Dan sighed and set his service-less phone down next to him, leaning back on his arms and tilting his gold tinted face up to the blue sky.
He’d liked the idea of taking a vacation when Martyn and Cornelia had suggested it, but when they’d said sailing in the Caribbean, he hadn’t taken that to mean no cell service. In hindsight, that was maybe a little bit stupid…but whatever. Dan let out a long breath, closing his eyes, the sun making the skin behind his lids glow red.
He didn’t need internet to have fun, he didn’t need internet to have fun, he repeated to himself.
“Jesus fucking christ Dan, just enjoy the moment,” he whispered, giving up on propping himself up and just laying down on the white fiberglass deck of the boat. It wasn’t the most comfortable place in the world, but the warmth of the sun on his shorts-clad legs and bare, freckling arms made him feel heavy and content.
They’d rented a sailboat for the week to ride the wind around the Caribbean. Martyn had put the whole thing together, as apparently he’d been teaching himself how to sail. Cornelia had just rolled her eyes fondly at Dan’s confusion and shrugged, as if to say, everyone has their hobbies. Dan supposed that was true, but he hoped that sailing wasn’t one Phil would pick up from his brother. They went outside often enough, he didn’t know if he’d be able to handle being dragged out to some lake every other weekend to ride around in a tiny wooden death trap.
Luckily, taking up a sailing hobby didn’t seem to be at the forefront of his friend’s mind. Dan turned his head to the side and squinted at the front of the boat where Phil stood, leaning on the railing and staring pensively into the glistening water. It had been touch and go for the first day or so, Phil’s motion sickness almost winning over his determination to have a good time. But fortunately, he seemed to have overcome it and was hanging around the edges of the boat, occasionally sticking his long pale feet in the water.
Dan’s eyes ran down the length of Phil’s bare pale back, translucent skin gleaming in the sunlight from where it stretched over lean, mostly unused muscles. Freckles dotted constellations over his broad shoulders and down to the tips of his slightly-tanner, knobby elbows.
Dan’s felt like he was watching the world though a soft focus lens as the mid afternoon sun glistened over the water, leading a star laden path to where Phil stood. The wind whipped his fringe up and out of his face, fanning the black-dyed strands over his wide forehead. Raven hair on ivory skin, he was a piece of art.
The faint sounds of Martyn and Cornelia laughing in the cockpit trickled over the deck to Dan’s ears and Phil turned, a half smile on his face. His gaze focused on the other end of the boat but after a moment, his blue eyes snapped to Dan’s lazy brown. Dan rubbed the tips of his large fingers on the rough surface of the fiberglass, and his body tingled. Something about the sun and the salt in the air was making him crazy because all he could think about, even after Phil looked away, was that his eyes were the exact color of the sky.
This time it was Dan who stood at the bow of the boat, brown eyes almost glaring at the sunset like a brooding man straight from the pages of a romance novel.
Dan picked at his nails and looked at his large bare feet, toes hanging over the edge of the pile of metal and wood that kept them from drowning. The ship was anchored now and it meandered slowly from side to side in a tranquil lull rather than rocking precariously over the waves, and Dan couldn’t help but relate to that slowly rocking yet ultimately idle state.
Of course, it was typical of him to find meaning in places where meaning didn’t belong, but something about the breeze cooling his sweat damp skin and the fire red light of the sunset was making him melancholy.
No, not melancholy. Sitting at their kitchen table, staring out the window instead of eating his cereal was melancholy. This was more like…confusion almost.
But what he was confused about, Dan couldn’t tell you.
The man sighed and straightened up a little, leaning back against the mast of the ship. He just felt stuck, that’s what it was. After the tour, the book, and even moving, Dan had thought that he’d wanted to rest, to relax with Phil in their apartment and play video games. But now…
They were busy, sure. They were Dan and Phil, they couldn’t not be busy. They had videos to film, board games to make, meetings to attend, fans to subdue.
But not a relationship to hide.
Dan let out a long breath, rubbing a hand over his face. That sounded immature, but maybe that was it, maybe he was dissatisfied with his and Phil’s relationship. Maybe he wanted to be more than friends. Maybe he was in love with Phil after all.
No, Dan shifted his weight and a wry smile crossed his face, that wasn’t it. Well, it was all true, he corrected himself. But those thoughts weren’t new, those wishes weren’t eating away at him anymore. He’d accepted a long time ago that neither him or Phil had the courage or wherewithal to attempt a change in their relationship. They were comfortable, they were happy, and there was no guarantee they would be either of those things if they took the next step.
Dan played with the cord along the edge of the boat and chewed on his lower lip, the word relationship sticking on something somewhere in his mind as his thoughts spun around and around. There was something about the permanence of the word…
Was his and Phil’s friendship permanent enough? Sure it had been eight years since they’d met, but were an apartment, a career, a life enough to make certain they wouldn’t drift away, slowly growing further and further apart until they were practically strangers?
Dan groaned, raking his hands through his tangled hair as he sat down against the mast, arms loosely clasped around his knees, and he stared at the orange light of the sun dancing across the waves. He hated thinking about this sort of thing. These sort of thoughts spun round and round in his head in an endless, futile cycle, bringing no answers and only frustration.
“Pointless,” he laughed a little to himself as the wind blew his curls across his forehead.
“What’s pointless?” Phil’s deep voice rang out from next to him and Dan jumped a little.
“Jesus christ Phil, warn a guy!” Dan exclaimed, laughing as Phil clumsily plopped down next to him.
“Sorry, sorry,” the older man laughed, tongue sticking cheekily out the side of his mouth and he cheerfully bumped his shoulder into Dan’s. “Did I interrupt your existential crisis?”
Dan rolled his eyes fondly. “Kind of… yeah,” he feigned incredulity, raising his eyebrows at his friend and tilting his head. “Can’t a guy ponder the futility of the universe in pensive solitude? Isn’t that the way of the world?”
Phil just smiled. “The futility of the universe is always better pondered with a friend beside you.”
Dan felt a smile growing on his face in response, his dreaded dimple making an appearance as warmth rose in his chest. “Oh is it?” He laughed. “Words of advice from Phil Lester.”
“Yup,” Phil tilted his head jauntily, turning out to look at the sea. “I could write a book,” he gave Dan the side eye, “the fans would eat it up.”
Dan laughed and shook his head, pushing his curly fringe out of his eyes. “You could write a book about the best way to eat popcorn and the fans would eat it up.”
“Well there is a right and wrong way.”
“Oh shut up.”
Phil just grinned and Dan felt content, warmth suffusing his entire body. His smile stayed an echo in the tilt of his lips even as they drifted into silence. Dan chanced a look at the dark haired man beside him, and could physically feel his eyes fill with fondness at the way Phil leaned back on his arms and tilted his head up at the sky. The alabaster curve of his neck was only interrupted by the manly bulge of his adams apple. Dan swallowed, manly bulge was never a phrase that you wanted to say, even within your own thoughts.
Phil looked at Dan out of the corner of his cerulean eyes. “What were you really thinking about?” He asked, quieter than before, and it was almost like the lap of the waves against the boat and the soft rasp of Phil’s voice pulled a curtain of intimacy around them.
Dan sighed and looked back out at the sea as the sun took its final dip below the horizon. “Permanency, I guess,” he said lowly, eyebrows drawing together over chocolate eyes. “It just feels like…” He turned his head toward Phil and meeting his eyes with a hesitant twist to his mouth. “I don’t know where I’m going.” He said seriously. “After the tour and the books and moving and everything we’ve been doing I just…” What’s keeping you here? He didn’t want to ask, so he just sighed. “I can’t even explain properly.”
He turned away as Phil covered his tan hand with his own pale, long-fingered one. “I kind of understand what you mean,” Phil sighed, his voice deep and thoughtful. Dan stared at where there hands touched for a moment, then glanced back up at Phil’s slightly sunburnt face, lit dimly in the twilight. “This year feels like a placeholder…the place we’re living temporary.”
“Forever home,” Dan murmured and Phil smiled, squeezing his hand.
“Exactly,” he let out a long breath of air and looked up at the sky where the pink of sunset was fading to the indigo of the night. “I’m not sure what I’m meant to do next,” Phil said softly, his eyebrows furrowed together, and Dan watched as his fringe fluttered above his forehead for a minute before settling back down. “But that’s okay,” he continued after a moment, looking back at Dan with a strange look on his face. “There’s no rush.”
“Well you are almost thirty-one,” Dan said, trying to interject some humor into the strange mood they’d found themselves in. “Practically an old man.”
“Oh shut up,” Phil laughed and sat up fully, pulling his long hand away from Dan’s. Even though he’d forgotten it was there, something inside the younger man felt disappointed at the loss. “I’m not that much older than you.”
“True, true,” Dan shook his head and licked his lips. “I guess we’re not that old.”
Phil just laughed and rubbed his arms a little as the wind changed from a nice cool breeze to a brisk chill.
“But I guess what I meant was,” he bit is lip for a minute, meeting Dan’s eyes with an intensity that hadn’t been there before. “I feel like this year the changes we need to make are within ourselves. Within…us.”
“Don’t get too deep on me here Phil,” Dan laughed a little awkwardly, but Phil’s expression didn’t change. “But…I know what you mean.” He tangled his hands in his lap, his lips shaking a little as he drew in a deep breath. “There’s some changes I’ve been thinking about…a lot lately.”
“Me too,” Phil’s voice was hushed now, it could barely be heard over the waves, and his eyes felt like pools of crystal water that Dan was just floating in, content to never ever leave.
“Maybe we could…talk about that later,” Dan smiled a little, clenching his hands together.
“Yeah,” Phil breathed. “Later.”
Maybe some things could change after all.