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Here I Am

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I'm unashamed of my mistakes, I walked the path I had to take. It's made me who I am today.

From a young age, Daniel had immersed himself into a culture composed of screaming lyrics to help alleviate agony felt at keeping a crucial part of his identity close to the chest. Not like it was completely his choice, yet if he wanted to survive there was nothing else he could do; he had been haunted ever since trying to do the deadly deed himself and had instead decided to stay against better judgement. What could it hurt to try?

At least there had been Phil. Even before either of them admitted to their mutual attraction there had been an openness so genuine that the younger one did not have to think twice about authenticity except, of course, when repressed memories made him do a double take for a few days. Of course, the modest elder would not take all the credit no matter how much he had helped in the development of a healthier mindset that was slowly embracing an individual truth, but he had also received help in the form of an unorthodox song that paired rap and a sincere, impacting message: Spectrum by Boyinaband, featuring Minx and Cryaotic.

“I heard that rapper you really like is gonna be at Vidcon this year!” Phil announced on the eve of their departure to Los Angeles, “For one day though, so hope we can find time to meet him!”

“Bold of you to assume I’d be brave enough to face him in person.”

“Felix sent you that screenshot of Dave liking Basically I’m Gay, he’s proud of you like the rest of us!”

“And I’m gonna make a fool of myself in front of ‘im.”

“You got a crush I should be aware of?”

“No, love, I fancy only you,” Dan reassured, soft smile sneaking up on him just as slender arms snaked around his middle while folding an extra outfit in case the weather should decide to change drastically, “And I thought I was the jealous one.”

“Well, I heard from a little birdie that he’s got a boyfriend.”

“How? He’s stated a few times that he’s not into guys.”

“Sound familiar?”

“Oh, fuck off… Don’t wanna get my hopes up, but who would it be he’s dating?”

“Roomie.”

“As in the Swede he’s been best friends with for five years?”

“Yes, I’m familiar with their origin story,” Phil remarked, watching as a notorious striped jumper was put away neatly into the luggage bin, “It’s nice seeing another couple like us, don’t ya think?”

“Absolutely. Just didn’t think I’d have any impact on the same person who helped me, let alone two of them!”

Sharing in a chuckle at how absurd his skepticism seemed in this situation since he had done the same for a countless amount of fans, Dan slipped away to tend to untamable curls that would undoubtedly get disheveled during the night at some point. He had learned from past experience to put away toiletries instead of waiting until the last possible second lest he nearly blind himself again, which was an experience he was not keen on repeating, as if his boyfriend would let him live down the first happenstance.

With a sigh of relief the younger one allowed himself to relax against the shared mattress once covered by a heavy cream colored comforter, immediately pulled into a loose embrace. Lifting up lazily their lips connected for a long moment, Dan pressing even closer to a firm chest as it deepened even though he was far too drained to show the desperation for intimacy as he let out a wimpy whine.

"When we're settled in at the hotel tomorrow I'll treat you right, baby."

"Promise?"

"Cross my heart, I'll just need it back a moment."

"Your word is good enough," Dan determined, a soft blush brushing over his cheeks as a gentle giggle escaped his boyfriend, "Never gonna give it back."

"Not even temporarily?"

"Nope, it's mine!"

Crowded convention halls still unsettled nerves of the classically cased introverts even after ten years of attendance. Clinging closely to Phil’s side as they waited to check in, he took notice of a familiar tanned blond who was ahead in the queue, trying not-so-subtly to surveil the crowd in search for a companion that, to anyone else, would appear to be just that and nothing more.

“Last name?”

“Berghult.”

“Spell it, please?”

“B-e-r-g-h-u-l-t,” a soft Swedish accent did as directed, usual enthusiastic energy replaced by reservation for some reason other than the awkwardness of a simple explanation, “It’s Swedish.”

“Ah, here we are.”

“I need to pay for another room too, under ‘Brown’.”

“Is he here with you?”

“Um…”

“Right here!” the aforementioned man announced as he joined Roomie in a similar amount of distance Daniel used to do when he was in public with his partner, “I told you not to, dude.”

“Well, I am. Let me do this for you, ‘kay?”

“...Fine.”

Hiding a huge grin after getting nudged in the side by a bony elbow, composure was regained when the pair turned to head upstairs before being asked similar questions without being interrogated about a foreign name. At least they did not have to pretend that there were no romantic elements to their relationship; Dan had addressed it for a reason in the latest video, so he hoped no more had to be said about such a private matter. Guiding his partner over to the door when they left the lift a shadowy figure startled the younger one, colliding into the doorknob with a narrow hip as he backed into plaster, “Fuck’s sake!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare either of you.”

“Then why are you standing silently in the hall?!” Dan asked heatedly, not realizing who the added presence belonged to until a red river of hair flowed over the cliff of a slender shoulder, “Shit, sorry I didn’t kn-”

“No need to apologize, Dan. To answer your question, I lost a bet with Roomie.”

“How d’you mean?”

“First to show up and check in the other had to ask you out on a double date.”

“With you guys?”

“Well, that’s kinda how it works love,” Phil piped up, shifting a heavy pack to an empty arm as he turned attention to Dave,” Guessin’ our cover was blown too?”

“Even if Pewds hadn’t said anything, you overheard us at the counter.”

"Figure you'd wanna keep it a secret for now, so we didn't say anything."

"Appreciated cos we do."

"Then how're we gonna …?"

"Joel managed to grab a private suite, we can eat there," the rapper explained, "I've got the least amount of obligations, so thought I'd grab sushi and drinks."

"Oh that sounds lovely! Dan's got a part in Night of Awesome, so…"

"Hell, I can leave right after," the man in question offered, a flicker of eagerness in his coffee coloured eyes at the planned evening, "How often do you get a chance to hang with two of the guys who gave me the courage to exist?"

"Then it's decided!"

Prospect weighing on his mind during the whole day, Dan managed to compartmentalize it when on that same stage all on his own as the failed tale was told of how he had entered a marathon. Listening to the audience's reaction of laughs, gasps , and cheers he was oblivious to a state of being until a guttural growl grumbled under the combination of sounds, trying hard not to run offstage when he gave a final farewell. Once off the platform a clear line was made toward a nearby bank of elevators, pacing in place once the metal door closed as he approached the fifth and final floor where he would join his boyfriend with their newfound companions.

"Took you long enough!"

"Oh hush," Daniel stated with a snort, pressing a quick peck against paler than average lips as was let inside, "Thanks for having us over, Roomie."

"It's my pleasure! Davey was so excited that he'd have a chance to meet you properly."

"Especially after that masterpiece you made," the other added, bringing over a large plate filled with an assortment of sushi rolls alongside a few different bottles and plastic cups filled with hotel ice, "Seriously dude, we're proud of you too."

*Couldn't do it on my own. Not without Philly or your song."

"Oh, Spectrum?"

"That's the one. I did choose my family, starting with Philly."

"Awww, how adorable!" the lone Swede announced with a ball of rice and spicy tuna in his left cheek, giving a kiss to a working jawline, "How'd you keep yours a secret for so long? Can barely keep my hands off Davey."

"With Phil being like you? I've no fuckin' idea, but we managed somehow. Had to keep quiet 'bout it."

"Ah, right, cos the media tried to use your special bond for clout."

"To be able to totally fuck up without drama, and to survive."

"You did both just fine, my love," Phil mused, chopsticks fumbling clumsily in hand after claiming a piece, focusing to plop it in his mouth and chewing before carrying on, "You're returning the favor to Dave after all you've been through,."

"It's the least I can do now that I've found a place I feel secure."

"Think we'll be able to do the same," David decided, pulling his partner closer to his side as he finished a first of many drinks, "What say you, Dan? We're following your lead."

"Nothing brighter than a future I see!"