ‘’For getting hit by a car.’’
“Oh.’’ And the man sounded genuinely taken aback this time, eyes darting between Phil and the flowers until he apparently settled on a decision. ‘’Thankyou. They’re fucking huge. Who were they actually for?’’
“My brother has just had a baby, well, not my actual brother. His wife, you know. Cos that’s like how it works.’’ And he was rambling now, something to do with the dimples, something to do with the brown eyes.
“Thanks for the biology lesson, I had no idea.’’ And the tone was teasing in a way that caused Phil to lower his shoulders, in a way that had him glad he’d made the decision to give away a fifty pound bouquet.
“Shutup.’’ He huffed, though there was no malice behind it, only something small and secret. Like they were sharing an inside joke.
“Isn’t she going to be confused when you turn up empty handed? I’ve heard it’s rude.’’ He was staring at the flowers almost protectively, as though Phil were going to snatch them away again, take all the colour back out of the room.
“No, honestly, me leaving them in the back of a taxi is a very believable story.’’ And he’d bought enough baby bits to clothe a set of triplets for half a year, he’d be forgiven.
“Ah, one of those people.’’ He was reaching out now, fingers catching a small piece of white card buried in amongst the petals. ‘’Thankyou, Phil.’’ He read, ‘’Me and the baby are thrilled with these.’’ And even though there was an obvious amount of teasing there, Phil couldn’t help but think Dan was actually thrilled.
“One of those people.’’ He confirmed, and he wanted to stay for some odd reason. Wanted Dan to tell him exactly what had happened, wanted to stare at the graze on his forehead and ask if it hurt as much as it looked. ‘’Anyway, i’ve got a baby to go see.’’
And as he was leaving the hospital he peered in through a window to see a man stroking gentle fingers along petals that now belonged to him.
2nd August, 2019.
He was obviously going to see the baby again. That was why he was back in the hospital.
They were leaving today, there had been no complications, both mother and baby were perfectly healthy.
He still had to see the baby, though, just once more. Just because. Just the baby. “Hi, again.’’ He was only going to have a little peak, just to see if his flowers were still doing ok.
He seemed to startle the man, nearly flung his phone halfway across the room before catching it between long fingers.
“Fucking hell, warn a guy.’’ He had his hand pressed to his chest, and the fact he clearly hadn’t been expecting any visitors made Phils heart hurt.
“I’m fifty ft tall, you should’ve seen me coming.’’ He stepped into the room, wondering if he was crossing some sort of boundary. The first time had been a mistake, this time it was entirely on purpose.
Cornelia and Martyn had just been leaving as Phil had arrived, he’d told them he had business in the building nearby and would catch up with them later. Told them they’d better save some baby kisses and cuddles for him. This was technically business.
Matters of the heart.
“I’m taller than you.’’
“Hm?’’ Phil asked, he’d never really thought what the man would look like stood up. But now he could see it, beneath the blanket was clearly the outline of long legs. What a novelty that was, Phil was always the tallest.
“Only by like a inch or something, but still taller.’’ He was grinning like he’d won something then, a secret battle than only he knew about.
“It’s the extra inch that counts, right?’’ And that sentence probably called for a wink, but Phil wasn’t that smooth. He instead clumsily stuck his hand into the flowers for no reason in particular, just so he had an excuse to be here. He was checking up on his expensive plant baby.
The man was laughing now though, something loud and deep and, fuck, Phil was so easy. Why did he have to have a stupid type?
“Oh, definitely. That extra inch makes all the difference.’’ And he did wink. But it was bad, so Phil felt immediately better, and a little bit charmed.
He ignored it, instead blurting. “What’s your name?’’
They both laughed then, and it was something that was far too loud for a hospital.
He decided then that he had permission, pulled up the small chair to Dans bedside. “They’ve gone home. I thought i’d get to see them once more. So, now not to make this a wasted journey, you’re stuck with me for the next half an hour.’’
Dan seemed to accept that, simply nodding and reaching for the remote to turn off the small tv in the corner. “Hope you’re as entertaining as Bargain Hunt.’’
“You know the answer already, you wouldn’t have turned the tv off if you thought I wasn’t.’’ And maybe Phil was being too confident, but there was something about Dan that made him equally sad and happy. It was the fact that his flowers were still the only ones in the room, that his small square of card meant for someone else still sat beside Dan.
“Maybe i’m just incredibly polite.’’ He raked a hand through curls that looked as though they needed brushing, and Phil wanted nothing more than to offer. That would be weird though, you don’t just brush strangers hair. Unless you’re a hairdresser. Phil wasn’t a hairdresser.
“Maybe.’’ He agreed, reaching into his bag and pulling out a box of chocolates that had been meant for his mum. Apparently, though, he was willing to give away all his gifts to a pretty man with no visitors. “You can have these if you tell me what happened, i’m nosey. Was it very dramatic?’’
“No, it was not. I’m having these anyway.’’ He opened them before Phil had a chance to blink, picking out the sweetest one. ‘’I’ll tell you, though. I was leaving work, busy day, stressful day. It was just a day.’’ He sighed, pausing to suck chocolate off from around the caramel centre. And Phil, predictably, couldn’t stop looking at his mouth.
“Yeah. A day.’’ Dan swallowed, Phil followed the motion all the way down, saw the bobbing of his Adams apple. ‘’I had my headphones in, was listening to something too loud. Wouldn’t be surprised if they also told me i’m burst my eardrums or something.’’ He shifted, handed the box out fo Phil who took whatever was closest just so Dan would continue. “I work on like a main road, it’s always busy. I should know better by now. I was just so desperate to get home and, like, scream into my pillow.’’
“Have you screamed into this pillow?’’ Phil gestured to the one currently supporting Dan’s neck, his long, beautiful neck. God. He needed to get a grip.
“No. That’s definitely against hospital policy.’’ Dan grinned, something big and genuinely happy, then his tongue was darting out to wet his lips before he continued on. “And anyway, I just walked right out into the middle of the road. Apparently people were screaming at me to move, but, y’know, headphones. And a car just smacked into me. The doctors said they’re actually surprised I got away this lightly. I have the obvious face stuff going on, a couple of broken ribs, lots of bruises and weirdly one broken ankle.’’
“Ouch.’’ Phil winced, “I’ve never broken a bone.’’
“Alright. Show off.’’ Dan was moving then, hospital sheets being pushed aside in favour of showing Phil the deep bruising currently across his ribs.
And it was all very interesting, you see, because Phil’s gay heart did not want to concentrate on the injury. It wanted to take in the soft skin, the tan line from where his underwear was sat too low on his hips. It wanted to take, take, take.
He made a pathetic noise in the back of his throat that could be mistaken for sympathy, rather than desperate want.
It’d been a while, sue him.
“Shit, right?’’ And he was pulling the hospital given gown back down, scratchy sheets back up. ‘’My fault, though, been drilled into me to look both ways since I was like ejected from the womb.’’
“Ew. Don’t say ejected. Like a ping pong ball.’’ Phil wrinkled his nose, he’d seen too much on certain holidays.
“Not into those sort of shows, Phil?’’ The teasing was all too much, it was making Phil’s cheeks turn an unflattering shade of pink. An obvious shade of pink. ‘’Not a ping boy boy?’’
“If you say so.’’
3rd August, 2019
There were still no flowers other than his own, no sign that anyone had come to see if Dan was ok. He’d been hit by an honest to god car, surely someone should be here. Surely someone should be taking him home, what if he got, like, delayed concussion?
“I can see you.’’ Came a voice, breaking Phil out of his current deep thought.
“I’m not exactly small.’’
“So you’ve said before.’’
Phil was back in Dan’s room for a third day, sitting on a still uncomfortable chair designed for people who were under six ft tall.
He had no reason at all this time, knew for a fact that Cornelia and Martyn were at home with the baby. He’d been to visit them just this morning, establishing his place as fun uncle as he attempted to teach a new born how to blow raspberries.
“I was just passing by, on my lunch break, I thought i’m come and see how my flowers were doing.’’ And Phil was so transparent, hadn’t looked at the flowers since he’d got here. Dan could probably see straight through him and into the waiting room.
“I like having you visit.’’ Dan shrugged, as though the words hadn’t been at all difficult to say. As though he could just say things like that and not be embarrassed into next year. ‘’Good distraction from all the pain. You and morphine.’’
“Well, I like coming to visit. You are a fun distraction from— something.’’ From what? A newborn baby? A job that wasn’t exactly a job? Dan wasn't a distraction from anything, he was just someone Phil had apparently become attached to. And it was easy to, so easy. He didn’t quite understand it yet, wondered if Dan did. Wondered it that’s why he kept letting him in without question.
“I get it.’’ Dan smiled softly, a different smile than all the others Phil had seen thus far. And, oh, he had a rosy patch on his cheek. Was there anything about him that wasn’t going to make Phil’s heart leap from his chest?
Phil just a made a noise, a stupid noise that Dan laughed at. He’d been good at flirting during uni, when it was easy and didn’t really mean anything. When it was just a means to an end, when someone wanted to take him home. He was in his thirties now, he’d long since stopped with the one night stands. He was a little rusty.
“Job.’’ Context, Phil. ‘’What’s your job? I mean, you said you got hit after leaving work.’’
“Cool sentence.’’ Dan sounded absolutely delighted, like he’d figured out a way to work Phil up. ‘’I work at a school, i’m student support. So essentially the school therapist. I didn’t have the greatest of times at school, and there was no one there to really go to. I thought I could maybe be that person for someone else. I was there the other day for a meeting with some social workers, technically i’m off but kids don’t stop needing help during school holidays.’’
“Oh, Dan, I’m sorry. That’s really nice, though. They’re all so lucky to have you.’’ And they were, Dan offered up a certain sense of calmness that he’d never seen in anyone else. And he was approachable, obviously, Phil had come back here without a second thought.
“Just glad it happened in the summer holidays. Once I cut my finger open and they all came to visit me in the schools nurses office like i’d just fucking died.’’ Dan snorted, though there was something behind his eyes that Phil thought meant he wished it had happened during school. That there was loads of people in here right now, worried about him, offering up cards that were actually meant for him rather than a woman who’d just given birth.
‘“I’ll just be a whole school of children all by myself. I’ll bust out the fingerpaints.’’
“It’s secondary school, Phil, they’re not five.’’
“I said what I said. Fingerpaints and potato stamps incoming.’’
“You’re an idiot.’’ He was shaking his head, though Phil could see a smile and that was really all that mattered.
He was fucked. So fucked.
‘’Hm?’’ Phil was broken out of his staring contest with Dan’s mouth, had the dignity to blush at being caught.
“What do you do? You said you were on your lunch break, meaning you’re currently at work’’ and the tone indicated that Dan knew he was a filthy liar, but he was still willing to give him an out.
“I make videos. On the internet.’’ He replied. ‘’Not porn.’’ He rushed to add.
‘’Well. Isn’t that a shame.’’
4th August, 2019.
There was someone in there today. A woman. An older woman, a much older woman. Not a girlfriend, Phil thought, unless Dan was into that. Was Dan into that?
Phil didn’t know.
5th August, 2019.
“Thought you’d died.’’ Dan was dimpling, and Phil’s heart was going a million beats per minute. Nothing new there.
“Maybe I did. Maybe this is ghost Phil coming to visit you.’’ He made a noise that was supposed to sound haunting, but it instead sounded like bad imitation porn.
“God, you really don’t make those sort of videos, do you?’’ Dan was giggling now, and it was making Phil want to do something stupid like tuck a stray curl behind his ear.
There was another bunch of flowers now, smaller than his but just as pretty.
“My grandma.’’ Dan offered up as he caught Phil looking, ‘’she dropped by yesterday. The rest of my family are on holiday. Didn’t bother telling them, don’t want them rushing back when i’m fine. She only found out when she called me yesterday, heard the beeping in the background. Like an actual sniffer dog, immediately knew where I was. Told me off even though i’m all pathetic and broken.’’
And that made Phil feel better, knowing that Dan hadn’t had no visitors just because no one cared. Though, he still felt sad knowing Dan thought he didn’t deserve people rushing back for him. As much as he tried to brush it under the rug this was more serious then he’d let on, he’d been here for four days. Potentially more.
“Grandmas are like that. Well, the nice one. Not the evil one.’’ Phil explained, as though this was a universal experience. And apparently it was because Dan was nodding in agreement.
“Yeah, the evil Grandma is too preoccupied with her cabin in the wood to come visit me. I heard it’s like made out of sweets, or something?’’ Dan was prodding Phil in the arm, getting him to agree.
Phil wanted to ask him out there and then, ask for a date once he’d gotten out of hospital. His throat was all clammed up, though, and the only words that left him were the complete opposite of what he’d wanted.
“I’ve got to go, Dan. Meeting.’’
6th August, 2020.
The room was empty. No sign Dan was ever there. He could’ve cried. Why hadn’t he just been brave enough to ask to see him again? Not even in a date way, if Dan hadn’t wanted, just in a friendly way.
He stood there for too long, wondering if Dan had taken the flowers with him.
‘’Hey, love? Are you alright?’’ There was a nurse next to him now, asking him a question he didn’t know the answer to.
‘’Erm— you know that man who was in here? Dan. Do you kn—‘’ And he was being cut off before he had the chance to finish his question.
‘’Oh! Are you Phil? Yes, yes. Dan actually left a note for you!’’ And she was pulling a small piece of paper out of her pocket now, pressing in into Phil’s hand. ‘’Lovely boy.’’ She smiled, as though she knew something.
Idk if I got it all wrong but.. wanna drink? If yes, please bring your finished fingerpainting with you. I have an empty space on my fridge just for you. Dan.