Fifty shades of Phan
A/N: I know Phil is 30 now but in this story he is 27, oh and they are on America in this story
My heart is pounding. The elevator arrives on the first floor, and I scramble out as soon as the doors slide open, stumbling once, but fortunately not sprawling on to the immaculate sandstone floor. I race for the wide glass doors, and I’m free in the bracing, cleansing, damp air of Seattle. Raising my face, I welcome the cool refreshing rain. I close my eyes and take a deep, purifying breath, trying to recover what’s left of my equilibrium.
No man has ever affected me the way Phil Lester has, and I cannot fathom why.
Is it his looks, his civility, wealth,power I don’t understand my irrational reaction.
I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. What in heaven’s name was that all about leaning against one of the steel pillars of the building, I valiantly attempt to calm down and gather my thoughts. I shake my head. Holy crap - what was thatMy heart steadies to its regular rhythm, and I can breathe normally again. I head for the car.
As I leave the city limits behind, I begin to feel foolish and embarrassed as I replay the interview in my mind. Surely, I’m over-reacting to something that’s imaginary. Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself - but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface.
An involuntary shiver runs down my spine. He may be arrogant, but then he has a right to be - he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but why should he again, I’m irritated that Luoise didn’t give me a brief biography.
While cruising along the I-5, my mind continues to wander. I’m truly perplexed as to what makes someone so driven to succeed. Some of his answers were so cryptic - as if he had a hidden agenda. And Luoise’s questions - ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment. Damn Luoise Pentland!
I check the speedometer. I’m driving more cautiously than I would on any other occasion. And I know it’s the memory of two penetrating blue eyes gazing at me, and a stern voice telling me to drive carefully. Shaking my head, I realize that Lester’s more like a man double his age.
Forget it, Dan,I scold myself. I decide that all in all, it’s been a very interesting experience, but I shouldn’t dwell on it . Put it behind you. I never have to see him again. I’m immediately cheered by the thought. I switch on the MP3 player and turn the volume up loud, sit back, and listen to thumping indie rock music as I press down on the accelerator.
We live in a small community of duplex apartments in Vancouver, Washington, close to the Vancouver campus of WSU. I’m lucky - Luoise’s parents bought the place for her, and I pay peanuts for rent. It’s been home for four years now. As I pull up outside, I know luoise going to want a blow-by-blow account, and she is tenacious. Well, at least she has the mini-disc. Hopefully I won’t have to elaborate much beyond what was said during the interview.
“Dan! You’re back.” Luoise sits in our living area, surrounded by books. She’s clearly been studying for finals - though she’s still in her pink flannel pajamas decorated with cute little rabbits, the ones she reserves for the aftermath of breaking up with boyfriends, for assorted illnesses, and for general moody depression. She bounds up to me and hugs me hard.
“I was beginning to worry. I expected you back sooner.”
“Oh, I thought I made good time considering the interview ran over.” I wave the mini-disc recorder at her.
“Dan, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you, I know. How was it what was he like?” Oh no - here we go, the Luoise Pentland Inquisition.
I struggle to answer her question. What can I say?
“I’m glad it’s over, and I don’t have to see him again. He was rather intimidating, you know.” I shrug.
“He’s very focused,kind….and really intimidating .”
Luoise gazes innocently at me. I frown at her.
“Don’t you look so innocent. Why didn’t you give me a biography he made me feel like such an idiot for skimping on basic research.” Luoise clamps a hand to her mouth.
“Jeez, Dan , I’m sorry - I didn’t think.”
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy - like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
“Twenty-seven. Jeez, Dan,I’m sorry. I should have briefed you, but I was in such a panic. Let me have the mini-disc, and I’ll start transcribing the interview.”
“You look better. Did you eat your soup?” I ask, keen to change the subject.
“Yes, and it was delicious as usual. I’m feeling much better.” She smiles at me in gratitude. I check my watch.
“I have to run. I can still make my shift at Clayton’s.”
“Dan,you’ll be exhausted.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll see you later.”
I’ve worked at Clayton’s since I started at WSU. It’s the largest independent hardware store in the Portland area, and over the four years I’ve worked here, I’ve come to know a little bit about most everything we sell - although ironically, I’m crap at any DIY. I leave all that to my dad. I’m much more of a curl-up-with-a-book-in-a-comfy-chair-by-the-fire kind of a boy. I’m glad I can make my shift as it gives me something to focus on that isn’t Phil Lester We’re busy - it’s the start of the summer season, and folks are redecorating their homes. Mrs. Clayton is pleased to see me.
“Dan! I thought you weren’t going to make it today.”
“My appointment didn’t take as long as I thought. I can do a couple of hours.”
“I’m real pleased to see you.”
She sends me to the storeroom to start re-stocking shelves, and I’m soon absorbed in the task.
When I arrive home later, Luoise is wearing headphones and working on her laptop.
Her nose is still pink, but she has her teeth into a story, so she’s concentrating and typing furiously. I’m thoroughly drained - exhausted by the long drive, the grueling interview, and by being rushed off my feet at Clayton’s. I slump on to the couch, thinking about the essay I have to finish and all the studying I haven’t done today because I was holed up with … him.
“So what did you really think of him?” Damn, she’s inquisitive. Why can’t she just let this goThink of something - quick.
“He’s very driven, controlling, arrogant - scary really, but very charismatic. I can understand the fascination,” I add truthfully, as I peer round the door at her hoping this will shut her up once and for all.
“You, fascinated by a man that’s a first,” she snorts.
I start gathering the makings of a sandwich so she can’t see my face.
“Why did you want to know if he was gay Incidentally, that was the most embarrassing question. I was mortified, and he was pissed to be asked too.” I scowl at the memory.
“Whenever he’s in the society pages, he never has a date…and you also haven’t had a date in so long.”
“It was embarrassing. The whole thing was embarrassing. I’m glad I’ll never have to lay eyes on him again.”
“Oh, Dan it can’t have been that bad. I think he sounds quite taken with you.”
Taken with me Now Luoise is being ridiculous.
“Would you like a sandwich?”
We talk no more of Phil Lester that evening, much to my relief. Once we’ve eaten, I’m able to sit at the dining table with Luoise and, while she works on her article, I work on my essay on Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Damn, but that woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong century. By the time I finish, it’s midnight, and Luoise has long since gone to bed. I make my way to my room, exhausted, but pleased that I’ve accomplished so much for a Monday.
Saturday at the store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton, John and Patrick - the two other part-timers.
“How are things with you, Ana?”
For a moment, I hesitate, and I have Mom’s full attention.
“Dan have you met someone?” Wow… how does she do that The excitement in her voice is palpable.
“No, Mom, it’s nothing. You’ll be the first to know if I do.”
“Dan,you really need to get out more, honey. You worry me.”
“Mom,I’m fine. How’s Bob?” As ever, distraction is the best policy.
As I end the call I turn sharp round, Mrs. Clayton asks me to check on checking catalogue numbers against the items we need and the items we’ve ordered, eyes flicking from the order book and back as I check the entries match. Then, for some reason, I turn around and glance up… and find myself locked in the bold blue gaze of Phil Lester who’s standing at the counter, staring at me intently.
“Mister Howell What a pleasant surprise.” His gaze is unwavering and intense.
Holy crap. What the hell is he doing here looking all tousled-hair and outdoorsy in his cream chunky-knit sweater, jeans, and walking boots I think my mouth has popped open, and I can’t locate my brain or my voice.
“Mr. Lester,” I whisper, because that’s all I can manage.
There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips and his eyes are alight with humor, as if he’s enjoying some private joke.
“I was in the area,” he says by way of explanation. “I need to stock up on a few things.
It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mister Howell .” His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.
I shake my head to gather my wits. My heart is pounding a frantic tattoo, and for some reason I’m blushing furiously under his steady scrutiny. I am utterly thrown by the sight of him standing before me. My memories of him did not do him justice. He’s not merely good-looking - he’s the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking, and he’s here. Here in Clayton’s Hardware Store. Go figure. Finally my cognitive functions are restored and reconnected with the rest of my body.
“Dan. My name’s Dan,” I mutter. “What can I help you with, Mr. Lester ?”
He smiles, and again it’s like he’s privy to some big secret. It is so disconcerting. Taking a deep breath, I put on my professional I’ve-worked-in-this-shop-for-years face?. I can do this.
“There are a few items I need. To start with, I’d like some cable ties,” he murmurs, his blue eyes cool but amused.
“We stock various lengths. Shall I show you?” I mutter, my voice soft and wavery. Get a grip, Howell . A slight frown mars Lester’s rather lovely brow.
“Please. Lead the way, Mister Howell ,” he says. I try for nonchalance as I come out from behind the counter, but really I’m concentrating hard on not falling over my own feet - my legs are suddenly the consistency of Jell-O. I’m so glad I decided to wear my best jeans this morning.
“They’re in with the electrical goods, aisle eight.” My voice is a little too bright. I glance up at him and regret it almost immediately. Damn, he’s handsome. I blush.
“After you,” he murmurs, gesturing with his long-fingered, beautifully manicured hand.With my heart almost strangling me - because it’s in my throat trying to escape from my mouth - I head down one of the aisles to the electrical section. Why is he in Portland?
Why is he here at Clayton’s And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain - probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where my subconscious dwells - comes the thought: he’s here to see you. No way! I dismiss it immediately. Why would this beautiful, powerful, urbane man want to see me the idea is preposterous, and I kick it out of my head.
He gazes at the selection of cable ties we stock at Clayton’s. What on Earth is he going to do with thoseI cannot picture him as a do-it-yourselfer at all. His fingers trail across the various packages displayed, and for some inexplicable reason, I have to look away. He bends and selects a packet.
“These will do,” he says with his oh-so-secret smile, and I blush.
“Is there anything else?”
“I’d like some masking tape.”
“Are you redecorating?” The words are out before I can stop them. Surely he hires laborers or has staff to help him decorate?
“No, not redecorating,” he says quickly then smirks, and I have the uncanny feeling that he’s laughing at me.
Am I that funny looking?
“This way,” I murmur embarrassed. “Masking tape is in the decorating aisle.”
I glance behind me as he follows.
“Have you worked here long?” His voice is low, and he’s gazing at me, blur eyes concentrating hard. I blush even more brightly. Why the hell does he have this effect on me?
I feel like I’m fourteen years old - gauche, as always, and out of place. Eyes front Howell !
“Four years,” I mutter as we reach our goal. To distract myself, I reach down and select the two widths of masking tape that we stock.
“I’ll take that one,” Grey says softly pointing to the wider tape, which I pass to him.
Our fingers brush very briefly, and the current is there again, zapping through me like I’ve touched an exposed wire. I gasp involuntarily as I feel it, all the way down to somewhere dark and unexplored, deep in my belly. Desperately, I scrabble around for my equilibrium.
“Anything else?” My voice is husky and breathy. His eyes widen slightly.
“Some rope, I think.” His voice mirrors mine, husky.
“This way.” I duck my head down to hide my recurring blush and head for the aisle.
cable cord… “ I halt at his expression, his eyes darkening. Holy cow.
“I’ll take five yards of the natural filament rope please.”
Quickly, with trembling fingers, I measure out five yards against the fixed ruler, aware that his hot blue gaze is on me. I dare not look at him. Jeez, could I feel any more self-conscious taking my Stanley knife from the back pocket of my jeans, I cut it then coil it neatly before tying it in a slipknot. By some miracle, I manage not to remove a finger with my knife.
“Were you a Boy Scout?” he asks, sculptured, sensual lips curled in amusement. Don’t look at his mouth!
“Organized, group activities aren’t really my thing, Mr. Lester.”
He arches a brow.
“What is your thing, Daniel?” he asks, his voice soft and his secret smile is back. I gaze at him unable to express myself. I’m on shifting tectonic plates. Try and be cool, Dan,my tortured subconscious begs on bended knee.
“Books,” I whisper, but inside, my subconscious is screaming: You! You are my thing!
I slap it down instantly, mortified that my psyche is having ideas above its station.
“What kind of books?” He cocks his head to one side. Why is he so interested?
“Oh, you know. The usual. The classics. British literature, mainly.”
He rubs his chin with his long index finger and thumb as he contemplates my answer.
Or perhaps he’s just very bored and trying to hide it.
“Anything else you need?” I have to get off this subject - those fingers on that face are so beguiling.
“I don’t know. What else would you recommend?”
What would I recommendI don’t even know what you’re doing.
“For a do-it-yourselfer?”
He nods, blue eyes alive with wicked humor. I flush, and my eyes stray of their own accord to his snug jeans.
“Coveralls,” I reply, and I know I’m no longer screening what’s coming out of my mouth.
He raises an eyebrow, amused, yet again.
“You wouldn’t want to ruin your clothing,” I gesture vaguely in the direction of his jeans.
“I could always take them off.” He smirks.
“Um…okay then no clothes-I mean no coveralls….I can’t really think of anything else"I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of the communist manifesto. Stop talking. Stop talking NOW.
"Do you need anything else?” I squeak as I hand him the blue coveralls.
He ignores my inquiry.
“How’s the article coming along?”
He’s finally asked me a normal question, away from all the innuendo and the confusing double talk… a question I can answer. I grasp it tightly with two hands as if were a life raft, and I go for honesty.
“I’m not writing it, Luoise is. Miss Pentland . My roommate, she’s the writer.
She’s very happy with it. She’s the editor of the magazine, and she was devastated that she couldn’t do the interview in person.” I feel like I’ve come up for air - at last, a normal topic of conversation. “Her only concern is that she doesn’t have any original photographs of you.”
Lester raises an eyebrow.
“What sort of photographs does she want?”
Okay. I hadn’t factored in this response. I shake my head, because I just don’t know.
“Well, I’m around. Tomorrow, perhaps… ” he trails off.
“You’d be willing to attend a photo shoot?” My voice is squeaky again. Luoise will be in seventh heaven if I can pull this off. And you might see him again tomorrow, that dark place at the base of my brain whispers seductively at me. I dismiss the thought - of all the silly, ridiculous…
“Luoise will be delighted - if we can find a photographer.” I’m so pleased, I smile at him broadly. His lips part, like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position.
Oh my. Phil lester’s lost look.
“Let me know about tomorrow.” Reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out his wallet. “My card. It has my cell number on it. You’ll need to call before ten in the morning.”
“Okay.” I grin up at him. Luoise is going to be thrilled.
Caspar (lee) has materialized at other the end of the aisle. He’s Mr. Clayton’s youngest brother. I’d heard he was home from Africa, but I wasn’t expecting to see him today.
“Er, excuse me for a moment, Mr. Lester.”
Lester frowns as I turn away from him.
Caspar has always been a buddy, and in this strange moment that I’m having with the rich, powerful, awesomely off-the-scale attractive control-freak Lester, it’s great to talk to someone who’s normal. Caspar hugs me hard taking me by surprise.
“Dan, hi, it’s so good to see you!” he gushes.
“Hello Caspar , how are you, you home for your brother’s birthday?”
“Yep. You’re looking well, Dan, really well.” He grins as he examines me at arm’s length. Then he releases me but keeps a possessive arm draped over my shoulder. I shuffle from foot to foot, embarrassed. It’s good to see Caspar , but he’s always been over-familiar.
When I glance up at Phil Lester , he’s watching us like a hawk, his blue eyes hooded and speculative, his mouth a hard impassive line. He’s changed from the weirdly attentive customer to someone else - someone cold and distant.
“Paul, I’m with a customer. Someone you should meet,” I say, trying to defuse the antagonism I see in Lester’s eyes. I drag Caspar over to meet him, and they weigh each other up. The atmosphere is suddenly arctic.
“Er, Caspar, this is Phil Lester . Mr. Lester, this is Caspar Clayton. His brother owns the place.” And for some irrational reason, I feel I have to explain a bit more.
“I’ve known Caspar ever since I’ve worked here, though we don’t see each other that often. He’s back from Africa where he’s studying business administration.” I’m babbling… Stop, now!
“Mr. Clayton.” Phil holds his hand out, his look unreadable.
“Mr. Lester,” Caspar returns his handshake.
“Wait up - not the phil Lester of Lester Enterprises Holdings?” Paul goes from surly to awestruck in less than a nanosecond. Lester gives him a polite smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.
Wow - is there anything I can get you?“
"Daniel has it covered, Mr. Clayton. He’s been very attentive.” His expression is impassive, but his words… it’s like he’s saying something else entirely. It’s baffling.
“Cool,” Paul responds. “Catch you later, Dan.”
“Sure, Caspar .” I watch him disappear toward the stock room.
“Anything else, Mr.lester?”
“Just these items.” His tone is clipped and cool. Damn… have I offended him taking a deep breath, I turn and head for the till. What is his problem
I ring up the rope,masking tape, and cable ties at the till.
“That will be forty-three dollars, please.” I glance up at Lester, and I wish I hadn’t. He’s watching me closely, his blue eyes intense and smoky. It’s unnerving.
“Would you like a bag?” I ask as I take his credit card.
“Please, Daniel.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.
I can hardly breathe. Hurriedly, I place his purchases in a plastic carrier.
“You’ll call me if you want me to do the photo shoot?” He’s all business once more. I nod, rendered speechless yet again, and hand back his credit card.
“Good. Until tomorrow perhaps.”
He turns to leave, then pauses. “Oh - and Daniel, I’m glad Miss Pentland couldn’t do the interview.” He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of raging hormones. I spend several minutes staring at the closed door through which he’s just left before I return to planet Earth.
Okay - I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive. But it’s a lost cause, I know, and I sigh with bittersweet regret. It was just a coincidence, his coming here. But still, I can admire him from afar, surely no harm can come of that. And if I find a photographer, I can do some serious admiring tomorrow. I bite my lip in anticipation and find myself grinning like a schoolgirl. I need to phone Luoise and organize a photo-shoot.
“So how close could we actually get to a flat planet? One strategy would be to take a solid slab of material – stone, steel, or something even harder like diamond or graphene – and build the largest flat disk you could. If you used conventional materials like this, you could create a thin, flat disk many hundreds of kilometers in radius that was stable. In other words, you could make a flat world that was larger than any object in our asteroid belt, and possibly even nearly the size of our Moon.”
We have some pretty good definitions of what it takes to be a planet, and one part of that definition is that a world needs to be massive enough to pull itself into hydrostatic equilibrium. In the absence of external forces and rotation, that means it will be a perfect sphere. But what about if you allow the other forces to come into play? In addition to the many interesting features you’ll get, one of them is a flattening of your world. So that brings up the question of how flat a planet could possibly be? This isn’t just theory; our own Solar System has a great example that you’ll want to see for yourself!