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i'll take care of you (if you let me)

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1, 1996

 

Phil wasn’t really in the habit of asking for help.  Where other children ran to their mum after scraping their knee or bruising their palms, Phil was much more likely to grit his teeth and keep on running around, washing his cuts in the park bathroom by himself.  It wasn’t that he didn’t think his parents wouldn’t take care of him or kiss his hurts better, it was more that he was sure they had better things to be worrying about than him, and he might as well take care of himself if he could.

So when Jimmy B. pushed Phil down in the schoolyard because his glasses looked dumb, Phil just bit his lip, brushed himself off and continued playing with his friends.  And when Jimmy B. kept doing it, Phil just laughed off the concern of the other boys and pretended like it didn’t bother him.  At least Jimmy was focusing on him and not someone more vulnerable, Phil thought, he was 9 years old, he could handle it!  So when Jimmy brought his older brothers friends along as he went to bother Phil after school and pushed him onto the side of the road, bloodying up his forehead and cracking his glasses, Phil just wiped his tears and continued walking home.

“Phil!”  His mum exclaimed as soon as he walked through the door, leading him to the couch and kneeling in front of him. “What happened love?” She asked, concern in her voice as she gently took his face in her hands and moved it from side to side, examining the cut.

“It was nothing mum,” Phil mumbled, unable to meet his mothers eyes as she carefully removed his glasses.  “I’m fine,” he tried to say, but was cowed by her unimpressed look. “Just some boys being dumb.” He admitted quietly, sniffing a little as he swiped at his nose and looked at the ground.

Kathryn pursed her lips, she’d been raising two boys for a long time and she knew when to push and when to keep quiet.  “Boys being dumb,” she hummed.  “Well let me know if they do anything again, alright?  Bullying isn’t something that should just go unpunished.”

“‘Twasn’t bull-“ Phil tried to protest, but his mum just held up a slender finger, a half smile on her face.

“Pushin’ someone else is never the answer Philip,” She said firmly, forcing his to look her in the eye.  “And I need someone to pay for your new pair of glasses.”

A small smile crossed Phil’s face, and he whispered.  “Okay.”

Kathryn sighed and walked to the kitchen as he scampered up the stairs to his room.

She walked over to the sink and washed her hands, he was gonna have to learn to rely on someone else someday.  He may not look it, she thought, but Phil Lester is the most stubborn boy alive.

 

2, 2011

 

Phil fell a lot.  It probably wasn’t a shock to anyone who knew him that he was probably one of the clumsiest people in Manchester.  But it certainly didn’t help that he scampered around the city, flailing the whole 188 cm length of him around without a care. 

So when he tripped over a stray bicycle on his way back from picking up some ramen from the grocery store, he wasn’t exactly surprised.

He yelped and tumbled over himself, somehow landing one leg on top of the other in the mouth of an alley.

“Typical Phil,” he groaned, untangling his legs and hissing as he jostled his ankle.  “Shit,” he whispered, trying to rotate it and finding he could, but not without quite a lot of pain. 

Phil bit is lip, looking around for anything that could help him get up.  Luckily there was a pipe near enough to him that he could heave himself up onto his one working foot. 

“I’m not even surprised,” He mumbled to himself, a wry smile on his face as he picked up his fallen groceries and hobbled to the tube.

The ride home wasn’t very long and it mostly consisted of standing on a train and trying to take up as little space as his gangly body could possibly occupy.  He balanced against the side of the carriage and gritted his teeth every time the train bounced.

But soon enough he was limping up the stairs to his apartment, panting as he heaved himself up by the railing. This was probably more exercise than he’d had in the last year, he thought, leaning against the wall by his door and blowing his hair out of his face.  But he was home, its was okay now.

Phil hooked the grocery bag over his wrist and dug in his pocket for his house key, struggling to stick it in and turn it the right way.  But just before he finally unlocked it, the door flung open.

Phil jumped backwards, resigning himself to another painful fall, but two long, tan arms reached out of nowhere and grabbed his shoulders in their tight grip.

“Phil,” Dan beamed, steadying his friend.  “You’re finally back.”  he flung the door open wider.

“Dan,” Phil blinked at the younger boy, a confused smile crossing his face.  “I didn’t know you were here?”  His tone made it a question and he shifted on his foot, licking his lips.

“Oh,” Dan’s smile dimmed a bit.  “Well, I needed to use your washer.  So I…” He pointed behind him awkwardly.  “I used the key that you gave me.”  He shifted his weight to his other hip, letting go of Phil’s shoulder and scratching the back of his neck, his too-long hair flopping int his eyes.  “I hope that’s okay.”

“Yes, of course!”  Phil said without thought, shaking his head and smiling at the younger boy.  “You’re welcome-“ he sucked in a sharp breath as he mistakenly tried to put weight on his injured ankle.  “Anytime…You can come anytime.”

Dan’s eyes were finally on Phil’s foot however and his brows furrowed.  “Phil are you alright?  What happened?”  His eyes locked on the pained blue of the older boy, concern seeping into his voice.

“Oh nothing,” Phil laughed, pushing past his friend and hobbling into his apartment, only to collapse on his couch.  “Just took a bit of a fall, I’m really fine.”  He said, turning a blinding grin on the other boy, who had followed him into the den.

Dan sat down next to Phil and looked at his foot in concern.  “Are you sure?  Can you move it?”  He looked like he was going to reach for Phil’s leg, but restrained himself at the last second.  “Can I just—“

“It’s fine Dan!”  Phil laughed, pushing Dan’s hands away from him.  “Honestly!”  he shook his head a little, pulling his hoodie sleeves over his hands. 

“Okay,” Dan seemed a little unsure, sitting at attention in his seat.  “I just…Can I just look at it?”  He bit his lip and stared at his hands.  “To make sure.”

Phil’s smile faded a bit, he was very sure that his ankle would look worse than it was, but Dan looked so concerned…”Alright,” he caved with a sigh, reaching down and pulling his sock off, rolling the cuff of his jeans up enough so that his ankle could be seen.  “Well,” He huffed as he looked at the swollen joint, purple bruises already starting to spread around the center of it.  “That looks a lot worse than-“

“Phil!”  Dan gasped, kneeling on the floor and taking Phil’s ankle in his large hands.

“Dan what are you?”  Phil recoiled, but Dan’s hands were firm as he glared at the older man.

“Phil this is really bad,” Dan said softly, gently turning Phil’s pale foot over in his palms.  “This might be strained, or even broken.”

Phil sucked in a breath as his friend touched a particularly tender spot.  “No,” he argued through gritted teeth.  “Its not broken, I can move it…see?”  He demonstrated by unevenly flopping his foot in a circle, grunting all the while.

Dan pursed his lips and held the older man’s ankle firmer in his thick fingers, stopping its pitiful movement.  “That’s quite enough.” He said quietly, a ‘v’ of thoughtfulness prominent in the skin of his brow.  “Well even if its not broken, its clearly sprained quite badly.”

“Its alright,” Phil said, “I’ve had worse.”

Dan pursed his lips tighter, his young face taking on the look of a disappointed school marm.  Phil let out a chuckle at the thought.

“Its honestly fine Dan,” he continued.  “I’m a big boy.”

Dan just sighed and shook his head in exasperation, a fond smile creeping over his face.  “At least let me wrap it up.  Please tell me you have some ace bandages.”

“I can—“  Phil tried to interject, but Dan cut him off with a look.

“Let me do this,” the younger boy said, but Phil could read in his brown eyes that what he really meant was, let me take care of you.

Phil sighed and rolled his eyes as he stopped trying to keep the helpless smile off his face.    “Okay,” He said lowly.  “Its under the bathroom sink I think.”

Dan gently maneuvered the taller man’s foot onto the other side of the sofa, setting it carefully on a pillow.  “I think, he says,” Dan laughed, exasperation seeping into the noise as he stood and made his way to the bathroom.  “Get’s himself injured, then makes me search and play nursemaid.  What a fine host AmazingPhil is everyone.”

“Hey,” Phil laughed, looking up at the ceiling and smiling into his words.  “You’re the one who came into my house without even being invited.  I think I’m justified in not being the best host right now.”  Dan’s eyes crinkled as he walked back into the room, carrying a pathetic roll of bandages in his hands.

“Your mum’s not the best host right now,” he laughed as he started to meticulously wrap the fabric around his friends swollen ankle. 

“Actually shut up,” Phil laughed, trying to reach over and push his friend, but Dan dodged out of the way with a giggle. 

Their laughs quieted after a moment.  A strange electricity rung through the air and Phil watched the top of Dan’s head as he wrapped the bandage and secured it.

“Thank you,” Phil said softly, pressing his lips together and leaning his head back against the pillow.  “Sorry you had to come over and play nurse.”

“Anytime Phil,” Dan murmured in response, his warm hand resting on the curve of Phil’s foot affectionately.  “Always.”

 

3, 2015

 

Phil could feel a migraine brewing in the pressure behind his eyes, but he pushed through the rest of the show, the dance number and everything else.  However, as soon as he and Dan were offstage, he hurried to their dressing room, laying down on the couch and putting a pillow over his head.  He heaved a big sigh. 

He’d always had migraines, but they definitely came more when he was stressed out.  Phil let out a long breath that may have resembled a pained moan, pressing the pillow into his face harder.  Even though they were only in the first leg of their UK tour, the stress had been bubbling violently in his stomach for the last few weeks.

But this was honestly such inconvenient timing.

“Why,” Phil groaned quietly, adjusting the cushion behind him in an attempt to get more comfortable.  All he could do was try to lay down and hope that the pain would go away soon.

“Phil are you alright?”  Dan asked as he walked into the room.

The older man let out a weak whimper at the volume of Dan’s voice and waved his hand above his head a bit in the direction of the door.

“Fine,” was all the reassurance he could get out, but it seemed that six years was long enough for Dan to figure out that fine didn’t exactly mean fine when it came to Phil.  The taller man switched off the light and stepped quietly over to where he lay, sitting carefully on the sofa by his hip.

“Migraine?”  The question was soft as Dan stroked Phil’s arm a little.  The words crept over his skin like a warm blanket, but Phil could hardly muster up an excited shiver for the contact.  There’d been a strange tension between them lately as they worked closer together.  And Phil had begun to think…

But seeing Phil in this pathetic state had to be squashing any feelings Dan may or may not have had,

“A headache,” Phil mumbled, his voice muffled under the pillow.

Dan just breathed a sigh that turned into a chuckle halfway through.  “I’m sure,” he sounded skeptical.  “Because headaches usually leave you moaning in pain.”

Phil pulled the pillow down to hug int to the chest and leveled a half hearted glare at his friend, hoping he looked fiercer than he felt.  “It is Dan, it’ll go away—“

“Oh shut up you fucking idiot,” Dan brushed Phil’s sweat-damp fringe away from his forehead.  “I think I’ve known you long enough  that anything that’s about to come out of your mouth is total bullshit.  So spare me the protestations I’m sure you have saved for times like these.”  Though his words seemed venomous, they were suffused with a warm sort of fondness that made something curl up in Phil’s chest and purr.  “I can see right through you Phil Lester,” Dan whispered as he stopped stroking the older man’s hair and rested his warm palm against the side of Phil’s cheek.  Phil tried to stop himself from leaning into the touch, but it felt so good that he ended up almost nuzzling into Dan’s palm.

“It’ll be fine in a bit,” Phil murmured, conceding Dan’s point.  “I just need to lay down.”

“Because if you stand up your stomach will protest I’m sure,” Dan said, an exasperated smile in his voice.  “I’ve seen you deal with enough of these Phil,” he said, his brown eyes feeling like they had Phil’s blue pinned in place.  “You can’t fool me.”

“I’m not trying to fool you,” Phil mumbled with a pout, but he couldn’t deny that dan was correct, the nausea had already started and he felt like if he tried to move, he’d just fall back down.  His gaze unfocused and his translucent lids slid shut.

Dan’s broad thumb stroked Phil’s eyebrow with a sigh.  “I’ll get you some pain killers and a cool flannel,” he murmured and Phil shot his a weak smile, his lids slitting open.

“Dan,” His long fingers latched onto the edge of Dan’s shirt as the younger man stood.  “I’m not…” he paused, swallowing carefully and closing his eyes again.  “Not that this was anything worth worrying over, but…thank you,” Phil tried to focus his pained blue eyes on Dan.

Dan laughed a little, his eyes shining with equal parts affection and concern.  “Of course,”  He gave Phil’s fingers a squeeze before moving out of the room.  Only uttering a fond, “stubborn idiot,” as he stepped out the door.

Phil smiled and shifted onto his back, trying to focus on that look in Dan’s eyes instead of the stabbing pain behind his eyes.

 

 

4, 2016

 

Dan shot Phil a suspicious look when he collapsed into a coughing fit for the third time in the last hour.

“Phil,” he said suspiciously, turning from his sofa crease and eyeing his friend as he sat editing at the kitchen table.  “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a cough,” Phil tried to give him a reassuring smile, but he couldn’t get his breath back and it came across as more of an exhausted grimace.  He’d been feeling rather off for weeks, but it was only in the last few days that Phil felt as if his lungs were trying to hack themselves up.  That, combined with his headache, bruised feeling body, excessive sweating, and extreme tiredness were making him wonder if he had a little bit more of than a cold, but he shook the thought off.  He just had a cough, everyone got coughs in the winter time.  And now, after they’d finally finished they’re tour and everything, his body was just recovering a bit.

“Alright, alright,” Dan pushed himself up from the sofa and perched on the kitchen table next to his boyfriend’s laptop.  “Let me feel your forehead at least.” He reached the back of his hand toward Phil’s face, but the older man batted him away.

“I’m fine Dan, I’m fine!”  He pushed away and stood up, snatching his laptop off the table and pouting,  “I’ll find somewhere else to edit in peace,” he whined, but Dan latched onto his arm before he began to march toward his bedroom.

“Phil,” the younger man wheedled, pulling his boyfriend toward him.  “I’m sure its just a cold, but at least let me check.”

“Okay,” Phil grumbled, shivering a little as Dan pressed the back of his cool hand to Phil’s clammy forehead.

“Fucking hell Phil, you’re burning up,”  Dan stared at his hand in shock, “let me take your temperature.”

“I-“ Phil started, but the younger man cut him off with a glare, going to get the thermometer and sticking it in his mouth.

“Don’t fucking dare say you’re fine you idiot,” Dan shook his head in exasperation, his brows pinching together in worry.  “You’re obviously ill.  Just a cough my thick arse.” He scoffed, pulling the thermometer out.  “Fuck Phil, 39.4” he groaned, “that’s way too high.”

Phil shrugged and looked away.  “I’m sure all I need is some soup, I’ll see if my mum can give me the recipe.”

“Okay yes, we are calling Kathryn, and we are having soup.”  Dan stepped away, exhaling heavily.  “But there is no fucking way you are cooking or waiting this out.  We’re going to the A&E right now.  So help me Phil Lester,” he grumbled, pulling his and Phil’s coats off the rack and shoving some shoes on.

“The A&E!”  Phil tried to take a step and swayed a little before steadying himself on the top of the sofa.  “Why?  We don’t need to—“

“Phil,” Dan’s voice was sharp as he turned, his face serious.  He looked older than his 25 years with his mussed hair and dark coat.  “You are clearly running a very high fever, so I’m taking you to the A&E like any responsible boyfriend…hell,” He rubbed a hand over his face and looked at the ceiling.  “Even a friend could see that you need to see a physician.  So I’m taking you to the fucking A&E Phil, I swear on the entirety of the internet.”  Thunder roiled in his brown eyes and Phil just closed his blue.

“Alright, alright”  He agreed, coughing a bit into his elbow.  “But we’re wasting their time around flu season, I’m telling you.”  He took a step forward and stumbled, but Dan quickly steadied him.

“Phil, at the very least you have the flu,” Dan pulled the shorter man under his arm and led him to the door, helping him pull on his coat regardless of the fact he was just wearing pajamas.  “You’re not wasting anyone’s time.   Its their job.”

“I suppose,” Phil wheezed, a little out of breath from their walk out of the apartment.

“You’re really ill Phil,” Dan said worriedly, listening to his labored breathing.  He turned a bit, testing his temperature again with the back of his hand.  Phil leaned into the coolness and Dan pressed his lips together tightly.

Phil didn’t like to see worry on his face.  “That rhymed,” his laugh sounded thick, almost cough like.  “Phil and ill.”

Dan rolled his eyes and pulled Phil down the stairs.  “Oh shut up.”

 

***

 

It turned out that Phil had pneumonia, and the doctor had been quite peeved that Phil hadn’t come in earlier.  Apparently the strange colored mucus he’d been coughing up and chills weren’t symptoms of the average cold.

Dan narrowed his eyes and examined Phil carefully in the cab on the way home.  “Phil I swear to god, you better tell me as soon as anything so much as pinches.  I’m going to force-feed you these antibiotics if I have to.”

Phil rolled his eyes, wrapped up in his coat and leaning against his boyfriend’s chest.  “You won’t have to force-feed me Dan, I promise I’m a good patient.”

Dan scoffed so violently that the driver looked at them strangely in the mirror.  He leaned his mouth toward Phil’s ear and spoke quietly.  “Phil Lester you are the worst patient in the entire fucking world, and I don’t know who told you any different you fucking rat.”

Phil chuckled a little before it turned into a cough.  “I just don’t want to be a bother,”  he said softly.  “I can deal with stuff on my own.”  He reached up and smoother the crease between Dan’s eyebrows, his blue eyes foggy but fond.  “I always have.”

“Well you don’t have to, you idiot,”  Dan’s voice was almost a whisper.  “That’s what I’m here for.”  His brown eyes were piercing and Phil felt warm, not in a way that wasn't caused by fever.  They may not have said it yet, but when Dan murmured things like that, it felt a lot like I love you.

“Thank you,” Phil whispered back and Dan smiled a little, his dimple winking in the dim light of the cab.

“Always.”  He said back, chuckling a bit.  “You’re never getting rid of me.”

Phil didn’t want to.

 

 

+1, 2017

 

Phil really took those words to heart and the next time he was feeling poorly, he stumbled into the gaming room, where Dan was playing around with their camera.

“Dan I…Its probably nothing but,” Phil swallowed, leaning against the wall as his boyfriend turned toward him.  “I’m not feeling too great, do you know where the paracetamol is?”

Dan fully swiveled around in his chair and stood.  “Phil, you know I love you, but when you say its probably nothing, that means its definitely something.” 

A half smile crossed Phil’s face at those words and he chuckled.  “I guess so,” he admitted, reaching toward Dan and cuddling into his arms in the center of the room.  “I feel super nauseous and dizzy,” he mumbled into Dan’s chest.

“I’ll take care of you babe,” the younger man murmured in response, petting Phil’s dark hair.  “Did you take your temperature?”

“Yeah but its barely a fever,” Phil’s voice was almost a whine and Dan pulled away, holding the older man at arms length, narrowing his eyes. 

“There’s a touch of the flu going around.  Louise had a stomach bug last week.  Why don’t we get you into bed?”  He put his arm around Phil and led him to their bedroom.  The shorter man tried to protest as Dan practically tucked him in, but Dan just shushed him.  “Let me play nurse for a while.  Think of it as role-play,” he winked and Phil laughed.

“Sexy,” he coughed and Dan handed him the glass of water he kept at their bedside.

“You should sleep a bit Phil,” Dan said quietly, brushing Phil’s fringe away from his warm forehead.  “I’ll make you some soup.  It’s about dinner time anyway.”

“You don’t have to,” Phil shook his head, reaching for Dan’s hand and squeezing it.  “I’m sure I’ll feel better when I wake up.”

Dan smiled a little.  “Hopefully, yeah.”  He sighed and patted Phil’s hand, standing up.  “Well I’ll get you that paracetamol at least.”  He turned to go out of the room, but Phil stopped his with a long-fingered hand on the hem of his shirt.

“Thank you Dan.  I love you,” He said softly.

The younger man smiled.  “I love you too.”

He closed the door behind him and Phil’s eyelids slid closed as he tried to sleep.

 

***

 

He didn’t actually feel much better when he woke up.  In fact, after his nap, his fever was even higher and his sleep was filled with flashing colors and blurry scenes that seemed like they should have made sense, but didn’t.

“Dan, I don’t want to,” Phil moaned, flopping over to a bit of cool sheet on the other side of the bed.

“Come on Phil,”  Dan sighed, sitting by his boyfriend and trying to hand him a bowl of soup.  “You’re acting like a child, just eat the fucking soup.”

Phil groaned and pushed himself up onto the pillows behind him, taking the soup and starting to eat it.  “I’m not hungry,” he grumbled, blowing on a spoonful as he looked at Dan from under his fringe.  “But its good…thanks.”

Dan rolled his eyes with a fond smile.  “You’re welcome,”  he said.  “Kath was happy to give me the recipe.”

Phil laughed, setting his spoon down after taking a few bites.  “You and my mum have a strange relationship.”

“We feel a connection with each other ‘cause we’ve both had to take care of you.”  Dan nudged Phil’s leg with his hip as the older man pouted.

“Excuse me, ‘had to take care of me?’” 

Dan laughed.  “Its the hardest thing in the world.”

“Not as hard as, wrangling three dozen flying cats.”  Phil scoffed, giggling with his tongue between his teeth.

“Shut up,” Dan cackled, leaning forward and taking the bowl from Phil, setting it on the bedside table.  “You may be the hardest person to take care of,” He said a bit quieter, covering Phil’s pale hand with his broad golden palm.  “But you’re the most rewarding.”

Phil smiled, heat rushing to his face that had nothing to do with his fever.  “Don’t get sappy on me Howell,” he murmured, turning his hand over and lacing his fingers with Dan.  “But its pretty rewarding taking care of you too.”

“Look at us,” Dan licked his lips, chuckling a little bit as he squeezed Phil’s hand tightly before letting go.  “Getting all emotional about you being bed ridden.  You’ll be better in a day or two at least.”  He picked the half-full bowl up off the bedside table and stood up, stretching a little.  “I’m going to go do some editing.  You try to get some rest,” he pointed a finger at Phil, who just rolled his eyes.

“Yes dad,” he mocked, and Dan chuckled.

“I think you mean daddy,” the younger man grinned, leaning cheekily against the door jam.  “Why haven’t you ever shared this kink with me before Phil?  I’m open to whatever you’d like to try.  Though I always thought you’d be—“

“Okay, stop stop,” Phil laughed, fluffing the pillows behind him.  “Go, do some work or something.”

“Alright I will,” Dan finally stepped through the door and was halfway through closing it behind him before before Phil let out a call.

“Dan,” his voice was quiet, but Dan heard and he reopened the door.

“Yeah?”

“Will you…” Phil pretended like he was looking at his phone.   “Will you come in here when you’re done?  Maybe lay with me for a bit?”

Dan’s smile was as warm as a sunbeam.  “Of course Phil,” his voice was soft and Phil smiled as he closed the door slowly behind him.