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It wasn’t unusual for Dan to bombarded with thousands of notifications when he opened his twitter.  It was a little irritating, especially since it tended to make his phone crash.  But it was always nice to feel like he was engaging his fans. 

So he wasn’t exactly surprised when he opened the app one morning and found thousands of tweets waiting for him.

Yesterday he’d posted some aesthetic photos Phil had taken of him, and his mentions were filled with a quite a few tweets literally just saying “daddy” in all caps with some interesting emojis. Dan chuckled, honestly it wasn’t any different than he expected.

What was a little different though was the amount of tweets asking for Phil to post some pictures as well. Dan scrolled down a bit, biting his lip…it was an almost overwhelming amount.  Dan glanced over at Phil where he sat checking his email, his eyes droopy with sleep as he slowly sipped his coffee.

Dan let out a long breath, he also would quite like some autumnal photos of Phil, it was so rare that the older man took pictures seriously.  His heart sped up a little when he thought of the selfie that Phil had posted a few months before.  It hadn’t been something funny about his hair, or an ironic photo in a cheese costume, Phil had genuinely just taken a picture of himself.  And something about the picture made Dan feel all tingly inside.

“Hey Phil,” Dan called, getting up and grabbing some cereal from the kitchen, sitting down next to his friend.  “All of twitter wants us to have a photoshoot, what do you think?”

Phil looked up sleepily and chuckled, leaning back in his seat and stretching a little, almost slopping his half-full mug of coffee everywhere in the process.  “I know, I saw that this morning,” he replied.

“Well we could just go out to Starbucks later and do one,” Dan smiled and mimed a camera, “you’re not the only one with the picture taking skills here Phil, give me some credit.”

Phil shook his head, a smile in his voice as he replied.  “I don’t think I’ll be taking any aesthetic pictures anytime soon.”  He ran his long-fingered hand through his hair as he yawned, and something about his mussed up fringe and tired face with glasses perched on his nose made Dan swallow audibly.

“Come on Phil,” Dan wheedled, pushing his friends shoulder.  “It’ll be quick, I promise.”

Phil shook his head.  There was still a grin on his face, but something about the look of his eyes behind his glasses made Dan’s voice trail off.  “Just one easy pic with the autumn leaves.”

“Its a little harder than you think, Dan,” Phil said, quietly shutting down the conversation.

Dan sighed and they trailed off into a slightly uncomfortable silence.  He stared at Phil’s furrowed brow and fast-typing fingers, clicking loudly on the keyboard of his laptop.  He was beautiful, soft and sleepy in the early morning light.  Dan wanted everyone to see Phil the way he did.

 

***

 

Phil seemed to have forgotten the tenseness of the morning by noon, because they walked comfortably side-by-side to get Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  For however much Dan complained about the corporate giant that was Starbucks, getting drinks together was a tradition that he didn’t plan on breaking anytime soon. 

The air was crisp as Dan tilted his face up to the grey autumn sky.  He shivered a little in his coat and glanced at Phil next him.  The older man looked perfectly comfortable in his Stranger Things esque jacket, his hands shoved in his pockets as he sort of bounced along down the pavement.  Dan smiled, making a snap decision to pull out his phone and take a quick picture.  Phil’s pale face and dark hair were striking against the crimson leaved trees across the way, his mouth turned up in a half smile.  He looked perfectly serene.

“Hey, what—“  Phil leaned over to look at his phone.  “Did you take a picture of me?”  He was laughing, but there was an edge to it, and Dan pulled the phone towards his chest.

“Yeah, aesthetic isn’t it,” he nodded his head and put on a pretentious voice, “got to get the perfect shot.”

Phil smiled but his blue eyes were unreadable.  “I told you this morning I didn’t really want to do a photoshoot.”

“Well this wasn’t really a photoshoot,” Dan stuck his phone in his pocket, laughing a little awkwardly.  “Just a picture.”

“Yeah I guess,” Phil turned and went into the Starbucks, not bothering to hold the door open for the younger man.

“Phil I’m…”  An apology played on the edge of Dan’s tongue as they got in line, but the angle of Phil’s jaw made him hold it in.  What did he have to apologize for?  “Its a good picture,” He laughed, nudging Phil’s tense shoulder.  “Come on, what are you mad about?” He tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice, but wasn’t very successful.

“I’m not mad,” Phil said lowly, his eyes glued to the front.  “I just…” He let out a sharp breath, “I said I didn’t want a picture.”

Something about the set of Phil’s shoulders and the way he refused to meet his eyes made irritation surge in Dan’s stomach.  His fingers itched and he did something he knew wasn’t a good idea, but felt so damn good.  He pulled out his phone and posted the picture, no caption, no filter.  Just a tweet of Phil walking in the afternoon light.

His phone immediately blew up and regret dropped like stone in his gut.  He looked up from his phone and to see that Phil was staring at him, anger swirling in his eyes.

“Why?”  His voice was quiet but furious.  “I just,”  he squeezed his eyes shut and blew out a long breath.  “I don’t understand why you just did that.”

Guilt wrapped around Dan’s shoulders like a heavy coat, but he just swallowed and let bravado carry him through.  “What’s the big deal?”  He scoffed, stuffing his phone in his pocket and crossing his arms tightly.  He felt like a child.

Phil’s aura radiated with frustration and almost looked like he was vibrating.  “I look like a complete idiot!”  He snapped, his voice too loud in the murmur of the shop and he jerked his head toward the floor, very obviously clenching his fists.  “Stop trying to pretend I look good…”  He shook his head.  “I just don’t.”

Dan couldn’t…why would Phil think?

“Phil, you don’t—“ He started confusion coloring his voice.

“Next order?”  The worker at the till called hesitantly, and they both pasted smiles on their faces as they ordered their drinks.

They stood tensely by each other as they waited for it to be made.  Every inch of Dan’s six foot three body quivered with the effort of staying quiet.  But Dan waited until they’d sat in their seats by the window to speak.

He set his PSL down and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.  “Phil, you don’t look like an idiot.  I don’t understand why you would even think that.”  Dan rubbed his chin.  “You really are a fucking idiot if you think that.”

Phil just huffed, sipping his drink as he looked out the window.  “I know I look stupid, don’t lie to me Dan.  I’m not a child, I can take it.”

“That’s…”  Dan leaned back and shook his head, a laugh startling out of him, “so fucking incorrect, I don’t even know where to begin.”  He looked up in awe as Phil just glared at him, then he surged forward, pointing his finger into the dark-haired man’s face.  “You’re completely stupid, if you think for a second that you aren’t sexy and mysterious and intellectually out of everyone’s league.”

Phil rolled his eyes, licking his lips.  “I’ve never been sexy in my life,” he said flatly, refusing to rise to the bait.

“That’s just fucking untrue,” Dan laughed incredulously.

“Well its hard to be sexy when you look like an overgrown muppet with a face that’s a cross between an alien and a rat.” Phil’s eyebrows were drawn low over his eyes and despite the ridiculousness of his words, it was obvious that he believed them.

“Phil, what the hell,” Dan’s voice was soft but razor sharp.  “I don’t know where the fuck you got that idea but that’s—“

“Dan please,” Phil took another drink of his latter, seeming to draw back into himself. “just stop.”

The younger man gritted his teeth in anger.  He tried to calm himself by closing his eyes and speaking slowly.  “Phil, I’ve been attracted to you for years, and honestly its offensive if you actually think that about yourself.  Are you saying I have bad taste?”  His attempts to lighten the mood obviously didn’t work because Phil’s eyes held venom as he replied.

“Don’t pity me,” Phil’s voice was weary, but steel was behind it.  “Its always been clear to everyone around us that I’m the reacher.”

“The reacher?”  Dan let out a sarcastic cackle, sitting forward in his seat.  “Don’t bring How I Met Your Mother into this!  The reacher what does that even mean?  You mean that when me…a skinny, depressed teenager…scored a college graduate, sexy youtuber…people thought you were the reacher?!”  He just shook his head with an incredulous look on his face.  “Phil, that’s the most mental thing I’ve ever heard.”  Dan reached over the table and covered Phil’s mouth before he could protest.  “You’ve always been insanely far out of my league, Phil.  You were doing your graduate right after we met, and since then you’ve only become more and more intimidating.”  Phil’s blue eyes were wide and they almost looked frightened, but Dan couldn’t look away.  “You’re so successful and intelligent and kind and caring.  Phil…”  He paused, his brown eyes flicking down.  “I couldn’t be more lucky to have you in my life.”  Dan coughed, licking his lips and trying to play nonchalant, pulling his hand slowly from Phil’s mouth.  “So if you say anything like that again I’m…” he chuckled.  “I’m gonna be angry.”

Phil just sat there in stunned silence, but Dan was afraid to look at him as he continued.  “You’re everything I wish I was and you’re beautiful and kind and,” he murmured, his voice mingling with the steam from their cooling drinks and almost getting lost in the noise of the room.  “Those are just some of the reasons I…” he swallowed,  “fell in love with you.”

Dan’s brown eyes are drawn to Phil’s blue like magnets and fear swirls between them along with a strange sort of electricity.  He almost couldn’t stand the romantic comedy-ness of the moment, but it was real, this was a conversation that had to happen.

Phil’s eyes are opened almost comically wide, and Dan can see that he’s trying to pretend he’s unaffected.  “Dan, I…” He trailed off, biting his lip, and Dan’s stomach dropped.

The taller man looked at his hands and forced a wry laugh.  “I knew you were out of my league.”

But Phil continued as if he hadn’t said anything. “I’ve always loved you,” his mouth trembled and Dan felt something special and warm wrap around his heart.  It sounded cliche, but it honestly felt like they were the only two people in the world.  “I’ve loved you ever since that very first hug.  Even after we,” his voice shook and Dan felt like he was being tugged along his Phil’s words.  “Even after 2012…I still.”

“Phil,” he whispered, a smile creeping across his face.  “Phil.”

Phil just laughed into his latte and Dan shook his head.  Unbelievable

But Phil looked so beautiful in the warm lights, that Dan couldn’t help but pull out his phone and snap a picture.

“Dan what are you…”  Phil asked hesitantly, his voice trailing off.

“I want the world to see you like I do.”  He ignored all the tweets cluttering up his mentions and posted the picture, typing: ‘phil claims he looks like a muppet in the last picture i posted, tell him how wrong he is.’

Phil laughed as he read the tweet, “I really don’t need this Dan, I’m fine.”  But Dan just shook his head, reaching across the table and grabbing Phil’s hand.

“Just listen to them Phil, every kind word, every compliment…its all true.” 

Phil gave a small smile.  “Okay.”