Thank you Alice for fangirling about Disasterology to me and making me feel like what I’ve been writing has actually been halfway readable, making me laugh, analysing my metaphors and generally being one of the most wonderful people on this website.You’re the best; I love you.
To anyone who’s sent me a message I haven’t replied to; my parents have done some shit to my computer and now I have 20 minutes internet time a day. I promise I will reply when I find a way around it, or tomorrow, but for now they’ll be stuck there. I’m sorry!
Also thank you to Georgie. I know I say this a lot, but honestly, you are the best person in my life. You’re the only thing that makes me feel better nowadays. You’re my stars, and I’ll love you hasta que no hay más estrellas en el cielo.Thank you.
“Phil,” James says at breakfast the next morning. Phil looks up at his younger brother, at his earnest face.
“Yeah?” he says, surprised.
“Are you happy now?” Phil frowns, opening his mouth to say when was I not happy, I’ve always been happy before snapping it shut again. Because he hasn’t always been happy, but since when has James picked up on that?
“What do you mean?” Phil asks carefully. James is clearly sharper than he looks.
“You’ve never been happy,” James says sadly, but almost casually. “You never used to smile. I never used to see you laugh. You’d lock yourself away from everyone, only come down for food, never speak to us.” Phil frowns again, trying to remember. Is that true? It sounds relatively plausible; that’s how he used to feel, anyway. Maybe he wasn’t as good at disguising it as he thought.
“And?” he says. It’s making him slightly uncomfortable that his nine-year-old brother seems to know him better than he does.
“And now you smile. You laugh. You talk to us at dinner, watch movies with me, go out…you’re happier, Phil.”
“Yeah,” Phil says slowly, as his mind flits from image to image – his old school, his old bullies, his parents, to Vic, Jaime, Mike, Tony, Leon, Dan. “Yeah, I guess I am.” And it’s a weird feeling, realising that he’s actually happy, actually content with life, that there’s something to live for now.
“I guess you found a reason to get up in the mornings,” James says nonchalantly, but his eyes are shrewd. He’s watching Phil’s every move, calculating, observing, working out what Phil’s thinking. He’d be a brilliant master criminal.
“Yeah,” Phil says. “I guess I did.”
He’s still thinking about that conversation on his way to school, causing him to forget that he has to jump over a fence and leading him to try and run straight into it. He’s got a huge bruise on his forehead that everyone’s going to make fun of, but he can’t even find it in him to be disgruntled about that. Because he’s fucking happy.
“Hey,” Jaime says when he walks over to them. “You look like a cat that got the tongue.”
“No,” Tony says patiently. “You mean cat that got the cream.” Jaime frowns.
“Do I?” he says. “Probably.” Vic grins and whips his phone out, typing something out.
“Aw, fuck,” Jaime says, realising what Vic’s doing. “Don’t add that one.”
“What?” Phil asks, confused.
“Jaime messes up a lot of common phrases,” Vic explains. “So we started a list called ‘Jaime can’t talk good’.” Jaime groans and buries his head in his hands.
“Come on, tell him some,” Mike says with a grin in Jaime’s direction.
“Let’s kill birds with stones,” Vic says.
“My favourite,” Tony giggles.
“I’ll be there in two licks of a lamb’s tail?” Vic says, turning to look at Jaime, and Jaime shakes his head, making a vague noise of discontent. Mike pulls a face.
“Gross,” he says. “Never looking at your internet history.” Jaime glowers at him.
“What’s up with that all about?” Vic says with a raised eyebrow.
“That’s understandable, cut me some slack,” Jaime says.
“To some pregnant, girl, he said; ‘Who’s got the baby in the oven?’” Vic continues, completely ignoring Jaime’s comment.
“Never let him become a father,” Tony says seriously to Vic. “I will adopt any child he has, seriously.”
“Like you’d be any better,” Mike says. Tony pouts.
“I’d be a great father,” he says sulkily, and Leon laughs.
“I don’t think any of us would be good fathers,” he points out. “We get ridiculously drunk every weekend.” Everyone has to grudgingly concede there, because it’s a fair point.
“I bet Dan would be a good father,” Vic says with a smirk, shooting a look at Phil. Phil tries to hide his blush but to no avail; it’s harder when he has five pairs of brown eyes staring at him, twinkling with humour.
“Fuck you all,” Phil mumbles, bringing his legs up to his chest and burying his burning face in his knees.
“Aw, Phil’s got a crush!” Mike sing-songs.
“Dude, they’re practically an item,” Phil hears Tony say. “Are you dumb, or what? ‘Crush’ hardly covers it.”
“It’s better than singing ‘Phil’s got an almost-boyfriend-who-is-probably-a-psychopath-but-Phil-loves-him-anyway!”
“Yeah, that doesn’t quite have the same ring,” Vic says thoughtfully. “Dan’s alright, though.” Jaime doesn’t say anything, and Phil peeks over his knees to see him staring awkwardly at the ground, quietly. He still hasn’t told Vic.
“Jaim, can we talk?” he says, and Jaime looks at him, a is this about Dan look. Phil nods imperceptibly, and Jaime sighs, nodding as he gets to his feet and following Phil, who’s already halfway to the building, heading towards the alleyway Jaime had taken him to last time.
“So?” Jaime asks, when they reach the alleyway and Phil spins around. “What about Dan?”
“Why haven’t you told Vic yet?” Phil asks. It’s not really his place to ask - especially after how he reacted to Dan telling him about Jaime - but he still feels Vic deserves to know. At any rate, Vic deserves to know before they progress any further with their relationship; it’s hardly fair otherwise.
“Because I don’t really need to,” Jaime says, but he’s not looking Phil in the eye. Of course, Jaime doesn’t really need to – Dan was before Vic, they started dating before Vic even moved into Kelkham – but that doesn’t mean Vic won’t need to know. It’s a big part of Jaime’s past.
“He won’t be mad,” Phil says with a sigh. “It’s Vic. He can’t be mad at you for anything. He loves you too much.” Jaime snorts a little, but says nothing, still not looking at Phil. “Look,” Phil says. “I only reacted the way I did because Dan had lied. You haven’t lied to Vic about anything; this was before Vic.”
“What was before Vic?” a voice behind Jaime says, and both Jaime and Phil jump and curse.
“Shit, Vic,” Phil breathes, trying to calm his racing heart down.
“Mierda, Vic,” Jaime practically shrieks, stumbling backwards as he clutches his hand to his chest.
“What’s going on?” Vic demands, choosing to ignore their reactions. “What was before my time, Jaim? What’s Dan lied about?” Jaime throws Phil a pleading glance – this is your fucking fault, man, sort it out – but Phil shakes his head. Jaime has to tell Vic sooner or later, anyway – better he find out now than find out later, meaning Jaime would have to lie right now too.
“Er,” Jaime says, and Vic stands there waiting expectantly.
“What, Jaime?” he says patiently, in a half-cold way that makes Jaime shrink away a little. “Spit it out.”
“It’s kind of a long story,” Jaime sighs, resigning himself to telling Vic. “And you’re going to hate me for it.”
“I won’t,” Vic promises, but the icy tone is still there.
“I’ll leave you guys alone,” Phil says, feeling like he’s intruding, but as he makes to walk away Jaime catches his wrist.
“No,” he says. “You’re as much a part of this as I am.” Phil opens his mouth to protest – well, he’s not really, is he? – but a look from Jaime makes him think twice, and he shuts it again.
“You know how I always used to go to the bridge?” Jaime starts, and Vic nods slowly, suspiciously.
“What’s this got to do with Dan?” he says.
“Wait,” Phil tells him, and Vic shuts up.
“I was…well. I was…dating Dan. For a year, give or take. I saved his life. He saved mine. We were…happy, I guess. But then things turned sour. He started going back into his shell, back into denial, saying he wasn’t gay – which we now know for sure he is; thanks Phil – and I started falling for you. We kept up the pretence for a while, but then it just got too much. We broke up. We didn’t talk for about a year and a half, not until this summer, when I found him by the bridge again. He apologised, in a roundabout way, and we made up. We’ve been secret friends ever since – he doesn’t want Chris and PJ to know we’re friends - or the rest of the school, since it would ruin his reputation – and I didn’t want you guys to know, because you’d have questioned me on everything and I thought it would ruin things. But there is literally nothing going on between us anymore – that was all finished two years ago – and he’s been helping me for the past few months, just like I’ve been helping him,” he finishes, biting his lip anxiously whilst scrutinising Vic’s reaction.
“You dated Dan,” Vic says slowly. “Dan Howell. Daniel James Howell. The Dan Howell who bullied us - bullied you – for years. The Dan Howell who is in love with Phil.”
“Yeah,” Jaime says in a small voice. “I-I’m sorry, I mean, I don’t-“
“No,” Vic says. “You’re not.”
And he walks off without another word, leaving a lost Jaime staring after him and a surprised Phil in his wake.
“Hey,” Dan says, surprised, when Phil knocks on his door later that evening. Jaime hadn’t spoken to anyone for the rest of the day – he was pretty cut up about the whole Vic thing. Seriously cut up.
“Hey,” Phil says tiredly. “Do you have a minute?” Dan casts a furtive glance back into his house and nods, stepping outside into the cool air.
“What’s up?” he says. “You okay?” Phil sighs, raking a hand through his hair.
“Jaime told Vic today,” he says. “About you and him.” Dan draws in a sharp breath.
“I take it it didn’t go down well?” he says, and Phil shrugs.
“I don’t know,” he says. “He hasn’t…I don’t know. He acted the same for the rest of the day, but Jaime didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t look at anyone, just sat there in silence.” Dan sighs, putting a comforting hand on Phil’s forearm.
“Look,” he says. “I’ll talk to Jaim. I’m sure he’ll be fine. You talk to Vic.”
“Yeah, about that,” Phil says. “I don’t really think Vic wants to talk to me either. I was there when Jaime told him, and it was kind of my fault it came out…” he trails off. Fuck. He should have let Jaime handle it himself.
“Hey, don’t blame yourself,” Dan says gently, pulling Phil into a hug. Phil drops his head on Dan’s shoulder, squeezing his eyes shut as he tries not to cry. Something about the protective way Dan’s arms are wrapped around him, the warmth of his chest and the rhythmic beating of his heart makes Phil want to sob into Dan’s shoulder, have Dan hold him forever, break and shatter and fall apart in Dan’s arms. “We should have been frank with you. I reckon Vic’s most mad about Jaime sneaking around being friends with me; after all, what guarantee does he have that I’m not trying to fuck him?”
“Am I not enough of a guarantee?” Phil jokes, and Dan huffs out a laugh.
“To me, yes. To him? No.” Phil sighs, hooking his arms around Dan’s neck and pulling himself as close to Dan as he can, craving the familiarity and warmth and comfort and fucking emotion that he’s feeling right now.
“He should trust Jaime,” Phil remarks. “What kind of a relationship is one that has no trust? A relationship needs trust, and two-way trust at that. Otherwise there’s no basis for a relationship at all.”
“Do you trust me?” Dan asks. Phil thinks about it for a moment – he shouldn’t trust Dan, has absolutely no fucking reason to trust Dan, but for some reason he does. For some reason, he finds himself able to put his life into Dan’s hands and know Dan would do the right thing, the good thing, the best thing for Phil.
“Yeah,” Phil says in wonder. “Yeah, I do.”
“Then we’re all good,” Dan murmurs. “Because I trust you too.”
James’ earlier words echo in his mind.
Are you happy now?
Yeah. Yeah, he is.