Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

Dan was staring at the floor, fingers playing at the hem of his shirt. It was sunny outside, bright sunshine streaking through the blinds, leaving strips of golden yellow on the floor. Birds were chirping outside the window, and there was the usual honking and stream of moving cars. The television was on, some sort of baking program played softly in the background. Phil was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, tears falling freely.

“I’m not breaking up with you,” Dan mumbled, trying to sound coherent while trying not to sob helplessly. Phil made a choked noise, something between a laugh and a yell.

“I just need to work on myself. I’m not healthy, I’m really fucked up right now and I think I always have been and I can’t do that to you. I can’t do that to myself,” and he was properly crying, knuckles turning white as he pulled at his shirt. Phil couldn’t say anything, every word he tried to push past his lips became a spit bubble or some blubbery mess. His throat felt like it was on fire.

“I just need some time to find myself. I know that sounds stupid, Phil. I just need to fix things in my head. I need to find out who I am without you. I love you, so much,” Phil choked back a sob at this. The words were stinging his ears. His chest felt like it was going to explode and he was going to die on the spot, a pile of fire and guts or something. Dan refused to look up.

“Please, trust me. I don’t want to hurt you, so I need to do this for myself. I need to do something on my own. I spent my twenties with you. I’ve done everything with you. I’ve done everything because of you. I just need some space for myself. Just for a little while.” His voice was so quiet that Phil could barely hear him. It took him ages to respond.

“Are you going to come back?” He stuttered out, each syllable was like broken glass in his throat and mouth. Dan looked up at him. His face was stained with tears, snot dripping from his nose, his fringe slightly damp from his crying. He looked desperate. He still looked beautiful and it made Phil want to scream.

“I want to.” he stammered. It was all he could get out.

Dan left an hour later after giving Phil a very weak hug and a quick kiss on the top of his head. Phil stayed sitting on the sofa, even after Dan left, the clicking of the door behind him the last noise that echoed through the flat. For a couple of hours, Phil sat there, completely numb, before making his way to his bed where he fell asleep in his clothes and stayed there for a day and a half.

The first week was the hardest. It was difficult to get out of bed. Everything was heavy and sluggish and awful. He couldn’t get himself to stop crying, and when he did stop crying, he was in that disgusting post-crying state where he was snotty and felt dirty and his face was so puffy it started to hurt. He took extra-long showers, and even sat there naked against the tile. Normally it would gross him out, but he couldn’t find himself giving a fuck, especially after the first shower when he realized Dan left his hair products and he cried for an hour.

Phil started to get used to the empty apartment, the strange noises it made in the middle of complete silence. It seemed like the flat was settling around Dan’s absence, and on his worst nights, Phil wondered if the apartment was telling him something he didn’t know. Maybe Dan lied, lied about finding himself and wanting to come back because it was easier than reality. Maybe he didn’t love Phil anymore, and he was just trying to spare Phil’s feelings. Sometimes, at three or so in the morning, Phil would think over which was worse. Would it be worse to have someone you loved no longer love you? Or would it be worse for them to still love you, but need to figure themselves out before they could return to loving you again. He didn’t want to think about it too much, otherwise he would be sick.

Phil just pretended like everything was pretty normal. He went about everything as usual, making videos, going out to the shops every now and then, playing video games in his spare time. Dan texted him two days after leaving, saying that they should both pretend he was on a family holiday. Phil ignored the tweets and comments about Dan, ignoring that twisting feeling in his gut. He busied himself with anything he could, even if it was seemingly mundane. He took up walking, mostly in the early morning. He was even considering starting some sandbox game, maybe Minecraft, mostly because of the gaming channel he had to keep up with, but also because he wanted to build and build and destroy until his chest didn’t feel so hollow and sunken anymore.

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into two and a half months, and Phil was beginning to wonder if Dan was actually on holiday. Their communication had ceased to exist weeks ago. Dan being gone was becoming reality, a sick form of reality that Phil really didn’t want to face. He wasn’t even sure if he could.

He fell into some twisted black hole of depression. He didn’t really want to admit that it was depression, but every now and then he would look up his symptoms and it was blaringly obvious. He had this constant cold feeling in his chest, like ice crystals were growing there. Whenever he breathed, it was like he was breathing in the late night after freshly fallen snow.

Phil began to tire of trying so hard to hold onto something just to keep himself busy and distracted. It was beginning to exhaust him. Nothing was interesting. Everything was stale and lukewarm or freezer burned. Days and nights blended together, like paints poured into a sink, pooling into an ugly grayish brown. He wasn’t sure what was real and what was a terrible dream, he wasn’t even sure when he was sleeping. It was just another simple state of being, like breathing. He wasn’t aware, he didn’t even notice unless he thought long and hard about it. Those were the moderately good days, though.

The bad days were when everything ached. His whole body was achingly cold, tingling all over. He couldn’t figure out how to stop his hands from trembling. Every step was exhausting. It was like his legs were made of lead. Breathing was almost futile, breathing was like taking gulps of water. He only wished it were so, because then he would be met with death after all the pain, but it never happened, and the pain only dulled into another day of swirling grays and browns and the soft chill in his chest. Sometimes he would really miss Dan, he would manage to crawl into his bed and cling to the bedding, searching for Dan’s scent. He rarely found it, and ended up crying until he passed out instead. Sometimes he would barely breathe, turn everything off so the apartment was still and silent, and just wait for the familiar sound of the front door clicking and swinging open. He would wait and wait, whole body aching, until he fell asleep and woke up coughing because the flat was way too cold.

He wanted to text Dan. He wanted to call him. He wanted to send letters. He wanted to ring up his parents and ask if Dan was there. He just wanted to know where he was, if he was okay and safe. If he was happy. He wanted to ask him when he would be home, if he found a new home, if he found himself. Phil longed to hear his voice, his laughter, even his angry hissing. Anything.

Some days were good, really good. He could get out of the bed just fine, make himself a decent meal, even leave the flat, and make a video without difficulty. Those were the days where he would stand in front of the mirror and tell himself he wouldn’t take Dan back. Then he would slouch to the tiled floor and wonder out loud what he would actually do.

He decided that it was okay that Dan left, he understood completely. Dan was young, and spent a pretty large portion of his young life with Phil. It was always Dan and Phil for almost six years, and so it was perfectly understandable for Dan to search for a breath of fresh air, for who he was without Phil. Phil already had that chance, to learn and grow without Dan. It would be selfish to hold onto him.

However, he wouldn’t be able to just take Dan back. It wasn’t healthy, and if Dan was going to find his individuality, Phil was going to do it as well. So, he decided that if Dan came back, they would start over. They would go slow and take baby steps and just work at it. Until then, Phil was going to fix himself too.

It took a week, but Phil started doing things. He took up walking again. He started to read more. He cleaned up the entire flat, organizing everything and getting rid of a lot of his old things. He tried yoga, but it really didn’t fit him. He started cooking more, trying out new recipes. He even tried crafting, but he wasn’t so great with the hot glue gun, so he decided to just stick to the cool recipes on Pinterest instead. He got a new haircut, and bought himself some clothes, and he even hesitated in front of a tattoo parlor for a couple of minutes before scurrying off. He began to socialize again. He took a train to Brighton for a party. He collaborated with other youtubers. One night, at Louise’s, they were in the back garden drinking some fruity cocktail when Louise turned to him.

“You seem a lot better, you know.” She stated, a small grin on her face. Phil couldn’t help but blush and grin back. His smile didn’t feel forced, which made his heart swell.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, glancing at her for a second before looking back at the ground, “I think I’ve been feeling a lot better.”

That night he laid in his bed, barely breathing, listening to the traffic outside and his heart thumping hard and heavy from the alcohol he had that night. The ride on the train was funny to him, how he could feel the train moving in his palm when he pressed his hand against the seat. He somehow felt so alone, though there were plenty of people around him. He felt okay about it, his loneliness. He suddenly didn’t mind being alone with himself. He stumbled into the flat, laughing at his own clumsiness. The alcohol had almost completely worn off by that point, so he went after the beers in the fridge, trying to chase that light feeling again. It was nice to take a break from all his own heaviness. He climbed into bed, still fully clothed, and just laid there looking at the ceiling, waiting for his drunkenness to die down. Just barely breathing, concentrating on his own heartbeat, and he swore it was so quiet that he could hear his eyelashes flutter when he blinked.

And then he heard it. The sound he had waited months to hear. The soft click of the lock. It echoed in the flat. Phil shot up, straining his ears, but his heart was racing so much that it was difficult to hear. The creak of the swinging door. He froze in place. The soft thump of it hitting the wall. His body was burning hot and icy, blistering cold all at once. He couldn’t breathe. Footsteps, faint and careful. Phil held his breath. The whole house was silent, it was throbbing in his ears. He couldn’t even hear his heart beating anymore. He waited. His throat was beginning to ache. His chest was starting to burn, pleading for him to inhale, but he just couldn’t. Not yet. He was waiting.

“Phil?” and there it was. Gentle, scratchy from hesitation, but so syrupy sweet and Phil swore he must have died because there was no way that voice was real at that moment. He found himself standing, carefully walking over to the door, like his body was being controlled. His whole body was burning up as he touched the door knob, and slowly pulled the door open.

There he was, at the end of the hallway, cloaked in the moonlight streaming from the barely open blinds, deep shadows drenching him like velvet. Phil’s heart was aching. Even after months, after breaking his heart, and becoming a stranger, Dan was so fucking breathtaking. He turned his head and looked at Phil and it was a look so apologetic it strung. Phil couldn’t help but just stand there and stare back, because he had forgotten what else to do and he really needed boundaries spelled out for him because he didn’t have a clue of what he could do anymore.

Dan turned so that he was fully-facing the hallway and Phil. He looked different, but Phil wasn’t sure if it was time or the lights and shadows playing tricks on his eyes. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe he was dreaming. Maybe he was dead or dying and this was the last thing his mind came up with before total blackness.

“I’m sorry,” Dan mumbled. It sounded choked, like he could barely get the words out. Which confused Phil.

“What for?” he whispered. He wished his voice could be stronger. It took a while for Dan to answer.

“I missed you so much,” his voice was so soft, like it was Dan’s dying breath. “I didn’t know if you would want me back,” he drew in a shaky, pained breath, like it made his entire body ache. Phil wondered if he felt pain the entire time he was gone, if he missed him in the same way Phil missed him. He wanted to ask, but he couldn’t get the words right. All he wanted to do was hold him, to make sure he was real.

“Did you find yourself?” he asked instead. Dan seemed a little taken back by the question, as if he had forgotten. He nodded. Phil could barely see it.

“I think I figured everything out,” and he inhaled again, like his throat was closing up. “I think I’m okay now. I feel whole for the first time, like I found all the missing pieces. I know that sounds cliché and I kind of hate myself for saying it that way, but it’s the only way I could manage,” he laughed and shook his head, taking a couple hesitant steps closer.

“I feel like I’m whole, but at the same time, I didn’t. I didn’t because I wasn’t with you, but it was different this time. I don’t need you in the same way as before, because that need was unhealthy. This is a healthy need. I want you more than anything. I will be able to breathe without you. That was the point. I didn’t want to suffocate you and I felt like I was sucking the life out of you.” Dan sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. He was looking at the ground again, probably terrified of Phil’s reaction.

Phil’s head was swimming and his heart racing steadily against his ribcage and he was pretty scared that Dan would hear it and would get freaked out and leave. He wanted so desperately to reach out to him, but the air felt electric around him. Dan was mostly in shadow, but Phil could see him rather perfectly. He was proud, which was a little odd for him. He wasn’t expecting this. For Dan to be so grown in such a short amount of time. To be so grown and be returning to him.

“Am I dreaming?” Phil found himself muttering, earning a small chuckle from Dan. He shook his head and looked up at Phil, taking a few steps forward again.

“No, you’re not.” He reaffirmed, his familiar smirk plastered on his features, reaching his eyes. Phil’s breath caught in his throat. Dan cleared his.

“Is it okay if I kiss you?” he asked in a small voice, an even smaller laugh following. Phil was nodding, he couldn’t stop himself. Dan came forward, taking Phil’s face in his hands and kissed him hard. They just stayed there in that one kiss. Phil was trembling. After what seemed like ages, he pulled Dan into a tight hug, pushing his face into the crook of Dan’s neck as he began to cry. Dan just held him, resting his chin on Phil’s shoulder.

Finally, Phil calmed himself and got his breathing steady. He pulled away, keeping his arms around Dan. He was a little afraid of letting go.

“We have so much to talk about,” he admitted, sniffling. Dan smiled and nodded, though there was some fear in his eyes.

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. It’s just that I changed a lot too. Things were hard for so long without you,”

“I’m sorry, Phil, I’m so sorry.” Dan tearfully said. Phil shrugged and laughed, though snottily.

“No, it’s okay. We can talk about that later. I’ve just been doing so well, and I just want you to know that. I don’t want you to forget it, actually. That I did well without you and I don’t have to take you back, but I want to and I will,” Dan grinned wildly and kissed him again, connecting his hands to Phil’s face once again, gently running his thumb over his cheekbones. Phil broke the kiss, a little breathlessly.

“Can we just go to bed? We can talk about all of this tomorrow, I just need to sleep,” Dan nodded, and so Phil pulled him by his wrist into the bedroom. It was strange, having Dan crawl under the covers, but it made Phil’s heart swell. He curled against Dan’s chest, breathing him in.

“Thank you,” Dan whispered into the silence. It wasn’t a heavy silence. It was filled with the soft sounds of the traffic outside, and their gentle breathing. It was nice. Phil missed that silence. He knew why Dan was thanking him, but responding felt odd, so he chose to ignore it.

“I love you,” he decided to say. It came out effortlessly, like a simple exhale. He could feel Dan smile, wide and toothy. He felt his heart quicken under his fingertips.

“I love you, too.” He whispered back, just as effortlessly, like he was exhaling after holding his breath for a long time. Phil fell asleep listening to Dan’s heart slow down, and it was the best sleep he’s had in ages.