Give Me Your Hand and I Won’t Let Go
Give Me Your Hand and I Won’t Let Go
Genre: Platonic Dan/Phil
Word Count: ~3,700
Warnings: None, but is sort of cliché and cheesy. Beware of high cholesterol. (Although not a warning I do make some stuff up like the name of a Hall in case anyone gets confused and Dan and Phil may be somewhat OOC but I tried my best.)
Growing up he was always known as a piano prodigy. By the age of eight he was able to play Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. His piano teacher kind of hated him as a student as with his perfect pitch he was able to memorize and replicate songs without learning how to read sheet music. But even she beamed proudly when he would be on stage, his fingers gracefully gliding over the keys. Everyone would be in awe at his raw talent. There was talk amongst the musical community at how far he will go. He would awaken a new era of music.
But then time passed, and he grew. And suddenly people started talking less and less about his potential. That’s the problem with peaking too early. People get bored. Your confidence reaches a high far too early and then slowly crumbles down. That was the life of Daniel Howell. He was so sure of himself as a musician that he neglected to properly learn critical aspects such as the aforementioned sheet music which came back to bite him later. He was still able to play pieces beautifully, but people remained forever waiting to hear his first original piece. As time passed, Dan slowly lost his passion and desire to keep playing.
He began spending his hours on the internet instead of practicing. His fingers were spent scrolling through online forums rather than moving along the piano keys. His skin paled and his clothes darkened. And he soon was only a mirage of what he once was. It was only when his parents sighing disappointedly explained that after retiring they can no longer support him, he finally sat down at the piano again. He was out of practice, but his fingers still easily found their place at the proper keys. It was muscle memory to him, but without anything new up his sleeve and no real motivation to play other than the emptiness of his wallet, landing gigs was extremely difficult.
People didn’t care to hire him at venues when they could just hire someone younger with more enthusiasm and the potential to become something more or someone older who had mastered the keys and made it their own. So Dan spent his mornings in sweats, still living in his parent’s house, aimlessly browsing the internet, limbs hanging over his bed. And then in the evening he would go play at small community halls for weddings, birthdays and funerals. He was making it by, but there was a knawing at his heart. He needed to escape. He felt suffocated with his life but didn’t know how to change it. That’s how he ended up just packing his few bags one day with no plan in mind and leaving his parent’s house with a short, ambiguous note left on his bed.
He didn’t know where to go, so he just took the train to the city where he had always dreamed of living as a child, central London. It was overwhelming. Walking through the hustle of people. And not having a home to go to. He ended up contacting and crashing at an old friend’s place for a couple nights before he found himself a small, dingy apartment he could afford. Circumstances were far from ideal, but at least now he was taking steps towards a better future. Hopefully.
It took a while and a lot more patience and hard work that Dan found ideal, but after a lot of phone calls and dropping off videos of him playing, he finally landed a gig at Biltmore Hall. A rather fancy place with a Victorian essence. He felt excited for the first time in years. The place was booked out to a large group of eldery posh folks on Christmas Eve. From what he’d heard, many of them had ties to the greater musical community and if he did well then there was a chance he could finally make it big. He was asked to stop by the hall to do a demonstration as a formality before everything was finalized. He no longer had a piano of his own, so he went to an abandoned musical theatre to practice on the out of tune piano there.
Finally, he found himself at the front door of the Hall, rubbing his hands together to both warm them from the wintery chill and out of nerves. A short red-headed woman around his age opened the door and looked at him with scrutiny, before she blushed a bit and cleared her throat.
“Ummm…Daniel? Daniel Howell?”
“Yes. But please call me Dan.”
“Charlotte, we spoke on the phone,” she said, extending her hand for Dan to shake.
Charlotte sighed and tugged on her bottom lip with her teeth. Her strange behavior concerned Dan quite a bit. Was something wrong? Did they expect him to look differently? Had they changed their minds?
“Please come in,” she said and opened the door a bit more to let Dan in. He rushed inside, getting away from the piercing cold. He looked over at Charlotte who was rocking back and forth between her feet slightly and wringing her fingers.
“Is everything ok?”
“Yes. Yes, everything is fine. Except. Well. I’m sorry. There just seems to have been a bit of a mistake.”
“It seems as if you and another act have been booked for the same night.”
Dan’s heart dropped. Of course, with his luck this would happen. He had been looking forward to this so much, of course the universe would snatch it away from him.
“I see,” he said emotionlessly. He felt frustrated and miserable, but he didn’t have the energy to show it.
“I apologize deeply. When I booked you, I didn’t realize our other planner was in contact with someone at the same time. This group of people didn’t specify exactly what they wanted so we were considering several people and I guess there was a bit of a miscommunication.”
“Right. I guess I’ll just be on my way then.”
“Well, actually. The other act is here as well. If you wanted to work something out with him.”
“Work something out?”
“Yeah, he seems nice. I don’t know. Neither of you have officially signed anything yet. We were considering seeing both of your acts and making a decision but you both seem talented so I was thinking instead of that maybe you both can come to some form of compromise yourselves.”
Now Dan was boiling. This was so unprofessional and infuriating. But at least this meant he had a chance. He stiffly nodded and Charlotte led him to another room where there were two men standing, talking to each other. One of them glanced towards Dan and Charlotte, turned back and nodded at the other man and then walked over.
“Charlotte, I’m assuming this is Mr. Howell?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Dan said awkwardly, extending out his hand, which was gripped strongly by the other man and shaken with force.
“You as well. Frank’s the name. I take it Charlotte explained our situation to you?”
“Yes, she did.”
Charlotte then spoke up again.
“I was actually thinking about letting the two of them discuss the situation themselves.”
“Oh, yeah that’s a good idea,” Frank replied confidently, to which Dan rolled his eyes subtly. This obviously wasn’t a good idea. Dan then looked up at the other man standing across the room, which Charlotte and Frank continued to discuss their stupid idea.
The man was just about Dan’s height, which was uncommon. He had black hair and pale skin. His eyes, large and round, were a vortex of changing colors from yellow to green to blue. His nose was pointed. His hair style mirrored Dan’s own, although much darker and unmatching to his chestnut eyebrows. His hands were twisted in an awkward angle with his middle and ring fingers hanging off of his pockets. Judging by the way he was dressed and his demonstration equipment, he was a magician. His posture was somewhat hunched and he was looking down towards the floor, one of his foot tilting slightly sideways. This hair would occasionally fall into his eyes and he would rotate his head to flip it back into place. He was lightly chewing the edge of his bottom lip. Looking at him was relaxing, soothing. Like the feeling you get when you drink a tolerably hot cup of cocoa on a winter night.
Dan was brought back to attention by someone calling his name. He looked towards Charlotte who nodded to him. He must have missed something.
“Excuse me, did you say something?”
“Yes, we were saying you two can go talk in the dressing room over there if you want. Try to work something out perhaps?”
“Oh, yeah sure.”
Charlotte then led Dan over to the other man. He looked up abruptly and slightly straightened up, giving a weak grin.
“Mr. Lester, this here is Dan Howell.”
“Hi, pleasure to meet you,” he said as he shook Dan’s hands. His hands were cold and slender. Perfect for playing piano, unlike Dan’s bulky hands that he struggled with.
“Same to you,” Dan replied. Dan curled his toes within his boots. Something about this ‘Mr. Lester’ made Dan feel a mixture of comfort and nervousness.
“Sorry, I know you’ve been waiting here for a while, but Frank and I would like you and Dan to discuss your positions with each other to try and come up with a possible solution.”
The magician looked over at Dan with a confused expression on his face. Dan felt bad for the guy. Based on Charlotte’s behavior, it seemed like she preferred to have Dan perform, which made sense as a musician was a lot more appropriate for this venue than a magician. She probably was too embarrassed to break the news to the poor guy herself and was making Dan do her dirty work. The man probably knew what was coming.
“Alright…,” he replied.
Charlotte then led the two over to the dressing room and shut the door behind her, leaving the two men alone in awkward silence.
“I…ummm…hi,” Dan said nervously.
“Hello,” came a quiet reply.
“So, Mr. Lester?…”
“Oh. Please call me Phil.”
“Ok. Phil. Well, I guess we’re supposed to come up with a compromise?” Dan rubbed the back of his neck. How was he supposed to do this?
“Yeah. A compromise,” Phil said with a dragged sigh.
“Well, you see, I…I’m just going to have to be a bit frank here. I think Miss Charlotte is just using this ‘discussion’ thing as an excuse to get out of a confrontation, but I think it’s relatively clear that I would be the more appropriate choice to perform here for Christmas Eve.”
“What makes you say that?”
Dan was a little startled with the question. It’s not like he expected Phil to just calmly go with it and give up his gig to Dan with no questions asked, but the tone of Phil’s voice wasn’t accusing or challenging like Dan would have expected. It was genuinely a question. Like he didn’t understand.
“This is a very sophisticated venue. They are known for musical performances. It’s not for some amateur magic act.”
Harsh words, but Dan had no choice. Phil’s brows furrowed, but his eyes looked void of any anger. He leaned against the table in the room and looked up towards the ceiling.
“I suppose. But I really wanted this to work. It could have been my chance you know?”
Dan was at a loss. He was being so forward and basically saying Phil’s act was not good enough when compared to him, but this guy wasn’t reacting at all like he expected. Not knowing what to say, he remained silent.
“I used to want to be a weatherman as a child. Maybe I should have just done that. But I probably wouldn’t have gotten a spot then either. Imagine me on television. ‘And then there will be a sprinkle of kittens in the east’,” he mocked himself with a chuckle.
Why was he telling Dan his childhood dreams? He looked towards Dan now, waiting for him to respond.
“Oh…ummm…I’m sure you would have been great as a weatherman. I’m sure you’re a great magician, too.”
“No, not really. Maybe I could have been if I was good at keeping secrets. I mean I can keep other’s secrets. Mine, not so much. And a magician is always supposed to keep their tricks a secret.”
What on earth did that mean?
“I don’t think I follow.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just blabbering really. What about you though?”
“What about me?”
“Did you always want to be a pianist?”
“I…guess? I have been playing for as long as I could remember.”
“That’s not the same as wanting to play.”
“I…look I’m not here to discuss childhood stories. I’m sure Charlotte will be back soon. We need to come up with a decision.”
“I thought we already decided, though.”
“Yeah. You just said. You’re more appropriate to perform here.”
“So there’s nothing else to discuss on that topic, so let’s just talk. About stuff. Other stuff.”
Dan was so confused at this point. So apparently Phil was completely ok with giving up his spot at the venue. And he wanted to talk. About stuff. Why they couldn’t just go out and give Charlotte their answer was beyond Dan, but fine, Dan would humor him.
“Alright. What do you want to talk about?”
“Nothing. Anything. Everything.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Well, you can start with actually answering my question.”
“Do you want to play piano?”
“Of course I want to play piano. Why would I be here if I didn’t?”
Phil studied him for a moment then. And then shrugged.
“If you say so.”
“What do you mean ‘if I say so’? I do want to play. I have all my life…”
“Ok. Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Dan took a deep breath to calm himself. He didn’t know why he was getting so agitated.
“It’s fine. Whatever,” Dan kicked the empty air before him, sticking his hands deep into his coat pockets. Phil patted the space next to him on the table. Dan, without thinking, complied and positioned himself next to Phil. Dan, despite being so frustrated with this unnecessary ‘small talk’, felt strangely comfortable.
“Tell me more,” Phil said.
“About yourself. When did you start playing? Why did you start playing? How did you end up standing here?”
Dan had no reason to answer, but he found his lips moving naturally, words flowing out.
“I guess I just started because my parents wanted me to. My hands were never really built for a piano, but I took that as a challenge and I made up for it by having a good ear for music. I got really good. Everyone was expecting me to do great things. So was I. I thought I would be the next Beethoven. But then I just stopped playing. Until now.”
“Why did you stop?”
Dan shrugged. The comfort was being replaced with anxiety now. He looked down at his dirty boots and then over at Phil’s clean ones. He could see the prints of his socks peeking out slightly. They were mismatched. For some reason that information calmed him down once more.
“I don’t know. I just did.”
Phil didn’t ask any more. He just stared straight ahead. Silence filled the room, but it was welcoming. No words were needed at that moment to fill the empty space. Dan offhandedly wondered what was taking Charlotte so long. But he no longer felt any urgency.
“They stole my tricks,” Phil said finally, breaking the silence.
“What? Who did?”
“Other magicians. Sorry, I was vague earlier about the secrets thing. I was trying to be all mysterious,” Phil laughed lightly through his nose.
“Go on,” Dan said simply. It seemed like the right thing to say.
“I have always been very open about new tricks I would come up with. It’s not very easy to come up with new tricks. Almost everything has already been done. But I managed to pull a few out. Nothing too special, but still something. I was naïve and shared the secrets with my peers though. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident. And one by one, each one of my tricks were performed in front of thousands of people. But not by me.”
“You should say something! Show who the real master of the tricks is.”
“I can. But what’s the point? I wanted to enchant people. Have them in awe. I wanted kids to say, ‘Look what AmazingPhil did!’ I just don’t have the motivation to fight for the recognition when I’ve lost that initial reaction already. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I guess I understand. But I still think you should try to get back what’s yours.”
“At this point, it will just seem like I’m being petty. Those magicians already have their own shows and here I am, losing my spot at a small venue like this. I’ll just look like a fool.”
Dan’s suddenly hated himself. Phil didn’t deserve this. He had been working so hard and people always just stepped over him and used him. Dan wanted to punch those people in their ugly faces. Dan opened his mouth, in an attempt to be a better person, but what came out was unexpected even to him.
“I was lonely growing up.”
Phil looked at Dan, confused. Dan was confused himself, but might as well go with it and pour his heart out to this stranger.
“I was lonely. It wasn’t the only reason I stopped playing, but the piano made me lonely. I was always praised by the adults, but my classmates just steered clear from me. I was the quiet piano nerd. The loser kid who was the talk amongst all teachers and parents. They all hated me so in return I began to hate the piano. But playing piano was all I knew how to do. With that gone, so was my purpose in life. I was left an empty shell. And everything began to scare me. My future. The unpredictability of life. The chance that I may just die one day without ever having a best friend. That I would just be forgotton. Only vaguely remembered by my parents. And even that, as a disappointment.”
“You’re not a disappointment. No one is. Everyone has a reason they are here. Maybe yours is to play beautiful music on the piano. Maybe it’s something else.”
“Yeah, well it doesn’t matter anymore. I have nothing else going for me. And if this doesn’t work out, then it’s back to my parents’ place, playing at funerals for people who died too young and at weddings for people who married too late.”
“It will work out if it’s meant to. Don’t worry too much about ‘what ifs’.”
Dan smiled towards Phil. He wondered how Phil managed to make it through this tough terrain of life and still remain so kind. He was very weird, but still kind.
“And about you not having a best friend. I’d be more than happy to fill that role.”
Dan looked at Phil, startled. Phil was wearing a huge grin on his face, like suddenly the whole world’s problems had been solved.
“Phil. You don’t just become best friends with someone just like that,” Dan said with a laugh.
“Why not? We shared some pretty deep stuff. I don’t just tell my life story to everyone.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Hey! I don’t!” Phil insisted and all Dan could do was continue to smile.
“Ok then. Best friend, what should we do now?”
The look on Phil’s face was priceless after Dan said that. He looked like so delighted. Like a child opening their Christmas present.
“Well, you are going to perform here on Christmas Eve. And then we have the whole world waiting out there for us.”
“I think you should perform.”
“What? I thought we already decided it would be you?”
“We didn’t decide anything. I was just a gigantic jerk and declared I should be the one to keep my spot without even considering your position.”
“You weren’t a jerk. You were just being honest.”
“Well, now I am being honest again. I think you should take it.”
Phil was quiet for a moment as if he were mulling over his options.
“What if we both performed? A double act!”
“That…that actually sounds pretty cool. But Christmas Eve is in a few days. We don’t have time to come up with that type of act.”
“Well, then what should we do? I don’t want to take your spot and you don’t want to take mine.”
“How about neither of us do it?,” Dan replied with a smirk.
Phil’s eyes widened and they both stared at each other for a while. Then they both broke out into a laughter.
“Wow! That would be priceless! Imagine the look on Frank’s face!”
“Imagine the look on Charlotte’s face! It’s what they deserve!,” Dan said triumphantly.
“Well, they’re not all that bad. They did just make us best friends.”
“I’ll be sure to send them a Christmas card as thanks for that.”
“Well alright then. Onto new adventures then!”
“More like onto my lousy flat. I seriously hate that place.”
“I have a spare bedroom. It’s sort of a storage room right now, but we can get it cleaned up,” Phil responded calmly.
“Phil. You just met me! You already declared us best friends. Don’t tell me you’re asking me to move in now,” Dan said, laughing.
Dan was stunned by Phil yet again.
“Phil. You can’t just ask a stranger to move in with you.”
“You’re not a stranger. You’re my best friend.”
“You don’t know anything about me!”
“Are you a serial killer?”
“Are you a cannibal?”
“Ok then. You’re good. Here, give me your hand.”
Dan simply complied, reaching out his hand, which was then grasped by Phil.
“I promise I won’t ever let go of you as long as you don’t let go of me. We will do this together from now on.”
Dan breathed. For some strange reason, Dan believed Phil. He gripped Phil’s hand tighter. And before his eyes he could see a vision of confetti. Them standing on the Dolby Theatre and bowing down before a cheering crowd. They would get there. They would get there together.