Unintended Chapter 3
summary: Foreston Academy was the very last resort for angry, lonely Dan Howell. He never could have imagined meeting anyone like Phil Lester, and Phil never could have known that befriending his new roommate would change his life entirely.
Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
warnings: descriptions of fire
a/n: i am alrEADY so sick of uploading this only another 10 chapters and an epilogue to go((((((:
Even though PJ hadn’t actually mentioned to Phil taking Dan down to Firespot, the thought had still raced through Phil’s head as an extension to their conversation as he headed back down the hallway.
Although this thought made him sad, Phil was ever an optimistic person, and believed that Foreston and his own supportiveness towards Dan together would eventually get Dan to come round. If Phil couldn’t take Dan down to Firespot tonight, maybe he could another night.
When Phil arrived back in the room, Dan and Alyssa unlocked lips to each give Phil an angry scowl.
‘I am not leaving,’ said Phil, stretching his arms with a loud yawn and starting to hum a tune happily as he took out a notepad.
Dan and Alyssa stared in shock.
'I’m just gonna draft out a letter to the family,’ chirped Phil, partly radiating his usual sunshine, but partly enjoying the horrified looks on their faces. Alyssa had been quite the bitch in the past, and even he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get on her nerves a bit.
Still humming, he flipped the pages in his notebook noisily, crackling the paper and clicking his pen a few times when he saw Dan’s hand tracing back towards Alyssa’s boob.
He leapt up and smiled widely at the two teenagers.
'Mind if I put some music on?’ He was still happy and smiling, and skipped over to the mini-stereo without waiting for an answer.
He half wasn’t expecting one, he seemed to have shocked them so much, but Dan was clearing his throat and glaring at him.
'Uh? Yeah? I do mind!’
Phil turned up a Blink-182 track before doing a little dance and turning back to Dan, desperately trying not to laugh and to keep his smile genuine.
'What!?’ He shouted, cupping a hand around his ear, 'What did you say?’
'I said,’ screamed back Dan, 'turn the fucking music down!’
/I’ll add some blink lyrics here but I want something really good and couldn’t think of anything appropriate off the top of my head so any suggestions are appreciated!!/
'Turn it down!’ He turned back to Alyssa and Phil saw him tell her to ignore him, before trying to make out with her again. She looked back at him with disgust, clambering off the tiny bed with equal scowls of disdain at both of the boys, turning off the stereo and striding towards the door with her hips rocking.
'Wait! Alyssa! Where’re you going?!’ Dan slid off the bed towards the door but Alyssa turned round sharply.
'Out. I’ll come back when you can be arsed to put me before your loser roommate.’
Alyssa’s eyebrows shot up her high forehead.
'Don’t fucking call me that,’ she hissed, before spitting on the carpeted floor and picking her way out of the room and into the corridor, slamming the door as hard as she was able.
Phil knew Alyssa, and if Dan wanted to keep her, he needed to go after her now. Luckily, Dan was too busy being angry at Phil.
'What the fuck, do you think you’re doing?’
'Ew, gross. She spat on the floor.’
'Hey, wanker! Are you listening to me!?’
'I reckon you should clean this up.’
'What?!’ Dan was stunned. He hadn’t thought that his roommate was quite so… Audacious.
'Yeah, well, you seem happy for her spit to be in your mouth, so it shouldn’t be an issue to clean off the floor, right?’
Dan’s face was filled with such anger that Phil’s courage started to crumble.
This boy had been expelled. For what? What had he done? And what could he do to Phil?
Fury clouded Dan’s face and his chocolate eyes turned to dark stones. Phil started backing up against the other side of the room.
'Who. The. Fuck,’ he hissed, each word thrown as a silver knife slicing through Phil, 'do you think you are?’
'How. Dare. You!’
Dan’s hands had curled into quivering fists of anger. Phil thought of Chris and PJ, locked away in their own cosy room at the other end of the corridor. He didn’t own a mobile phone, and neither did Peej.
'Dan, I’m sorry! I didn’t realise she was… Important..?’ Dan had only met her today! Why was he so furious?! Especially after the way he had treated Phil all day!
Dan’s brain unfogged briefly, just enough for him to respond to Phil’s comment. Of course Alyssa wasn’t important. He didn’t even like her that much. But- But- Phil had-
What exactly had Phil done? Interrupted them? The reason Alyssa had left was because he, Dan, wouldn’t stand up to Phil.
Well, he thought, red flooding his vision again as he remembered Phil’s rude comments about him cleaning up Alyssa’s spit, Dan would stand up to Phil now. That would show him. That would show everyone.
'Dan,’ he heard Phil whimper as he approached the pathetic specimen, and all Dan could do was laugh. He loved it when he was more powerful than another, loved the feeling of someone else being completely helpless right in front of him. It made him feel whole, it made him feel alive.
'Dan, you don’t want to hurt me,’ Phil was sliding down the wall as Dan raised his fists with a cruel glare, 'no, seriously, you can’t get kicked out on your first day! Your parents-’
His parents. His parents. How did Phil know about his parents!? How could he possibly know!?
Dan’s hand slammed into Phil’s shoulder, pinning him against the wall, their noses only inches apart as Dan hissed into Phil’s face.
'What do you know about my parents!?’
'Nothing! Nothing, I just- what would they say if you got expelled again-’
Phil quickly flicked his face to one side to try and protect himself, assuming his comment would only rile Dan up, but it infact had the opposite effect.
Dan took a deep gulp, eyes beading with tears, and crumpled to the floor, letting go of Phil immediately, who ended up crumpled beside him.
To Phil’s utter horror, Dan’s eyes started streaming, his breath coming in thick raspy heaves.
'Why can’t I-’ Dan wailed, ’-do anything right!?’ He thrust his head against the wall and Phil had to dive out of the way to avoid being headbutted.
'Dan-’ Phil grabbed Dan’s shoulders and pulled him back as he attempted to hit his head again, 'Dan- please stop, please,’ the boy was scaring Phil now.
'I’m so useless! I’m just this huge fuck-up, Phil, I- I-’
'Dan, please stop. You’re not a fuck-up, you’re just-’
'I AM! YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ME! NOTHING!’
Dan dissolved into tears so ferocious that his body shook with each sob as he curled up on the carpet, arms wrapped desperately around his body. Phil was shocked to put it mildly; this outburst was worse than any of Dan’s tears he had experienced yesterday.
'You don’t know me,’ Dan muttered, gasping for air between the violent sobs.
'Then, Dan,’ Phil put a gentle hand on Dan’s shoulder, pushing him up into a sitting position, 'let me.’ Phil laughed at how anime he sounded, and Dan stared in confusion, his sobs slowing but the tears still running a river down his cheeks. 'I mean, um, let me get to know you. Tell me about you…’ He broke off as Dan fell into fresh howls of sorrow, this time completely and utterly inconsolable.
For the second time in the two days Dan had been at Foreston, Dan missed his dinner. But this time, Phil did as well. Although Phil could do nothing to help the boy, he stayed there holding his hand until the tears subsided and he collapsed on his bed into a troubled sleep.
'Where is he right now?’
'In our room, wiped out. That’s why I have to be quick- I want to be there when he wakes up. God knows what he could do.’ And plus, thought Phil, he wanted Dan to know Phil was there for him, no matter how much of a 'fuck-up’ Dan thought hewas.
'Ok, I can probably do that. You game, Chris?’
Chris shouted over from the corner, where he was busy tapping away on a laptop, 'Yeah, yeah Phil, you can count on us! I mean, I don’t have a clue what you actually want me to do, I wasn’t listening, So bear that in mind when I say I’m happy to help. If 'help’ means you want to cheer him up by selling my body to him, I’m afraid I may be out…’
'You’re a prat, Chris,’ snorted PJ as Phil laughed.
Dan was awoken by the tinkling of a tune he thought he recognised, but couldn’t place for the life of him.
As Dan’s eyes slowly unglued themselves, he rolled over in his bed (nearly falling out in the process) to watch a tall black-haired figure stumble across the room to turn off the glowing object that was emitting the weirdly familiar music.
Dan’s brain slightly waking up, he realised that it was Phil’s fancy clock, and that the music must be an alarm. A glance at the garish letters told him that it was past midnight on a Monday so, technically, as his sluggish mind pointed out to him, it was Tuesday.
Phil turned round when he heard Dan groan.
Dan simply grunted, dragging his duvet clumsily over his head with another groan when Phil opened the curtain to let a bright stream of moonlight glow up the room.
'Come on!’ Dan pushed the cover away from his head for a moment to see that Phil was practically skipping with excitement.
Then he remembered.
'Come on come on come on!’ Phil was next to Dan’s bed, positively glowing with excitement, before he grabbed Dan’s hand and yanked him out from his warm cosy den of sleep, pulling him towards the door.
'Phil, I’m in my underwear!’
Phil turned round and looked the boy up and down briefly before the two of the dissolved into giggles.
'Grab a t-shirt and jacket,’ he whispered, pushing him towards the wardrobe before the two of them started giggling again.
When Phil got back from Chris and PJ’s room that evening, he only had to wait another half hour for Dan to wake up.
When he did, Dan was a mess.
'Please don’t make me tell you anything.’
'I don’t want… I mean, I think… You would hate me… More than now… I…’
'Shut up Dan,’ Phil’s voice was soft, and he put an arm around Dan, the two of them now sat on Dan’s bunk with their backs propped up against the wall together, 'I actually don’t hate you, you don’t seem to be able to comprehend-’
'You would,’ Dan’s voice was almost inaudible.
'You’re not following me, Dan, I don’t care what you’ve done in the past, what’s important is-’
'Phil, I’m a fuck-up. You’re not. And I just… I just don’t want to talk about it.’
Phil did want to talk about it. In his experience, nothing helped better than a friend. But he didn’t want to push Dan away, so he decided to let it go for now.
'Can we be friends, Dan?’
Dan was silent as he stared down at his hands. Phil was starting to notice that Dan could never keep his hands still - he was always fidgeting, twitching his fingers or tapping away as though he was perpetually playing a keyboard in his head.
'I don’t know,’
'Why? Am I… Am I doing something wrong?!’
'No, no! I mean… We just, those other guys, David and Patrick and Alyssa,hey’re more like me. Not you… Not you, Phil.’
'How are they more like you? They’re all… Well, to put it bluntly Dan, they’re all kinda dickheads.’
Silence. And then: 'Exactly.’
Phil didn’t know what to say to that.
'You don’t have to be like them.’ Is what he settled for at length, trying desperately to break the silence.
'I am though. I can’t change who I am.’
'You’re not! I was watching you today, Dan, and you looked bored! You’re interesting and funny and creative and you don’t need to hang round with idiots like that because you feel like that’s what you deserve, or whatever it is you think.’
'Shut up waffling. And plus; those “idiots” are my friends.’
Dan’s voice was cold, and Phil panicked. Could he do nothing right with this boy? He had always thought he was good with people - he made friends easily and most people who knew him adored him -yet he didn’t seem to be able to do anything right with Dan.
'I’m sorry,’ he mumbled, also staring at his own pale hands now, 'I… please don’t hate me.’
Dan’s hands were slightly more tanned than Phil’s, his fingers less long and nails less nibbled. Phil watched as he interlaced his fingers agitatedly, giving away some of the emotion his passive face hid so well.
'I don’t hate you,’ Phil heard Dan whisper.
Phil knew what he wanted to say now.
'Come to Firespot with me tonight. It’s fun, you can actually get to know my friends… Maybe we can start afresh, If you want?’
'I told you 'bout it last night - the campfire thing out in the woods.’ Dan’s face was blank. 'Just after I turned the lights out and you were pretending to be asleep…’
Phil wondered if he’d upset Dan or if the boy would just deny it, but to his delight Dan just chuckled a little and looked up at him with a tiny sad smile on his face.
'Yeah… yeah, ok.’ At that moment Phil’s stomach gave a rumble, 'Hh god, you didn’t get anything to eat, did you!?’
'Oh it’s fine, I’ve sorted it,’ Phil flashed a wide smile at Dan, trying desperately and mostly failing to hide how overjoyed he was that Dan was coming to Firespot with him, before jumping off the bed and hopping over to the stereo.
'Help me pick something to listen to, friend.’
'So… What was your alarm song thing? I think I might have recognised it.’
'Oh, um, it’s from the soundtrack to some anime film.’
They spoke in whispers because they were creeping down the grounds together, having gotten out of the building successfully and gone out through the conservatory doors that were left open every Monday night for the students who were in the know about Firespot. Dan had insisted on putting on some proper clothes and shoes; there was no way he was going to a campfire in the middle of the night dressed only in his underwear.
'Which film? I love anime!’
'One of the Ghibli ones, I think? It’s bad, but I can’t actually remember, I’ve had it as my alarm for so long.’
'What’s your favourite anime Phil?’ The grass was soft and springy under Dan’s feet, the moonlight bright and Dan’s excitement was building.
'Film or show?’
'Either. Both. I don’t know!’
‘It has to be Iwatobi Swim Club in terms of show, I mean, all the muscles. I identify with Gou spiritually.’
‘Oh yes! I love that show, how it just,’ Dan clenched his fist, staring at the ground all of a sudden, ‘ended without warning.’
The moon shone brightly in the sky and autumn leaves crunched under their feet as they tiptoed down towards the dark treeline across the grounds.
They talked in hushed voices about things they liked and things they didn’t like, about books and films and shows and games, and because Phil didn’t ask about anything to do with Dan’s past, the conversation was light and easy and enjoyable.
Turns out, thought Dan, maybe he could hold a good conversation. Or maybe it was just Phil.
Soon they were close to the trees, and when he really listened hard during the gaps in conversation, Dan thought he could hear the quiet strains of music coming from somewhere in the woods.
They wandered a little further until they were past the treeline, Phil picking his way through the dark woods easily.
'Listen,’ whispered Phil mid- sentence, pulling one hand to his ear and the other grabbing Dan’s forearm, forcing Dan to stop walking and stand stock-still next to Phil. 'You hear them?’
Dan did hear them. the sound of music, and beneath it laughter and chatter and happiness. It filled him with a buzz, which only increased when he looked over at Phil, who was gazing at him with a strange mix of excitement and anticipation and… pride. He was proud of this school, of Firespot, of everything he had to show his new roommate, Dan realised.
Dan had an overwhelming urge to throw his arms around Phil and pull him into a tight hug, to say thankyou for helping him and understanding him and not hating him, even after the shitty way Dan had behaved over the last couple of days. He wanted to be here in the woods on this cool September night and hold his first ever… friend- since childhood- close under the moonlight streaming through the leaves above them and just… say thankyou.
The emotion was overwhelming when Dan realised that he considered Phil a friend. So much so that he honestly did consider trying to hug him, just for a second.
But of course he didn’t.
(a/n: this next bit is all about the campfire, inc. roasting marshmallows etc)
Just as they approached the clearing, Dan closed his eyes and inhaled the cool night air- it smelt like pine wood and burning and silver moonlight.
Moonlight has a smell, trust me. If you don’t know that then you haven’t been out in the middle of the autumn in a wood at midnight with a raven-haired boy with shining blue eyes staring back at you with excitement and pride, tiny clouds of warm air spiralling out into the darkness every time he takes an excited little puff of breath.
Phil took Dan’s hand in his own cold soft one, and pulled him forwards through the trees. Dan was so taken by surprise by the gentle contact that he for a second froze in Phil’s grasp, staring at their intertwined hands.
Phil followed his gaze, ‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, letting go, a hot pink blush flooding his pale cool cheeks.
Dan instantly felt the warmth leaving his hand. ‘No, no. I… I like it. Friendly. I…’ he wasn’t making any sense, so silently took another deep breath and a step forwards, grasping Phil’s hand tightly in his own. The boy looked at Dan and smiled a happy smile.
They stood there for a second in the shadows, moonlight playing on their hair and skin and faces, before Phil took the first step forward.
‘S’gonna be okay,’ he whispered to Dan, who had not really relaxed ever since the arms of the trees had first surrounded them- he hated trees, and to be right in their midst felt incredibly claustrophobic and intimidating. But with a warm hand squeeze and a smile from Phil, the two boys walked forward together through the dark silhouettes of the trees, taking their steps slowly as their feet crunched on the autumn leaves beneath them.
And with a precipitous blaze of surprise, the trees around them were flickering with golden light, and the laughter and the music and the happiness filled their ears and a radiant beam filled Phil’s face from ear to ear, and Dan dissolved into a dreamlike state as Phil dragged him around the circle and introduced him to everyone, and the music tickled his eardrums and tempted his body and the fire- the huge fire in the centre of the clearing- made everything golden and his eyes stream and his nose smell soot and barbeque food and the flames danced around him expressing every emotion at once.
He was surrounded by beautiful people bathed in golden orange light dancing and twirling and laughing, everyone with huge smiles on their faces and uncaring of what other people would make of them- simply having fun with their friends. There were two boys further back sat on a log, cloaked in shadows, playing guitars, a girl tapping a tambourine, and lots of people singing. Dan could see a few other instruments around- a ukulele lay abandoned, another girl held a flute in her lap- but they weren’t playing. Dan hoped he’d get to hear them later.
Dan was afraid of a lot of things- for example moths and darkness and trees- three things that were all present tonight, in fact- but he wasn’t afraid of fire. He wasn’t afraid of the way fire danced and flickered and shone light upon everything in its vicinity. Dan found fire exquisite and enchanting, and soon was so under the happy friendly dancing spell of Firespot that he found himself understanding why Phil loved it so much. He found himself loving it.
‘Dan,’ whispered Phil in his ear, ‘earth to Dan!’
Dan looked up at Phil, sat on the log next to him, smirking and handing him a stick with a marshmallow speared on the end of it. PJ and Chris were already crouching beside the flames, the fire licking their marshmallows and painting them black. Dan’s mouth started to water- he hadn’t eaten any dinner.
As Dan and Phil got up from the logs and approached the fire, Phil leaned again to Dan and whispered, ‘Peej and Chris went down to the kitchens for us earlier- we have tons of food to eat! To be honest, everyone here usually makes quite an event of the first night back at Firespot- a midnight feast, if you will.’
Dan felt drunk with happiness as he toasted marshmallows over the flickering dancing heat with Phil, Chris and PJ joining them so they could all take their first bites together- and it was all the gooey slimy sugary burn-your-tongue goodness that Dan could ever have dreamed of. It felt like heaven.
‘So… Tell me more about,’ Dan gestured around him, ‘the people here.’
The looks on PJ and Phil’s faces were made simultaneously of sunshine and moonlight, flickering flames and light laughter. Phil’s tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth.
‘We here,’ said Phil, ‘we’re /all/ misfits.’
These people- they liked him. They accepted him.
At least, Dan thought they did. He surely must be wrong- but…
He couldn’t ask- he couldn’t- he would sound so needy, so lame…
But he loved it here. These people were so much more fun than who he had spent time with today. He realised how much rather he would be here, accidentally setting sausages on fire over a bonfire with Phil, than making out with a girl he barely knew- someone who deep down, he didn’t actually really like…
But why would these people like him? Why would anybody actually like Dan? He had been so awful…
Dan even considered that it was all an elaborate set-up, that at some point Phil and Chris and PJ would jump out and go ‘ha! We hate you really! You fell for it! Idiot!’ Dan knew it was stupid, but he just couldn’t help himself.
Dan watched the flames, overwhelmed by the personal conflict, until as if he had heard his thoughts, Dan felt Phil nudge his arm.
‘I’m really glad you’re here Dan,’ he whispered, blue eyes shining bright with honesty.
‘Really?’ Dan’s comment was almost inaudible, but Phil heard it.
Dan had to turn away before Phil saw the tears of happiness that were pooling in his eyes. He had to do it, he thought. A new leaf. A fresh start.
Perhaps…. Perhaps it was possible after all.
Dan lay his head on Phil’s shoulder. The boy looked over, surprised, before relaxing into his side with a smile, their warm bodies pressed together.
It was so late, and Chris’ eyes were so heavy, his senses dulled by the food and the fun and the extraordinariness of the night. But he had never felt more happy than now, as he leant back against the bark of a tree and watched the silhouette of his roommate spiral joyously through the flames, completely unaware of how beautiful a dancer he was. Chris yawned and closed his eyes for a second, the image of PJ burning into his retinas, a feeling of longing sweeping over him along with the powerful wave of tiredness.
PJ was far too perfect- he was kind and funny and ridiculously creative- he danced like a god with a orange halo of light highlighting every loose strand of his wild hair, the flickering flames causing the sweat on his face to shine, his lips an orange-pink.
Chris had only known him two days, so how was it that he felt he had loved him for all his life?
Stop it, Chris he was drifting off, eyes closed, head back against the tree trunk, Stop being stupid, his head was so heavy…. You barely know him
That night, as PJ (with assistance from a tired Phil) carried Chris back to the room, unable to arouse him, they didn’t know that he was deep in a dream containing the very boy who held him.