PHAN. Phil's lost Totoro and Dan is more than happy to be his replacement.
“Dan, help me! I have a problem.”
“I am not sucking you off.”
I pause and let out a muted breath of a chuckle, dropping the cushion I had in my hands onto the sofa.
“Oh ha-ha. And you wonder why people think we’re gay.” I turn to the doorway of the living room to be met with the sight of Dan; grinning like an idiot and clearly proud of himself for being so ‘witty’. It’s a grin that I should find annoying, which I do, but nothing could ever make me hate one of Dan’s smiles. “Seriously, though. I have a problem.”
Dan walks over to me; grin now replaced with a look of mild seriousness, and squeezes my shoulder. There’s no real reason for the contact, it’s not like this problem has me wailing like a baby meeting the shopping-centre Santa Claus for the first time, but at the same time there it is. It’s a small piece of affection, yet it means the world that he’s taken the time to give it; taken the time to do something that makes my problem seem at least a little bit less apocalyptically problematic.
I wait for the hand to be removed, like it normally is, but instead it just stays put. The metaphorical warmth of the comforting contact radiates through me, calming away the problem until it’s just an issue at the back of my mind. It’s amazing how Dan knows how to do that; how to give me exactly what I need exactly when I need it.
That’s just Dan; my best friend, Dan.
“What’s wrong then? Or are you just going to stare at me like a freaking fangirl?” The grin is back, the one I hate to love, and I can feel the heat of embarrassment flooding into my cheeks. “And you wonder why people think we’re gay.” He stops as we both laugh a little, but he has yet to remove his hand; something that I like probably a little bit more than I should. “So, what is it?”
“Totoro’s missing.” And just like that, the problem’s back; the one that’s affecting me, a twenty-three-year-old grown-up man, more than it probably would a little girl who had lost her teddy. “Help me find him?”
He doesn’t even stop to think about his reply, just gets straight to scouting around the living room for any sign of my beloved soft toy. The one that’s been missing since around lunchtime today, when I first noticed his lack of presence on my bed.
“You owe me a ShakeAway if I find him first.”
I smile to myself, secretly wondering how I managed to wind up with such an awesome and unique best friend, before resuming my earlier search for my cuddly companion.
“You’re on, Howell.”
“Well, we’ve looked everywhere.” I mumble, flopping dejectedly next to Dan on the floor in front of the telly, leaning my head mindlessly on his shoulder like I always do when I need a bit of firm reassurance.
“Twice.” He adds in, sounding just as forlorn as I feel.
His head rests on mine and I can feel some of his hair flecking over my face, the soft featheriness of it making my heart flutter in ways that I thought hearts only could in cheesy Disney films. His breathing is placid, gentle and soothing in ways that I can’t really describe without playing down his somewhat serene beauty. Being this close to Dan, snuggled up to him and feeling everything that is Daniel Howell, makes everything seem perfect.
Or rather it would do, if only there wasn’t a biting sense of disappointment dousing the atmosphere of the room.
You see, Dan’s disappointed because I am. Just like he’d be happy right now if I was. Just like I would be singing a merry song and dance if he were to start one up. We’re like that; always feeling what the other feels.
I call it being best friends.
PJ and Chris call it ‘wanting each other’s babies’, in those precise words.
“Sorry we didn’t find him, Phil.” I can feel his voice box vibrate as he talks, the sensation of it making me smile slightly despite the situation because he’s right here, even if Totoro isn’t. “I really did try, though. And I’ll look again tomorrow. Totoro can’t have gotten far. I mean, it’s not like he can actually walk or anything.”
“I know you tried and I really appreciate it.” I sigh, knowing that I have to voice my real worry about the absence of Totoro because Dan’s Dan and he might just be able to fix it. “But I. Jesus, this is going to sound stupid.”
He un-snuggles himself from me and looks at me with such earnest longing to understand that I know I have to tell him now. My biggest secret it’s about to unsecret itself, all because of my big mouth.
Then again, knowing that doesn’t nauseate me as much as I know it should; I want to tell Dan.
All of a sudden, transfixed upon those bottomless brown eyes, I want to tell Daniel Howell everything about me and for him to approve of every last piece. This should feel weird, this inexplicable want to share, but it just doesn’t. If anything, it feels like the rightest thing in the world to do. It’s not the first time this has happened either, this strange emotion sweeping over me like a wave of sickly-sweet honey; just the first time that I think I might actually act on it.
It’s just something about Dan’s eyes. No, it’s something about Dan, as a whole. He makes me feel like it’s good to be me because it’s me who’s sat on the floor next to him.
Maybe PJ and Chris are right. Maybe, just maybe in the back of my head, I want them to be.
“You can tell me, Phil.” Dan’s voice is quiet and softer than the soft toy that I’m missing, enticing me in the familiar omnipotent-ness of it. “I’m your best friend, I won’t laugh.”
I take in a deep breath, bracing myself for the humiliation that is surely about to come pouring my way like rain in the British summer.
“I can’t sleep without Totoro. I just…” I trail off, looking back to my friend to make sure he’s not laughing or secretly thinking that I’m some kind of weirdo in need of various forms of medication because trust me, if Dan was thinking that, I would know about it.
Instead he’s just staring, gazing almost, and looking very much like a girl fussing over a kitten. This time he places his head on my shoulder, slotting there like a puzzle piece and making me certain that we’re meant to be this way; together.
God, I sound soppy. No wonder PJ and Chris think that we’re romantically involved. I think they think it because I am.
I am romantically involved with Daniel Howell, my best friend. And he’s not romantically involved back. He’s just kind and caring and affectionate; that’s all this is. But there’s nothing wrong with tricking myself into thinking otherwise, right?
Not in my mind.
“I can’t sleep without Totoro. It’s just that feeling of having something to cuddle, y’know?” I feel him nod against me and when I look down, I see that his eyes are glazed with tiredness. Adorable. “And my little lion’s too small. Pillows don’t work, they just don’t have that lovable feeling to them.”
All of a sudden, a pair of arms wrap firmly around my waist and a head drops from my neck to my chest; Dan’s cuddling me, actually, properly cuddling me!
I mean, of course we’ve cuddled before, but never really like this. The times we’ve cuddled before are because I’ve initiated it; like when Dan dropped out or whenever he gets sick, it’s always whenever Dan’s needed it. Never has he started a cuddle and if he has, it’s never been as heart-warming as this.
“I’ll be your Totoro.” He mumbles, nestling against me like a cat. Then he sits bolt-upright, leaving me with only an aching sensation where the warmness of his head once was. “I mean, um, if you want.”
He puts a hand behind his head and scratches his hair; a sure sign of nervousness or embarrassment. I think, if the colouring of his face is anything to go by, it is most likely the latter. And I find that ridiculously adorable, the way he’s so unaware of his own perfection; of how perfect I think he is.
I just pull him back into me, a light tug is all it takes really, and dare to press a kiss onto his forehead. I know immediately it’s the right thing to do for two reasons; the first being that little electrical sparks fly when my lips hit his skin, and the second being that Dan actually purrs in response.
Freaking purrs, for Christ’s sake! It’s like this boy was created for the sole purpose of being mind-blowingly cute. Not that I’m complaining, so long as he’s being mind-blowingly cute in front of me; only me.
We sit for a while, watching some old Doctor Who rerun, when I notice Dan turn into a complete deadweight on me. I look down and, sure enough, he’s fallen asleep on me; snuffle-snores creeping quietly out his nose as though purposefully trying not to wake their resting creator.
Smiling to myself, I scoop him up and carry him to my room, doing everything within my power to stop him from stirring. He just looks so perfect like this, so sweet and innocent and, well, mine.
That’s all I can hear, which is why I think this is a nightmare because all of those noises, they’re emanating from Dan. Someone who only ever cries in my nightmares because reality isn’t quite cruel enough to make it happen in real life. Apart from it is; Dan’s tossing and turning next to me, making these hellish sounds of miserable fearfulness.
I’m not having a nightmare; he is.
“Dan! Dan, wake up! “ I’m practically begging him as I switch on my bedside lamp, shaking him in a feeble attempt at rescuing him from whatever it is that’s going on in his mutinous little head. “It’s just a nightmare. Please wake up.” He carries on, the crying getting louder as sweat pours down his face to mingle with the tears. “Daniel!”
Panic sets in; a horrible feeling of queasy concern and terrifying uncertainty. The poor thing looks absolutely petrified, hell coming to life behind his eyelids, and I’m the only who can fix it. Not just in the sense that I’m the only person present, but also in the sense that I think I’m probably the only person he’d trust to help in a situation like this.
He looks so… I want to say pathetic, but that just doesn’t describe it in it’s horrific entirety. He looks broken and frightened and everything that I never want Dan to be. Which is why it’s torture seeing him like this, all because of his own mind. It’s even more torturous though, not being able to do anything to help him.
Thinking fast, I lean over him and place a hand on both of his tear-stained cheeks, shaking his face a little.
His eyes ping open, wide and scared; just like a child.
He instantly clings onto me like a limpet, face buried in my grey pyjama top as he tries to breathe, just breathe it all out. It’s ironic, really, how we started off as me desperately hugging onto him as a Totoro substitute and now here we are, him embedding himself into me as though to let go would mean certain death, doom and destruction.
Without warning, he squirms and pulls my shirt up, wriggling so that his head is under the fabric and pressed flush against my bare skin. If it wasn’t for Dan’s tears, this kind of thing would make me smile no-end.
But there are tears; too many of them for me to even think about smiling right now.
“Dan? What you doing under there?”
Of all the things I could have said to him, I decided to question his method of finding comfort. Seriously, what an amazing best fried I am. I bet if we were in opposite positions Dan would have said exactly what needs to be said, wouldn’t question my actions; would just let me do whatever I had to in order to feel better and then help me along with it.
I guess we can’t all be as perfect as Daniel Howell. Although, for Daniel Howell’s sake, I wish I could be.
“Hiding.” He mumbles, voice thick with fright. “Hiding from the bad dreams.”
“Oh. Okay.” Once again, my ability with words has left me truly astounded. For all of the wrong reasons. “But, um, Dan? You don’t need to hide. Not whilst I’m here. Know why?”
He cautiously ventures out of his hiding place and stares at me with bloodshot eyes; everything about him just screams at me to hug him, kiss him, to preform ever gesture of affection I can think of until he looks halfway like Dan again. Kissing and onwards, though, that might serve to freak him out even more. Hugging however, hugging I can definitely do.
My arms automatically open up to him, spread out wide and welcoming like a glass of warm milk on Christmas Eve. Without hesitating in the slightest, Dan just launches into me; the two of us clutching one another like padlocks, refusing to let go until the key of a smile is inserted into the equation.
“Tell me why. Please.”
“You don’t have to hide when you’re with me because I’ll never let anything hurt you. Ever.” I’ve never been so sure of anything in my entire life, just like I’m sure right now, with Dan cuddled dependently against me, that I’m in love with my best friend. I must be; or else my mouth wouldn’t be saying all of the right things for once. “Because I love you.”
He goes stiff in my arms and my heart stops, then starts again; hammering away so much that it hurts, like it’s trying to run away from the possibility of a rejection that, in all honesty, I didn’t think would come. But now it seems horribly possible, far too possible for me to not hug Dan tighter, just willing him not to leave me in any conceivable way.
Maybe if this goes badly I can just hug him until he goes back to sleep and then when he wakes in the morning I’ll just simply convince him that this has all been some weird dream. Yeah, good plan Phillip.
“I mean I-“
“I love you too, Phil.”
And just like that, with beams staining both of our faces, Dan falls instantaneously back into a heavy sleep. Out for the count. And looking adorably lovable in the process.
Somehow though I doubt I’ll be getting any sleep at all. I’m far too exalted, adulated, whatever-it-is-that-I’m-feeling-right-now to sleep.
Because he loves me too.
I’m awake again; Dan in my arms and the sunlight filtering through the curtains like specks of gold dust. Perfect.
It feels as though I went to sleep a slave and woke up as a king. Which is, in effect, what has happened. When I went to sleep my happiness was a slave to my bottled emotions but this morning I’ve woken up and, well, only truly great people, people like kings, get to wake up next to a sleeping Dan.
A sleeping Dan who’s got his thumb wedged firmly into his mouth and his other hand fisting weakly at my top.
I take a second to track my positioning and a further million to fully appreciate it. My arms are securely forming a circumference around my younger companion, cradling him close to me like I’ve never not been holding him. Wow; I sincerely hope that this is a metaphor for something a lot deeper.
I take a deep breath in, inhaling the scent of Dan, just taking in everything that is him. Everything that, as of last night/extremely early this morning, is mine.
“I love you.” I whisper, stroking a strand of his hair out of his eyes, adoring the way he looks like the polar opposite of what he was when he was having that evil nightmare. “I love you and you love me too.”
Dan doesn’t respond. Of course he doesn’t; it’s before elven in the morning. My tummy does though, responds with a deep, rattling growl that rips through me and makes Dan stir a little in my hold. Every part of me wants to stay here with him, just looking at him like some kind of stalker who isn’t a stalker because the object of my affection loves me back, but the last thing I want is for my stupid stomach to wake him up after the horrible night he’s had.
So, time for toast.
I turn away from my fifth round of toast to see a very dishevelled-looking Dan standing by the table, face still full of sleep as he flops down next to me on the sofa. My mind can’t help but clock that he sits a little bit closer than normal, letting our knees touch in a comfortable couply kind of way.
Are we a couple? I’d like to think so. But I think I’ll have to ask Dan first before I jump straight to that blissful conclusion.
“Yeah, Dan.” I smile at him and lean over to peck his forehead, residue crumbs trickling down his face in a way that makes him giggle. “What’s up?”
“I, well, I.” He takes a deep breath and I take his hand, letting him squeeze mine like I can tell he needs to. “I kind of know where Totoro is.”
“Really? That’s awesome!” And it is, right up until I spot that look in his eyes; that look that makes my stomach knot with worried anticipation. “Right?”
“He’s in my wardrobe. I, uh, I hid him. Because I get these nightmares and I wanted you to hug them all away, like last night. And I wanted to snuggle up to you, to love you.” I just gawp; at his cuteness, at his harmless cunning, at the thought of him really actually loving me. “But now you hate me because I stole Totoro and you think I’m some weird, perverted freak.”
Oh no. He’s crying, tiny little beads of salt water traipsing miserably down his face like it’s their destined path. Perhaps it was once but not anymore; not now that I’m here to wipe those tears away with my thumb.
“Dan, I’m not bothered about Totoro.” I laugh a little, more to lighten the mood and to reassure Dan that I’m not mad than anything else. “Not at all.”
“Nope. Because now I’ve got you to cuddle instead.”
A/N: I think this is the longest Phan I’ve ever written at just over three thousand words. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing… ;P
Part ‘T’ of my Alphabet Challenge.
Thanks for reading and please, please, for the love of Totoro, let me know what you think! :D